STEWARDSHIP BIBLE – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2019

2 Kings 8:1–6

You may want to review 2 Kings 4:8–37 for the background of the Shunammite’s story. This account teaches the importance of maintaining rightful ownership of property and also provides a window into God’s extravagance in providing for our material needs.

Theologian Peter C. Phan summarizes social thought during the Old Testament period as follows:

Gerhard von Rad declares that there is no concept in the Old Testament as central and significant for all relationships of human life as justice or righteousness. Justice is the social principle that held the Hebrew social fabric together. It is the fidelity to the demands of a relationship as established by the law—the web of relationships between king and people, judge and complainants, family and tribe and kinsfolk, the community and the resident alien, the whole of humanity and God. Of course the law also commands love. Yet, in point of fact, the sense of solidarity is for the most part limited to fellow members of religion and race, even though the prophets often urge the Hebrew people to go beyond these narrow limits.

In Leviticus 25:23–24 God says, “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.”

Naomi’s situation in the book of Ruth seems similar. The family has resided in Moab for ten years, having migrated from Judah to escape a famine. Ruth 4:3 speaks of Naomi’s desire to sell her husband’s land, but two interpretations may be applied here: Either Naomi owns the land but is so poor that she feels she must sell it. Or alternatively, Elimelek may already have sold the plot prior to the family’s departure. In this case, the law makes provision for his widow to “redeem” it—buy it back. Since Naomi is now destitute, she looks for a guardian-redeemer to purchase back the land on her behalf.

In the Shunammite’s case, it is possible that the land has either been taken illegally during the family’s absence or been appropriated by the king, most likely either Jehu or Joram, due to its apparent abandonment. Her husband was already elderly when their son was born (see 2Ki 4:14), and there is no mention of him in 2 Kings 8. Phan indicates that widows and orphans “in the ancient patriarchal society were economically the most helpless since they did not have the aid of a male head of the family.”

An interesting detail in this story is the “fluke” of Elisha and Gehazi discussing her situation with the king at the very time the Shunammite arrives to plead for the return of her land.

Think About It

  • If true justice were served in your neighborhood, what would be different?
  • Could humans ever live in a truly just society this side of heaven? What would it look like?
  • What “coincidence” in your life has served to verify God’s providence in some unforgettable way? How has this affected your stewardship of whatever was involved?

Pray About It

Lord God, your care and concern for justice in the details of our lives is amazing to me. Help me to see how you orchestrate all things to your ends. And help me to be a partner in your work.

MOM’S DEVOTIONAL BIBLE – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2019

Perfect Peace

Isaiah 26:3–7

Additional Scripture Readings: Psalm 4:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:16

A five-year-old tumbles into the kitchen from his adventures in backyard mud, bringing footprints of scum across a clean floor. The phone rings. The baby cries. The doorbell chimes. The dog barks. A harried mom grabs her temples in response to this torture.

Change scenes. The camera spans a spacious, private bath scene, circling around a tub filled to the brim with luxurious bubbles. A beautiful woman rests in the tub, hair pinned in loose curls, arms extended, massaging shapely legs, eyes closed in an ecstasy of relaxation.

Supposedly, this second scene is a picture of peace. What I want to know is, where are the kids, what is the dog doing and who was at the door?

Contrary to the commercial, peace doesn’t come in a package of bubble bath. It’s not found in a tub or even behind a closed door. Peace comes when we fix our minds on God and on his stability in our chaotic days. No matter who is tromping a mess across our floors or standing impatiently at our doors, the unchangeable God is in charge of our days. Knowing that for a fact is peace.

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MEN’S DEVOTIONAL BIBLE – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2019

Zacchaeus: The Rich, Short Ruler

Luke 19:1–10

He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. (Luke 19:3)

Everyone in town knew him, but nobody liked him. He threw the worst parties and was always the first one drunk on his horribly cheap wine. It’s not as though he couldn’t afford anything better. Zacchaeus sat atop the whole dirty, tax-collecting heap, and from their years of overpaying collectors, the savvy residents of Jericho knew their money could buy better wine.

So when rumor started that a well-known teacher from the backwater of Galilee who had a penchant for waxing eloquent about money matters was making his way to Jericho, you can bet the person everyone least expected to see in the welcoming party was Zacchaeus. To everyone’s surprise the little man, dressed to the nines, showed up anyway. This teacher was, after all, growing extremely popular, and maybe it would do the collection agency’s reputation some good to see its chief officer rubbing shoulders with a hero of the working class. But when the day arrived, if Zacchaeus had come to be seen, the irony was only too apparent when it was he who had trouble seeing.

The crowds had started at the city gate where Jericho’s main drag began its meandering path through the city. Despite his compromised stature, Zacchaeus had always loved a crowd—crowds meant influence and power, not to mention a concentration of taxable pocketbooks. This small-town teacher’s people skills and crowd-gathering ability could come in handy for an unpopular political figure. If only Zacchaeus could see how this teacher did it.

Zacchaeus knew the parade route well, as he’d been a key figure in many of Jericho’s past spectacles. Picking up the fine linen hem of his garment, the short-legged tax collector hightailed it to a certain bend where the road took a dogleg left to get around a large sycamore tree near the center of town. He hadn’t climbed a tree since all his friends were still his height, and if all of Jericho hadn’t been down the road heralding the teacher, the crowd would have relished watching Zacchaeus fumble his way up the branches.

The only thing sillier than watching Zacchaeus climb up the tree was to see him come barreling out of it when the teacher called him by name: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). The crowd must have groaned, knowing the dismal reputation of the tax collector’s social insensitivity. However, over the huffs, Zacchaeus’s voice rose up, “Here and now I’m a different person.” Whether or not he realized at that moment that the crowd was standing there has been a topic of conjecture ever since.

Back to the Future

  • Why do you think Zacchaeus wanted so badly to see Jesus?
  • What measures are you willing to take to gain a clearer “sight” of Jesus?
  • Jesus invites himself into your heart: “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” (Revelation 3:20). What can you do to show Jesus that you want him to “come in and eat with you”?

The Story Continues …

Get the whole story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1–10.

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