How Desperate Are You? — 28 January 2020 Devotional

Genesis 38:1–26, Ruth 1:3–14, Mark 12:18–27 (read online ⧉)

Whether it be the situation such as with Judah and Tamar or Ruth or the one proposed by the Sadduccees, most modern American Christians skip over the questions that come up with these passages, as they make them uncomfortable. They are indeed not the idealized “nuclear” American family of husband and wife and 2 kids. It is reasonable that it makes many people uncomfortable, though sometimes (especially with Ruth) we dress it up with similar clothing.

Initially, Judah’s issue with Tamar was that it seemed his sons would die around her. He didn’t want another son to die. It seems somewhat reasonable. Yet, Judah still knew what was appropriate culturally, and even for his own lineage. It does seem that he planned it. One normally didn’t put a widow back into her father’s house, as it was the father-in-law’s responsibility to assure that children were produced. Something about this was off, for through his actions Judah displayed a cultural disregard for his and his sons’ duties (produce heirs). Culturally, he was highly irresponsible.
Judah’s behavior also trapped Tamar. She was engaged to a boy who Judah didn’t want to be her husband (regardless of reason). Judah was cruel to her. While her behavior was inappropriate, she was more righteous than Judah, which he acknowledged.* Some Biblical commentators suspect that Judah even started off wrong by “getting” a wife for his son, Er, from someone who was not of his people. If that was the case, Judah would have been an even greater disappointment.

Ruth is often the one dressed in nuclear family “clothes”. Naomi wanted to send her away (back to her Father’s house, just like Judah did to Tamar). Catch the reasoning. Naomi knew that even were she to remarry and successfully give birth, any sons birthed would not be of age until Ruth was much older. Naomi probably wasn’t optimistic about the remarriage piece either. Naomi, interestingly enough, acted as if she was carrying the burden of her husband and sons to produce heirs. Compare that to Judah who seemed eager to avoid the whole thing.

While the previous stories have extenuating circumstances, the “test” that the Sadducees bring to Jesus is just plain ridiculous. Of course, reasonableness wasn’t the point of the question, it was to test Jesus. It carried the “law” to its extreme. It is an interesting mental exercise to wonder how this would work. The text implies that the seven marriages were consummated, and the text doesn’t provide a marriage timeline. That seven consummated marriages did not result in a child shows either a non-producing male lineage (a pretty severe one at that) or a truly infertile woman. Yes, this was “just” a test, but at the same time is displays how the desperation of lineage worked.

As a culture, we have only somewhat recently grown out of that (maybe). The desperation that people felt by not have descendants is beginning to fade. It is especially becoming so today as we lose connection to the people before us. As such, it seems we might be losing something that is deeply connected to that…evangelism. Evangelism is, in many respects, reproduction. Instead of being biological, it is spiritual.

1) What are your views on evangelism? How is that expressed by your life?

2) Why do you think we are lukewarm about evangelism? Why are we not as desperate to evangelism as people were to have children?

3) Many people adopt instead of having biological children. What can they teach us about evangelism?

Action: Ask God to give you a heart desperate for evangelism.

*A quick note that Tamar later gave birth to Judah’s twin sons, Zerah and Perez. Perez is in the lineage of Jesus. Yet, another example of how a sin and unrighteous act can be—ultimately—redeemed by Jesus Christ.

Choose Your Answer? — Generations Devotional for 27 January 2020

Judges 6:11–24, Psalm 27:7–14, Isaiah 6:8–10 (read online ⧉)

Gideon had a prayer. Likely many of the Israelites had the same prayer, “Save us!” It was certainly a worthwhile prayer. We could say that Gideon was chosen. He was. We look backward to Scriptures and we say, “Of course, Gideon was chosen.” Gideon certainly did not feel that way.

In fact, his response was, “It couldn’t be me!” Gideon was either confirming (testing) that this really was from God, or Gideon was testing so that God would choose someone else. With God’s direction, Gideon was the answer to his own prayer. He had to face a well-trained and numerically superior force. That is the risk in prayer; having to be the answer to it.

The “trick”, of course, is thinking that we must do it all on our own, without God. As Gideon lived it out, it was answering his own prayer by working with and on the behalf of God that things came to fruition.

Isaiah, too, was an answer to prayer. The prayer, ultimately, was about the descendants of Israel needing a prophetic voice to call them back to relationship with God. In his own vision, God asked (not of him) who would go. Isaiah volunteers. It just popped out. Whoops! Isaiah became the prophetic voice and suffered greatly because of it.

The psalmist talks about his struggles, and how he wants to see God’s face. He seeks God’s aid and sustenance. It is in verse 11, that we really see what each of us should be asking in our prayers, especially our audacious ones…
“…show me your way, LORD,
and lead me on a level path…”
…follow the way of the Lord. Neither Gideon’s or Isaiah’s path (of the Lord that they followed) was level on the surface. Spiritually it was. Our lives of pain, failure, success, and even mediocrity, will not be “level.” When one fully rests, trusts, and follows God, the spiritual path will be level.

1) When was the last time you made an audacious prayer request? What did you think of the answer?

2) What is your limit to what God asks you to do? [and be honest…God already knows the answer.]

3) What are thoughts about be the answer to your own prayers (at least some of them)?

Action: Ask for God’s guidance for the path you are to walk.

Healing Purpose — 26 January 2020 Devotional

Mark 5:1–20, Mark 7:31–36, Luke 17:11–19 (read online ⧉)

Jesus produced miracle after miracle. Usually, people are pretty grateful when miraculous healing has occurred. The first healing we read today is a man who is not right in the head. Whether we stick with the surface Biblical understanding of possession or go with the postmodern view of schizophrenia it doesn’t really matter. Either way, we see that Jesus performed a miracle. The man was healed and he wanted everyone to know. Jesus directed him to return home. He went to the place he was likely cast-out from and talked about and displayed his healing. He wanted to let people know what Jesus had done for him.

The next story of healing is the deaf man, whose poor hearing had also affected his ability to speak. Jesus healed him, he could now hear and speak normally. What’s interesting here is that while only one person appeared to have been healed, there were either more people that were healed that Mark doesn’t talk about here, or the people were so excited for the man’s healing that they all couldn’t keep quiet about Jesus, and this was after he directed them to remain quiet. They couldn’t help themselves.

The last story is probably the saddest. Jesus healed 10 men of their skin disease. 9 of them did not return to honor Jesus, nor (we can infer) did they do anything that honored God (perhaps not even seeing the priests?) in return. Only 1 man did, and he was an unclean awful Samaritan (Jewish perspective). While the gratitude of 1 out 10 is depressing, there is something else here worth looking at. Nowhere do the Scriptures tell us that the 9 men who appeared to not be thankful regained their skin diseases. Yet, only the 1 man who was thankful (or at least returned to glorify God) was told by Jesus that his faith had saved him.

This last story shows us an important fact about the nature of God. Even when we are ungrateful, God is still loving and faithful. This also shows something else, just because we received miraculous healing, it does not mean we’re saved. That requires something else from us.

1) What is the difference between saving faith, being saved, and being healed?

2) What do you think God’s purpose(s) is(are) for miraculous healings?

3) Where do you see Christians acting like the 9? Where do you see Christians acting like those healed? Where do you see Christians acting like the witnesses of the healings?

Action: Figure out a miracle God has done in your life that you haven’t given him glory for, and share it.