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Do The Widow and The Orphan Cry Alone?


From the first time I heard songs by Don Francisco, I cried. He really gets to the heart of the gospel with his lyrics, and as a lyricist myself, I truly appreciate his honesty. The Steeple Song is one of those that asks the tough questions, including the one in the title. In addition, the song asks, “Do you make the poor man beg you for a bone?” It’s a song that reminds us what it means to ask and answer the WWJD question.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 24:14 through Deuteronomy 25:19 (the end of the chapter), we conclude another portion and another week. Shabbat Shalom. It’s a long reading, but the theme is pretty much about caring for others. It begins with Moses warning Israel not to exploit any hired workers who are poor and needy. Whether they are brothers or foreigners, if the hirers don’t pay them as they earn, Moses says they will cry out to God, and the sin will be on the boss who is withholding what he owes.

In addition to pay, Moses tells Israel not to withhold justice from the foreigner or orphan, and to remember they were once the same in Egypt. He also tells them that fathers and sons shouldn’t be executed for each others’ crimes.

Moses then talks to the people about sharing with the foreigner, orphan, and widow. He says that if they forget to harvest a grain, or if they beat an olive tree, or harvest a vineyard, they should not go back to make sure all the harvesting is done with nothing left. Any food remaining in the field, on the tree, or on the vine should be left for those in need. (My note: I notice that neither God nor Moses said to feed the needy by just giving it to them without making them do some kind of work for it. We should freely give to others, and our money is often our produce now, but it’s not wrong to want those in need to do their part–whatever they can do.)

As the chapter changes, Moses talks about disputes. When a judge decides that one person is wicked, that person must be flogged in the judge’s presence. The number of strokes must match the crime but never be more than forty.

Now Moses comes back to the subject of husbands and wives. If a husband dies while his wife is still childless, his brother must marry his widow and deem her first child as if it belongs to his brother. If he refuses, she will take him to the elders and perform a ritual that includes spitting and removing one shoe. It’s kind of funny to read about a family that all in town would then call “the family of the man who had his sandal pulled off.” A similar ritual is talked about in the movie “Loving Leah” where the brother must declare his deceased brother never existed if he refuses to marry his widow. It’s a great movie. (Note: The movie link is an Amazon Affiliate short link.)

Last, Moses talks about balance. Men should not carry two sets of weights in their packs since all people are to be treated the same, including when it comes to weights and measures. Correct and fair weights & measures come with a promise of prolonged life in the promised land of inheritance. And then Moses tells Israel to remember what Amalek did to them while they were tired and weary on the road from Egypt. He wants them to remember being vulnerable, so they can see that Amalek has no fear of God, and needs to be dealt with. He says that when they have had their rest, they are to pursue Amalek until their names are blotted out from under Heaven.

That’s a lot of teaching for one sitting, but all of it has the theme of how to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ and how to care for others whether or not they are brothers or foreigners, and whether they are poor adults or widows or orphaned children. All of it still has the theme of not mistreating others. In God’s plan of perfection, there will not be one person who thinks he is so much better than others that he has a right to harm them. Israel is always reminded to look back at Egypt, so she will not forget that life is about God’s provision, and He deserves all the praise for her deliverance and day to day life.

We, too, can look back at our own form of Egypt and remember that God’s grace is sufficient enough that we can become givers and offer love to everyone, no matter what their status. There are a lot of hurting people out there, and it’s not only our church cliques or our families that need a smile, a hug, or maybe a meal. If there is a need that God wants us to fill, and we turn our heads away, we may be in for a “movie” one day where we see that head turn shown at judgment. But, by God’s wonderful and amazing grace, we can repent now before it becomes a major box office flop. (No one wants to see a movie about selfishness, right?) May there be many who will care for the widows and orphans and foreigners instead of letting them cry alone.

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Labor Strike


Strike Baby by Flickr user Nina Bargiel — CC License = Attribution, Non Commercial, Share Alike Click image to view original in new tab and access user’s full photo stream

Strike Baby by Flickr user Nina Bargiel — CC License = Attribution, Non Commercial, Share Alike
Click image to view original in new tab and access user’s full photo stream

What would you do if you went to visit a relative at his or her job and, just as you walked up, you witness the boss beat up your relative? I mean, really, think about it. Now, at least in the U.S.A,, we can usually call the police, file a lawsuit, or something that will at least bring some kind of justice. But what if you knew that the only justice that could truly work would be to get rid of the offender?

In today’s reading from Exodus 2:11 through the end of the chapter at Exodus 2:25, we see this exact scenario in the life of Moses. He knows he is a Hebrew, so he goes to visit his kinsmen. If he just breaks up the fight, or beats up the offensive Egyptian, it will betray the fact that he is a Hebrew. If he leaves the situation alone, he has to bear the pain of watching his kinsman being treated unfairly. His solution was to wait until he found the offender alone, and then kill him and hide his body in the sand.

Unfortunately, things must not have been as private as Moses assumed, so when he corrected two of his kinsmen for fighting, they asked him if he would do the same thing to them as he had done to the Egyptian. I guess some people heard their proclamations since the next thing we know, Moses is facing a death threat and must go on the run. He ends up in Midian just as seven daughters of a priest from Midian show up to water their sheep. Field shepherds try to run off the girls, but Moses saves them and waters their sheep for them.

When the girls get back to tell their father, he insists they bring Moses to their home and feed him dinner. Eventually, he marries one of the daughters, Zipporah. She gives birth to Gershom, meaning “stranger” because Moses was a stranger in a strange land. Of course, I’m not sure here why he was a stranger since the girls and their father thought he was an Egyptian. I guess he was in a land where he was a stranger regardless of whether he was Hebrew or Egyptian.

As today’s reading comes to an end, the fearful pharaoh dies, but the people are still in bondage, and they cry out to God. God hears their cry and remembers His covenant for them as made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I’m thankful that God hears the cry of His people and that He is faithful to remember His promises to us.

December 23, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Gift in the Giving


Today, we begin Parashah (portion) 5 which covers Sarah’s life and spans Genesis 23:1 through Genesis 25:18. It starts with a bit of sadness for Abraham in today’s reading from Genesis 23:1 through 23:16. In our story, Sarah has passed away at the age of 127, and Abraham is looking for a proper place to bury her in a land that is not their home. Certainly, not having his own land on which to bury his wife is adding to his grief, so Abraham is looking for a plot to buy as his own. He has set such a good example, even as a foreigner in a strange land, that everyone on the council is willing to give up their own tombs to him, but Abraham keeps seeking for something of his own.

Finally, Abraham asks the men to consult Efron the Hittite about a piece of farmland he would like to buy and use for the burial. It appears that Efron was already among the councilmen present, so he speaks up and says he’ll give the land to Abraham for free. Of course, many of us would consider that to be a blessing from God, but sometimes it can be more of a blessing to pay your way and be a good businessman, so Abraham insists on knowing the value of the land. Efron figures out what he is asking and says, “A plot of land worth 400 silver shekels — what is that between me and you?” Then Abraham gets his message and pays for the land.

Maybe it’s my female mind, but all the hidden messages back and forth did not make sense to me, so I had to ask my husband why men wouldn’t just come straight out and give a price and an exchange. He said that it enabled each man to make his offering without insulting the other. In a current world example, the exchange might go something like this…

A woman goes to get her hair done. The hairdresser offers to do her hair for free because she is the pastor’s wife. The woman says, “A workman is worthy of his wages, so please let me pay you.” The hairdresser answers, “But it’s only a 25 dollar style and cut,” and happily accepts that amount from her customer.

In the above scenario, both women are able to exchange their services freely, and it results in both women being more givers than takers. It appears Abraham had some good business sense and knew how much of a gift to God, others, and ourselves it is to have a giving spirit. And this is an awesome way that we, too, can be a blessing while we are foreigners in this strange land called life on earth. It gives clear understanding to why joy is spelled “J.O.Y.” and stands for Jesus, Others, You–in that order.

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The picture below contains a portion of a beautiful message (from 1902) called The Joy of Giving by Ellen G. White. Read the full article at http://www.whiteestate.org/message/Joy_of_Giving.asp or by clicking on the picture.

Pink Sunset with Portion from Joy of Giving by Ellen G White

Pink Cotton Candy Sunset at Panama City Beach, Florida, by Crystal A Murray
Text Overlay by Ellen G. White from “The Joy of Giving”

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Guilty By Reason of Sanity


Not Guilty Graffiti by Flickr User Duncan C, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Not Guilty Graffiti by Flickr User Duncan C, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I have always wondered about the judgment from the court system that deems someone with a reason behind a crime they commit as not guilty. I mean, it would seem to make more sense for them to call the one proven guilty (but not fully responsible) by some other name–maybe “guilty but blameless” or something. But those who commit crimes are most certainly guilty, so calling them otherwise is perpetrating a lie that may be bigger than the crime committed because we have proclaimed a verdict that disagrees with God’s truth.

In today’s reading from Genesis 21:22 through Genesis 21:34, we find what happens when a man displays righteousness in everything he does. We will see why Abraham was truly not guilty, and we will see it hinges on his constant sanity.

Abraham calls for a meeting about a well his men dug that was apparently seized by someone in the camp of the Philistines. Unfortunately, there were no witnesses, so the situation is sort of at a stalemate except for one thing. Abimelech and the commander of his army worry that Abraham might expect them to pay a price for what was stolen from him. They point out that they have been observing him and they see that God is with him in everything he does. Because of Abraham’s favor in God, they have concerns about the possibility of a curse that could pass to their children and grandchildren.

To me, the definition of sanity is to have God with you in everything you do. When you have God in everything, you have His wisdom in everything too. In this case, it helped Abraham to make a wise decision that did not result in any kind of revenge or payback from either side.

Though Abimelech asked Abraham to not treat him unjustly because he knew what kind of power was with a man who consistently walked with God, I don’t think Abraham planned to do anything against him anyway. Instead, Abraham used wisdom in creating a covenant between all of them to mark his new well as his own in everyone’s sight. Doing that made sure all were involved and invested in keeping it under its rightful ownership.

At the end of this reading, we’re told that Abraham continued to live in the land of the Philistines for many years, even though he was a foreigner there. The Bible tells us that we are also foreigners and pilgrims on this earth because this world is not our true home. However, even though we are strangers here, may we as believers walk with God in everything we do. May we walk in such a way that others will see it and desire to keep things right with us even if only because they want our God to have favor with them. If we walk this way, we can remain righteous and clean (not guilty) by reason of God’s wisdom and sanity.

P.S. Last night, my mind was swirling with some great songs about being a foreigner in this land and about hope for a better place, so I decided to look up some lyrics. In the process, my computer froze, so it’s possible that one of the lyrics sites was unsafe. Just in case, I’m going to list some titles and a few of the lyrics, but instead of lyric sites, I’m going to link to YouTube videos. I try to keep my computer safe, and I don’t want to send my visitors to any dangerous sites either. That said, here are a few songs I really like…

1. This World is Not My Home

2. Packing Up, Getting Ready to Go

3. I’ve Got a Mansion (Just Over the Hilltop)

4. Is That the Lights of Home I See

5. Poor Wayfaring Stranger

6. Sheltered In the Arms of God

7. Temporary Home

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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