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Today’s Scripture is 1Kings ch. 18 & 19
Ahab The Next “Most Wicked King”
King Omri was said to be the most wicked king in all of Israel’s history, that is, until his son, Ahab ruled the kingdom. Ahab quickly took the moniker of “Most Wicked King” (1Kings 16:33). However, he did have the help of his wife Jezebel; the Phoenician princess turned Queen of The Northern Kingdom.
During this time, in Ahab’s Kingdom, there was a battle concerning faith going on. In the new capital city, the gods of Baal and Astarte had temples, and the prophets of Baal and Astarte had seats of influence at the palace, while at the same time the Lords people were being persecuted.
The Hebrew Heritage of a King
God sent Elijah to the palace to remind the Israelite King of his Hebrew heritage. Elijah told Ahab that God was sending a drought where neither rain or dew would be seen in the land until God brought them forth again. In response, Jezebel had God’s prophets searched out and killed. Elijah made the Kingdom’s “Most Wanted List,” but he was safe; protected by God as the drought wore on for three and one-half years.
The droughts end came in a very dramatic way, in a showdown of prophets on Mount Carmel. The story recorded in the scriptures feels very much like an Old Testament story complete with miracles and bloodshed; however, let’s focus on the prayer of Elijah for now.
And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. (1Kings 18:36-37)
Elijah offers His sacrifice at the appointed time given in the Law of Moses, at the “evening sacrifice.”
Elijah came near and declared that the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, is the God of Ahab’s kingdom; that Elijah is God’s servant, and Elijah is speaking in the name of God.
He next gives a forward-thinking prayer that the “people may know” the true God and He, God, is the one who turned their hearts back again to the God of Israel.
The Lord God Himself gives the benediction in the next verse:
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (1Kings 18:38)
Next, the people give their response to the prayer and benediction.
And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. (1Kings 18:39)
Benediction to A Prayer
At times there are poignant moments at the close of our prayers especially at significant milestones in life, for example, a birth of a child, a prayer of faith for a loved one, or committing to follow our Savior in our mortal sojourn. When we have a dramatic benediction, we can also say “The LORD, he is the God.” When we have this type of benediction, we need to hold on to our faith and follow the Lord. These benedictions strengthen our faith, and we find ourselves committing or recommitting our life to the Savior. Life will not suddenly get easy when we commit anew to Jesus Christ, but we will know of whom we follow.
One of Seven Thousand
There is no happy ending for The Northern Kingdom or even Ahab and Jezebel. The Kings do not follow the Lord, and eventually, Assyria carries off the Northern Kingdom. Elijah can even see that the country will not fully turn and follow the Lord, but the Lord does reveal to Elijah:
Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. (1Kings 19:18)
God does remember those who follow Him and is faithful to those that do follow Him. If we are one of seven thousand people in a wicked country the Lord will know of us and we will find Salvation.
Today’s Scripture is Mark 5:21-43
When important individuals enter a room, others in the room stand, however, when Jesus enters a room, people fall at His feet.
Jairus, an official of the synagogue, a man of high standing in his community, is a troubled man. The pressure of the day has taken his mind and heart into total desperation. Friends, family, and neighbors are gathering at his home. He and his wife are watching their daughter’s life ebb away. More than half of the children in this era who survived childbirth die by their mid-teens. For Jairus’ family, the tragedy is unfolding on an only daughter. Professional mourners soon arrive to await the seemingly inevitable demise of a beloved child.
In another part of town near the sea there is another crowd gathered:
¶ And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea. (Mark 5:21)
The heart of Jairus is soft because of his trouble, so the loving, yet heartbroken father found himself going towards Jesus.
And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, (Mark 5:22)
Many of us can relate to the plight of others desperate times simply because life is too fragile for anyone to escape misfortune and heartbreak as we move across the stage of life and we often find our way to God to plead earnestly.
And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. (Mark 5:23)
I have felt this same desperation. I have held a small lifeless body in my arms, a stillborn child, perfect in every way except for life itself. Standing with family, stunned, looking and holding a child for the only time. Thinking of memories that would never come to pass except for poignant reminders marking time because of the absence of events.
What is a parent to do? Can we have faith, believe, and quiet our fears? Is that what Jairus is doing as he implores the Savior to lay hands on his daughter?
And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him. (Mark 5:24)
The scene must have been spectacular, here is a man of high standing in the community, a man who others respected. Jairus gave respect and honor at the feet of the teacher, this Jesus of Nazareth, who most Jewish leaders held in low regard and even contempt. Is it any wonder that the people followed and thronged Him as they followed along with the father back to his sick daughter? What would they see? Those in the crowd heard the plea “I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may…live.” We can presume they expect to see a spectacular healing or a spectacular failure. Expectations are high among the people as they jostle and push their way with Jesus and Jairus. What will ensue?
And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. (Mark 5:25-32)
The narrative in the Gospel of Mark seems broken, even disjointed at this point. Mark disrupts the present story with a story about a woman that is also reaching for the Savior. Nevertheless, as we go on, we will see the Lord encourage, uphold faith, and remove fear.
As the second story unfolds, we see a woman that is an outcast because of her illness. She finds her way to Jesus. This woman has been sick for twelve years; she is troubled, desperate and willing to take an enormous risk. She wants to touch the hem of the Saviors clothes, knowing she is ceremonially unclean and everyone in the “throng” she touches will be unclean, including the master healer from whom she seeks favor. The woman wants to remain unseen, yet her faith is strong enough to receive healing.
Jairus’ heart is in tatters; he knows there are few valuable moments to spare as his child is dying. He is worried about the family’s suffering at the death of his twelve-year-old daughter while a woman with a twelve-year-illness also shows a great need for healing. The two lives cross paths, Jairus is a person of high standing and the woman with the illness is an outcast. Both are together for the only time. Before this time, circumstances of his office and her illness keep them apart, and yet here they are together where both of their crossroads intersect. What will we learn from the intersecting stories?
But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
¶ While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. (Mark 5:33-36)
These two lives and two stories intersect at the Savior’s message to “Be not afraid, only believe.”
Healing comes to the woman after twelve agonizing years of suffering, and at the inquiry of the Lord, she “told him all the truth,” so instead of a secret cure, the Lord is bestowing an open blessing. The affectionate and honored word “Daughter” stilled her fear, and it was her faith that made her whole.
The worried Jairus after witnessing a miracle on the way to his daughter is comforted, encouraged and has his faith strengthened by Jesus’ words “Be not afraid, only believe.”
Once again Jesus and Jairus are moving but without the jostling crowd. Jesus is moving toward destiny; He only wants those with faith to move forward with Him.
And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. (Mark 5:37)
The believing followers leave the crowd in the commotion and arrive at a home filled with tumult.
And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. (Mark 5:38)
Jesus and those gathered at the house know that death is stilling the little girl’s body, and yet He offers hope and urges faith towards the parents; only to be met by laughter by some who are at the home that we presume have come to offer comfort and support to the family.
And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. (Mark 5:39-40)
Those who’s tears were quickly turned to laughter reveal the superficiality of grief they display, and once again, we see that Jesus has separated those that believe and have faith from those that do not trust the Lord.
The time of healing is gone, the child has moved into the eternities. It would seem to anyone, and even these parents, that this will be a time of comfort and kind words from Jesus at the loss of their dear one. Can there be the laying on of hands as Jairus asked when he first fell and begged? What of faith? What of belief? Does fear grip hearts now?
And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. (Mark 5:41)
Jesus speaks the words “Talitha cumi” and the child hears Him in the eternities and responds. Jesus is speaking to the child who is very much alive and yet not present in the flesh. The disembodied damsel responds to the call of the Lord and returns to her body.
And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.
And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat. (Mark 5:42-43)
There are times of fear and desperation in each of our lives, yet when the Holy Ghost echo the words of comfort, we can also “Be not afraid, only believe.”
God teaches us in His Holy Word that He has power over life and death.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (Acts 15:22-23)
If, as a parent, our young child dies, we have the power to trust the Savior, because we know He has power over life and death. One day He will untie the bands of death. God uses the daughter of Jairus to give the world the ability to “Be not afraid, only believe.”
I know a man that dreamed of his family in a large room waiting with expectation. As they wait, this man is standing at the far end of the room. After some time, the Savior appears in the room; love splendor and glory fill the room. As this man walks forward toward the Savior reverence is filling his heart, and overpowering him, he cannot stand, and falls at the feet of the Savior. He is not compelled to bow before Him, but in the presence of the Savior, he can’t help but bow in humble adoration.
Be not afraid, have faith, and believe and one day you will see the Savior; and when you do see Him will you also fall at his feet?
Luke 1:32-33 (KJV)
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Today’s Scripture is 1 Corinthians 15
Pontius Pilot stood in the presence of the only begotten son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and uttered these infamous words: “What is truth?” (John 18:38). The words of the Savior that prompted the rhetorical question of Pilot were: “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:37).
We can only suppose that, at the time, Pilot was not one “of the truth” (ibid) and could not hear the truth spoken by the Lord. We could feel some justified judgment well up inside our hearts and indignation if it were not for the fact that many of us are guilty of the same sin as Pilot, he did not hear the truth spoken by the Lord because he only attuned his hearing to the secular world around him. The Roman Political system and Grecko-Roman Culture spoke much louder than the words of Christ.
Media, popular voices, and political echo-chambers are no less an influence, trying to declare the truth in our day. We can almost pick any topic from the news headlines and our-truth may very well be set-in-stone due to who or what we allow into our thoughts.
This is like the people in the church at Corinth, at the time of the apostle Paul. They were living in a pagan city that did not have the same views on death and resurrection as followers of Christ and the early church.
The common belief in Corinth is that the human body was a prison for the soul of man, and it was only free once death fell upon its victims. This belief simply removes the “Hope” in the gospel message, the gospel tells us that the sting of death is removed by the redemption and atonement of Jesus Christ. Christ Conquered death and sin. God will take the Faith of the Christian and allow the corruptible man or woman to be put in a grave and Jesus’ resurrection and atonement would raise that man or woman to an incorruptible state, that is free of sin, being no longer subject to the adversary and temptation. Christ overcame death and hell.
Watch how Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 renews hope in Corinth. He does this by pointing out what a pitiful plight we would have if his preaching and testimony of Christ was done in vain. How we would be trapped in our sins and lost if he was a false witness and the words of the Savior to Pontius Pilot were not the truth.
For us, Paul puts the “shame culture” on notice. A culture that values popularity and punishes those who don’t go along with the common culture and the voice of an unholy democracy.
The resurrection is the focus of the Church, and this resurrection is extended to all. When that resurrection day comes, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54), and thus we see hope in the message of the gospel.
Paul writes a letter in response to some in the church at Corinth, who do not have a correct view of resurrection.
1 Corinthians Chapter 15
The Importance Of The Resurrection
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
The Results Of The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
More Doctrine Regarding The Resurrection (cf. 1 Peter 4:6)
29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
Resurrection and The Nature Of Resurrection
35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.
48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
The Day Of Our Resurrection
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Today’s Scripture is Psalm 84
No Melody is too sweet
The psalms in the Bible are like the hymns in the modern church, so when I think of Psalm 84 as a hymn – no melody is too sweet and no sound is too beautiful for this psalm.
This is a pilgrim song, a song that the weary traveler would sing on their journey to the temple in Jerusalem. In the days of the temple at Jerusalem, the faithful made pilgrimages to the Temple where God was known to dwell on the mercy seat inside the temple.
I say no melody is too sweet because I want to hear the sweet melodies that surround the throne of God. It is also the type of music I want to hear when I have a troubled heart or come across disappointments or even when I am physically worn and tattered because I am “fighting the good fight, finishing my course and keeping the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
We sometimes need to sing the psalm or hymn found in Psalm 84. When life feels difficult or dark clouds arise in our hearts, that is the time to open the book of psalms and sing inside your soul as you read. Let me see if I can share how I sing this song when my mood needs a lift.
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.
v1 How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!
I see your beautiful courts, Lord, I might be dragging my way to you, but I am on my way, “O Lord of hosts!”
v2 My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.
Sometimes I feel you are too far away dear Lord, way out there, but I am coming, step, by step, by step.
v3 Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God.
v4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.
I feel hope. I see others have made it into the courts of the Lord. If others are there, I can be there. I see even the small birds can find their way to the altar of the Lord and are blessed by my God and King.
v5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.
v6 Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.
v7 They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
My God is before me! My goal is set. When passing through trials, my heart leans on the strength of God
v8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.
v9 Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
I kneel in thy presence
v10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
My joy is full
v11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
v12 O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
Looking Forward With Faith
The final two verses of Psalm 84 set our minds to the day when “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”(Psa. 84:11) The Christian life does not get the faithful follower a pass on the trials of life.
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
Walking uprightly before the Lord is as simple as looking past the times when we are tired, stressed, and don’t seem to know what is coming next. With a hope in Christ, we can wipe away the tears and still be climbing the hill to the Temple of our Lord.
Today’s scripture is 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor … and have not charity
(1 Cor. 13:3)
Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes!
I did not like eating my potatoes when I was a kid, and my father was an “eat everything on your plate,” kind of dad. He grew up during the depression in the 1940s in Emmett Idaho. Sometimes the potatoes would grow cold, and butter would sit un-melted staring me in the face. Other times a baked potato would dry-out and sit there until I heard the familiar words…. “You might like potatoes if you ate them when the potato was still hot.” No matter how my mother presented potatoes, they would stay on my plate until they entirely lost all desirability for anyone to eat. Over the years I crammed many cold potatoes down just to get away from the table. And just my luck, I married into a potatoes family.
I married my sweet wife in 1984. It was in that same year I met my mother-in-law, a small petite woman who lived a simple Christian life. Jean, as I called her, and my little family enjoyed many family gathering and meals. Sometimes these were significant events, but most times they were small events with my wife and children spending time at Grandma’s house. Jean was a third generation resident of a small farming community filled with family and friends.
When dinner was hot on the stove, and before we sat down to eat, Jean would dish up several plates of hot food and send a child or grandchild next door to Aunt Annie’s house with two hot meals. Others who were sick or in need got the same treatment, plates of food, piled high and deep, with more potatoes than I would be willing to eat. This did not happen just a few times, but night after night and year after year. It was something that happened when Jean cooked.
Jean was not trying to get rid of left-over food but was sure to include enough food for those she loved and those in need. She lived a truly Christian life of charity.
Jean’s charity extended to me at the dinner table too. One day my father-in-law was confused at the strange smell in the air. It smelled like the potatoes were on the way, but things just did not smell right. After the customary meals were sent out the door, my wife proudly placed a pot of rice on the table that Jean cooked-up. Someone shouted, “RICE?” Heads around the table shook from side to side, and with a look of bewilderment, my father-in-law took an extra scoop of spuds. The rice pot caused a small stir at the dinner table until everyone could see the mashed potatoes, still on the menu and on the table. Jean did that for me. Although adding rice to the family menu became a good-natured running joke among myself and the extended family, it made me happy.
Sadly, after many years, the family gathered together to clean out Jean’s kitchen cupboards, after her passing. And in her cabinets, was a bag of rice, more than ten years past the expiration date. Jean was always ready for the reluctant potato eater. Finding that old expired rice gave new meaning to the words “Charity never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8)
A Paradox for Charity and Giving
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians warns people of Corinth that “Charity” must accompany any gift of the spirit or act of devotion. One of the examples he gives is about giving everything a person may own to the poor, but if the giving is done in the absence of “Charity,” the act of giving will have no profit in God’s eyes. It may seem to people that Paul is giving us a paradoxical example; someone gives everything they have to the poor, and they are not charitable?
Today we define “Charity” as the simple act of giving. In today’s vernacular, we may say…. “She gave to charity” or “He is giving to charity.” We make the word “charity” a generic term, and reduce it to a transaction between giver and the receiver. As if to say those on the receiving end of the giving transaction is “the charity.” This can be taken still further, and it could be said, the receiver is a “charity case.”
Paul states that a lack of “charity” will make giving “without profit.” How can a person who has great wealth or a person of meager means give all and still be found lacking in God’s eyes?
A clear understanding of the word charity is essential in understanding Paul. Let’s look at two different translations for 1 Corinthians 13:3:
(1 Cor. 13:3, KJV – bold, italic added)
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
(1 Cor. 13:3, NIV 2011 – bold, italic added)
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
In the Greek text of this verse we find the word “agapē.” The NIV translates “agapē” as “love, ” and the KJV translates “agapē” as “charity.”
You can see there are two renderings for a single word from the Greek text, charity, and love. The Greek word we’ll focus in on is “agapē” (ἀγάπη, pronunciation: ah guh PEH;).
A better understanding of the word charity is the word love; However this Greek word for “love” it is not just any type of love. In the Greek language, it is the highest ennobled word for love.
Biblical scholars Eugene E. Carpenter and Philip W. Comfort describe the Greek word “agapē” this way:
“In the New Testament, the word agapē took on a special meaning. It was used by the New Testament writers to designate a “volitional love” as opposed to a purely emotional love, a “self-sacrificial love,” and a “love naturally expressed by God,” but not so easily by men and women.”1
The word agapē goes beyond emotional love into a love that is “expressed by God.” The word “agapē” used in the original Greek language of the scriptures, in this case, was understood by the people of Corinth. They understood “agapē” to mean the love that God extends to his children or the highest expression of love. And as such, the paradox of giving and charity would have been substantially muted by the overall message of Paul. Paul was telling the church at Corinth that spiritual gifts are to be expressions of love towards God’s children.
The Love expressed by those found in the Gospel is void of selfish motives. Giving to be seen and recognized by the world is not Charity. In fact, any gift including speaking in tongues, moving mountains or even striking a rock to make water gush forth (see Exodus 17:6), needs to be done with self-sacrificial love or Godly love. With this understanding of love, we can better understand 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.
Divine Love is God’s Love
Divine love and Charity was clearly demonstrated by my mother-in-law. She was the embodiment of charity as she faithfully made up extra plates for her elderly family members in town. One of Jean’s spiritual gifts was a giving heart. God’s love worked through Jean and God blessed his children.
1 Corinthians Chapter 13 (KJV)
Paul discusses the high status of charity—Charity, a pure love, excels and exceeds almost all else.
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
1 – Eugene E. Carpenter and Philip W. Comfort, Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words, Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2000), paragraph 3359.
At the October 2016 General Conference,
Elder Cornish in his opening remarks said:
“Isn’t it wonderful how many ways our loving Heavenly Father guides and blesses us?He really wants us to come home.” (Elder J. Devn Cornish; Am I Good Enough? Will I Make It? , LDS General Conference, October 2016)
There is a wonderful illustration of this in the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
1) And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
2) And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
3) And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
4) And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
5) When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. (St. Mark 2:1-5, KJV)
What a strange thing to say!
Lets consider this scene for a moment. Jesus returns from his ministry tour of the Galilee. And word has spread through Capernaum that He is home, in fact, the exact text is “in the house,” so He is once again in the home of Peter wife’s family. This is where Jesus stayed when in Capernaum.
Jesus is the talk of the town that day because he was now known as a great teacher and healer. All the town folk all want to see Jesus speak and maybe perform a miracle or two.
With the house jammed packed and overflowing with people into the street, Jesus is doing what Jesus does, talking and teaching to the people. Then something extraordinary happens. A small group of men carries a man who is sick with palsy to the gathering. He is carried by his friends, through the streets of Capernaum, but to their dismay, the small group sees they can’t get close to Jesus. Stop for a moment and think about the four friends, what do you think they had in mind when the decided to take their sick friend to see Jesus? They know Jesus is a healer. They want their friend to walk again; they are looking for a cure, a miracle
However this small group of men is late to the party, it is not easy trying to carry a grown man through town on a mat. The men don’t stop because of the pressing crowds around Jesus; they simply take another route.
Homes in this area have flat roofs; they did back at the time of Jesus, and they do today. These root tops get used as a porch; people sit and relax on the roof top in the cool of the evening. There are stairs on the outside of the home giving access to roof top.
Remember, there is a meeting going on in the house; people are there to hear and see Jesus.
Think of yourself as part of the crowd, trying to get a view of Jesus, straining to hear His words and then there is a commotion on the roof. Men begin digging through the clay and branches that are supported on wooden beams. Maybe, at first, a little dirt falls below, and then a bit more. The commotion grows and grows until there is daylight pouring into the room.
Now the crowd is not focused on Jesus, but on the commotion. Slowly, the man, sick of the palsy, is lowered to a placed just in front of the Savior. They see each other eye-to-eye, and face-to-face. Then in a sweet and tender voice, Jesus says: “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”
Why? What does the Lord know that we as readers do not know? Elder Cornish gives us a clue.
Lets think about our friend with the palsy. Anyone can get palsy at any time; maybe his friends were fellow fishermen, their palsy friend may be suffering from an old fishing injury. I have a friend at work that tripped and fell on the stairs because of a toy left on the staircase by one of his children. When he fell, he landed on his son that now has palsy as a result and needs to wear a brace.
What can a man with palsy do while confined to his bed?
Any time he had to move from one place to another, it would be difficult; routine health and hygiene activities would require assistance. And dressing and going out, as we have seen, takes a monumental effort.
What does a man sick in bed lying on his back think about all day?
For whatever reasons our friend with the palsy fixates on his sins; he feels hopeless; unable to repent. How can he make restitution for his past? He might think he is not as good as others, and can’t compete
What about you and me? Each one of us has troubling and difficult times. All of us endure trials. Have you felt like this? Are there times you feel hopeless? At times we may feel like we have “Spiritual Palsy.”
Elder Cornish gave this wonderful advice:
“Please, my beloved brothers and sisters, we must stop comparing ourselves to others. We torture ourselves needlessly by competing and comparing. We falsely judge our self-worth by the things we do or don’t have and by the opinions of others.” (Cornish, Ibid)
Remember the words of the Savior? “thy sins be forgiven thee.”
Those words are similar to when Elder Cornish said:
“Let me be direct and clear. The answers to the questions Am I good enough? and Will I make it?” are Yes! You are going to be good enough and Yes, you are going to make it as long as you keep repenting and do not rationalize or rebel.” (Cornish, Ibid)
When the Lord looked into the face of the one sick of the palsy, and He knew everything about him. He is looking at his heart. He did not only see his outward appearance; He saw into his soul. And Jesus knew the sick mans troubled mind.
The Gospel of Mark Continues:
6) But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
7) Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
8) And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
9) Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
10) But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)
11) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.
12) And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion. (St. Mark 2:6-12, KJV)
Jesus was, and is, a healer!
When two blind men cried out saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us, He healed them. When a man told Jesus his daughter was at the point of death, He healed her. And the man, with a palsy that was unable to walk and was unable ask Jesus what he needed; he is forgiven of his sins and healed from his palsy. By forgiving his sins, the Savior gave the man hope for Salvation.
Elder Cornish’s words rang true to me when he said:
“The God of heaven is not a heartless referee looking for any excuse to throw us out of the game. He is our perfectly loving Father, who yearns more than anything else to have all of His children come back home and live with Him as families forever.” (Cornish, Ibid)
We all have times of Trial, Doubt, and Discouragement
God does not punish us with an illness. However, illness are used as metaphors and teaching moments in the Bible. Think of leprosy, blindness or Women who can’t bear children. Remember the dramatic event of Lazarus; how he returned to life by a call from the Lord. Our Trials are teaching moments as well!
Twice I have been very sick. At 39 I had a stage III colon cancer. At 49 I had Pancreatitis that put me in the hospital for 100 days. These are not the worst trails in my mind, but they were significant. But that is mortality; we take the good and the bad and the happy with the sad.
When I had cancer, I had to reconcile my testimony with reality. After surgery and chemotherapy my cancer returned, I had a 8% survival rate; I had to come to terms with what will happen with my final step in this life. Would I step into Oblivion? Or would I step into Eternity?
Ten years later when I spent 100 days in the hospital, the question that weighed on my mind was ”Am I good enough?” I was able to settle my mind on both questions. We have the eternities awaiting our return, and we can make it back to our loving Father in Heaven’s presence. You and I will be good enough. I learned more about the Atonement during those two trials than I can articulate. The Saviors Mercy humbles me.
Leprosy was taken very seriously in the Old Testament. It was often a death sentence for several reasons. Jehovah, in the Law, not only made it part of the health code but used leprosy as a metaphor for sin and uncleanness. Imagine if cancer was an infectious disease, how would that change how you interacted with anyone who has cancer?
What if you were an Israelite, with leprosy, what would your life be like? First, the priest would remove you from the community, you would have no chance to say goodbye to friends or family, you would need to leave right then and there. You must
dress in rags that covered your skin. Your hair would be unkempt and covered; so as to not spread the disease by grooming or when your hair fell out. You need to cover your mouth with a cloth. You need to wear a bell, so people hear you coming from a distance. If anyone approached, you must shout, unclean, unclean, as a warning. Your family could bring food or supplies, but they had leave supplies on the ground and keep a 100-yard distance before you could retrieve them. No human contact, of any kind, even with loved ones. It would be a very difficult life.
When a leper left the community, the people mourned for leper as if they died; clothes are rent; morning the loss begins. Sorrow replaces love and family ties are broken; there is a clear separation. Anyone who touches a leper is unclean and must be purified. These laws would protect the community at large and most importantly, your family and loved ones.
After the Sermon on the Mount; in the Gospel of Matthew, we read:
1) When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.
2) And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. (St. Matthew 8:1-2, KJV)
Mark and Luke tell us he knelt in front of the Savior and fell on his face.
Wow…. The leper broke every rule in the book trying to get to Jesus. This spectacle happened in front of the great multitudes. As Jesus is coming off the mount, the leper, obviously in disguise, runs, bumps, jostles to the front of the crowd to be exactly in front of the Savior. The leper pulls down his disguise and uncovers himself to show Jesus the Leprosy. The crowd must be standing there is stunned silence. They must be thinking, Oh no! Did the leper touch me, am I unclean? Where was he standing? Where was I standing? It must have been shocking.
What did the leper say and what does the Savior do?
2) And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
3) And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4) And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. (St. Matthew 8:2-4, KJV)
The leprous skin now looks like the skin of a newborn child, an obvious cure. That was faith in action; the Lord demonstrated to everyone that He is the “Great Healer.” I want you to stop and think right here about what the Savior did, He touched the man and then healed him. The Lord did the one think that would shock the crowd, but would soothe the soul of the leper. The touch of another human, the one thing he would have missed for years and then to be touched by the Savior and be healed. At this point, the leper is sent to the Priest to make an offering for his cleansing.
Remember Leprosy is a “metaphor for sin” and being “unclean.”
Elder Cornish advised:
“All we have to do to receive this heavenly help is to ask for it and then to act on the righteous promptings we receive. The Lords grace is an enabling power for the leper and our sins.” (Cornish, Ibid)
What is the cleansing offering? We read about that offering in Leviticus Chapter 14:
1) And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
2) This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:
3) And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;
4) Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:
5) And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:
6) As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:
7) And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field. (Leviticus 14:1-7,KJV)
Because God uses leprosy as a metaphor for Sin; let’s review the symbolism for the Lepers cleansing offering.
The elements of the offering are as follows:
1) “two birds alive and clean.”
2) “cedar wood,” This wood is reddish in color
3) “scarlet” yarn, Also Reddish in color
4) “hyssop,” A spice that grew in the Land, the scriptures tell us hyssop grew out of walls.
5) “earthen vessel,” Made from the dust of the earth
6) “running water,” Or Living water
Is the symbolism becoming clear?
1) There is a sacrifice of one live bird.
2) Blood and water mix inside an earthen vessel.
3) The Priest dips the other bird, the cedar, and hyssop in the blood and water mixture.
4) The Priest sprinkles the cleansed leper seven times with the blood.
5) And the former leper is pronounced clean before the community
6) And one of the live birds literally gives its life so the other bird can go free.
The cleansing offering is a metaphor; that points to the Atonement and the Savior:
1) The Scarlet yard and red cedar wood represents the blood of Christ
2) The cedar wood is a foreshadowing of the crucifixion.
3) The sacrificed bird gave its blood for the other bird’s freedom
4) The earthen vessel and mortal bodies come from the dust of the earth
5) Blood and water fill the earthen vessel like they do a mortal body
6) Jesus offered his body and blood as a sacrifice and water gushed from his side
Jesus died that we might be free.
We are free because of the Atonement. There are three important take-a-ways from Elder Cornish’s General Conference talk:
1) “Really be trying.”
2) “Don’t rationalize sin”, or in other words, don’t “plan on sinning and repenting later.
3) Don’t be in open rebellion towards God; that will keep us from God’s presence
Elder Cornish said:
“Of course, there is no such thing as “being good enough.” None of us could ever “earn” or “deserve” our salvation.” (Cornish, Ibid)
Elder Cornish also quoted Elder Holland who said:
I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christs Atonement shines. (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, The Laborers in the Vineyard, LDS General Conference, April 2012)
Lets go back to the man with the palsy:
The Man with the palsy received two miracles from the Savior, he was made free from his sins and his palsy left him.
Which one of those miracles truly made him free?