The house of him who had his sandal removed

“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’
(Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

If a man died childless, then his family line was certain to die out. God made provision in the Law of Moses for the nearest relative to marry the childless widow and raise up a child in the name of the dead husband.

This was part of God’s provision and mercy upon families. God wanted the people of Israel to be able to maintain their family line. He also ensured through the Law that each family would have a piece of property on which to perpetually raise their family and provide food and income for their families.

Another provision of this law shows how important this was to God. If a man would not perform his duty to redeem his family and raise up a son in the name of his dead brother (relative), then he was to be publicly disgraced and humiliated. You can see in the above passage in Deuteronomy how that occurred. The widow, in the public square, would take off this man’s sandal and spit in his face.

The man who would not take his role to care for his relatives would forever live with that stigma. His name would forever be ruined and his reputation sullied. That’s how important this was to God. In fact, one of Judah’s sons was struck dead by God because he refused to fulfill this obligation (Genesis 38).

God takes providing for our families and next of kin as serious business, doesn’t He?

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:8)

Certainly, God doesn’t want us to do this as a grudging obligation, but to do so with joy. It should be a privilege and an honor to fulfill this role. We should consider ourselves blessed to be able to take care of those closest to us. The apostle Paul demonstrated this attitude as a spiritual father, and he “most gladly spent” to provide for the needs of his relatives in the faith, and that is the attitude we all must have in our hearts (2 Cor. 12:14-15; Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).

Plumbing the Depths of God’s Love – Transparency

3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.  4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah.  5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:3-5 NKJV)

Are you living transparently with God and with those who mean the most to you?

Remember the points under discussion this week.  We have all sinned, sinned against God, and God alone.  He will forgive us of our sins.  Only He can.  The result of our trust in this…in His mercy through faith is that we can live a blessed life regardless of our circumstance or relationships.  This is a great promise and hopeful perspective.  Yet we don’t always allow God to forgive us…we either ignore or deny the sin in our life and the consequences are grave.

David describes how terrible it was to keep his sin to himself.  His bones wasted away through his groaning all day long. His strength was dried up and the hand of the Lord was heavy upon him.  David is describing the burden of the guilt of his sin.  His sin is eating at him continually and the guilt is wearing him down.

What does this look like in your lives?  Do you carry around sin and the associated pain?  Does your conscience keep after you with ever present reminders of the fact you did something you shouldn’t have?  Sin hurts us individually and it hurts those we care about.  Sin ultimately and initially hurts God!

It’s there for all of us whether it is a sucking chest wound or a mere flesh wound.  It doesn’t matter, it’s there.  Ignoring sin leads to committing more sins.  In fact, what we think of as small sins (flesh wound) grow into more serious sins (sucking chest wounds).  For some reason we truly think we can get away with our actions.  For some reason we think that since we can hide our sins from one another and from our family, God will not know.  This course of action leads to our own spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical destruction.

God is going to work on us to bring the sin to light.  He is not going to waiver in this and when we can see the sin and the destruction it is causing, like David did, we will go from “worldly sorrow” to “Godly Sorrow”.  World sorrow deals with fear of being exposed or sorrow from being caught.  Godly Sorrow comes when we are looking at the Lord and not ourselves and realize we have done all this wickedness to God and we need to make it right.

David is no longer in denial here.  He is not looking for the easy way out.  He is done trying to fix things.  He “acknowledges” and “confesses” his sin and iniquity to God.  No more hiding!

This is man’s part.  We have to go to God with our sin…no more hiding.  God is faithful to do His part…forgive, atone, not impute our sins, transgressions or iniquity upon us.

Let’s change our mind.  Let’s not just expect others to “be right” or “make right” or “be exposed” for what they have done, but let’s demonstrate reconciliation in our own lives.  We are all exposed…God sees…God hurts…God longs for reconciliation.  When we get that right, then our feelings for others go from “being hurt because of” to “hurt for”.  Because we want everyone else to feel the same peace/joy we have found…we hurt when we see them languishing in sin like we did.  We can endure that kind of hurt.  God does.

No more excuses.  No more denial.  No more trying to hide.  No more trying to “fix it”.  Acknowledge your sins, confess them, ask God to forgive.  You and those most important in your life cannot afford anything less.

Psalm 26 part 1

Today and tomorrow we will look at Psalm 26. Take time to read it and meditate on it.

Of David. Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.
(Psalm 26:1-12)

Please think about the prayer of David here. Consider the requests he made of God.

Request #1Vindicate me, Lord Lord. David wants the righteous and merciful judge to litigate his case.

Request #2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. This is one of many times that David invites God into his soul to search it, examine it and test it. He wants to be right with God, and he wants anything not found pleasing to God to be taken away.

Request #3Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men. David’s heart and desire is to be in fellowship with God and with His people. He does not want to be associated with the wicked, nor does he want to be swept away in their lifestyle and the consequences of it.

Request #4 Redeem me, and be gracious to me. The thing he wants the most is the mercy, grace and redemption of God.

This is a great prayer. It would be good to consider using this prayer in your time with God, maybe even today.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will look at David’s heart, desires, hands, eyes, feet, voice, etc. that are discussed in this Psalm.

With All Who Had Separated Themselves

Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together (the Passover) with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel (Ezra 6:21).

Imagine how awesome and exciting it must have been for the Jewish exiles to come home to Jerusalem from captivity! Even more so, now the temple has been rebuilt, and they are keeping the Passover feast. What a joyous time of celebration. The Passover feast was a memorial feast that served as a reminder of how God delivered them from Egyptian bondage.

Please take note in the above passage, it was not just the Jews who ate the Passover. There were apparently Gentiles who became proselytes to the Jewish faith and sought the God of Israel. They “separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel.” If you think about it, that is such an encouraging and powerful statement. These Gentiles left their pagan ways, they saw their ways as “filth” and wanted to get as far away from it as possible. They repented. God became first in their lives. If you go back to Moses’ law, it also required that the Gentile males had to be circumcised before keeping the Passover (Exodus 12:47-49). Now they are eating “together” with the Jews in this feast.

This is like the book of Ephesians. Jews and Gentiles both are united under one Lord. Together (Ephesians 1:10; 2:5,6,21,22; 4:16 – New King James Version).

In order to be together, both Jews and Gentiles had to separate themselves from the filth of the world. Here is a point about influence, men. The Gentiles were led to God because the Jews were living for God. The Jews had first left behind the ways of the world and the filth of the nations, and it became an example and a light for the Gentiles to follow.

We see other examples in Ezra and Nehemiah of God’s people doing the exact opposite. Instead of separating from the filth of the nations, they married into that filth and raised kids in it. Their kids became pagan instead of godly (Nehemiah 13). So here in Ezra 6 is a positive and powerful witness of what your influence can do for God. But you must first separate from the dirty-ness of the world.

Your friends and co-workers will see that change. Pray that they like these Gentiles will also want to come and seek the Lord God. May they be united and together with us at Christ’s table as we celebrate Jesus as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

 

And they listened to him until this word

Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ” And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” (Acts 22:21-22).

The apostle Paul was defending himself in front of an angry Jewish mob in Jerusalem. Some had falsely accused him of taking Gentiles into the temple. If there was any word I would not have said in front of this angry Jewish mob, it would have been “Gentiles.” Especially in a sentence that claimed the Messiah Jesus had sent Paul to the Gentiles, whom the Jews considered as dogs. But the Holy Spirit in His eternal wisdom guided Paul to say these words, and you can see the reaction of the crowd. At this word, they shut down. No more listening, it’s time to kill Paul (Acts 22:23).

The problem here was not Paul’s choice of words or his timing or his presentation, it was the heart of the people hearing the message.

It brings up a point or two for consideration about listening.

How well do I listen?

Are there times when someone at work, school or home is trying to talk to me and they say “the wrong thing” or say it in “the wrong way” and I just shut down and refuse to hear anything else they say?

Would you and I be characterized as someone who truly lets someone freely talk to us without freaking out, overreacting and shutting down?

Paul said the “wrong word” to these Jews and it was over. They were not going to listen to another word. They were so mad they wanted him dead. Now you may not want someone dead, but you may kill a relationship because you refuse to listen. Think about it.

Nicodemus was one Jew who understood this principle, even though he was outnumbered in the Jewish council.

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7:50-51)

Have you experienced these things? Are there people in your life that you cannot talk freely to because of how you know they will react? We don’t like that quality in others, understandably, but we don’t want to have that same characteristic. We as God’s men want to be the kind of men who will let others freely talk without shutting down, making quick judgments, or walking away, or over-talking, etc.

He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him (Proverbs 18:13)

It would help us to do more praying before and during conversations to ask the Lord to open our ears and muzzle our mouths.

God of the valleys

Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD'” (1 Kings 20:28).

We are currently studying the Kings and Prophets in our adult Bible class, and we are about to discuss 1 Kings 20 on Sunday. God used the wicked king of Israel, Ahab, to defeat the Syrians in order to show King Ahab that God is truly God. “And you shall know that I am the Lord…” (see 1 Kings 20:13,28).

The first battle took place in the city of Samaria, and the men of Israel were outnumbered (1 Kings 20:15). Nonetheless, they were victorious and “killed the Syrians with a great slaughter” (1 Kings 20:21). After this battle, a prophet came to King Ahab and warned him that the Syrians would be back in the Spring (1 Kings 20:22).

So, now read verse 21, and think about the conclusion the men of Syria made about God and why they were defeated in battle.

Then the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills. Therefore they were stronger than we; but if we fight against them in the plain, surely we will be stronger than they (1 Kings 20:23).

They had a regional view of God, and that makes sense when you are in a polytheistic culture. But their poor theology led to really bad conclusions about why they were defeated, which in turn led to a second catastrophic military loss. They thought they could beat Israel if they fought in a different location, and God showed them in a mighty and devastating way that He is God of the hills and the valleys. Once again Israel was outnumbered, but Syria was no match for God’s power (1 Kings 20:27). In the second battle 100,000 Syrian soldiers were killed and another 27,000 died because of a city wall that fell in on them (1 Kings 20:29-30).

There are so many ways we can apply this concept of God being the God of the hills and valleys.

  1. God is not a regional God. He is Lord of all your life, not just part of it. Either we choose to let Him reign over all of our life, or none of it at all. We cannot serve God and another master, Jesus said. God is a jealous God, He desires for us to come completely under the shelter of His wings and to make Him Lord of all of our life…of every fiber of our being.
  2. God is Lord of the hills and valleys in our lives. It sure is easy to sing praises to God when we are on the mountaintops, but what about when we are in the valleys? If you read the previous two chapters of 1 Kings, chapters 18-19, you will see that Elijah learned this very truth. Elijah had a mountaintop experience when he with God’s power defeated and executed the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (chapter 18). But in chapter 19, Elijah is scared, depressed and in despair! God showed Elijah that He was God of the valleys, too. We have to remember that. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, because You are with me” (Psalm 23).
  3. We sometimes forget to connect our previous victories with God to current challenges we face. Consider the faith of David when confronting Goliath (1 Samuel 17). His conclusion by faith was that if God helped him defeat the lion and the bear, then Goliath was no match for God. He knew God wasn’t just a God of lions and bears; He is Lord of everything. Remember that the Lord promised the Christian, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “The Lord is my helper…” in the hills and the valleys.
  4. There is nowhere that you are stronger than God. You will not find a location where you can out-smart, out-man, or gain an advantage on God. All of us in some way have tried this, if we’re honest! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23). As a dear older sister (Katie Marcus) used to tell me, “Your arms are too short to box with God!”

Praise the God of the hills and the valleys, the great I AM!

It Has Been Fully Reported

And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12).

Ruth was from Moab; she was an outsider, a Gentile. When she was shown such great kindness and generosity by Boaz, she was overwhelmed with gratitude. But she was also puzzled…why me?

So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10).

Ruth’s humility here is evident. Her whole mindset was to serve God and work hard to take care of Naomi and herself. She didn’t expect a parade for her service, nor did she expect this bountiful treatment from Boaz. Ruth was perfectly content to get dirty and sweaty working in the fields to get just enough for two widows to survive.

However, Boaz kindly reminds her of why she was being so treated.

“It has been fully reported to me…”

The behavior of Ruth got people talking. Ruth’s commitment first and foremost was to serve the Lord God. She left Moab, her family in Moab and her gods in Moab to come under the sheltering wings of the great I AM. Secondly, her life was but to serve Naomi and to make sure Naomi was provided for.

Ruth’s manner of life got the attention of the people of Israel, and word eventually came to Boaz. He was greatly impressed and I believe he was encouraged by such behavior. It seems like Boaz saw himself as one of God’s instruments in helping provide for Ruth and Naomi. Boaz knew full well that God was pleased with the commitment of Ruth, and he was convinced that the Lord would repay her for her work (Ruth 2:12).

The same is true for us today as God’s people. If our mindset is the praise of men, we will get our reward, Jesus said. When our heart is all about the reward and the material goods, we will get our reward (Matthew 6:1-4). But when our hearts are set on heaven as was the heart of Ruth, heaven takes notice.

Jesus Himself observed this kind of behavior in a poor widow. He watched how the rich people were giving large sums to the temple treasury, but what really grabbed His attention was the two coins given by a widow who gave all she had. Those two coins didn’t make much of a sound when they dropped in the container, but they thundered in heaven (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). Ruth’s service was just like that…God took notice of her and used Boaz to take care of her.

Let us reflect on our own service to God. If our hearts are like the heart of Ruth, then heaven will take notice. And really, it doesn’t matter if anyone else notices if God is the one who sees it.

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister (Hebrews 6:10).

Like Yesterday

For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away (Psalms 90:4-6).

For all our days have declined in Your fury; we have finished our years like a sigh. As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away. Who understands the power of Your anger and Your fury, according to the fear that is due You? So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom (Psalms 90:9-12).

Like yesterday

Time, space and matter are all things God created. He created them all at the same time. “In the beginning (time), God created the heavens (space) and the earth (matter)” (Genesis 1:1). In order for God to create them He must be outside and independent of space, time and matter. That whole concept simply blows my mind, I just cannot fathom a Being like that. I believe it, but I just don’t comprehend it.

Since God is outside of time and independent of time, He has a completely different perspective of time. Moses said that 1,000 years are “like yesterday” to God. It is just a blip on the radar, it is the same as one day to God. Peter also repeated this concept in his second letter (2 Peter 3:9). A millennium to God is like grass that springs up and is cut down and withers.

In contrast to God, we humans are all about time. Have you stopped recently to ponder how obsessed we are with time? Sometimes we are just so impatient and in a hurry because of our mixed up earthly perception of time. It affects our decision making at work and school, we get in a hurry and make mistakes. Our lack of perspective on time gets in the way when it comes to how we deal with others. Instead of giving them time to grow and develop, we want instant change…this minute! We also at times lose sight of how brief our time is on this earth.

This Psalm of Moses is there to help sober us up a little bit. Moses’ prayer to God in this Psalm was for God to help him and all of us to have a wiser perspective on the brevity of life and to see time how God sees it. Hopefully we will become more patient because of this renewed perspective. With God’s help we can see how precious each moment is and to “number our days.” Make the most of the very brief time God has given us.

According to this Psalm, we generally live 70-80 years. Think about that for a moment. If 1,000 years is like a day to God, then 70-80 years is like the blink of an eye.

“Making the most of your time…” (Ephesians 5:16).

 

The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit In A Sitcom

On a personal note: Thank you to all for your encouragement, prayers, and overwhelming support of my family as we walk through the recovery and healing process after our barn fire. God is good, all the time.

The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit In A Sitcom by Jason Hardin

I want to share with you a sermon that I watched this morning that I really needed. This sermon is by Jason Hardin, and it is called “The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit in a Sitcom.”

At the end of Jason’s sermon, he spoke of 4 conclusions that we can build our lives upon, and they were a blessing to me for sure.

  1. At pivotal moments in life, the people of God had no idea WHAT God was doing; some times neither will we.
  2. At many points in life, we won’t understand WHY God is allowing certain things to happen.
  3. And yet, the clear testimony of Scripture is that He knows perfectly what He is doing.
  4. Therefore, rather than being anxious about things we cannot change…let’s make sure to seek Him while He may be found.

I would add, I don’t know the what nor the why, but I know the WHO. Like the old song sings, “I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know Who holds my hand.”

Overcoming Evil

What About Justice?

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  Romans 12:17-19

What do you think about justice?  Is it important?  Let’s ask that a different way; how do you feel when someone cuts in line?  How about when your car gets broken into or your home is burglarized?  What if your wife or kids are disrespected and treated rudely?  How about when a known criminal gets off on a “technicality”, how does that sit with you?

Justice is essential and is one of the key attributes of God.  In fact, Psalm 89:14 tells us that, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.”  Psalm 89:14  But Paul challenges us in Romans 12 to set justice aside.  He says “Never PAY BACK evil for evil”, implying that the wages earned for evil is evil.  As Christians, we are to pursue peace and leave room for God to administer justice.

How easy is this command?  The last time someone rudely cut you off in traffic how did you respond?  How did you want to respond?  What about when your co-worker lied about you or took advantage of your kindness or made that derogatory remark about your faith?  Most of the time it is a victory when we just ignore it or keep our mouths shut.  Sometimes I wish the text would end there but Paul’s challenge goes even further.

 The Higher Calling 

“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:20-21

The call of Christ is not to simply ignore evil.  The call is not to hold in our desired response and keep our mouths shut.  The call of Christ is to do the unexpected…to actually do good to those who do evil.  I believe this command is one of the most challenging in the entire bible.  This concept goes against our inherent sense of right and wrong.  It turns our concept of justice upside down.

What’s the purpose?  Why would God ask us to do something so difficult?  In short, because He did it for us.  How did Jesus overcome evil?  In the book of Revelation, Satan and evil is personified as a great dragon and how is Jesus pictured?  He is a bloody and battered lamb…a sacrifice.  The entire story of the bible depicts how Jesus overcame evil with good.  As a result, when He was lifted up, He drew all men to Himself (John 12:32).  God has called us for the same purpose.

We are to be lights to the world and we’ve tried to accomplish that our own way.  We’ve tried to batter people with the truth.  We’ve tried to be louder than the opposition.  We’ve tried to stand up for ourselves and defend our rights.  We’ve even tried to take the “high road” and keep our mouths shut, but maybe, just maybe, we should try it God’s way.  When we do the unexpected and we love those who hate us and we show that love in action by doing good it will impact the world.  People will feel the God given shame of sin and be drawn to the sacrifice of Jesus.

The fact is that Paul starts his discussion in Romans 12 with urging us “by the mercies of God”.  Think of the life of rebellion you lived before Christ.  Think of the wages that you deserved.  Now consider how God looked at you and the price He paid for your redemption.  Let us meditate on that daily and strive to be a living sacrifice.