"The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord."
If the disposal of the lot is the Lord's whose is the arrangement of our whole life? If the simple casting of a lot is guided by him, how much more the events of our entire life--especially when we are told by our blessed Saviour: "The very hairs of your head are all numbered: not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father." It would bring a holy calm over your mind, dear friend, if you were always to remember this. It would so relieve your mind from anxiety, that you would be the better able to walk in patience, quiet, and cheerfulness as a Christian should. When a man is anxious he cannot pray with faith; when he is troubled about the world, he cannot serve his Master, his thoughts are serving himself. If you would "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," all things would then be added unto you. You are meddling with Christ's business, and neglecting your own when you fret about your lot and circumstances. You have been trying "providing" work and forgetting that it is yours to obey. Be wise and attend to the obeying, and let Christ manage the providing. Come and survey your Father's storehouse, and ask whether he will let you starve while he has laid up so great an abundance in his garner? Look at his heart of mercy; see if that can ever prove unkind! Look at his inscrutable wisdom; see if that will ever be at fault. Above all, look up to Jesus Christ your Intercessor, and ask yourself, while he pleads, can your Father deal ungraciously with you? If he remembers even sparrows, will he forget one of the least of his poor children? "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved."
My soul, rest happy in thy low estate,
Nor hope nor wish to be esteem'd or great;
To take the impress of the Will Divine,
Be that thy glory, and those riches thine.
"And there was no more sea."
Scarcely could we rejoice at the thought of losing the glorious old ocean: the new heavens and the new earth are none the fairer to our imagination, if, indeed, literally there is to be no great and wide sea, with its gleaming waves and shelly shores. Is not the text to be read as a metaphor, tinged with the prejudice with which the Oriental mind universally regarded the sea in the olden times? A real physical world without a sea it is mournful to imagine, it would be an iron ring without the sapphire which made it precious. There must be a spiritual meaning here. In the new dispensation there will be no division--the sea separates nations and sunders peoples from each other. To John in Patmos the deep waters were like prison walls, shutting him out from his brethren and his work: there shall be no such barriers in the world to come. Leagues of rolling billows lie between us and many a kinsman whom tonight we prayerfully remember, but in the bright world to which we go there shall be unbroken fellowship for all the redeemed family. In this sense there shall be no more sea. The sea is the emblem of change; with its ebbs and flows, its glassy smoothness and its mountainous billows, its gentle murmurs and its tumultuous roarings, it is never long the same. Slave of the fickle winds and the changeful moon, its instability is proverbial. In this mortal state we have too much of this; earth is constant only in her inconstancy, but in the heavenly state all mournful change shall be unknown, and with it all fear of storm to wreck our hopes and drown our joys. The sea of glass glows with a glory unbroken by a wave. No tempest howls along the peaceful shores of paradise. Soon shall we reach that happy land where partings, and changes, and storms shall be ended! Jesus will waft us there. Are we in him or not? This is the grand question.
Today's reading: Jonah 1-4, Revelation 10 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Jonah 1-4
Jonah Flees From the LORD
1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish....”
Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 10
The Angel and the Little Scroll
1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. 2 He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3 and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. 4And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”
5 Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. 6 And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! 7 But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets....”
The Woman With Beauty and Brains
Scripture References—1 Samuel 25:1-42; 2 Samuel 3:3
Name Meaning—Father of Joy, orCause of Joy
Family Connections —Scripture gives us no clue as to Abigail’s parentage or genealogy. Ellicott suggests that the name given this famous Jewish beauty who became the good angel of Nabal’s household was likely given her by the villagers of her husband’s estate. Meaning “Whose father is joy,” Abigail was “expressive of her sunny, gladness-bringing presence.” Her religious witness and knowledge of Jewish history testify to an early training in a godly home, and acquaintance with the teachings of the prophets in Israel, Her plea before David also reveals her understanding of the events of her own world.
The three conspicuous characters in the story of one of the loveliest females in the Bible are Nabal, Abigail and David. Nabal is described as “the man churlish and evil in his doings” (1 Samuel 25:3), and his record proves him to be all that. Churlish means, a bear of man, harsh, rude and brutal. Destitute of the finer qualities his wife possessed, he was likewise avaricious and selfish. Rich and increased with goods and gold, he thought only of his possessions and could be classed among those of whom it has been written—
The man may breathe but never lives
Whoe'er receives but nothing gives—
Creation’s blot, creation’s blank,
Whom none can love and none can thank.
Nabal was also a drunken wretch, as well as being unmanageable and stubborn and ill-tempered. Doubtless he was often “very drunken.” This wretch of a man was likewise an unbeliever, “a son of Belial,” who bowed his knee to the god of this world and not to the God of his fathers. Further, as a follower of Saul he shared the rejected king’s jealousy of David. Added to his brutal disposition and evil doings was that of stupidity, as his name suggests. Pleading for his unworthy life, Abigail asked for mercy because of his foolishness. “As his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him” ( vs 25). Nabal means “a fool,” and what Abigail actually meant was, “Pay no attention to my wretched husband for he’s a fool by name, and a fool by nature.” Truly, such a man will always provoke the profoundest perversion in all who read his story.
Abigail is as “a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.” In her, winsomeness and wisdom were wed. She had brains as well as beauty. Today, many women try to cultivate beauty and neglect their brains. A lovely face hides an empty mind. But with Abigail, loveliness and intelligence went hand in hand, with her intelligence emphasizing her physical attractiveness. A beautiful woman with a beautiful mind as she had is surely one of God’s masterpieces.
Added to her charm and wisdom was that of piety. She knew God, and although she lived in such an unhappy home, she remained a saint. Her own soul, like that of David, was “bound in the bundle of life with the Lord God.” Writing of Abigail as “A Woman of Tact” W. Mackintosh Mackay says that, “she possessed in harmonious combination these two qualities which are valuable to any one, but which are essential to one who has to manage men—the tact of a wise wife and the religious principle of a good woman.” Eugenia Price, who writes of Abigail as, A Woman With God’s Own Poise , says that, “only God can give a woman poise like Abigail possessed, and God can only do it when a woman is willing to cooperate as Abigail cooperated with Him on every point.” True to the significance of her own name she experienced that in God her Father there was a source of joy enabling her to be independent of the adverse, trying circumstances of her miserable home life. She must have had implicit confidence in God to speak to David as she did about her divinely predestined future. In harmony with her many attractions was “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is more lustrous than the diamonds that decorate the delicate fingers of our betters, shone as an ornament of gold about her head, and chains about her neck.”
David is the other outstanding character in the record. He it was who fought the battles of the Lord, and evil had not been found in him all his days (25:28). He could match Abigail’s beauty, for it was said of him that he was “ruddy...of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to” (1 Samuel 16:12 ). When Abigail and David became one they must have been a handsome pair to look upon! Then, in addition to being most musical, David was equal with Abigail in wisdom and piety for he was “prudent in matters,...and the Lord [was] with him” (1 Samuel 16:18).
The sacred historian tells us how these three persons were brought together in a tragic way. David was an outlaw because of Saul’s hatred, and lived in the strongholds of the hills with his loyal band of 600 followers. Having often helped Nabal’s herdsmen out, being in need of food for his little army, David sent a kind request to Nabal for help. In his churlish fashion, Nabal bluntly refused to give David a crumb for his hungry men, and dismissed David as a marauding hireling. Angered, David threatened to plunder Nabal’s possession and kill Nabal and all those who emulated his contempt. Abigail, learning from the servants of David’s request and her husband’s rude refusal, unknown to Nabal, acted with thought, care and great rapidity. As Ellicott comments &--;
Having often acted as peace-maker between her intemperate husband and his neighbours, on hearing the story and how imprudently her husband had behaved, saw that no time must be lost, for with a clever woman’s wit she saw that grave consequences would surely follow the churlish refusal and the rash words, which betrayed at once the jealous adherent of Saul and the bitter enemy of the powerful outlaw.
Gathering together a quantity of food and wine, sufficient she thought for David’s immediate need, Abigail rode out on an ass and at a covert of a hill met David and his men—and what a momentous meeting it turned out to be. With discreet tact Abigail averted David’s just anger over Nabal’s insult to his messengers, by placing at David’s feet food for his hungry men. She also revealed her wisdom in that she fell at the feet of David, as an inferior before a superior, and acquiesced with him in his condemnation of her brutal, foolish husband.
As a Hebrew woman was restricted by the customs of her time to give counsel only in an emergency and in the hour of greatest need, Abigail, who had risked the displeasure of her husband whose life was threatened, did not act impulsively in going to David to plead for mercy. She followed the dictates of her disciplined will, and speaking at the opportune moment her beautiful appeal from beautiful lips, captivated the heart of David. “As his own harp had appeased Saul, the sweet-toned voice of Abigail exorcised the demon of revenge, and woke the angel that was slumbering in David’s bosom.” We can never gauge the effect of our words and actions upon others. The intervention of Abigail in the nick of time teaches us that when we have wisdom to impart, faith to share, and help to offer, we must not hesitate to take any risk that may be involved.
Abigail had often to make amends for the infuriated outbursts of her husband. Neighbors and friends knew her drunken sot of a husband only too well, but patiently she would pour oil on troubled waters, and when she humbly approached with a large peace offering, her calmness soothed David’s anger and gave her the position of advantage. For her peace-making mission she received the king’s benediction (25:33 ). Her wisdom is seen in that she did not attempt to check David’s turbulent feelings by argument, but won him by wise, kind words. Possessing heavenly intelligence, self-control, common sense and vision, she exercised boundless influence over a great man, and marked herself out as a truly great woman. After Abigail’s successful, persuasive entreaty for the life of her worthless husband, the rest of her story reads like a fairy tale. She returned to her wicked partner to take up her hard and bitter life again.
It is to the credit of this noble woman that she did not leave her godless husband or seek divorce from him, but remained a loyal wife and the protector of her worthless partner. She had taken him for better or for worse, and life for her was worse than the worst. Wretched though her life was, and spurned, insulted and beaten as she may have been during Nabal’s drinking bouts, she clung to the man to whom she had sworn to be faithful. Abigail manifested a love stronger than death. But the hour of deliverance came ten days after her return home, when by a divine stroke, Nabal’s worthless life ended. When David hearkened to the plea of Abigail and accepted her person, he rejoiced over being kept back by her counsel from taking into his own hands God’s prerogative of justice (Romans 12:19).
When David said to Abigail, “Blessed be thy advice,” he went on to confess with his usual frank generosity that he had been wrong in giving way to wild, ungovernable passion. If Abigail had not interceded he would have carried out his purpose and destroyed the entire household of Nabal, which massacre would have included Abigail herself. But death came as the great divorcer or arbiter, and Nabal’s wonderful wife had no tears of regret, for amid much suffering and disappointment she had fulfilled her marriage vows. In that farmer’s house there had been “The Beauty and the Beast.” The Beast was dead, and the Beauty was legally free of her terrible bondage.
After Nabal’s death, David “communed with Abigail” (1 Samuel 25:39)—a technical expression for asking one’s hand in marriage (Song of Solomon 8:8)—and took her as his wife. Married to Israel’s most illustrious king, Abigail entered upon a happier career. By David, she had a son named Chileab, or Daniel (compare 2 Samuel 3:3 with 1 Chronicles 3:1). The latter name means, “God is my Judge,” and one has an inkling that the choice of such a name was Abigail’s because of her experience of divine vindication. She accompanied David to Gath and Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:3; 30:5, 18). Matthew Henry’s comment at this point is, “Abigail married David in faith, not questioning but that, though now he had not a house of his own, yet God’s promise to him would at length be fulfilled.” Abigail brought to David not only “a fortune in herself,” but much wealth so useful to David in the meeting of his manifold obligations.
Among the lessons to be learned from the life of Abigail, the first is surely evident, namely, that much heartache follows when a Christian woman marries an unbeliever. Unequal yokes do not promote true and abiding happiness. The tragedy in Abigail’s career began when she married Nabal, a young man of Naon. Already we have asked the question, Why did she marry such a man? Why did such a lovely girl throw herself away upon such a brute of a man? According to the custom of those times marriages were man-made, the woman having little to say about the choice of a husband. Marriage was largely a matter of family arrangement. Nabal was of wealthy parentage and rich in his own right with 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats and thus seemed a good catch for Abigail. But character should be considered before possessions.
Many a woman in the world today made her own choice of a partner. Perhaps she knew of his failures and thought that after marriage she would reform him, but found herself joined to one whose ways became more evil. Then think of those brave, unmurmuring wives who have to live with the fool of a husband whose drunken, crude ways are repellant, yet who, by the grace of God accept and live with their trial; and who, because of a deep belief in divine sufficiency retain their poise. Such living martyrs are among God’s heroines. All of us know of those good women chained with the fetters of a wretched married life for whom it would be infinitely better for them—
To lie in their graves where the head, heart and breast,
From care, labour and sorrow forever should rest.
Thinking of modern Abigails the appropriate lines of noble Elizabeth Barrett Browning come to mind—
The sweetest lives are those to duty wed,
Whose deeds, both great and small, and closeknit strands
Of an unbroken thread; where love ennobles all.
The World may sound no trumpets, ring no bells:
The Book of Life the shining record tells.
Ahaz [Ā'hăz]—jehovah hath seized orsustains.
- A Benjamite of the family of Saul (1 Chron. 8:35, 36; 9:41,42).
- The son of Jotham, king of Judah and father of Hezekiah, Ahaz became the eleventh king of Judah and reigned for sixteen years (2 Kings 16). He is called Achaz in Matthew 1:9. An Assyrian inscription gives the name of the king as Jehoahaz. But the abbreviation Ahaz was commonly used and was found on the seal ring of one of his courtiers. Perhaps the consistent omission of the first part of the name Jeho, meaning “Jehovah” was deliberate because of the abhorrent apostasy of Ahaz.
The Man Who Rejected a Message of Hope
Let it not be forgotten that it was to king Ahaz that Isaiah’s first evangelistic announcement was made in the promise of Emmanuel. The prophet sent a message to terrified Ahaz, but he would not turn to God and trust His deliverance. In order to help restore the faith of the wavering king, Isaiah urged Ahaz to ask for a sign from Jehovah, but he refused and in rejecting the message of hope, forfeited his soul.
It is interesting to observe that Ahaz came between two good men—between his father, Jotham, and his son, Hezekiah.
Summarizing the chief aspects of the reign of Ahaz we note his:
I. Pursuit of the religious policy of Jehoram ( 2 Kings 8:18); of Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:27); of Joash (2 Chron. 24:18). The religious vices of Ahaz were possible because of a corrupt church and a corrupt state (Isa. 1:4 , 13).
II. Rejection of David’s way to tread Jeroboam’s way. This bad ruler exceeded the idolatry of his time by burning his children in the fire (2 Chron. 28:3). Ahaz did honor to the gods of Assyria who were reckoned to be more powerful than Jehovah. The terrible slaughter of one hundred twenty thousand valiant men of Judah had no salutary effect upon Ahaz ( 2 Chron. 28:6).
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." -Matt. 2:1-2
Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem many months after the birth of Jesus, yet we know nothing about that time. How was Mary treating her baby, knowing she would have to submit to him as her Lord? How much attention were they getting from the townspeople? What were they telling people, if anything? We simply don't know. But we do know that one day some travelers from the east-maybe Persia or Mesopotamia (the regions of modern day Iran or Iraq)-suddenly showed up in Bethlehem, claiming to have been guided to a new king by a star.
The word Magi refers to people who belonged to a priestly caste that focused on special knowledge, interpretation of dreams, and astrology. Despite popular depictions, they were not kings; we don't know their names, and we don't know for certain that there were three of them (that is a tradition inferred from the fact that they bore three gifts: gold, incense, and myrrh). There may have been two; there may have been twelve.
But what we do know of them is startling. They saw a sign. They were motivated. They traveled. No wonder they are sometimes called "wise men." They were not merely astrologers. They were worshippers. Jerusalem was their first stop, where they inquired about a new king (which is a sure way to set off an alarm for the existing king); but then they found Bethlehem. They delivered their valuable gifts, and they bowed in worship. If people in Bethlehem weren't paying much attention in the months following the birth of Jesus, they surely were now.
Though foreign to this land, Jesus was of keen interest to them. These stories remind us that we can often overlook the miracles taking place in our own neighborhoods. If we are not careful, the celebration of Christmas can become so familiar to us, that we let it come and go without taking time to truly contemplate the miracles and blessing we celebrate each season. Men from far east went out of their way to find Christ and to set treasures before him: would it take strangers to remind us too of the blessings in our midst?
One of the best things we can do in this retail-obsessed Christmas season is to bring the gift of worship to him.
Prayer for today:
Lord, I know that what you want me to give you is my life. Help me with my motivation. With my willingness to go the distance. Show me what gifts I can bring you.