“Reality … Before ‘Reality TV'” January 15

 

Reality ... Before "Reality TV" - I would be the first to admit that reality TV is, well, ... real! But when we read some of the stories in the Bible, we've got to admit that nothing much has changed when it comes to human nature. If we were watching a dramatized version of today's reading what might it sound like? Check out today's post to see. But God didn't include these stories just for entertainment value. They are for our benefit, so we might be encouraged and have hope to persevere when things are difficult or seem unfair or we don't understand the why's.I would be the first to admit that reality TV is, well, … real!

But when we read some of the stories in the Bible, we’ve got to admit that nothing much has changed when it comes to human nature. If we were watching a dramatized version of today’s reading what might it sound like? Check out today’s post to see.

But God didn’t include these stories just for entertainment value. They are for our benefit, so we might be encouraged and have hope to persevere when things are difficult or seem unfair or we don’t understand the why’s.

How might God be using the things we least want to remember about our past or we least want to embrace in our present circumstances in the most miraculous ways? It might be our family, how we’ve been sinned against, or something we did or didn’t do.

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 29 & 30
Psalm 8.1-5
Proverbs 3.13-18
Matthew 10.21-42

 

Reality … Before “Reality TV”

 

& 30:

Love, Deceit, & God’s Plans

 

The Bible is full of stories about love, sex, rejection, envy, jealousy, fidelity, adultery, immorality, scheming, deceit, greed, thievery, contention, even murder (and that’s the short list)!

Reality TV has nothing on our spiritual ancestors, or us, for that matter!

If it wasn’t for the love and mercy and patience of God, He might have given up on the human race a long time ago. Instead, He has carefully carried out the plan He has had since before the beginning of time—to send His Son to rescue us from ourselves.

 

Leah, Rachel & Their Manipulative, Deceitful Father

 

In chapter 29 Jacob has been working for his Uncle Laban for seven years for the right to marry his daughter, Rachel. But Rachel has an older sister, Leah, who is still unmarried.

Imagine for a minute that you are Leah. Apparently, she wasn’t considered beautiful in that culture. Verse 17 says her eyes were “delicate.” The NASB says they were weak.

“And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.”

The word translated “delicate” or “weak” probably meant pale and may have been considered a blemish. But the comparison to Rachel says it all, “… but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.”

The desire to look beautiful is nothing new. Even the serving women in Moses day had bronze mirrors (Ex. 38.8). Leah probably felt the sting of comparison and the desire to have someone love her like Jacob loved her sister.

I wonder how she felt as Rachel’s wedding date neared, being the older sister and still unmarried. Now imagine: the wedding party is going on, the wine is flowing, people are singing and dancing.

And her father comes to her with a plan.

22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her (29.22-23).

As we’ll see in the next few verses, Jacob didn’t have a clue who was waiting in the marriage bed.

Imagine how that conversation between Leah and her father might have gone: Continue reading

“Kings, Kingdoms & Functional Gods” January 8

 

Functional GodsDo you ever find yourself trying to help God out just a little? You believe He’s going to answer some prayer, but you keep trying to figure out how, and pretty soon, you’re trying to orchestrate one of those possibilities. Abram and Sarai had been given a great promise, but years had passed with no answer in sight and they took matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, just as it does in our lives, it lead to all kinds of problems and revealed some things about their hearts.

Today, in “Kings, Kingdoms & Functional Gods,” we’ll talk about who or what is really “lord” at that point in time. We’ll also look at how all this relates to worry, how the only way we can stand before God is through “The Multitude of His Mercy” and “His Wisdom for the Upright.”

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 15 & 16
Psalm 5.1-7
Proverbs 2.6-9
Matthew 6.19-34

 

Kings, Kingdoms & Functional Gods

 

& :

Helping God Out

 

When God called Abram to leave his homeland, He told him that He would make a great nation from his descendants, But here in chapter 15, Abram is starting to wonder:

But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

God patiently reassured him that He would keep His promise.

4 … “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

“He believed God …” We know it was genuine faith because God “accounted it to him for righteousness.” He was saved by his faith just as we are.

So what happened next, after this great, faith-filled conversation with God?

One chapter later … God still hasn’t given them a child, so Sarai comes up with her own solution and Abram goes along with it. She gives her handmaiden Hagar to Abram as his wife so they can get the child they so desperately want. How like us they were! How many times do we complicate our lives by trying to help God out?!

polygamyOne of the questions I’ve been asked many times about this passage is, “Why did God allow this to happen? And why did He, so frequently, allow the patriarchs in the Old Testament to have multiple wives?”

“Allow” is the key word here. It wasn’t that God wanted them to do so. In fact, you can see in this story and in others, that it always leads to strife and problems of every kind. God doesn’t hide any of that. God’s word, not only reveals the truth about God, but it exposes human nature, even at its worst. God lets us see humankind with all our warts so we can see our desperate need for Him.  Continue reading

“Sin’s Invisible Hooks” April 30

 

sin

Are you playing around with some sinful thought or thinking about something from your past?

Sin is not something to be played with. In our pride we think we can handle it and it won’t get a hold on us. But sin has invisible hooks that can drag us down and take us places we never intended to go.

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. – unknown

 

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 1-3
Psalm 53.1-6
Proverbs 15.8-11
Luke 20.27-47

 

:

Multiple wives: provocation & ridicule

There’s so much in these 3 chapters! First once again, there’s the multiple wives issue. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, God never presents it as a good thing. He always shows the conflicts and problems that resulted.

Chapter 1:

¹ Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Verses 4-7:

And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.

It appears Hannah was Elhanah’s favorite. That may have provoked Peninnah to jealousy (not an excuse, by the way). In any case, she ridiculed Hannah because of her barrenness. Elhanah may have been a little provoked and frustrated himself. And he, certainly, doesn’t seem to understand Hannah’s longing for a son.

“Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1.8).

This was never the way God intended marriage to be.

 

Israelite womanHannah’s vow

11 Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

In the midst of it all, God heard the prayer of His humble servant, Hannah, and gave her a son. Notice how this faithful woman kept her vow to the Lord:

“Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her … and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh.. And the child was young … For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there” (vv.24-28).

Her son, by the way, was Samuel. He would become the first Prophet mentioned more than just in passing and would greatly influence the nation and God’s people. We will read more of his story as we continue through the Old Testament.

 

God’s judgment on willful, unrepentant sin

Next there’s the sad story of Eli and his two ungodly sons in chapters 2 & 3. This man knew what his sons were doing, stealing the part of the sacrifices that belonged to God and sleeping with women who came to the tabernacle, yet he failed to deal decisively with them. The boys themselves had so hardened their hearts through their sin and disobedience that “the Lord desired to kill them” (). God added His judicial hardening to their willful hardening.

Romans 1 explains it this way:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (emphasis added).

This is sometimes called the downward spiral of sin. Notice, first of all, people know the truth, but suppress it. These two sons were priests; they had heard the truth. Their hearts were first darkened by their own sin and then “God gave them over” (removed His restraining grace) and allowed the natural consequences of their sin to run its course.

 

Sin’s invisible hooks

How did these two priests end up where they did? How did it start? What compromises did they make in their thoughts and attitudes along the way? How did they end up sleeping with women in the tabernacle? And can that kind of thing happen to us?  Continue reading

“Polygamy & Acceptable Sins” April 22

 

Polygamy & Acceptable Sins

“Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament?” I’ve heard that question many times. The truth is, it has always been sin, but at that time it was an acceptable sin by most people’s standards. What sin have you allowed to become acceptable?

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 9 & 10
Psalm 50.1-6
Proverbs 14.25-27
Luke 16.1-31

 

& :

ACCEPTABLE SINS

In Gideon had fallen into the sin of polygamy. Though it was tolerated in that society, it was never God’s intent. It always led to trouble and often outright evil as it did here in chapter 9.

We are introduced to Abimelech his son by another relationship (Gideon didn’t even marry this woman). Sin always spirals downward unless repented of and forsaken. Abimelech, not only conspired to become king of Shechem, but set out to kill all of his brothers—70 of them. He succeeded in killing all but one who hid from him.

What is God saying to us through this story? What principles can we learn? Possibly about the dangers of compromise?

If we trace this story back to , we see Gideon went from his great victory to making an ephod and setting it up in his hometown. An ephod generally referred to a sacred garment worn by a priest.

Matthew Henry says this may have included some kind of oracle to divine God’s will. The end of verse 27 says, “But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.” Continue reading

April 30 “Sin’s invisible hooks”

Sin is not something to be played with. In our pride we think we can handle it; it won’t get a hold on us, but sin has invisible hooks that can drag us down and take us places we never intended to go.

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. – unknown

sin's invisible hook

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 1-3
Psalm 53.1-6
Proverbs 15.8-11
Luke 20.27-47

1 Samuel 1-3:

Multiple wives—provoked and miserable

There’s so much good stuff in these 3 chapters! First once again, there’s the multiple wives issue. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, God never presents it as a good thing. He always shows the conflict and problems that resulted.

Notice verse 1.6a, “And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable …” Notice the words “rival,” “provoked” and “miserable.” Peninnah may have been provoked to jealousy (not an excuse, by the way) because Elkanah favored Hannah (1.5). She provoked Hannah because of her barrenness. Elhanah may have been a little provoked and frustrated himself, “Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1.8).

This was never the way God intended marriage to be.

But even in the midst of bad choices, God heard the prayer of His humble servant, Hannah. Notice how this faithful woman kept her vow to the Lord, “Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her … and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh.. And the child was young … For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there” (vv.24-28).

God’s judgment on willful, unrepentant sin

Next there’s the sad story of Eli and his two ungodly sons in chapters 2 & 3. This man knew what his sons were doing, stealing the part of the sacrifices that belonged to God and sleeping with women who came to the tabernacle, yet he failed to deal decisively with them. The boys themselves had so hardened their hearts through their sin and disobedience that “the Lord desired to kill them” (2.25). God added His judicial hardening to their willful hardening.

Romans 1 explains it this way: Continue reading

April 22 “Polygamy & acceptable sins”

“Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament?” I’ve heard that question many times. The truth is, it has always been sin, but at that time it was an acceptable sin by most people’s standards. What sin have you allowed to become acceptable?

acceptable sins

Today’s Readings:
Judges 9 & 10
Psalm 50.1-6
Proverbs 14.25-27
Luke 16.1-31

Judges 9 & 10:

Acceptable sins

In Judges 8.30-31 we saw that Gideon fell into the sin of polygamy. Though it was tolerated in that society, it never was God’s intent. It always led to trouble and often outright evil as it did here in chapter 9. Sin always spirals downward unless repented of and forsaken. We meet Abimelech his son by another relationship (Gideon didn’t even marry this woman). Abimelech, not only conspired to become king of Shechem, but then went and killed all his brothers—70 of them—all except one who hid from him.

What is God saying to us through this story? What principles can we learn? Possibly about the dangers of compromise? If we trace this story back to 8.27, we see Gideon went from his great victory to making an ephod and setting it up in his hometown. An ephod generally referred to a sacred garment worn by a priest. Matthew Henry suggests this may have also included some kind of oracle to try to divine God’s will. Remember that the place of worship at this time was at Shiloh not here in Ophrah. The end of verse 27 says, “But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.” Continue reading