May 20, 2015

Genealogies, Widows, and a Shepherd who is also a Lamb

1 Chronicles 8:1–40, 1 Timothy 5:10–17, Psalm 78:53–72

Today’s Old Testament passage reminds me why doing family tree research is both exciting and frustrating. Yesterday, I found some interesting tidbits in the history of Israel. Today I found this... and much more just like it:

“Benjamin fathered Bela his firstborn, Ashbel the second, Aharah the third, Nohah the fourth, and Rapha the fifth. And Bela had sons: Addar, Gera, Abihud, Abishua, Naaman, Ahoah, Gera, Shephuphan, and Huram. These are the sons of Ehud (they were heads of fathers’ houses of the inhabitants of Geba, and they were carried into exile to Manahath): Naaman, Ahijah, and Gera, that is, Heglam, who fathered Uzza and Ahihud. And Shaharaim fathered sons in the country of Moab after he had sent away Hushim and Baara his wives. He fathered sons by Hodesh his wife: Jobab, Zibia, Mesha, Malcam, Jeuz, Sachia, and Mirmah. These were his sons, heads of fathers’ houses. He also fathered sons by Hushim: Abitub and Elpaal. The sons of Elpaal: Eber, Misham, and Shemed, who built Ono and Lod with its towns....” (1 Chronicles 8:1–12)

This information is included in the Word of God for a reason, but today that reason is beyond my grasp!

The NT reading is more practical but still a puzzle. There is not much explanation for these verses regarding the church’s care for widows, but a few principles can be seen...

“Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.” (1 Timothy 5:9–16)

Obviously the church had a list of widows that they supported. Apparently they expected those under sixty to take care of themselves or be cared for by their family. Yet being on the list also included the lifestyle of the widow. Had she shown herself to be a godly person? Was she doing good things?

The younger widows seem to be forbidden to remarry yet verse 15 says otherwise. Certainly the phrase about their passions drawing them away from Christ was something far more serious. In that culture wives usually took the religion of their husband so Paul might have been referring to some who were marrying outside their faith.

He also seemed concerned about widows remarrying for financial support that would free them to idly spend their time in gossip and other folly. Some had “already strayed after Satan” so Paul obviously was writing about a particular issue in that church.

It made me think of the issues concerning widows today. Financial care now comes from government social programs, not the church. Yet widows are lonely, often taken advantage of by unscrupulous people, even their own family members. They have practical and medical needs. Those who have lived for Jesus may not struggle with sins like gossip and meddling, but they will need to be encouraged in their spiritual lives and respected for their age and wisdom. Most congregations could do better in caring for widows.

The reading from the psalms surprised me with a short bit about widows as well. In this passage, God was angry with His people for straying into idolatry and other sin. “He gave his people over to the sword and vented his wrath on his heritage. Fire devoured their young men, and their young women had no marriage song. Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation.” However, in mercy He did not stay angry... “Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, like a strong man shouting because of wine. And he put his adversaries to rout; he put them to everlasting shame.” (Psalm 78:62–66)

The widows in that day also suffered under the hand of God, yet they did not cry out to Him with a lament normally to express sorrow for sin. Their lives were in great peril, yet sadly without repentance. This is horrifying, yet God continues with His promise to send a shepherd (David) to lead them, hinting at His eventual plan to send another Shepherd, also known as the Lamb of God who would deliver all His people from their sin.

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