April 27, 2022
Lesson 6 of 6
The last person the Samaritan Woman expected to see was a Jewish man at the well. This was her quiet time … that one moment in the day when she could get away from the stench of her sin … that one moment she didn’t need to worry about women mocking her … telling her how cheap she’d become … telling her she was no good … she was filth … many swearing to have nothing to do with her.
As she marches forward in the noonday heat, she’s encouraged to go one more step before resting at the foot of the well. After propping her back against the hot bricks, she hears footsteps then a massive shadow blots out the sun. She tries to make out the individual, but she can barely see his face. Overwhelmed, hairs raising on the back of her neck, she wonders who he might be and why is a Jew at the well at this time of the day? Will he insult her? Will he permit her to draw water and return home without incident?
It must have been an awe-inspiring encounter.
What if the Samaritan Woman had restricted the coming Messiah to that of a King donned in fine clothing with a scepter in his hand?
Where is the plan for salvation for her? How does she answer the call? Would she recognize the Savior?
We are a wretched generation, always looking for signs and wonders to prove God exist, only to disprove the very wonders we used to validate him. Forever changing our expectations to bigger and grandeur benchmarks.
Isn’t that exactly what the Pharisees and Sadducees did to Jesus? If only you would perform a miraculous sign. If only you would rescue yourself Jesus and come down from the cross, then we would believe. And when he didn’t … Ha! Look at Him! He can’t even save himself. (Mark 15:29-31)
It takes faith to believe Jesus is the Son of God. It takes faith to believe in the one you cannot see.
Just like us, the Samaritan Woman believed and relied on herself for too many years. Told herself a million times, I can handle it. Marrying one man after another in search of happiness. Never reaching her goal. It wasn’t until Jesus spiritually rescued her that she was able to leave her sinful world behind and find rest in the Christ. Can you imagine what it must have been like … how invigorating it must have felt to tell the man in her bed to BEAT IT!
You have pursued careers, worked tirelessly in your home, are well-read; and have lost more friends than you care to admit, leaving you lonely and abandoned. Some of you don’t know what to do with yourselves and are walking aimlessly through your journey on this earth. Several of you are people-pleasers, always living in fear of not making everyone happy.
Though the Samaritan Woman wanted to be loved and at peace, time and time again love and peace eluded her. She was an over-achiever, a perfectionist who was convinced if she perfected her methods the right man would come along and things would be good. She was trapped in the same old sinful patterns year after year; trapped in her own schemes to be like those around her–married with a family. Her sinful behavior placed her on a collision course that would delve her deeper into the abyss. Never ever self-reflecting long enough to make needed adjustments. Probably marrying the same kind of man every … single … time.
We’re all like hamsters on a running wheel …. running, running, running … going nowhere fast.
The Messiah has a message for you:
“I, who speak to you, am he.” (John 4:26)
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
When was the last time you were at the well?
Has the world overcome you?
Are your hands in too many fires?
Is your husband wearing you out?
Have family issues become too much to bear?
Who is this Messiah who offers you redemption? (Read Isaiah 53:1-2)
Do. You. Know. Him?
Let the Word of God describe him for you as Jesus claims to be God in this passage:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” (John 10:27-33)
Jesus is described again in Hebrews 2:14-18:
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
During your prayer time, also read Romans 8:1-39.
These passages of scripture describe our Lord, explain his character, and expresses his profound love for us.
Jesus in all his magnificence was both man and God.
I describe him this way:
His humanity, coequal with yours
His divinity, exposed everything
His power, unlocked death’s chamber
His spirit, alive among the dead
His words, everlasting life
His ascension, endless hope.
The Samaritan Woman didn’t know any of this. Not at the time.
But later … after her encounter with Jesus at the well, she did not hesitate to cry out the Messiah’s message. She couldn’t help herself. She didn’t stop to question if people would believe her or not. She didn’t contemplate the man left in her bed. She didn’t hesitate to leave her water jug behind. And she didn’t think once about the rumors that might spread about her talking … once again … to a strange man.
The Samaritan Woman was on a mission. A spiritual mission. And nothing would hinder the delight she found in the Lord.
When was the last time you visited the well and engaged in a conversation with God?
If you keep dissecting the conversation between the Samaritan Woman and Jesus, you will notice a battle between worldly concerns and spiritual fulfillment. Physical thirst v. spiritual thirst.
Notice how the intrigue of their conversation deepens the moment the Samaritan Woman makes a plea for this living water Jesus offers her.
“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’ He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.'” (John 4:15-18)
Why would Jesus change the subject from living water to a question about her husband?
For there to be reconciliation to our Holy Father, the Samaritan Woman had to become aware of her sin so that awareness would bring about repentance.
Are you aware of your sin? Have you repented?
Turn to Ezekiel 14:6. It reads:
“Therefore, say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!'”
Let’s read Romans 3:19-24:
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Also, in Acts 17:30, it reads:
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
No matter how ignorant or well-meaning this woman might have been, the way to salvation is the same for everyone. Don’t get caught up in this idea of people being good and dismiss the biblical truth that all are lost if they do not turn away from their wicked ways, repent, and be baptized into Christ. (Romans 1:18-20)
Let me ask–Why is the gospel good enough for you to obey, but insufficient for others? Why move God’s commands like a slide-ruler because you’ve run across a very good person? His rules are what they are. No one is given a free pass because of their goodness. Everyone has sinned. (Romans 3:23)
I have another question: Would the Samaritan Woman fully understand the kind of water Jesus was offering had he not made her recall her sinful life?
I don’t think so.
Attention had to be drawn to the way she lived and contrasted with what Jesus had to offer her.
Did she immediately understand?
No. He had to reveal his divinity by exposing his knowledge of her life.
And it was then that she became amazed at his words and believed.
Divine healing begins when your soul is laid bare and fully exposed during your confession. This is a shameful experience. Once you repent from the heart and obey God’s instructions to be baptized into Christ, divine healing covers you in forgiveness and righteousness. Once God’s truth pricks the puss infecting your soul, you will experience healing and peace. You have no more hurdles to cross. No more tap dancing is required. Excuses are no longer needed to cover your nakedness because you are constantly covered by the blood of Jesus.
Like the Samaritan Woman, you rejoice and become so giddy with excitement that you can’t wait to tell all who will hear of the salvation you received.
The Samaritan Woman didn’t come seeking this living water. She came to a well constructed by her forefathers–an earthly and traditional place–to draw upon water to quench a physical thirst. Jesus came to quench a spiritual thirst … a thirst her soul had been craving for many years … a thirst that could not be satisfied with physical water.
When was the last time you engaged in a conversation with the Lord and drank from his everlasting water?
What do you seek? To recapture your traditions? To safeguard them?
Think on this: If the woman at the well had been too focused on Jesus being a Jew, she would have run away from him before he spoke a word. If she runs, she misses the message. If she misses the message, she misses an opportunity to drink his everlasting water.
More often than not, we come to God with open hands and open mouths, wanting more … failing to spend time in thanksgiving. We prop ourselves up with outside stimuli and engage in conversations that trigger a competitive spirit. We have a knack of trading his spiritual gifts for stingy tithes. Giving him only ten minutes out of a twenty-four-hour day. We’re rebellious. Disgruntled. Ungrateful. Pious. Complainers. Gossipers. Too self-reliant and self-righteous to acknowledge all blessings come from God.
God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to shed his blood because lambs and bulls and pigeons could not take away man’s transgressions. God allows you to give from the heart rather than tie you down to a tenth of your earnings. Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice. He paid a debt he did not owe. We owed a debt we could not pay.
He is our living water. He paid your debt.
Let me read God’s comforting words to you.
First, hear his warning to the wicked, in Romans 1:18-32:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
Now, to the saved, … Read Hebrews 2 on your own time because it goes hand-in-hand with Hebrews 3. Hebrews 3 reads:
“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
“So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.
“‘Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.'”
IN CLOSING, I want you to know it is possible I will never get to teach you again, and I want to leave you with these words in hope you will never ever forget them: No matter what evil comes your way … no matter what form it takes, OBEY the Lord our God with all your heart and soul. Let nothing … and I mean, NOTHING come between you and God, and don’t let anything separate you or stop you from serving God. People will hurt your feelings. DON’T stop worshiping with the body of believers because of them. People will talk behind your back. DON’T retaliate. Answer kindly. They will sabotage you. If they want your position, give it to them. They will sometimes try to physically harm you. RUN for your life. Or give it up if it leads to their salvation. But don’t you dare, ever stop obeying the Lord God Almighty. He desires obedience rather than sacrifice.
Second, from this day forward, as you read scriptures, read God’s Word as if you are there in the scene with our forefathers, feeling what they felt, standing in their shoes. Dare to imagine yourself between each and every line of the scriptures you read. It’s okay to be uncomfortable for your uncomfortable feelings can often lead you to repentance. Be bold. Ask questions. Rid yourself of fear. Speak truth. Be holy.
Third, stop being lazy about researching the Word of God. Don’t skim over words you don’t know, customs you’re unfamiliar with. Look them up. Use more than one resource. The internet is often filled with erroneous information that “sounds” true, but isn’t. (For example, research when Jacob married Rachel and compare the internet’s answer to the Word of God.)
Fourth, self-reflect. The scriptures are written to teach and guide you. If you don’t self-reflect, you are assuming you’re good. The scriptures can’t offer encouragement to those who think they need no encouragement. Take on a submissive posture as you read God’s Word and let the scriptures teach, and guide, and admonish you. It’s okay to feel guilty after reading the Word. Your guilt is an opportunity to repent and get in line with God’s teachings … it’s an opportunity to obey the Father.
Fifth, look at your trials and tribulations from a different vantage point. Spiritual closeness with God cannot be attained without struggles. Count your struggles as a blessing for those same struggles will cause friction, cause you to cry out to God, cause you to wait on the Father, cause you to persevere; and when perseverance has finished its work in you, you will be mature and complete… lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Sixth, stop judging one another. For those who sit in judgment are no longer working out their own salvation but sitting in judgment of those who are.
Seventh, pray without ceasing. Pray for understanding. Pray for wisdom. Pray for the brotherhood of believers.
The good news gave the Samaritan Woman heart palpitations and made her leap with joy.
Where is your joy?
Is it wrapped up in where you will eat lunch today? Or will you allow the Word of God to spiritually fill you?
Has someone barged into your life, leaving you to feel inadequate? Or perhaps your competitive spirit has caused a great chasm in your relationship with your sister in Christ and you can no longer love her deeply and put her above yourself.
Some of you have worked your fingers to the bone and can’t or won’t do anymore. Growing weary will only afford Satan the opportunity to disrupt your spiritual peace. God’s Word encourages you to steal away and rest. Stop being hardheaded and rest. (Hebrews 4:9-10)
Remember, all that we do, we do in the name of the Lord. (Colossians 3:17)
Listen closely and cling to God’s love for you:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, AND BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you ...” (Isaiah 43:2-5)
IN SUMMARY, here’s what we have learned today:
- 1. You are not hungry and ready to rush off to have lunch with your friends. You are spiritually thirsty. Seek the Lord your God with all your heart so you can be refreshed and not turn into dry dead bones.
- 2. Nourish your faith by reading and meditating on scripture.
- 3. Let nothing steal your joy–not death, trials, or tribulations.
- 4. Regardless of your circumstances, God wants you to repent, remain in prayer, and be obedient. Obedience is better than sacrifice. (I Samuel 15:22)
- 5. Self-reflect. Examine yourself and see if your behavior lines up with the Word of the Lord. Remember, even if you don’t say anything wrong, your body language and demeanor can convey strong, negative messages. Ladies, soften your demeanor. Smile more. Be joyous.
- 6. Don’t believe the enemy. Don’t give in to the lies. God loves you. Wait on him and he will give you the desires of your heart. Wait on the Lord.
- 7. Rethink how you solve your issues. Seek God’s guidance first. Then wait upon the Lord. (Pslam 27:14) When going through trials, read as many scriptures as you can about our patriarchs who pleaded with God, then had to wait on him. You will begin to see that God always answers prayers. Wait on the Lord.
- 8. Add to your list of needs – prayers of ADORATION. Take time to adore God.
In short, we have learned that obedience pulls at God’s heart-string. Your obedience makes him happy. Being a good person doesn’t cut it because no one is good.
It’s been a joy to come before you to share God’s Word. This experience has forced me to dig deep into the Word and pray for understanding. I’m like you, one of simplicity; a woman who loves the Lord our God with all my heart and soul. Thank you for your patience and your love.
May our God who knows all things grant you peace and safety.
Donna B. Comeaux
one woman out of billions who loves God Almighty
Lesson 5 of 6
April 6, 2022
The Asherites were the most blessed among the tribes of Israel and settled in the western and coastal lands of Galilee. Their rich and fertile land was filled with wooded hills and orchards, and they were known for their olive oil which they provided to Israel in times of scarcity. Think about it–this one tribe had the capacity to fulfill all of Israel’s need for olive oil. This little bible nugget won’t mean much to you unless you know how many Israelites crossed the Jordan River into Canaan. There were 600,000 fighting men, excluding women and children. And they didn’t settle in one place; they were stretched far north as Asher to as far south as Kadesh-barnea.
Like most Jews in the Babylonian era, in the days of the Assyrian king, they were taken captive. But not all were enslaved. The Assyrians weren’t blind. They saw how fertile the land was and took full advantage of it by leaving thousands of Israelites behind to farm it. Over time, after those in captivity were released, many scattered across the globe. Several tribes can be traced from Ethiopia to India. Others returned to Jerusalem. And that’s where we find Anna, the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Asher, the eighth son of Jacob and Leah’s maidservant, Zilpah.
During the time of Jesus, life was not favorable to widows. Some were destitute and left to beg in the streets. After reading Anna’s tribal history, I don’t get the feeling she was in this same predicament.
Being from the tribe of Asher … being a faithful and godly woman, I would caution you about looking upon Anna as someone in financial duress. This was an exceptional woman, spiritually and physically. If you will keep her story in context with the miraculous birth of Jesus and John the Baptist, it’s not too farfetched to conclude God’s miracles extended to Anna–and not only to Anna, but Simeon as well. Simeon is the righteous man who after proclaiming he had finally seen and held the Christ-child, he said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: …” (Luke 2:29-30)
Think of what this proclamation meant to them.
You have any idea how long God has been silent? Do you have a clue how long the people of Israel have been waiting for the Savior?
It’s been 400 years of silence from the end of Old Testament to the beginning of the New Testament writings. And from 63 BC to 476 AD the Roman Empire entered and ruled over the Israelites.
When you’ve been oppressed that long, you are in dire need of a Savior.
If we read the Bible without researching, we miss the significance of these silent years. We tend to gloss over these years because we anxiously want to move on to more profound events in the Bible. We don’t realize these silent years are powerful moments in time. We don’t understand a change is about to take place.
After being under the mighty rule of Rome for many centuries, and growing accustomed to God’s agonizing silence, the people are desperate for relief. It’s not because they are being taxed in astronomical proportions, or weighed down with heavy rules and regulations. It’s because they are enslaved, their God is silent, their freedom gone, and nothing they own is really theirs anymore.
To complicate this time period in which they lived, the Jews are bombarded with soothsayers, false prophets, witchcraft, sickness, diseases, schizophrenia, demonic possession, theft, and disloyalty. (This is the result of disobedience.) Like our street-corner evangelists who preach “the end is near,” the Israelites had their fair share of fake prophets shouting promises of the coming Savior, and emboldened and arrogant enough to claim to be the Savior himself.
During this dreadful spiritual drought, the chief priests added laws to Torah and required more than the people could bear. Oppressed on all sides, the Jews are worshiping without their heart and soul spiritually connected to the Father. They are faint of heart, feeling like a desperate people with no hope. Those in control have no qualms about selling their pigeons and lambs and doves at a high price to the poor. They, too, have lost their spiritual connection to the Head and feel no shame or guilt.
This was the era in which Jesus had arrived.
Imagine how chaotic their place of worship had become–filled with people coming and going–rarely anyone sitting in a peaceful state to absorb the meaning of Torah. Romans ruled. Jews constantly on guard. Unrest, prevalent. People scared. Watchful. Nervous. Rebels angry. Itching for a fight to take matters into their own hands and rescue their people from slavery.
Anna was brave. Amid all this chaos–Roman soldiers lurking nearby … Pharisees and Sadducees correcting … scolding … taxing … working both sides of the political spectrum–Anna was focused. A lot of things were against her. To stand up in the temple was a no-no for a woman of any age, but she did it. To be such a loudmouth in the temple, near the temple, would draw attention to herself and the Roman soldiers might inquire, possibly have her locked up, thrown out, or beheaded. They were touchy — these Roman soldiers — they didn’t like the Jews stirring up trouble. The Jews outnumbered them. The Jews might band together and overtake the Roman soldiers. Any skirmish, any sign of trouble, would make these sensitive and skittish Romans over-react.
Still, Anna stood up and proclaimed the Lord’s arrival.
In the midst of adversity, have you ever stood up for the weak? Have you dared to shut down negative talk and gossip? If you didn’t, what does your silence indicate? What does your silence say about you?
What if the Roman soldiers had heard Anna’s proclamation?
Jesus to rule Jerusalem? You mean, this baby will grow up and some day rule Israel?
Any of the Roman Emperors would have rushed to the scene, snatched the child, and not hesitate to kill him on the spot. Even hundreds of years earlier, had the Roman rulers heard of such a king, they would have bribed the chief priests and given them anything they wanted just to know Jesus’ lineage so they could wipe the tribe out.
But that didn’t happen. That wasn’t Jesus’ story. His death would come later, at a time he, and he alone would dictate.
Here is a woman who is not only spiritually knowledgeable but physically ept–with enough stamina to preach with enthusiasm about the Christ that out-bolstered any man alive at the time. In this era, healthcare was limited to the very rich, and in a worse-case scenario she should be on her deathbed. If we were to read the text without knowing Anna’s age, we’d see a vigorous, dedicated, and healthy woman. But seeing that she is old, there’s no doubt Anna is challenging us to preach the Word of God no matter our circumstances.
If an old woman can stand up and proclaim the Lord, what’s wrong with you? What’s keeping my mouth clamped shut? Age has nothing to do with it. Dedication and Devotion does.
Speaking of age — let’s address Anna’s age.
Calculating her age may have a great deal to do with the Bible translation you use. For our purposes today, I want you to take as many translations into account as possible because the language, the punctuation, and the wording can make a huge difference in the way we interpret Anna’s age. If you disagree with my assessment, please don’t let it overwork you. This isn’t extremely important. Just keep in mind that Anna, no matter what her age, was very old. (See commentary: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/anna-in-the-bible/ )
Luke 2:36-38 says Anna had been widowed for 84 years. If Anna married at the young age of 17 and had been married for seven years at the time her husband died, then she is estimated to be 24 years of age. When you add the 84 years she’s been widowed to her 24 years, that would make her approximately 108 years old when she sees Jesus. If Anna was 12 years of age when she married she would be approximately 103 years old.
That’s a lot of alone time.
Take a closer look at Luke 2:36-38 one more time and let’s examine seven things that stand out about Anna.
- 1. First of all, she’s a prophetess (a rare position for a woman as compared to the number of men who held this role; I can account for only two others that the Bible specifically addresses as prophetesses)
- 2. Anna is also a young widow who has committed herself to the Lord, and her commitment only gets stronger with time
- 3. Anna also never leaves the temple
- 4. She worships day and night
- 5. She fasts and prays all the time
- 6. She doesn’t fail to give thanks upon seeing the Holy One of God
- 7. Finally, Anna speaks about Jesus to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem–in other words, she prophesies about the coming Redeemer.
FIRST, let’s address Anna’s status as a prophetess.
If someone stood in this room and prophesied, the first thing all of us would say, “Well, my goodness. Where did she come from? What was that all about?”
It would be so out of the ordinary, we would have a hard time believing the prophetess wasn’t drunk, or out of her mind. Reminds you of which story in the Bible?
… like Eli supposed Hanna was drunk. (I Samuel 1:13)
And yet, the Bible clearly tells us in I Corinthians 14:1-5:
“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For the one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”
Why is accepting the spiritual gift of prophesy so hard?
For way too long we have been exposed to so-called prophets who are not prophets. We’ve been led to believe profound utterances and noises–which have turned out to be just that, noises–are signs of prophesy, when they are, in fact, not. There is no edification of the church through noises. There are no words of encouragement to lift us up through noises. What we’ve received instead is division, not a spurring to worship and glorify God in spirit and in truth.
Yet, the Bible calls us to be open and accept prophesy. As intelligent people, we need to constantly remind ourselves what the Bible means by prophesy. In I Corinthians 14:1-5, prophesy is understood, it’s encouraging, and it offers consolation. Those familiar with scripture are hesitant to accept the spiritual gift of prophesy. In order to get to a spiritual place where we can accept prophesy, I must ask an important question. Are we so anchored deep in tradition that we cannot be obedient in this spiritual area of our lives?
I dare say there’s not a person in this room who would have accepted the likes of John the Baptist. Can you hear him? A loudmouth shouting from the hills. Dressed in animal skin. Wild, wooly hair. Looking like he needs a bath. Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, you and I would have stood at a distance, arms folded, wagging our heads, and mumbling, “How ridiculous,” under our breaths.
Here it is 2022, and we can hardly stand looking at a woman walking down the aisles of our congregation covered in tattoos. How can we expect to accept John the Baptist sitting next to us today with half of his wild hair brushing against our shoulders, or his locust breath preaching repentance?
As you sit there self-reflecting, are you not liking your reflection? You shouldn’t.
I’m not liking what I’m seeing either. But I must ask myself …
What’s the opportunity here?
Let go of religious tradition and change your heart to one of submission and repentance. (And by the way, I have no idea what that will look like for you.) But if you let go of your tradition, that would mean we would need to be open to God’s direction. If I’m open to him, he might pull me away from my comfort zone. On the other hand, if I don’t follow his lead, it might be harder to purify and refine me pure as gold.
Here’s an important question for you: Do you want to grow, or do you want to stay comfortable? Do you want a close relationship with God, or do you want to hold on to tradition and have everything remain the same, sound the same, and people act the same?
I know. You don’t want to change. You like things just fine the way they are. I get it. You don’t want to work that hard. I hate change, too. I HATE IT!!!! I don’t like to move from place to place, house to house. I don’t like anyone moving my furniture. I don’t like things out of place. I. DON’T. LIKE. CHANGE. — HATE. IT!
But here’s the thing: The word “grow” is in direct contradiction to the word “tradition.”
Keep that in mind.
Babies don’t remain babies. They grow. They change. They mature. They age. They die. They spiritually live again. Keeping your world the same as it was in yester years is a lot like asking your spiritual self to remain in its infant state. Is that what you really want? Do I honestly want to stifle my spiritual growth by remaining in a state of infancy, or should I feed on the “meat” of the Word and grow spiritually healthy?
What if Anna had made the choice to remain in an infant state and not proclaim Christ? What if Anna had not taken a risk, stepped out in faith, go against the grain to proclaim, “Folks, Christ is here?”
SECOND, Anna dedicated herself to worshiping God.
It’s hard for some of us to get up at 6:15 for Sunday morning worship. I mean, “Who gets up this early–besides Grandmother.” Can’t I sleep another 45 minutes? I do. Guess what happens. I wake at 9:50. Hurry about. Then remember, “Oh, I can watch service on Youtube.”
That is “NOT” dedication.
I am convicted by Hebrews 10:24-25:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Notices what sticks out the most in this verse.
“… and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Planning is involved for the first day of the week.
I need to plan to worship.
I need to go to bed earlier.
I need to pray for a peaceful night’s sleep.
I need to be diligent about getting up at the appointed time so I can prepare my heart and mind and soul to worship–on purpose.
You see how we can turn something as simple as going to worship into an arduous task? Our struggles with obedience are endless. Let’s fix this.
Personal Story —
We were led and baptized into Christ on April 1, 1975. After we became Christians, we were on fire for the Lord. My husband and I stood on OU street-corners preaching the word; grabbed hold of fellow students and opened up scriptures; set up Bible studies; called our local preacher in Norman, Oklahoma, at two and three in the morning in search of scriptural answers to our questions, or to appease our curious minds and thirsty souls for more of God’s Word.
Sometimes we’d miss morning worship because we were too tired. (Probably because we stayed up too late playing cards.)
We’d get together for cards again, and during our fun times, we’d discuss the error of our ways. So, we came up with a plan. We called each other every Sunday morning and encouraged one another to get out of bed. If we stayed up late playing cards, we agreed we’d get up and go to church no matter how tired we felt. We were submissive toward one another during those phone calls, heeding the call to get up and stay true to our word. After a year past, those phone calls were unnecessary.
It helps to have spiritual relationships with people who love the Lord.
It helps more to love God Almighty.
To be enslaved to my friendship with this couple is good in the beginning, but it would not sustain me over a long period of time. I would need to grow up and stand on my own two spiritual feet and ante up. God needed to be my anchor. Not my friends.
The Bible should convict you. It should trouble you. It should lead you to admit your failures. And if you allow it, it will help you confess your sins before God. If you ask, God will help you develop a plan to address your issues. Follow the plan.
My spirit is so filled with conviction when the Holy Scriptures reveal the error of my ways that all I can do is shake my hands like they’re on fire.
The truth hurts.
And it saves.
I thank God for his Word because it makes me aware of my failings; makes me desire to be a better servant; places me in a submissive posture.
And though it hurts … though it is convicting … though it is uncomfortable, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Because God is near during my moments of conviction. Where else would he be? He’s the one convicting us. He’s the one giving us the answers to our questions. He’s the one providing help for our infirmities.
What’s the opportunity here?
Stop running from your convictions and sit still before the Holy One and recommit to serve him in whatever area of your life that lacks attention. Don’t avoid repentance. Don’t avoid confession. Don’t run from correction. God disciplines those he loves. It is truly love when God calls you out. He’s saving you a lot of heartache.
THIRD, Anna never leaves the temple.
The temple was a holy place for the people of God to gather and worship him. Over time, this holy place became no more than brick and mortar. New Testament Christians are members of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ of which Christ is the head. When we look at Jesus’ body being the holy temple that embodies his sisters and brothers, how can we possibly leave it?
In many ways.
Recently, I had a conversation with a dear sister in the Lord that disturbed me. Years ago, she remarried outside the body of Christ. Somewhere along her new journey, she decided to leave the church for the growing affection of another.
How did this happen?
Could have been a need to please her husband.
Could have been a matter of convenience–separate cars going in separate directions; two people never able to worship together, but want to.
What’s my point?
Jesus is at the bow … guiding your spiritual journey … giving directions … telling you where to turn … how fast to go … when to slow down and wait … what to say or not say.
If you fail to follow his instructions, you will be left behind or possibly fall out the boat.
Watch yourself!!!! Your first responsibility is to keep yourself blameless. Faultless.
I Timothy 4:14-16, reads:
“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery (body of elders – definition mine). Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (emphasis mine)
What’s your opportunity here?
Listen and follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. He was given to you as a guide, a comforter, a teacher, an interpreter, and as an intercessor for your prayers. Listening to him will lighten your load and cause the world to ponder, and perhaps envy the hope within you. Do not forget what the scripture says in John 16:12-15:
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore, I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
What peace there is for those who belong to God and obey him from the heart.
FOURTH, Anna worshiped day and night.
Okay, I will confess. When I first read this, I envisioned Anna on her hands and knees all day and all night. I immediately rubbed my arthritic knees and back, and thought, “How in the world did she do this?”
Spiritual reality set in and I later understood the commitment it takes to focus on sincere worship. The fruit in this pudding is not time. It’s quality. When the Bible says, “all day and all night,” I get all bent out of shape. My mind goes ballistic! I think about my valuable time. I’m important. I can’t possibly stay on my hands and knees all day. I’ve got things to do. Who will do the washing? The cooking? The ironing? The grocery shopping? I’ve got to have some ME TIME, right?
If you think Anna was exempt from taking care of herself, think again. At 84 or 103–depending how you calculate her age–most, if not all of her family is dead. She would need to rely on the kindness of neighbors for most of what she needed. Let’s face it, Anna had to bathe, eat, and interface with neighbors, even if it were for only a moment.
Because of her dedication to serve God, and him only, I suspect there wasn’t much time for frivolous talk. That’s one way to stay clear of gossip, isn’t it?
There are too many examples in God’s Word of people who have dedicated themselves to service and worship for me to declare I can’t do the same.
Amid much adversity, Nehemiah rebuilt the City of Jerusalem. People plotted against him. Wanted to kill him. Nehemiah not only rebuilt Jerusalem despite hardship, he also stood before the people of Israel and reminded them of their sin against God, urging them to turn to God and worship him only.
Barren and without an heir, Hannah prayed continuously for a son and promised to dedicate him to God. And she did. From Hannah’s womb, came the prophet Samuel.
Abraham, son of Terah, was 75 years old when God commanded he leave Harran for the land of Canaan. Abraham served and worshipped God until he died … through ALL adversities, especially when asked to sacrifice his only son.
These commitments took discipline. And discipline never fails to produce perseverance; and when perseverance perfects its work in you, you will lack nothing. (James 1:4)
In Hebrews 12:10-13:
“For they disciplined (speaking of our parents – my explanation) us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”
What’s your opportunity here? What’s your challenge?
Regardless of your struggle, I suggest you begin with prayer.
You might say, Anna didn’t have the distractions we have today. It’s not possible to spend that much time in prayer.
Who’s telling you that?
Where you get the idea that you cannot devote your life and time to the Heavenly Father?
Think it’s ridiculous?
Okay. Let’s say it’s ridiculous. Then why are you here? Why pick up your Bible and bring it to worship if you don’t plan to use it, place notations in it, or highlight it?
I tell you what’s ridiculous — Playing church is ridiculous! It’s a waste of time.
But you can’t deny that I’ve now placed you in a precarious position. You are confronted with the choice to improve your worship and prayer time, or you will choose to harden your hearts and do the exact opposite, remaining in the same lifeless rhythm as before.
Too often we read about Abraham, Joseph, Mary, Samuel, Hannah, Nehemiah, and Anna and sit back and “wish” we could be as dedicated.
YOU CAN BE! God says you can. Anytime God commands you to do something, he’s commanding what you “CAN” do. He NEVER asks you for the impossible. NEVER!!
If this is true, how will you go about retracing where you’ve been so you can plot the error of your ways? How will you set out (like Abraham) to change and be obedient to our Heavenly Father?
HOW will you do that?
You know you need to make a change.
HOW. WILL. YOU. DO. IT?
Begin with prayer.
Because no one knows YOU better than the Father. I can encourage you, but I can’t be with you every day to hold you accountable. I don’t know your weaknesses. And I won’t always be able to know when you’re lying to me. The church can pray for you, but they can’t make you do anything. You, and only you, can change you. God offers and leaves the door open, but you must walk through it.
You may stumble through the doorway. You will sometimes bump the wall. But only you can choose to get up again and start fresh “every” morning. Every morning, for the rest of your life, the Word of God can produce in you the godliness God intended.
Make the choice. Make the change. Pray for it. Follow God’s lead.
FIVE and SIX — Anna fasted and prayed and gave thanks for the Holy One of God.
You have probably heard me say it before — we get so caught up with asking God for what we want that we don’t take enough time to ADORE him for who he is–the GREAT I AM.
Please don’t hear me say that you shouldn’t make your requests and petitions known before God. You should tell God whatever you want to tell him. You serve Him. Not me. But I encourage you to spend just as much time, if not more, ADORING GOD.
In the COMMENT section of this lecture, request a copy of scriptures devoted to ADORING GOD and I’ll send it to you. When you receive them, read them during your prayer time.
SEVEN, Anna can’t shut up about the Lord.
This gets me excited.
When was the last time you met someone on fire for the Lord? Do you wake up at 10 o’clock on a Wednesday morning and go, “Woo-Hoo! The Lord is here!”
Isn’t that exactly the way we should feel in the early morning hours? There needs to be a thanksgiving on our lips and a song in our heart from the moment we rise until we lie down in the evening.
God is gracious enough to allow me to see one more glorious day, so we should sing songs of PRAISE!
I admire Anna’s boldness.
Think she cared what people thought of her?
Oh, my goodness, she was probably antique as the pillars holding up the temple, people walking by her as if she was one of them. Only sojourners thought she was insane. Everyone else was accustomed to such outbursts, for there were many who proclaimed the coming of the Christ just like there are those today proclaiming the end of the world. These sojourners probably looked in amazement–because of her excitement … because of her boldness–not because of her proclamation.
Soon, they would come to know the Truth when he walked the earth, going from village to village, painstakingly preaching “he is the living water.” Only those anxiously looking for the Lord, who have faith, believe he is the Christ–the Son of God.
To everyone else, he’s another prophet who is about to get what is coming to him. He’s another prophet who will fizzle away in time, leaving them with nothing but a shattered faith, and dwindling hope.
None of this dampens the Truth. The Truth is herald throughout the countryside on a swift wind. Everyone hears about Jesus. Some believe. Some don’t. Some are healed. Some are not. Some see. Some remain blind. Some rejoice. Some look upon him with disdain.
Isn’t it the same way today? Some landing on fertile soil. Some landing on rocky soil, never taking root.
Anna was a prophetess. A bold one. A woman with a one-track mind. GOD was on her mind day in and day out. She spent every waking moment serving and giving thanks to him. He was her mission. He was her goal. He was her salvation. He was her food. He was her strength.
She didn’t have time to criticize, patronize, ostracize, horrify, desensitize, and marginalize those who preach the Word of God.
No one had to tell Anna how, when, or where to serve God. She served him everywhere, all the time. Her service to God meant more than the title, PROPHETESS. To be in his service was who she was from a young age until she was an old woman. Nothing … Nothing knocked her off course.
If fills me with great joy to know Anna left us an example of how to persevere through arthritic conditions, feeble knees, political and social unrest, and still serve the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and soul. Circumstances shouldn’t determine our faith. Our faith should determine how we handle our circumstances.
Spiritually handle your circumstances with the Sword of Truth!
This is the freedom our Father talks about. His yoke is easy. He’s laid it out for you. He’s drawn you a roadmap. He’s given you an instruction manual. Read it. Do it his way. Because … in Christ … when you read and follow his instructions, love his decrees, magnify his name, pray in ADORATION of Him, sing in the Spirit, testify, prophesy, understand his glorious nature, ENJOY his bountiful love, and ACCEPT with all thanksgiving his endless mercy and grace, FREEDOM IS YOUR!!
With this FREEDOM, we can’t help but shout … PRAISE GOD ALMIGHTY IN THE HEAVENS!!
Today, you can become a woman like Anna. Someone who worships God no matter what anyone tells you, what they accuse you of … if your skin is darker, lighter, or you’re pale as a ghost … no matter your financial status, education, political affiliation, or if you live in a rent house, townhouse, boathouse, three-story house, or a $3B mansion.
You see … that hardworking machine pumping inside your chest … that large mass inside your head … Your heart and mind is what God examines. He doesn’t give two figs about earthly wealth. HE CARES ABOUT YOU!
What we need to do right here and right now is examine ourselves to make sure we’re in the will of the Father. Every word you utter matters. Every thought you have matters. The way you treat your sisters matter. The words out your mouth; the way you treat the brotherhood is a reflection of your relationship with the Father. If there’s spiritual interference between you and the Father, there will be division and skirmishes within the body of Christ. And when that happens, you can almost assuredly trace it back to selfishness, self-centeredness, and pride.
So, gather your pencil and paper and map out your day, putting God at the top of your list. Set your mind on him and be dedicated and committed to the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
MAKE TODAY A DAY OF CHANGE.
Pray without ceasing. (I Thessalonians 5:17)
BE OBEDIENT!! Even when it hurts. Even when it’s uncomfortable.
Worship. Every. Day. Live it. Be Holy.
So, what have we learned?
- Be Discipline
- Be Deliberate and Worship on purpose
- Create a plan
- Ask God’s blessings over your plans
- Give thanks and ADORATION
- Live out the Word even when it’s uncomfortable
Serving him with every fiber of your being is of utmost importance, because by doing so, we not only build a close relationship with the Father, but we encourage others to do the same.
May our God who knows all things grant you peace.
by Donna B. Comeaux
My only credentials: one in a billion women who love the Lord our God
Lesson 4 of 6
March 23, 2022
Mary’s Humanity in first person:
There are many misconceptions about me that are uncomfortable … misconceptions that elevate me to heights I don’t deserve. Some suggest I possess an unconsciously quiet demeanor. Others think I’m a woman of rare qualities, able to submit beyond my will. Some adore and worship me. Statues, beads, poems, movies, outlandish rituals, musical compositions, halos, candles, pictures, religious debates– uphold me as a supernatural healer and intercessor, void of human mortality.
I wasn’t present when the world began, or with God as his Spirit hovered over the deep. I didn’t form one creature from the earth or called even greater creatures from the sea. And I sure didn’t create man from the dust of the earth and breathe into him life so he could become a living soul.
I would never have the courage to bear the weight of your sins. I didn’t … couldn’t … wouldn’t die for you. It would never occur to me to plan an escape for you … to offer you eternal salvation so you could be reconciled to the Father. I never raised anyone from the dead, and never will. I never ever healed the sick, or made the blind see.
I’m not God’s only Son.
I’m God’s servant.
An ordinary young woman.
Present at a time God appointed to fulfill his promises to his people.
So, what is the world doing?
It has been a problem since the beginning. People are easily swayed into thinking too highly of others and of themselves.
No, the spotlight doesn’t belong to me. Or to you. God alone should be praised and adored. Worship him only.
I wish there were more adequate words to convince the world of his greatness.
As I recall, the prophets were very direct. Plain-spoken. Still, the people didn’t listen.
As for me …
I was ordinary. Young. Spry. Happy. An obedient servant looking forward to her wedding day. Joseph and I changed our wedding date several times because the Romans made it difficult to plan. They raised taxes and imposed stringent rules every new moon. Joseph was a good man; worked twice as hard to prepare for our future and wasn’t easily deterred.
It’s one reason Gabriel’s message was so disconcerting. The timing was all wrong. So, I thought.
It was winter. The sixth month. Adar (Uh-dar). Gabriel almost scared the life right out of me, standing there happily proclaiming the good news. He had this wide, silly grin on his face. His apparel, radiant. I, on the other hand, was terrified. Knees shaking. Heart pounding. Unable to hold the jar of water in my hands. Eventually, I flopped to the ground as a thousand questions flooded through my mind. At one point, I looked around to be sure Gabriel wasn’t talking to someone else.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:30-31)
Did you hear that?
He called me by name.
Still, I was perplexed. Why was he talking to me? Why come from on high and visit the likes of me? I could think of fifty young girls in our city who were more worthy. I come from a modest home; raised by a righteous father; a god-fearing mother. Why me?
Gabriel didn’t hesitate to make his visit known to me. And he wasn’t about to entertain the questions swirling around in my head. However, what he suggested was downright impossible and his declaration turned me to stone. I was petrified … couldn’t move … barely breathed. What does he mean, “… you will be with child and give birth to a son, …” How is that possible? I am not married. Have never been with a man.
Oooh no. There’s been a mistake. Either I’ve picked up a jug of overly-fermented wine, or I’ve had too much sun.
I slapped my face as hard as I could and pressed my shaky knees together. I was scared to ask, but I forced the question from my lips anyway. “How can this be since I am a virgin?” His response raised hairs on the back of my neck, and Isaiah 7:14 rang through my ears: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Is it possible? Am I the virgin scriptures spoke about? Would God bestow upon me such great an honor?
Shock and awe settled behind my wide-stretched eyes, my jaw dropped, and reality didn’t reconvene with my brain waves for several minutes. When it did, joy spun me out of control. I wanted to leap in the air and click my heels. Until …
It occurred to me that I would need to tell my parents. My sister. This unexpected news might bring them to their knees … cause them to question my account of Gabriel’s message. I couldn’t help but wonder if father would do the most despicable — beat me. I had heard of such things occurring in other homes but never experienced this kind of violence myself. If he raised his hand, who could blame him. Gabriel’s message could potentially bring about shame and disgrace. In situations like this, women were stoned to death, or cast out.
I gathered myself and tried to invoke reason. Had I dreamed or made this up? Given the hour of the day, it was too early to have dreamed anything in broad daylight. Because of the brilliant blue sky, it was unlikely Gabriel’s radiance was a figment of my imagination. As for my father, he would never do such a thing … never beat me. He was a god-fearing man, full of gentleness, kindness, and love.
Joseph, on the other hand, would not be obliged to show mercy. How would I tell the man whom I love that I haven’t been unfaithful?
Fear got the best of me, and I couldn’t stop shaking. When my nerves and mind finally calmed down, I valiantly stood before Gabriel and declared, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
For me to give birth to a son, would be a miracle like none other. It’s been centuries since miracles like this have materialized. But wait …
Months ago we celebrated with my cousin, Elizabeth. Had not an angel of the Lord come to her and Zachariah and announced they, too, would give birth to a son?
I knocked over my jar of water and hurried home to pack. I needed to see Elizabeth … to share my good news … to compare the miracles we now share. She was eighty-eight and three months away from giving birth to a son. Being with her would give me comfort. If anyone could appreciate my good news, it would be Elizabeth.
I’ll never forget how she greeted me once she heard my voice: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Yes, Elizabeth, “Why am I so favored?” I was just ordinary.
Not every day was joyful. The Roman Empire was a thorn in our flesh. Herod issued an edict, ordering every male child–newborns to two years of age–killed. No child spared. Wails swept throughout Bethlehem and surrounding towns and lingered in my ears all the way to Egypt. I woke up in a foreign land, in the wee hours of the morning to mournful cries filling the sky. What were we doing in Egypt among a people who hadn’t treated us kindly? Shouldn’t we return to Bethlehem and help my people?
I cuddled Jesus close to me and kissed his small hands. Caring for my two-year-old helped ease the sea of hopelessness we left behind. Like our great-grandmothers before us … mothers who walked this Egyptian soil … we would not soon forget our misery. Neither did the Romans waste time reminding us they would exercise rule and control over us. After Herod died and we returned to Bethlehem, there was a stench of death in the air, getting stronger as we approached the city. Along the horizon was a long row of crosses standing beside the road. Most who hung there were dead. Those who were not, begged to die.
It was trying times. A time when we ached for the Messiah.
Little did I know how difficult things would become … what it would be like to be entrusted with raising a child of God.
When Jesus was about seven or nine years of age, bizarre things began to happen. The sick, miraculously healed; prayers answered in what seemed like an instant. After one of our evening meals, we prayed for a father who had nearly drowned while fishing, later coming down with a terrible fever. Before our prayers ended, there was a knock on the door. The father’s adult son announced he was healed. Joseph questioned the son four times regarding the hour of his father’s healing. “Only moments ago,” he said. “Only moments ago.” As soon as the son left, we turned to Jesus, but he had slipped away. We heard him repairing a bench he had promised to deliver the next day.
On a separate occasion, Jesus went missing. How do you lose a twleve-year-old? Our frantic search led us to the temple where we found him teaching the elders. Losing a child is a mother’s worse nightmare. Fortunately, for us, we were spared a painful separation. From that point on, if I was busy churning butter, kneading bread, or weaving cloth, Jesus often slipped away on long escapades to preach and teach strangers in the city. Once, we found him about five miles outside of Nazareth, standing on a hill, preaching to a crowd of children. Ha!! As I look back on it, I’m certain it was his way of practicing before a live audience.
We tried to ignore the miracles, but it became increasingly evident Jesus had a special connection to God.
God was not only with him, but in him.
I questioned him once about all the good works he had performed, but he immediately silenced me. “Quiet, Mother. It’s not time yet.” Hmm. Not time for what?
Too often I found myself sitting on the riverbank pondering this question. I must admit, my conclusions were all wrong. I was a lot like his followers, in the beginning, thinking he would establish an earthly kingdom … that he’d come to rescue us from slavery … that he’d come to replace the Roman Empire and reign supreme. We were too carnal minded and unprepared to address our dreadful, spiritual state … too feeble minded to accept spiritual truth to understand him then. Brings to mind what a righteous man once said to me, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” I had no idea what he meant. His words rang hollow.
I never had special powers. I wasn’t a prophetess. I wasn’t capable of spiritually interpreting those words to mean I would lose my son to evil, brutal men. Hard to fathom losing a child. Harder to lose a son to despicable people bent on crucifying the innocent.
Yes. I admit it. I was warned. But those words weren’t enough to prepare me for the gravest burden ever–his death.
To watch him be taken because of rumors and accusations, jealousy and envy, money and power, to a merciless crucifixion was too unbearable for words.
They took hold of my son and flung him around as if he were fodder for their mindless games. Parading him through the wicked arms of the chief priests … watching as they appealed to Pilate for his death was horrendous. Many in the crowd had witnessed him healing the sick, raising the dead, forgiving sins. Yet, there they stood shouting and hurling insults. Their treatment of him resembled the cruelty many go through when thrown in an arena waiting for the lions to pour in and devour you.
They cried out, “CRUCIFY HIM!!”
This is MY son!!! My first born. The one to reign over the house of Jacob forever. “Tell them, Jesus. Tell them how you will rule the earth … that you are the Son of the Most High. Don’t let them do this to you. I have seen what you can do. You have healed and blessed and turned water into wine. For crying out loud, you walked on water. This is the time to reveal yourself … your greatness. Jesus. Please! Show them who you really are.”
Those words remained trapped in my throat, never to escape my lips.
Roars of the maddening crowd were heard all around me. Laughter and heckling drowned out everything I wanted to say. Seething anger pressed me like a cake of figs. Loud voices raged. Then they did the unthinkable. The massive crowd inched forward toward Pilate and bargained for Barabbas.
How dare they do this–trade my son’s life for that of a thief. Do they not have children of their own? Can they not see his suffering? They are about to spill innocent blood. Is there no compassion in the world anymore?
John and Mary of Magdalene held me up because I was too weak to stand on my own. Pools of tears blinded me and I could no longer see my son standing before a herd of vipers, or see the jagged edges of torn flesh streaking across his body — flies feeding off him, sweat burning him, spittle caked to his nose … on the side of his face.
I hear the whip lashing his back. Can you hear it? Can you? When was the last time you heard those lashes … the groans … see how the pain distorted and deformed his face?
“Let it be me,” I said inside my soul. “Let me take his place.”
No one heard me. Evil forces clamped my tongue to the roof of my mouth.
Great halls and huge pillars couldn’t … wouldn’t bear his pain. The earth shifted and moaned with him. Rocks cried out and crashed to the ground! The disgruntled sky resembled pillows of smoke. When they pressed the crown of thorns on his head, I gasped … held my breath as blood poured from him like a swollen river. Anguish and terror released from me, and I cried out, “Yeshua! Yeshua! I’m here, Yeshua!” With all my might, I tried to push pass the soldiers, but they hemmed us in. I pleaded, “He’s my son. Let me through.” Our voices, mere whimpers among the soldiers’ scoffs.
Their minds were set. Yes! They were determined. Hearts hard as stone. Hands stained with blood. My son’s blood.
The. Worse. Day. Of. My. Life.
My family has never cried so long and hard. My second oldest, Simon, was angry. Joses wanted to fight everyone involved in his brother’s death. James couldn’t stand it and ran off to sulk in his pain. Several disciples wrestled Judas to the ground to keep him from barging through the crowd to attack the soldiers. My daughters wailed. (Mary’s family – Mark 6:3)
Together we made the unbearable walk to his tomb. Many times I faltered, too reluctant to make another step toward our final goodbye. After placing his body in the tomb, I wept for two days, stealing off to a nearby river to weep, and to allow Jesus’ childhood memories to take hold of me.
Wasn’t it yesterday when he fell and bruised his knee and I thought he’d walk with a limp for the rest of his life? Silly me. Before concern swelled inside me, he was like new again.
I remember his gentleness when correcting neighborhood children on misinterpretations of scripture … how baffled they were at his knowledge. He never missed an opportunity to speak to teachers of the law, speaking with authority–without one day of schooling. He did everything with such humility and patience.
Not long after he died, I prepared his favorite meal–I couldn’t help myself–lentil soup with loaves of fresh Bread, a bowl of cool cucumbers, and roasted corn. I sat them on the table and closed my eyes, remembering how famished he was after a long day of making cabinets, tables, and benches. I ruffled his hair then patted his hand to slow him down so he wouldn’t continue to eat like a hungry animal. My hand patted the table instead. It was clear. He was no longer with me.
A hole filled my heart. I was bruised. Wounded. A sword had sliced through my soul and left me for dead. I couldn’t move … could faintly hear. My pain, too deep to soothe. An anguish too inconsolable.
Why kill my son? What crime had he committed? Who did he wrong?
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, kept watch over me night and day. I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. If I closed my eyes, I’d see my son’s bloody body and flinch each and every time that whip struck his back.
I still see the blood on my hands … on my clothes … the deep lacerations … long thorns embedded in his brow.
No. No mourning feast for me. Nothing can bring me comfort. Solace forever eludes me.
The only modicum of comfort I received was knowing the women with us would move forward to properly embalm my son. They debated who might roll away the stone. Though they never determined who would help them, they plowed ahead to the tomb anyway.
That’s when everything changed.
Mary of Magdalene burst through the door and announced, “He’s risen! The tomb is empty!” We looked at one another in disbelief. In unison, the disciples asked, “How can this be?” In meticulous detail the women explained how an angel of the Lord declared Jesus had risen from the dead. After inching their way inside the tomb–fear and disbelief in their eyes, a glaring light streaking through the cave, the morning heat warming them–their senses came alive.
The tomb was empty.
Mary of Magdalene recalled she carefully lifted a corner of the burial cloth, her eyes filled with awe and wonder. Others patted the linen cloth as they circled where Jesus had laid. No one spoke. No one attempted to explain.
Upon hearing the women’s account, I immediately thought someone had stolen my son’s body. Why would the soldiers do this? The disciples dismissed the women’s account and left to go home, or go fishing. But John and Peter raced to the tomb to see for themselves if what the women had said was true.
As crazy as it sounded, I still hadn’t fully convinced myself that someone hadn’t stolen his body. I wondered if I was just an overwrought mother still grieving the loss of her son. Oh, how I wanted to see my son. In truth, I didn’t care how crazy the women’s report sounded. I would do anything, believe any report if it meant I could see my son again.
It wasn’t until Cleopas, my sister’s husband (John 19:25) and his companion rushed through the door and told us they had seen him. I retreated to a corner of the room, wondering if they had fantasized as we had done or if it was indeed true. These last few days have been hard and long. Wouldn’t my son have pity on me and come reassure me how things really are for him? Wouldn’t he be sensitive enough to ease my soul from this indescribable pain?
Then it happened.
He did not knock and walk through the doorway. He did not call out from the heavens. He did not send messengers to alert his coming. He appeared–standing among us to ease our burning hearts and help us accept truth.
Hadn’t he warned us? Hadn’t he told us on many occasions that he was “about his father’s business?” That he’d come to “seek and save the lost.” That in three days, he’d rise again? I, for one, thought the number three was symbolic. It never occurred to me he literally meant in three days he’d be alive again.
Jesus, the Son of God, had risen from the dead.
Jesus, the Son of God, stood here in the house with us. In the flesh. In the Spirit. Three Persons in One. Alive. Breathing. Flesh and bones. Thomas’ misgivings about the Christ gave us an opportunity to see my son’s wounds for ourselves … the holes … the scars and lacerations … to see they were real.
The reasons we concocted for his arrival in this world were wrong. He subjected himself to a lowly birth and became human in a fallen world so he could reconcile us to God. He came to bear the weight of our guilt and shame. It was our sins that made the earth shake, the sky darken, the dead to rise and walk the streets.
This understanding demolished our confusion.
Healing eased our pain.
Joy replaced our anger.
Confession eradicated blame.
Every one of those 40 days he was with us was indescribable joy. I was never so happy. I must have rubbed his head, hugged his neck, and kissed his cheek a thousand times. I’d walk beside him, squeeze his arm, just to reassure myself he was flesh and blood … again.
When he left us for a second time to ascend into heaven, a part of me wanted to go with him. As he rose, I reached for him, my tear-filled eyes pleading for him to stay and allow me to hold him one last time … to cup my hands and memorize the contours of his face. But in that moment, it became evident, he no longer belonged to me alone. He was God in the flesh, spiritually transformed for us all. He looked into my eyes and gave me comfort. Then he said,
“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power on high.”
While he blessed us, he left and was taken up into heaven.
I don’t have enough words to describe the impact of his promise and the indelible imprint he left on my life. I am indeed a blessed woman of all women. I thank God for finding favor and choosing me to give honor and glory to him, and an opportunity to live out the mission he set before me.
As ordinary as you are, he has designed a mission for each of you … a plan tailor-made which will bring glory and honor to Him.
Listen and Obey.
May our God who knows all grant you peace.
by Donna B. Comeaux
one in a billion women who love the Lord our God
Thursday, February 3, 2022
|“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4|
Every hour of every day we pray the pandemic will disappear. We’re tired of living in a carbonated bottle that’s about to explode. People are angry, disgruntled, pumping their fists out of car windows, yelling obscenities, pointing accusing fingers, arguing over any and everything that matters to them.
No one is compromising.
Most mornings we wake agitated. The last thing we heard before going to sleep was the nightly news.
We have no control over the world.
However, WE CAN CONTROL OUR OWN LIVES.
It’s your life. Take it back! Consider each day a new beginning. The world may be blazing all around you, but you can choose to engage in a deep reading of God’s Word. God is with you, using his rod and staff to direct and comfort you. There may be days when you don’t feel God’s presence, but it doesn’t mean he’s not with you. HE IS. He’s holding you. Believe it!
PRAYER: Dear God, please give me a sense of peace. Refill my mind with the holy scriptures.
IMAGINE God lending you a hand as he lifts you from your knees and places you in his loving arms.
READ Isaiah 41:10
Donna B. Comeaux
One woman among billions who loves the Lord our God.