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“All That God Requires”October 01, 2017 A.D.by Pastor Ben Willis

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW 3:1-6, 13-17 [NLTse]
In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2 “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” 3 The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’”

4 John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. 5 People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. 6 And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River…

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk Him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by You,” he said, “so why are You coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize Him.
16 After His baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on Him. 17 And a voice from Heaven said, “This is My dearly loved Son, Who brings Me great joy.”

SERMON
This past week we’ve been reading the prophets Zechariah and Malachi, and just got into the opening chapters of the Gospel of Matthew as we’re reading through the Bible together this 2017.

Zechariah prophesied around 520 BC when the Jews were first allowed to return to the Promised Land from their years of exile in Babylon (the lands of modern-day Iraq). He prophesied mostly to encourage them in the work of rebuilding the Temple.

Malachi prophesied about a hundred years later: The Temple had been rebuilt and worship and the sacrificial system had been reestablished, but they were mixing with the nearby Samaritans and other surrounding peoples and so the LORD was being worshiped alongside other idols and powers, corruption was rampant, and the rich were taking advantage of the poor and helpless just like the wicked-old-days before they were exiled from the land! The days of Malachi were the days of Ezra and Nehemiah and their leadership and reforms.

And through the prophet Malachi the LORD condemns Israel for not recognizing His love in preserving them across their history as a nation and people, and for offering second-rate sacrifices (animals that were blind, stolen, crippled, and sick; He rages, “You wouldn’t offer such to your governor for his taxes, but you offer such to Me!”). The Levites and priests were to live reverently and “awe-inspired” before the LORD and the people, truthfully teaching Israel God’s Way, but instead they were showing favoritism in the teachings and the ways they carried out God’s Laws: Permitting the worship of other gods/idols; allowing for casual divorce; preaching to some that their sin and wickedness weren’t so bad; supporting the practice of sorcery; and turning a blind-eye to lying, withholding people’s wages, the oppression of widows and orphans; foreigners being deprived of justice; and withholding God’s full tithe from Him.

Israel and their leaders used the excuse that it was “too hard” to serve the Lord (1:13). But the LORD never intended for human beings to follow Him by our own strength and power.

The Prophet Zechariah a hundred years earlier told the Jewish governor, Zerubbabel, and high priest, Jeshua, “It is not by force nor by strength, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (4:6) (More popularly known as, “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD.”)

And then the Lord is silent for about 400 years, letting that Word resonate in the hearts and minds of His Covenant People: “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD”…

And along comes Jesus Christ! John the Baptist doesn’t want to baptize the Lord thinking it best for Jesus to baptize him! But the Lord Jesus responds, “We must carry out all that God requires!” And now take notice: The Lord Jesus is baptized by John, and as He comes up out of the water He is baptized in the Holy Spirit!

“The life You’ve called us to is too hard for us,” the leaders of Israel cried out to the LORD. But Zechariah had told them, it’s “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD!” And the Lord Jesus tells John they must do all that God required: And Jesus is baptized in water and then baptized in the Holy Spirit! Our Father has never intended for us to live the new life He’s given us on our own: By our own strength; by our own power. We, too, must carry out all that God requires. And God requires us to be baptized in the Holy Spirit!

We need the Holy Spirit to help us in our weaknesses (Romans 8:26). We need the Holy Spirit to convicts us of our sin, opens our eyes to God’s truth, and to grant us spiritual gifts to be able to accomplish all the Father calls us to. The Holy Spirit counsels believers and guides us. Because the Holy Spirit lives within us, we can be confident asking God to help us in our times of need, and to give us the courage and grace to live as we should.

Some Christians believe that we receive the empowering baptism of the Holy Spirit when we put our trust in Christ. But that can’t be true because every single example of the Holy Spirit filling someone happens after they’ve come to faith in Jesus.

Other Christians believe that you simply have to ask and then believe you’ve received Him, even if nothing ever happens. And yet every example of the Holy Spirit filling someone in the Bible is accompanied by some manner of extraordinary event, even if those events were only experienced by the one being baptized. (Which is, of course, what happened with the Lord Jesus: Only He saw the dove, and only He clearly heard the Father’s voice. And then only He was aware of that inner-calling that drove Him into the wild places of that land for 40 days of prayer, fasting, and temptation…)

Think about what it was like for you being baptized: Whether water was poured over your head like a washing and cleansing or whether you were dunked under water like a dying and rising to new life… Baptism is the language the Bible uses to speak of being filled with God’s Spirit: The Bible speaks of it as an immersion in the life of the Spirit. The Lord Jesus says, “John immersed in water; you will be immersed in the Holy Spirit!” If we’re baptized in the Holy Spirit like we’re baptized in water, you can’t imagine the Holy Spirit merely sneaking in quietly while you are asleep and taking up residence in you unnoticed! (Of course, it may start that way, but eventually we’re going to experience “the plunge” of it all, or else Jesus and Luke would not have called it a “baptism” in the Spirit…

How do we receive the Holy Spirit? How are we baptized in the Holy Spirit? How are we filled and kept filled with the Holy Spirit?

1) Put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior for your sins and commit to follow Him as the Lord of your life;
2) Be baptized in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
3) And, seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit in prayer and with the laying on of hands of other Spirit-filled believers.

Then, once you’ve received the Holy Spirit, keep repenting and seeking the Lord (according to Psalm 51:11); don’t upset the Holy Spirit in you by saying “no” to His direction or by neglecting His promptings (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:19); keep praying that He would keep filling you (Ephesians 5:18); always follow the Spirit’s leadings (Galatians 5:16, 25); and, keep about that which keeps you growing spiritually, sowing to the Spirit, they say (Galatians 6:7-8).

“But for you who fear My name,” Malachi preached to those hard-hearted Israelites so long ago, “But for you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves led out to pasture… You will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet! (Malachi 4:2-3)
[Move to behind the Lord’s Table…]

If you do not believe you have received the Holy Spirit – that is, been baptized in the Spirit or been filled with the Holy Spirit (it all refers to the same experience) – then, publicly declare your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin and the Lord of your life by celebrating the New Covenant God has made with us by eating and drinking Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross by faith, and then, after Closing Song and Benediction, come forward and have the Elders lay hands on you that you may be filled with power from on high! (And Elders, if you’re not sure whether or not you’ve received the Holy Spirit, be first in line so that you can, in-turn, then pray for others.) Let’s ask Him for what He desires to give us. Let’s carry out all that the Lord requires. Let’s humble ourselves before the Lord so that He may lift us up!
[Go right into praying for the bread and the cup…]



“Why Wrath and Fear Are Great News!”September 24, 2017 A.D.by Pastor Ben Willis

THE PROPHET NAHUM 1:1-15 [NLTse]
This message concerning Nineveh came as a vision to Nahum, who lived in Elkosh.
2 The Lord is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and rage. He takes revenge on all who oppose Him and continues to rage against His enemies! 3 The Lord is slow to get angry, but His power is great, and He never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays His power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath His feet. 4 At His command the oceans dry up, and the rivers disappear. The lush pastures of Bashan and Carmel fade, and the green forests of Lebanon wither. 5 In His presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles, and its people are destroyed. 6 Who can stand before His fierce anger? Who can survive His burning fury? His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in His presence.

7 The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in Him. 8 But He will sweep away His enemies in an overwhelming flood. He will pursue His foes into the darkness of night.

9 Why are you scheming against the Lord? He will destroy you with one blow; He won’t need to strike twice! 10 His enemies, tangled like thornbushes and staggering like drunks, will be burned up like dry stubble in a field. 11 Who is this wicked counselor of yours who plots evil against the Lord?

12 This is what the Lord says: “Though the Assyrians have many allies, they will be destroyed and disappear. O My people, I have punished you before, but I will not punish you again. 13 Now I will break the yoke of bondage from your neck and tear off the chains of Assyrian oppression.”

14 And this is what the Lord says concerning the Assyrians in Nineveh: “You will have no more children to carry on your name. I will destroy all the idols in the temples of your gods. I am preparing a grave for you because you are despicable!”
15 Look! A messenger is coming over the mountains with good news! He is bringing a message of peace. Celebrate your festivals, O people of Judah, and fulfill all your vows, for your wicked enemies will never invade your land again. They will be completely destroyed!

SERMON
Israel existed as an association of tribes for its first years in the Promised Land. The tribes were united into one kingdom under David, and grew wealthy beyond compare under Solomon. But Israel divided into two kingdoms – Israel in the north and Judah in the south – after Solomon died. At times the two nations were allies; at other times they were enemies.

At the time of the prophet Nahum, the northern kingdom of Israel had been wiped out, defeated and taken away as captives by the cruel and ruthless Assyrians. And just as the people of Israel had been taken away to other lands, people from other lands also conquered by the Assyrians had been brought to the lands of Israel to make a life for themselves and to keep the taxes and tribute due to the king coming.

Which all left the southern kingdom of Judah terrified!

“Did you see what they did to our cousins in Israel? It’s only a matter of time before they come for us!”
But through the prophet Nahum the Lord says, No.

“Why are you scheming against the Lord, [Assyria]? He will destroy you with one blow; He won’t need to strike twice!”
“Celebrate your festivals, O people of Judah, and fulfill all your vows, for your wicked enemies will never invade your land again. They will be completely destroyed!”

And that’s what happened.

Of course, by Jesus’ day the Assyrians have long disappeared into the history books, as have the Babylonians who conquered them, and the Persians who conquered them, and the Greeks who conquered them. During Jesus’ days and the days of the New Testament the Romans rule the world: From the British Isles in the west to Germania in the north, all the north African nations to the south over to Judea – the Promised Land – in the east. But enemies still abound with much to fear from the Lord Who is jealous for His people.

Modern folks don’t like to talk too much about this idea of “fearing the Lord”. God is love, the Bible says, and God being “angry” with His enemies, and us and they “fearing Him” accordingly, doesn’t fit very well into modern ideas about love. So many today have decided that God’s rage and wrath can’t be a part of God’s life with us and that fearing God can’t be a part of our life with God.

But such ways of thinking are merely examples of how we’ve come to judge God instead of letting Him judge us.
We ask questions like, “If God is so loving then why do bad things happen to good people?” And we ask, “How could a loving God command His people – the Israelites – to wipe out every man, woman, and child of their enemies?” “How could the Lord speak with such anger and judgment against the peoples surrounding Israel, and even speak with such anger and judgment against the Israelites – His Own people – themselves?”

Did you know that such questions and concerns about fearing God and about His anger and wrath are not at all modern? One of the earliest controversies the early Church had to face was called “Marcionism”: The idea the Old Testament God was mean, harsh, and wrath-filled, a different God altogether from the kind, patient, and loving God of the New Testament, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But the God of the Bible is one and the same.

Jeremiah prophesies: “Behold the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. (30:23) And from our reading this morning, the prophet Nahum: “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries and keeps wrath for His enemies. (1:2) And yet we might say, but of course. That’s the Old Testament. But hear these words from the apostle Paul: “The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of humankind, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18) And hear these words about the Lord Jesus Christ from The Revelation to John: “From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 19:15)

These ideas of fearing God and His wrath and rage toward sin and sinners is clearly and widely taught in the Bible. It is so interwoven with the hope of our peace with one another and with God through the cross of Christ that if we throw away the one we lose all hope of the other.

Unfortunately, I think moderns have become so familiar with the sinful expressions of human wrath and rage, and have so associated the idea of fear with that of cowering, that we have forgotten that when we speak about the “wrath of God” that it is the wrath of God. That is, everything we know about God—His fairness, His love, His goodness—needs to be poured into and made part and parcel of our understanding of His rage and wrath and what it means to fear Him.
Maybe you have suffered because of someone who is habitually angry, losing their temper, or flying into a rage. Human anger can often be unpredictable, petty, and disproportionate. But none of these things are true of the anger of God. God’s wrath is the just and measured response of His holiness toward evil.

Proverbs 24:12 says, “Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and He sees you. He Who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve.” And the good news is, He knows when we didn’t know, too.

So, God’s wrath is rightly feared because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) God’s wrath is rightly feared because we are fairly condemned sinners apart from Christ. (Romans 5:1) God’s wrath is rightly feared because He is powerful enough to do what He promises. (Jeremiah 32:17) God’s wrath is rightly feared because God promises eternal punishment apart from Jesus Christ. (Matthew 25:46) (The Bible speaks of the wrath of God as God giving people over to their excesses and addictions and scheming and wickedness: To do to others and to live in fear of others doing it to they themselves. And the Bible pictures Hell, that final result of God’s rage and wrath against sin, as being a place “where their worm never dies” and as a fiery place of horrible suffering… And for our sin and selfishness and our rejection of God as God, that is what every human being deserves.

Which is what makes the good news so marvelously good:
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Because of Christ sacrifice on the cross and His serving our punishment there, God can rightly say that He’s made sinners innocent of their sin. (Romans 3:26) Justice has been served, and there is second punishment. Yes, in Christ God has lived a sinless life which no other human being could ever do, and He has done what we didn’t deserve: Taking our sins upon Himself and giving His righteousness to us.
Charles Wesley was right to explode in praise: “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, Who caused His pain! For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for for me? Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

Our closing song is “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” As we sing about our weakness and God’s power, as we sing about “the crystal fountain”, “the healing stream” He’s provided for us in Christ’s sacrifice to wash us clean of every mar and sin, if you want to stand where you are – or come forward – to commit yourself anew to the Bread of Heaven, our Strong Deliverer, He is worth it! Come, you are welcome at His throne of grace!



“Does God Love Men More Than Women”September 17, 2017 A.D.by Pastor Ben Willis

Scripture Reading
MATTHEW 26:1-13 [NLTse]

When Jesus had finished [telling some parables about the Kingdom of Heaven and His final return], He said to His disciples, 2 “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

3 At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, 4 plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. 5 “But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot.”

6 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. 7 While He was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over His head. 8 The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. 9 “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to Me? 11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. 12 She has poured this perfume on Me to prepare My body for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

SERMON – “DOES GOD CARE MORE ABOUT MEN THAN ABOUT WOMEN?”
Twice before, in the 21 years I’ve been your pas-tor have I preached someone else’s words in place of my own here in the Pulpit: I once shared a chapter from a Max Lucado book, and I once read the entire Sermon On the Mount. This morning makes three.

Sheila Gregoire hosts a website called, tolovehonorandvacuum.com. The following are Sheila’s words slightly tweaked by me to make them easier for me to share…

Every now and then I receive an email that makes my heart hurt. Recently I got this one, from a woman who is looking at the Bible, and looking around at her church, and finding herself wondering if God really loves women. In her email she asked me:

So, I have a question that’s going to sound horrible but it’s just honest. Does God care more about men than He does women? I mean God started out making only Adam, and then He made Eve to be Adam’s helper, but only because He decided it wasn’t good for the man to be alone. So then He makes women, who are weaker than men, so they cannot defend themselves. He makes them have all these feelings so they will always care about their men and their children. He makes their most important aspect to be beauty which fades with age and childbearing. The men however, God makes to be strong and to have little to no feelings at all. And He made them to all want women other than the woman they have.

It seems to me that the only time God got mad at King David was when David took another man’s wife, and God compared that to David stealing a lamb, a piece of property! … I mean the whole Bible seems to say these kinds of things. And yet, women tend to be more religious than men! In a world where every religion thinks less of women! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as though I think God doesn’t care about women, but maybe He just cares less?

I’m glad this woman asked these questions, be-cause I think they are all questions that many women struggle or have struggled with. (And perhaps many men, as well.) Asking questions can feel uncomfortable, but God is big enough to defend Himself! And when we do ask we often grew closer to Him as a result!

So today I’d just like to take each of my email writer’s comments – point by point – and respond.

First, she writes, “He made Adam first,” and in that she seems to be asking, “So is male the preferred gender, the default?”
Actually, if you take Genesis 1 and 2 seriously, perhaps gender didn’t come into humanity until after Eve was created: That is, perhaps Adam was first made genderless (or gender-full, depending on how you want to look at it), and that only after the Lord took Adam’s “rib” to make Eve, only then: “Male and female” He created them.

But even if that’s not entirely accurate, it’s very clear that both male and female are in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says, ? “So God created man-kind in His Own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”
And we see God using feminine imagery to refer to Himself at times, as Jesus uses here in Matthew 23:37: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem: You who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you. How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

The email goes on: “Eve was only made to be Adam’s ‘helper.’”Yes, she was. But the idea of “helper” does not carry the idea of inferiority in the Scriptures. The Hebrew word is “ezer”. “Ezer” is used 21 times in the Old Testament: 16 of those times it’s referring directly to God Himself as being our “helper”! (And God is obviously not inferior to us!)

Another key Genesis gives us to understand the helper/ezer Eve was to be to Adam is the very next word in that passage, suitable: Eve was made to be a suitable helper to Adam. The help woman was to give to the man was the kind of help Adam actually needed in order to accomplish the tasks God had given him; the idea being that Adam couldn’t fulfill all that the Lord has called him to without Eve. (“Partner” is the word some more recent translations have begun using to help make the idea more clear.)

The writer goes on, “And women are weaker than men.” Yes, women are often physically weaker, but women were also created to endure more pain than men and to live longer than men, so it doesn’t make sense that merely being weaker physically means that God made them lesser, inferior…

(Of course, women are susceptible to attack far more than men are. And yet God also created men with one part of their bodies which, if you kick it right, can bring them to their knees howling in pain.)

The email goes on: “God makes women have all these feelings so that they will care about their men and their children.”
Women loving their husbands and their children is a blessing! Yet, what the writer seems to be getting at here is that women too often are martyrs for their husbands and children, caring about them so much that the women are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of and being repeatedly and sometimes emotionally and abusively hurt.
And that’s true. But it’s not the way women were created to be. That’s a part of the curse, in the same way that Adam finding the ground hard to farm is part of the curse.

Genesis 3:16 says: “To the woman [God] said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to chil-dren. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Now, some versions of the Bible actually mistranslate this verse and give it a really ugly slant. Some translate it to say that “women’s desire will be to control her husband,” but that idea is not in the Hebrew, and that interpretation was never made before 1974, when Bible commentator Susan Foh popularized it.

That being said, the interpretation itself makes no logical sense. In the context of Genesis 3 God is giving a list of curses: 1) You’ll have pain in childbirth; 2) you’ll desire your husband to your own detriment; 3) he will rule over you. If Susan Foh’s translation (which is now widely accepted) is correct then a sin becomes part of a list of curses: You have a curse (pain in childbirth), and then a sin (the woman’s desire to control her husband), followed by a curse (he will rule over you).
The Hebrew, however, points to a straightfor-ward, traditional interpretation: That is, women have loved men and put up with men who treated them sinfully, and women have been subject to that abuse in their quest for love and belonging since the Beginning.

The letter goes on: “God makes a woman’s most important quality to be beauty which fades.”
Women’s beauty is prized far too much in our society. Shoot, women are judged on their beauty! And they judge themselves harshly on it, too!

Yet nowhere does God say that a woman’s most important characteristic is beauty. In fact, the Bible clearly says otherwise. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Yeah, God never says that beauty is a woman’s most important characteristic. Our culture does, and our culture has been thoroughly shaped by humanities’ Fall into sin…

The email says: “God makes men emotionally strong with little to no feelings.”
I’m not sure this is a benefit! Yes, men do tend to be more compartmentalized, and not as multitasking as women, which means that men can separate work from relationships more. Men do seem to have a harder time, in general, getting in touch with their feelings. And this may appear to be a benefit, since the person who is more emotionally dependent seems at a disadvantage in a relationship, and it can seem as if women are always the ones searching for connection. Yet research shows that those who are able to express their feelings live longer and live more contented lives. And women do tend to have closer relationships than men, especially with their children! So, I think this to each woman’s benefit.
“God made men to want women other than the one they have,” she goes on.

And, it does certainly seem that way: Men don’t seem to be as monogamous as women. Yet research, again, doesn’t necessarily bear this out. One recent large scale international study found that 63% of men and 45% of women reported cheating at least once. But I’ve seen other studies that report women cheating more than men, especially among certain groups (like university-educated women who work outside the home).

In the past men have tended to cheat more, but that may be because they had more opportunity, since they were away from home more and mingling with single women more. Women, who were largely at home may not have had as much chance. But when the chance is greater, as it seems to be with working women, it seems that women cheat just as often, or more…

“The only time God got mad at King David,” she goes on, “was when David stole another man’s wife–and He compared her to a stolen lamb, as though she was property.”

Yes, God did get mad at David for having an affair, and then arranging to have the woman’s hus-band killed. But this wasn’t the only time God got angry with David. In fact, the time that God let His wrath really go was when David got all puffed-up and prideful, counting and boasting in the size of his armies rather than relying on God. And with that the Lord brought massive calamity against all of Israel because of it. (2 Samuel 24)

And, yes, the prophet Nathan did compare Bathsheba to a lamb, but not as though she were “just property”. Nathan compared her to a lamb that was loved, and treasured so much so that it even slept in bed with its master! (I’m not trying to say that women want to be compared to even the most beloved sheep; just making the point that the comparison is not as straightforward as saying that God thought the woman was her husband’s property.)

When looking at marriage in the Old Testament, we need to understand that God permitted things He didn’t agree with. The Israelites lived in a society dominated by men, and where having multiple wives was accepted. The fact that the Hebrew forefathers Abraham and Jacob had multiple wives does not mean that God approved of or wanted that. In fact, God designed humans to be one-man, one-woman creatures. In Genesis 2:24, God says: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

And in the New Testament we see monogamy being reclaimed. 1 Timothy requires that the leaders of the church be monogamous. Marriage is set up as a beautiful institution between only two people. But that was not how it was seen in the Old Testament, and it is doubtful that much romantic-love existed in that day, as much as we may try to read it into some of the stories. Ancient Israel’s was a very different culture from ours today, and we ought to have compassion for the women of the time who were disre-garded, and for the men of that time who never knew much intimacy. (King David claimed that he felt closer to his best friend, Jonathan, than with any of his wives! It just shows how badly they had gotten marriage wrong from God’s original intentions.)

So, let’s remember that the Old Testament is a description of what happened, not a prescription of what God always wants us to follow…

“And yet, women tend to be more religious than men,” my writer writes.
Yes, women do! I think it’s that “last shall be first, and first shall be last” thing. When you aren’t as strong, you recognize your need for God more. When you are more emotional and relational, you yearn for more intimacy. Ladies: You should be grateful God made you this way!

The email ends, “It’s not like I think He doesn’t care for women, but maybe He just cares less.”
No. I don’t believe that at all. I think the Bible tells us that God loves, adores, prizes, and treasures women! To prove it, let me end with this:
• Do you know to whom God first revealed that Jesus would be born? Mary, His mom, a woman.
• Do you know to whom Jesus first revealed that He was the Son of God? The Samaritan woman at the well.
• Do you know whom Jesus said would be al-ways remembered on account of their devotion to Him? A woman, the one from our reading who poured out the priceless ointment over Jesus’ head.
• Do you know to whom Jesus first revealed Himself after He was raised and had conquered Death? The women who came to His grave.
• Do you know whom Jesus appointed as the first missionary of the gospel? The first person He called to tell everyone He was alive? Mary Magdalene, a woman.
In the culture of Jesus’ day where women’s testimony was not worth as much as men’s, where women were largely ignored and looked down upon, the Lord Jesus went out of His way to honor women and give them key roles in spreading the good news about Him.

Girls, Ladies: God doesn’t care about you less; He has lifted you up and is lifting you up to where society would never let you be apart from Him! Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Jesus doesn’t love women as much as men. It is a lie; it is intended to drive a wedge between you, women, and God and make you feel helpless and hopeless.
Girls; Ladies: Jesus loves you as a woman! Jesus delights in you as a woman! And that is beautiful indeed!