Heroes of the Faith –
Courage to Challenge the Status Quo
Mark 5:25-34, The Woman with a Hemorrhage Takes a Chance.
Matthew 15:21-28, The Canaanite Woman Talks Back.
2 Kings 22:1-20, King Josiah Sees Trouble Coming.
2 Kings 23:1-14, King Josiah Starts the Cleanup.
2 Kings 23:15-30, King Josiah Stays Faithful.
Acts 9:20-30, 12:24-25, Barnabas Befriends Paul.
Acts 13:13-14, 15:36-39; Colossians 4:10a, 1 Corinthians 9:6, Barnabas Sticks to His Principles, and It Works
Acts 16:11-24, Lydia Won’t Take ‘No’ for an Answer.
Acts 16:25-40, Lydia Risks Going to Jail.
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Mark 5:25-34, The Woman with a Hemorrhage Takes a Chance (3/4/2010)
Some time back, a friend and I were discussing our health, which had not been too good. I told her that I would love to be perceived as a person who suffers in silence: “That Regina is so brave! She never complains!” Unfortunately, if I never complain, how are you going to know that I’m suffering in silence?? So my practice is to point out to everyone I know that I am suffering in silence. It amazes me that no one ever notices that I’m not complaining.
For 12 years, today’s heroine had not been suffering in silence. In fact, she had been to a lot of doctors, and not only did it cost her a fortune, but it didn’t do her any good. She decided to take another approach. In complete silence, she approached this holy miracle worker she had heard so much about, Jesus. She had no business touching his clothes, because she was unclean as a result of the bleeding, and touching him would make him unclean, too. But she was totally convinced that simply touching the garments that he was touching would make her well. That’s an amazing amount of faith from someone who’s had no results for 12 years.
The other amazing thing about this incident is that Jesus knew immediately that “power had gone out from him.” He wanted to know who had touched him. Note especially the disciples’ response. The crowds that followed Jesus around wanting to be near him were enormous, and they all wanted to touch him. Don’t think about President Obama – you can’t get close to him when he comes to town. Think about a rock star who’s trying to push his way through a crowd of fans.
Matthew 15:21-28, The Canaanite Woman Talks Back (3/5/2010)
Too often we stop asking – or stop praying – because we don’t immediately get what we want. When I was in the final throes of paperwork for my Ph.D., one step was to pick my undergraduate degree from a list, so that it could be written on my Ph.D. diploma. The name of my degree was not on the list. I bickered for a while with the lady behind the desk, but all she knew was that the applicant had to pick a degree from the list. I asked her to call my undergraduate institution to confirm the exact name of my degree. No soap. So I asked to speak to her boss. I went in and explained to him (at great length) that I would like for him to call, at my expense, to get the name of my degree. Finally, he looked at me in exasperation and said, “What is it that you want?” I said, I want the actual name of my undergraduate degree on my Ph.D. diploma. He said, “Fine!” He knew that the list was only a guideline and that he had the authority to do whatever he wanted. And by that time he just wanted me out of his hair.
All the disciples wanted was for this pushy Canaanite woman to get out of their hair. However, they couldn’t give her what she wanted, because they knew Canaanites weren’t on the list, and in any case they didn’t have the authority or power. Jesus also told the lady that Canaanites weren’t on the list. She didn’t care! She knew that Jesus had the power and authority to give her what she wanted. In fact, she knew that even a tiny fraction of his power and authority were enough to solve her problem. In response to that insightful faith, Jesus said, “Fine!” Persistent faith pays.
2 Kings 22:1-20, King Josiah Sees Trouble Coming (3/8/2010)
You may remember good King Hezekiah, who ruled in Jerusalem for 29 years (2 Kings 18-20). After his death, things deteriorated badly for 57 years. His son Manasseh and his grandson Amon imported, or possibly just increased the influence of, Baalism and all its practices, including child sacrifice, divination, and idolatrous fertility rites (ch. 21). God sent a message that Judah was toast, just like Samaria. Amon’s son Josiah came to the throne when he was eight years old, and he must have been a throw-back. He is one of the few kings who is compared with King David. He repaired the Temple; however, since he wasn’t exactly brought up in church, he didn’t know how much trouble Judah was in until the accidental discovery of “the book of the law” during the remodeling. This book, unnamed, is assumed by most scholars to be some or all of Deuteronomy.
Josiah was alarmed, and he repented. He sent messengers to the prophetess Huldah to see what he should do. She replied that Judah was still toast, but because of Josiah’s repentance, the nation would have peace during his lifetime.
2 Kings 23:1-14, King Josiah Starts the Cleanup (3/9/2010)
2 Kings 23 is one of the most alarming chapters in the Bible. King Josiah carried out a massive clean-up campaign, not only in the Temple and in Jerusalem, but throughout the kingdom. You probably are asking, “Why is that alarming?” Because look what he had to do!
Among other things, he had to take objects used in the worship of Baal out of the Temple. He had to defrock priests who had offered sacrifices on pagan altars. He got rid of Temple prostitutes. He stopped child sacrifice.
Think about it – if he had to do all this, it means that the previous kings and priests had introduced the worship of Baal into the Temple. They had allowed priests to offer sacrifices on pagan altars. They had supported Temple prostitutes. They had burned their children alive as a sacrifice! No wonder God was angry!
2 Kings 23:15-30, King Josiah Stays Faithful (3/10/2010)
We saw earlier that Josiah was told that he would have peace in his lifetime, and only after that would God punish the nation. Nevertheless, he still carried out one of the most thorough reforms in history; we read more about it today. Josiah’s heroism lies in his determination to fulfill the Law to the best of his ability even though he apparently had nothing to gain personally.
Presumably Josiah also took care of the administrative and ceremonial functions of being king, and these activities were recorded in a book called The History of the Kings of Judah. This book has been lost, probably in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians razed the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and deported most of the people of Judea.
Acts 9:20-30, 12:24-25, Barnabas Befriends Paul (3/16/2010)
“Barnabas” means “Son of Encouragement,” and it’s easy to see how Joseph Barnabas got this nickname. How would you feel if a convicted violent felon showed up in your Sunday School class? A little hesitant, maybe, to invite him home for dinner? Those who had seen Paul hold the coats for the people who stoned Stephen to death were skeptical about him, and even afraid of him.
Barnabas, who was already a man of some standing in the early Church, stood up for Paul and said, “No, no. He’s okay. He has been rehabilitated by Jesus Christ personally.” Barnabas put his own reputation on the line, and without that vote of confidence, it’s doubtful that Paul would have been accepted by the apostles in Jerusalem.
Acts 13:13-14, 15:36-39; Colossians 4:10a, 1 Corinthians 9:6, Barnabas Sticks to His Principles, and It Works (3/17/2010)
Many years ago, there was a particularly knotty problem in the project I was working on with a bunch of other scientists and engineers. The boss decided we would all meet in his office, which had a white board, and see if we could figure out what to do. Now, as it happened, all of us had loud voices, strong opinions, and a tendency to shout when we were making points. We were having a wonderful time and making good progress, when we decided to take a little break. As I walked into the outer office, our secretary – a quiet, retiring woman – came to made and said with a worried look, “Are you guys okay in there?” She thought we were quarreling.
Apparently Barnabas and Paul were quarreling. Barnabas thought Paul was flat wrong about Mark. Barnabas’s actions might seem out of character until you remember that he also wouldn’t back down before the Church in Jerusalem when they wanted nothing to do with Paul. He was apparently not only a son of encouragement, but also a son of considerable stubbornness who wasn’t about to give way to Paul, who by this time was a man of some influence and fame. Anyway, they quarreled bitterly and went their separate ways.
But guess what? Later Paul apparently came around to Barnabas’s position and was reconciled not only with him, but with Mark as well.
Acts 16:11-24, Lydia Won’t Take ‘No’ for an Answer (3/18/2010)
Paul was determined not to be a burden on the little churches that he founded. With one exception, he and the people who traveled with him found jobs in the towns that they visited, in order to support themselves while preaching the Gospel for free. It may seem like a little thing that Lydia convinced Paul and the others (Silas and Luke, at a minimum) to stay at her house, but in fact, this was not at all Paul’s custom. The church at Philippi is the only one that Paul allowed to support him (Philippians 4:15). Lydia must have been a convincing lady.
Acts 16:25-40, Lydia Risks Going to Jail (3/19/2010)
There’s a lot going on in today’s passage. The jailer is about to kill himself because he would have to suffer the penalty avoided by any escaped prisoners; maybe some of them were due to be crucified or endure some other punishment he didn’t like the sound of. The city fathers are frightened because Roman citizens had privileges, and one was not to be jailed, much less beaten, without a trial. Paul and Silas could have gotten them into big trouble.
But the person I want to talk about is Lydia. Paul and Silas show up, and the last thing she had heard was that they were going to jail. Even though she herself is a leading citizen and has no plans to leave town, she welcomes them into her home. Apparently she doesn’t care whether there will be some stigma remaining after they go on there way. She’s a good example for us all of doing the right thing, no matter what.
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Copyright 2010, 2012 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the
Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers
for their support and enthusiasm. All
errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
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