The last sentence in the book of Judges points to a time of disarray. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. There was no accountability.
At critical moments in Israel’s history, women’s faithful prayers and actions made an impact on the future. During the period of the judges, the story of a family was recorded. Ruth was a young woman of Moab, who married a man from Israel. After her husband and father-in-law died, she made a commitment to her mother-in-law. She promised: For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16b
Ruth kept her promise and was blessed to become the mother of Obed and the great-grandmother of King David.
Following the book of Ruth, Hannah is introduced in the first two chapters of 1 Samuel. In sorrow over her barrenness, she made a vow. She asked God for a son and promised to give him to the Lord. After Samuel was born and weaned, she kept her promise and brought him to serve in the temple.
Hannah’s prayer of praise and thanksgiving is recorded. Here is a portion:
My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.
There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none beside you; there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth;For the Lord is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. 1 Samuel 2: 1-4
I am inspired by Ruth and Hannah, also Esther, Elizabeth and Mary. There is blessing in being faithful.
The Bible has books that praise God, record His interaction in the world and report the words of Jesus. The Psalms have both praise and lament and I feel that I am in the company of people who have struggled with their faith.
The gospel of John gives me a close-up view of Jesus ministry on earth and the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. Paul’s letters to the churches provide instruction.
And then there is the book of the prophet, Amos. God’s judgement. God is holy and He will judge sin. The book details the judgement that God has for the nations that have come against Israel and also Israel.
As I have studied Amos, the description of the decline of God’s people has weighed heavily on me. What can I take away from this book?
God brings about judgement, but His purpose is to call people to repentance.
Seek the Lord and live . . . Seek good, and not evil that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts will be with you, as you have said. Amos 5: 4b, 14
As I noted the direction offered by Amos, I began to look for additional verses in scripture with the word, seek. There are many references. Here are some.
But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:9
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! 1 Chronicles 16: 10-11
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Luke 11:9
John records the words of Jesus. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” John 5:30
This is great encouragement to me. God knows our human nature and proclivity to sin. He has prepared a way for us to live in relationship with Him. He asks us to seek Him. Even Jesus was seeking the will of God the Father.
It helps my prayer life in this unusual time. Will you join me in praying for the people of the United States, Israel, Gaza, India and all around the world? Is there a person or nation that God has put on your heart?
After completing a year of employment as a nurse in a Detroit hospital I went on a mission trip. I served as a guest helper for Wycliffe Bible translators in Guatemala. I went to a little village, two hours or more from Guatemala City.
The village of Cubulco was surrounded by mountains. I remember unpaved streets and adobe type houses. Early in the morning the roosters were crowing. Some nights I could hear the sound of a marimba.
Mary Shaw and Helen Neuenswander were translating the New Testament into the Achi language. Helen was a nurse, also providing health care to the Mayan Indians at a clinic—the Indians had no other place to get help for health problems. I assisted at the clinic.
Whenever Helen was in the village men, women and children began lining up at the clinic early in the morning. They came on foot from the surrounding area. Helen continued to see patients until dark.
I helped with medications, talked with patients in my limited Spanish (and their limited Spanish) and did whatever Helen asked. The days were long and exhausting.
For a couple of weeks, a midwife and I stayed at the clinic open while Helen was away. We did not see nearly as many people at the clinic, but we were called out to a house in the mountains where a woman had been in labor a long time. Eventually she had to be carried down from the mountain on a stretcher and transported to a hospital.
After four months I returned home and made plans to attend the Summer Institute of Linguistics to prepare for work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. I completed the first summer of training, but then family needs took me on a different life path.
Recently I heard a speaker who stimulated memories of Guatemala. The Ambassador to the United Nations from Guatemala, Luis Lam, was talking about a bit of history. In 1948 the United States was the first country to recognize the provisional government of Israel, Guatemala was next. During the previous administration the United States moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Under President Morales, Guatemala followed our lead. The Ambassador is a man of faith and he alluded to others in the government. You can hear his message on the World Prayer Network. The growing Christian movement in Guatemala warms my heart.
There is some fascinating history in Guatemala. Cameron Townsend was the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators. His initial translation of the New Testament into an Indian language (Cakchiquel) took place in Guatemala during the 1920s. Townsend believed that when people had the Bible in their own language it would lead them to faith in God. You can read about Cameron Townsend’s vision here.
What is the effect of God’s Word on a community? On a country?
I wondered what had happened to the clinic in Cubulco. I did an internet search and found several articles written by Mary Shaw on a blog. In 1984 the Achi New Testament was completed and printed. The town held a great celebration. In 1990 a hospital was opened in Cubulco, Centro Medico Christiano, La Senorita Elena (as Helen was known in the village).
This week is Holy Week. The New Testament records the Passover, Jesus’ crucifixion, His sacrifice for our sin and His resurrection. The gospel is a message for all people. God loves us and offers to redeem us through Jesus.
Currently I am studying the book of Ezra with women of my church. We looked at the reason that God allowed Israel’s captivity in Babylon. One reason was their failure to give the land its Sabbath rest. I read about the Sabbath rest that God commanded his people. I have been chewing on this. What would it look like today?
The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath rest to the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard . . . . The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you . . . Leviticus 25: 1-4, 6
God commanded an amazing pause in their activity. Was it for more time in relationship to Him and their family?
The pandemic is leading to cancellations in events, conferences and sports. It is a time to pause.
Less time for busyness and distraction.
More time for family meals. More time for Bible study and reflection. More time to be aware of the needs of our neighbor. More time to pray for nurses, doctors and health care providers. More time to pray for revival.
A time for steadfast faith.
UPDATE 3/17/2020: For families with children home from school it can be a challenge to find materials to keep children busy. My daughter is using Louie Giglio’s book, How Great is Our God: 100 Indescribable Devotions About God and Science, for devotions and to launch some study of science.
This also is a good time for children to help with household activities–cooking, baking, cleaning and laundry.
Every morning my husband and I read a Psalm together before we begin the day. Today we are on Psalm 115. We have read psalms of praise, lament and remembrance. Memories of crossing the Red Sea and the years in the Wilderness are recorded.
God’s power over the Red Sea and the Jordan River is extolled. God’s presence, care and salvation is remembered.
We have challenges and troubles like the people of Israel. But in the midst of difficulties we can say that it is well with us. We are blessed because God loves us and will help us if we call out to him.
O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.
You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord. He is their help and their shield.
The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those that fear the Lord, both the small and the great. Psalm 115: 9-12 ESV
Note: The photo shows the Dan River–one of the tributaries that flows into the Jordan River from the north. The book of Joshua states that the Jordan River overflows its banks at harvest. But God provided a way for Israel to cross the Jordan: the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap. Joshua 3:13
Her name was Naomi, but she said, “Call me Mara”. Mara means bitter. Her husband and her sons had died and left no heir. She was impoverished.
Ruth saw the great sorrow of her mother-in-law and chose to stay with her. She was willing to travel from Moab to Judea, to leave her own country and go to a foreign place. The two widows had to walk north along the east side of the dead sea until they could cross over to Judea on the west.
When they arrived in Bethlehem Ruth had to work hard to provide food for them to survive. Widows were allowed to glean grain that was left over after harvest, so she spent long hours gathering grain.
A man named Boaz noticed her and spoke to her. Ruth was surprised because she was a foreigner in Judea.
But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and your mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Ruth 2: 11-12
Ruth eventually married Boaz and had both a home and a son. The blessing extended to Naomi, because she had a grandson. Ruth was rewarded, but did she know that she would be the great-grandmother of King David? Did she know that the Savior would come from her line of descendants?
We have the Bible now and we can see the promises that God has fulfilled, but we see in part. We don’t know all that God is doing. There is always more.
NOTE: I took the picture of the Dead Sea when I was in Israel in 2012. We were on the west side of the Dead Sea, looking east.
In this new year our women’s precept group has begun to study the book of Deuteronomy. As the book begins Moses is reviewing the history of Israel’s release from slavery in Egypt and their years in the wilderness. Then he goes on to give them specific instructions.
In chapter six he gives God’s command for the families. Orthodox Jews recite these verses daily as a part of the Shema. Click here for explanation of the Shema.
These verses apply to us as Christians.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6: 4-9
My eyes cloud with tears as I think about our culture and the state of the Church in America.
This is a reminder to me— a verse that I want to memorize. The Bible needs to be a consistent part of daily life. It is important to notice God’s hand in our lives.
We need to tell our stories of faith to our children and grandchildren, to the people in our circle of influence. Do you have a story to tell?
This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. To read more inspiring thoughts based on the prompt, INFLUENCE, click here.
Raquela Levy’s family had lived in Palestine for nine generations. Did you know that Palestine, referring to Israel, is a name derived from Philistine? Historically the Philistines were enemies of Israel. Raquela was a nurse midwife during the final years of British rule in Palestine.
Ruth Gruber spent nine months with Raquela, gathering information and insights into the life of this remarkable woman. The resulting biography is a story of the babies born to holocaust survivors—and the birth of the nation of Israel. Raquela was sent to refugee camps as a midwife to minister to women that were refused entry into Palestine.
The vivid detail describes life in Israel during the war years: Israel’s War of Independence (1948), Six-Day War (1967) and Arab-Israeli War (1973). The book describes events through the experiences of Raquela and her family.
I could picture Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus, the scene of Raquela’s developing romance with Dr. Brzezinski. The description of the delivery room at the Hadassah Hospital reminded me my first experiences as a labor & delivery nurse.
I could feel the sadness when Mount Scopus was lost to the Arabs of Jordan. The hospital was lost, and Israel had to build a new medical center.
Perhaps the most moving was the description of the ships filled with Jewish immigrants fleeing Europe. They were refused entry to Palestine by the British. One of the refugee camps that Raquela served at was on the Island of Cyprus.
I have a much better understanding of Israel’s modern history from reading this book. The book engaged me—it was hard to put it down.
* Ruth Gruber, Raquela: A Woman of Israel, New York; Open Road Integrated Media. 1978.
For more than 20 years I have participated in Precept Bible studies. I started with the women of Faith Community Church, and have continued for many years with women at Village Church of Barrington. We meet every Tuesday morning, September through May. We have become friends through our time together, reading the Bible and discussing it, sharing prayer requests.
Currently we are studying the three covenants that God made: with Abraham, with Moses (Israel), and the New Covenant. Today our topic was the covenant with Moses (Israel) or the law. After God rescued the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, he made a covenant with them and gave them the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 19 & 20)
No one is able to keep the law. We all fall short. The purpose of the Law was to show them (and us) our sin and need for a Savior.
For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20
After the Ten Commandments were given on tablets of stone, Moses was given very specific instructions for a tabernacle. (Exodus, chapters 25 – 31) The tabernacle was a sanctuary for God. It was also designed to point to Jesus.
For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1: 17
When my husband and I toured Israel we visited a model of the tabernacle, built to the specifications in the Bible. Here we are in the outer court.
Just inside the gate (entering the outer court of the tabernacle) is an altar. The altar is for sacrifice and symbolizes the sacrifice that Jesus became for us as he offered himself on the cross in payment for our sins.
Beyond the altar is a bonze basin for washing. The basin symbolizes the cleansing we receive by the Word of God.
Inside the tent the first room, called the Holy Place, contains a table with bread (Jesus, the bread of Life), a lampstand (Jesus is the light of the world) and an altar of incense (Jesus continually intercedes in prayer for believers).
A thick veil stands before the inner room that holds the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. The Ark contains symbols of God’s faithfulness: Aaron’s rod that budded, manna and the tablets of stone. The mercy seat is the throne of God.
Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Hebrews 9: 3-5
The veil enclosing this room was torn when Jesus was crucified giving us access to God. We can approach God with our prayers.
God has reached out to us and has told his plan of salvation through his word. He has given us symbols that illustrate his plan. The Old Testament of the Bible points to the New Testament. The longer I study the Bible, the more I see God’s love.
After our discussion we have coffee and treats. Today I made an apricot bread to share. It was enjoyed–here is the recipe:
1 + ¼ C. dried apricots
½ cup reserved water (from simmering apricots)
½ cup honey
¼ cup coconut oil (melted)
2 large eggs
½ tsp. baking soda
2 + ¾ C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup coconut (I prefer unsweetened)
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9” x 5” x 3” loaf pan.
Place the apricots in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Let them stand in the hot water for an additional 20 minutes and then drain off the water, reserving ½ cup. Chop the apricots.
Add the reserved water, melted coconut oil, honey and eggs to a large bowl. Mix well with a whisk. Then add the apricots and baking soda. Mix. Add flour, baking powder, salt and coconut. Mix well. The batter will be thick (biscuit dough consistency). If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time.
Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and when a knife or toothpick is inserted, it should come out clean. Cool on a rack; then turn out of the pan and slice.