Consequences should not deter commitment


By Charles Westbrook

Feb. 1
A Shunammite Woman Helps
To consider making commitments without thought of personal gain.
Bible Lesson: 2 Kings 4:8-17
Key Verses: “She said to her husband, ‘Look, I have sure this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God. Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp so that he can stay there whenever he comes to us.” — 2 Kings 4:9-10

Our lesson begins with a woman lived in a small village called Shunem.  She lived with her husband who was old and couldn't get around. Traveling through the village, Elisha would walk by her house and smell the food she was cooking. She was interested in knowing who Elisha was and where he was from. Each morning as he passed through, she would offer him some food and usually he would eat a meal with her and discuss each other's family and have a good visit.

She suggested to her husband that Elisha was a man of God. The women suggested that he was he was sent by God. The woman told her husband that they should make Elisha a place to stay each time he came through Shunem. This would be a place for him to get a meal and a place to stay. When he came through Shunem again, they showed Elisha what they had done, and he appreciated it. Each time he came to the village, he stayed with them

The couple was pleased with how appreciative he was for what they had done for him. The couple enjoyed having him come and talk with him. Elisha always made is a point to express his heart felt thanks for what they had done for him.

On one of his visits, he said he wanted to do something for them, but didn't know what to do. Elisha didn't know who was happier him or them. This was his witness to them, and knowing that, he would always think of them.

He continued asking the couple how he might repay them, but the woman said they had all they needed. Eventually, Elisha found the couple couldn't have children. Elisha looked at the man and said by his next visit she would be holding a baby in her arms. Soon she was with child and was happy about it. The woman and her husband started praising God for this blessing.

Does God send people to help people? I believe he sends help takes care of all of His children. I also feel that he when he sends help, we must follow his ways. We need to put our lives in his hands where we can be safe. We need to take time with him every day. We need to learn to trust him and follow him.

We might not see what God puts in our lives, but if we follow and obey, he will take make us men and women of God.

Could God have sent Elisha to minister and witness in this world? Are you willing to go out and tell others about Jesus Christ? Are you willing to let God use you as a witness?

Feb. 8
Nathan Challenges David
To learn to take action to speak truth to those in power.
Bible Lesson: 2 Samuel 12:1-7, 13-15
Key Verses: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and then Lord sent Nathan to David. “ — 2 Samuel 11:27-12:1

Nathan told David a story about two men; one rich, one poor. The rich man had many sheep and cattle, but the poor man had one lamb. He and his children had raised the lamb from the time it was born. The lamb was raised to eat out of his plate and drank from the same cup from which the poor man drank.

A traveler came to visit the rich man, and they prepared for fellowship and food. Instead of killing one of the rich man’s flock and roasting it, they went to the poor man and got his lamb to roast.

This story disturbed and angered David, he vowed that he would get the poor man four small lambs to raise. David was so angry that he said the rich man deserved to die.

Then Nathan said, “You are the rich man. “

This is how Nathan met King David for the first time. David told Nathan that he had sinned against the Lord. Nathan told David that his sin had been put aside, but that his child would die.

Months must have passed since the time David had displeased the Lord. But God was about to get into the problem. Nathan was serving as a court prophet who was to advise the king. David served as God's messenger, and he was held accountable for what was being done.

Nathan's parable sets up a contrast between the one who had all he wanted for himself and the one who didn't have anything. The poor man affection for his little lamb. David understood because he had kept sheep and baby lambs in his father's flock. Perhaps David had knowledge of what it took to be a shepherd. Similarly, the callousness and selfishness of the rich man was manifest in all his actions.

The parable had the impact that Nathan intended. The story tells us about how to invoke the kings sympathy and anger. David was infuriated because the rich man took advantage of the poor man.

Feb. 15
Esther Risks Her Life
To consider the implications of making commitments without respect to potential personal harm.
Bible Lesson: Esther 4:1-3, 9-17
Key Verse: “’Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold fast on my behalf, and nether eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.’” — Esther 4:16

The Jews were under the authority of the Persian Empire. Most of the events in Esther took place in the city of Susa, which is the winter residence of the Persian king. The story begins with King Ahasuerus giving a large banquet. He displayed the great wealth of his kingdom. It says that the great feast lasted about six mouths.

Mordecai went to the main gate dressed in sackcloth ashes and wailed bitterly; other people in the crowed fell with him. The Jewish population was asked to join him at the gate of the city. This is where people came to settle legal matters. Mordecai was probably there regularly, but at this point his mourning made him ritually unclean. The king and Hamann sat down to drink in private. When Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she fell into great distress.

The women of a king's harem were guarded. A trusted eunuch went as her liaison with Mordecai.  Mordecai knew that Esther was the only one that was in a position to help the Jews. A large group gathered because they wanted to know the reason for Mordecai's actions.

Esther didn't hear from the king for a month. He was considered a high risk for an assassination attempt. Palace rules forbid anyone who had not been summoned from approaching the king.

Mordecai asserted that if Esther would not intervene, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter. Ordinarily one would assume that the reference is to God, but the book of Esther makes no mention of God.

Esther contains no mention of God, any religious practices or the laws of God. Esther praises mostly acts of violent revenge and ways that aren't kept by God.

Rather than raising her concern directly, Esther invited the king and Haman, his prime minister and enemy of the Jews, to a banquet. It is assumed that she invited them to a dinner party to make it easier to make her plea known, and also it would make a occasion to make her plea for a place where she would feel secure.

Haman was invited and been flattered by these two invitations and didn't know which one to accept. He would be accepting an invitation to dinner which would mean he would be alone with the king and queen. Haman had ten sons. Haman could not enjoy his status and wealth because his hatred for Mordecai poisoned his whole mind.

In his lust for vengeance, Haman prepared to put Mordecai to death by public hanging on a gallows 75 feet high. Esther risked her life when she agreed to approached the Persian king on the behalf of her people.

We should not ever think that God isn't present at times of need. He's always with ready to take care of us. All we need to do is ask him to be a part of our lives. In this day and time we really need him. I don't know what's happening in this world today, but whatever happens, we know that all we need to do is trust God and he will see us through anything.

Feb. 22
Isaiah Answers God's Call
To identify and respond to situations in which God is calling us to move beyond the present limits of our commitments.
Bible Lesson: Isaiah 6:1-8
Key Verse: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me.”’ — Isaiah 6:8

Scholars believe the book of Isaiah was written by at least three different prophets. The writings were from different periods of Jewish history. As we study this book, we see where the first 39 chapters were written by Isaiah of Jerusalem. This passage comes from the prophet of the lesson this book is named for. He is known as the one of the greatest writers of his time. Isaiah’s writing was done in the 8th century before Christ.

The settings is the time of the great temple which was known as Solomon's Temple in  Jerusalem. The temple was a great piece of work. There were three different sections, the Holy of Holies and the most Holy Place. The prophet's vision was King Solomon's Temple. King Uzziah had been really good as he ruled Judah wisely for more than 40 years. King Uzziah, was writing an accounte of his reign and he was likely depressed and discouraged over the death of his monarchy.

Solomon's Temple was of the heavenly temple of God. God sat on his throne with his heavenly court. God was attended by seraphs, who are not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. The seraphim are the highest of the nine orders of angles.

For Isaiah, holiness is the defining quality of God. His favorite title for God was, 'The Holy One of Israel.” The term Israel is commonly used to refer to the whole Jewish people even after the conquest of the northern kingdom.

God called Isaiah to be a prophet, and Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up. Isaiah was a man of God and worshiped him. Isaiah maintained a steady grip on that. He said that he wanted to be close to and serve his God.

Isaiah was worried about being so unworthy with his life and lifestyle. He knew that he was a sinner just like all of mankind. He knew that a sinful person couldn't stand before God and would be expected to die. Not only was he a sinful person but he saw where the people that he was suppose to be leading were sinners also. He knew that he had to face God about being a sinner himself.

As he stood shamefully before God, one of the seraphs flew toward him with a coal so hot tongs were needed to take it from the fire. The coal was placed against his mouth, and the seraph proclaimed that Isaiah’s sin had been blotted out. At that point, God asked who he could send to be his prophet, and Isaiah proclaimed, “Here I am, send me.”

Many of us feel a stirring in our hearts to serve God, but believe we are too sinful to represent God. How could God want me, sorry sinner that I am? Yet, God can burn away our sin if we repent. Suddenly our hearts become eager to serve, and we cry, “Send me.”

Interestingly, as we read further in Isaiah, we learn that God doesn’t necessarily call us to success. Isaiah knew his people would not listen; they would continue their sinful ways. No, God didn’t call him to be successful. God called Isaiah to be faithful. Think about this the next time God calls you to do something.

Westbrook is a member of Pearl United Methodist Church and a regular contributor to the “Advocate.”