Devotional 50: He Put Them All Outside

Mark 5:36-43

36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly.39 When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”

40 And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated,“Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. 43 But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

I love the story of redemption through the cross, because it means that Jesus is resurrected, and that means those who believe in Him will be resurrected too, spotless and blameless before the Father.

Personally, I think the Resurrection doesn’t get enough attention. We have the hope of eternal life, and life means we must be raised. The power of the grave is broken, to the point where even the sea will give up its dead.

We read in the Word that Jesus could work no miracles where there was no faith, yet we’re told if our faith is the size of mustard seed, it can provide the spark.

In some ways this story parallels that of Lazarus: Jesus was ministering elsewhere when the death occurs, and He visits once he’s done ministering to the crowd. What’s different is that the closer Jesus gets, the thinner the crowd, until only His inner circle and the child’s parents remain as witnesses, whereas the raising of Lazarus was more public.

The way Mark puts this is almost humorous in verse 40: And they ridiculed Him. But when He put them all outside…” The juxtaposition is jarring, and there was probably nothing humorous about it, but Christ does not surrender His authority any more than the Father shares His glory. They left.

Jesus had no time for the faithless clamoring of useless mourning.

How bold they were to mock Him, knowing who He was, ‘knowing’ the child was dead.

But we’re not unlike them at times, even professing faith. We ‘know’ things that Jesus doesn’t about ourselves, our lives, our plans, our families…we are not as quick to submit to His authority in all aspects of our lives.

We ‘know’ it’s too late to start over, or the marriage is ending, or the delinquent child is never going to get it together….

We must begin to do with our own faithless behaviors what Jesus did to the doubters at the door: Put them all outside, and say to the things of G-d, “I say to you, arise.”

And like the little girl our Lord raised, we must feed those things in us of G-d that provides us with perseverance, and shut out that which distract us, taunt us, mock and abuse us by assailing us with the words and deeds of long ago. Give yourself something to eat.

Put them all outside, brothers and sisters, and as Jesus told Jairus: “Do not be afraid, only believe.”

Therefore I pray

Lord Jesus, help me to put outside all of the thoughts or feelings that are not tied into Your power to redeem me from sin.

Help me not to hear those who say “Don’t trouble the Teacher any longer,” so that I am not caught up in the noise of faithless fatalism.

Increase my peace in times of turmoil, my faith in the midst of trials, and my understanding in times of confusion.

Let me feel the presence of the Spirit as I enjoy the blessing of restoration.

Let me hold fast to the hope of being raised into eternal life in the Kingdom of G-d, to the cloud of witnesses after the Great Shout: ‘Come forth!’

I would not be among the faithless of the outer darkness who reject the Gospel because they ‘know’ there is no G-d. You say that in that time, as here, there will be weeping, for the killing of the soul is true death, and not merely sleep.

I would not be snatched from Your hand, even when I stray, so I ask Your forgiveness when I stood silent among those who ridiculed You.

I ask these things in faith, believing I’ve received, and for all my Brothers and Sisters who believe in You across the nations of the world.

Amen

Devotional 49: Strengthen Our Hands

Nehemiah 6:5-9

Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. In it was written:

It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, “There is a king in Judah!” Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.

Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.”

For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.”

Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

The attacks and harassment came from everywhere: the enemy physically lurked about and taunted as the work of restoration was being done on the walls of Jerusalem. Protected by one king, the threat of the king where Nehemiah went  to work among his people to restore them was no less real.

The accusations followed:    It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their  king.

They sought to wear him down and delay the work of restoration with the threat of physical harm and and psychological weakness.

Through it all, Nehemiah , like David, took comfort in the Lord his G-d, and guided by the Holy Spirit, he thwarted them. He strengthened Nehemiah’s hand to answer five times, “I am doing a great work. Why should  the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”

Notice the direction Nehemiah had to go to reach them?

As persistent as their enemies’demands were, his focus was equally clear; the wall was not just to put Jerusalem right, but it was to the glory of G-d to have His people do it as an act of loving service.

There are other ways to strengthen hands besides giving them the ability to lift heavy objects. During the holidays I was getting cash back from a machine that gave me $60 of the $100 I asked for; the cashier went to get the manager who didn’t look to see the screen had already given me $60. She counts off $100 and gives it to me; we’re the only two there a the machine and no one there between the time it was my turn and the time the manager came back, and I could have had $160 to spend ….

He can strengthen our hands not to steal.

There are men (and a rising number of women) alone at night in front of their computers, and the ‘adult only’ email slides like Eden’s serpent into the Inbox…

He can strengthen our hands not to give in to temptation.

And in the Garden of Gethsemane, our Savior, knowing the pain and forsaking to come, clasps his hands together and entreats His Father to take the cup…

He can strengthen our hands to pray.

Pray, Brothers and Sisters, that He strengthen your hands to complete the task He’s set for you, to His glory and your sanctification.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We see them coming from a long way off when we are high on the ladder of the center of Your will. 

We hear their mocking whispers and veiled threats as clearly as if they’d said them in our ears.

We see their smug smiles of doubt and their frowns of frustration.

We see the ill intent in their eyes.

We see their bravado, for they don’t know You’re in the midst of us.

And in our humanity our hands would strike back, our tongues would give flight to our anger, and our reason would flee the faster for our warming blood.

Let us take comfort in You, Father. Let us see You in them, even as we rebuke them, even as they seek  to turn us from the task You appointed us to do. And by faith, let us remember to turn to You. Let us behold Your smile and loving touch as we answer by the power of Your Spirit: I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.

I ask it by the strong, nail pierced hands of our Savior, hands You strengthened to bear my sin and put on the altar of His all consuming sacrifice, to Your glory and my sanctification, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

Devotional 48: We Are Able

Matthew 20:20-23

Greatness Is Serving

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?”

She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”[a]

They said to Him, “We are able.”

23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with;[b] but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

Their faith in Jesus as the Son of God was not in question, though they still didn’t fully understand. Indeed, the brothers were in His inner circle, as we see references to Peter, James, and John throughout the Gospels.

It is in their humanity and seeming piety that they found they were in error, and Jesus, with compassion, lays it out for them.

Their mother, being part of the ministry of women that followed Jesus, saw an opportunity, and thought to seize on it to elevate her sons. Clearly they discussed and conspired to approach Jesus to do something they thought was possible: to be favored by the leader in a highly visible manner, much like Haman sought to glorify himself through Ahasuerus.

If we’re honest, when the leader favors us in our earthly endeavors, we feel proud of ourselves that the work we’ve done has attracted their notice and we become for a moment the center of attention. Yet the Bible tells us that if we are skilled in our work, we will not serve before obscure men, and Paul admonishes us to work as unto the Lord, and not man. Given that combination, this request is not only overbold, but mires it in earthly things though it targets Jesus’ eternal kingdom: to sit on the Lord’s right and left hand for all eternity!

We know that the placement of one at a table during an event had to do with wealth, prominence, social significance, and the degree of the relationship to the host; the closer you were, the more important you were.

Yet they approach Jesus and kneel before him in false humility.

That they don’t understand what He’s saying about His cup and baptism is evident in the easy confidence of their answer when He asks, ‘Are you able?’ and they reply.

“We are able.”

What we must remember is that they were as much in the dark of the things Jesus spoke of concerning Himself as the rest of us would be. He preached difficult things to unlearned men, and simplicity to the scholarly, and they were both confounded by His speech.

Let us also remember that Jesus already took His cup, tore the veil, spilled His blood, and rose from the grave to return to the Father. That was His cup. At the table of life, we each have our own, and there are days we sip from it, and days when it’s poured over our heads.

And on the days we are baptized with worldly vileness, remember that He has called us out of it, and is preparing our place.

And it is in Him, and only in Him, that we can say, with quavering voices, as we kneel before the Infinite and Eternal G-d, that we are able.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In our misunderstanding and misapplication of the many things you spoke concerning Yourself and the kingdom, forgive me for taking my cup lightly, with no reverence of what Yours contained. The wine of my trials is far sweeter than Yours had to be, and it is nothing to speak truth to evil, though I tremble when I see the world gather to stone those who proclaim Your truth.

Help me to remember that the places in Heaven have already been prepared by the Father. Therefore, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and true repentance, I am assured a place through faith in believing I too am redeemed from the power of the inevitable grave.

Through Your love, and by Your mercy, strengthen my hands to lift to my cup, take up my cross, count the cost, and follow You on the Narrow Way, rejoicing in overcoming my earthly trials to exchange it for Heaven’s reward from Your hand, glorifying the Father with You in the Your kingdom.

I thank You now, for making me able through Your sacrifice, and the cup of the covenant of mercy and grace.

Amen.

Devotional 47: The Savior of the World

John 4: 39-42

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word.

42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ,[a] the Savior of the world.”

What was this?

The disciples return to find Jesus not only ministering to a woman, but to a Samaritan at that.

They were the mongrel race of Jacob, full of mixed marriages and weird customs; the Father’s chosen were not to deal with them.

Did that not also hold true for His Son, the One who claimed to do His Father’s will?

The Judge of all nations had something in mind, and the mongrel race was of a piece of the Father’s plan this day, starting with it’s most devalued member. She was alone at the well because even among her own she was an outcast. It was her very lack of convention and propriety that allowed her to engage Jesus in conversation after His request for drink of water.

She challenges him along spiritual and racial lines, both of which He ignores, because He’s going to the root of the problem, and eventually gets from her a confession of knowledge that was never confirmed.

v.25 “I know that Messiah (who is called Christ) is coming. When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

As Jesus proceeds to prophesy and tell her of her life, she is stirred to back to town and tell the people. It’s a selfless act for one who seems to lead a hedonistic lifestyle. Like Jonah, her sermon is short, but effective. There is something in her manner that compels them; a societal outcast is calling them back with her to the well to see a man she spoke with.

If nothing else, he sounds like a good man, and there’s not much to do, so they go.

And Jesus stays two days, preparing the ground to receive the sacrifice of His righteousness for those with reprobate lifestyles.

‘And many more believed because of His own word.’

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus

You have all wisdom and power, and see the hearts of humanity.

We who say we left all to follow You, love You, believe in all Your promises and miracles, yet we turn away from forgiving and praying for our enemies, much less minister to them.

I admit a hard heart regarding this too, Lord. It feels good to rage and curse, and like Andrew said, to call down fire from Heaven (thank You for not letting us do that). It is our nature to want to see our enemies brought low, and to point our fingers and laugh at their destruction.

But the Father says He takes no pleasure in it.

Still we excuse it with: “His ways are higher than ours, and we’re only human after all.”

Yet the Father says be holy as He is holy.

He not only expects us to do it, He commands it.

I confess I don’t want to. I ask that you help me to see my enemies for what they are: an unfinished, sinful work that needs a  Potter’s hands, a sinner who needs salvation, a man sick in his soul.

Help me not to say, “I thank You that I’m not like this man.”

Remind me I am to be a lamp on a hill, salt and light, and a fruitful vine so that all who hear of You through my words come to You and believe it for themselves.

By the Power of Your Name, I ask it.

Amen.

Devotional 46: Assuredly, I Say to You

Mark 10: 29-31

29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[a] or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

In context, the rich young ruler decided to hold onto his possessions, and Peter has just told Jesus they left all to follow him. Jesus responds, starting with ‘Assuredly, I say to you…”

Our Lord uses this phrase (or its translated variants)  when He’s prophesying.

The Son of G=d who had a hand in the creation of all things prophesies to us still, but in our humanity we don’t understand, or turn away, or we’re afraid to question.

What it means for us as believers however, is that it is certain to happen. For my part, I think we don’t pay attention to what the Word really says because we tend to take it and apply it to us.

One of the phrases I think we do this with is “all nations.” There are people who say that, but think G-d only means the nations that look like them. When you eat, take, or give all of something, nothing is left of it. I often wonder when these people read that phrase, what really crosses their mind when they see it.

Another one is ‘the last will be first.’ We live in a prosperous, powerful nation, and with phrases like ‘Not our kind’ and ‘Not in my backyard’ which I wrote about in a previous post, there are people we pass by in various states of wretchedness, brokeness, sinfulness, and states of poverty. Like Christmas decorations we bring them out once a year and tuck them back inside when the holidays are over. To be sure, there are those who work those ministries year round, but for the most part the general public makes it a once-a-year ‘feel good’ works kind of thing. And that’s okay in and of itself: our lives are busy with jobs and families, our concerns about our own future and making sure we have enough to look after ourselves.

After all, Jesus said the poor will always be with us. I haven’t seen an eradication of charities yet, and we can give to who and what we wish to share our resources with. And He also tells us that what we do have comes with their own brand of persecutions: bills, taxes, maintenance, health problems that afflict us and reduce our ability, trouble and strife in families, in addition to general hatred and unbelief in our faith both from within and without it.

So what’s the point? The point is that when the harvest is done, those people will be at the front of the line, the ones who sleep in wet alleys, the children who are battered and abused, the victims of a predatory society who have by and large replaced or misunderstood that the silver and gold belongs to G-d, not us. (Haggai 2:8)

In the parable of the Field Workers, the last who came to work were paid the same as those who came earlier, and they were mad the last received the same pay. The thief on the cross came to faith and repentance at the last possible instance; there was no time for him to study. It came down to a simple declaration of faith and repentance: “Remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.”

We all know the gracious and life giving response Jesus gave Him.

“Assuredly I say to you…”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

I take comfort from Your willingness to keep assuring us our salvation is true, our places prepared, and the work is finished.

Help me to claim that which is mine through faith in You, and works on Your behalf. Let repentance be true, and every doubt a liar. Let me lips and heart be conjoined in their honor, in their meditation, in their joy and hope of salvation.

Let we who have enjoyed the basics of life, and the overflow of life in You, rejoice at the sight of the least of all nations standing in line before us as You bless them with far more than the crumbs from our tables, however lavish.

Let us raise our voices in praise, song, and thanksgiving as we see Your mercy displayed in the light of the Father’s glory.

Insofar as what time remains to me, let me be light and salt in the ways that I can, that they may see You in me, and I see You in them, that we may both glorify our Father in heaven.

I repent of the times I shuttered that light willingly and knowingly, with willful and selfish purpose when I heard from the Spirit to open my hand.

Soften my heart, embolden my spirit, and fill me with power in the ways that You would have me work to help others. Help me to know always that Your prophecies concerning me are ‘yes and amen,’ in blessed assurance.

By the power of Your Holy Name, I ask it.

Amen.

Light of the Whirled…

(For my parents. RIP)

 

I remember swinging

between the both of you,

smiling,

feeling loved and secure.

 

You were no longer together

even then,

but I felt no loss in that moment.

 

And when my own small children swung

in that same manner between their mother

and me,

many years later

I saw the same smiles,

and thought of you.

 

I hope you’re together now.

I hope you’re swinging between

the arms of God,

and you’re both smiling.

Devotional 45: Made to Stumble

Mark 14:27-31  Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

27 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night,[a] for it is written:

‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered.’[b]

28 “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

29 Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.

30 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

31 But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”

And they all said likewise.

***************

Let me set up a scenario for you:

You’re in a dark, cold cell; hungry, tired, and thirsty.

Heavy chains and manacles are on your wrists and ankles.

Vermin nip, flies beset, and you’re shivering.

The cell door opens, and in come the guards again; you see they mean business, again.

Heavy blows that hold nothing back rack your face and body, and once again, the long, cold, shiny blade is laid against your throat, and the spit lands on your cheek as they pull your head up by your hair and use the blade to life you on your toes, and it breaks the skin as you feel your neck start to bleed.

“Renounce Jesus,” they say, and you open your mouth….

**************

The goal is to be like Christ, but as I’ve said before, we’re more like Peter.

Our faith is not entirely based on what we believe of Christ, but also what we believe of ourselves.

How steadfast and faithful we are in our own minds! How unwavering and brave!

When storms come, the Christ image in our minds sets our faces like flint, but on the inside we’ve taken our eyes off Him, and we don’t dare say, “Lord, save me!” because of a moment of fear and doubt, or in the midst of a trial.

We are told over and over again that the Apostles not only didn’t understand, but ultimately they were afraid to question Him on what He meant. (Mark 9:30-32)

In our weakness, we try to repair the torn veil or substitute it by statements of boldness: “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”

And then an unbeliever exposes us to the harsh light of our tormentors, and we curse, then hide and weep.

I am thankful that He has compassion, and that He knows me better than myself.

We’re only fooling ourselves, and I am thankful that He forgives a broken heart and contrite spirit.

He later asked Peter three times if he loved Him, one brick of restoration for each one Peter broke apart with his denial.

Do we love Him enough to die, figuratively and literally, that He might not be ashamed of us, deny us to the Father, and command our departure to the outer darkness? Paul admonishes us to take heed when we think we stand, lest we fall.

Let us build each other up in faith, and with joyful hearts embrace our fates like ‘the others’ in Hebrews who received no miraculous rescue from persecution and death because the world ‘was not worthy of them.’

Peter’s bitter tears finally humbled him, but the Lord uses that in which we are gifted to His glory, for in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit touched the hearts of three-thousand because of Peter’s boldness, and he never looked backed (except when he lapsed in front of Paul. Big mistake…)

Be encouraged, brothers and sisters; He is the author and finisher of our faith.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

If I scatter, let my bitter weeping make the ground good soil and fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit to speak light to darkness, love to hate, but mostly truth to power. Let me be compassionate but uncompromising, bold but not self-righteous, fearless with faith and holding onto Your promises of a prepared place.

And let me always speak, as You did, in love. Let my words be few as they point to Our Father, that He get all the glory, honor and praise.

Thank You for looking upon this unworthy servant, and restoring him to be reconciled.

In Your Name, I ask it.

Amen

Devotional 44: He Sighed in His spirit…

The Pharisees Seek a Sign

11 Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. 12 But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.”

A sign seemed a small thing to ask, for Jesus was unlike other preachers, teachers, rabbis and prophets of His time: He had no equal.  Indeed, how could He?

He astonished the crowds with His teaching, He was confident in His authority to perform miracles, He had a retinue of unlearned yet passionate men, and a women’s ministry that was unheard of in His time.

He spoke to Samaritans, forgave the sins of the faithless, and called out the religious leaders for their hypocrisy, challenging their power over the people and their control of political events in Israel.

All the while He knew that eventually He would have to die at their hands in order to save them all.

They questioned His authority relentlessly, tried to trap Him repeatedly, and he constantly left them in a state of embarrassed confusion and wrath that exposed their corrupt hearts.

They called Him out as a blasphemous youth and rebellious upstart, and sought to stone him more than once.

He could’ve ended it with a sign.

Why not gather them all together on the mountain, where there could be no doubt, in full view of Heaven and earth, before all the people? Why not give them a sign that You are truly sent from the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  They’d believe You then, Jesus. They’d leave You alone then.

Jesus knew what was in a man, and refused them. He was not a street magician performing to please crowds. If they were jealous and hated Him for the ministry He was doing without a sign, how much more jealous and hateful would they be if they saw the Father seal Him before their eyes as the Messiah?

The virgin birth they knew about was not enough.

The miracles He performed in front of them were not enough.

He took what they knew and told them it all pointed to Himself, and it was not enough.

Their stubborn faithlessness  wearied Him so, he sighed deep in His own spirit.

How many of us, in our moments of unbelief, can make that claim?

Is He enough for us, O we of little faith? Do we truly believe, professing with lips and no honor in our hearts? Do we sacrifice instead of obey? Do we pray on the night’s watch?  Do we shout what He’s whispered? Do we forgive as He did, and love as He loves?

What are the signs?

Where are the signs?

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, 

I grow weary of doing good in an ungrateful world. I grow fearful of what people will think and say if I profess You, though I don’t deny You in my heart. I have no boldness, and am quiet when I should shout. I withdraw from the kinds of crowds You went into.

I don’t believe You will give me what to say when I open my mouth to preach the Gospel.

I feel as though I have no authority at all to speak of You as I act on my own sinful desires.

And I ask for signs: wet fleece, wet grass, a star in the heavens, a prophetic word, a verse in the Word, a reversal of bad fortune…

If I just had those, Lord, I’d be so much more encouraged to speak of Your goodness, Your mercy, Your grace, and yes, Your judgment. 

And You say to me, “No sign shall be given.”

Then increase my faith to continue. Help my unbelief. Feed this little dog the scraps from Your table. Let me take a drink from the well of Living Water. Let me eat of the Bread of the Life. Let me set stones on the path, and find wells in the desert. Let me see Your glory fill the temple of my heart, for even King David said, “I am poor and needy.” 

I would not have my spirit fail, nor be broken.

If you’re trusting me with Your silence, Lord, then I trust Your hand works where I can’t see, preparing my place, and guiding me along the path.

I thank You, King Jesus, for all that You’ve done, and all that You will do to complete my story as the Author and Finisher of the work You started. Write Your sign on my life, Lord, and set me on a hill so that men will see, and glorify G-d.

Amen.

Devotional 43: You Shall Recover All

1 Samuel 30:1-8

David’s Conflict with the Amalekites

30 Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive. Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David.

So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?”

And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.

Losses come in two forms: the first is through attrition and time, when we lose our ancestors, and the loss is felt more keenly the more we know and love them. This is why great-grandparents hold such esteem among us, and is considered a title and age to be honored by their descendants.

The second is through the nature of man: greed and the love of money, jealousy, hatred, and we don’t understand why, if we’re good people our Lord will not always shield us from such.

But Jesus tells us the world hates us because it hated Him first, and it hates Him because He testifies that its work are evil.

Yet the plan of the Father is redemption, and so was here with David, and so it shall be with us. The one thing that was consistent with David was that whenever he was victorious, he sought the Lord first. Coming home to find all you’ve loved, worked and fought for taken from you by an enemy is a crushing thing, and David, flaws and all, was as human as the lowliest soldier in his army.

David returns home after being rejected by the Philistines to find the city burned and everything stolen. He weeps with his people, and when that’s over, his people talk of killing him because he led the men from home and they weren’t there to protect their own.

He was the king, and he’d left their gates open to the enemy. Like true thieves, the Amalekites came when no strong man was there, they captured the weak, and took what  belonged to the king and his people.

This was an indictment against David, who had a reputation of being strong and might, feared, and a brilliant strategist. If ever there was a moment for a man to despair, this was it, but David knew where his help came from.

v6 But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Do we believe God is control of our circumstances, even if we suffer loss? Do we believe he reins in what Satan is allowed to do to us? Consider, this is the only time we’re told that there was a raid with no slaughter, just thievery. Everyone they lost was still alive. Who kept them all safe, that David would recover all?

How odd that an Egyptian would fall sick and be left behind, and in the countryside, just happens to come across the king looking for the men who attacked his home, and this man just so happens to know where the troops are…

When we seek G-d first for answers, He honors our faith.

When we are told to pursue, we get what He’s set aside for us to have; it has been preserved for us, but we must take action. G-d did not put a change of heart in the Amalekites to suddenly come back with everyone and drop them off. David still had to go, though he was sad, tired, and angry.

When we too are done shaking our fist, grinding our teeth, and rending our garments in times and moments we don’t understand, surrounded by people who are out to destroy us from within and without, we must still go.

And the Father promises, we shall surely recover all, with increase for our faith. David took back what belonged to Him, and the Amalekites. Moses led the Hebrews out with increase after all those years of slavery.

Nothing will ever be missing, or dead, when we recover all.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, if I am to pursue according to Your word, give me the strength to pursue. As your servant David said, ‘I am poor and needy,’ and I am of little faith. 

You are the G-d of eternity who redeems our times when we’ve gone astray, and You keep and preserve all that You have for us until we are found ready to receive, or worthy of the prize. 

When my works are tested, I will weep at the loss of reward for I know that among them is stubble, good for nothing, and times of fruitlessness where I was cursed. I know that I have not only grieved Your Spirit, but I’ve broken the heart of the Son, and made You turn Your eyes, for You cannot look on sin.

Yet You see the end of my days, and my future is a memory to You. So I ask that You walk with me as I pursue, and help me to perceive the signposts, my Egyptians, my markers of stone, my altars, my pillars of cloud and fire, that I may finish the work You’ve called me to do.

And in so doing, I shall recover all that was mine and the enemy’s by the power of Your right hand.

In the Name of Jesus I ask it, believing I’ve received.

Amen.

 

Devotional 42: Do Whatever He Tells You

John 2:1-10

Water Turned to Wine

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.

Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

There are two ways to think of obedience:

One is to obey out of love, much the way a child does who wants to please their parents, or a student to please their teacher.

Jesus was constrained to obedience in this way, not only in doing the Father’s will, but in honoring His earthly parents as well.

The other way is how we more often think of it: as being under threat, something we must comply with in order to avoid harsh consequences, which are heavier to bear.

Yet with the story of Jesus we are told He was obedient to the Father’s command to come to us ‘…because He loved us first.’ (John 4:19); and that He was ‘obedient even to death on a cross.’ (Philippians 2:8)

But here, as Mary makes her ‘request’ Jesus portentously says to her:

“My hour has not yet come.”

Yet if a mother knows her child, how much more does the one whom all generations call blessed?

By now, Mary has observed Him with people, and surely the event of Him as a boy sitting among the learned rabbis remained a strong memory.

By now, she’s seen His heart of compassion, and yet while His mission is the salvation of the world, the judgment of all nations, and reconciling the hearts of the sinful to the heart of G-d through establishing an eternal Kingdom, His mother is feeling compassion for such a simple thing as running out of wine at a wedding feast.

The beauty of this story lies in the fact that we’re not told why they ran out:

Were there drunkards?

Was there not enough money?

Was this a mistake regarding the number of guests attending?

We are left to figure this out, but this is no mystery to Mary, nor is there uncertainty on her part about what He will do; though she has no way to know the specifics her faith in her Son is such that she considers the matter settled:

His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.

Indeed, she walks away in faith and doesn’t address Him again.

We are told this is Jesus’ first miracle. How then did she know He was able to do anything?

How could Emmanuel, G-d with us, not?

It doesn’t matter why you come to Jesus; it only matters that You come, but if you do,

Be ready to obey whatever He says to you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus

I thank You for interceding in the small, finite details of my earthly life.

I thank You for granting me peace past earthly understanding.

I thank You for the people I’ve loved, and the family You’ve redeemed to the Father who no longer dwell here on earth with me.

I thank You for taking my deserved condemnation on Yourself, that I may be in the presence of my Creator’s glory for all eternity as spotless, blameless, and guiltless by the power of Your blood.

I thank You for imparting the Holy Spirit to me, that the truth my be revealed to scaly eyes and a heart of stone softened by the harsh, loving words of the King of Heaven.

Help me also in this: that I lay up treasure in Heaven even as I walk the extra mile in the hot sun, or endure the chill of the evening as I give my coat also, or ignore the offense of personal assault as the pain of life’s slaps and punches mark my cheeks.

In this, I would obey in love and reverent fear of the Lord my G-d, and ask it in Your Name.

Amen.