Devotional by Linda Beall
Dear Friends in Christ,
Our Valentine's Day devotional seemed to resonate with many of you, and I was totally overwhelmed by the email response to it! I am so grateful to the Lord that He used it in your lives, and also grateful for your encouragement to me! Bernie and I thought possibly this is something I can try to do on a monthly basis, write a short devotional, most likely based on what I am finding in the treasure trove of the Scriptures as I am reading through my Bible again this year. I am using Bible Gateway, and I chose the King James Version this time around. It gets emailed to me every morning, so I have no excuse to not read it, since it is right there with all my email when I check it every day.:)
For April, I have a long title . . . these words are in Handel's 'Messiah,' and I can't help but sing them in my head as I type this scripture!
"The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
-1 Cor. 15:56-57 KJV
So many of the Old Testament stories are so sad and so hard for me to read. The one in particular that stimulated this 'journal entry' was the story towards the end of the book of Judges in Chapter 19. It is the story of a mistreated concubine who is abused and dies after being offered to the men of the city. It is horrific to me. It gave me a sick feeling in my stomach to read it, even though I have read through my Bible many times before and know the story. The nice thing about the Bible reading plan I am using this year is that it follows each Old Testament reading with one from the New Testament, so you end up reading through both the Old and New Testaments at the same time, which I think is helpful. The Old Testament shows again and again the unfaithfulness, pride, greed and wretchedness of mankind, the faithfulness of God, and ultimately our need for a Savior to redeem us and give us a new life and a new perspective. The New Testament shows us exactly how that redemption we so desperately need has been brought about by our precious Savior.
The NT passage that followed the horrific story from Judges was Luke 7:31-50, the tender story of Jesus' treatment of the unnamed woman who came to wash Jesus' feet with precious and expensive oil as He visited in a Pharisee's home. Read it for yourself; does it not bring you to tears? Unlike the awful, heart-wrenching end of the 'concubine who went a-whoring' in the book of Judges--who was treated like property and given, by the one who should have protected her, to a gang of men to be raped all night until she died--this woman in the book of Luke, who was most likely also a prostitute, came to Jesus, repentant, somehow knowing He was able to forgive her and love her like no one else could. Who is this Jesus? How can we reject him when He comes for us? How can we hold onto our lives and our sins any longer? It is His love that draws us, His covering, His absence of judgement, unlike the Pharisees in the passage in Luke. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." ~ John 3:17 NAS, and 'For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.' Luke 9:56 KJV. In my Christian journey, I think I am finally understanding in a deeper way that the Law is what was given to show and judge our sin, while Christ came at the perfect time after the Law had done its job to show us our need for a redeemer. Christ came to show us His love for us and to save us from the just penalty for sin, and this story in Luke is such a beautiful picture of that to me. This scorned woman recognized her own sin; the Pharisees, in their self-righteousness and pride, could not. Whether prostitute or Pharisee, we all fall short. We all need Christ to change us from the inside out.
Then the book of Ruth which follows Judges is another tear-jerker for me. Even though Boaz was much older than Ruth, and what he did in marrying her was to fulfill a duty (an Old Testament provision for widowed women), somehow still the story oozes tenderness for me, and even romance. Is it just me? So it seemed a comfort to me from the Lord to have the contrast, through both the Old Testament book of Ruth and the New Testament story in Luke 7, to the stories in the book of Judges, particularly as these stories relate to the treatment of women.
The phrase that is repeated over and over in Judges is that "everyone did what was right in their own eyes." It seems this is potentially what happens to a people and a nation when there are no inwardly acknowledged moral convictions.
Oh Lord, may it not be so for us and our nation. May your Spirit quicken us as a nation, as a people, and most importantly as individuals, that we may know your love for us, respond, and be transformed, one person at a time. May we live in love, truth, and goodness towards our fellow man. No law can make this happen, but Lord, you can help us as individuals to respond to you and be changed. And a changed people can not help but begin to transform a nation, not from the top down, but from the bottom up. Our nation in particular is a nation of the people, for the people, and by the people. Capture our hearts that we might be a people after your own heart. And may the Holy Spirit equip the church do its job in the world of offering the bread of life and the water of the gospel to those who are searching and hungering for truth! In the name of our precious Savior, Redeemer, and true King! Amen
Standing only because of Christ,
~ Linda for the Bealls
P.S. As I am sure you can tell, these little ones are so unique and so precious to me, so I hope you indulge me again, give me a Grandmomma moment, and enjoy this adorable picture Sarah took of the girls on Easter Day. Kerin's mother made the cute dresses, and the tractor is Josh's - his latest investment in their farmette. :) Kerin hosted our lunch at their farm, together as three families, Blooms, Bealls, and Bealls, and it was yummy. She is amazing!