Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Week Thirteen - Call It What It Is

               My friend had the oddest Siamese cat.  Though beautiful to look at, it sulked around and threaten you if you crossed its path.  And you daren’t reach your hand out to stroke it.  The result was an evil hiss and a lash of claws.  They called the cat, Jezebel, because it could not be trusted!
               The Jezebel of the Bible was one of the evilest women recorded.  For her, no scheme was too wicked, and no price too high to get what she wanted.  It seems sad to end our study with her story, but there is much to be drawn from her life that may help us keep ourselves away from the evil hiss and lash of claws.
               As you study her life, you see her influence with power and authority reaching the entire kingdom and lasting for several generations.  She openly displayed her hate and resentment toward the men of God and her determination to move the children of Israel away from the worship of the Hebrew God was fierce and unrelenting.  She was determined and fully equipped to work her plan.
               When I look at her life I see such a waste.  If that zeal and determination were channeled into doing good and honoring the Lord, that woman could have done great things.  As it stands, her name, for all eternity, will be associated with evil.
               Our testimony and reputation are so important.  We are known by what we do.  Not one of us can escape the summation of our lives by those who watch us.  “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right”  (Proverbs 20:11).
               If someone was asked to sum up your life in one word, what might that word be? 
               My friend, Patty passed away a few years ago from cancer.  To honor her, a group of us got together to have a little tea party, which we knew she would have appreciated.  As part of our remembrance, we each jotted down one word that described her life and shared that word with the group.  The word that came to me about Patty was the word kind.  She was always kind.  Kind in her actions.  Kind in her words.  Others used the words thoughtful, pleasant, and caring.  As we sat in our little circle remembering our friend, it was a joy to all agree about the type of person Patty was.
               What single word would describe your life to those around you?  How would you want to be remembered?  

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Week Twelve - When Bad Things Happen

               While I love the story of Abigail, I think I enjoy the story of Bathsheba just as much.  Hers is another story of a life changed by the actions of others.  She never dreamed that morning as she prepared to bathe that her life was about to change.  She was happily married to Uriah, a loyal soldier, and busy caring for her home when the messenger came knocking at the door.
               “King David bids thee,” he said.  And who was she to deny such a command?
               From my studies, it seems Bathsheba knew King David personally because her grandfather, Ahithophel, was one of David’s trusted advisors who later betrayed him.  We might put forth the suggestion that he based his betrayal on his unforgiveness for what David did to his granddaughter.  But that aside, Bathsheba answers the king’s call, and her life is forever altered. Many paint her as complicit in David’s sin, but God never points to anything but David’s responsibility. 
               After the murder of her husband and the death of the ill-conceived child, the narrative moves to the birth of Solomon where God’s word states, “And the Lord loved him” (2 Samuel 12:24).  From there, the Bible goes silent about Bathsheba and Solomon for many years until we come to 1 Kings.  I believe this is where we begin to see the depth of her character.  As we come to the second part of her story, we find her as a woman trusted by the prophet, Nathan.
               As Adonijah schemes to take David’s throne by deceit and force, Nathan comes to Bathsheba for help.  Nathan not only knew her grandfather as a trusted advisor but also saw her character through the many upheavals of the kingdom.  He knew Solomon should be crowned king and uses Bathsheba’s influence to move David to set things straight.
               Again, like Abigail, Bathsheba is used by God to help David make a wise decision.  Bathsheba’s name means appealer.  And indeed, God used her in this way, not only in securing the throne for Solomon, but also in her motherly wisdom to the young king.  She is the mother of Proverbs 31 instructing her son on what to look for in a good woman, how kings should act, and how to rule with mercy.
               You know, bad things can happen to good people. But the amazing thing is, good people don’t become bad because of the bad things that happen—usually they become stronger and wiser.  And that is what I think happened with Bathsheba.  She behaved herself wisely and worked to make the best of a bad situation.  Her wisdom shines through to create for us an example of how to face bad situations and to keep our heads!  God was at work in her life moving her to be in the right place at the right time for His glory.  We can believe He is doing the same for us.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Week Eleven - Three Cheers for the Underdog!

Beside the Well

               The story of Abigail is one of my favorites.  Some of my fascination is because her name sorta matches mine!  But that aside, the meaning of her name is cause of joy or her father’s joy. Her husband’s name, Nabal, means fool.  That really says it all!  He was foolish in his character, foolish in his pride, and foolish in his lifestyle.  Joy would hardly be a representative word of a woman living with such a difficult man.
               Another reason this story captivates my imagination is that I am always one who cheers for the underdog. As I read about Abigail’s plight and see her begging for mercy from David, I see a woman desperate to salvage what she can and willing to risk her life to protect her home.  Nabal might not have been a wise husband, and her home may have been quite a challenge, but she did not let that deter her from bravely moving to protect it.
               And, finally, I think the story is beautiful because we get to see her great wisdom and discernment.  Her appeal to David is one of humility.  She pleads for David to reconsider by placing the blame upon herself and making sure she recognizes David’s authority and position.  Then, she turns her appeal toward David by asking him to take time to consider the greater outcome—protecting him from being guilty of shedding innocent blood. 
               David, captivated with this woman’s actions and wisdom, returns to take her as one of his wives after the death of Nabal.  Her reaction is one of absolute acceptance.  Like Ruth bowing before Boaz, Abigail humbly accepts David’s care, vowing to be his servant, even willing to wash the feet of his men.
               Let’s put a few of these things together.  What joy must the Father find in those who are willing to serve?  How greatly does He rejoice when His children act in wisdom and discretion?  How must His heart be moved when His child lives in contentment amid the hardships of life?  And what glorious escape can He provide to the one willing to allow humility and wisdom to reign?
               Isn’t she a beautiful example?  I love her story.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Week Ten - She Lost Her Love

            Beside the Well

              Michal’s is one of the many Bible love stories.  It starts out so beautifully.  The two young people, Michal and David, seem perfectly matched for each other.  She is the princess.  He is the poor shepherd boy who finds himself serving in the king’s court.  The love between them is full and real.  She loves him so much that she risks her life helping him escape and willingly protects him from the threatening of her father.  As she kisses him goodbye that night, she never imagined an ill-fated relationship.  Her young husband had already been anointed and was destined for the throne.  She had only to wait for God to get everything into place before she could take her place beside him.
               Her waiting turned into years.  Her love grew cold.  Disillusioned, she is given in marriage to another man—Phalti.  Where is her hero now?  Why didn’t he show up to defend his wife?
               I can only imagine the heartache she felt. Every time she hears news of her husband. he is out fighting with castoffs and taunting her father.  Her beloved brother, Jonathan, who had also risked his life for David, is now dead.  David had even taken other wives.  The beautiful dream had turned into a dark hole—a place of no hope.  How would she ever become queen? 
               But then, the day comes.  A messenger arrives announcing she is to be returned to David.  The thing we don’t know is if she was happy in her marriage to Phalti.  He was obviously happy with her because he followed along weeping as his wife is torn from the home.
               The years of disappointment have taken their toll on Michal’s love for her first husband.  As she resentfully takes her place, she becomes embarrassed at David’s actions among the people.  His rejoicing in the streets with the commoners was, in her eyes, beneath the station of a king, and beneath her station as a princess.  As she reprimands him, her fate is sealed.  God’s judgment means she will be barren. 
               Life can certainly twist and turn, can’t it? What started out as a marriage with all possible potential, ended up with two bitter people on separate sides of the fence.  She winds up raising her five nephews, only to see them hung as payment for her father’s killing of the Gibeonites, but she is not mentioned again.
               It isn’t hard for us to see the source of her bitterness.  Disappointment can be a hard pill to swallow and when you feel you have no control of your life, resentment and negativity can be the inevitable outcome.  But must it be?  Is there a different way to look at life when it doesn’t work out as you plan?
               Obviously, there is, because we see others in the Bible who faced hard situations, like Joseph who took a bad situation and allowed the Lord to use it or Esther who saw herself placed in jeopardy for the salvation of her people.  I don’t know what God might have done had Michal’s attitude been different, but I do believe the call to submission and acceptance without bitterness is God’s intention.  What do you think?