Ichabod

orphans

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Ichabod
1 Samuel 4:20

Color him black.

He was midnight’s child, born to lose.  When Ichabod breathed his first, he breathed his last.  His first cry was a plea for help which went unheard by a mother who cursed him on her birthing bed and quit on life (1 Samuel 4:20).

Color him black.

Ichabod had no chance.  His father had just been killed in a losing battle against the Philistines.  All the better!  His dad had been a loser all his life anyway.

Color him black.

He was midnight’s child.  When Ichabod was born, God lowered heaven’s flag to half mast and all the heavenly hosts mourned.  The pitter, patter of little cherubim feet on the merry streets of gold was hushed.  The flitter, flutter of angel wings on busy assignments were silenced.  Halos hung heavily from the melancholy hands of heaven’s now solemn attendants.

Poor Ichabod.  He had no grandfather.  Poor man died the day of his grandson’s  birth.  Poor Ichabod.  He had no father.  He too died the day of his son’s birth.  Poor Icabod.  He had no mother.  She died in labor when she heard the dreary news of family deaths.  Poor Ichabod.  He had no country.  It died the day the Ark of the covenant was taken as booty by the Philistines–the same day of his birth.

Ichabod was an orphan’s orphan.  No one sang him morning lullabies.  No one baked him birthday cookies.  No one bragged on Ichabod’s first tooth.  No one taught him to say “Daddy.”

Color him black.  He was midnight’s child.  Ichabod wept in a world that ignored him.

What about you?  Has misfortune struck you recently?  If so, remember Ichabod.  Are you on the verge of tears?  Remember Ichabod.  Is your smile forced as you labor in a stressful job?  Remember Ichabod.  Are your burdens heavy?  Remember Ichabod.

And consider  this:  The Ichabod’s in life always catch God’s eye first.  God looks first for the little lost lambs.  God cradles the fallen sparrows most tenderly.

All is not lost for you.  Just remember…

Ichabod.

David R. Denny  Ph.D.
Drummondtown Baptist Church
Image credit:  http://borgenproject.org/orphans-in-kuwait/

Death

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Death
1 Corinthians 15:54

I watched a woman die last week.deathquotesredo550

It was near midnight when I stepped into Mrs. O. M’s room at the nursing home in Nassawadox.  Mrs. O. M was a member of my church in Cheriton.  Years ago she had played the organ in our services.  A stroke had left her without a memory.

The resident across the way was straightening his blanket, partly hidden by the half-drawn curtain that divided the room.  There were no doctors present.  There were no machines to prop  life up, to pump fluids, to whiz and whirl in perpetual life support.

It was a quiet night.  The padded shoes of the attendants making rounds in the halls accompanied the soft conversation of myself and Mrs. O. M’s daughter and husband.  We sat tightly bunched on the left side of the bed where the unsteady rise and fall of Mrs. O. M’s chest could be seen.

We felt so helpless.  We were mere spectators in a game without rules.  I couldn’t just blow a whistle and call a halt to it all.   We sat.  We watched.  She died.  It was that simple.

It’s a stunning thing to sit precariously on a front row seat watching the drama of death play itself out.  We were in two worlds that night:  We were here.  We were  there.  She was here.  Then, she was there.  We saw her make the transition.  We watched her step over the boundary that divides the worlds.  We prayed as she slid smoothly into eternity.

I will never forget that night.  I met death firsthand.  I left with its breath on my heart.  I felt the chill.  But I gained confidence in the encounter.  And I departed with the thought of Paul’s text on my mind.

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting? (1 Cor. 15:54).

Death
Waywords
David R. Denny  Ph.D.

The photo above comes from this site:  http://www.itsworthquoting.com/deathquotes.html

Effort

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EffortZachariah 7  (6/5th century B.C.)
Matthew 22:37

daniel-9

James Tissot’s painting “The Flight of the Prisoners” illustrates Judah’s exile from Jerusalem.

The people of Bethel were tired.   For seventy years they had been in prison.  They served their time.  They were model prisoners.  They didn’t complain.  They stayed out of trouble.

 

While in prison (Babylon) they grew very ceremonious.  They thought it best to impress God with a visible religiousness.  Perhaps, then, He would have mercy on them and let them go home.

So they decided the thing to do was to establish a somber fast day on the fifth month to remember the day the Temple burnt to the ground in Jerusalem.  And so they turned joy to sorrow and fasted on the fifth month.

Soon, however, they wondered if it was enough.  To play it safe they decided to create another fast day in the seventh month.  Better to play it safe, right?  And so they fasted on the seventh month as well, remembering the awful carnage, two months after the downfall of Jerusalem when Gedaliah rebelled.

Soon,  however, they wondered if it was enough.  Was God satisfied with just two fasts?  They didn’t know.  Better to be safe.  So they started a tenth month fast which was a sad reminder of the day the siege of Jerusalem began.  (It lasted two long years).  They put on sackcloth and ashes and moaned and cried so God would be impressed.

Soon, however, they wondered if it was enough.  Was God satisfied with just three fasts?  Better to be safe.  So they initiated a fourth-month one.  This was a reminder to them of the terrible day the leaders in Jerusalem fled the city leaving it defenseless before the enemy.  (All these fasts are mentioned in Jeremiah).

Finally, the happy day came.  They were released from prison.  They went home to Bethel.  But they were tired of being religious.  So they sent a delegation to Jerusalem and they asked God if they could quit all those fasts now.

And God told them He didn’t know what they were talking about!  “…was it actually for Me that you fasted?” (Zach 7:5).

Learn a lesson.  God is not impressed by religious activity.  What He wants is all your love (Matthew 2:37), not more–

Effort.

David R. Denny  Ph.D.

Favorite

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Favorite
Zachariah 9:9/Matthew 21:4-5

What was Jesus’ favorite passage of Scripture?  Remember, He only had the Old Testament to read.  The New Testament was written after His death.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to ask Jesus which passage of the Bible He loved to read the most?  Would He have chosen Psalm 23 which so many Christians love today?  Maybe.  Or would He have chosen Isaiah 6, the vision of God high and lifted up in the Temple that Isaiah saw?

I can’t answer this question, but I think I can pick one passage He loved–Zachariah 9.  Perhaps you’re not familiar with this one.   Take a minute and look it up.  Jesus not only read it and loved it.  He fulfilled it.

triumphant-entry-39581-wallpaper

Jesus rides into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:4-5)

 

The first eight verses might seem obscure, but if you read on with patience the light grows stronger, and the presence of Jesus soon shines from the page.  Verse 9 tell of a King who will ride into Jerusalem upon a colt.  The entry into the city will herald a great victory and celebration.  The king on the colt will possess certain characteristics.  He will be just, endowed with salvation, humble, and a bestower of peace.

Imagine how Jesus felt when H read these verses. The fulness of time came, and He mounted a little colt outside Jerusalem and rose humbly into the city ready to die.

Surely this was one of Jesus’ favorite passages.  Which one is yours?  Do you have one?  Why not read it over today.  Better yet, share it with a friend.

David R. Denny  Ph.D.
Artwork:  https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/triumphant-entry-39581?lang=eng

Joyful Noise

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Psalms 100
Joyful Noise

11_kids_parade The homespun instruments were spread out on the sanctuary podium like dueling pistols awaiting a dawn adventure.  There was the cornet mouthpiece that you play like a kazoo.  Next to it was the toy drum and rattly toy tambourine.  Two tiny cymbals rested beside several dinner spoons serving as cymbal thumpers.  There were three recorders, a homemade dulcimer with a single twangy string, two cha cha Mexican shakers and a two-bit brass bell the size of a baby’s fist that I bought just the day before at a Saturday sale.

It was children’s church time in the morning worship service.  The kids sat in the front row twitching nervously, mischievously, as they looked first at the instruments then at the adults and then back at the instruments wondering if this was too good to be true.  That they could make noise, loud noise, wanton, reckless and uninhibited noise on Sunday morning was too much to grasp.

When the signal came, they surged forward, each child with an eager hand out hoping for just the right melody maker.  The bell went here, the cha chas went there, the cymbals to this one, the recorder to that one until every child had something.

Then they marched around the sanctuary.  Marching and playing.  Playing and marching.  The adults leaned sideways parting like the Red Sea as the parade passed.  Marching, smiling, smashing, blowing, tinkling, laughing, drumming and making happy childhood memories of being in church.

 

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands” (Psalms 100).

 

David R. Denny  Ph.D.
Cartoon by:
https://broomhillfestival.org.uk/event/childrens-parade/

Humility

 Waywords

Humility
John 13

After the introductory expressions of courtesy: the greeting, and the kiss, the Eastern guest was offered water for cleansing the feet.  Traveling down country roads made it hard to keep clean.  So it was customary for a host to provide this courteous ritual.  Servants would pour water upon their feet over a copper basin and then wipe them clean using a towel.  The best place to see this custom in action is in the upper room scene in John 13.

washing feet

“After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciple’s feet…”(John 13:5).

It was the evening of the Passover meal when the disciples entered the room selected for the occasion.  The memories of Bethany behind them now, the circle of disciples gathered to dine and wonder at the Savior’s intentions.

The table was set, and Jesus’ followers reclined around the triclinium.  Everything seemed ready.  The food was on the table and the evening seder was in progress ( καὶ  δείπνου  γινομένου).  Candles held back the darkness gracefully.  But where was the servant?  The pitcher was on the table near the entrance.  The water basin waited, untouched next to the linen cloth  (λέντιον) used for drying the feet.

But where was the servant?  A long and uncomfortable silence settled over the disciples.  It was the custom for a servant to wash their feet before they ate.  There was no servant.  No one moved.  How could they?  This task demanded a slave.  They were the future rulers of the new kingdom of Jesus.

 

triclinium

The triclinium of ancient Rome.

They grew impatient.  Furtive glances left and right brought no relief.  Someone would have to act, to go and find the tardy slave.

Scripture is majestic in its brevity here.  The text says simply that at this moment of crisis, in the servant’s absence, “Jesus rose from the supper.”  He knew His hour was here.  The Cross confronted him.  Time was accelerating now and the years of preparation thrust Him forward for life’s final crescendo.

Having yet to feel the cut of the spear’s cold edge and the calloused cries of the Roman soldiers, he knew these atrocities were near.  He knew yet He rose from supper and laid aside His garments.  He rose to gird Himself for this menial yet meaningful expression of spiritual intimacy.

The disciples noticed His preparation for the menial task immediately.  They knew His intentions, but no dared to stop Him at first.  Jesus removed His tunic.  He wrapped the long linen towel about His waist.  No one protested.  The light splash of water in the copper basin elicited no outward outrage.  The Son of God and right King of Israel became the absent servant.  In the flicker of the candle light, Jesus passed from king to servant.

Peter protested but quickly learned the higher lesson and relented embracing the touch of His master.  With a tenderness natural in solemn farewells, Jesus lingered before each man.  He poured the water, rubbed and dried the feet of each disciple.  And in this intimate expression of a Savior’s love for His closest friends, He pledged Himself anew to them all.  No words or oaths were sworn.  But there was a commitment extended that would span the ages.  In this solemn act, Jesus confirmed each disciple and conveyed the same love He offers to us each day.

David R. Denny  Ph.D

 Artwork from:
themastersmilitaryservicecenter.com
http://www.redeemerofisrael.org/2012/04/triclinium-passover.html

 

 

 

 

Prayer in Troubled Times

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Elijah_w_Widows_Son_1080-256

Elijah restores the widow’s son in Zarephath.

Prayer in Troubled Times
I Kings 17:17-24

The widow clung to the lifeless body of her son. All was gone now. The long sustained drought had wrung her soul dry leaving it crusted and crumbled. But at least through that horror, she had her son. But now he too was gone. The child had been her morning smile, her evening laughter, a reason for living. But now barren rooms in the small house were silent. He was gone, taken by some hideous sickness that struck without warning or mercy. And so all she could do now was to pace restlessly back and forth across the floor as if trundling from wall to wall could somehow erase the pain.

When Elijah stepped into the room, the widow’s reaction was instantaneous. She exploded, channeling a pent up rage at the prophet. “You call yourself a man of God? Look what has happened. My only son is dead. I took you in and look how you repaid me. It’s your fault he’s dead. You brought me bad luck. You put my son to death!”

The little widow turned the Prophet wanting only to be alone with her grief. Elijah, taken by surprise, paused for second to two and then stepped up to the woman. “Give me your son,” he demanded in a stern tone, indignation evident on his face. Elijah took the boy from his mother’s protective bosom and carried him upstairs to the upper room where he was living and laid him on his bed.

“Why, Lord, why did this happen?   Did you slay the boy?” The prophet pelted the Lord with edgy questions. He didn’t play games with God. He just wanted to know what happened, and he sought the core of the conundrum.

But then when the questions were exhausted, Elijah put aside his cross- examination of the divine mysteries and stretched himself upon the child three times. This time, he approached the Lord with a new intention. This time, he prayed. “O Lord my God, I pray Thee, let this child’s life return to him.

F. S. Webster said in his sermon Out of the Depths, “There are deep mysteries in life which yield to nothing but prayer.” And so it was that God heard this prayer and responded by breathing life back into the boy.

Elijah’s pattern of prayer is valid for us today. He prayed with a measure of frustration laced with honesty and doubts. Then he paused and prayed again with faith asking specifically for life.

So no matter how burdened your heart may become, let your final exhalation always be a prayer of faith and hope.

 David R. Denny Ph.D.
(Art credit:  http://bibleencyclopedia.com/pictures/1_Kings_17_Elijah_with_the_widow’s_Son.htm