Tag Archives: Bible

Michal in Perspective

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” 2 Samuel 6:20 (NIV)

Writing plays has been a great learning experience for me. One of the creative challenges that I’ve had to embrace is that every character in the play has a unique “voice” that comes from a back story the audience will never know or see. If I’m going to write a character well, then I have to understand that character’s story, person, and perspective. I’ve come to believe that I must truly love each character, even the unlovable ones if I am going to give them their true and authentic voice and words.

I’ve always said that God’s Message changes every time I read it not because it has changed but because I and my circumstances have changed since the last time I read it. As I read today’s chapter I suddenly realized that I was reading it through the eyes of a playwright. I’ve always read this chapter and focused on David’s “undignified” worship, but today I found myself focused on Michal’s rebuke of her husband. I’ve always read Michal’s words and thought, “Sheesh, what a wench!” This time through, however, my playwright’s brain began asking what was really going on between Michal and David. There’s a larger back story there that I have to consider. Michal and David seem to have been those people who had the seeds of affection doomed never to take root:

  • Michal had a young girl’s crush on the young stud warrior David.
  • Michal’s father sought to wed her to David, not because he wanted what was best for his daughter but because he saw she could be used as his pawn in a desire to follow the Michael Corleone playbook of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Michal obviously was not well-loved by her father. He saw his daughter as a “snare” for his enemies.
  • Despite any teenage affections between them, David initially rebuffs being betrothed to her on the grounds he wasn’t worthy to marry the king’s daughter. I wonder how that made her feel?
  • Saul gives David a “price” of earning his betrothal to Michal by bringing him 100 Philistine foreskins (Gross, I know. It was a brutal time in history). Saul figured David would be killed in the attempt, but instead, David brings back two hundred Philistine foreskins to claim Michal. Pissed off and humiliated, Saul tries to assassinate David, but his newly betrothed wife Michal helps him escape out a window.
  • David flees the area for many years abandoning Michal in the home of her mentally ill father. Saul marries Michal off to another man.
  • Many years later David shows up as the conquering hero. In a relational and political power play, David demands Michal be returned to him. Michal is then ripped away from the man she had been married to and made a home with. She is forcibly taken to David. Her husband follows in tears begging that he not be separated from her. I wonder whom Michal truly loved? Was it her husband who was begging in tears not to lose her or the man who rejected and abandoned her and was now demanding her like she was a piece of impersonal property and a spoil of war?
  • We are told that Michal had no children until the day of her death. I am ashamed to confess that in my ignorance I have always seen this fact as some sort of divine punishment for Michal. I can’t see it that way now. I hurt for Michal and the difficult circumstances in which she was placed by her culture, her mentally ill father, and her betrothed young husband who treated her with indifference and contempt. As I begin to see what a messed-up family system David creates as a tragically flawed husband and father, I begin to contemplate if Michal’s barrenness may have ultimately been for the best.

Michal’s rebuke of David’s actions may have seemed inappropriate on the surface of things, but in the quiet this morning I see how they may have been motivated by feelings of abandonment, rejection, anger, and bitterness. Given the circumstance and the backstory, I see why there was so much conflict between the two of them. Their story is a tragedy. I wish David would have been man enough and loving enough to allow Michal to live out her life in peace with the only man in her life who ever really seemed to love her.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Legacy

Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”
But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 
1 Samuel 31:4 (NIV)

I don’t come from a large family. My mom was an only child, and my dad had just one brother. So, I grew up with just one aunt and uncle, and only three first cousins. A week ago today, my dad got a call saying that his brother had taken a turn for the worst. I drove the folks up to northwest Iowa on Saturday so Dad could see his brother. The local hospice took over my uncle’s care earlier this week. It won’t be long.

After returning home on Saturday, Wendy and I attended a dinner for a locally centered missions organization that was rooted in one man’s love for the people of Haiti. It happens that Wendy actually worked for this man for many years, and he had a profound impact on her life in her young adult years. He died just this past year. His son has grown the mission organization his father inspired and at the dinner, he paid his father a wonderful tribute. Wendy shed more than a few tears.

Today’s chapter tells the end of Saul’s tragic story. Falling on his own sword in an act of suicide is an ironic and sad end to a life marked by self-destructive choices and behavior.

Not surprisingly, I have death on my mind this morning.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the reality that everything I possess gets left behind when this life journey is over. That’s not the only thing I leave behind, however. My possessions are meaningless in the grand scheme. What isn’t meaningless is the legacy I leave behind with those who my earthly life touched.

What will my legacy be?

In the quiet this morning, that is the question I’m pondering. Along this life journey, have I planted seeds of faith, hope, and love that will continue to bear fruit once I am gone? As I ponder the lives and legacies of Uncle Bud and Denny and Saul, It strikes me that legacy is never about just one day or one life event. Legacy is the culmination of daily motives, words, actions, relationships, and choices across some 30,000 or more days I may, or may not, be granted on this earth.

Some day it will be my life that others will remember, or not.

Every day counts. Tomorrow is never assured.

May I make the most of this day in ways that matter.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Habakkuk (Jul 2022)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of Habakkuk published by Tom Vander Well in July of 2022. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Habakkuk 1: Habakkuk’s Cry
Habakkuk 2: Sleeping with the Enemy
Habakkuk 3: “Yet, I Will Rejoice”

Revelations (Jun-Jul 2022)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of Revelations published by Tom Vander Well in June and July of 2022. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Revelations 1: The Rabbit-Hole and the Three Questions

Revelations 2: Hearing the Simple Message

Revelations 3: Spiritual Self-Exam

Revelations 4: Crowns and Surrender

Revelations 5: The Alpha Point and the Omega Point

Revelations 6: “What Do You Expect?”

Revelations 7: “Every Nation, Tribe, People, & Language”

Revelations 8: Ignorant, Mindful, & Ready

Revelations 9: “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking”

Revelations 10: Justice

Revelations 11: Prophetic Pondering

Revelations 12: Not of this World

Revelations 13: My Choice

Revelations 14: Wisdom to Know the Difference

Revelations 15: The Bigger Picture
Revelations 16: Love and Justice

Revelations 17: Rogues Gallery

Revelations 18: The Funeral

Revelations 19: The Wedding

Revelations 20: The Books

Revelations 21: Death-to-Life

Revelations 22: The End is the Beginning

“Gonna Change My Way of Thinking”

"Gonna Change My Way of Thinking" (CaD Rev 9) Wayfarer

The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands…
Revelation 9:20a (NIV)

I find it fascinating that our world continues to use Hitler and the Nazis as the ultimate metaphor for evil. Given their lust for power, their unbridled ambition, and the atrocities they unleashed on this earth, it’s an apt metaphor in many ways. I have heard it argued that true evil will not respond to anything but overpowering force. It could be argued that World War II is an example of that principle. We continue to hold Hitler and his Nazis as our favorite metaphor for evil. Of course, metaphor loses its power when it is applied loosely and flippantly in unwarranted situations, but that’s a different post for another day.

Today’s chapter describes the fifth and sixth “trumpet judgments” on the earth that John saw in his vision. The fifth is a plague of locusts another plague that parallels the plagues on Egypt in the time of Moses. The locusts are described with monstrous imagery and led by “the angel of the Abyss.” The locusts torture earth’s inhabitants until they beg to die.

When the sixth angel sounds its trumpet, four angels at the Euphrates River are loosed along with a countless multitude of mounted troops with horses that spew fire, smoke, and sulfur. One-third of the earth’s inhabitants are killed. While this plague does not have a parallel to the ten plagues of Egypt, its imagery had a clear parallel to Roman citizens in the first century. The Parthian Empire was right across the Euphrates River to the east of the Roman Empire, and the Parthians were the only enemy that the Roman Legions could not defeat. Parthia’s mounted archers could ride forward and shoot backward, and their unpredictable battle tactics made them one foe that Rome did not want to face. Romans feared the day that Parthia’s mounted army attacked and John’s vision would have directly stirred these fears.

Along my spiritual journey, I’ve observed that it’s easy to get lost in the minute details of apocalyptic literature. I recall one arrogant professor I once had who famously lectured on the end times and sold volumes of his recordings on the subject. I remember some of his interpretations being so rooted in the geopolitical world of the cold war that I highly doubt they would make sense today.

Instead of getting buried in the minutia, I tend to pull back to try and see the big picture. I believe the rather obvious parallels between the judgments of Revelation and the plagues of Egypt are more than a coincidence. In the Exodus, God unleashed 10 plagues on Egypt in an effort to get a hard-hearted Pharaoh to repent and free the Hebrews from slavery. In Revelation God unleashes plagues on the earth in an effort to get hard-hearted humanity to repent and be free from the shackles of sin.

The hard-hearted Pharaoh refused to repent. So does humanity in John’s vision.

And so, I find my thoughts wandering back to the nature of evil and to history. The Nuremberg Trials and the flight of top Nazi officials to places like Argentina revealed how unrepentant and hard-hearted were the individuals who unleashed unspeakable atrocities on humanity for their own power and pride. To this day, the stories of powerful families and corporations who fueled the Nazi regime and remain unrepentant for their past continue to come out.

So in the quiet, I find myself thinking about the simple act of repentance. It means a change of heart that leads to a change in direction. It means to spiritually stop, turn, and go the other way. As Bob Dylan sings it: “Gonna change my way of thinkin’, make myself a different set of rules. Gonna put my good foot forward and stop being influenced by fools.” It’s what Pharaoh refused to do. It’s what Hitler’s henchmen refused to do. It’s what humanity refuses to do in the end times according to today’s chapter.

And, on this Monday morning, I once again find myself humbly admitting that I don’t know what every one of John’s visions means. I’m sorry that I can’t reveal it to you with smug certainty like my old professor and the multi-cassette volumes he was happy to sell to anyone. Here’s what I do know for certain. My heart, my thoughts, and my subsequent words and actions can easily become rooted in pride rather than humility, in selfishness rather than generosity, in anger rather than kindness, in vengeance rather than forgiveness, and in hatred rather than in love. Every day of this earthly journey is an opportunity for me to have the self-awareness to catch myself, stop, and choose to go in the opposite direction; To choose good rather than evil.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Judges (May-Jun 2022)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of Judges published by Tom Vander Well in May and June of 2022. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Judges 1: Git ‘er Done! (or not)

Judges 2: This Chain That I Must Break

Judges 3: The “I” in Idolatry

Judges 4: Women and Prophets

Judges 5: Deborah the Leader

Judges 6: Willingness

Judges 7: Different Ways

Judges 8: King, or Not?

Judges 9: Two Paths

Judges 10: Leaders are Not One-Size-Fits-All

Judges 11: Childish Notions

Judges 12: And So, It Begins

Judges 13: Living a Great Story

Judges 14: Achilles’ Heel

Judges 15: Who I Don’t Want to Be

Judges 16: A Confession

Judges 17: Order, Disorder, Reorder

Judges 18: Willful Independence

Judges 19: Violent Times

Judges 20: Tribal Instinct and Higher Law

Judges 21: Series of Unfortunate Events

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Hearing the Simple Message

Hearing the Simple Truth (CaD Rev 2) Wayfarer

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 2:29 (NIV)

One of the things that I’ve observed about human nature is our penchant for mysteries and secrets. We love a good yarn like National Treasure and The Davinci Code. I can find all sorts of documentaries streaming about secrets and conspiracies. Nostradamus remains a popular figure. A couple of decades ago a book came out about The Bible Code that claimed to unlock secret numerical codes within the text of the Great Story.

When it comes to the book of Revelation it is tempting to lean into that desire to unlock the secrets of what it has to reveal to us hidden beneath the text. Yet along my spiritual journey, I have observed that it’s easy to seek out the secret mysteries beneath the text to the point that I ignore the simple truth that’s staring me right in the face.

Today’s chapter kicks off a series of seven letters which the glorified Christ asks John to pen to Jesus’ followers in seven towns of Asia Minor, not far from where John was exiled on the island of Patmos. The chapter has four of the seven letters which generally contain a pattern of Jesus:

  • Commending the believers (“You’re doing this well…”)
  • Cautioning the believers (“I have this against you…”)
  • Encouraging the believers (“Now do this…”)
  • Offering a word of eternal hope (“To those who…I will…”).

These places were real cities in which the issues addressed were very real. The Roman world was an immoral culture. Pagan gods and their worship were steeped in prostitution and sexual immorality. The Roman Emporer Domitian led a revival in the Emporer Cult in which he (and some of his family members) were considered gods. Followers of Jesus had faced long periods of persecution (from both Romans and Jews) for their worship of Jesus as the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” and their rejection of Roman debauchery and polytheistic paganism.

Much like Paul’s letters to the believers in Corinth, the letters to Jesus’ followers in Asia Minor make it clear that there were those who were teaching that one could be a follower of Jesus and still participate in pagan religion and Roman revelry. Jesus’ message through John dispels this notion and encourages His followers to shun these ideas.

Because of their inclusion in John’s Revelation, there are those who inflate the meaning and importance of these letters. It’s often argued that they are representative, allegorical, or parallel to the larger history of the church.

Fine. Buy me a pint and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

I find it fascinating that the glorified Christ uses the same phrase in His dictation to John as He did with His parables during His ministry: “Those who have ears, let them hear.” During His earthly ministry, Jesus was typically making a very simple spiritual truth cloaked in a metaphor. I believe the same is true in today’s chapter.

In the quiet this morning, I’m reticent to expand the meaning of rather straightforward messages. Instead, what I’m “hearing” is to reduce the message to very simple truths: Be in the world, but not of it. Keep the faith. Press on.

And so, I enter another day and will endeavor to do so.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Achilles’ Heel

Achilles' Heel (CaD Jud 14) Wayfarer

Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.”
Judges 14:1-2 (NIV)

I was recently reading and proofing a business report that was written by a young colleague. One of the things I noted in his writing was the repeated use of a word that, though not incorrect, felt awkward in its use. In looking up the definition and etymology of the word, I discovered that the popularity of its usage in writing peaked a few hundred years ago.

In recent years, I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the origin and history of certain words and phrases. We commonly use terms that are rooted in epic stories from history. Shakespeare may have had more influence on the English language than anyone else. Many phrases we still use today came from Shakespeare’s works including “Break the ice,” “Too much of a good thing,” “Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve,” “Come what may,” “Fair play,” “Laughingstock,” “In a pickle,” and “Wild goose chase.”

Likewise, the term Achilles’ heel derives from the ancient, historical hero of Troy who lived in the same general era of history as Samson and was made famous by Homer’s Iliad. The seemingly invincible Greek warrior is felled by an arrow through his heel. To this day, we speak of a person’s “fatal flaw” as their “Achilles’ heel.”

Which came to mind as I read today’s chapter. The chapter continues the legendary story of Samson, a similarly legendary hero known for his feats of strength and amazing victories. In today’s chapter, the author of Judges introduces me to three important themes:

First, there is Samson’s amazing strength. This is his divine gift, as the author continually reminds us that each feat is sourced in the Spirit of God coming upon Samson at the moment. In today’s chapter, he tears apart a lion with his bare hands and then single-handedly defeats and plunders 30 Philistine men.

Next, there is the fact that Samson always acts alone. This continues the theme of his birth which made him singularly special and set apart by God for the tasks to which he was called.

Third, there is the introduction of Samson’s fatal flaw. Unlike Achilles, it is not a physical flaw, but a spiritual one. Samson has an uncontrollable appetite for Philistine women, the very people from whom he was born to deliver his nation. In today’s chapter, Samson merely sees a Philistine woman, is infatuated with her and he demands that his parents procure her as her wife. His parents object, but Samson is adamant.

It does not go well, which will be a recurring theme in the continuing story.

In yesterday’s post/podcast, I began to think about my own life as the story it will become after I pass away. When my great-grandchildren are doing their family tree for a school project and ask their parents about great-papa Tom, what will the story be?

In the quiet this morning, I’m taking the question one layer deeper. In the story of great-Papa-Tom, what will be identified as my Achilles’ heel?

“You know son, Papa Tom wrote all the time. God was a big deal to him, and he was a preacher. He owned a research business. He was a good grandpa, but…

What will come after the “but”?

As I meditate on this in the quiet, I’m reminded that every human being, save One, has his/her own human weaknesses, uncontrolled appetites, blind spots, tragic flaws, and what the Great Story refers to as sin. There will be something that comes after the “but…” in my story. I can’t escape it.

Which, according to the Great Story, is the very reason that Jesus came. Jesus even said, “I didn’t come to condemn the world.” Jesus came to make a way so that matter what comes after that “but…” in my earthly story as told by my descendants, in eternity there will be an additional “but…”:

but.. he is loved beyond all measure. He is forgiven. All of those human weaknesses, uncontrolled appetites, blind spots, tragic flaws, and what the Great Story refers to as sin? They’ve been redeemed and made right by what Jesus did for him.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Joshua (Mar-May 2022)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of Joshua published by Tom Vander Well in March, April, and May of 2022. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Joshua 1: Succession

Joshua 2: “That Woman”

Joshua 3: Pivotal Moments

Joshua 4: Memorials

Joshua 5: Upstaging

Joshua 6: A Different Way

Joshua 7: Life-Long Lessons

Joshua 8: Awareness and Ego

Joshua 9: Shrewdness

Joshua 10: Evolution of Conversation

Joshua 11: Facing the Giants

Joshua 12: We are Family

Joshua 13: My Inheritance

Joshua 14; Dense Fog Advisory

Joshua 15: Family Patterns

Joshua 16: Small Things, Big Consequences

Joshua 17: The Land of Entitlement

Joshua 18: Go!

Joshua 19: The Reward

Joshua 20: Justice Then and Now

Joshua 21: A Good Place

Joshua 22: The Fear Factor

Joshua 23: Success(ion) and Failure

Joshua 24: At Your Service