Tag: Jesus

The cat who looked at the King

I haven’t posted anything for a long time. I thought a good way to get back into it would be with a story I wrote that takes place during Holy Week. Enjoy.

Her Most Royal Highness, Daughter of the Moon and Empress over All Things Elegant and Beautiful, Princess Ahmose-Nebetta the Twenty-third, made her rounds of the Temple courtyard as she had done every day for the past eleven years. “How fortunate the commoners are!” she thought as she glided by. If only they knew that when they gazed upon her majesty, her eyes of gold, her sleek fur the color of the Egyptian sands, her very form the pinnacle of beauty and grace, they were gazing upon the royal descendant of the great queens of Egypt. Yet every day she marveled how these lowly peasants merely walked on past as though they couldn’t even see her. Occasionally, though, one of them would give her a piece of fish or meat, smile at her, and tell her what a pretty little puss she was. It was insulting to be called puss, but she knew that even a princess needs to eat, so she forgave them.

Every day she saw people milling about, buying animals or changing money, talking, arguing, laughing, or, occasionally, remembering that they were in the house of God. The spring holy days were approaching and now the temple courts were even busier than normal. This morning, after being nearly trampled three times, she gave up making her rounds and leapt onto a low wall to watch the crowds in safety.

The Princess understood the language of humans well enough. It wasn’t difficult to learn, for they only ever talked about money, taxes, food, the Romans, or marrying off their children. She listened to such chatter now, not paying much attention, as the spring sunshine baked into her aging but still beautiful bones.

Then, suddenly, she perked up her ears. Here was something different! A voice. A man’s voice. Just like all the others, yet, somehow, not like them. It was a voice that almost seemed to speak her name even though it was not talking to her at all. She scanned the crowd, trying to find who that voice belonged to. It was hard to tell. These poor wretches all looked the same – worried, sad, tired, hungry, and they were all so incredibly ugly! No fur, no lovely whiskers, no graceful tails to help them keep their balance.

Then she saw him. He was speaking to a large group of people that had crowded around him. As he spoke, he surveyed the courtyard the same way she did on her daily rounds. He was no better to look at than any of the other humans; he looked like he needed a good meal and a hot bath. He seemed unhappy with what he saw going on around him. The princess could tell that the greedy money-changers, the loud gossipers, the poor animals–bleating and crying in fear while men haggled over them in angry voices–were distressing him. 

She watched this most unusual human intently. Suddenly, he stopped. One of the men behind him walked right into him, nearly knocking him over. There were many people around him, jostling with one another to get closer to him and hear what he was saying. He seemed to be saying something important but the Princess couldn’t understand it very well. He wasn’t talking about money, or taxes, or Romans, or anything else she was familiar with. He sighed heavily as he looked around him one more time.

“Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” he cried in an anguished voice. “You who killed the prophets and stoned everyone I sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children together just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

The Princess understood this well enough. At least, she understood the tone of his voice perfectly. Once, many years ago, a wicked old woman had stolen her newborn kittens away from her. She had searched and cried for them for days on end, but she never found them. This man’s voice sounded exactly the way her heart had felt – the way her heart still felt, if she allowed herself to think about it.

To her own astonishment, the Princess let out a loud yowl of sympathy. Everyone nearby jumped and turned around to stare at her. But she didn’t care. She yowled again. She wanted the man to know that she understood, that she cared, even though he was only a man and she was the descendant of the great Queens of Egypt. 

She yowled a third time. This time the man himself turned in her direction. Just as they made eye contact, someone in the crowd swore and threw a rock at her. She saw it coming just in the nick of time and nimbly jumped to the side. Then, before another rock could come at her, she leapt off the wall and tore through the thick, dangerous forest of moving legs. She never stopped yowling. She had to get to the man. She had to let him know that he wasn’t alone, that SHE understood what these thick-headed dolts couldn’t. She could still hear his voice, not quite lost in the great sea of voices. People were arguing with him again. Other people were cursing at her and telling her to be quiet. Peasants! Telling a queen to be quiet! They didn’t know that this man needed her. He was hurting, and he needed the comfort and consolation that only a Queen could give. 

She dodged, this way and that, straining not to lose the sound of that voice. Someone kicked at her, just nicking her on her side. She hissed but didn’t take the time to scratch them. She was almost there.

Then, before she had time to react, a sharp stone struck her just above her eye. Her yowl turned into a sharp cry of pain as blood suddenly gushed out over her beautiful fur and feet, splashing on the dusty stones. 

“Vermin, who let you in the house of God?” an angry voice cried. “Git! Git out of here!”

She was dazed and momentarily forgot what she was doing. The blow had sent her reeling backward, and now blood was running into her eye, making it hard to see. It wasn’t the first time this had happened in her long and difficult reign, but it was always unsettling. The wanton cruelty of these creatures was impossible to ever get used to.

“It’s only a cat, Teacher,” she heard a voice say. “Poor thing is hurt.” The voice was gruff but not unkind. A long way from THAT voice, though. 

“Ugh, I hate cats!” said another voice. “Those slit eyes, and they’re so sly and sneaky. Someone get rid of it!”

“Quiet, James,” said The Voice. “This is God’s creature, too, you know. Where is she?”

The fact that he said she and not it was not lost on the Princess. She tried to walk toward that beautiful voice but felt too weak and wobbly. The stone had hit hard. Then, although she couldn’t see very well, she could tell the throng was parting a little. The air suddenly seemed fresher and easier to breathe. But oh, how her head hurt! She cried again, not the mournful yowl of searching, but the high-pitched cry of a lost kitten.

Suddenly he was there, kneeling down to take a look at her. “Hello, your majesty,” he said. “Were you looking for me?”

He said this, not in the coarse language of humans, but in perfect, flawless Cat. She quit crying and gazed at him with the eye that wasn’t covered in blood. But her vision was fuzzy and he wouldn’t come into focus. He went on, “You came here to comfort me but I think for the moment you must allow me to comfort you. May I pick you up to examine you more closely?”

The Princess never allowed anyone to pick her up. If someone dared try, they would be rewarded with a sharp scratch or maybe even a bite. It wasn’t for peasants to pick up a descendant of the great Queens of Egypt! But she could tell now that this man was no mere peasant. “You may,” she said.

He picked her up as gently as she might pick up one of her kittens and looked closely at her eye. “Tsk, that is a bad cut,” he said. “But we will soon set you to rights. Peter, have you any water in your flask?”

“Yes, teacher,” said the gruff-voiced peasant, and he handed over the flask. The special man took a scarf from around his neck, doused it with water, and gently dabbed at the Princess’ eye. It stung, but she did her best not to flinch. He put gentle pressure on the cut until it stopped bleeding, then gently washed the blood off her face, fur, and paws. The whole time he soothed her in a gentle, unspoken language that only she could understand. The people who were with the man looked either surprised or annoyed, depending upon their own disposition. The others, who had been arguing with him, began to walk away.

“James, go and buy a piece of fish for our little friend here,” he said.

“You’ve got to be joking!” said James. But the man gave him a stern look and James walked away without another word. Peter went with him.

“No doubt so they could talk over this unusual turn of events,” said the man, smiling. “Come now, dear heart, let’s get you somewhere quiet where you can rest.” He carried the Princess in his arms as though she were a baby, and she didn’t even mind. They walked through the sunlit courtyard and into a shaded alcove.

The Princess’s head was throbbing, and her eye still didn’t want to focus, but she was so enthralled by this peculiar man that she almost didn’t notice. He talked to her pleasantly about interesting cat things as he gently dabbed her cut and rubbed her affectionately behind her ears and under her chin. He seemed to know everything there was to know about mice and fish, singing under the full moon, and the importance of plenty of naps, as well as all the business in and around the Temple. 

“How do you know all these things?” she asked him with a purr.

“Oh, I’m very interested in cat things,” he replied.

“Why? I’ve never met another human who was.”

“Because I made them,” he said. 

“You made cat things?”

“I made all things,” he answered.

A person might have doubted his words, or thought him mad, but a cat always knows when someone is telling the absolute truth. 

“So you are more than a man,” she said. “That makes sense. I knew you weren’t like the rest of them. That is why you understand my language. That is why your words were the most mournful I ever heard. I wanted to help you.”

“Yes, dearest, I know,” he said, rubbing her under the chin again. She especially liked that. “And I thank you. You are a credit to your noble ancestors.”

“You know where I come from?” the Princess asked, surprised. “You know that I am descended from the Great Queens of Egypt?” 

“Oh, yes, and I know more than that,” he answered. “I remember things you never even knew. I remember a particular ancestor of yours who crossed the great desert between Egypt and this land, so long ago. She, like you, was a great comfort to a grieving heart on that hard journey.”

“You?” asked the Princess.

“No,” said the man. “A little boy whose parents died on the way. A beautiful princess named Ahmose-Nebetta the Third was his particular friend and comforter.” Ahmose-Nebetta the Twenty-third purred even louder with pride in her ancestress.

“And, further back,” continued the man, “your ancestors were on the Ark itself. And, even further back than that, at the very beginning of all things, your noble line began, in a beautiful Garden.”

“And you made us?” asked the Princess.

“Yes, dearest,” said the man.

“Then you must love cats very much! You made us so perfectly! Are any of your other creatures so blessed with beauty and grace?”

“Not to mention a talent for admiring your own virtues,” said the man, chuckling.

“Yet you spend all your time with these wretched humans,” said the cat. “Such an unhappy, prickly lot! Not to mention ugly.”

“Ugly?” cried the man, surprised.

“Why, yes!” said the Princess. “They’ve no fur, just pimply, naked skin like plucked chickens. They lumber around like oxen. And they’re always unhappy, wishing for whatever they don’t have. They never think about anything else. Why did you make them so thick and stupid? None of them can even understand me at all, except for a few crude signs.”

“It wasn’t always that way,” said the man. “They lost their ability to talk with animals when they fell.”

“Fell?” asked the Princess. “What does that mean? Did they all trip and fall down?”

“Not exactly,” he answered. “But they are like someone who has fallen into a deep hole. The harder they try to dig their way out, the deeper they dig themselves into the hole. They’ve fallen in and they can’t get out.”

“So are they all going to die?” asked the Princess.

“Yes, unless somebody reaches in and pulls them out,” answered the man.

The cat thought about this for a moment, then her eyes brightened in understanding. “And that is why you are here? You are the one who is going to pull them out?”

“I am,” he said. “If they will accept my hand. Some will choose to remain in the hole.”

“Couldn’t you grab them and make them come out?” asked the Princess.

“If I did it would be unjust,” said the man. “They have the right to refuse my help.”

“If they refused your help then they would be very stupid indeed,” said the Princess. 

“Well, it is hard to argue with that,” answered the man.

Just then Peter and James found them. Peter had a small piece of fish and James, looking none too happy, had a clay saucer filled with fresh goat’s milk.

“Are you strong enough for some refreshment, your majesty?” asked the man.

“I am since you were kind enough to help me,” said the Princess. Normally she would have acknowledged the kindness of a human with a little purr or rub around their ankles, but she knew now that this man deserved so much more. So she added, “Thank you, my Lord.”

After she had eaten and drank her fill, the man stood up and announced to his friends it was time to find the others and leave for the day. Then to the Princess he said, “You are coming to where I am staying tonight, and that is going to be your new home.”

“But the Temple is my home,” said the Princess.

“It has been,” agreed the man. “And you have guarded it well these many years. But it is time for you to enjoy a peaceful retirement and let another worthy guardian take your place. No arguments, now!”

“I would like to be with you,” said the Princess. “For always.”

“Yes,” answered the man, “but I have important business to take care of and I must be going away soon. My friends are good, kind people and you will be happy for the rest of your days.” He gently scratched her on her chin again.

The Princess felt a sudden sadness she had not known since the loss of her kittens. “I know I am old,” she said. “And I will be closing my eyes soon. Maybe before you come back.”

“Maybe,” the man agreed.

“Can I ask you one more thing?” she said.

“Anything,” he answered.

“Did you really make me?”

He answered yes.

“Then you really do love me?”

He answered yes.

“Then will I see you after I die?”

“Wait and see,” he said.

The Princess was content with this. 

As they headed out of Jerusalem and into the fresh countryside toward the little town of Bethany, the Princess was quiet for a long time, riding on the man’s shoulders. The countryside was pretty, new and green after the spring rains. She could smell sheep, birds, mice, and, in the distance, even the hint of a fox. Being on the man’s shoulders was the deepest contentment she had ever known. How could any human refuse his hand when he offered it?

“It is so easy to be with you!” exclaimed the Princess suddenly. “And these silly, thick-headed people might actually refuse you? How could they? How can they not understand? They will cause you so much pain, just like you cried about this morning. Even worse!”

“Yes,” agreed the man.

“Are they really worth the bother?” asked the Princess.

He answered, “Yes.”

She pondered it for a moment then asked, “Which did you make first, people or cats?”

“Cats,” the man answered.

“I thought as much,” said the Princess. “You should have stopped at cats.”

The man’s laughter could be heard from Jerusalem to Bethany, and beyond.

THE END

A debate over pierced ears?

I already know that this is going to be a massively popular post. Nothing like the topic of slavery to get everybody jumping up and down and shouting hallelujah.

Deuteronomy 15:12-17:

If a fellow Hebrew, a man or woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your wine press. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.

But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your maidservant.

What do I see in this passage?

  1. No Hebrew could hold another Hebrew as a servant or slave AGAINST THEIR WILL. Servanthood was a business agreement the two parties entered into, with specific expectations and responsibilities on both sides.
  2. After six years the servant was released from the contract, and the Master was expected to send him or her off with adequate payment for their services.
  3. A servant might decide he or she was better off in the Master’s house than on their own, and ask to be a servant for the rest of their life.
  4. In that case, the Master would put the servant’s earlobe against the door and pierce it with an awl, thus sealing a binding contract. From that moment on, the servant belonged to the Master for the rest of his or her life. 
  5. The scar in the earlobe was the tangible proof that this vow had been made. The vow could not be broken, just as the ear could not be un-scarred.  If the servant changed his mind later and said, “I don’t want this anymore; I’m leaving,” it wouldn’t matter. The deed had already been done and walking away was no longer an option. He was owned by the Master. He might end up being a worthless, unproductive, resentful slave, but he was a slave nonetheless, and it was a choice he had made of his own free will.

Paul’s writings in the New Testament cover the topic of eternal salvation in detail but this little passage in Deuteronomy (also in Exodus 21:5-6) keeps nagging at me. How is the servant in these passages any different from a person who surrenders his life to Christ? If we give our lives to Christ we are redeemed from the power of sin and death (hallelujah!) but we are also submitting our will to Christ. We are  no longer the master of our own lives, but He is.

Ephesians 1:13:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

In Deuteronomy, we see that the servant became the possession of his Master by his own free will, and the deal was sealed by the awl piercing his earlobe.

In Ephesians, we see that Christians become the possession of God by accepting the salvation of Jesus of our own free will, and the deal is sealed by the Holy Spirit.

If, as Christians, we are the possession of God, then the option is no longer ours to say, “I’m sick of this, I’m out of here.” The deed is done. We belong to him whether we eagerly serve him or run away.

“Heart like an awl” by goldsmith Cheryl Burchell. The symbol of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The only question that remains, then, is if a person actually gave their life to Christ in the first place. Who are any of us to judge that? The mark of the Holy Spirit isn’t as easily visible as a scar in the earlobe. Ultimately, that is something personal between a person and God. But the Bible says that we can know a person by the fruits they produce.

I remember hearing stories about two celebrities from times past, both dead now. One experimented with all kinds of spiritual avenues, and claimed that he “tried Christianity” for awhile but it was a phase that didn’t stick. The other one was vocally anti-Christian for a long time then apparently had a change of heart. He didn’t want to go to Hell and knew he deserved it. He repented and gave his life to Christ and for awhile had great joy, producing creative offerings for the Lord. But the people around him hated what he’d done and did everything in their power to drag him down. As a celebrity he was pretty isolated from the rest of society. He didn’t have a mentor or a fellow body of believers to help strengthen and grow his newfound faith. His joy in Christ eventually withered and he is reported to have said he had a “lucky escape” from that lifestyle. However, in his last few years of life he wasn’t the same person he was before his conversion; not as angry, bitter, or unforgiving as he had been before.

If those stories are even true (who knows with stories of famous people), then both of those men have had their day to defend their lives before the Lord. I doubt either of them heard, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” But one of them treated Christianity as nothing more than the latest pop psychology fad, while the other actually gave himself to the Lord. One of them was free to walk away, and did. The other one had the figurative scar in his ear to prove he wasn’t free to walk away even when he claimed he was done. Which man do you think is happy now with the choice that he made?

None of us, I think, relish the idea of being a slave to anyone. But that is how we were made—remember, we are creatures, not gods. Like Bob Dylan so eloquently put it, “You gotta serve somebody.” We are either a slave to sin (and, therefore, death), or a slave to Christ (and, therefore, eternal life). There is no other option, no other path, no other way. Slavery to Christ is actually freedom from sin, evil, death, pain, worry, fear, sadness, and despair. Jesus is The Great Paradox.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you 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

…If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. – Romans 10:9-13

God’s Arithmetic

Palm Sunday, 2021

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, 

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

(Matthew 21:1-11)

…Yet just a few days later they were shouting “Crucify him!” ??

I always wondered about this. Did the crowds of people really think he was the Messiah, or were they just swept up in the hype of the moment? 

They should have known he was the Messiah. The book of Daniel, Chapter 9, is very specific. It states that the time from when the issue is decreed to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One comes, will be 483 years (69 “sevens”). I’ve heard a few people over the years go over this, including the late Chuck Missler, and Jack Hibbs (senior pastor of Calvary Chapel, Chino Hills, California) just talked about it this morning. They think they know the exact date the issue to rebuild Jerusalem was decreed — March 14, 445 B.C.  Fast forward 483 years (reckoned by the 360-day Babylonian calendar, accounting for leap years) and you arrive at April 6, 32 A.D., as the exact date that Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I’m far too stupid and lazy to try to do the math myself, but even a rough calculation of 483 years from what we know from history as the time Jerusalem was rebuilt takes us into the lifetime of Jesus.

The Pharisees should have known this. They spent their entire lives poring over every minutia of the Bible, and most of them probably had large portions of scripture entirely committed to memory. Yet they treated Jesus as an interloper at best, and a blasphemer at worst. While supposedly waiting for the Messiah, they completely missed him when he showed up. 

I don’t know how literate the average Jewish people of that day were. I think few people would have had the opportunity to study the actual scrolls for themselves, since books were an expensive commodity in those days, but if they at least heard the scriptures read then they would have learned them fairly well. How many people, then, understood Daniel and knew that they were living in the very time when the Messiah was supposed to come? There must have been some people who did the math, but it sure looks like most people blew it.

It makes me wonder how many people will completely blow it at the second coming of Christ. We know from scripture that the antichrist is someone who will affirm some kind of covenant with Israel for seven years. In the middle of that seven years he desecrates the temple in Jerusalem, declares himself to be God, and from that day there will be exactly 1,260 days (three and a half years) until Christ returns as King of King and Lord of Lords. (Daniel 9:27, Daniel 12:11-12, Revelation 12:14).

So as soon as people see the desecration of the temple, they should know to the very day how long until Jesus comes back. But instead of trusting in Him and waiting for Him, they go running around like idiots for three and a half years, getting the mark of the beast (i.e., selling their souls to Satan), and crying for the rocks and mountains to fall on them to hide them from the wrath of God instead of crying out to God to forgive them (Revelation 6:15-17).

Many people blew it with the first coming of Christ, and many will blow it with the second — to their eternal misery and torment. Nobody needs to go through the great tribulation, nobody has to try to remember to do the math and remember the day Jesus comes back. If we belong to Christ then we will be saved out of the wrath to come.

And it’s so easy to get saved!  Romans 10:9-13:  If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Jesus is calling out to you today. Answer him, call on his name and be saved! Then read the Bible, pray, get into a good Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church and start growing in your faith. Growing up in Christ is the journey of a lifetime but getting saved is so easy and you can do it right this very minute. Don’t be like the Pharisee in this cartoon. Don’t be too cool, too smart, or too busy for God and then miss out on the best thing that could possibly ever happen to you.  

Jesus loves you, and he wants you. Yes, YOU.

Yet to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  – John 1:12

BELIEVE + RECEIVE = BECOME

Arranged marriages and other problems.

Typical oppressed kid about to be married off against their will.

My Bible in a year plan is going great so far. I’m current with the New Testament readings, and only a book and a half behind in the Old Testament. I struggle with the first five books, although when I actually sit down and read them I always find something interesting.

Today I read Exodus chapter 21. This is the chapter right after God hands down the Ten Commandments. Now he’s getting down to specific situations. Chapter 21 deals with servants (and goring bulls but this isn’t about that part). 

This passage has bothered me before, and started to trip me up again, then I had a big light bulb over the head moment as I realized, like I’ve done so many times, that I’ve been seeing things inside out and backwards for years. Here’s what went through my head.

I read: “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year he shall go free, without paying anything.” (Exodus 21:2)

THEN . . . 

“If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.” (Exodus 21:7-11)

!!! EGREGIOUS !!!

I was outraged by this “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do” rubbish.  Why the double standard? Why can’t a woman go free? Is God sexist, treating women like chattel the way most macho cultures throughout history have done? 

Typical oppressed woman, circa 1973

…But…

…Oh, wait, hold on a sec…

I did some Googling and found this issue addressed again later: “If a fellow Hebrew, a man or woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.” (Deuteronomy 15:12-15)

Then I remembered what I’ve heard Bible teachers say over and over again: CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!  

First context: Exodus 21:7-11 seems to be referring to women purchased as wives or concubines, not regular servants. Deuteronomy 15:12-15 seems to be referring to women who were indeed regular servants. How they are to be dealt with is different in each scenario.

Second context: What do I know about the world of Moses’ time? These were times where women had few rights, especially among the poor. I grew up in America in the 20th century, where women have the right to vote, to receive equal pay for equal work, and the opportunity to forge their own way in the world. It’s pretty rare in world history. In many parts of the world today, and definitely in the world that Moses knew, women were little more than chattel. If a servant girl was just cut loose because a man didn’t like her, what were her chances of survival? Well, how would a young woman today like to be air dropped into a Taliban or ISIS camp? She’d almost certainly be raped, then either killed or kept as a slave or forced into marriage. She would have little chance of survival, let alone freedom, if left on her own. 

Typical oppressed peasant, circa 1273

God wasn’t treating women like they were inferior. He knew the times, he knew the culture, and he was protecting them. A man couldn’t use a woman and then just dump her. He couldn’t just get rid of her if he decided he didn’t like her. If something went wrong she A) had the right to be redeemed – protecting her reputation, her social standing, as well as her material needs. B) If she was purchased for a son, she had the rights of a DAUGHTER.  C) If he wouldn’t provide her with food, clothing, and conjugal rights, then he had to let her go free without payment (that is, without her having to purchase her freedom). D) If things didn’t go well between her and her master, it doesn’t sound like she had to tough out the entire six years first like men had to do. 

In fact, when you really look at it, the women are given more rights and protection than the men. If she’s a household servant then she is treated just like a man. If she is taken as a wife or concubine, then she can’t be misused and tossed aside. She has rights, and if they are violated she is free to leave.

Of course that raises a big question: What if she doesn’t want to be sold as a wife or concubine in the first place? Well, just like in cultures with arranged marriages today, she may not have had much say in that matter. Is that the way God wanted it to be for women? I don’t think so. But knowing the sinful, fallen world we live in, he shows his love in how tenderly he cares for everyone. Slaves as well as queens. 

Remember Hagar, the Egyptian maid and mother of Ishmael, whom Sarah coerced Abraham into casting out (Genesis 21). The Bible doesn’t say they were sent with any great provisions. Enough food and water for a couple days, maybe? But God heard her cry, comforted her, and not only saved her and Ishmael but made him into a great nation that has been a thorn in the side of Israel to this very day. 

I’m sure I missed a lot in this passage. Everything in scripture ultimately points to Christ, and a little more digging would bring that to light (such as the Redeemer reference). But for today I am very happy to see a troubling passage in a new light, and to gain a little more understanding of the caring and father-providing-for-his-children love that God has for all of us.

I really, really liked Terry Jones. Funny, adorable, writer of fairy tales, lover of history and literature, and so much more.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:9-13