Silence and Sound, Day 4

The following is an excerpt from a free advent devotional guide put together by myself and several close friends.  To download this guide, see here.

Week 1
Day 4: The Intertestamental Period
by meridith matson

Within one blank page in our Bibles, much happens in the story of the nation of Israel and within the scope of world history as well. This page between the Old and New Testaments represents a 400 year period of time known as the the Intertestamental Period. This era is known as a time of silence, where God does not speak through a prophet. This time of silence, however, was not an uneventful period in history, or an idle time in which God was not actively present in the world. There were many changes in the region of Israel that also directly impacted the people of Israel during this time.  

The rise of Alexander the Great, and his conquests within this region of the world, significantly impacted culture.  His ideals, as taught to him by the philosopher and his teacher, Aristotle, gave him a vision for unity.  During this drive for unity the Greek language, culture, and ideals were violently forced upon the world in a process known as Hellenization. After the death of Alexander the Great, the areas he conquered were divided into four sections ruled by four generals.  

Another significant period was the Maccabean Era (165-63 BC).  During this time, an elderly priest named Mattathias rebelled against Syrian officials who were trying to force the Jewish people to participate in heathen activities. As a result, a large group of faithful Jews followed him and later led the “Maccabean Revolt.”  These Jews were responsible for eventually cleansing the Temple and restoring devout Jewish worship.  In their persistence, they created the culture and norms present when Jesus shows upon the pages of the New Testament.

Upon further study, we see that though it was a time of silence God was anything but removed from His people.  In the fullness of time, when everything was culturally, politically, and religiously the way God intended them to be, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be born of a young Jewish girl.  And through this baby, change arrived: not just for those of Jewish descent, but for the entire world.

Contemplation:
Can you think of some “blank pages” in your life, times when you felt God was silent or that you had removed yourself from God’s presence? What unexpected revelations came out of that time?

 

For more on the Intertestamental Period see: http://www.thetransformedsoul.com/additional-studies/spiritual-life-studies/the-intertestamental-period-and-its-significance-upon-christianity
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And we’re back…

I’ve been away from the blog for a while – well to be honest the last year (or more) I’ve struggled to keep up because life is busy, and my constant thoughts rarely make it on to paper (or a word doc).  However, a lot has happened over the past few months/couple years, so I DO have good reasons for my absence.  Instead of telling you, I’ll show you life in photos…

I shall soon return (I promise).  I can’t NOT blog… with my constant stream of theological thoughts and discussions forever in my head, or out loud with my husband.  I’ll be back!

Malaysia, January 2016IMG_2998.jpg

Home in KoreaIMG_3584.jpg

Looking down from BukansanIMG_3127.jpg

Family, December 2016IMG_6701.JPG

Scott and I at the North Korea boarder, Spring 2017IMG_7299.jpg

Saying goodbye to Korea, my home for 2 years, June 2017IMG_1310.jpgIMG_8231.jpg

Most certainly the best day of my life, with many more to come, July 8, 2017AnnabelMayPhotoArt-134.jpgAnnabelMayPhotoArt-293.jpgAnnabelMayPhotoArt-267.jpgannabelmayphotoart.com 

Breaking silence, silently breaking

Last Friday evening I returned to Seoul after a long, hot week in Bangkok partnering with and learning from ministries deep in the trenches of the Red Light districts.  I’ve never been more thankful to flop in my own bed and simply be in silence (8 high school girls and 3 leaders all staying in one room is an experience too much for anyone – especially an introvert).  I have also never been more touched experiencing God at work in some of the darkest places on the planet.

Many stories and books lie unwritten (for now) after this intense trip, but today I write just one of them.

Jill* attends our school and is a Junior this year.  An extremely intelligent, sheltered 16-year-old with kind eyes and a compassionate smile holds a bright future in front of her.  This bright future, surely pushed on her by her ever-achieving Korean parents, consists of ivy league schools, some lucrative career she probably doesn’t want, and high academics along the way… this girl is now friends with a prostitute.

Jill confided in our team earlier during the trip that she doesn’t like to cry,
especially with people.
She only cries alone.
When told that this trip “makes you cry” she questioned, “What if I don’t cry?  Does that mean I don’t care?”

I assured her everyone’s response to injustices like trafficking and prostitution is different.  Some people respond with tears, others respond with anger and even some respond with silent breaking.

As we cleaned up the nail polish, put away the chairs and swept the room that evening, I noticed Jill was not with the rest of the team.  Our team threw a party – a party for prostitutes!  A prostitute party.  The blue hairs at church would change the subject at hearing about this kind of a party.  No one talks about prostitutes at church.  (Yet the Bible seems to be brimming with prostitutes – and what a horror to see that one of them, Rahab, even makes it into the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel!  This, my dear readers is for another blog.)

During the prostitute party, we laughed, oh how we laughed.  Laughter always seems to extend beyond language and cultural barriers.
The gift of laughter breaks down walls.
Laughter reminds us we are all the same, we are all human.
We played games, we worshiped together, we experienced the Spirit of God at work in the lives of these precious women.  The only difference between “us” and “them” is just perhaps that life experiences somehow forced them to make a living in this way.  To be exploited and sell their bodies to survive.

Jill became friends with a prostitute.  A bleached-blonde, 40-year-old beautiful Thai woman.  This woman waited patiently to talk to Jill.  She waited patiently to have Jill, and only Jill, paint her nails.  They laughed together trying to bridge the language gap and made a strong connection that night.  The 16-year-old Korean girl and the 40-something-year-old prostitute.

After the women left and we continued cleaning, I discovered Jill in the corner, alone, with crocodile tears streaming down her eyes.  She looked away from me as I approached her, embarrassed.  This young girl who doesn’t like to cry in front of anyone; so I simply wrapped my arms around her.

“Yesterday when we saw the women standing in front of the bars and on the streets I was numb.  I didn’t feel anything.”

“But tonight, I realized these women are people.”

 

* Names changed to protect identities, of course

There are many ministries who work to provide jobs with dignity to men and women who are in vulnerable situations, especially in Bangkok.  For more information, or if you’d like to donate any amount please visit:
http://www.dtonnaam.org/
http://www.nightlightinternational.com/about/

pass over

The Passover celebration commemorates God’s unbelievable rescue of the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. As part of this incredible rescue, and the Israelites’ first born sons were saved from the angel of death by the blood of a lamb upon their door posts.

God, through Moses, parted the waters of the Red Sea so they could walk on dry ground, freeing them as slaves. God didn’t want his people to forget this significant event in history – so each year a special meal commemorated this day.

Our story today takes place at a Passover meal some 1500 years after the exodus.

Let’s find out more about this meal – with Jesus and his disciples.

John 13 (NET)
Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end. 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. 3 Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. 5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.

6 Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 (For Jesus knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”)12 So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet.

So much is going on in this snippet, just before Jesus’ death.  Jesus demonstrates humility by washing the feet of the men he was closest too on this earth.  Jesus demonstrated servanthood by washing the feet of his disciples, but the events just hours away demonstrated ultimate humility – just hours later, he would be arrested, beaten, and killed upon a cross meant for a criminal.

THE ultimate act of a servant – dying for someone else.

The Passover meal included a lamb – when the Israelites were in Egypt, a lamb was sacrificed so that the firstborn Israelite wouldn’t have to die – the blood of the lamb was applied to the door and the angel of death passed over that house.

Each year they would say: “The lamb died instead of me.”

Exodus 12:

“Each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household” v.3
“Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames…” v. 7
“That same night the are to eat the meat roasted over the fire…” v. 8
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD – a lasting ordinance.” v. 14

Generations to come celebrated this event – which is why Jesus, some 1500 years later, celebrates the Passover.

Jesus knew the events that would follow this meal: Judas’ betrayal, arrested and handed over to be beaten, humiliated culminating in his death.

Everything in all God’s big story pointed to this night – the tree in the garden where Adam and Eve took and ate the fruit lead to the next tree – the cross.
Everything God did,
every sin the people committed,
every sacrifice that covered the sins committed,
the prophets, priests, kings – they all pointed to this night.

Through Jesus, God said – “I am about to deal with evil and sin and death once and for all.”

This. Was. It.

All the hurts and heartaches.
All the lies and deceit.
All the pains we closely bear in our hearts.
All the ways we rebel against God.
This one act restored us so we can know God
and he could give us a second chance.

God was already making everything new –
from the first tree in the garden – to this tree, the cross.
God was rescuing,
God was making a way,
And God was working out his perfect plan for us.
Through the perfect Lamb of God – Jesus Christ.

“The lamb died, instead of me.”
“The lamb died, instead of you.”
“The lamb died, instead of us.”

The lamb died – so you and I could be saved, and know God the father.

John the Baptist when he saw Jesus said:
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

The Prophet Isaiah said this of Jesus:
“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7

Do you know the Lamb of God?
Did you know Jesus, the lamb of God died instead of you? That he died for you?

“The lamb died instead of me.”

lamb-cross.jpg

called

That which Christ calls us to do,
he will enable us to accomplish.

This is the message of the Miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.
The only miracle recorded in all 4 Gospels, this seems to be the message for the disciples: when Christ would leave the earth, they would be empowered to carry on his message.  And the ability of them to carry out this ministry would not be of their human strength, it would be the power of God.  The power through His Spirit.

Christ called them to feed the multitudes, “You give them something to eat.” (Matt. 14:16)  And amongst the people, five loaves of bread and two fish were found.

Jesus prays a prayer of thanks, breaks the bread, and from this, the food just kept coming.  More and more.  More than they needed.

And the disciples did the work to distribute the food to the people.  “They all ate and were satisfied.”  And “the number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matt. 14:20-21).

Jesus commanded the disciples to feed the people, and through him, they were able to accomplish what he called them to do.

The same is true for us today: That which Christ calls us to do, he will enable us to accomplish.

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