Martha, A Busy Hostess, Day 8

Today’s reading is taken from Luke 10:41-42 and John 11:17-27.

Jesus often went to the home of Martha, who was apparently single, whether by choice or circumstances and living in Bethany with her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus. John’s comment shows that Jesus and the family from Bethany were close friends (Jn 11:5). Martha seemed to enjoy her gift of hospitality and her probable position as the older of the two sisters.

Three scenes appear to reveal Martha’s intensity, which the Lord faced with loving firmness, as recorded by Luke (Lk 10:41–42). Martha’s irritation with her sister led to a confrontation with Jesus as, in effect, she blamed him for Mary’s lack of assistance. His loving response was not a condemnation of Martha’s servant’s heart or a rejection of her zealous and gracious hospitality. He simply asked her to reconsider her priorities, to make her choices on the basis of eternal values instead of immediate pressures and he suggested that she allow Mary to make her own choices.

Several months later, Lazarus became ill while Jesus was traveling many miles away. Although the sisters sent for him, by the time the Lord arrived in Bethany, Lazarus was dead and had been buried for four days. Ignoring the custom of mourners to remain in their homes, Martha took the initiative to meet Jesus as he approached the town and to attribute her brother’s untimely death to Jesus’ delay in reaching Bethany (Jn 11:21).

Again, with trusting faith, Martha acknowledged Jesus’ power over death (v. 22). Jesus explained that he himself was the resurrection. She agreed and saw an immediate manifestation of that faith in her brother’s resurrection (v. 44).

The third glimpse of Martha was reported by John (Jn 12:2). The simple fact that Martha assumed hostessing duties once more confirms the fact that her uncommon talents were being used. Undoubtedly she had become a disciple who experienced God’s power in practical service. Jesus, as well as countless others, needed the physical refreshment of Martha’s warm hospitality. She did not consider her homemaking responsibilities as worthless drudgery. She obviously loved her home and counted it joy to pour her energies into the efficient management of her household. Martha is a poignant reminder to every woman of the balance between fellowship with the family and the work necessary to meet their mundane needs.

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What Will You Suffer For?, Day 7

Today’s reading is drawn from 1 Peter 3:17 and 1 Peter 4:19.

Observation

Suffering is not optional. We might wish it were. We spend millions of dollars to avoid it, ignore it and get immunized for it, but we can never be immune from it.

We mostly think of suffering as negative. And much suffering is synonymous with the consequences of sin or ignorance. But sometimes good comes from pain and suffering. A child is born into the world through pain. When we get a speck of dirt in our eye, pain signals us to do something about it before it does damage. When we have a virus, the pain signals a need for rest or medication before the disease turns into something deadly.

Pain and suffering are inevitable. However, Peter tells us in 3:17 that since we are going to suffer, we are to suffer for doing right. We can choose what we suffer for. We can suffer because we are doing evil, or we can suffer to give life.

Application

We can suffer as a result of stupidity. We can suffer as a result of sin. Or we can choose to suffer. We can suffer for speaking the gospel or defending it. We can suffer for doing the right thing even though we are mocked or misunderstood. We can suffer by biting back angry words when something unfair occurs to us. We can choose to suffer with others when they are hurting, and it forces us to pray, learn, act and minister.

Prayer

Father: I pray that when I suffer — and it is inevitable that I will — I will suffer in doing the right and the good. If I suffer, let me do so with a contrite heart — a heart that desires to follow you.

 
 

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Keep the Gods Happy, Day 1

Today’s reading is drawn from Leviticus 2:9 and Deuteronomy 8:18

In the ancient Near Eastern world, people believed that the gods were initially quite content to live without human beings. The gods had created the cosmos for themselves, built cities and lived together in community. As time went on, however, they grew tired of feeding themselves, making clothes for themselves and building houses for themselves. Digging ditches for irrigation to grow crops was heavy labor.

They, therefore, decided to create humans as a slave labor force. The responsibility of humans was to care for the gods in every way. Rituals provided food and drink for the gods. Temples provided housing. The gods then became dependent on people to provide the luxury to which they were accustomed and which they deserved. In turn, the gods would provide for the people (so the people could provide for them) and protect the people who were caring for them. This defined the codependent relationship between the gods and humans in the ancient world. It was a need-based system and comprised the religious responsibilities that people had.

Besides the rituals and the temple building, the gods were interested in maintaining justice among the people, but not because the gods were inherently just or because of any sense of ethical right and wrong. Rather, the gods understood that if society was plagued by lawlessness, violence, and disorder, the people would not be at liberty to carry out their ritual obligations. Thus there was a symbiotic relationship between gods and people (which may be called the “Great Symbiosis”), which was maintained for a smoothly operating ritual system, designed to keep the gods happy.

The difference in Israel was that even though they offered sacrifices to Yahweh, Yahweh did not need these sacrifices as food. In his covenant with Israel, he promised to provide for his people and to take care of them, much like other gods did. However, what he required of them was not care and feeding, but covenant fidelity. We could, therefore, say that the Great Symbiosis was replaced in Israel by the Covenant Symbiosis.

 

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Doctrine: Twisted Human Motives and God’s Grace, Day 1

Today’s reading is drawn from Genesis 11:1-9 and Ephesians 2:8-9.

The problem with the people of Babel was not that they wanted to be near to God — don’t we all? No, the problem was that they wanted to make a name for themselves. They were hungry for power and glory, and they were willing to go to great lengths to acquire it. A Chinese proverb says, “Those who think they are building a mound may only in reality be digging a pit.” We often secretly hope that our deeds and aspirations for promotions and acts of service will attract recognition or even earn God’s approval. But we soon discover they may only drive us further from God and wreak havoc in our lives and the lives of others. When God saw the tower that the people of Babel were building, he said, “Nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6), so he confused their language and disrupted their work. It’s as if God had said, “If I let their sin go unchecked, there is no telling how much worse it will get.” So there is grace even in this judgment: God graciously restrains us from digging our own graves, so to speak.

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