The Eternal Good News

Revelation 14

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


There is a lot happening in Chapter 14 – including the introduction to the 144,000 – the 3 angels and their messages – and the harvest. 

The 144,000 with God’s and Christ’s names on their forehead – coming after the beast’s mark in the last chapter – we see a group of the faithful that have remained pure to God and taken His mark. 

Before we get to the messages of the angels, this stuck out to me:

And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people.

We see the eternal gospel (good news) – the message of love, hope and salvation all found in the promise of God’s kingdom. This angel has the responsibility to make sure that everyone hears this truth. No one is forced to accept this gospel but everyone gets the opportunity to hear it and make a choice. 

It sounds like the commission that Christ left his disciples and then they have passed this responsibility down through the church and us. It will ultimately be fulfilled through our preaching and teaching and in entirety by one of God’s messengers. 

We have a role in this. Those that have received this truth are charged to proclaim it. Through what we say and do, our life is a proclamation to those who may not know the truth that Christ taught, lived and promised. 

The message of the angels was really for those that have not accepted this truth – fear God, evil has lost and those of you that joined the beast have picked the wrong team. Times up!

After these messages we see another small note added by John for the faithful before God’s wrath:

12 This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus.

The chapter ends with a gruesome depiction of God’s wrath through a harvest.

Further motivation to choose the right team. If you have been following these devotions, you have heard the eternal Gospel – have you accepted and further began proclaiming it?

-John Wincapaw

Reflection Questions

  1. What evidence do you have of what team is the right team?
  2. What motivates you most to be actively choosing the right team?
  3. How can you share the eternal good news this week?

Lukewarm Warning!

Revelation 3

Friday, November 18, 2022

A few weeks ago, we got to experience an up-close view of a bit of a twist on the classic caterpillar to butterfly spiritual analogy. Maybe you’ve heard the classic version in youth group, Bible School, or a devotion book….the idea that we are all new creations if we are Christians. That we start as these creepy, crawly, fuzzy little beings and then as a gift of God, through faith in Christ….voila….we are made completely new into creations of beauty and wonder like a butterfly.

Thanks to our friend, Terri Tschaenn, and her milkweed stash….we have gotten to watch this truly amazing experience of God’s creation several times, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. We’ve gotten to feed those adorably cute little caterpillars as they grow at amazing rates each day. We’ve watched the miraculous chrysalis formation, and we’ve gotten to hold brand new monarch butterflies on our pinky fingers before they fly off. It is amazing. It is beautiful. And, it certainly is representative of the hope of new life and transformation God tells us about in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

But. . .does every caterpillar turn into a butterfly? Hmmm.

Terri told us the unfortunate story of one of her baby caterpillars that accidentally met a predator while she was trying to keep it safe in her school classroom….and….chomp. All gone. No butterfly.  And, recently, we watched our caterpillar which we had been watching grow for several weeks, for some unknown reason, never develop his chrysalis at all. Instead, he slowly wasted away and died. It was rather depressing to watch. He had eaten milkweed like all the rest, had gotten to full size, and had looked “just right” to us from the surface. But, inside….something was wrong. He never experienced the stage of transformation. And, instead of achieving beauty and new life, he died a caterpillar. It is common. It is sad. And, it is also certainly representative of what God tells us about in scripture whether or not it makes for as many Sunday School craft ideas on Pinterest.

The Bible warns us about the Christians who look like Christians, but who haven’t experienced a transformation through repentance and faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. These Christians are lukewarm. Just like the caterpillars who die, they lack something inside. But mind you, these aren’t atheist caterpillars or caterpillars who don’t go to church. These are Christian caterpillars. Ones who look just like us. Ones who go to church with us. Maybe us. They haven’t achieved the transformation of repentance and faith in Christ which leads to obedience. And their demise if they don’t repent? “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16, NASV).

Truth can hurt, but it matters. It matters because God and Jesus love us. And true love includes speaking honestly and intentionally. It also matters because unless we repent, at the judgment day, we do not become “butterflies” to live eternally with God and his son Jesus in the kingdom of God. The alternative to that option is death. Today, we live in a world telling us that almost any belief imaginable is “Christian”, and it can get quite confusing as we seek to be on the narrow road and not in the lukewarm masses. It requires diligent searching of scripture and faithful prayer on our parts. We cannot rely alone on our teachers, our families, our churches, and traditions of men. We must not just believe “in” God and Jesus, but know what they say and apply those words to our lives. So, if we find ourselves lukewarm and amongst lukewarm believers. . .what does Jesus say to us?

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:19-21, NASV).

Let’s seek and pray to be more than lukewarm this week and to be victorious in Christ.

-Jennifer Hall

(posted originally for SeekGrowLove – then named Grow16 – on June 24, 2018)

Reflection Questions

  1. What good things were the churches of Revelation 3 doing? What needed to be changed in these churches?
  2. What do you think Jesus would want you – and your church – to repent of?

Revealing the Son of Man of Revelation

Revelation 1

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Today we will be delving into the most unorthodox and arguably most interesting book of the Bible: Revelation. Here, John is on the island called Patmos, and is tasked to write to the seven churches in Asia. What he must write is the prophecy that is about to be unveiled to him over the course of the book by the Son of Man himself. 

Here, the Son of Man is described in verses Revelations 1:13-16 in a new form. That which describes his hair being white as snow, his eyes like a “flame of fire,” his feet like burnished bronze, and his face shining like the sun. Furthermore, he has a sharp double-edged sword protruding from his mouth, his voice is like the “sound of many waters,” and seven stars are being held in his right hand. Aside from setting the premise of the book, the key points come from this portion, as well as describing both God and the Son of Man as the “Alpha and Omega.” The point of the devotion today then will be to further understand our Lord as he is described in this chapter.

The hair being described as being white as wool and snow can simply represent the purity that is reserved for the lamb that was and is Jesus Christ. Further reading, we read that “his eyes were like a flame of fire.” In the original Greek text, this phrase reads as: “οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτοῦ ὡς φλὸξ πυρός, or “hoi opthalmoi autou hōs phlox pyros” (The eyes of Him [are] like a flame of fire). Breaking this down, the first four words are very common, essentially describing that the subject written about is His eyes. However, the fifth word is a bit interesting, as it is translated as “a flame,” and makes an appearance only twice in the Bible. Those two appearances are this verse (Revelation 1:14) and Revelation 19:12. Both times are used to describe the eyes of the Son of Man. The word is commonly used in Greek to describe swirling, flickering, or a whirling motion; often used when describing fire. However, we don’t necessarily need to have the notion that His eyes are literally ablaze with fire, rather, John may be commenting on the uniqueness of his eyes, as in they have an appearance of intensity and power.

In Revelation 1:15, the Son of Man is described as having feet like burnished bronze, and a voice like the “sound of many waters.”  The feet having the appearance of burnished bronze may be an analogy for His glory. And furthermore, the sound of his voice being like the “sound of many waters” gives two traits to his voice. First, the voice is loud and intense, as the word “many” invokes imagery of rushing and sudden waters flooding an area. Second, the voice being described as water also gives a sensation of smoothness that John may feel by hearing the voice. All of these traits match identically with the traits described by Daniel in Daniel 10 when he writes about the revealer. These parallels show that the revealer and the Son of Man are one in the same. This exact appearance being recorded may have been paralleled by Jesus in order to make no mistake as to who he was. If there is one thing we can take away from this appearance, it is that our Lord does not have any intention of being mysterious, and does not shy away from making himself known to us. 

The last portion to be analyzed is Revelation 1:16. Out of His mouth protrudes a sharp double-edged sword, his face shone like the sun, and in his right hand seven stars were held. The double edged sword makes another appearance in Revelation later on (Revelation 19:15), and has multiple meanings attached to it. First, it represents the unmatched power that is attributed to God and has been given to the Son to rule. Furthermore, Jesus is representative of his word, and it is fitting that he will conquer by his word. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword,” don’t even bother with the ink, as words truly have power, especially those that are uttered from the mouth of our Lord. His face shining like the sun represents the glory that is attributed to him, and parallels with Moses’ face similarly shining after having a personal encounter with God. The seven stars held in his hand are later revealed in this chapter (Revelation 1:20) to represent the seven angels that are associated with the seven churches being written to. “Angels” can be translated too as “messengers,” and essentially shows the connection between Him and the churches. The seven stars  being held in his hand also have significant meaning as this essentially makes the point that the churches are upheld by Him and are in His protection. Likewise, we should have the idea that we as a conglomerate group are sanctioned and protected by Him. That is something I hope that all of you can dwell on, as that is an incredible concept. 

Relationships are often not one way roads, and understanding must go both ways in order for us to have a significant connection with the Lord. He already understands and empathizes with our hearts, but studying and learning more about Him allows for us to truly understand His objectives and what He stands for. I hope that you have all learned something new, and if not, some interesting points about the Son of Man that you can dwell on. 

-Colby Leggitt

Reflection Questions:

  1. Did any of these qualities of Jesus stand out to you? If so, why?
  2. The seven stars were made clear to represent the seven churches that John was writing to. Would that mean that the churches in his name are also held there to this day? What are the implications of that?
  3. What feelings do you have about this representation of Christ versus the representation of Christ in the Gospel? 

God’s City Needed Godly People

Nehemiah 8

March 27

Most of the time when people think about Nehemiah, they immediately think of how he rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. The wall itself was very important to the health of the city by providing protection and regulation regarding who came in and who came out. In fact, the walls even served as meeting spots for important governmental purposes. However, Nehemiah didn’t stop with the wall; he felt there was much more to Jerusalem than a protective structure. Nehemiah understood something that we would do well to also recognize–God’s city needed godly people. At this point in Israel’s story, they have returned from the violent and sinful nation Babylon. Previously, Babylon invaded Jerusalem, left the city in ruins, and brought its citizens back to serve them in a pagan land for 70 years! When these people came back to Jerusalem, it was a rough life to say the least. Not only did they live in a barely surviving wasteland, but they came back to a remnant of people who had lost sight of their God! In reality, the city’s physical state of ruin displayed the deeper spiritual ruin of the people.

That is why this chapter of Nehemiah is so powerful and beautiful. Nehemiah gathered the nobles, officials, Levites, priests, and musicians to help rebuild the spiritual status of Jerusalem. The scene we see in chapter 8 is basically a sunrise service where Ezra, the scribe, reads God’s word and law to people who probably couldn’t remember a time when they last listened to it. Ezra, the other Priests, Levites, and Scribes were also giving clear instruction regarding the law as to set the people up for as much success as possible. Nehemiah and those devoted to Yahweh wanted to do everything they could to rebuild Jerusalem’s relationship with God. This chapter makes it clear how the people responded to this desire to rekindle their faith with God! They were attentive, they shouted “Amen, Amen”, they lifted up their hands, and they bowed their heads in worship! Keep in mind that this was in response to reading what we sometimes see as a boring section of scripture called the “Old Testament laws”. These people finally got a chance to know their God and how to live in his wisdom after years of poverty, depravity, and sinful living. The rest of the chapter contains the joyous celebration of worship as they began their process of reuniting to God’s will and rejuvenating their strength in “the joy of the LORD”.

But does this story only apply to a particular group of ancient Jewish people? Is there wisdom here that worked in their day as well as ours? I believe so. God did miraculously create and preserve these words so all people of all time can grow in their relationship with God after all. I’m not suggesting that we have to follow all of God’s ancient laws. I’m not suggesting that we need to have a sunrise service in our town squares for all to hear. What I am suggesting is that perhaps we need to see our role in the church and our community the same way Nehemiah saw himself in his community–as a workforce building a godly city by building up godly people. We too should do everything we can to set others up for success. We too should see our efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the needy, and rebuild the impoverished community as a platform to bring people closer to God! I encourage you all to keep this in your mind and heart today as you read this chapter. I encourage you all to see what you personally can do to help rebuild the world around you to be a more godly place.

-Isaac Cain

We asked Isaac to introduce himself…”My name is Isaac Cain, and I’m married to my wonderful and beautiful wife Madison Cain (( Cisler). I am the pastor of the Rock Solid Bible Church. I love spreading God’s word and playing DiscGolf.”

This week we will finish hitting the highlights of the Old Testament books of history – and then begin the New Testament gospel of John, as we prepare for Resurrection Sunday!

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Can a godly people be created without a firm connection to God’s Scriptures? In this chapter how often and how long did they read from God’s word (vs.2, 3, 13)? What accompanied the reading (vs. 8)? How does this compare to your use of God’s Scriptures?
  2. What was the people’s response (vs. 6, 9)? When was the last time you said “Amen” or wept or worshiped while hearing/reading the words of the Lord?
  3. When is the time for mourning and when is the time for celebrating the words of the Lord? What do you think Nehemiah meant when he said, “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (vs. 10)? How can the joy of the Lord be your strength? How is that related to your use of God’s word?
  4. Prayerfully consider what you personally can do to help rebuild the world around you to be a more godly place.

Devotion

Matthew 1

January 1

de·vo·tion | \ di-ˈvō-shən (noun) – 1. a feeling of strong love or loyalty; 2. the use of time, money, energy, etc., for a particular purpose 3. prayer, worship, or other religious activities that are done in private.

So it begins.  A new year, a new beginning! (but in reality, pretty much the same as yesterday, just with a couple minutes more or less daylight than the surrounding days depending on which hemisphere you live in.) As anticipated, we are beginning a new set of readings for this year! Yay! Today it begins with Matthew 1, which goes through the family tree of Jesus through the line of his father, Joseph., and the DM from God about Jesus.  It is a showcase of how God has been devoted to his people, Israel, faithfully moving generation-to-generation, literally or metaphorically, to begin the path of Jesus Christ and the redemption of us who follow Him.  In so doing, God displays his devotion to us; His love, His use of time, and the pouring out of His holy blessing.  Because of this, we should do nothing less than be devoted to Him in the same manner (John 4:19). What does it mean to be devoted to God?  Today, we look at the three definitions for the word devotion to gain a clearer picture of how we can remain faithful, not only to reading God’s word this year, but drawing closer to Him through this daily activity.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. – Matthew 1:24-25

1. A Strong Love or Loyalty – On our very best days, we seek God in every aspect of our day.  We plan alongside Him; we move with Him; and it is because we love Him and desire to do His will.  But then there are other days where we are faithful and devoted to Him, and our flighty human nature begins to tug.  Those days, usually Mondays, we are in a place of love, but not necessarily acting on a response.  We still must find the will to be faithful, true, and loyal, because God is still in these moments forgiving, restoring, healing, and moving us.  Devote yourself to reading the Word of God throughout this year. Hopefully, in this blog. Follow, share, and do His will in this manner and your relationship with Him will grow stronger. 

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. – Matthew 1:17

2. The Use of Time for a Particular Purpose – It is obvious from reading the genealogy in Matthew 1 that God uses time precisely. This may be used as evidence that God had created a family tree from Adam to Second Adam, Jesus, before the creation of the world. He set them apart.  There is no doubt that setting aside time for a particular purpose has its perks.  Christians have been doing it for centuries, coming together at the same time and location to worship God.  In doing this, the weekly life of the family or individual is governed by their meeting as a body of believers, “Sorry, we can’t do that because we have church.”  In the same manner, your individual time of worship and devotion with God should govern each of your days, not simply be the remaining portions.  Set aside time that doesn’t have distractions, doctor’s appointments, or drudgery. This is time only for you and God.

Because Joseph, her husband, was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. – Matthew 1:19-20

3. Religious Activities Done in Private – Joseph wanted to “put away” Mary privately instead of humiliating her in public because he was faithful.  WHAT?!  He was faithful to the law and the customs of His people, which many of us often confuse with the Will of God.  It is also in private that Joseph receives a direct message – God’s will is moving in a much different direction and will change the foundation and fulfillment of the Law.  Being devoted to God is not solely in the public display, although the symbols of baptism and communion are important public, visible representations that acknowledge our walk with Christ.  Before giving us the model prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus discourages us from making our prayer, devotion, and fasting times something that we draw attention to because when we do, we draw attention to ourselves.  It is welcome, and highly encouraged, that you read these devotions alongside someone you know, but it’s not to showcase your devoutness, or to shout in the streets your sufferings for Christ, or to display your streaks.  There will be time to declare your faith and testimony in public, but it is guided by what is done behind the closed doors of those who are devoted.

-Aaron Winnner

QUESTIONS TO PONDER/DISCUSS

you may pick and choose your favorites

  • In this chapter we see several names for the baby born. What names do you find in verses 1, 16, 21, 23, 25 (some are repeated) and what is the significance and meaning of each? Footnotes may be helpful. What will help us remember the importance of these names?
  • Which definition of devotion do you feel you are doing the best with right now? Which one could use a little work? What would your family, friends, neighbors say you are devoted to? Better yet – what would God say you are devoted to?
  • The angel told Joseph in a dream, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…” (Matthew 1:20). Think about what God may be wanting you to do today, this week, this month, this year. It might go against your natural tendencies or the customs of the land. It may be something that causes you fear and some anxiety. Pray for the direction and follow-through to step out in devotion to God and be an active part of His plans for redemption.
  • Many people find great benefit from the practice of journaling – often writing down thoughts, questions, feelings, quotes helps them stick a little better. You may enjoy daily writing out a verse from each chapter. You can either write out the verse pictured with each devotion, or when reading through the day’s chapter look for a special verse that you want to write down to take with you through the day.

The link to read today’s chapter, Matthew 1, on BibleGateway.com is now at the top, directly below the title and picture.

And here’s the reading plan for the year to print and mark your progress. Looking forward to Seeking Growing and Loving together with you in 2022! God has good things in store for those who seek Him!

Work

Yesterday I tried to convince you that money is not that important.  So…you may be thinking, great, I don’t need to work that much.  Not so fast.  The Bible is pretty clear about the need to work.

Proverbs 10:4 says that laziness makes you poor and Proverbs 6:9-11 states that sleep brings on poverty.  Moreover, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 says that we should work and not depend on anybody.  Paul even gave the Thessalonians a rule concerning work.  He said, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  He then told them that if someone refuses to work, they should not associate with that person in order that they may feel ashamed.  He said they should not regard them as an enemy, but they should warn them as a fellow believer.  Clearly, we need to work.

Work can bring us down sometimes.  If you are working in a job that you love, you are fortunate; good for you.  However, I think there are many who don’t love their job and are just doing it to get by.  I don’t think you have to love your job, but Colossians 3:22-24 tells us that whatever we do, we need to work at it with all our heart, as if we are working for the Lord, not for human masters.  We need to put forth our best effort at our jobs every day.  If something is worth doing, it should be done well.

Okay, we need to work, but how much should we work?  First, Proverbs 23:4-5 warns us not to wear ourselves out to get rich.  Again, don’t let money be your master.  Second, if you have made a decision to live your life for God, all of your time is God’s time, and He also has some work for you to do.  Ephesians 2:10 says that we are created to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.  If you are a Christian, you have some “God work” to get done.  Although, you shouldn’t try to think of ways that you can do work for God.  It said that God has already planned out your work for you in advance.  You just need to figure out what that work is.  If you are having trouble knowing what you should do for God, pray, listen to others, and be aware of what needs are around you.  God has given you a purpose in life and it is your job to fulfill that purpose.

We have a lot of work to do, but there is also good news for those that work.  Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 lets us know that it is appropriate for a person to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in their toilsome labor during the few days God has given them.  It goes on to say that when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, they should accept their lot and be happy in their toil because this is a gift from God.

Think about your own situation.  First, are you working or are you depending on others to meet your daily needs?  Second, are you working with all your heart or do you put forth less effort when nobody is looking?  Third, are you doing the work that God has prepared for you to do or do you use most of your time on yourself?  Fourth, do you work too much due to your drive to make more money?  Last, do you ever slow down enough to enjoy some of the gifts in this world that God has given you to enjoy?  If you struggle with any of these areas, work at it.  😊

-Rick McClain

Today’s 2021 Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 49-50 and 1 Timothy 6

Our High Calling

Thursday – May 27, 2021

1 Kings 5-6, Acts 24

As Solomon’s reign continues, he begins to build the temple: the job promised to him by God through David. Solomon knows that this is his calling – and he wants to do it well. After David was told that he could not build the temple because of the blood shed on his hands, David amassed a treasure trove of building supplies for years. Even though temple building was not David’s calling, he still worked hard to make sure that he made Solomon’s task easier through his actions. 

One of the first actions that Solomon takes is to get the best lumber he could find. He goes to the king of Lebanon and asks for the cedars of Lebanon. Then, he began to build the temple – a process that lasted 7 years! 

Solomon knew that when God has called you to do something you make sure to do two things: (1) you give him the best of you first and (2) you complete the task assigned to you no matter how long it takes. Solomon didn’t let the difficulty of getting the cedars of Lebanon stop him from being sure to get the finest lumber. He also didn’t give up in the process of finishing the temple. He was committed to finishing the task he was assigned to well. 

In our lives, are you as committed as Solomon to completing the calling God has assigned to you well? We are God’s hands and feet in the world. Part of our testimony to the world is how well we complete our callings. “Let’s not grow weary of doing good” (Gal. 6:9). “Let’s finish the race we are running with endurance” (Heb. 12:1-2). 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

What are you asking for?

Wednesday – May 26, 2021

1 Kings 3-4, Acts 23

After Adonijah’s revolt, Solomon ascended to power, and in 1 Kings 3, Solomon began making decisions of what he should do as a king. 1 Kings 3:3 describes him when it says, “Solomon loved the LORD by walking in the statues of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” Deuteronomy 12:1-6 specifically gave directions to destroy all the high places, but Solomon and the rest of the people went to worship there. In 1 Kings 3:1, one of Solomon’s first decisions is to make a treaty with Pharaoh’s daughter, going against Deuteronomy 17:16-17. Solomon seemed like he wanted to make good, godly decisions, but he didn’t know and apply God’s word enough to keep him from committing these oversights, these sins. 

Even so, in verse 5, after a large display of burnt offerings, God comes to Solomon and asks, “What should I give you?” This was a moment where he could have received so much from God – whether in power, wealth, status. But, instead, Solomon chooses to receive wisdom and discernment so that he could govern his people well. He recognized that he was a “youth with no experience in leadership” (v. 7) Solomon knew that he may have blundered in the past as he began to rule his kingdom. And so, he asked for the one thing that could truly help him to do better – discernment and wisdom from God. 

In our lives, we may feel that we are in situations that we have been thrown into. We may be overwhelmed. We may be trying to make the best decisions that we can. The thing that makes the difference in those situations is not how hard we work at them or the people that we impact or make happy. What we should pursue in those situations is the wisdom of God. That is the only thing that will help us to know what is right to do. It is the only thing that will help us to know how to keep ourselves on the righteous path and away from sin. 

What are you asking for from God? May we be a people who prays for the wisdom and discernment only God can give.

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

Sunday – May 23, 2021

2 Samuel 21-22, Acts 20

In today’s Old Testament reading, 2 Samuel 21-22, we see David, a victorious king and man broken by sin, dealing with the legacies of previous leaders of Israel and the political unrest they left behind. In addition to this, we see fall out with the Canaanite peoples, who had remained in the promised land for a thousand years after Joshua and the Israelites were told to conquer it. The last few chapters of 2 Samuel function as an appendix; they list stories that occurred during David’s reign, in non-chronological order. 

In 2 Samuel 21, we find a brutal story that involves betrayal, sacrifice, and tragedy.  Earlier in David’s reign, there was a famine that lasted 3 years. David responds to this famine, recognizing it as discipline from God, by going to God in prayer. The reason God gave for the famine is because of Saul’s, the previous king, slaying of the Gibeonites – a people the Israelites had made a treaty with (Josh. 9:15-20). David goes to rectify the situation, and so the Gibeonites ask for seven of Saul’s male descendents to punish for Saul’s decisions. 

The seven descendents were handed over and killed. Heartbreakingly, Rizpah, the mother of two of the sons, goes to the place where her sons were killed and protected their bodies from the elements and birds from April to October. four months of a day-in-day-out vigil, through heat, cold, rain, and sun. Finally, David heard about what Rizpah had done, her love and dedication to her sons, and because of her actions, he decided to honor the memories of Saul and Jonathan – and Rizpah’s sons – by burying them in their family’s tomb. After all of this, the famine stops in the land. 

This story is hard to read, but it shows an important truth: Our legacy is determined by the small, everyday actions of our lives. Those small everyday actions build up into something that can make a profound impact on the lives of those that come after us. 

Because of Saul’s actions and his failure to consistently follow the law, he devastated the lives of both the Gibeonites and his own family. His legacy left a ripple effect of destruction that led to a famine in the entire land of Israel. That legacy of destruction was only stopped when another woman consistently showed love instead of violence, for both her sons and for God. Because of her actions, God answered the prayer for the land. 

What type of legacy are you building? How are you daily and consistently building up a legacy that honors God and provides hope and help to those around you?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Job 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 2 .

All You Need is Love

Ruth 3-4 and John 15

            “All you need is love.”  That song, written by John Lennon and sung by the Beatles in June 1967 (during the so-called “summer of love”)   was broadcast live and seen by over 400 million viewers in 25 countries at the time.  It was a kind of sappy, feel good, hippie anthem/anti-war protest song (this was during the height of the war in Viet Nam).

            The late 60’s was a time of radical change in America.  Young men were coming back from Viet Nam in body bags and people were burning their draft cards.  Desegregation was making strides through Dr. King’s call to non-violent protest and some progress was being made, until Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 and peaceful protest turned to violent mobs.  As the 60’s gave way to the 70’s and 80’s many of the hippies grew up and became yuppies trading their free love,  pot and “make love, not war” peace signs for cocaine and dollar signs on Wall Street.

            Now we’re in 2021 and the BLM movement tells us that racism is still alive and well.  All that love that John Lennon said  was all we needed seems to be in short supply these days.

            Ruth is an interesting kind of love story that we need to study today.  It shows that true love makes sacrifices and takes risks for the benefit of others.  After Ruth’s husband dies and her father-in-law dies Ruth is encouraged to go back to her people and find another husband, but she loves her mother-in-law enough to sacrifice doing what is most convenient for her.  She goes to a foreign land where she lives a very marginal existence of grabbing the scraps of life.  She is a foreign woman without a husband living far from her family.  It was a perilous existence full of danger and risk, yet she does it out of love for Naomi.

            There are lots of interesting details to the story that no doubt get lost in 3000 years of cultural distance. Kinsmen redeemer is a foreign concept in our society.  In ancient Israel there were two things that mattered most- having an heir and having land that belongs to the family and stays in the family for generations.  When a man died without leaving behind a male child to continue the family name and inherit the land and care for the women in their old age it was up to the next available unmarried male relative to marry the widow and their child would actually be the heir of the son who died.  Many men didn’t like this set up and refused to participate in it.  It was a sacrificial act for a man to take on that responsibility for his dead relatives family and legacy.

            Boaz was a man of great character.  In many ways he could have taken advantage of Ruth’s helplessness and dependency and used her to his advantage.  He did not, instead, he looked out for her and her mother-in-law by making sure they received more than enough food.  He didn’t take advantage of her sexually, instead, he did what was right and at personal cost he took over the role of the kinsmen redeemer and made Ruth his wife and took care of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi.  He acted in a very loving way toward Ruth and Naomi.  Ruth acted in a very loving way toward Naomi.  Naomi was protected and cared for.  Ruth was protected and cared for.  She and Boaz were blessed with a son.  That son, Obed was the grandfather to David who later became the King of Israel, and they were ancestors of Jesus.

            “All you need is Love.” There’s a lot of love in the story of Ruth. Love really is important, it’s foundational to everything.  But love must be rightly understood.  It’s more than what we typically think of as love – warm feelings, romantic notions and sappy songs are not what love is about.  Love is about commitment and sacrifice, it’s about doing what is hard in order to benefit the person you love.  Love is a willingness to take the less easy route.  Love is doing the right thing even when it would be easier and less complicated to do the wrong thing.

            Jesus takes up this theme of love in John 15.  He was about to go to the cross and suffer and die.  He is giving a message to his friends and disciples to sustain them through the difficult hours and days ahead.  The foundational message he gives them is love: “12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. “

            Jesus teaches about love and exhorts them to love and then he shows them what love looks like by sacrificing himself as an offering for the sins of the world, his friends the disciples, and for us as well.  This love that Jesus demonstrates is a reflection of God’s love for us that is shown in giving his son, Jesus that we might have eternal life (see John 3:16).

            “All you need is love?”  Yes, if we mean the kind of love modeled by Ruth and Boaz which ultimately led to Jesus.  “All you need is love?”  Yes, if we mean the kind of love modeled by Jesus who gave his life for our sins and by God who gave His only begotten son for our salvation.  Love is not just peace signs and romantic songs- it’s commitment and sacrifice and placing the needs of others ahead of our wants and desires.  Who and how can you and I love today?

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ruth 3-4 and John 15

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