Doctrine: Christ’s Return, Day 6

Today’s reading is drawn from James 5:7-8 and John 14:3.

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is a film based on a real story from Japan and a delightful parable about patiently waiting for the Lord’s return. When Parker Wilson, a college music professor in Rhode Island, steps off his commuter train at the end of the day, he finds a stray Akita puppy with the name Hachi etched on his collar. Parker discovers the puppy escaped a damaged crate after being shipped from Japan. Parker takes the dog home, determined to find the owner. While waiting for responses to the posters he has placed around town, Parker and the dog become friends. One day, Hachi follows Parker on his way to work, which begins with a walk to the train station. Despite Parker’s bidding, Hachi refuses to return home until his master walks him back to the house. At the end of the day, however, when Hachi hears the train whistle, he runs to the train platform, curls up and waits for his master to return. When Parker sees him, he is stunned by this demonstration of loyalty. The next day the dog is there to greet him again, and on it goes, day by day. One day Parker suffers a fatal heart attack in the classroom. Hachi waits for hours at the station for his master to step off the train, but he doesn’t return. This happens day after day for ten years, with the loyal dog waiting at the train platform each evening. And then one day, as Hachi drifts off to sleep, he sees his master beckoning him, and the dog runs toward him.

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The Words We Speak, Day 5

Power and Promise of God’s Word

Today’s reading is drawn from Genesis 17:5 and Numbers 14:6-9.

One of the explicit teachings of the Bible is the importance of the words we speak. In this text, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and promises Abraham that he will become the father of many nations. “Abram” means “High Father” or “Patriarch.” “Abraham” means “Father of a Multitude.” Thus, God was arranging that every time Abraham heard or spoke his own name, he would be reminded of God’s promise.

Adam Clarke’s Commentary states it well: “God [associates] the patriarch more nearly to Himself, by thus imparting to him a portion of His own name,” noting God added this to Abraham “for the sake of dignity.”

The principle: Let God’s words, which designated His will and promise for your life, become as fixed in your mind and as governing of your speech as God’s changing Abraham’s name was in shaping his concept of himself. Do not “name” yourself anything less than God does.

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Hannah, A Devoted Mother, Day 4

Today’s reading is taken from 1 Samuel 1.

Out of the materialism and ruthlessness of Israel during the period of the judges, Hannah emerged as a woman of faith. From her home in the hills north of Jerusalem, she had traveled to Shiloh, the national place of worship. Her sadness of heart and persistence in prayer contrasted sharply with the prevalent corruption in worship led by Eli’s sons (1Sa 2:12-17).

Hannah’s personal life was one of despair in her childlessness as she recoiled from Peninnah’s pestering reproach. Her prayer exhibits selflessness as she pleads for a son whom she might present to God for his use (1Sa 1:11). Clearly, Hannah was loved and valued for herself by her husband, Elkanah, but even the intensity of a devoted husband’s love could not penetrate her inner disquiet nor overcome her yearning for a child (v. 8). The throbbing emotions of her despair were so evident in Hannah’s prayers that the aged Eli accused her of drunkenness. But beyond her prayers and tears, a vow erupts. Hannah, in effect, makes a pact with God; she pledges to give back to him the precious life he might give to her. God honored her bold and decisive act.

Hannah’s faith is rewarded, and her son is named Samuel (Heb., shemu’el, “Heard by God”) because she “asked the Lord for him” (1Sa 1:20). According to custom, she probably nursed him several years, giving time for her to convey to Samuel her own spirit of deep reverence and piety and also to knit her heart with his through maternal bonding. Nonetheless, she kept her word to the Lord. Into the defiled worship center she placed her very young, impressionable son. Although humanly it seemed to border on foolishness, this was an act of saintly sacrifice. Her commitment was to God; her gift was prearranged with him. With prophetic insight she planted the next generation just as promised.

Samuel grew up to become the last judge, an outstanding and gifted prophet and the one who would anoint the first two kings of Israel. Samuel was the pivotal spiritual leader who turned the nation toward Yahweh. His mother Hannah played her part in this spiritual awakening as she trusted God, leaving for all posterity an example of determined devotion in her motherhood.

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Ephesus During the Time of Paul, Day 6

Today’s reading is drawn from Acts 19:17-20 and Revelation 2:1-3.

By the time of Paul, Ephesus had become enormously wealthy due to its status and position as a major port city of Asia Minor. It boasted a number of major public buildings, including gymnasiums, theaters and a triumphal arch constructed in 3 BC. In addition, the Ephesian temple of Artemis was lauded as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and was already then a significant source of income (Acts 19:23–27).

Ephesus became a major center of the Christian faith. Although Paul probably wrote Ephesians as a circular letter and not specifically to this congregation, the church of Ephesus was a major focus of his ministry (he stayed there for over two years on his second visit; see Acts 19:1–41). The apostle John also wrote to this church in Revelation 2:1–7, and during the first five centuries AD several church councils were convened there. By the medieval period, however, silt from the Cayster River had extended the coastline so far to the west that Ephesus had ceased to be a port city and was abandoned.

The desertion of Ephesus was a boon for modern archaeology since it meant that the unoccupied city was open for excavation. Today Ephesus exists as one of the most magnificent ruins of the ancient world. According to second-century tradition, the apostle John spent his last years in Ephesus, as well as Jesus’ mother, Mary, who likely died in Ephesus.

The population of New Testament Ephesus is unknown, but it is clear that the city at that time was a thriving, cosmopolitan center of trade, religion, and recreation. Its remains provide a rare look at an ancient city that was also important as a setting for the apostolic mission and the rise of Christianity. Perhaps more than any other archaeological site, Ephesus affords the reader of Acts a sense of context. Since there is no modern city there, the remains of Ephesus distinctively allow visitors to enter vicariously into the ancient world.

 

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