A meal and a nap

Sometimes I understand a bit more why God responded to Elijah with provision of food and a nap when he was so down, he was saying God should take his life. He’d just had an amazing victory over the false prophets and the next thing he was running and expressing doubt!

On days like this when I feel exhausted and drained, and everything feels out of perspective, I can see how that affects my response to normal stimuli. Every sentence becomes amplified, like capital letters. Every pause becomes loaded, every punctuation, nuanced. One of the wonderful qualities of God is his ability to see and respond to what we actually need, not just what we’re saying. Much like a mother who understands what her child’s cry means, he hears beyond our crying and whining and just meets us exactly where we need to be met, with exactly what we need. Thank God for God.

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭KJV‬‬
https://bible.com/bible/1/isa.41.10.KJV

The Shunammite Woman

We don’t even know her name. She was influential, she was rich. She was described as ‘prominent and influential, an important woman’. She was obviously kind. She was married to her husband and he listened to her when they needed to make decisions. Her husband trusted her. She was insightful and made good choices, so she was wise. Intuitively, she persuaded Elisha, the man of God to stop for a meal the first time, and then anytime he was passing by or going through Shunem, where she and her husband lived.

She sensed Elisha was a holy man of God. She anticipated his needs and so she went even further, convincing her husband to create a ready-made guest room for Elisha. It had a bed, chair, table and lamp stand and was located upstairs- on the roof terrace so he could have some privacy- his own space, perhaps to pray or rest or reflect. So Elisha had a safe space, his own lodgings within their home that he could come to anytime he wanted. And he did come there to rest.

At the time she met Elisha, this woman was childless and her husband was old. She was so kind to Elisha that he looked for a way to actively reciprocate her kindness. He offered to speak with the king or the top military brass on her behalf, perhaps she needed a favour, but she turned the offer down. She was content with her position and her place in her own town. Elisha still wished to be of help somehow so Gehazi, Elisha’s personal assistant found out and informed him that the woman had no sons. Elisha said to her, ‘by this time next year, you will have a son’. And she did. His prophecy came true and she had a little boy. He grew and the time came when he was old enough to go to the farm with his dad during harvest time. Unfortunately he took ill, complaining of a severe headache. His dad sent one of the servants with a donkey to take him back home to Mom. He got home to Mom but he passed away that day.

When everything went pear-shaped, his mom said, ‘it will be alright’. Her son, her only son, had just died on her lap following complaints of a headache. Yet she had faith. Her consistent answer to queries was ‘everything is alright. It is well.’ She was determined and persistent. When Elisha sent his personal assistant Gehazi to minister to their needs, she refused to settle for less. She was not going to budge until Elisha himself came to pray for her dead son. As well she might, because Gehazi’s ministrations made no difference. It was only when Elisha repeatedly prayed for the boy that something miraculous happened! The boy rose from the dead! This nameless, rich, but kind, wise, and determined Shunammite woman received the miracle she needed.

Trust and rest

Sometimes we look around the world and we feel like we should worry about the future. We hear news that is disturbing from the media or about people we love. We can rest in the truth of God’s word. He is working on our behalf. He is working everything-every situation, every tiny detail of our lives, every decision, every action, every event relating to us – he is working it out for our good. He is powerful enough and cares enough for us to handle the situation. He has a master plan for our future, one that will not be denied or derailed. Why? Because he is actively working on our behalf. And he is actively at work in us. God’s power is at work in us. Look at the references below:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13

“He will not let you be defeated. He who guards you never sleeps.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭121:3‬ ‭ICB‬‬
https://www.bible.com/1359/psa.121.3.icb

Rest, knowing God works for our good, in us, and his power is at work in us. Rest in God’s love, trust in God’s word.

Leah

Through their eyes

A reflection on some Bible stories. By Bukky Ajaks.

How to survive a loveless marriage.

Leah : The story of a young woman’s journey through life told through the names of her sons. From unloved teenager to honoured mother and burial in the family grave.

Leah had a hard time. She was the older sister to beautiful Rachel. Okay so Leah had lovely eyes, but what good were they if no one ever got near enough to see them? All everyone ever saw was her beautiful, vivacious younger sister Rachel. Their long lost cousin Jacob was such a great cook and extremely hard-working. He would make a fine husband for one lucky woman. No favours for guessing which cousin he would chose. He only had eyes for Rachel. Like all the other suitors who came calling, once they set eyes on Rachel, Leah might as well be invisible! If only their father, Laban wouldn’t keep insisting on Leah getting married first. So, traditionally the older sister did so before the younger one, but Rachel and Jacob were always mooning over each other. Did Leah really need to be made to compete with that?

This had to be the worst week of her life! Not only had her father embarrassingly deceived Jacob into marrying Leah by tricking him into spending the night with her. Now she and sister would be getting married to the same man within a week of each other. She might as well not have bothered with the tradition of her bridal week. Jacob obviously had his mind preoccupied with other thoughts! Thoughts of a beautiful young lady called Rachel, the love of his life. Not only had he worked the last seven years for their Dad to win Rachel’s hand in marriage. Now he had got Leah instead, he had promised Dad to work another seven years for him to win Rachel, again! It would have been a romantic story if only Leah wasn’t the third wheel stuck in the middle of this impossible love triangle.

Reuben. ‘God has seen my trouble’. God sees! Her beautiful baby boy. She had a son. Someone loved her unconditionally! His adoring eyes sought only hers. His chubby grin widened especially every time he set those piercing eyes on her. Could she love anyone as much as she loved her tiny baby boy. Yes! Simeon! ‘God has heard’ her. God hears. God sees and God hears. Another lovely boy all of her own. Now Leah would not have to compete in vain for a man’s attention. Not her dad’s, not a suitor’s, not even her otherwise pre-occupied husband’s attention. She had her sons to love her who loved her back. Levi! ‘To be close to’! Now Jacob would surely grow close to her since she had three strapping sons for him, right?

Praise God! Judah. ‘Praise’! Another son for her. This time, Leah was going to praise God. He loved her unconditionally. It didn’t matter that her husband would always love her little sister instead of her. God loved her. He saw her situation, he heard her cries, and he gave her these four gorgeous sons. What else could a woman ask for?

After all these years, to be blessed with two more sons! Issachar. ‘Paid for’. What a reward! Having her fifth son felt like a reward for all those years of patience in this relationship. His younger brother she named Zebulun. ‘Honour’. Leah would be forever honoured in her household. The proud and happy mother of six wonderful boys. Don’t forget their pretty little sister, Dinah. Leah felt complete. She felt replete. She did not have the passionate love of her husband but she had her family. She had honour and respect. She was well provided for. She had the unswerving love and devotion of her strong young lads and her gorgeous little girl. She had an amazing family. She knew God loved her. Leah lived to a ripe old age and was buried in a place of honour when she died, alongside her famous relatives Abraham and Sarah.

My coat of many colours: Joseph

Through their eyes

A reflection on some Bible stories. By Bukky Ajaks

My coat of many colours: Joseph.

Joseph wore many crowns: favourite son, slave boy, prisoner-in-charge, Ex-convict turned powerful prime minister and loving son and brother, generous family sponsor and provider. It all started with a dream. It ended with him saving a whole nation from starvation and possibly multitudes from other neighbouring countries. What’s your dream today? Do you let your past stop you? Your past shouldn’t stop you, it should push you forward. Keep going! You have a future because though others may mean you harm, God turns it for good.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Genesis 50:20 NIV

https://www.bible.com/111/gen.50.20.niv

The story of Job

Job was a very rich man who lived in the Far East, many, many years ago. He had 7 sons and 3 daughters. He had a lot of animals, servants, and was rich, famous and very well respected. Yet he was considered a good man who always tried to do the right thing.

One day when the angels came to present themselves to God, Satan, or the devil, the bad angel also came. God was proud of Job doing the right thing and he said so. He referred to Job as a man who was blameless, and upright, who turned away from evil. The devil who is the accuser said, ‘o yes, it’s easy to do the right thing when everything is going well for you. Job has never been tested. Let me take away his wealth and possessions then we will see if his faith is real or just pretend’. So God said, ‘go ahead but his life will be preserved.’

So on a very terrible day for Job, he lost everything. He lost all his sheep, his camels, his oxen and donkeys, servants and even all his children. Job was very sad. He was devastated! But Job did not sin or blame God. But Satan, the accuser still kept accusing Job before God. ‘He’s only holding on to his trust in God because he’s healthy’ Satan said. Let’s see what happens when he’s not feeling so great. So Satan caused Job to have painful, itchy sores all over his body. He was thin and weak. He did not sleep well at night and had bad dreams, night terrors. Job was so sad and sick that his wife said, ‘are you still trying to stay all honest and innocent? You should just curse God and die’! But Job stubbornly remained faithful to God, he kept trusting in God. He said, God has given us everything we’ve ever had, should we turn away from him now that things are not so good?

Job’s three close friends Eliphaz, Zophar and Bildad came to see him. They sat with him quietly for 7 days, then they started blaming him. ‘You must be a bad man for these bad things to be happening to you. You must be hiding your sins. You’d better confess them, because only horrid people have horrid things happen to them.’ They made Job feel much worse but Job kept insisting on his innocence and saying that God was going to hear him and show that he was right. Job told his friends that they were just saying all those horrible untruths because they weren’t walking in his shoes. Job talked about the good things he did, like helping the poor, and never stealing other people’s wives, and always being kind to his servants. Job also said he wanted to be able to speak to God about his good deeds, to prove he was innocent. Job said even now, he still believed he had a friend up there in heaven speaking up for him

“Even now I have one who speaks for me in heaven. The one who is on my side is high above. The one who speaks for me is my friend. While he does this, my eyes pour out tears to God. He begs God on behalf of a man as a man begs for his friend.”

Job 16:19-21 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.16.19-21.icb

Then God answered Job out of the storm. God reminded Job that he was the one who made the heavens and the earth. God made the whole universe. He made the snow and kept them in store houses. He made the clouds. He made all the animals like the eagle with its nest high up the mountains, the hawk, the lion and the raven that he provides food for, the fierce crocodile! Job wouldn’t mess with a crocodile, would he question or would he trust the God who had actually made the crocodile?

When God spoke to him from the storm, Job realised that what matters most on this earth is really getting to know God, and walking with God. Circumstances around us or the things we may hold very close to our hearts such as fame or riches or even some relationships reduce in importance or pale into insignificance compared to the greatness of God, how mighty God is. Job said, ‘my ears had heard of you, now my eyes have seen you.’

“In the past I knew only what others had told me, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.”

Job 42:5 GNT

https://www.bible.com/68/job.42.5.gnt

God told Job’s friends off for saying the wrong things about him, and got them to ask Job to pray for them. God gave Job back more than he lost. He had double the animals, riches, servants than he had before. His family including his brothers and sisters and even lost friends returned and even gave him gifts of gold. He even had another 7 sons and 3 beautiful and famous daughters called Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren Happuch. His daughters names described how beautiful they were. He lived another 140years and he saw his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great, great grandchildren.

What Job didn’t know like we do now is that Satan is the accuser but we really do have a defender in heaven who speaks for us. That defender is Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross for us, he took away all our sins. He rose again and is in heaven speaking on our behalf. God loves us and even when we go through very difficult or hard times, we can trust him. When everything falls apart, we can still trust God.

Scripture taken from the International Children’s Bible®. Copyright © 1986, 1988, 1999 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (GNT) are from the Good News Translation in Today’s English Version- Second Edition Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.

Then David took it all off.

David was going to fight Goliath, a nine foot, four inches tall giant. David himself was young, and ruddy faced and handsome. He was bold and brave. His only qualification was being a shepherd, taking care of his father’s sheep. He was also in the King’s service. He played a harp for King Saul whenever the king was troubled by a distressing spirit. David was not even one of the trained soldiers like his tall, strapping big brothers Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah. Eliab his big brother, very scathingly pointed this out to him when he heard David asking about fighting Goliath.

However, David was not deterred. He believed with all his heart that he didn’t need to be a trained soldier to defeat the enemy. All he needed was to trust God to help him. He already had a track record of prevailing against predators who came after his father’s sheep. He killed a bear, and a lion, without owning a sword or a spear. The giant was soon going to meet the same fate. How dare this uncircumcised, unbelieving massive hulk of a man speak against God’s army, the Israelites!

Soon enough, David was brought before King Saul. David was quick to reassure the king that he would kill this big, bad giant and God would use David to save Israel. The king and the rest of the army need not be so discouraged. David told the king of his victories over wild animals with the help of God. He reminded the king of God’s place as the real head of the army. Goliath would die because he had ‘stood against the armies of the living God.’ *

King Saul didn’t think David was old enough or experienced enough to fight against a seasoned warrior like Goliath and he voiced his doubts. He agreed anyway. After all no one else was volunteering to stick their neck out against this mammoth sized enemy! He put his own clothes and armoury on David. If he wasn’t going to be able to teach David war tactics at this late stage, he could at least arm him with a spear and a shield. David couldn’t even walk in Saul’s clothes and heavy war weaponry. This was not going to do. David took it all off. He knew he couldn’t do this Saul’s way. He was going to follow his heart and do it his tried and tested way. David knew God would give him another resounding victory, even though all he could fight with were his stick, his sling and some smooth pebbles from the stream.

David strode out confidently into battle. Goliath was shouting curses and threats at David as he regarded him with disgust. David calmly answered that Goliath, not David, was the one who would die for threatening God’s people. The Israelite army gasped when they saw Goliath advancing towards the boy, David. David, undeterred, ran towards Goliath and fired a stone at his head. Zing! The stone landed, a perfect shot. Goliath, like the walls of Jericho many years before, came crashing down! David ran to Goliath and finished the job with Goliath’s own sword. The Philistine army tried to escape when they saw their hero was annihilated. The Israelite soldiers, emboldened by David’s success rushed after them and destroyed many of the enemy soldiers. That day, Israel won a big victory over their oppressors because of the faith of one boy who trusted God to deliver him.

* see 1 Samuel 17: 36

Scripture taken from the International Children’s Bible®. Copyright © 1986, 1988, 1999 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

God works

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭KJV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/1/rom.8.28.kjv

When God created the heavens and the earth, on the sixth day he created man. On the seventh day, he rested (see Genesis chapter 1). But do you know that God works? God works on our behalf. He works everything together for the good of those who love him. That is what Romans 8 verse 28 quoted above states.

God is deeply concerned about us, he cares about every detail of our lives, and he actively works things out for our good. In the book of Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 11, God says that his thoughts towards his people, are of good and not of evil. God’s thoughts towards us, his chosen people today, are good, not evil.

Sometimes we look around the world and we feel like we should worry about the future. We hear news that is disturbing from the media or about people we love. We can rest in the truth of God’s word. He is working on our behalf. He is working everything – every situation, every tiny detail of our lives, every decision, every action, every event relating to us – he is working it out for our good. He is powerful enough and cares enough for us to handle the situation. He has a master plan for our future, one that will not be denied or derailed. Why? Because he is actively working on our behalf. And he is actively at work in us. God’s power is at work in us.

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭KJV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/1/php.2.13.kjv

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭KJV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/1/eph.3.20.kjv

Rest, knowing God works for our good, in us, and his power is at work in us. Rest in God’s love, trust in God’s word.

Long Covid: Normalcy?

Long Covid too

Right now my life feels like a runaway train, going off without me.

Only it’s going very slowly.

I’m trying to run to catch it, but I’m moving too slowly.

I’m actually crawling, not running.

Crawling. Scrabbling. Toddling.

Moving, hopefully achieving some forward motion in any way to get back on that train.

Before it’s too late.

Before it’s too late to get back to normalcy.

Normalcy is getting up in the morning, reasonably bright and getting to work.

Normalcy is playing football with the kids on a Saturday afternoon.

Normalcy is playing hide and seek with my 7 year old after school.

Normalcy is not being too tired or too breathless to sustain any of these activities.

Normalcy is not feeling set adrift.

Or should normalcy be a state of the heart?

Should it be quietness within?

Should it perhaps be a stillness inside, a certain assurance that everything will be alright?

Should my definition of normalcy be ‘trust’ ?

Trust in him who holds my future (and past and present too) in his hands.

Trust that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

Trust in his purpose.

Mercy

Mercy

The same God of the old testament is the God of the New Testament. He’s the God of mercy. I see his mercies demonstrated over and over again. David was a mighty warrior who understood the mercy of God. He understood the fathering nature of God. You can read it in the psalms- David’s descriptions of God’s mercy and fairness and love and care.

The story of Bathsheba was described as David’s great sin. Yet David was restored in his relationship with God and still referred to as a man after God’s heart. He was the benchmark for faithful Kings who followed God’s command. Let’s look at some context for David’s great sin and the extent of God’s mercy.

“The Lord did this because David had done what pleased him and had never disobeyed any of his commands, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

1 Kings 15:5 GNT

https://www.bible.com/68/1ki.15.5.gnt

“Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai the son of Maacah, Eliam the son of Ahithophel of Giloh,”

2 Samuel 23:34 AMP

https://www.bible.com/1588/2sa.23.34.amp

“Uriah the Hittite—thirty-seven in all.”

2 Samuel 23:39 AMP

https://www.bible.com/1588/2sa.23.39.amp

“David sent word and inquired about the woman. Someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?””

2 Samuel 11:3 AMP

https://www.bible.com/1588/2sa.11.3.amp

“And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh, while he was offering sacrifices. And the conspiracy grew strong, for the people with Absalom increased continually.”

2 Samuel 15:12 AMP

https://www.bible.com/1588/2sa.15.12.amp

“These were born to David in Jerusalem: Shimea (Shammua), Shobab, Nathan, Solomon—four by Bath-shua (Bathsheba) daughter of Ammiel (Eliam);”

1 Chronicles 3:5 AMP

https://www.bible.com/1588/1ch.3.5.amp

So looking at the references: Uriah the Hittite was one of David’s mighty men when he became king. They strengthened and supported his kingdom. He was with David in the trenches when he was newly crowned king following his persecutions from Saul and his family. Uriah was mentioned in 1 Samuel 23, when the thirty men and up to 7 mighty warriors were listed (1 Samuel 23 vs 39). Eliam (Bathsheba’s dad) was also listed in 1 Samuel 23 as one of these mighty warriors. Uriah was (eventually) married to Bathsheba who was the daughter of Eliam who was the son of Ahithophel. So Bathsheba was Ahithophel’s granddaughter. That is why Ahithophel (David’s advisor) kept a grudge and turned against David when Absalom, David’s son, rebelled.

Looking at 1 Chronicles 11, David schemed and planned once he had set eyes on Bathsheba and slept with her. It happened at a time when they kings usually went to war but David stayed back. He got Bathsheba pregnant then devised a plan to get Uriah to take responsibility for the baby. This didn’t work, so he had him killed. Uriah a trusted and loyal soldier delivered the letter to his commander (Joab) that had his own death sentence! The letter was written by David. Yet God still restored and loved him, God (the same God of the old and New Testament) had mercy on him.

Look at another example of David understanding God’s mercy in 1 Chronicles 21. David had sinned with his disobedient census. He was given a list of three possible punishments for the nation of Israel. He understood the merciful and fathering nature of God.

“God was very displeased with the census, and he punished Israel for it. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt for doing this foolish thing.” Then the Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer. This was the message: “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’” So Gad came to David and said, “These are the choices the Lord has given you. You may choose three years of famine, three months of destruction by the sword of your enemies, or three days of severe plague as the angel of the Lord brings devastation throughout the land of Israel. Decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.””

1 Chronicles 21:7-12 NLT

https://www.bible.com/116/1ch.21.7-12.nlt

““I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great. Do not let me fall into human hands.””

1 Chronicles 21:13 NLT

https://www.bible.com/116/1ch.21.13.nlt

“So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and 70,000 people died as a result. And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But just as the angel was preparing to destroy it, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

1 Chronicles 21:14-15 NLT

https://www.bible.com/116/1ch.21.14-15.nlt

“David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And when David prayed, the Lord answered him by sending fire from heaven to burn up the offering on the altar. Then the Lord spoke to the angel, who put the sword back into its sheath.”

1 Chronicles 21:26-27 NLT

https://www.bible.com/116/1ch.21.26-27.nlt

David recognised that the mercy of God would prevail over judgement. Even in the Old Testament God was a God of mercy.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. – James 2:13

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Matthew 5:7 NIV

https://www.bible.com/111/mat.5.7.niv

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,”

Ephesians 2:4 NIV

https://www.bible.com/111/eph.2.4.niv

“He saved us because of his mercy, not because of good deeds we did to be right with God. He saved us through the washing that made us new people. He saved us by making us new through the Holy Spirit.”

Titus 3:5 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/tit.3.5.icb

Trust and be trustworthy

When we are serving God’s people, our aim should not be to profit from our service. This is especially important when it may be to the detriment of those we serve. We should plough all of the resources into serving people and meeting the needs of those we serve, and of the poor.

“Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land.”

Nehemiah 5:14-16 NIV

We who are God’s people should be trustworthy with no corruption in us, and we must not be negligent in our work.

“At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”

Daniel 6:4 NIV

Some principles of service for us to adopt are demonstrated further in the verses below:

“But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings.””

2 Kings 22:7 NIV

http://bible.com/111/2ki.22.7.niv

“Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.”

2 Kings 22:9 NIV

The workers, supervisors of the carpenters, and builders, of the temple were known for their integrity. We who are building God’s temple today, leaders, workers, should be known for our integrity, for honesty in our dealings.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
Copyright © 1973 1978 1984 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Moses: slave, prince, fugitive, freedom fighter, revolutionary leader.

Moses was born into slavery. He was born into a Hebrew family living in Egypt. At that time the Israelites (as they were called) had practically no rights. They had so few rights that an Egyptian man could walk into their home and take away their baby boy to be thrown into the Nile river- by decree of the king (Pharaoh)!

Moses Dad was called Amram. Moses’ mom was called Jochebed. When she had Moses, she decided he was too beautiful and special to be wasted on Nile crocodile cuisine. She decided to risk her life and her family’s by hiding baby Moses. She already had two children, Aaron her son aged 3, and Miriam the resourceful big sister, but baby Moses was no less precious. When Moses was three months old, Jochebed realised she could no longer hide him. Someone could easily hear him cry, or worse still, spy him in her house.

She put him in a special baby ark basket made from reeds and covered with tar so it could float. She placed it among the tall grass on the edge of the Nile river, while big sis’ Miriam kept watch. Soon enough, Princess Pharaoh came for her bath. Naturally she spotted the ark in the grass. When she looked inside, she saw this gorgeous baby crying and her heart went out to him.

Clever Miriam was on hand to point Princess Pharaoh in the direction of a good nanny (baby nurse). So Moses’ Mom, Jochebed got paid to be his nanny for the first few years of his life. When he was old enough to move to the palace, the Pharaoh Princess adopted him as her own son. That is how Moses, who was born a slave, became a prince. He would be the only Hebrew boy in his age-group to have escaped being tossed into the river at birth. All his friends at school would either be Egyptian or if they were Hebrew and lucky enough to be at school, probably older or maybe younger than him.

Young Moses grew up seeing his fellow Israelites oppressed although he himself had a privileged life as a royal prince. His heart burned with the injustices against his people, the Israelites. So one day when he saw an Egyptian beating up an Israelite man, he killed the Egyptian aggressor. Unfortunately his heroic act was neither lauded by the Israelites nor forgiven by his adopted Grandfather the Pharaoh. So poor Moses, now a fugitive, had to run away from his home country Egypt.

He eventually ended up in the Midianite country. Through his act of kindness in defending some women trying to get water for their father’s sheep, he found a place to live. The owner of the sheep and father to the female shepherds was called Jethro. He was the Midianite priest. He was so impressed with Moses that he let him marry one of his daughters who was called Zipporah. Now Moses had a home, a family and a job but his heart still pulled him towards his people the Hebrews who were suffering as slaves in Egypt. Moses called his first son Gershom, which means ‘foreigner’.

Eventually the Pharaoh who was after Moses died and a new king was appointed in Egypt. Moses would no longer be a wanted man. His people, the Hebrews were having a very hard time as slaves in Egypt. They were beaten and worked very hard with little or no rewards. They prayed to God to save them from slavery and God heard them. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. It was a strange sight for a bush to be on fire but not burn up. God spoke to Moses and told him to go and rescue his people from the king of Egypt. Moses was having none of it. ‘I’m not important enough to go and speak with the King. Plus, you know I stutter a bit, I’m definitely not eloquent’ he said.

God reassured Moses that he would be with him to help him speak. After all God was the one who made Moses, including his mouth and tongue! God also revealed his name to Moses, Yahweh, which means ‘God lives always and he is with us’. Still Moses refused. God was angry that Moses wouldn’t listen, but he decided to send Aaron along with Moses to be his mouthpiece. Finally Moses agreed to go and confront Pharaoh, armed with his walking stick which God had shown him how to turn into a snake! He also had another miraculous sign of changing his hand to diseased and back again to normal, to show everyone. Just in case that wasn’t convincing enough, he now knew how to turn water into blood.

Moses went to Pharaoh as instructed and the dramatic events unfolded. Moses was 80 years old and Aaron was 83 when they spoke to the king. Pharaoh the king was not interested in listening to Moses and Aaron or the God who sent them. He remained as proud and obstinate as ever through sign after sign performed by Moses. ‘A stick turning into a snake? Why my magicians can do that too. Never mind that your snake swallowed all of ours. So you turned the Nile river to blood and caused frogs to come up? Look at my magicians doing similar things!’. On the third plague, Moses caused gnats to cover the land of Egypt. The magicians conceded defeat. ‘This is the finger of God’ they said. Pharaoh wasn’t moved.

Moses commanded the fourth plague, flies everywhere. This time the flies only went to the places the Egyptians lived. The region of Goshen within Egypt where the Israelites lived was infestation free. Just as with the other plagues, the king would ask Moses to pray to remove the awful plague, promising to free the Israelites. Each time he would renege on his promises as soon as the plague disappeared. There were deaths of the Egyptian animals, boils on their skin, deadly hailstorms, with terrifying thunder, devastating hail and continuous lightning! Next a swarm of locusts ate up all the farm produce in the land. Then a tangible darkness, thick enough to feel, spread over the land for three days.

The slave-master nation of Egypt had been decimated, first thorough ill- health, then through its economic destruction and ultimately through an attack on the protagonists’ mental health. They were receiving the punishment for their continued resistance to God’s commands and their incessant oppression of his people. The very last plague was the death of all the firstborn sons in Egypt. The Israelite children would be spared by marking their door posts with the blood of a lamb. If you remember, not 80 years before, the Egyptians were killing all the baby boys born to the Israelites. Finally Pharaoh bowed to the superior power of the Almighty God. He let his people the Israelites leave Egypt. They left Egypt with every member of their families, their animals and also gifts of gold, silver and precious clothing articles from their former masters. It was like being paid in arrears for the centuries of slavery they and their ancestors had endured from the Egyptians.

The perfect life

Hey!

I haven’t got it all together.

I’m not anywhere near perfect.

I haven’t got ‘a perfect life, doing perfect things, living in a perfect house with a perfect family, in my perfect job’!

I’m not a Christian because I’ve got it altogether.

I am a Christian.

I admit I need a saviour: Christ.

I know that all the good things I have, all the great things I have achieved have been through Christ.

My non-perfect but still great life is not as a result of my own self, my own efforts but the grace of God.

I’m here because I’ve always had access to this God who loves me, imperfect.

Not perfect.

Not infallible.

But loved.

That’s me.

Beloved.

Why should I be perfect when I can rely on the perfect God?

Why do I need to have a perfect life when I can live off him who led a perfect life?

Why stay awake at night worrying when he who never sleeps looks out for me?

Why not love others when I am thoroughly loved by him, unconditionally and without judgement?

Why not be kind to others when he always forgives me, always gives me yet another chance..?

Why should I not tell others about this perfect gift?

Why wait another day, alone when he who is big enough to fill all your emptiness continues to knock on your door?

You are loved.

Imperfections and all.

Warts and scars.

Loved.

Mistakes and all.

You are not a mistake.

Every hair on your head is known and loved.

Every non-hair on your head is accounted for.

Every breath you take is a deliberate gift.

Every step is seen.

Every tear is felt.

Every day is accounted for.

Every moment can be a step closer to freedom.

A life without fear.

The certainty that you are loved,

Unapologetically,

Recklessly,

Unreservedly loved.

Freedom to let go of past pains,

Battles won and lost,

Glories faded.

Victories hard-earned and successes clung to.

Scars, still painful,

Loss.

Yearnings unfulfilled.

Wants met,

Needs unmet.

Freedom to slip off the reigns to a greater expertise.

Freedom to rest in the love of him who made you.

The engineer of your intricate design.

The author of your yet unwritten, fully unfinished story.

Freedom to love knowing you’re loved.

Beloved.

Be loved.

“We love because God first loved us.”

1 John 4:19 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/1jn.4.19.icb

Brain fog, post-Covid

Brain fog, post-Covid

Slippery fish swimming in and out

Just out of reach when you grab at them.

Use your net you might get some back when you go fishing for your thoughts.

Words suddenly disappear, familiar ones suddenly out of reach.

What’s that thing called again, the one when you do this, and that and get a result?

Songs you know suddenly have missing bits,

Thank God for google and sound hound.

You feel unsure, was that the right term?

Your language once fluent now sometimes feels foreign,

Like a second or third language.

Haltingly, slowly pronounce those words as you think about what you really mean to say.

Your tongue is heavy, your expression drab as you stifle yet another yawn.

Worse is when you muddle words and don’t realise, until your laughing teenage son sets you right.

Brain fog, like baby brain or just overtired? Some invisible process in your physiology?

Embarrassment aside, here’s your sole preoccupation,

You hope it doesn’t get you in trouble at work.

“I look up to the hills. But where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord. He made heaven and earth.”

Psalms 121:1-2 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/psa.121.1-2.icb

Good Job again

Good Job again

One of the things I’ve learned from reading the book of Job is that you can ask God why. If you’re his child, his faithful and trusted servant like Job was, you can ask him your questions. You may not expect the answer you get. You may not understand why. In all likelihood the answer will actually be you having a greater understanding of God’s greatness, his sovereignty, his kindness and justice, his mercy. The truth is God doesn’t get cross with you for asking why. God expects you to be honest with him. He takes your questions and draws you into a deeper relationship with him. Because that is ultimately what matters most, your walk with him.

““Job, listen to this. Stop and notice God’s miracles.”

Job 37:14 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.37.14.icb

God himself commended Job for his uprightness. Job feared God and he had a relationship with him. But he cultivated a closeness with God that became apparent only after his trials, and perhaps actually only as a result of his challenges. Job was tested and Job came out closer to his Master. He went from just being God-fearing to becoming God-friendly. In the end he didn’t just survive the terrible times but he thrived and became several times richer, happier, more fulfilled and spiritually more mature. He had such a phenomenal restoration of his fortunes that it could only have been a divine intervention. I suspect when we meet Job one day in heaven we can ask him, ‘any regrets?’ And his answer will be a resolute ‘No! No regrets!’

Elihu was a younger friend of Job’s. He wasn’t one of the three older friends(Eliphaz, Zophar and Bildad) who were blaming Job for his troubles but not giving him honest answers. Elihu said:

“So listen to me, you who can understand. God All-Powerful can never do wrong! It is impossible for God to do evil.”

Job 34:10 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.34.10.icb

“Truly God will never do wrong! God All-Powerful will never twist what is right. No one chose God to rule over the earth. No one put him in charge of the whole world.”

Job 34:12-13 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.34.12-13.icb

“God is not better to princes than other people. He is not better to rich people than poor people. This is because he made them all with his own hands.”

Job 34:19 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.34.19.icb

““God is powerful, but he does not hate people. He is powerful and sure of what he wants to do.”

Job 36:5 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.36.5.icb

Most importantly God does hear our cries and our questioning and God does answer. He helps us see clearly. He puts things in perspective so we can see that God’s ways are bigger than we can comprehend. His ways are just and his view is beyond any stretch of our imagination. God addresses Job directly in chapter 38 and he calls Job by name in chapter 39. He asks Job if he knows anything about the foundations of the earth. He tells him of the beginning of creation. He tells him about the stars and the angels. He tells him about the sea, storms, clouds and climate that he made. He tells him about the animals, and his caring for them. He reminds Job of the wonders of creation.

“Then the Lord answered Job from the storm. He said: “Who is this that makes my purpose unclear by saying things that are not true?

Where were you when I made the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.”

Job 38:1-2, 4 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.38.1-2,4.icb

“The Lord said to Job: “Will the person who argues with God All-Powerful correct him? Let the person who accuses God answer him!””

Job 40:1-2 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.40.1-2.icb

““Job, are you the one who gives the horse his strength? Or do you put a flowing mane on his neck?”

Job 39:19 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.39.19.icb

“Then the Lord spoke to Job from the storm: “Be strong, like a man. I will ask you questions. And you must answer me. Would you say that I am unfair? Would you blame me to make yourself look right? Are you as strong as God? And can your voice thunder like his?”

Job 40:6-9 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.40.6-9.icb

“No one has ever given me anything that I must pay back. Everything under heaven belongs to me.”

Job 41:11 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.41.11.icb

“Then Job answered the Lord: “I know that you can do all things. No plan of yours can be ruined. You asked, ‘Who is this that made my purpose unclear by saying things that are not true?’ Surely I talked about things I did not understand. I spoke of things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak. I will ask you questions. And you must answer me.’ My ears had heard of you before. But now my eyes have seen you.”

Job 42:1-5 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.42.1-5.icb

Job concludes by saying ‘my ears had heard of you before. But now my eyes have seen you.’ After his encounter with God, God scolded the three friends who had spent so much time accusing Job. Job’s family and friends then came to him and comforted and helped him. Job became so much richer than ever before and he had a new family. His daughters were known for their beauty and they received an inheritance with their seven brothers – they were influential. Job lived for another 140 years after his challenges. He lived to see his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren!

The truth is that when all is said and done, our relationship with God is what really matters. Circumstances come and go, change is a certainty. We can’t necessarily control events but we can chose to walk with God in and through everything. God is our father, he’s our friend, he’s our Lord and he has saved us. His plans for us are for good and not for evil. God really loves us. Job learnt to see him. We can too.

“We say they are happy because they were able to do this. You have heard about Job’s patience. You know that after all his trouble, the Lord helped him. This shows that the Lord is full of mercy and is kind.”

James 5:11 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/jas.5.11.icb

Beautiful and wise

Beautiful and wise: Abigail

Abigail was beautiful and wise. You can be both beautiful and wise, they’re not mutually exclusive characteristics. She must also have been kind and good to the servants. Her husband Nabal was mean and cruel. When one of the servants heard the terrible news that something truly awful was about to happen as a result of Nabal’s wrong actions, he went to Abigail. He was Nabal’s servant but he went to Abigail because his master was ‘such a wicked man, no one can even talk to him’.

Abigail must have been kind and approachable because this servant could be candid with her about his master’s actions. He told her how David’s men had protected them night and day when they were out with the sheep. He explained how instead of repaying David for his kind actions, his master had instead insulted David and his men. Now terrible disaster was coming on the whole family as a result.

Abigail responded promptly and judiciously. She rushed to remedy the situation. She prepared some timely gifts (good food) and hurriedly left with some trusted servants to dissuade David from attacking them. She was wise and discreet enough not to tell her foolish husband yet. She humbled herself before David and his men. She spoke calming, decent and true words to stop him from carrying out an act of revenge. She got him to listen to her and change course, thereby averting danger for her family. She was courageous in facing up to a famous warrior like David and he thanked her for her actions. She even put in a good word for herself to the future king. She said: ‘Please remember me when the Lord brings you success’.

“The Lord will keep all his promises about good things for you. He will make you leader over Israel.”

1 Samuel 25:30 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/1sa.25.30.icb

When she got home from her mercy mission, her husband Nabal was feasting like a king and drunk as a skunk. Abigail knew her husband well enough not to confront him when he was drunk. She waited till the next morning to tell him of the consequences of his rash actions, his very near miss. Nabal, it seems, was in so much shock at the news, he probably had a heart attack. Ten days later he died of natural causes.

David did remember Abigail and he married her. She was safe and would be provided for. She would be the wife of a good man who listened, very much unlike her first husband. She would be married to the king of Israel. Abigail was beautiful and wise, rich but sensible, influential but kind. Being blessed is no excuse to be proud. Being blessed is actually a good reason to be good to others. Those kind acts of mercy can save lives.

Good Job still

Good Job still

Continuing on Job. He and especially his friends did not really have a right understanding of who God was. Their views are shared by many today. Job at least was honest about his feelings. He challenged the simplistic belief by his friends which was simply ‘bad things happen to bad people’. They assumed that Job had a hidden evil past that incurred his disasters.

Job said that evil people got away with being evil and even prospered as a result. Job also said, wrongly, that God was responsible for the evil things that happened. But through it all, Job showed a glimpse of understanding that God was his defender and his advocate. Especially when he kept having to defend himself against his so called friends: Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz.

“I know that my Defender lives. And in the end he will come to show that I am right.”

Job 19:25 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.19.25.icb

God doesn’t do evil. The devil does. Jesus says in John chapter 10, verse 10: ‘The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly’.

We do have a defender, an advocate, and that is Jesus. The devil is the accuser, the prosecutor. Jesus is our defender, our defence counsel. Jesus won the case once and for all by taking our place on the cross, taking all our sins and punishment on himself.

God is our loving father. He looks to restore us, to have a close relationship with us, to show us his love. God restored Job’s fortunes and he also showed his true character to Job and his friends. God loves us. He wants us to be honest with him about our feelings. We don’t understand everything and we can’t spit out pat answers or simplistic arguments for human suffering. We need to acknowledge God and his ultimate wisdom, justice, love and mercy. We need to trust God.

“Even now I have one who speaks for me in heaven. The one who is on my side is high above. The one who speaks for me is my friend. While he does this, my eyes pour out tears to God. He begs God on behalf of a man as a man begs for his friend.”

Job 16:19-21 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/job.16.19-21.icb

“I mean that God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold the world guilty of its sins. And he gave us this message of peace.”

2 Corinthians 5:19 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/2co.5.19.icb

“Christ had no sin. But God made him become sin. God did this for us so that in Christ we could become right with God.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/2co.5.21.icb

Good Job

Reading through the book of Job and specifically Job chapter 9 today I noticed a few things. Job had a fear of God and he lived a blame-free life as far as he could. The sad thing is that he didn’t really know God, at least he didn’t before disaster struck. He had this view of God as a judgemental and angry Superior-in-Chief. He had no concept of God as a loving Father, which God is. His friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar shared this view and they were pharisaical and condescending in their words.

God isn’t like that. God is loving and kind. God is just, and does not tolerate evil. He cannot deny Himself. But God has nonstop always-new mercy on us. This is the God that left his amazing Kingdom to die on the cross for us in the form of his Son Jesus. This is the God that shepherded a whole nation of headstrong men and their families through a desert for 40 years. The clothes on their backs and the shoes on their feet never wore out. He took care of them, fed them with ‘home-made’ heavenly bread and special order rock-sourced water! They murmured, they moaned and complained throughout but He never gave up on them. He never gives up on us now. We moan and we doubt and we run away from home like the prodigal son but does He cut us off? No! He welcomes us back with generous, open arms! There is no Father like our loving God.

“But Christ died for us while we were still sinners. In this way God shows his great love for us.”

Romans 5:8 ICB

https://www.bible.com/1359/rom.5.8.icb

Long Covid

Long Covid

Like a flag flying at half mast.

Like a leaky tank.

You fill up the engine, you expect to get from point A to point B.

But you run out of fuel halfway through.

Suddenly the tank is empty and you have to stop.

You have to sit.

You have to rest.

You have to breathe.

Like a prematurely aged body.

Achy joints.

Odd, variable myalgia.

Unexplained headaches.

Dizziness and feelings of faintness.

Slow movement.

Tiredness.

So tired.

Tired of being tired.

Short busts of energy.

Short-lived optimism.

Like the feeling of lockdown 3 when you thought we’d be over this.

Another breathless day.

Low oxygen saturations.

Easy fatiguability.

Like an elderly heart in heart failure.

Symptoms, but no plain radiographic changes.

If only it were all psychological.

If only I could talk my way out of this. Think my way out if this.

Reason it out.

Maybe use well-learned CBT techniques.

If my will-power alone would only get me up those stairs when my legs and my lungs refuse to go along.

If only.

For now I plod on.

I move forward.

Sometimes dragging my limbs forward.

Like walking through treacle.

Many setbacks.

Just keep inching forward.

Somehow I know in my heart there’s hope.

I know my redeemer lives.

Maybe Medical science will help.

And I know even if medical science has not found the answers yet.

I still have a living hope.

I’m still alive.

I’m still living in hope.

Hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

Even if yesterday disappointed.

There’s still tomorrow.

Hope.

The explanation for it all

“He is the God who made the whole world and everything in it. He is the Lord of the land and the sky. He does not live in temples that men build! This God is the One who gives life, breath, and everything else to people. He does not need any help from them. He has everything he needs. God began by making one man.

From him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. He decided exactly when and where they must live. God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him. But he is not far from any of us: ‘By his power we live and move and exist.’ Some of your own poets have said: ‘For we are his children.’ We are God’s children. So, you must not think that God is like something that people imagine or make. He is not like gold, silver, or rock.

In the past, people did not understand God, but God ignored this. But now, God tells everyone in the world to change his heart and life. God has decided on a day that he will judge all the world. He will be fair. He will use a man to do this. God chose that man long ago. And God has proved this to everyone by raising that man from death!””

(Verses lifted directly from the Bible)
‭‭The Acts‬ ‭17:24-31‬ ‭ICB‬‬
https://www.bible.com/1359/act.17.24-31.icb

Scripture taken from the International Children’s Bible®. Copyright © 1986, 1988, 1999 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.