Devotional 107: Her Sins are Forgiven

Luke 37-50

37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Women were not supposed to be of consequence, subject to the will of their husbands, however cruel. Left without choices, without education, without options, some turned to harlotry and crime.

As such, they could be equal to men in hardness of heart, infirmity of will, subject to temptation, and as prone to immorality and downfall as any of their male counterparts.  Condemned under the Law, they had no chance at redemption, until the Son of Man came to tell them otherwise.

The Pharisee said of Jesus:  “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

Jesus replies: 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.

How would He know her sins were many if He was not a prophet of G-d?

The Songs of Ascent in the Old Testament was for the men of Israel to go to the mountain to seek the Lord, but G-d was not above using women to accomplish His purposes when men could not, or would not, step forward.  Abigail, in saving her foolish husband, became the wife of a king. Deborah told Barack he would get no glory if she went with him, but she obeyed the Father’s calling when he wouldn’t go without her.

It was no less true in the ministry of Christ.

Luke 8:1-3

Many Women Minister to Jesus

Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

Even His disciples were surprised that He would minister to them as individuals.

John 4:25 – 27

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.  27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”

It was the women who first came to His tomb. (Luke 23:55-56)

55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, (*Joseph of Arimathea carried Jesus body to the tomb)* and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 24:1-3

He Is Risen

24 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

And again in verse 10:

10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.

And while it was true He didn’t condemn the adulteress brought to Him by the Pharisees, He did not exonerate her from her guilt:

John 8:10-11

10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

He never said she didn’t commit the sin.

It is our calling as husbands, fathers, and brothers, and even as sons, to minister to the souls of our female family members, and our wives in particular as life partners. As the body, we are to pray for our Sisters in Christ, edifying them and coming alongside them in the ministry of the Gospel, being careful to observe all of the Lord’s ordinances of treating them with proper respect.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

We thank You for our sisters in Christ, co-workers of the harvest, the Ruth’s and the Rahab’s, working in faith to spread Your Word, show Your love and compassion, and be fruitful branches of the Kingdom work that leads to life everlasting. 

We thank You for our help-mates, the mothers of our children, the brides of our youth who make our homes into sanctuaries that protect us from the outside world, and give us havens of worship and family unity.

We thank You for the elder Mothers of our ancestry, who raised us in the fear and reverence of Your Word, seeking Your presence and intercession on our behalf, that we might be sustained and prosper in Your favor as we seek Your face.

We thank You for our daughters, raised to be strong women of G-d, helpmates to their own husbands, and ministering to their own families with what they’ve been taught. We beseech You on their behalf that their men seek always to pray, and not lose heart, and know they have steadfast life partners at their side, as You ordained marriage to be.

We pray for the single woman, that she fulfill Your calling according to Your will, and that if she needs a partner, You will send her one worthy of a king’s daughter, but if You do not, bring to mind that she is not the daughter of a king, but of the King of Kings. Let her not lose heart, nor succumb to the world’s values that to be alone somehow reduces her worth and negates her purpose, that not having children renders her null in Your eyes.

We ask that You strengthen them all: the mother and the barren, the young and the old, the single and the married, the lost and the confident. Let us minister to them in Your love, with Your compassion, patience, and mercy when they also fall into sin, and make them accountable for keeping to Your precepts if they stray.

Bring to mind that they are as essential to Your ministry as we are, and they are as responsible for the Great Commission as we are, and that they are to give of their gifts and talents, as we are. 

Help us to support one another, keeping each other in prayer, believing the best of each other, and loving them as Christ loved the church, which He sacrificed His life for, submitting His will while seeking the face of the Father, unwavering in faith.

Together, let us build our houses on Your foundation, that nothing may destroy our unions, and no man can sunder what G-d has joined.

Lord Jesus, build our houses, enter them, and dine with us.

We will open the door when You knock.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 106: The Accursed Crowd

The Pharisees called them accursed, but they had it wrong.

Who Is He?

40 Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.”

But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people because of Him. 44 Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

Rejected by the Authorities

45 Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?”

46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”

47 Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”

It didn’t seem to matter what Jesus did or said, their hearts were hardened, their heels dug in, and they kept turning to their heads and not their hearts, their knowledge of The Law of Moses puffing them up with pride, Moses’ own words and those of G-d, his friend, twisted and added to so they could control the largely unschooled agricultural population of the day, and line their pockets as they claimed to be holy men who alone could understand and interpret the Scriptures.

Matthew 21:31-32 Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

Both of these particular sinners were especially despised under the Law, though Rahab the harlot is in the very genealogy of Christ, and Matthew the publican wrote the Gospel that ties everything Jesus said and did back to the Prophets.

Time and again, they resisted the Word, excommunicated the faithful, questioned His authority, His sanity, and His deity, yet they couldn’t deny His power.

John 12:17-19

17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. 18 For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”

And it scared them to the core.

Their pride in their knowledge was the very undoing of their power, and their lack of faith the undoing of their salvation. Moses, the Lawgiver himself, will accuse them before the throne on the day of judgment.

They were jealous of His youth, His refusal to kowtow to their authority, His popularity, His questions that rendered them silent, His calling them out on their hypocrisy, hard hearts, and love of the praises of men even as they purported to be men of G-d, adding to the Law that which gave them power and authority over the people.

And He remained obedient, knowing they would never change, but He never stopped trying to reach them.

John 8:42-43

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.

It is hard for men of honed reasoning minds to accept things on faith, but that’s not because there is no evidence, it’s because they’ve chosen the tangible over the unseen. The very fact that G-d has sustained His Word throughout all of history, and that it’s still being attacked, speaks to its power.

Science doesn’t supersede G-d, yet almost every atheist clip I’ve watched will reference their education into science at some point, if not at first. Just as they haven’t seen G-d, they haven’t seen billions of years ago, but they attest to it as a certainty. They say the Bible was written by men, and therefore prone to error, but so are science books, and how often has what’s been taught has changed, and how are they still discovering new things? It’s the mind of the infinite mind of G-d, which we cannot fathom. They call it error, but ‘building on previous knowledge’, as if it’s not possible to grow in the knowledge of G-d.

And today, there are those among believers who enjoy a certain smugness, not realizing that the Gospel is to be shared, the downtrodden are to be ministered to, and the purpose of the church is to continue the work of Christ, seeking and saving the lost.

Yet we see wonderfully blessed ministries that are content to sit in comfortable chairs with the same people week after week, ministering to themselves as they laugh and mock their less fortunate brethren, retreat behind their gates, and shield themselves from harm, real and imagined, at the hands of the very people they should be ministering to.

They pander to would-be politicians who can steer funds and favor their way to increase the pastor’s status and the sizes of their congregations.

They side with the oppressors on matters of injustice, knowing the wrong, but remaining silent in the commitment and justification of it.

Speaking the truth has ever resulted in loss and isolation; it is no less true for us now than it was for Jesus back then, and we are told to chose whom we will serve, the first will be last, some have their reward, and some who believe they’re in the kingdom will be told to depart for practicing lawlessness.

We forget our Savior’s words in Matthew 25:40

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Jesus calls the downtrodden His brothers and sisters.

Let us be careful, and mindful, that we are here temporarily, and like the child Jesus, we are to be about our Father’s business, lest we be deemed unfruitful, unprofitable, and therefore fit to be cast into the outer darkness, and not entering into His joy.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

As we approach this holiday season, rife with pagan symbolism and worldly greed, we tend to ‘remember’ the unfortunate among us, and give ourselves spiritual pats on the back as we volunteer and donate to see to their needs, after which we put them away along with the decorations.

Open our eyes to how Your grace and blessings puts us in a position to provide for others, no matter how small the item, or how frequent the gift. Bring to mind that our brothers and sisters who wander with nowhere to lay their heads are just as hungry on President’s Day and July 4th as they are at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Forgive us, Lord Jesus, for forgetting Your words, for letting our guard lapse and our own comfort blind us to those around us in need.

Help us to judge no one, but to see past the fault to the need, as You did, even among the Pharisees, and even on the cross.

Open our hands and mouths this holiday season, and instill us with a spirit of boldness as we trust You to fill our mouths with what should be said, always pointing the way to You, as You point the way to the Father.

Let our faith remain steadfast, our repentance sincere, our joy complete, and our lives consecrated back to You.

Keep our work fruitful and profitable; I would not burn with the chaff, Lord, and keep  our prayers with each and every person and family that has gone to glory as a result of this fire. I pray Your peace for them, now and forever as this year, when they take their photos, there will be one less in them.

Help me obey the Holy Spirit in all things, since He speaks from what You give Him.

Let us not be prideful in our salvation, nor selfish in our ministering; this is not a serve one, save one of Your own kind.

Lord Jesus, remind us that ALL nations will be gathered before You on that day, and that we are responsible for ministering to the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world, not just the neighborhood.

Help us to remember that we were once part of the truly accursed crowd, educated in the world and ourselves, knowing neither Law nor understanding grace, but now we are newly accursed by the faithless, under the loving care of our Shepherd, and redeemed to our Father through the Son’s atoning work.

Today, let us cast our lot with Him who is able, in fear of the Lord our G-d, and go to Him, abiding, that we may finish the work to which we’ve been called, and plant seeds for the harvest to come as He commands us, speaking Truth to power, and Truth in love to the accursed crowd.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 91: A Mother’s Heart

2 Kings 4:12-25

1Then he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite woman.” When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Look, you have been concerned for us with all this care. What can I do for you? Do you want me to speak on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’”

She answered, “I dwell among my own people.”

14 So he said, “What then is to be done for her?”

And Gehazi answered, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.”

15 So he said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 Then he said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.”

And she said, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!”

17 But the woman conceived, and bore a son when the appointed time had come, of which Elisha had told her.

18 And the child grew. Now it happened one day that he went out to his father, to the reapers. 19 And he said to his father, “My head, my head!”

So he said to a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 21 And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door upon him, and went out. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Please send me one of the young men and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and come back.”

There is a lot in this story left untold: we are not told the woman’s name or status, only that she was notable, so she wasn’t poor, and that she’d set aside a space for Elisha after recognizing he was G-d’s prophet.

G-d honored her faith in her dealings with Elisha by granting her a son, but then it seems her faith was tested, and the son was taken.

She didn’t turn to her husband, who’d proven rather useless in this matter; either he didn’t know what to do, or didn’t care, but what we know is he didn’t even take the boy in himself. She didn’t even tell him the boy had died.

She knew the source to go to, however. Not being an Israelite, she had no access to G-d except through the prophet. Her attitude was that of Martha’s at the tomb of Lazarus: “But even now I know that whatever You ask of G-d, He will give You.” (John 11:22)

Since the man of G-d prophesied her conception, but not the death, of her son, she would go to him to fix the problem.

I can imagine the rush of emotions going through her that run through us all when the Father grants something and seemingly snatches it away: anger, doubt, questions, frustration, and a sense of resolve in that if the Father wants it to be, He’ll fix it.

We’re not told her age, but in calling for the carriage to take her the prophet’s house, she told the driver not to slacken the pace. The journey through the country was likely arduous, but she bore the pain and pace through the heart stopping terrain to reach Elisha before it was  too late.

The thought of it being too late never occurred to her, and she confronted the prophet, putting the onus on him to intercede. He does, but needs to persist; the Father did not render this an easy task even for the prophet, but in the end, her son is given back to her to care for her in the days when she’ll be dependent on him.

A child grows near the mother’s heart, takes comfort from its rhythm, and becomes a part of the mother’s own biology; that is a bond fathers will never know. Her love for her son drove her to do things a ‘notable’ woman didn’t necessarily have to do.

She humbled herself, and went to the prophet, she did not summon him to her.

She kept her counsel, staying in control, not telling anyone what happened; she was not going to speak death over her son, not even to Elisha’s servant. She was going to deal directly with the source who had access and would know what to do.

She held onto her faith that the prophet’s G-d would honor the word that He gave to His servant, and He did.

I remember being in a mall once, and a mother had lost her child. I was around 220, and no lightweight, and she came walking very fast, her face like flint. She bumped me out of the way and I almost fell. Confronting the person who had her daughter by the hand, she stood in the woman’s way and challenged her.

The woman, a grandmother herself, informed her that she’d found the child wandering and they were looking for her, and gave the little girl back as she rebuked the mom for losing the child in the first place, so the story had a happy(?) ending. But I remember the force of that bump. She’d have pushed me over if I’d been directly in her path.

Let’s honor our G-d-fearing mothers today, with prayers and gifts, with our presence (if we can), with a call, with a reverent awe for their sacrifice, and a heart of gratitude that when they knew we were coming, they said to the Lord: It is well.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Let’s pray:

Father in Heaven, we thank you for the courageous hearts of our mothers, for the protection, wisdom, and insight they’ve imparted to us. We thank You for giving them hearts of unconditional love, hearts that we’ve broken from time to time, but were never missing that love.

We thank You for gifting them to us, for we would not be able to stand today without them. We thank You for making them willing to sacrifice for us, that they may see us grow and prosper, and do better in the world.

And for my own mom, who now dwells above with You,  I thank You for holding her in Your arms, and bringing her into Your kingdom. I long to see her again, but I know that has its own time, and today, I am content with the memories of her gentle wisdom, her smile, her singing voice, and the love that emanated from her heart even in her anger.

I have yet to plumb the depths and reach the heights of all she gave to me, but there are new paths of discovery ahead, and I know she walks them with me in spirit.

In Your name, I pray blessings and peace to all the mothers of the world who nurture, sacrifice, and love as You have loved. Comfort the suffering, rebuke the negligent, and sustain the family through them.

Let it be to us as You have said.

Amen.