At last count, between our Verse of the Day, devotional and reading plans email newsletters, we’re up to 11 different email lists. That’s a flurry of edifying and thought-provoking words flying past every day that few of us can keep up with. We thought we’d give you a few excerpts from the Men of the Bible and Women of the Bible newsletters to ponder over this weekend.
Women of the Bible: Martha
Of the history of Martha, the Bible tells us nothing save that she was the sister of Mary and Lazarus, and lived with them at Bethany. Some early writers have made Martha, the daughter, wife, or widow of Simon the Leper, and that on his death the house became hers, hence the reference to the house when the resurrection of Lazarus was celebrated (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3 ). Others think that Martha may have been a near relative of Simon for whom she acted as hostess. But the narrative seems to suggest the home belonged to Martha and being older than Mary and Lazarus, she carried the responsibility of all connected with household affairs in a home where “Jesus found the curse of the sojourner lifted from Him, and, in reversal of His own description of His loneliness and penury, found where to lay His head.” What strikes us forcibly is that after Jesus left His natural home at the age of thirty to enter upon His public ministry we do not read of Him returning to it for rest and relaxation. It was to the warm, hospitable home at Bethany to which He retired, for He loved the three who lived in it, Martha, Mary and Lazarus-in this order-which is something we do not read concerning His own brothers and sisters according to the flesh.
Martha and Mary seem to belong together in God’s portrait gallery, just as Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau do. Expositors also bracket the two sisters together, comparing and contrasting their respective traits. Martha, busy with household chores-Mary, preferring to sit before Jesus for spiritual instruction. Martha, ever active and impulsive-Mary, meditative and reticent. Truly drawn are the characters of these two sisters, Martha usually busy supervising the hospitality of the home, Mary somewhat indifferent to house work, anxious only to seek that which was spiritual. But we have no Scriptural warrant for affirming that the difference between the quiet, pious Mary and her industrious sister is that of the opposite of light to darkness. In the church there are vessels of gold and others of silver, but we are not justified in saying that the character of Mary is worked in gold and that of Martha in silver. These two sisters in that Bethany family had their respective, appropriate talents, and each of them served the Master accordingly…
Men of the Bible: Amos
Amos – burden-bearer or one with a burden.
Although he was one of the oldest of the prophets, we know little about Amos save what he himself tells us. He does not appear to have belonged to any rank or influence. The opposite is the case, seeing he styles himself a herdsman (Amos 7:14). He was no “professional prophet, speaking for a living.” Amos did not belong to the order of the prophets, nor had he been educated in the school of the prophets. The prophetic office was thrust upon him (Amos 7:14, 15). When the call came he exchanged the life of a shepherd and cultivator of sycamore trees for that of a prophet.
The desert life of Amos exercised great formative influences upon him. With time to think and pray, he was qualified to form clear judgments. The art of the seer is not cultivated in crowds.
Contemporary with Hosea, Amos prophesied in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah and in the time of Jeroboam. Most of the prophets confined their message in the main to Israel, but to Amos, Israel was only one of the nations. He took in a whole range of various nationalities and indicted them for their sins and proclaimed the judgment of God alike upon nations and individuals.
Amos pronounced judgment upon the oppression of the poor, commercial dishonesty, selfish indulgence and idolatrous worship, and was the first prophet to predict the captivity of Israel, and to announce God’s rejection of His chosen people. The great lessons of the Book of Amos are:
I. Sin is sin in all its blackness, against the bright background of God’s grace.
II. Mere ritual is not pleasing to God. The very worship of Israel was sin (Amos 4:4-5; Amos 5:21-24). Israel thought of God as a vain monarch, pleased with gifts and empty phrases. Amos had nothing but utter contempt for forms of religion that did not disturb one’s conscience or change one’s life.
III. The greatest perils, both of nations and men, lie not in poverty, but in prosperity.
IV. God’s dealings with men are for their discipline, not their doom. Discipline, however, if unheeded, only hastens doom and determines destiny. Thus Amos is rightly called “the prophet of divine law.”