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Today's Readings: Judges 12-13 | Isaiah 37 | 1 Peter 3-5

Reading 1 - Jdg 13:24,25

"The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him, and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol" (Jdg 13:24,25).

"Over the low hills beyond [Zorah and Eshtaol] is Timnah where he [Samson] found his first love and killed the young lion. Beyond is the Philistine plain... the Philistine cities are but a day's march away, by easy roads. And so from these country ways to yonder plains and the highways of the great world -- from the pure home and the mother who talked with angels, to the heathen cities, their harlots and their prisons -- we see at one sweep of the eye the course in which this uncurbed strength, at first tumbling, and sporting with laughter like one of its native brooks, like them also ran to the flats and the mud, and, being darkened and befouled, was used by men to turn their mills" (GA Smith, "Historical Geography of the Holy Land").

Reading 2 - Isa 37:36

"Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning -- there were all the dead bodies!" (Isa 37:36)

The Destruction of Sennacherib's Host

Lord Byron, 1788-1824

The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold,

And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;

And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,

When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,

That host with their banners at sunset were seen.

Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,

That host on the morrow lay wither'd and strown.

For the Angel of Death went forth on the blast,

And breathed in the face of the foe as he pass'd;

And the eyes of the sleepers wax'd deadly and chill,

And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,

But through it there roll'd not the breath of his pride;

And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,

And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,

With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail;

And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,

The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,

And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;

And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,

Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Reading 3 - 1Pe 3:7

"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers" (1Pe 3:7).

"What man can read these words without cringing? Men 'do the atonement' by dwelling with their wives according to knowledge. Perhaps this could mean that all our Biblical 'knowledge' and understanding is of no value if it is not demonstrated where we dwell, in our homes, in every interaction we have with our wives. The atonement is acted out in married life. We dwell with them and give HONOUR to them. This word is used in 1Pe 2:17 in connection with a man's responsibility to all men and to the king. It means 'to value with the highest degree of respect, to value as precious, to revere and lift in one's esteem'. This is how we must treat our wives; this is how we must treat the women around us and our sisters in the ecclesia. How strikingly out of step this principle is with the natural ways of flesh. A man cannot demand submission and honour his wife at the same time. He is not commanded to demand submission of her; this is her responsibility to look after. He is commanded to esteem her highly, to honour her as he would honour the king, all men, and Christ ('unto you which believe he -- Christ -- is PRECIOUS (the same word translated 'honour'): 1Pe 2:7). My wife is Christ to me. I do not always treat 'Christ' and honour him as I ought to. Do you, brother?" (Dev Ramcharan).

The woman is called the "weaker partner"; but this is not to be taken morally, spiritually, or intellectually. It simply means that the woman has less physical strength. The husband must recognize this difference and take it into account.

"Partner" is the Greek "skeuos" -- which literally means "vessel", or receptacle, that is, in this case, for holding the gospel message (2Co 4:6,7). The same word is also used metaphorically of believers in Rom 9:21-23; 1Th 4:4; 2Ti 2:20,21.

Peter exhorts men, or husbands, as he does, "so that nothing will hinder YOUR prayers". In this case, "your" is plural -- signifying the prayers of the husband and the wife both.

"She is the weaker vessel, implying that we are both vessels (containers for faith, Christlikeness, godliness, and the gospel). And she is not, as some foolish brothers maintain, weaker in spiritual things. Oftentimes, sisters can be far stronger in Spiritual things than the brethren around them. It can only mean that she is not as physically robust as the man, and that he must not overload and overtask her, a thing we are prone to do as Christadelphian men. Do you expect your wife to care for the children unassisted, keep an immaculately clean home, and to be calm and even-tempered at all times? If so, what's wrong with you, brother? And lest you, in your arrogant stupidity, should ever imagine that Peter was hinting that she is less than you, he hammers the point home to the contrary by reminding you that we are 'heirs together', equals in our hope and in our value in God's sight. She is not inferior to you. Never treat her as if she were otherwise. Never treat a sister as if she is a second-class citizen in the ecclesia. Never treat a woman anywhere as if she is a 'thing'. The men of this world often view women as toys, pleasure playthings. We imagine ourselves better than those men, until we realize the degree to which chauvinism can indeed live on in our wicked, fleshly hearts. It can demonstrate itself in a callous disregard for the concerns or the suggestions sisters raise in our meetings, suggestions which are as valid and as useful as those offered by any brother. Sisters are our equals. Yes, we must guide and lead. We must teach in the mixed congregation. But we must honour them. They refrain from public teaching -- not because they are unable to -- but in obedience to Scripture. This differentiation in our roles will be removed in the kingdom entirely, will it not? This order of things is an interim arrangement, the acceptance of which honours God.

"But if we do not honour our wives (and our sisters), God will not listen to our prayers. We must be united with our wives in prayer. Many couples kneel together and pray at day's end after talking together about things which should be raised to the Almighty. Then the husband offers the prayer, a prayer of concerns, praise and request from them both. This requires unity, and a putting away of pride. Disunity and pride render our prayers invalid. And the brother bears responsibility for this, it seems. A brother 'does the atonement' at home, where charity must begin. This continues in the workplace and in the ecclesia, so that we, men and women together can fulfill Peter's guidance to 'sanctify, in your hearts, Christ as Lord...' (1Pe 3:15 RV)" (DR).