Tag Archives: Christiantiy

God’s People, part 118: Malachi

Read Malachi 2:1-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I have always loved you,” says the LORD. But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?” And the LORD replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob,” (Malachi 1:2)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Prophet-MalachiPart 118: Malachi. It is hard to believe but we have arrived at the final prophet in the Old Testament. We know very little about Malachi, as is the case of most of the minor prophets. For instance, scholars are not really sure who wrote the book attributed to Malachi, or if Malachi was the prophet’s name or a sort of alias for someone else.

Most scholars recognize that whoever wrote the book of Malachi, it was written by a prophet who was living during the time of the Persian Restoration period following the return from exile. The text seems to be consistent with the time period following the rebuilding and rededication of the second Temple, and the rebuilding of the wall. In fact, it seems that it may have been written around the time of, or shortly after, Nehemiah’s second return from Persia to Jerusalem (See the devotion on Nehemiah to refresh your memory on him).

Malachi’s prophetic book focuses on the lackadaisical religious and social behavior of the Israelites, especially the priests, in Jerusalem following the return from the exile. For instance, Malachi calls the priests out for making less than desirable sacrifices, as if performing their priestly duties is a chore or a bother for them. Evidently the priests were sacrificing any old animal rather than making sure the animal was without any blemish. In fact, they were sacrificing lame and sick animals. When you think of it, sacrificing a lame or sick animal, which will most likely die anyway, is not much of a sacrifice. If the priesthood cannot lead faithfully, how can the people they lead grow in their faith?

Another issue raised by Malachi was the issue of divorce. Malachi saw this both as a religious and a social issue. In fact, the two really could not be separated. The Israelite men were evidently divorcing their wives (of which the priests were allowing) in order to marry foreign women. Socially, divorcing one’s wife brings shame upon her and her family. Often times, divorced women were shunned by their families and left to fend for themselves in a man’s world. This, often times, led women destitute and prostitution was often the only means available for survival.

The religious end of this is that the men were then marrying women who worshipped a foreign god. Thus, they were not only being unfaithful to their Jewish wives, but they were being unfaithful to their God as well. In fact, divorcing their wives for such a ridiculous reason is not being faithful to God either.

What Malachi shows us, as God’s people, is that it is not hard for us to fall into laziness, complacency and unfaithfulness. Whether we are leaders, or we are laity, we all have the tendency to fall away and to lead others to plummet with us. The challenge for us is to remain loyal (aka faithful) to God and to Jesus Christ. In order to do that we must maintain our spiritual disciplines such as reading and studying scripture, attending worship, participating in the Sacramental life of the Church, serving, praying, giving and witnessing to others. Those things keep us in connection to, and knowledgeable of, our Lord God. May you ever grow in your love of God and your desire to seek God out through daily spiritual discipline.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Those who do not see the mandate to be socially just, and to seek out social justice, in the Bible are simply not reading the Bible.

PRAYER
Lord, make me a vessel of your love, your peace, your hope, and your justice. Amen.

God’s People, part 47: Jesse

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).” (Matthew 1:5-6)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Jesse-Shepherd-DavidGod’s People, Jesse. We all know the story, right? Samuel was disgusted with King Saul, who seemed hellbent on doing things his own way. Ah, it’s good to be the king, you know? Well, it was for a while; however, when Samuel learned that Saul had captured and kept alive the king of the enemy he was supposed to have destroyed, Samuel flipped out on him. Saul had been notorious for being a rogue agent, doing things his own way for his own gain and God, through Samuel, cut him and his family off from the throne.

While this change didn’t happen overnight, Samuel did immediately go searching for the one who would replace Saul as king of Israel. On his quest, God led him to the town of Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse who was a farmer, breeder and owner of sheep.

Once there, Samuel peformed a ritual sacrifice and then asked Jesse to bring forward one of his sons. One by one, Samuel looked at the sons that Jesse brought before him. Each time, Samuel believed that the person standing before him must surely be God’s’ next annointed one. Each time both Jesse and Samuel were wrong in their judgment. Though each of the young men looked the part of a king in the eyes of Samuel, God chose none of them. Each of the young sons were the ones Jesse thought worthy of bringing forward; however, they were not worthy of being King in the eyes of God.

Finally, Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all your sons you have?” In reply, Jesse admitted that, “There is still the youngest, but he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.” Samuel demanded that he be sent for at once. When David arrived before Samuel, the LORD said, “This is the one; anoint him.” So, obeying God, Samuel annointed David as Saul’s successor, as the next king of Israel.

The question for us is this, how many times do we pass over God’s choice because, by the sight of our own eyes, someone or something is simply not worthy enough. How many times do we limit people in our perception of them. How many times do we not see the divine worth in the people around us because we think we know them and they just couldn’t be up for the task at hand? How many times do we not see that someone is anointed by God, because we see ourselves or others as better than they are?

Today we are being challenged to lay down our preconceived opinions and perceptions of others. Like David, there are plenty of people who don’t look the part but have been called by God. Like Samuel and Jesse, we have proven time and time again that we are not the best judges in the world. We have shown that our perceptions are often way off the mark, and that we don’t know the people around us as much as we think we do. What’s more, we certainly don’t know them as well as God. Today we are being challenged to drop those perceptions, to step out of the way, and to join with God in encouraging those around us to see their call to be leaders in the Kingdom.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Seeing reality for what it is is what we call discernment. The work of discernment is very hard.” – Lewis B. Smedes

PRAYER
Lord, give me the discernment to separate my perception from reality, and give me an open, compassionate heart so that I may see the true value of others. Amen.

The New Year’s Challenge

Read Psalm 119:101-105

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The American Bible Challenge hosted by Jeff FoxworthyIn the late summer of 2012, Jeff Foxworthy hosted a game show show called “The Great American Bible Challenge.” The premise of the show was to quiz people with questions centered on the Bible to see how Biblically literate they were. The contestants were not actually competing to win money for themselves, but would represent a specific charity and the winners would donate their winnings to that charity.

The show, which first premiered on the Game Show Network August 23, 2012, debuted as the network’s highest rated program of all time, bringing in 2.3 million total viewers on its first night. That was the largest amount of viewers in the network’s seventeen year history, proving that the Bible is still very much a marketable venture for entertainment companies to pursue.

Yet, when you look at Biblical literacy in America, the statistics are astounding. According to a Gallup Poll, 16 % of Americans say that they read the Bible daily, 21 % read the Bible on a weekly basis, 12% say they read at least once a month, and 41% say they rarely, if ever, pick up a Bible. Readership of the Bible has declined from 73% to 59% from the 1980’s to our present time. Those numbers are staggering.

I have often heard people say that they find that the Bible is boring, that they don’t understand it, that they don’t have time to read it, and a host of other excuses. Yet, people clearly have an hour to watch a Bible Quiz Show, or ten hours to watch a Bible miniseries. People don’t seem to find the Bible boring when they are Hollywood-ized versions of the Bible and they flock by the millions to soak it all up.

The problem is that Hollywood tells the stories usually from a very narrow perspective. By nature, they need to be told that way; however, the Bible is so much more exciting when read and studied, particularly in a group setting, then when it is being fed to us via a television show. If you like steamy, scandalous romance, check out Samson and Delilah (Judges 16) or David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). If action and adventure suits you, check out the Exodus led by Moses (all of Exodus). God knows there is plenty of horror in the Bible (Judges 19, Daniel 5, Mark 1:23-26, Revelation 13, etc.). If you like drama, check out a book like Esther who rises up over her circumstances.

The challenge to you for this new year is to not become a statistic! Pick up your Bible and read it. Actually read it! There are plenty of things in there that will catch your fancy. If you come across something that doesn’t make sense or grab your interest, move on to something else; however, read your Bible. In fact, join a Bible Study. Join one that will look broadly at the Scriptures and encourage the kinds of open-ended questions that promote learning, understanding and growth. It is my prayer for you, in this new year, that you will find the depth and relevance that the Bible has to offer you in your life. It is my prayer that you will find it to be an life changing, and illuminating, resource in your life. It is my prayer that it will indeed become a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

PRAYER

Lord, I pray that you inspire and motivate me to engage scripture and that, through such engagement, I may grow from who I am to who you want me to be. Amen.