"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

Monday, October 4, 2010

Raising The Standard: Joyfulness Is Knowing And Being Where God Intended Me To Be

"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love ... these things I have spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." ~John 15:10-11
From The Pages Of Scripture:
A sense of purpose and a sense of belonging are basic to joyfulness. We must know that we are needed and that what we have to contribute is of value to others. Based on these ideas, what could four lepers know about joyfulness? Shunned by family and friends, their lives held no purpose. The lepers had nothing to give. They were aware that they were going to die, and they realized than in them were no resources for life. This is the basis for being "poor in spirit" .God allowed these men in their pitiable condition to be in the right place at the right time to discover an important aspect of joyfulness.
How Does Scripture Illustrate Joyfulness In Being Where God Intended?
Jesus taught that unless we are prepared to lose our life for His sake we will never find it, and if we try to save our life four our sake we will lose it. Where in Scripture did four men save their lives and bring a message of joy to others because they were prepared to lose them? The four lepers of Samaria. Four ragged, starving men slumped against the city wall. They stared blankly into the distance. Death stared back at them. They could see a huge army waiting for their besieged, starving city to surrender. Within the walls a frantic woman cried out to the king. When he gave her permission to speak, she poured out a shocking story. "This woman said to me, 'Give your son that we may eat him today and we will eat my son tomorrow.' So we boiled my son and ate him: and I said to her on the next day, 'Give your son that we may eat him.' But she has hidden her son." The horrified king rent his clothes. News of what had happened reached the ears of those four starving men. It stirred them to action, but what could they possibly do? If they entered the city, they would die of starvation. If they remained where they were they would also perish from hunger. If they retreated to the camp of the enemy, they would probably be killed. Actually, these men were exactly in the place that God wanted them to be. The very law of God prescribed that they should remain outside the city. Each of them was afflicted with the dreaded disease of leprosy. They were forbidden to be with other people. The lepers began to reason among themselves. "Let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare us, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die." When the four men reached their camp, they found it empty. God had caused the enemy to hear the pounding of hoof beats, the sound of chariots, and the shouts of a great army. The troops had fled in terror, leaving everything behind, in the belief that they were being attacked. Tents, horses, food, and their possessions all remained for the taking. With delight the lepers went from tent to tent, satisfying their hunger and scooping up silver, gold, and clothes. They took it out to hide it and then came back for more. Suddenly they stopped and realized what they were doing. For years they had survived by the generosity of their neighbors. They were always receiving and never able to give. They knew how it felt to be hungry and watch well-fed people pass by without caring. Now they were in a position to give, and their city was full of people who were starving to death. They said to each other, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good tidings. If we hold our peace --- if we wait until the morning light, some mischief will overcome us; now therefore come and let us go and tell the king's household." Because the four lepers of Samaria were where God wanted them to be, they experienced the joy of reporting a life-giving message. (From 2 Kings 6:24-7:20)
How Did God Bring The Lepers To The Place Where They Could Be Used?
The lepers knew that if they took no action, they would soon die. They had nothing to lose by asking the Syrians for food. "If they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die." (2 Kings7:4) Death held no sting for these men. In fact, it might have been viewed as a welcome release from their difficult and at times painful existence. Because of the contagious nature of their disease, strict isolation laws were in imposed which made the lepers feel like feared outcasts. The disease could flare up for hours, days, or weeks during which time the victim would suffer fever, pain, and prostration. A leper could live as long as ten to twenty years, but death by tuberculosis or some other invasion of the weakened body was probable. The only hope a leper had was that his leprosy was of the less severe turberculoid type which, even if untreated, can heal in one to three years. These men lived in the presence of death constantly; they were free from its fear.
How Did The Lepers Demonstrate Human Nature When They Discovered Their Freedom?
"And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it." (2 Kings 7:8) They acted like self-centered men with a strong tendency toward materialistic greed. They knew that once the city realized what had happened, there would be a stampede to the camp. As lepers, they were prohibited by law from coming near a non-leper. This meant that they would have to get their spoil before the crowds came. They also must have been tired of begging for food and clothing from the Samaritans. If they had enough silver, gold, and clothing they would never have to beg again. Knowing that this was an opportunity that would never be repeated, they were storing up for the rest of their lives. The only problem with their plan was that their consciences would not cooperate in their self-centered endeavor.
How Did God Reward The Lepers For Being Where He Intended Them To Be?
Godliness is the opposite of self-centeredness. The Mosaic Law was clear in its command: "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18) When a certain legal expert summarized the main duty of the Law he said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." (Luke 10:27) These lepers, so dependent on the charity of the citizens of Samaria in the past, could not withhold this new-found fortune from them. Possibly that very night another child would be boiled and eaten. Possibly that very night another weak man or woman would die of starvation. They realized that their self concern was not right. They were not treating their neighbors in the city as they were treating themselves until they came to their senses and proclaimed the good news to the men of the city. Soon everyone was comfortably fed. The lepers were heroes and experienced the satisfying joy of knowing that they had played a part in saving an entire city from death.
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
Bay lynx or wildcat are two other names by which this carnivore is known. The bobcat is secretive and stealthy. Few see it or are aware that it is North America's most numerous wildcat. Until recently it coped very well with civilization, actually increasing in number and extending its range. Its coat color indicates its territory. A bobcat from the desert regions takes on a sandy, buff color; those from northern forest ranges are grayer with more distinct markings. The color of the animal does not change as it matures nor differ between the male and the female.
How Does The Bobcat Illustrate Joyfulness In Being Where God Intended It To Be?
A blood-curdling scream pierced the silence of the night. Each time the father and son heard the cry they worked even faster to complete their task. Their family was spending the summer in the Northwoods. Together they were building a small cottage on a lakefront property which the father had acquired the year before. This was their family project, something they had all saved their money for and looked forward to --- a place where they could retreat from pressures and interruptions in order to know one another better and meet each other's needs. The father and son had gone into town to pick up supplies. On their way back one of the car's tires went flat because of a sharp stone on the unpaved surface. Even thought they knew what the eerie sounds were, chills still crept up and down their spines. Hurriedly they completed the repair job and then continued on their way. The sounds were those of a bobcat calling its mate. In the weeks and months to come, this family would become very familiar with that wild animal. Several days later as they once again returned home along the dirt road, they spotted an object rolling around in the dust. When they drove beside it, they stopped. It was a little kitten playing in the road. The children excitedly jumped out of the car, but when they reached down to pick it up, they realized it was not a domestic house cat. Long tufts of hair on its ears and its short stubby tail identified it as a young wildcat of the Northwoods. Since no parent cat was in sight, they concluded that it must have been abandoned. Despite its warning snarls and hisses, they picked it up. Feeling sorry for the orphan, the parents agreed to allow their children to care for it until it was old enough to take care of itself. The children were diligent in their new task and spent much time trying to win its friendship. The kitten was a male bobcat and had a fierce disposition even at this young age. They hoped that with love and a little time they could win its confidence and affection. For a while their attempts worked; it seemed to respond to their love and warmth. But despite all their efforts, the cat never appeared to be really happy. When they first picked it up it snarled and showed its teeth, but with each stroke it quieted down and gradually purred like a house cat. The kitten seemed to love the outdoors and enjoyed going outside. When the children went to the lake to swim they tied a leash around its neck and brought it along. Although it was never too fond of the water, it romped up and down the shore looking for food and anything else that aroused its lively curiosity. As time passed the animal grew from a little kitten to a mature cat and its disposition changed, reverting back to the wild. One minute it was gentle; the next it was savage and fierce, lashing out with its sharp claws if someone came too close. The situation worsened. The cat's temperament simply wasn't suited for confinement. One day when the children were playing with a neighbor friend by the water, their guest teased the cat. In anger it lept on the child's leg; its claws making deep cuts. The family was forced to face the fact that it was no longer safe to keep the cat confined. They decided to release it to its natural home. They freed their cat to return to the wild. In subsequent years when members of that family heard the lonely call of the bobcat, they were reminded of their kitten and the fact that, although it looks like its domestic cousin, its personality and disposition are very different. One cat is tameable; the other is not. Their bobcat kitten did not really belong with them and would never truly be happy until it was released to return where its Creator intended it to be.

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