"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Raising The Standard: Hospitality Is Knowing How Long A Visit Should Last

"Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbors house; lest he be weary of thee and so hate thee." ~ Proverbs 25:17
From The Pages Of Scripture:
Every father and mother have a responsibility to establish godly standards of conduct for their sons and daughters. Guests in their home should either demonstrate or desire to learn godliness. King David purposed that he would make the godly of the land his heroes and invite them into his home (Psalm 101). Hospitality ideally should include an agreed upon schedule for both host and guest and clearly thought out purposes for each visit. Idle conversation and over indulgences in eating are two dangers of entertaining without purpose. One of the most shocking crimes in Scripture took place because a host did not know how long a visit should last.
How Does Scripture Illustrate The Need To Know How Long A Visit Should Last?
Scripture warns those who are guests in the homes of others not to overstay their visit. Where in Scripture did a man expose himself and his wife to a great danger because he violated that counsel?? The Levite and his concubine. It is one of the darker events in the history of Israel. "And it was so, that all who saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from this day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day." (Judges 12-30) One day a wife left her husband and returned to her father's house. Four months later this husband visited the home of his father-in-law in an effort to win back his wife. He stayed at her home for three days, enjoyed a pleasant visit, and achieved his objective. On the fourth morning he rose early and prepared to leave with his wife and servant, but his father-in-law insisted that he stay for breakfast. After breakfast, the girl's father pleaded with him to stay another day. He reluctantly agreed to do so. Little did they realize the consequences that were to come because they had not determined how long their visit should last of the further goals which they should have achieved during that time. Early the next morning the son-in-law prepared to leave. Once again the father-in-law persuaded him to stay for another day of feasting and leave sometime later in the evening. When evening came, the father-in-law wanted him to stay overnight so he could get an early start in the morning. But the son-in-law purposed to leave then, even though it was growing late for travel. The son-in-law, his wife, and the servant began their trip home. The dangers of the countryside increased with the lengthening shadows of evening. The three travelers hurried toward the safety of a city. Little did they realize that lurking behind the walls of that city was a danger far greater than anything they would experience along the lonely night paths. When they entered the city a strange feeling of foreboding began to creep over them. The customary practice of hospitality was absent. No one invited them into their home for the night. Finally an old man walked through the city gate. He had been working in the field all day. He urged these three travelers to come into the safety of his home. After he shut the heavy doors behind them, the darkness of night came over the city, and wicked men with perverted minds crept out of their houses. They pounded on the door of this old man's home and shouted their evil intentions to him. The old man attempted to reason with their corrupt minds. His shocked guests listened as these vile men refused to turn from their sinful demands. The husband knew that only his life was in danger, but he purposed to save himself. To him this meant sacrificing his wife. In a shameful act of moral weakness, he pushed her out the door. The wicked mob turned upon her. She became the victim of their violence, and in the morning she was dead. This husband had taken the journey to prove to his wife that he loved her. Instead, he required his wife to lay down her own life for him. The visit of this husband in his father-in-law's home was not only the wrong length, but it failed to achieve the right purpose. The father-in-law seemed more concerned about eating and drinking than about discovering the true character of the one who was to protect his daughter. Before consenting to allow his daughter to leave, he should have spent time teaching his son-in-law how to love his wife. Ironically, this son-in-law was a Levite. it was his job to help to teach the nation how to love God and how to love their neighbors as themselves. (From Judges 19:1-28)
What was the Levite's Motive In Retrieving His Unfaithful Concubine?
Although we read that the Levite "went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again," (Judges 19:3) there is evidence that he was not motivated by genuine love. First we must consider why his concubine was unfaithful to him. As a second-class wife, she felt that she would be treated better by her father than by her husband. In those days, harlotry was practiced for both mercenary and religious purposes. She may have become a harlot to earn money for food and clothing which her husband was not providing. A second consideration is that the Levite waited four months before he went after her (Judges 19:2). Third, his treatment of her in Gibeah was not the type of love which is "strong as death". (Song of Solomon 8:6) Fearing for his life, he allowed his own wife to be abused by worthless men while he went to bed in safety. Why was he not at least anxiously awaiting his wife's return so that he might comfort her? She may have spent hours before she died on the steps of the house while he remained in bed (Judges 19:27). His concern after arising seems to be impatience to leave rather than regard for his wife's safety. The evidence indicates that the Levite was motivated by a selfish desire for a concubine and servant rather than genuine love for her as a person.
Why Did The Levite's Father-In-Law Allow The Visit To Last Too Long?
The Mosaic Law meted a most severe penalty for harlotry and adultery. The punishment was stoning until dead (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:21). It is likely that one reason the concubine went back home was to seek the protection of her relatives. The father-in-law would want to make sure that the Levite did not intend to bring his wife back for a quick trial and stoning. An entirely different reason is that he may have desired the Levite to stay in his home permanently. It seems that the Levites had strayed from their original calling, and some had sold their services and become personal priests for a fixed wage (Judges 17:10). The father-in-law may have felt that the blessing of the Lord would be upon him with a Levite as his priest (Judges 17:13).
What Was The Levite's Response After The Murder Of His Concubine?
The Levite publicly declared righteous indignation. "They have committed lewdness and folly in Israel." (Judges 20:6) His actions, however, seemed to reflect a desire for bloody revenge rather than righteous justice. Burial for a loved one normally occurred on the day of death. This was encouraged by the ceremonial laws which warned against touching a dead body (Numbers 19:11-14). The denial of proper burial indicated a great disgrace (cf. Isaiah 14:18-20; Jeremiah 22:18-19). His gruesome actions attained the desired result. Four hundred thousand men gathered to hear the Levite's accusation against the men of Gibeah. The fact that over forty thousand men of Israel were killed in the war against the tribe of Benjamin indicates that neither the Levite's motives nor the motives of the men of Israel were entirely pure and that their intentions were less than honorable.
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
The ruffed grouse, a native of North America, is known by many names --- drumming pheasant, birch partridge, shoulder knot, grouse, and drumming grouse. The plump succulent flesh of this bird is very delicious. The Indians of the northern United States and Canada relied heavily on it for food, and if the numbers of grouse were low in wintertime, it created a hardship for these northern tribes. The population of the ruffed grouse fluctuates; one year they may be in abundance --- the next year, scarce. Grouse are believed to be at their peak every ten and a half years. The exact cause of the fluctuation is unknown, and hunting pressure does not seem to affect it. Even in refuges where hunting is prohibited grouse experience a periodic population decline.
How Does The Ruffed Grouse Illustrate The Need To Know How Long A Visit Should Last?
Large, fluffy snowflakes tumbled through the air. A blanket of white engulfed the forest, creating beautiful and spectacular sculptures. It was one of the first storms of the season, and the blizzard was so thick that it was almost impossible to see hemlocks fifty feet away. It had been snowing for only a little while, but during this time the white powder had accumulated several inches. The cold, north winds howled as they whipped and blew the snow into deep drifts. Not yet accustomed to the biting cold, the few winter residents of the forest looked for shelter to protect themselves and gain a little warmth. Animals such as the bobcat, the white-tailed deer, and the snowshoe rabbit had grown thick coats. The grouse, too, had a warm, winter plumage to protect itself against the elements of cold. But even so, the frigid wind seemed to penetrate its insulated feathers. The grouse made its way through a curtain of falling snow as it left the protective bough of a spruce tree. It flew low to the ground and did something very unusual. With an explosion of flakes the flapping wings beat the snow as the bird dove down directly into a high snowdrift. Here the grouse would find relief and comfort. By roosting here, the snow's insulation would provide a warm, cozy resting place and allow the grouse to escape the biting wind. There the bird stayed, its feathers fluffed up to trap the maximum amount of air between its skin and plumage. The grouse could spend a few days without food and emerge from the snowdrift none the worse for the delay. As the bird sat there sleeping, many hours had passed. With time came a change in temperature. The sky cleared and the sun shone brightly on the following day. Warm rays of sun caused the surface of the snow to melt throughout the afternoon. When darkness shrouded the forest, it began to grow cold once again. All the while the grouse remained beneath the drift, comfortably resting in its warm confines. When night came, the temperature dropped lower and lower, falling well below freezing, in the morning the grouse began to venture from its dwelling place to forage for food, but as the bird tried to break through the surface of the snow, it was stopped. No matter how hard it struggled, its attempts were futile. The melting snow had refrozen during the night to form a hard, impenetrable crust over the drifts surface. The grouse's comfortable quarters had become a prison. Because of its failure to leave at the right time, what was once a place of safety turned into a tomb. For here the trapped bird would eventually starve to death.
Scriptural References to the Grouse:
"The king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains." ~ 1 Samuel 26:20
This picture was used to describe David when he fled from Saul in the mountains.
"As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not, so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days and at his end shall be a fool." ~ Jeremiah 17:11
The struggle of a partridge or grouse to hatch its brood provides significant parallels to a man who tries to retain unjust riches. The partridge begins with a large number of eggs; between eight and twenty have been found in a single nest. After a short time the partridge rolls out of the nest those eggs it believes are infertile. The eggs are laid in a depression on the ground and are subject to theft and destruction from hostile elements and prey. When a nest is disturbed or destroyed the partridge must begin all over again. These later attempts to nest tend to produce a higher proportion of infertile eggs. When the eggs finally hatch, many of the chicks break out of their shells within minutes of each other. The mother takes these chicks and leaves the nest, abandoning the unhatched eggs. Some would have hatched if she had stayed longer, and others had already become infertile. Thus the partridge, with much extra effort, has an unusually high nest mortality rate. In like manner, the rich man who walks in a vain show "reapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them." (Psalm 39:6) "The riches that he hath gotten are perished." (Jeremiah 48:16)

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