Saturday, July 30, 2016

Women in the Bible – Athaliah – Queen of Judah During the Reign of King Jehoram

Women in the Bible – Athaliah – Queen of Judah During the Reign of King Jehoram, and Later Became Sole Ruler of Judah for Five Years.

2 Kings 8:26 (ESV)
Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah; she was a granddaughter of Omri king of Israel.

2 Kings 11:1-3 (ESV)
Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not put to death. And he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the LORD, while Athaliah reigned over the land.

2 Chronicles 22:1-12 (ESV)
And the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, his youngest son, king in his place, for the band of men that came with the Arabians to the camp had killed all the older sons. So Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah reigned. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah, the granddaughter of Omri. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done. For after the death of his father they were his counselors, to his undoing. He even followed their counsel and went with Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel to make war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth-gilead. And the Syrians wounded Joram, and he returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds that he had received at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Syria. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was wounded.

But it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram. For when he came there, he went out with Jehoram to meet Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the LORD had anointed to destroy the house of Ahab. And when Jehu was executing judgment on the house of Ahab, he met the princes of Judah and the sons of Ahaziah’s brothers, who attended Ahaziah, and he killed them. He searched for Ahaziah, and he was captured while hiding in Samaria, and he was brought to Jehu and put to death. They buried him, for they said, “He is the grandson of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart.” And the house of Ahaziah had no one able to rule the kingdom.

Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were about to be put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of Jehoiada the priest, because she was a sister of Ahaziah, hid him from Athaliah, so that she did not put him to death. And he remained with them six years, hidden in the house of God, while Athaliah reigned over the land.

2 Chronicles 23:12-21 (ESV)
When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she went into the house of the LORD to the people. And when she looked, there was the king standing by his pillar at the entrance, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets, and the singers with their musical instruments leading in the celebration. And Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, “Treason! Treason!” Then Jehoiada the priest brought out the captains who were set over the army, saying to them, “Bring her out between the ranks, and anyone who follows her is to be put to death with the sword.” For the priest said, “Do not put her to death in the house of the LORD.” So they laid hands on her, and she went into the entrance of the horse gate of the king’s house, and they put her to death there.

And Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they should be the LORD’s people. Then all the people went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And Jehoiada posted watchmen for the house of the LORD under the direction of the Levitical priests and the Levites whom David had organized to be in charge of the house of the LORD, to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, as it is written in the Law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, according to the order of David. He stationed the gatekeepers at the gates of the house of the LORD so that no one should enter who was in any way unclean. And he took the captains, the nobles, the governors of the people, and all the people of the land, and they brought the king down from the house of the LORD, marching through the upper gate to the king’s house. And they set the king on the royal throne. So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword.

2 Chronicles 24:7 (ESV)
For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken into the house of God, and had also used all the dedicated things of the house of the LORD for the Baals.

I don’t know how I have lived almost fifty-seven years and never knew that Judah had a queen. Did you know this? Athaliah was a member of royalty from birth. Apparently she took her position very seriously, to the point she tried to wipe out the entire royal family in order to make herself Queen of Judah. I know I included a lot of scripture in this post, but I wanted you to see the story for yourself.

Athaliah comes from the Hebrew word ʿatalyāhû and means “Jah has constrained.” This name is interesting because it appears she was relatively unconstrained in her actions after her son, Ahaziah, died. She had allowed her privileged life to cloud her perspective of what was important. She assumed that she was above the law and could do whatever was necessary to maintain power and control. Athaliah had a reputation of being evil. Undoubtedly it was an accurate depiction of her character.

However, she achieved something that most women of her day could not. She ruled Judah for five years as her Queen. She was not a worshiper of Jehovah. Instead she worshiped Baal. But like her name she was given, Athaliah was constrained by Jehovah. The people of Judah realized the error she had brought during her reign and revolted against her, and the god, Baal. They destroyed the temple that had been erected for Baal and restored worship in the House of David, worship to the one true God, Jehovah. Their rage continued until Athaliah had been put to death.

Her death marked the end of a very bad era for the nations of Israel and Judah. The last line in 2 Chronicles 23 tells it all. “So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword.” (2 Chronicles 23:21) The legacy left by Athaliah could have been totally different. She could have helped keep her son on track to worship Jehovah and spare him from a horrible death. She could have enabled another generation to worship the One True God, and help a nation seek the Lord’s counsel and live under the protection and blessing of God. Instead she chose a selfish path of power grabbing and inflicting pain and suffering on an entire nation of people.

I suppose that is the reason I’ve never heard of her until now. It is unfortunate that when people have the opportunity to really make an impact on their family, other people, and even an entire nation, they choose to think only of what can gain from it. Let us purpose to live differently.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Infinite Loop

Infinite Loop

There is an interesting phenomenon in the IT world known as an “infinite loop.” It is the state of a program that has no way of ending. I remember first learning of this from friends while visiting the Radio Shack stores way back in the day. Radio Shack released their first personal computer called the TRS 80. There was always one on display at the stores. Security was non-existent, so we would get on the computer and type in a simple BASIC program that would display our name on the screen “infinitely” until someone came along and stopped it.

Later in college, we learned that you could send a simple command to a printer that would cause it to do a page feed. Again, creating a simple program that would send this command to a printer “infinitely” would cause it to spew paper at a rapid pace until the operator could “kill” the program. If a printer was left unattended such a prank could empty a box of printer paper in seconds. We thought it was amazing that we had such power!

I recently re-entered the IT field. Much has changed. The languages are much more stable and sophisticated. I didn’t even consider the fact that they were still capable of getting into an “infinite loop” scenario … until yesterday. I ran a program that should have finished in seconds, but instead ran for several minutes before I stopped it. After further investigation I realized I had omitted a very important step in the logic.

Without getting too technical I’ll give a brief explanation. In SQL, which is what I’m using now, in order to “iterate” or loop through data, you create a “cursor” containing the information you wish to process. You then “fetch” a record from the cursor, test to see if you have reached the end of the cursor, and if not, process the data. At the end of the process you fetch another record from the cursor and repeat. Because of the test for “end of data” at the beginning of the process, this will continue until all data has been processed.

Yesterday I inadvertently left out the “fetch” at the end of the procedure. This caused it to look at the same data over and over with no end in sight. Because I never fetched a new record the test for end-of-data was never satisfied and it just looped. Had I not intervened it would continued running until it timed out.

As I began to consider this a few thoughts came to mind. There are many that live life this way. Like the movie Groundhog Day they live the same day over and over, not even realizing the missing “fetch” that needs to occur to give them new information, new inspiration, new definition, and renewed purpose. They grind out the same data over and over again, each time hoping for a different outcome. Unfortunately, some never realize it until they “time-out”. That is not a life.

My pastor, Bobby Gourley, has been trying to teach me something since his arrival in August 2014. He calls it “margin”. I call it “Sabbath”. They mean the same thing. The writer of Hebrews called it “rest”, as in “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:11) Regardless of what you call it, the meaning is the same. You have to take time to “fetch” some new information for your life.

Did you ever notice how Jesus was always pulling away from the crowd to spend time alone with Father? If Jesus needed to “fetch” from time to time I know I do. Moses would spend time alone with God in the Tabernacle in order to be refreshed and renewed as he led Israel through the wilderness. Paul, after his conversion, spent time away from Jerusalem to be taught by the Holy Spirit. We all need “fetch” time in order to stay spiritually, mentally, and physically alive.

“Fetching” can take on many forms. It will most likely be different for each person because our needs vary greatly based on our life experience and position. Regardless of where you are, or what you do, margin/Sabbath/rest is necessary. Without it we simply churn the same old information over and over, never progressing, never producing, just getting tired.

One day your life (process) will end. You will “time out”. Wouldn’t it be better to leave in the middle of a productive life cycle than simply on the treadmill? Find a way to recharge. You will never regret it.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Women in the Bible – Atarah – Second Wife of Jerahmeel

Women in the Bible – Atarah – Second Wife of Jerahmeel

1 Chronicles 2:25-26 (ESV)
The sons of Jerahmeel, the firstborn of Hezron: Ram, his firstborn, Bunah, Oren, Ozem, and Ahijah. Jerahmeel also had another wife, whose name was Atarah; she was the mother of Onam.

The woman’s name we consider today is Atarah. She most likely was born in Egypt during Israel’s captivity. Her name comes from the Hebrew word ʿaṭārâ, which means “a crown.” We know very little about her. Neither she, nor her husband or sons are mentioned anywhere else in scripture except here where the lineage of King David is being enumerated.

Atarah’s husband, Jerahmeel, was the great-great-grandson of Jacob (also known as Israel). Jerahmeel was the brother of Ram, whose son continued the lineage that would lead to David.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Women in the Bible – Asenath – Egyptian Wife of Joseph

Women in the Bible – Asenath – Egyptian Wife of Joseph

Genesis 41:45-52 (ESV)
And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.

Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

After being sold into slavery and taken to Egypt, Joseph found himself in a unique position: in command of all of Egypt. Pharaoh was so appreciative that he gave Joseph a wife: Asenath. Asenath was the daughter of an Egyptian priest. I’m sure this made for an interesting mix of faith in their household.

On was a center for worshipping the sun god, Ra. The high priest of On was considered “Seer of Seers” among the Egyptian people. Asenath was a treasure given to Joseph. Her name is of Egyptian origin and means "gift of the sun-god". She became a gift to Joseph. She bore two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. There is not much more mentioned of her in scripture. Her legacy, however, endured.

The two sons born to Asenath became part of Israel’s history. When the nation of Israel was delivered from Egypt about 400 years after Joseph God changed some things regarding their makeup. Until this time they were divided into twelve tribes, the twelve sons of Jacob (who became Israel). While giving the law the tribe of Levi was chosen to be a priesthood to serve in temple worship. In order to keep the number of tribes at twelve God instructed Moses to replace Joseph with two representatives: Ephraim and Manasseh.

Asenath is never mentioned again, but there are still those that identify as being from the tribes of Israel led by her two sons.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Women in the Bible – Anna the Prophetess – Who Prophesied About Jesus at the Temple of Jerusalem

Women in the Bible – Anna the Prophetess – Who Prophesied About Jesus at the Temple of Jerusalem

Luke 2:36-38 (ESV) And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The next Women of the Bible is our first in the New Testament. It also happens to be one of my favorite people in scripture. Her name is Anna. The name comes from a Hebrew word, which means “favored.” She lived her whole life for a single encounter: an encounter with Jesus, the Messiah.

Her life began like most Hebrew women. She was taught the law and the prophets. Anna knew about the promised Messiah. She believed that He would come and deliver Israel. She married as a virgin, but her husband died seven years after they were married. Apparently she had no children, so after she was widowed as a young woman Anna committed her life to service at the temple. Her days and nights were filled with prayer and fasting. She knew her God, and longed for the Promise that the prophets had said would come.

Her once-in-a-lifetime encounter came when she was eighty-four years old. Most Jewish girls married young; sometimes as early as thirteen. After seven years of marriage, Anna may have been serving in the temple for over sixty years. Imagine sixty years of fasting and prayer, day and night. Clearly she was well acquainted with her God. It was no wonder that He would use her to bless His own Son.

After Jesus was born it was Jewish custom to bring Him to the Temple to be circumcised. When Mary and Joseph entered the temple that day no one had to tell Anna who they were. She knew it was the Christ. After Simeon had spoken words over Jesus, Anna began to give thanks to God, and began telling others that their Redemption had finally arrived. The Messiah was born! Jesus, Son of David, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, had come to earth. Anna was there to welcome Him.

What about you? Would you be willing to spend sixty years of your life in service to God, denying yourself the human pleasures that most enjoy, just for one encounter with the King of Kings? Anna did.