Vashti ~ A Courageous Queen

 

Red rose

Many books and movies have been made on the story of Esther. Their treatment of Vashti varies from that of an insolent, self-possessed woman to a highly pious and modest woman who simply does not wish to be made the object of men’s lust. The Bible only records her actions, not her motives and attitudes, so what exactly are we to learn from her? Well, in an effort to discern our lesson for today, I have written my own version of her narrative. Continue reading

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Priscilla ~ A Godly Wife

couple-sunset-mountains-nc

 

A godly wife will support her husband in his endeavors, encourage and strengthen him. This is the relationship Priscilla had with her husband Aquila. Everything they did, they did together. My study focuses on women in the Bible, but since Priscilla is never named without mention of her husband, I will refer to both of them together.

Tentmakers Together

Priscilla and Aquila were Jews, but we know them by their Latin names. They had come from Italy, and it’s likely they had lived there a long time.

Acts 18:1-3  After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them and worked, for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

Priscilla and Aquila left Italy when Claudius banished all Jews from Rome. Though they did not live in Rome proper, it’s possible that it seemed too dangerous to stay in Italy at the time, and perhaps it was also hard to find work as a Jew. At any rate, they moved to Corinth, and that is where Paul met them. Incidentally, this is just one more illustration of how God turns bad things into good for His glory. Would they have ever met Paul had they not gone to Corinth?

Commentators are divided regarding just when Priscilla and Aquila came to know the Lord Jesus as their Savior. Were they already Christians when Paul met them? Or was he drawn to them by their mutual occupation as tentmakers, and converted to Christianity while he stayed with them? I personally believe the latter was the case, although we won’t know for certain until we reach heaven.

Missionaries Together

Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth, teaching and preaching, and when he left, Priscilla and Aquila went with him (Acts 18:11,18). This husband and wife had become rather fond of Paul, and they perhaps looked to him as a spiritual father as well as a dear friend. But beyond the friendship, Priscilla and Aquila were called of God to leave their home and travel with Paul, helping him in the ministry. We have one example of their influence in Acts chapter 18.

Acts 18:24-26  A certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

Apollos already knew the Lord as Savior and had a firm grasp of the Old Testament teachings, but his knowledge was outdated. He knew Messiah was coming, but evidently he was not aware that Messiah had already come and completed the work of redemption. So Priscilla and Aquila instructed him privately, sharing with him “the rest of the story.” He was already an influential preacher, but having learned more about Christ and His resurrection, Apollos became that much more effective. In fact, he went on to become one of the great preachers of the first-century church. Paul states in a letter to certain dissenters, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Church Planters Together

1 Corinthians 16:19  The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. [written AD 57, from Ephesus]

Priscilla and Aquila were with Paul in Ephesus when he wrote the first letter to the church at Corinth; but at some point they returned to Italy, this time to Rome. Most likely they went back after the death of Claudius, or at least after the ban on Jews was lifted. Paul mentions them in his letter to the Romans.

Romans 16:3-5  Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house…. [written AD 58, from Corinth]

So we see that Priscilla and Aquila were church planters, having started two churches: one in Ephesus, and another in Rome.

2 Timothy 4:19  Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. [written AD 67-68, from Rome]

This is not a misspelling of her name, but another form of it. Priscilla is the diminutive of Prisca, as Rosita is to Rosa. Here Paul addressed them in his second letter to Timothy, which suggests that from Rome they eventually returned to Ephesus, where they had first started a church. Timothy was pastoring there. Was he pastoring the church they had founded? Perhaps they returned to help him in the ministry.

Map Priscilla and Aquila

Here is a map to show you the cities where Priscilla and Aquila lived and ministered. The brown tents represent Priscilla and Aquila while the green tents represent the apostle Paul. If you want to see it better, follow the link at the bottom of this post to the original website.

A Godly Wife

When God created Eve, He said she was a help (aid, assistant) meet (suitable, proper, qualified) for Adam. The wife, when she fulfills God’s purpose for her, is perfectly qualified to meet her husband’s needs and to help him be the man God meant for him to be. Many a wife has fallen short of this high calling, but Priscilla did not. Priscilla was a fine example of a help meet. She worked and served God alongside her husband, in harmony with him. Did they have conflicts? Of course! Who doesn’t? But the fact that they were able to spend so much time together for so many years tells us that they learned how to properly deal with conflict when it arose. When she had a problem, she attacked the problem, not her husband. As a result, they evidently had a sweet and fulfilling relationship with one another, and that love was manifested to all those around them. It’s no wonder they were missed whenever God called them to leave one place and go to another.

The “Secret” to Being a Godly Wife

Ladies, we who are married would do well to learn the secret to having a successful marriage. This “secret” is not to love your husband, but to respect him (Ephesians 5:33). Love comes naturally to women; respect does not. I have learned that I ought to respect my husband, though I will not say that I have mastered it. But God is good, and He is helping me. He will help you too, if you ask Him from a heart that earnestly desires to be more like Him.

One of the most helpful suggestions I’ve come across is to create a Memory Box (Emily Ley, in Grace, Not Perfection). Purchase an attractive photo box from your local hobby store (or decorate one yourself), and fill it with mementos of all the good times you have with your spouse: photos, ticket stubs, cards & letters, and other things that are special to the two of you. Then when you hit a rough patch in your marriage, pull that box out and reminisce over the good times you’ve had together. This will help you to remember that life with your spouse was not always as bad as it seems to be right now, which in turn gives hope for a better tomorrow. It will also help to keep your mind focused on the good, not the bad, as God commands us in His Word.

Philippians 4:8  Finally, [sisters], whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

It’s best to begin filling your Memory Box when life is great and you don’t think you’ll ever need it. But if you’ve already reached the point where you need encouragement, then now is as good a time as any to begin to gather those good memories.

Also, remember that your husband is only human—he will fail. And here’s another secret: You too are only human, and you also will fail. Don’t try to change your husband; don’t even pray for God to change him. Instead, ask God to change you. If you do, then pretty soon you will start to notice that the relationship is right and good, when you are the wife God has called you to be. Life in these bodies of flesh will never be absolutely perfect, but it can be rich and rewarding—if we let God have His way with us.

Psalm 37:4-5  Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.

❧          ❧          ❧

Photo taken in Brevard, NC, 2017

Map courtesy of Bible Fun for Kids

Next week: Vashti

Bernice ~ Beautiful Bones

 

whitened-sepulchers

A Little History

Acts 25:13  And after some days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to greet Festus.

Bernice was the sister of King Agrippa (Herod Agrippa II), who was the son of Herod Agrippa I, and the great grandson of Herod the Great. Bernice had been married to Herod, king of Chalcis, her paternal uncle. After his death, she told Polemon, king of Pontus and Cilicia, that she would marry him if he would be circumcised. He complied, and she married him, but she did not stay with him long. When she left him, she moved in with her brother and lived incestuously with him, according to both Josephus and Juvenal. She later became mistress to Titus Vespasian, who grew deeply in love with her and wished to make her his empress, but the Roman citizens dissented, so the marriage was not pursued.  Continue reading

Bathsheba Bloomed Where She Was Planted

 

WF Yellow flower (2)

1 Kings 1:28-31  Then king David answered and said, “Call me Bathsheba.” And she came into the king’s presence, and stood before the king. And the king swore, and said, “As the LORD lives, that has redeemed my soul out of all distress, even as I swore unto you by the LORD God of Israel, saying, ‘Assuredly Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead;’ even so will I certainly do this day.” Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the earth, and did reverence to the king, and said, “Let my lord king David live forever.”

Continue reading

Grace Greater Than Our Sin

skyline-drive-in-autumn

by Julia H. Johnston (1911)

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Refrain:
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
What can avail to wash it away!
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide;
Whiter than snow you may be today. [Refrain]

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe;
You that are longing to see his face,
Will you this moment his grace receive? [Refrain] Continue reading

Be Thou My Vision

 

 

4x6 04 Cascade 04translated by Mary E. Byrne
versified by Eleanor H. Hull

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Nought be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
Thou ever with me, and I with Thee, Lord;
Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my Breastplate, my Sword for the fight;
Thou my whole Armor, be Thou my true Might;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, be Thou my strong Tow’r,
Raise me to heaven, great Pow’r of my pow’r.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun,
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

℘      ℘      ℘

Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880-1931) was born in Ireland. She translated this 8th-Century Gaelic poem in 1905 while working as a researcher and writer for the Board of Intermediate Education in Dublin. Years later, Eleanor Hull, a writer of English history and literature, put Ms. Byrne’s prose translation into verse form and included it in her book of poems, The Poem Book of the Gael. The melody is a traditional Irish tune.

Are you as thankful as I am for the work that these women did to make this beautiful hymn accessible to us? It has also been translated into other languages as well as English. The truths taught about our great God in these few lines are timeless.

The older I get, the more I realize the Christ is all. He literally fills more and more of my vision, just as the songwriter spoke of. This is not something that happens automatically, but is a consequence of daily walking with Him, getting to know Him, letting Him change me and conform me into His image. Every morning I must die to self so that I may live for Him. I’m not talking about some strange ritual or morbid habit, but just a denying of my own stubborn will. Am I always successful? No. But God is always forgiving. When I fall, He picks me up, brushes the dirt off my knees, and helps me start again.

Christ is all. He is sufficient for everything, for every need in every situation. Period.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.

Credits:

Information from hymnary.org

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions. Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, 1990. p. 90.

Photo taken at Narrows Falls, Sapphire Valley, North Carolina, 2013