Jesus told the rich young ruler, “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).
Jesus said to Martha, “Few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).
For the young ruler, the one thing was what he would gain by losing his possessions. For Martha, her sister had found the one thing and she was left holding the oven mitt.
But I think, at the root, these two very different people lacked the same one thing. Continue reading
One aspect of a bigger thought process I’m in right now.
There are some things in the Bible that just aren’t clear. When Paul talked about mystery (e.g. Ephesians 6:19), he wasn’t joking! If you read your Bible honestly and extensively, you’ll see why there are controversies among modern believers. Just to name some of the big ones,
- Timing of the rapture
- Role of women in church leadership
- Baptism’s relationship to faith
- election/free will
There’s a part of me that says, “If the brightest minds haven’t resolved these issues in the 1500-ish years since the Bible was codified, I’m not going to figure them out.” But there’s another part of me that says, “I need to know the right answer, and I need to know it now!!!!!” I’m still trying to find a balance because I believe God enjoys our inquiry and wants us to pursue knowledge of Him (Romans 11:33—my favorite, Hebrews 11:6), but He also expects us to practice our faith, which often means we trust without evidence (Hebrews 11:1).
I want to be faithful to the text and to the Author, and I want to authentically represent the text to my readers. As I said recently, I take the warnings for teachers and leaders very seriously (e.g. James 3:1). For these reasons, I haven’t often offered my opinion on controversial subjects. Today is not the day to start.
In fact, I’m not offering answers to any of these theological debates today. Instead, let’s “zoom out” a little and think about why these passages are in our Bible.
God knew the passages we would
debate, yet He included them
in His Word.
God is omniscient (1 John 3:20). He knew the things we would debate here in the 21st-century and all the controversies throughout the years, yet He still included these passages or didn’t include any clear teaching on topics that feel very important to us.
Why would He do that? Why would God allow controversial passages into the Bible? Why not make it clear to us so we could do it right from the beginning and save ourselves a lot of infighting?
A couple of possibilities…
- The Bible was written for all times and all cultures. Many of our questions are culture-driven, so answering us would not benefit, say, 8th-century China or 22nd-century Africa. Nor would the answers to their questions benefit us.
- Studying the Bible should increase our faith, not explain it. By leaving some questions unanswered (I’m looking at you, dinosaurs), God stretches our faith to trust Him.
Or maybe it’s because we need to show each other grace.
This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. –1 John 3:23
The most important things are these: believe in Jesus and love each other.
We must learn to give
and receive grace.
When we disagree, it’s harder to show love. Even in the best of times, it takes effort to preserve unity. We have to learn, practice, dispense, and receive grace. Out in the world, people disagree (especially these days—whew!), and their conflicts escalate. Within the church, we’re called to model something different.
There are controversial passages in the Bible. How will we distinguish ourselves from the world when we talk with another believer who opposes our view…when we walk beside another believer to serve or advocate?
Will the conflict escalate, just like it does in our culture, or will love counter-culturally prevail?
Will we demonstrate unity to a watching world, or will we allow that thing which is not a commandment to divide us?
Maybe God allowed these controversial passages into the Bible so that we can show each other grace and thus demonstrate love to a watching world.
Why didn’t God just explain everything clearly? Why leave the Bible with controversial passages? Maybe so we would have to show each other grace. My #doctrine is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)
What are you thinking? Does this idea resonate with you? What hesitations do you have? Have you seen a healthy model of dealing with church controversy? Please share your response in the comments below. Seriously. I would really appreciate some feedback on this.
By the way, I’m fairly sure these questions have come to mind in response to the recent death of progressive theologian, Rachel Held Evans. She lived only a couple of hours’ drive from me, but I didn’t realize it until after her death. I wish I would have known she was so close. I would have driven down to Dayton and bought her a cup of coffee. I think we could have had a good conversation.
For our on-going series seeking the Beatitudes in the Old Testament, welcome a special guest for this month: Leigh Powers. You'll be blessed by Leigh's reflections on an Old Testament prophet you probably don't know! Read more about Leigh at the end of the post.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. –Matthew 5:6
Huldah lived through some of the
darkest days of Judah’s history,
but she never stopped hungering
and thirsting for righteousness.
Scripture remembers Josiah as one of Israel’s greatest kings, but at the center of Josiah’s story is a woman who we sometimes forget: the prophet Huldah. Huldah lived through some of the darkest days of Judah’s history, but she never stopped hungering and thirsting for righteousness. She remained resolutely committed to God and God’s Word, and the Lord saw that her hunger for righteousness was satisfied.
To understand Huldah’s story and why she hungered for righteousness, we have to go back to the reign of Josiah’s grandfather, Manasseh.
Manasseh and his son, Amon, were two of Israel’s worst kings. The Scriptures say Manasseh “shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end” (2 Kings 21:16). Amon reigned for only two years before his court officials conspired against him and assassinated him.
The next king, Josiah, made a clean break with his father and grandfather. Josiah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Kings 22:2). When Josiah was twenty-six years old, he ordered his court officials to work with the priests to restore the temple. As the work proceeded, the workers discovered the Book of the Law somewhere within the temple. This scroll, containing either a portion of Deuteronomy or the entire book, had been lost.
Hilkiah the priest brought the scroll to Josiah’s secretary, who read it to the king. Josiah had obeyed God as fully as he knew how, but hearing the word of the Lord read aloud provoked his grief. He tore his clothes in mourning, realizing how fully Judah had broken their covenant with God and how severe the penalty might be. He needed confirmation that this scroll was indeed the word of the Lord, so he assembled a group of his top officials to find out.
Josiah’s officials went to Huldah.
They could have their pick of
prophets. Why choose Huldah?
Why Huldah? They could have their pick of prophets. Jeremiah was active at this time and so was Zephaniah. Part of it may have been proximity and familiarity. Huldah was the wife of a prominent member of the court and her home in Jerusalem’s new quarter would have been easily accessible.
Her maturity may also have been a factor. the king’s men went to Huldah instead of summoning her to come to them. This may indicate something of the deep respect in which they held her. A woman who was respected enough for high officials to go to her for counsel and advice was likely an older woman. Quite possibly, Huldah was old enough to have lived through those years when Manasseh was worshipping idols and filling Israel with innocent blood. We know there were prophets during Manasseh’s reign (2 Kings 21:10) who warned the nation about the consequences of abandoning God. Was Huldah one of them?
We can’t say for sure, but what we do know is this: When the king’s men brought the scroll to Huldah, she displayed an unwavering commitment to the Word of God.
Hear Huldah’s message to Josiah:
This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, “This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.” –2 Kings 22:15-20
It couldn’t have been an easy message to deliver: disaster, anger, burning, a curse. Josiah was a good man who had done his best to follow God’s commands. Yet Huldah was passionate about righteousness. She verified that the words of the book were true. Judgment was coming, but because Josiah had humbled himself before God, the Lord would also show mercy. Huldah became the first person in Scripture to authenticate the written and authoritative word of God.
Huldah was resolute about delivering
the full counsel of the Word, even
when it was hard to hear.
To hunger after righteousness is to desire to do what is right in God’s eyes. Despite living in a day when God’s word literally had been lost, Huldah remained committed to the word of God. She was resolute about delivering the full counsel of the Word, even when it meant speaking truths that were hard to hear. Above all else, Huldah desired to please God and to be found faithful.
Huldah’s hunger for righteousness was satisfied. Josiah received her message and humbled himself before God. He gathered the leaders of Jerusalem and all the people of Judah, then had the Book of the Law read aloud in their hearing. He led the people to repent and renew their covenant with the Lord, and they purged Judah of all their idols. Finally, Josiah led the people to celebrate the Passover. It was the first national Passover celebration Judah had held since the days of the Judges (2 Kings 23:22-23). Huldah’s commitment to God’s word helped Josiah usher in revival.
Huldah is only mentioned briefly in Scripture, but her commitment to God’s word helped restore righteousness to the nation. What would God do with a nation of people who hunger and thirst for his righteousness? We may not always see the fruits of our faithfulness, but we do know this: Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.
What will you hunger for?
Huldah’s desire for righteousness changed the course of a whole nation. She’s this month’s Old Testament example of one of Jesus’ beatitudes. My best #satisfaction is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)
Did you know Huldah before you read this? What inspires you about her? For me, it’s that she desired righteousness for her whole nation, not just for herself. Bless Leigh (and me) with a response in the comments below!
Leigh Powers is the author of Renewed: A 40-Day Devotional for Healing from Church Hurt and for Loving Well in Ministry. An award-winning author and speaker, Leigh is passionate about helping women find their place in God’s story. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website, http://www.leighpowers.com.
Read more from Leigh over on Intentional Parenting: Raising Whole Kids in a Broken World
In recognition of Mother’s Day this Sunday (12 May 2019), I offer three portraits of biblical mothers who overcame their less-than-ideal circumstances and produced amazing kids (one way or another).
Naomi owned the mother-in-law role
When Naomi’s husband and both her sons died, she remained in Edom with no family and no way to take care of herself. It’s not a surprise she decided to return to her own people. What does surprise is the commitment Ruth, her daughter-in-law, made to Naomi. (For more on Ruth’s side of the story, see my recent post, Blessed Are: The Meek.) At first, Naomi was like, “whatever,” about Ruth’s refusal to leave her. She was still full of grief and even told people to call her Bitter.
Naomi rose from her grief and
directed Ruth toward a happy future.
But Naomi rose from her grief and directed Ruth toward a happy future. She advised Ruth on local customs and on finding another husband. Boaz turned out to be a wonderful husband for Ruth, and Naomi got to hold her grandson on her lap.
Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” –Ruth 4:16-17a
Ruth may have gained another mother-in-law when she married Boaz, but something tells me Naomi remained an important and influential part of her life.
Hannah owned the longed-for-and-lost role
Hannah desperately longed for a child—just one child! Finally (to make a long story short), after pleading to God for years, God blessed her with a son after Hannah promised to give Him back to the service of God. Hannah kept Samuel until he was weaned (probably about three years), then she left him at the temple with the old priest, Eli.
Hannah released Samuel, but
she didn’t disregarded him.
God blessed Hannah with five other children after Samuel (1 Samuel 2:21), but she never stopped being Samuel’s mother. Just because she released him doesn’t mean she disregarded him. Every year, she faithfully brought him a new cloak (1 Samuel 2:19).
Eunice owned the cross-cultural marriage role
We know so little about Timothy’s mother, Eunice. What’s the story behind her marriage to a non-Jewish guy (Acts 16:1)? And how did her mother, Lois, feel about it? Paul said to Timothy,
I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. –2 Timothy 1:5
Eunice raised Timothy
to love God.
It seems Timothy’s father wasn’t one of those “God-fearing Greeks” like the ones who joined Paul and Silas in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-4), and yet Eunice raised Timothy to fear God, love others, and follow the Law. Sometime after Jesus came to earth and changed everything, both Eunice and Lois shifted their devotion, becoming Christ-followers.
Eunice navigated her cross-cultural marriage while consistently instilling her faith into her son. She didn’t let her circumstances excuse her from diligence in faith matters.
Naomi’s grandson, Obed, was the grandfather of King David and in the lineage of Jesus (Ruth 4:17).
Eunice’s son helped the Gospel spread around the world and was the recipient of two letters that influence Christian thinking even today (1 and 2 Timothy).
These women had unconventional mothering rolls, but they were exactly where God wanted them to be, doing what He wanted them to do. This Mother’s Day…okay, every day…let’s celebrate the mothers around us who may not look or act like your “typical” mom, if there is such a thing.
Have you known the blessing of an unconventional mom in your life? Maybe you are the unconventional mom. Know another biblical example of an unconventional mothering role? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!
Jesus had told them to go to Galilee. Just after He rose from the tomb, Jesus instructed the faithful women, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). It took them awhile to get there. Even a week later, they were still meeting in the house where He had first appeared (John 20:26).
Eventually, the disciples trekked to Galilee, just as Jesus had told them to do. But Jesus didn’t tell them what to do when they got there.
A weak person can’t be gentle.
A fearless person can’t be courageous.
Gentleness is the restraint of strength. Courage is the overcoming of fear.
In the same way, being meek requires an ability…perhaps even a propensity…for its opposite. Continue reading