BIBLE WARDROBES and THE CHRISTIAN WOMAN’S SPIRITUAL CLOTHING – Lesson 8 – THE SACKCLOTH WARDROBE

Lesson 8 THE SACKCLOTH WARDROBE

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom (Psa. 35:13).

Often in scripture we read of those who were clothed in sackcloth, humbling themselves before God so that their prayers would be heard.  The city of Nineveh not only clothed the people in sackcloth, but also the animals to show their contrite hearts (Jonah 3:8).

If David’s prayer in Psalm 35:1-28 were for Absalom and the traitors that conspired with him to remove David from the throne, then it has heavy implications.  If it were for King Saul or some other enemy, we can only imagine its depth of meaning.

David contrasts the enemy’s conduct with his own. He talks of his past life, and about the acts of kindness which he had shown in times of trouble, as more deeply marking the evils of their own conduct now.  David begs the Lord to plead his cause and to fight against them that fight him.  He says, “Stand for me! Confuse the enemy! Blow them away like chaff!”  He even begs the Lord to make their way dark and slippery and to dig a pit for their feet.  David has given up on saving their souls though he apparently has tried many times in the past.  These are men (or women) who are bound to David by the bands and ties of physical life—people he knows well.

David is brought low because of the false witnesses who have laid things to his charge that he never dreamed of.  Yet those same people had been the object of his fasting and prayers in other days.  When they had been in distress, he had put on sackcloth and afflicted his soul for their sakes.  He had humbled himself before God to beg for their health or their position before the Almighty.  Surely in times past he had prayed for Absalom as he watched the turn of his character or as he had witnessed his misconduct.  More than anything, he would have wanted his own son to be righteous before God, but now with the insurrection, he sees there is no hope for his soul or the ones with him.  David knows that Absalom and his companions hate him without a cause.

David’s final thoughts regarding the actions of his enemies as they compare to his own are that he wishes the Lord would clothe them with shame and dishonor because they have returned evil for his good.  Our own hearts need to be humble to the point we would be willing to clothe ourselves in sackcloth to pray for our enemies even if they do not respond well.  They will be clothed in shame if they spurn our efforts at peace.

Will our clothing be sackcloth or shame (Job 8:22Psa. 109:29Psa. 132:18)?  Will we humble ourselves before the Almighty or will we proudly go our thankless way and return evil for the good others do for us?

QUESTIONS:

  1. Using the Bible Encyclopedia found here: (http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/home.html), give a definition of sackcloth and tell why was it worn?
  2. Sackcloth has always carried with it the idea one of the Christian virtues. With what virtue should we be clothed (1 Pet. 5:5)?
  3. How serious is the sin of ingratitude ( 1:21,241 Tim. 3:2-5)?
  4. Under the Law of Moses, men were commanded to give an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Is it right today to take vengeance or to pray for the destruction of our enemies ( 5:38-42Rom 12:19)?
  5. How many good deeds had David done for King Saul?
  6. How did Saul react?
  7. What good had David done for his son Absalom?
  8. How did Absalom respond?
  9. What is the higher law for Christians today (Luke 6:35)?
  10. King Ahab was one of the worst kings in the history of Israel. Why did God postpone His judgment against Ahab and give him another chance to live after he had determined to destroy him and his descendants (1 Kings 21:21-29)?

-Beth Johnson

INTO ALL THE WORLD – Part 4

“These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab” (Deut. 1:1).

“And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them;” (Deut. 1:3).

“And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:  10 The Lord your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.  11 (The Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!)  12 How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?  13 Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.  14 And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.  15 So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes” (Deuteronomy 1:9-15).

Questions:

  1. Who is talking?
  2. To whom is he talking?
  3. Where were they?
  4. Near what river?
  5. Also, not far from what Sea?
  6. What cities were close by?
  7. How many years had it been since they left Egypt?
  8. What month was it?
  9. What day?
  10. Who told Moses to speak these words? See Deuteronomy 1:3.
  11. How many men were chosen to be judges or overseers?
  12. How did God bless these men to be able to do the work?

Who is Jethro?

“And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness, which the Lord had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.  10 And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.  11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.  12 And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father in law before God” (Exo. 18:9-12).

“And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren (Num. 27:19; Deut. 27:11; Deut. 31:14; 1 Thess. 2:11; 1 Tim. 5:21; 1 Tim. 6:17), and judge righteously between every man and his brother (Exo. 23:2-3; Exo. 23:7-8; Lev. 19:15; Deut. 16:18-19; 2 Sam. 23:3; 2 Chr. 19:6-10; Psa. 58:1; John 7:24), and the stranger that is with him” (Deut. 1:16).

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.  17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone” (Num. 11:16-17).

“And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him (Moses), and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease” (Num. 11:25-27).

INTO ALL THE WORLD – Part 2

Actually going into all the world is not at all what I had in mind at age 18 or even 28.  I just had in mind to teach right where I was at home.  When I said yes to the LORD to do his work, I thought I was saying yes to be a teacher and maybe even the wife of a preacher.  Yes, I wanted to boldly proclaim the word of God, be a helpmeet to my husband, a loving mother to our children and see thousands of people respond in faith to the LORD’s teaching and examples.  Well, it didn’t take long to find out that the ministry even in the comfortable old USA is much different from what I had in mind.  I have always loved to teach, but teaching a group of people is a very small portion of what happens during any week.

I remember when my husband and I first married, his maternal aunt counseled us to get a hobby to make our days more interesting.  We both laughed because we knew our plan was not just to teach two or three times a week but to serve and bear fruit as well.  That would take time.  We knew the LORD’s work was so much more.

It’s hard, but little did we know how hard.

Allow me to tell you a few things we have learned over the years of what the ministry really is like.  If you are contemplating a life of serving Jesus then you should take time to read this list and see if you are gifted and wired to represent Him.  These are things nobody told us.

No one told us that we would visit three children, the youngest a 6-year-old boy, whose father had just died of cancer and try to help them find some kind of comfort—maybe even a family who was willing to take them for their own.  And then the next month the family called again to say the children’s mother died of cancer too–both from living under an asbestos roof.

No one told us that people would appear to love us and our children but would turn to despise us because we might have a conscience against what they were asking us to do.

No one told us that church people are mostly loving, but there may be a pocket of cronies in every congregation that are mean as snakes.  The LORD still expects us to love those people and bear with their weaknesses.

No one told us what it would be like to name a baby in another country one day.

No one told me what it would be like to teach a ladies’ group in a third world country where meeting halls were often overcrowded and dark and dirty.

No one told us about having to beg a customs agent to let a child’s chemistry set into the country so our son could continue his home schooling.  We had paid for the materials and for the shipping, but were expected to pay more than 300% that much again for tax when it arrived.

Nobody told us that we might wait for 3 months to get a letter from home, and maybe twice that long before a check could be cashed to buy our food.  No one told us that poor church members would borrow funds to buy our groceries until our check came in.

No one told us what it would be like to be in the room of a person who is dying and looking to you for comfort and words of peace.  Nobody told us how shocking and hard it would be to witness a medical assistant plunge a huge syringe into a struggling heart through the lungs and then pull out the plunger to expel the air.

No one told us about the endless phone calls (night and day), visits and emails to try to comfort an abused wife or child of the mentally unstable mate.

No one told us how the work would affect our family.  No one told us that when people spoke ill of us it would hurt our children twice as much as it hurt us.  Nor did anyone tell us that our children would always have unrealistic expectations set on them by others simply because their dad was a Bible class teacher.

No one told us how hard it would be to visit a couple that we love who just delivered a stillborn child—or to help dig a shallow grave on the beach for a child who died of a contagious disease and therefore could not be buried in the public cemetery.

No one told us what it would be like to be sick with food poisoning in a foreign nation and try to teach with an interpreter through that sickness.

No one told us how hard it would be to see friends with whom we went to college or church services become a statistic of Christians who didn’t make it.

No one told us how it would feel to hear of 1,000 needs and only be able to help a few.

No one told us what it would feel like to be robbed while on a work trip in a third world country.

No one told me or my husband that our best work would not be done from a pulpit, but from the trenches—having hard conversations with people who needed someone to be honest with them.

No one told us of the heart wrenching conversations we would have with so many couples who were on the brink of divorce—with one partner looking to us to help keep it together, while the other only wanted out.

Nobody ever warned us that there would be loving couples who had no right to be married to each other.

No one told us how hard it could be to deal with suicide, how hard it would be to help a family that is destroyed, broken and angry all at once.

No one told us how hard it would be to know the words to say to comfort shattered people when we were the first on the scene after tragedy struck.

No one told us of the joy we would receive when we would go to the hospital to meet new babies that were born to families we loved.

No one told my husband or me of the countless hours of study it would take to be an effective teacher.

No one told us how much the churches would love and embrace our family and meet our every need.

There has been so much we didn’t know…we couldn’t know.

I am so grateful to be one of God’s children—one who is ready and willing to do whatever the LORD presents to us—even if it is hard.

If you are considering marrying a preacher or Christian leader, I would encourage you to count the cost and then remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?  13. But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:  14. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith isalso vain.  15. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.  16. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:  17. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  18. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

I have had many people ask me, “What is it that you do during the week?”

Well, come spend a week with us and we will be glad to show you.

–Beth Johnson

Women’s Studies

Articles and Books by Beth Johnson

STUDIES IN PHILEMON

Which points in this short epistle seem to stand out the most for you?

I have appreciated the book of Philemon for the kindness and love shown in it. It could well be a model for any letter or email message to any other brother or sister in the church. If a letter is worth writing, it is worth planning and considering the possible impact it may have on the reader.

Paul began with these few sections:

  • Greeting and Encouragement–vss. 1-3
  • Philemon’s love and faith–vss. 4-7
  • Paul’s plea for Onisimus – vss. 8-22
  • Final greetings–vss. 23-25

Although there are many ideas to discuss, three things stand out for me.

Continue reading STUDIES IN PHILEMON

YOU NEVER CAN TELL

You Never Can Tell

You never can tell when you send a word
Like an arrow shot from a bow
By an archer blind, be it cruel or kind,
Just where it may chance to go.

It may pierce the breast of your dearest friend,
Tipped with its poison or balm,
To a stranger’s heart in life’s great mart
It may carry its pain or its calm.

You never can tell when you do an act
Just what the result will be,
But with every deed you are sowing a seed,
Though the harvest you may not see.

Each kindly act is an acorn dropped
In God’s productive soil;
You may not know, but the tree shall grow
With shelter for those who toil.

You never can tell what your thoughts will do
In bringing you hate or love,
For thoughts are things, and their airy wings
Are swifter than a carrier dove.

They follow the law of the universe –
Each thing must create its kind.
And they speed o’er the tract to bring you back
Whatever went out from your mind.

–Gospel Digest, February, 1960