Woman Without a Name

Prospective parents spend hours discussing and researching the right name for their little ones. Countless books and websites as well as friends and family are full of helpful  suggestions, opinions and ideas. Your name identifies who you are but actually tells very little about the whole person.   Due to marriage, divorce and remarriage, my name, like the names of many other women, has actually changed a few times. Unless a person is really important to you or it is someone you see frequently, their name is easily and quickly forgotten.

The book of 2 Kings, tells of a woman of Shunem. This woman is mentioned in Chapters 4 and again in Chapter 8; we are never told her name, she is referred to always and only as “the Shunammite”.

She is a prominent woman but we are not told how this came to be (2 Kings 4:8). She is hospitable, inviting Elisha to dine and building a small room for his exclusive use when he is in her neighborhood (2 Kings 4:10). She is content; when Elisha asks how he can repay her kindness she asks for nothing. She is childless and her husband is elderly; Elisha tells her she will embrace a son next year (2 Kings 4:16). She is courageous, calm, and determined, when her son dies, she tells no one and rides quickly to Elisha (2 Kings 4:20 – 27). She is humble and grateful; Elisha comes to her home, restores her son to life; she falls at his feet in gratitude (2 King 4:37). Some time passes and Elisha warns the Shunammite woman to leave her home and find a new place wherever she can; a seven-year famine is coming. She is wise and obedient; she does not hesitate, she leaves immediately and settles in the land of the Philistines for seven years (2 Kings 8:1, 2). She is bold, upon her return she appeals to the King for the return of her house and property (2 Kings 8:3). She is honest, the King, hearing about her, asks her to tell her story; her story matches what he had been told and the King not only restores her property but orders that she be given any produce from the seven years she was away (2 Kings 8:6)

In a time of plenty, the Shunammite is generous. In a time of sorrow, she is purposeful and controlled. Given a gift she is grateful, given advice she listens. During a time of want she is not afraid but takes practical and decisive action. She is known, recognized, recorded and remembered as a woman with no name but of vast integrity.  I believe God purposefully does not tell us her name because He wants the focus on what matters; on her actions and character. She could be “Anywoman”.  The story of this woman without a name makes me wonder how people would describe me.  I pray that my character is worthy of remembrance and imitation long after my name is forgotten and that God would transform me from the inside out, conforming me to His image. I know that when I get to heaven God will give me a new name, the perfect name – I can’t wait!

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it. Revelation 2:17

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Mukuntuweap – Stand Straight Land

Years ago I took one of those self-assessment tests.  This particular test was intended to help you understand what to do or where you need to be to feel close to God; the idea is that once you know this about yourself you need to go and do that activity or be in that place – often and regularly.  My assessment told me I hear God best when I am studying His Word and feel especially close to Him when I am out in nature.

This week I was able to combine both when I visited Zion National Park in Utah.  Mukuntuweap, or Stand Straight Land, is the name given to this area by the Paiute Indian people.

As the sun was rising over the peaks of this Stand Straight Land, I turned to Psalms to help me praise the Lord…

“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth.”  Psalm 50

“May the Lord bless you from Zion, He who made the heaven and the earth.” Psalm 134

“The Lord will reign forever, Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord.”  Psalm 146

…and my favorite…

“How blessed is the man whose strength is in You; in whose heart are the highways to Zion.”  Psalm 84:5

Later that same day, hiking the Kayenta Trail to the Lower Emerald Pool, I was brought to tears by the beauty of this place and how blessed I felt to see and experience a small part of it.  Every few steps I had to stop and gaze at the surrounding rocks and landscape.  Really that is what Zion is, just rocks, trees, tall rock walls, many rising straight up from the ground, and if you’ve seen one rock you’ve seen them all right?

But if Zion and places like it are not such a big deal, just bunches of old rocks, why do people travel from around the world to spend time here?  There are places that are much more accessible, much easier to walk in.  There are temperature controlled places so you are neither too hot or too cold.  It is work to get to the spots with the breath-taking views and other people have already been there and done that so you could just look at their photos and YouTube videos and save yourself some time, money and effort.

I think a lot of people are like me; they long to be in a place where they can feel close to God and that place is in His creation.  Not all of these people know that God is drawing them.  Some will deny this reason.  But something larger than ourselves draws us to see and personally experience beautiful places and the spend time outdoors.  That “something larger” is God and now part of my heart remains on the highway to Zion, among the incredible and beautiful rocks of Stand Straight Land.

“My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Tri-focal – Now Choose

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.  Luke 6:6 – 11

When you encounter Jesus, you must choose and there are only two choices:

Come closer – the man with the withered hand came forward, he stood next to Jesus.  He turned away from the crowd and looked at Jesus with expectation.  He knew something was going to happen but he did not know what; he didn’t care, he just wanted to be near Jesus.  He chose Jesus; he chose healing and restoration.

Turn away – the Pharisees turned and whispered among themselves.  They rejected Jesus and rejected the truth of The Word.  They were full of rage and the trap they were hoping to use on Jesus revealed their hearts.  They chose to cling to their old life, a life of bitterness, anger, and self-righteousness.

Today is a good day to choose for yourself…

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve:” Joshua 24:15

Tri-focal – Part 3

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

Focus On – The Pharisees

The scribes and Pharisees were watching Him closely – good idea!!  Watching Jesus closely is so worthwhile, He is interesting, endearing and altogether lovely BUT why were they so interested? They hope to trap, accuse and persecute Jesus; their motives were all wrong.

But when Jesus puts the  focus is on them, they remain silent.  They have no answer to His direct question.  They claim they are the defenders and teachers of the law; they should know it perfectly.  Why don’t they answer?

A withered hand is restored and the Pharisees are filled with rage, not just frustrated and annoyed, enraged – why?  They just witnessed a miraculous healing, why aren’t they celebrating with the man and praising God?  Not the Pharisees, they whisper together, to them, people don’t matter, rules rule.  They would rather be plotting a trap for Jesus.

Christians are always being watched and the more public we are the more closely we are watched.  Pharisees watch hoping to catch Christ followers in sin, failure, or hypocrisy. Believers are not perfect and we will and do sin, fail and act like phonies and fools.  When we do, we need to be quick to ask for forgiveness from those we’ve offended, to admit our sin and failure, to make amends.

Oh Lord, help me to be aware that I am being watched.  Help me to live above reproach and when I fail to ask for forgiveness quickly.  Help me remember that I am not the target, Jesus is!  It is the reputation of Jesus Christ I need to uphold, it is the reputation of Jesus Christ that is being attacked and defamed. Lord, show me if I am ever being a “Pharisee”, if my attitude or words are judgmental or condemning, help me to be someone who extends grace .  Help me to walk in a manner worthy of being called by His name, Christian.

Tri-focal – Part 2

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

Focus on The Man

I have a large scar on the back of my right hand.  I have had this scar since I was a baby and in my younger years it was much larger and very obvious; it has gotten smaller with the passing of time.  I never think much about it unless someone notices and comments. I used to feel very self-conscious and uncomfortable whenever I was asked about it.

Jesus sees the man with the withered hand and tells him to come forward.  I can guess how the man feels, awkward and  uncomfortable, not wanting to be noticed, yet,the man does not hesitate.  Jesus could have healed the man from across the room but He wanted him to come close to Him.  What was it about Jesus that compelled the man to obey?  Whatever it was, I want that same “Jesus fragrance”.  I want to be someone who draws people closer to Jesus.  I want to stay close to Jesus, breathing deep of His aroma.

The man does not hesitate but walks forward; He makes the best decision and moves in the right direction – towards Jesus!  Oh God, help me to continually press in close to you!  The man was willing to be exposed before the crowd when he stretched out his hand and revealed his shame, his embarrassment.  When we expose our weakness, our shame, sin loses its power over us and God’s glory is displayed for all to see.

What did the man think was going to happen?  Jesus did not give a hint.  The man walked forward in faith.  He expected nothing and got everything!  Oh Lord, increase my withered faith to obey you immediately without caring what others think!

Up Next – Focus 3, The Pharisees

Tri-focal – Part 1

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!”And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:6 – 11

Jesus, in the place of meeting and discussion is teaching; in the three years He ministered on earth, Jesus spent hours teaching, explaining and discussing the Word of God with people.  Jesus sees a man with a withered hand.  He also see the scribes and Pharisees watching and He knows what they are thinking – He always knows but knowing does not change what He intends to do, to teach.  He knows my thoughts before I do and the deep desires of my heart.  He knows that sin begins with a  thought and He wants to change me by changing the way I think.

Jesus saw everyone; I love that about Him.  Jesus really sees the least of them, the ones who were wounded inside and out; on this day He sees the man with the withered hand.  How often do I walk past people, barely noticing their existence or worse, deliberately ignoring the person I just don’t want to see or deal with?  Oh God, help me be sensitive to the people right around me, forgive me for the times I have chosen to ignore someone.  Everyone is wounded in some way, hurting, in need of a kind word or prayer, it only takes a few moments.  Jesus notices me, how can I fail to see those He loves and died to save.

Jesus questions the watchers about the law they claimed they knew and zealously argued and upheld; He wants them to see the true purpose of the law was not to condemn but to show our need for a Savior; the law could change behavior but it could not change a heart.  He restores the withered hand and the spirit of the man.  Jesus, the Great Physician the ultimate healer is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Up Next, Focus 2 – The Man

Just a Question

But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Luke 6:2

Lots of great discoveries are made because someone asks a simple question but sometimes the person asking the question does not really want an answer, they just want to see you squirm.

The Pharisees often tried to trap Jesus with their questions and that was their intent here; they had seen Jesus’ disciples picking and eating grain from the field.  Deuteronomy 23:25 specifically permits plucking grain by hand;  it was the use of harvesting tools that was prohibited.

Jesus, instead of ignoring them, asks them a question.  He asks them a question about The Bible and their own history. Jesus refers to the time when a hungry David took bread from the temple (1 Samuel 21), bread that had been dedicated to God, holy bread.

I love how the living Word, the Word made flesh, uses The Bible to expose their motives and reveal the true state of their hearts to themselves, Jesus already knows what they are thinking.   And that is what The Bible does, as we read it and meditate upon it we learn of a holy God, we see ourselves as we truly are; lost sinners in need of a Savior.  Jesus Himself is the answer to every question of your soul, ask Him your questions.

Just Passing Through…

Now it happened that He (Jesus) was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath – Luke 6:1

Most of the time when we read of Jesus, He is still; He is teaching, sitting, healing or speaking to a crowd.  Here we see Him passing through on a Sabbath, this is “not the norm” for Jesus and it gives me pause…

Is Jesus just passing through in my life, in my heart, in my home, or, worse, would he just pass unnoticed through my church?

I hope not.  I invited Jesus into my heart, I want Him to make His home there, to dwell and abide with me.  He is ready and willing to abide with me.  What changes must I make to spend time with Him, to allow Him to be “at home” with me.

Would Jesus be welcome to enter my church with His dusty feet and worn robe?  Is my church the kind of place where Jesus would want to sit?  How about His companions, the prostitutes, the tax-collector’s, the beggar’s – what kind of welcome would they experience?  Would Jesus be invited to sit in the front or would He be directed to a more hidden corner, off to the side?

What would Jesus think about what He hears and observes in my home, in my church?

I don’t want a “passing through” Jesus, I want Jesus to take over, to set up camp, to feel welcome and blessed.  I want Jesus to have the keys, to take ownership, to my home, my church, my heart.  How about you?