August 09: 1Ki 3 | Jer 30 | Mk 4
Reading 1 - 1Ki 3
An old proverb warns against "throwing out the baby with the bathwater". (In societies where almost everyone has a bathtub and running water, and where the bathwater drains out of the tub at the flip of a switch, the reader may have to think about this proverb just a bit!) The point, of course, is to distinguish between primary and secondary matters, and to treat each accordingly.
A well-known Bible story deals with a baby also. Once the wise king Solomon was called upon to judge a case involving two women and one baby (1Ki 3:16-28). It seems that one mother had accidentally smothered her baby, and, discovering this, had switched her dead baby with the living baby of her neighbor. Now both mothers stood before the king, each claiming that the remaining live baby was hers.
"Then said the king, 'The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living... Bring me a sword.' And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, 'Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.' Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for she yearned upon her son, and she said, 'O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.' But the other said, 'Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.' Then the king answered and said, 'Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.' And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment" (1Ki 3:23-28).
The wise king understood clearly that the true mother would desire more than anything that her baby live, even if it were in the hands of another woman. Its life was infinitely more precious than anyone else's "property rights"! But the impostor (to satisfy her pride, or her injured feelings, or out of sheer spite?) said, "Divide it!"
Sometimes (almost always!) "dividing the baby" will have disastrous results, for everyone concerned. New and young converts to the truth are characterized in Scriptures as "babes" (Mat 1:25; Luk 10:21; Rom 2:20; 1Co 3:1; Heb 5:13; 1Pe 2:2), easily influenced and even manipulated by their elders -- their fathers and "mothers".
Ecclesial controversies may have (or may seem to have) an invigorating effect on some "elders" and "parents". It can be exhilarating to "stand firm for the truth", regardless of the circumstances, to fight for purity, to defend one's fellowship stand, to attack the faith of others, etc, etc. But the same controversies can be very damaging, even perhaps fatal, to the "babes" in the truth who (not really by their own choice) become a party to them.
So this exhortation is especially to the older, experienced brother and sister: Be careful how you "fight" for the truth. Be careful that any "charges" you bring against others are true, and fair, and fairly stated -- not colored by prejudice or pride or anger. Be careful how you treat others who may be part on the One Body as well as you.
And be very careful before you do anything that could be construed by the wise King and Judge as "cutting up the baby"! Because... the "baby" belongs to him!
Reading 2 - Jer 30
"When Jeremiah was first given his commission as a prophet of the LORD (Jer 1:10), his work was described in four infinitives of retribution and two of blessing. Through most of his days it had fallen to him to rebuke and denounce and threaten. But when the final climax of suffering came on Jerusalem, his message changed to one of comfort. When God's people were at the very limit of affliction and misery, he held out before them not only the prospect but the promise of a New Covenant with their God.
"The details of this New Covenant occupy four of the most wonderful chapters in the Old Testament [Jer 30-33]. They are available today for the reassurance of faith because God specifically charged Jeremiah to 'write all the words in a book' (Jer 30:2).
"The message begins with the picture of 'the time of Jacob's trouble'. Appropriate enough to the horrors of his own day, it actually describes the climax of tribulation which is yet to come upon the people of Israel before the Messiah is revealed. 'But he shall be saved out of it' -- in Hebrew the words sound wonderfully like: 'But out of it... Jesus!' (Jer 30:7)" (Harry Whittaker, "Jeremiah" 207,208).
Reading 3 - Mar 4:26,27
"This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how" (Mark 4:26,27).
"God is a Loving Father teaching us to walk. We are infants in His hand. He does not condemn us for our constant stumblings, for the weakness and unsteadiness of our legs, for our clumsiness and lack of balance. He knows that all that is inevitably part of the learning process. He does not demand instant perfection or ability or dexterity. But He does demand desire, and effort, and perseverance, and dedication. He does condemn us for failure to try, for wandering interest, for indolent contentment to remain spoon-fed, spiritual infants. He does not condemn us for difficulties and setbacks in the process of growing up to Him. But He does condemn us -- and will ultimately reject us -- for not giving total effort and zeal" (GV Growcott).
"Though he does not know how": Life is a mystery, but also a fact -- for it proves itself. The vitality of the seed is independent of the individual sower.