Dawn gilds the skies.
On those who sit in the valley of death
The Sun of Righteousness shines.
Healing pours down
The outcast are gathered in
The broken-hearted comforted
The faint receive new strength
Hope breaks forth in seeking hearts
Awake O my soul and sing
Shake off the dust of guilt and shame
Throw off the ball and chain
The Daystar dawns grace
Mercy and truth are met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
My cup runs over with
Unstoppable songs of joy
As my spirit finds its Rest.
I don’t know why, but I seem to be stuck on the thought of ‘sowing’. These are the thoughts that have been going round and round in my head…
- One sows to get a harvest.
- A harvest furnishes food to satisfy the hungry and provides seed for future harvests. (At least it used to provide seed for future harvests in the pre-GM days.)
- If one wants to maximise yields one must prepare the soil well at the right time to receive the seed.
- One sows seed according to the harvest one wants to reap.
- In the parable of the sower, the seed symbolises the Word of God, and the soil is symbolic of the attitude of the heart.
- The seed of the Word of God brings forth the fruit of righteousness.
- What is righteousness? After a lot of pondering, I have defined it as the ability to keep covenant, or in other words: the ability to deal with honesty, integrity, mercy, grace, faithfulness and fairness with God, self and others. (That’s my understanding. If you have a better definition or different definition, please do share, as I am trying to sharpen my understanding of this.)
- Righteousness is the seed our lives produce when sown with the Word of God… seed that is sown into the lives of other people in words and actions… widening ripples of grace, truth and mercy…
You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed,
lest the whole yield be forfeited,
the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard.
… those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity…
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love/mercy;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the LORD,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
For the one who sows to his own flesh
will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit
will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
Deut 22:9, Job 4:8, Pro 22:8, Hos 10:12, Gal 6:8
I have placed these verses exactly in the order of their appearance in the Bible. Various writers, separated by centuries, and yet, they bring forth a coherent, continuous message.
- The Seed of the Word of God brings forth the seed of righteousness, filling the barns with the steadfast love of the Lord. THAT finally is the harvest we reap – the steadfast love and mercy of the Lord.
Gathering water in broken cisterns
Striving to get a few drops to quench parched throats
Walking after the imagination of an evil heart
Changing our glory for that which does not profit
Worshipping the work of our hands
Boasting in the pride of our achievements
Running after treacherous ‘lovers’ who use and cast aside
The Unceasing Fountain of Life spills forth unheeded, unsipped
The Lover of our Souls
The Help of the Helpless
The Faithful, Unchanging One
stands by ignored and rejected.
Reading through Jeremiah, it is very easy to feel smug and to apply what I am reading to someone else. But just this past week, my little world was shaken, because someone I was counting on for help didn’t turn up. I was irritated and vengeful till I thought over what I was reading in Jeremiah.
Wasn’t I depending on an undependable leaky source, when I had the greatest resource in the Universe? The Help of the Helpless stood with me, while I was fretting for the imperfect help of a fallible human.
So I turned back to God, turning my back on a fretting heart that grumbled, moaned, plotted and planned. Turning my back on the world, the disappointments and fears had a salutary effect on me. The world righted itself. Mountains were cropped to the right perspective. His light brought the right colours and hues into a world that seemed dull and gray.
And He was true to His Word and character. He is the Help of the Helpless. He did send help from Zion, just not the person I was pinning my hopes on.
Thank You Lord for not having left me to find my own way.
Thank You for providing for me what I need day by day.
Thank You for the patience with which you wait for me to turn away from the broken cisterns to Your fountain of Life.
Thank you for enabling me to see You as the Creator and the source of all I am and all I do.
Thank You for receiving me even though I often run after that which does not profit, and which leaves me feeling used and discarded.
Thank You for stooping to heal, deliver, comfort and restore.
Thank You for being You.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying,
‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
For the Gentiles seek after all these things,
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you.
Mat 6:31-33 ESV
The tumultuous entry into Jerusalem was behind them. The disciples wondered, “What had it achieved?” The ordinary people were waiting, something was going to happen, but what, no one knew.
Yeah, He always talked a little weird, in ways that were a bit hard to understand, and so the disciples threw His words about Him dying and all such negative vibes over their shoulders and focused on more important matters at hand. They had to settle who was the greatest among them; who had the most right to take the plum positions in the kingdom that was surely going to be established after the Messianic revolution.
They were to celebrate the Passover feast, reclining on silken cushions at a table, to remind them, that they were no longer slaves in Egypt. But there was one obstacle. Dirty feet! One couldn’t recline at the table and partake of the feast with dirty feet.
Where was the slave girl or boy whose job it was to wash feet? Why wasn’t there one? Judas, are you penny-pinching again? No, not me, that’s not my job! Why don’t you do it, you are the youngest? The squabbling and bickering grew louder.
Jesus’ heart overflowed with tender amusement and affection towards them. They would learn, they would change in time.
Silence fell on the room as Jesus put off His outer garments, and girt Himself with a towel. Surely, He couldn’t mean to do a slave’s job? Yes, He did. The water was poured into a basin, and Jesus knelt at the feet of His disciples and began to wash.
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. This water washes off the grime from your feet. The dust of all the earthly streets is now lying dissolved in this basin of water. But the words I have spoken to you, these three years, has done something much deeper. It has started the process of cleansing your heart of the grime of the world. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. Your feet are now made beautiful and ready to carry the gospel of peace and God’s kingdom to the farthest ends of the earth.”
Peter, watched with growing indignation. Really guys, how can you let the MASTER wash your feet? Is this how you show Him respect?
Not too long ago, the disciples had watched in tight-lipped disapproval as Jesus feet were washed in tears, anointed with oil and lovingly wiped with hair. Apparently they had forgotten it, or else did not think Jesus worthy of such honour. Peter objected to having his feet washed, but neither he, nor any of the other disciples offered to wash Jesus’ feet.
Jesus asked them, “Do you understand what I have done for you?”
“Don’t you see the greatest idol you serve is the idol of self? Self, stands in the way of seeing another’s need. Self makes you hold onto your dignity and rights. I, Your Teacher and Lord, have knelt before you to serve you, because I love you. Where there is love, self gets off the throne. Love does not look to see if it is getting as much as it gives. Love seeks to bless the beloved. Can you see that? I have shown you the full extent of My Love.”
Truly, truly, I say to you,
a servant is not greater than his master,
nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you know these things,
blessed are you if you do them.
John 13:16-17 ESV
Some random thoughts:
>> Very often we think, that if we do to others, as we would have them do to us, it means that others will do for us what we do for them. Not so. Most of the time we are called to do for others what they will not do for us. The disciples did not wash Jesus feet. He knew they would run away when He needed them the most and betray Him as Judas did, but He washed their feet anyway.
>> Self-deification, and a sense of entitlement, blocks us from truly loving others.
>> Jesus said that He did only what He saw the Father doing. So in Jesus’ actions, we see the heart of the Almighty, kneeling to serve, to meet our needs. When we talk of Jehovah- Jireh, our provider, we are describing the Servant Heart of the Almighty Holy God, the One who is willing to stoop to see our needs, to fill them, and to carry our burdens.
>> He calls us to follow His example; to love expecting nothing back. And by our actions, proclaim the Father’s heart.
Don’t do anything from selfish ambition
or from a cheap desire to boast,
but be humble toward one another,
always considering others better than yourselves.
And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.
The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had:
He always had the nature of God,
but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. Instead of this,
of his own free will he gave up all he had,
and took the nature of a servant…
Php 2:3-7 GNB
**** The italicised words purporting to be Jesus’ words, are entirely my own. They are based in part on Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV
I had always thought that there were just two incidents where Jesus was anointed. But recently, as I have gone through the various accounts, it seems fairly certain to me that there are 3 separate incidents. ( I am willing to be corrected if I am wrong)
The 1st incident takes place in Simon the Pharisee’s home, probably in the city of Nain, not long after the widow’s son was raised from the dead. (Luke 7: 36- 50) A woman, labelled ‘A sinful woman’, weeps her heart out, in sorrow for her messed up, broken, sinful life. Her mourning is shot through with joy, for she knows that here is One who has the power to forgive her sins. She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes His feet with her hair, kisses His feet, and anoints His feet with precious spikenard.
The 2nd incident takes place at Mary and Martha’s home in Bethany. 6 days before Passover, just a day before Jesus rode into Jerusalem. (John 12:1-11) Mary anoints Jesus’ feet and wipes His feet with her hair, at the feast given to celebrate Lazarus being raised from the dead.
The 3rd incident takes place at Simon the Leper’s home. (Matt 26:1-12, Mark 14:1-12) A nameless woman, whose story and motivation is not known, walks in on the feast and pours the precious spikenard on Jesus’ head.
As I read and re-read these narratives, I have been fascinated by the portraits of the three different women.
The 1st was a penitent sinner, the 2nd a joyful sister, the 3rd a nameless worshipper.
>> “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar.” Isa 33:17
Through their different circumstances and pain, each one of them had received a fresh and clear understanding of Jesus as the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, the Son of God, the One whose kingdom is not of this world.
We all know of the three Wise Men, and their journey to behold the King and worship Him. In these gospel narratives I came across 3 simple women who came with their hearts overflowing with repentance, gratitude, awe and worship, carrying what was precious to them as an offering, for they knew that they were in the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
>> “Wisdom begins with fear and respect for the LORD. Knowledge of the Holy One leads to understanding.” Pro 9:10 ERV
Each of these three women knew that their actions were likely to cause comment and outrage, and yet that did not deter them. Their eyes had seen the glory of their Maker, Redeemer and Master of the Universe revealed in the humanness of Jesus. At that moment of revelation, fear of man died, and they were set free to worship God with abandon.
>> David declared, “… I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” 2Sa 24:24 ESV
Each woman came with the costliest thing she had to offer. And it was all for Jesus and Jesus alone.
Utter fear and loneliness webbed themselves around Ishmael as he lay in the hopeful shade of the thorny lace leaved fronds, watching Hagar stagger away, her keening wail tearing the mocking silence of the desert. He just knew with without conscious thought that he was going to die. Ishmael shut his eyes against the piercing death gaze of the sun.
If things were the way they’d always been, he’d be lying on silken pillows in the dark smothering shade of the tent, listening to the restless shuffling of a thousand sheep and cattle, and the clicking of the herdsmen as they called out to the animals in their care. Abraham would tell him stories. Abraham… Ishmael curled himself into a tight ball and deep shuddering silent sobs shook him.
And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.”Gen 21:17
A thousand emotions and thoughts swirled and buzzed in Hagar, deafening her. She could not hear her son’s cry. She had nothing within her to give, not even comfort to her dying son.
“What troubles you Hagar?” – injustice? lack of water? no vision for the future? The certainty of lingering, painful death? “What troubles you?”
“Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; …” Gen 21:18
It is so easy isn’t it for us to become inward looking and focused on ourselves – our circumstances, our pain, our understanding of the way forward, our assessment of the resources that we can use to get out of the situation, that we forget to remember. We forget to remember there is One who Sees and does not forget. One who is merciful and able to cause the things we have abandoned without hope to breathe and live again. Hagar forgot to remember El Roi, the One who saw her when she was alone in the desert before. But El Roi did not forget!
Arise out of self-pity, fear, hopelessness, anger, bitterness, despair. Arise, lift up the Ishmaels you have cast into the shade to die. Arise, the Lord is with you. He has not abandoned you. He will surely show you the way forward.
So the LORD answers, “Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore? Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you.” Isa 49:15 GNB
What a long way up the mountain this goat has come… and what a precarious hold it has on the mountain side, and yet, it shows no sign of agitation or fear… there is the confidence that the next leap will take it to safety, onto level ground…
I can’t help thinking of these verses…
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I…
When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!
When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless –
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
(Psa 61:1-2, Psa 142:3 , Psa 94:18, Psa 18:32-33 ESV)
Father, there are many times when I feel I am just about hanging in there, and my heart is filled with anxious thoughts… but You are the One who holds me up in your faithfulness, mercy and steadfast love… Thank you! Thank you for not letting me slip and fall. Thank you for giving me the strength to make a sure-footed leap into secure places. Thank you for knowing the way forward and leading me in it… Let your peace fill my soul knowing You are with me… Amen