Hope Chapel Blog
Learning and living the Way of Jesus!
Daily Devotional–Thursday, April 29, 2021
“Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:8-10, NLT)
John the Baptist challenged the religious leaders to ‘prove’ their repentance. Just saying that they were ‘God’s chosen people’ through Abraham was meaningless unless their actions matched their words. John’s message sounds very similar to one given by Isaiah the prophet. The people continued to go to the Temple daily, they prayed, they were making sacrifices, they fasted, they dressed in burlap as a sign of repentance, they appeared to be a nation that desired a relationship with God or in Isaiah’s words, ‘They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God.’ But Isaiah tells them that is exactly the problem—it’s all an act! They are going through the motion of religious observances in an attempt to gain God’s favour, all the while ignoring God’s priorities for his people. God, through the prophet Isaiah, says “Enough!”
“Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help” (Isaiah 58:5b-7). Isaiah and John, though living hundreds of years apart, demonstrate that God has not changed his requirements for his chosen people. Even today, the prophets’ words still apply! Two millennium after John made his declaration, the ax is still poised. God is still looking for his chosen people to be living lives of his acceptable fast, demonstrating true repentance and not settling for putting on a good show—attending worship, praying, fasting or any of the plethora of other means we use to try to give the outward pretense that we are living in obedience to God, all the while hiding the true condition of our hearts.
God has told us what his requirements are through the prophet Micah, “The LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Let’s recommit to being ‘trees that produce good fruit.’
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional–Wednesday, April 28, 2021
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For [unbelievers] run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33, NLT)
I wonder if our prayers sometimes show up a deficiency in our understanding of God and the kind of relationship he wants with each one of us. How often are our prayer times consumed with a list of our needs—what to eat, drink, wear or whatever other concerns we might experience—rather than on the things of eternal value? Jesus tells us to stop worrying about the things of this world and rather put our focus on obeying him—growing the kingdom and growing in his righteousness.
When we seek first that which is to be sought first, God will provide the rest. But too often we focus on the things that should be of secondary concern to us because, from an earthly survival point of view, we cannot live without them and so we worry. Instead, we need to be living from a heavenly perspective. God wants us to be free from worry and to live life in full humility and submission to Jesus’ Great Commission—go disciple, teach and baptize—and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives—causing us to live lives that are genuinely loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, gentle, faithful, kind, good and self-controlled.
When we put our needs front and center, we ignore the greater work that God, our heavenly Father, is calling us to do. Trust him. Live a life of surrender to God’s plan, seeking his kingdom and his righteousness, and watch how he provides the rest!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional – Tuesday, April 27, 2021
“The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:25-26, NLT)
This past Sunday, many in our congregation responded to the invitation to share how they have seen God at work in this last year. It was very encouraging to hear from everyone together and it was interesting to note that the theme of ‘waiting’ held a prominent place in our sharing. One individual described his recent experience with God’s ‘just in time’ response. And haven’t we all been there? We have a need, but it’s almost as though God chooses to wait until all hope is gone before he jumps in and ‘tada!’ Some of us are quick to give praise to God for his loving care; however, for others, it could appear as though God relishes in making us squirm, choosing to provide answers in the eleventh hour…when it’s almost too late, but ‘just in time.’
I’ve been thinking about it, asking God why he so often chooses to work in this way. We must be careful about declaring God’s reasons for working as he does, but I have concluded that our need to wait is, in part, one of God’s means for helping us to grow into spiritual maturity. When we perceive a need and bring it to God, he could instantaneously provide a solution, but more times than not he doesn’t. One of the reasons he does not immediately remove our ‘thorns’ is because they actually work to reveal greater needs—deficiencies in our character and relationship with him.
When you are faced with a difficulty and have turned to God in prayer, what next?
• Do you go into problem-solving mode? You may have control issues that need to be surrendered to God.
• Are you overcome with fear and anxiety? This may be an opportunity to grow in your ability to trust God.
• Do you begin to doubt God’s existence or goodness. The wait time may be to build your faith and knowledge of him.
• Are you overcome with anger? God may want you to mature in your ability to love him first over yourself.
• Do you become whiney and petulant toward God? He may know you need to grow in the area of being contented.
• Or do you, like most of the human race, simply find it difficult to be patient? God values patience, endurance and the ability to persevere in his children.
So why does God so often provide his answers ‘just in time.’ Because it is during the times when we are forced to wait for his help that deeper needs come to the surface. We are forced to face ourselves as we truly are, our lack of spiritual maturity, and the distance we still have to go before we can experience full and true freedom in Christ—free to know him and his great love for us. God doesn’t want us to resist having to wait, but rather to lean into it and see what other needs he may be wanting to help us with.
Be still. Listen. Wait.
~ Pastor Jane
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, April 25, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Guilty Conscience” – Communion & Sharing Sunday
Text – Genesis 37-38
Have you ever done something and experienced regret—whether instantaneously or over time? I would be shocked to find out that there is one single person who hasn’t! And when it comes to moral failures especially, when that moment of regret happens, we are left with one of two choices: fess up or feel guilty. When we choose to own up there is often ‘fallout’—embarrassment, need for restitution and potentially years of rebuilding a reputation and trust. This sounds too hard for many and they choose the route of living with their secret guilt feelings, but there will always be those who know—possibly accomplices, victims, God…and of course yourself.
Two weeks ago, we were in Genesis 34 and learned how Jacob’s sons had taken revenge on an entire town as recompense for their sister Dinah’s rape. Unfortunately, a couple of chapters later in Genesis 37, we will soon discover that their ire and harsh responses were not reserved solely for strangers, but were also directed at times at members of their own family.
Theirs was a family divided by competition and favouritism—conditions that only seemed to grow worse as they aged.
How many wives did Jacob have? [four]
Who was his favourite? [Rachel]
Therefore, who do you think his favourite son was? [Joseph, Rachel’s son]
And Jacob’s favouritism wasn’t even subtle. He has a fancy coat made specially for his seventeen-year-old Joseph; and either in his naivety or parental-endorsed entitlement, this favourite son appears to have no real clue as to the depth of his brothers’ hatred for him. Some time later, his father sends him out to the field to check on his brothers and when they see him coming a suggestion is made that they should kill him. I have my suspicions that this idea may have originated from Simeon or Levi, given what we know of their temperament, but Reuben, as the oldest, suggests a different plan. He isn’t in agreement and tries to sort out a way to rescue Joseph without angering the others. “Let’s not kill him ourselves. Let’s toss him in this empty well and let the desert do the job for us.” All the while planning to rescue him later.
All agree until lunchtime, when another idea comes to Judah, who appears also not to have the same bloodlust as some of his brothers. They see a caravan of Midianite traders heading their way and the decision is made to sell Joseph to them—no murder, no need to cover-up any incriminating remains…and the best part of all, he won’t be around to irritate them any longer. They had thought of everything…done!
But they hadn’t. Almost instantaneously we hear the regret. When he finds out what his brothers have done, Reuben is distraught; as the oldest, he is sure to bear the blame for Joseph’s disappearance. And it’s at this point that the lies begin to pile up. They plan to deceive their father by ripping apart Joseph’s signature gift—his fancy coat—and kill one of the flock to smear it in blood. They’ll just say that they found the coat and let Jacob assume the worst. As long as no one goes and blabs they’re in the clear.
What they don’t count on is Jacob’s reaction. Genesis 37:33-35 tells us, “Their father recognized the coat immediately. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces!” 34 Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time. 35 His family all tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “I will go to my grave mourning for my son,” he would say, and then he would weep.” If the brothers had hated the favouritism their father had shown Joseph when he was alive, they completely miscalculated how additionally undervalued they would become in the eyes of their father at the news of his death. Not one of his family was able to console him.
At some point, I suspect all regretted their decision. They were faced with a choice—fess up or live with the guilt. It appears that each and everyone of them chose the latter. We don’t know much about how most of the brothers dealt with their guilt. Next week, we will discover that it haunted them for the rest of their lives. But how did they choose to live with it until it finally came out in the open? Genesis 38 follows Judah into adulthood and we can gain clues from his life how a guilty conscience can have a long-range impact on many aspects of our lives.
POOR CHOICES – Genesis 38:1-5
“About this time, Judah left home and moved to Adullam, where he stayed with a man named Hirah. 2 There he saw a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shua, and he married her. When he slept with her, 3 she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and he named the boy Er. 4 Then she became pregnant again and gave birth to another son, and she named him Onan. 5 And when she gave birth to a third son, she named him Shelah. At the time of Shelah’s birth, they were living at Kezib.”
I imagine Judah couldn’t get away from home fast enough. His father’s mourning and his brothers’ guilty looks would have acted as constant reminders. Did Judah think that a little distance between himself and his family could alleviate his own feelings of guilt? Quite possibly. But what does he do in the process? In trying to outrun his guilt, he makes some very poor choices. He separates himself from his family and makes some alliances that his father would not have approved of…nor God either. He distances himself from the family, becomes partners with Hirah and marries a Canaanite woman.
Had he begun to do what many do who suffer from a guilty conscience, but have no intention of admitting error, which is to blame others? “If Joseph hadn’t paraded himself around!” “If Dad hadn’t played favourites!” “If my brothers hadn’t talked me into it!” It appears that Judah desperately wanted a fresh start, but chose to go about it the wrong way…by compounding his bad choices. Ever found yourself in that situation? Digging a deep hole for yourself in an attempt to get out? It never works!
LOSS OF CREDIBILITY/
INEFFECTIVE ACCOUNTABILITY – Genesis 38:6-11
“In the course of time, Judah arranged for his firstborn son, Er, to marry a young woman named Tamar. 7 But Er was a wicked man in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord took his life. 8 Then Judah said to Er’s brother Onan, “Go and marry Tamar, as our law requires of the brother of a man who has died. You must produce an heir for your brother.”
9 But Onan was not willing to have a child who would not be his own heir. So whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he spilled the semen on the ground. This prevented her from having a child who would belong to his brother. 10 But the Lord considered it evil for Onan to deny a child to his dead brother. So the Lord took Onan’s life, too.
11 Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, “Go back to your parents’ home and remain a widow until my son Shelah is old enough to marry you.” (But Judah didn’t really intend to do this because he was afraid Shelah would also die, like his two brothers.) So Tamar went back to live in her father’s home.”
In the culture of Judah’s day, he was to be the leader of his family and the role of training his sons up after a certain age was his responsibility. But, Judah’s guilty conscience appears to have robbed him of his ability to keep his sons in line. We don’t know why Er was condemned as “wicked in the Lord’s sight,” but we do know that Onan refused to abide by honourary customs of the day, which also appear to have been an expectation of God’s. [Deuteronomy 25:5 “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.” For more information on the laws surrounding levirate marriage check out the link under ‘for further study’. The laws were given to Moses long after Jacob’s time, but there may have been a longstanding moral code in regards to widows and the continuation of a dead man’s lineage.]
I’m left wondering if Judah provided his sons with any knowledge of God? I suspect he had erased God from the equation of his life while attempting to get away from his family. We can be quick to give up on our families, our values and even God under the torment of a guilty conscience. We want to find relief from the thoughts and feelings that plague us. We want to downplay moral failure. And, as is apparent in Judah’s life, any attempts to hold others to a moral standard defeats our efforts to relieve our own guilty consciences. Easier to ‘live and let live,’ then to deal with the stuff in our own lives so that we can help others in their ability to discern right from wrong.
How do you see this kind of thinking in our world today? [‘I don’t tell you how to live, so you can’t tell me how to either.’]
But it gets worse…
HEARTS HARDEN – Genesis 38:12-26
“Some years later Judah’s wife died. After the time of mourning was over, Judah and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went up to Timnah to supervise the shearing of his sheep. 13 Someone told Tamar, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.”
14 Tamar was aware that Shelah had grown up, but no arrangements had been made for her to come and marry him. So she changed out of her widow’s clothing and covered herself with a veil to disguise herself. Then she sat beside the road at the entrance to the village of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. 15 Judah noticed her and thought she was a prostitute, since she had covered her face. 16 So he stopped and propositioned her. “Let me have sex with you,” he said, not realizing that she was his own daughter-in-law.
“How much will you pay to have sex with me?” Tamar asked. 17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” Judah promised. “But what will you give me to guarantee that you will send the goat?” she asked. 18 “What kind of guarantee do you want?” he replied. She answered, “Leave me your identification seal and its cord and the walking stick you are carrying.” So Judah gave them to her. Then he had intercourse with her, and she became pregnant. 19 Afterward she went back home, took off her veil, and put on her widow’s clothing as usual.
20 Later Judah asked his friend Hirah the Adullamite to take the young goat to the woman and to pick up the things he had given her as his guarantee. But Hirah couldn’t find her. 21 So he asked the men who lived there, “Where can I find the shrine prostitute who was sitting beside the road at the entrance to Enaim?” “We’ve never had a shrine prostitute here,” they replied. 22 So Hirah returned to Judah and told him, “I couldn’t find her anywhere, and the men of the village claim they’ve never had a shrine prostitute there.” 23 “Then let her keep the things I gave her,” Judah said. “I sent the young goat as we agreed, but you couldn’t find her. We’d be the laughingstock of the village if we went back again to look for her.”
24 About three months later, Judah was told, “Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has acted like a prostitute. And now, because of this, she’s pregnant.” “Bring her out, and let her be burned!” Judah demanded. 25 But as they were taking her out to kill her, she sent this message to her father-in-law: “The man who owns these things made me pregnant. Look closely. Whose seal and cord and walking stick are these?” 26 Judah recognized them immediately and said, “She is more righteous than I am, because I didn’t arrange for her to marry my son Shelah.” And Judah never slept with Tamar again.”
I don’t know how much more ‘righteous’ Tamar was than Judah, but she obviously took a really big gamble…and could have lost; she would have too if she hadn’t thought through how this could all play out. Many in their day would have applauded Tamar for her commitment to preserve the family line, just as Judah ends up doing…once they knew the whole story.
But when Judah first gets the word that his daughter-in-law is pregnant through prostitution, what does he decree? “Bring her out and let her be burned!” He was in his full legal right, but totally ignored the fact that it was he who had put her in a very desperate position. Living for years with a guilty conscience does not make a person empathetic; it makes them intolerant and hard hearted.
Judah’s refusal to give Tamar to his son Shelah as a wife had probably been adding to the guilt of his already tormented thoughts. Now, Tamar had provided him with an easy out—killing the unfaithful daughter-in-law would have rid him of a problem that I am certain had the neighbours talking. By not having Tamar marry Shelah, Judah was not living up to his obligation to his dead son, his daughter-in-law or even his own family line.
Fortunately for Tamar, she had thought ahead. She needed to be able to prove that the father of the child she was carrying was Judah himself, which she wisely revealed to him in a manner that didn’t further shame or call him out, until he was ready to admit the role he had played.
What do you think of Judah’s responses? How many times have we heard of some very vocal anti-whatevers being guilty of the very thing they profess to be against?
It might interest you to know, if you don’t already, that Tamar would give birth to twins—Perez and Zerah. They would grow up in Judah’s household as his sons/grandsons and travel with the whole family to Egypt years later.
We often believe, falsely, that living with a guilty conscience is better than having to face up to our failures. But while we can play pretend for others, keep the secrets hidden and appear to get on with our lives, we cannot get away from our own condemning thoughts. And if we allow ourselves to become impervious to the constant pounding of our consciences by undealt with guilt, it is likely that the hardness of our hearts will lead us into deeper regrets.
· Unresolved regret over moral failure leads to guilt feelings; these lead to further poor choices, the inability to receive or provide wise guidance and lack of empathy.
· We are all prone to making mistakes and moral failures—we are after all sinful; however, as believers we have the Holy Spirit to help us. It is not okay to simply do wrong without considering the consequences, nor is it wise to ignore our lapses. Honesty, humility and reliance on God are the keys to living a life that is free of guilt and free of damning secrets.
· God has a way of redeeming even our very bad choices. Perez, one of Judah’s twin boys with Tamar, would become one of the many ancestors of Jesus. So, rather than getting eaten up by guilt, I would suggest humility and making things as right as can be, allowing God to help us through the process.
· God has made a way for us to experience forgiveness; we would be wise to take him up on his offer.
Jesus has made the final sacrifice required by God’s Law, but we still need to keep a pliant heart toward God—allowing Him to break us so that we can know restoration and acknowledging our sin and being repentant so that we can experience His forgiveness.
Jesus died to make it possible for us to live without a guilty conscience!
Further Study –
“What is Levirate Marriage?” https://www.gotquestions.org/levirate-marriage.html
Sunday, May 2, 2021- “God’s Miraculous Reversal” (Genesis 39-50) - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel, Collingwood
Daily Devotional – Wednesday, April 21, 2021
“But forget all that [I did in the past]— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NLT)
For those of you familiar with Thom Ranier’s book, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church,” you will have heard that the death of a church, just as the birth of a church, is normative. There is a natural life cycle that comes to all living organisms which includes death so that life can be reborn. I have been wondering if our church, Hope Chapel, was at the point of needing to ‘die’ and to receive a dignified burial. From an historical perspective, our church will be 124 years old this year and here we are once again struggling financially. Earlier in the week, I began praying with all earnest for God to reveal his plan for our congregation. Does he want us to shut down or not?
This morning, I believe I got his very direct answer…and I now “see it!” The church formerly known as Collingwood Evangelical Missionary Church has already died, in fact has been dead for some time. “Hope Chapel,” while meeting in an old building, is actually a new work that has yet to officially celebrate its first birthday! Our church today is like the sapling that is growing beside the dead stump where a tree once flourished, but is no more. Hope Chapel is not a dying church struggling to survive; it is in fact a new church plant needing help to thrive, just as all babies do. God has ‘already begun’ his work of doing something new, but because there was no dramatic death or funeral for what was, I hadn’t fully recognized what he was doing. I now do!
In the past year, despite COVID 19, restrictions and closures, Hope Chapel has been a construction site, with God as the foreman.
• The pews are gone and the sanctuary ready for a new form of discipleship training—once we can physically meet again it will not be as performers on stage with rows for an audience, but as engaged participants.
• Youth for Christ (YFC) has relocated to the church building, and without having to carry the burden of renting a facility, are now free to expand their ideas for doing ministry and have established a ‘Clothing Room’ that has been well-received and is meeting the needs of many within the neighbourhood.
• A partnership of churches and YFC has developed to provide a ministry to the high school students across the road from Hope Chapel—prior to our most recent shutdown, we were seeing an average of 40-50 students at our door every school day, enjoying refreshments, connecting with the volunteers and entering into conversations about God.
• Like many churches, our ministries have gone online and we have seen people able to join us on Sunday mornings and for discipleship training and Bible studies throughout the week from as far away as Kitchener, British Columbia, Chicago and Barbados—distance is no longer a deterrent.
• We are also actively reaching into our neighbourhood, demonstrating tangible acts of kindness and our neighbours have taken notice—just recently I had one of our neighbours, who has had no previous connection to our church, asking how she might make a donation. The ground is being tilled and the Holy Spirit is granting us favour.
• We have even cleared the way to sell the parsonage in order that we might become financially self-sustaining, but given all the steps required, it is still close to a year before we will receive any benefit from that decision.
In the meantime, for all the good things I see God doing in our new church plant of Hope Chapel, I also recognize our need for his Sovereign hand to sustain us in the now. Please pray for us. We need help just as any newborn needs support. I am asking if anyone reading this note will consider partnering with God in this new work, Hope Chapel. I am not asking that anyone reduce their current support to other ministries, but rather asking whether or not God would have you lend your help, in the same attitude of 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” For those who are unable to help financially, know that we value your prayers. God has begun the work and he will sustain it, but he often asks us to partner with him in that work. What an incredible privilege! As God’s children, we are all in his service together.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional – Monday, April 19, 2021
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1:12-13, NLT)
During my week off from regular church duties, I took time to do some reading. One of the books I read was an autobiography of a Christian mom and a Muslim daughter and their struggle to navigate their relationship onto a more peaceful path. As they dialogued back and forth, the adult daughter made it clear that she wanted her mother to respect her ability to make her own choices; the mother struggled too, in part, because she believes her daughter’s choice leaves her outside of God’s promise of eternity with him due to her rejection of Jesus as the Saviour. I empathized with both of these women. The daughter should have the right to choose. The mother recognizes the danger of her daughter’s choice.
We want our children, even our adult ones, to avoid making decisions that we see as inherently problematic. If we could, we might choose to assert our own wisdom and make their choices for them. But that is not how faith works. Each individual must make the decision to believe in and accept Jesus as God. We don’t ‘inherit’ the benefits of the cross through someone else’s faith—our parents and grandparents cannot ‘will’ us into God’s kingdom. We must be willing to honour another’s free will as much as God himself does. We cannot make the choice to believe in Jesus for another and we cannot force others to make decisions we deem best. We must hand them over to God in our prayers, releasing them into his care. We need to continue to love while at the same time respecting free will.
As difficult as it is to let go, we must acknowledge that God does not force anyone to have a relationship with him and neither can we. Sometimes we need to step aside and allow him to do the work only he can. We need to stop getting in the way with our good intentions.
~ Pastor Jane
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, April 11, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Revenge!”
Text – Genesis 34
What does God tell us about revenge? [Romans 12:9 “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”] Why? [none of us is perfect; we tend to go overboard; God is just, He is the only Righteous Judge and knows what is best]
This morning I want to begin our look at a very difficult portion of Scripture with a news article from earlier this week that I believe can give us insight into today’s biblical account from Genesis 34. I want to warn you, this will not be a comfortable topic for most of us and it may contain triggers for others.
Kyrgyzstan: Fury Over Death of 'Bride Kidnapping' Victim - Angry protests have broken out in Kyrgyzstan after a woman was abducted and killed in a case of "bride kidnapping"
“Aizada Kanatbekova, 27, was snatched on Monday by three men who pushed her into a car. It is believed one of them wanted to marry her by force. Security footage showing the abduction spread widely on social media but police could not track the vehicle. Ms Kanatbekova's body was found in an abandoned car on Wednesday. A shepherd came across the vehicle in a field outside the capital, Bishkek, and raised the alarm.
The young woman's kidnapper and suspected murderer was also found dead. Police said he died from knife wounds, which were thought to have been self-inflicted. Ms Kanatbekova's family said she knew the man, and they had asked him before not to hassle her. Another of the three men was detained by police, according to state TV. The illegal abduction of women for marriage is thought to be widespread in the country.
Many believe bride kidnapping is an ancient Kyrgyz tradition, but some researchers argue it became popular in the Central Asian country only a few decades ago. It was outlawed in 2013, but convictions are rare and women are often unwilling to report it for fear of reprisals. UN figures suggest one in five marriages in Kyrgyzstan happens after a woman has been kidnapped. Parents and relatives relentlessly pressure young men in Kyrgyzstan to marry after they reach a certain age. For many, especially those from poor families, bride kidnapping is the cheapest and quickest way.
About 500 people gathered to demonstrate in front of the interior ministry on Thursday, shouting "Shame!" and demanding the minister's resignation. "It is impossible to be quiet and observe the violence that our women, who lack any rights, must endure," local journalist Mahinur Niyazova told the AFP news agency. Prime Minister Ulugbek Sharipov urged the crowd to "have patience" while police investigate, but several called for him to be fired too. Some of the signs carried by protesters read: "Who will answer for Aizada's murder?" and "Who still thinks that murder is a tradition?"
Writing on Facebook, Kyrgyzstan's President Sadyr Japarov described Ms Kanatbekova's death as "a tragedy and pain not only for her family, but also for our entire state". The incident should be "the last bride kidnapping in history", he said. Kyrgyzstan has been here before, however. In 2018, a 20-year-old medical student, Burulai Turdaaly Kyzy, was stabbed to death at a police station, as she prepared to file a statement against her kidnapper. Her killer was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and more than 20 police officers were punished.”
This story reminds us that we live in a sometimes very ugly world where sin is allowed to flourish, people are abused and those with authority to serve justice are often reluctant. Many are demanding change to practices that degrade women and others, some want to sweep the problems under a proverbial rug, others seethe with a desire for revenge and some may take matters into their own hands. How are we to respond to injustice? And how can this current event possibly have any bearing on a story from the Bible?
A HEINOUS PRACTICE/ATTITUDE – Genesis 34:1-12
“One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the young women who lived in the area. 2 But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her. 3 But then he fell in love with her, and he tried to win her affection with tender words. 4 He said to his father, Hamor, ‘Get me this young girl. I want to marry her.’
5 Soon Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter, Dinah. But since his sons were out in the fields herding his livestock, he said nothing until they returned. 6 Hamor, Shechem’s father, came to discuss the matter with Jacob. 7 Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the field as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious that their sister had been raped. Shechem had done a disgraceful thing against Jacob’s family, something that should never be done.
8 Hamor tried to speak with Jacob and his sons. ‘My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,’ he said. ‘Please let him marry her. 9 In fact, let’s arrange other marriages, too. You give us your daughters for our sons, and we will give you our daughters for your sons. 10 And you may live among us; the land is open to you! Settle here and trade with us. And feel free to buy property in the area.’
11 Then Shechem himself spoke to Dinah’s father and brothers. ‘Please be kind to me, and let me marry her,’ he begged. ‘I will give you whatever you ask. 12 No matter what dowry or gift you demand, I will gladly pay it—just give me the girl as my wife.’”
I would like to make one thing clear from the outset: Dinah is not to blame for her rape. For some of us that sounds like a no-brainer, but as I prepared for this morning, I became aware of an all-too-common trend in the biblical commentaries. I can’t tell you the times that I became aware of some scholars’ attempts to blame Dinah for her own rape—a practice we now recognize as victim blaming and shaming. As the only named daughter of Jacob, many reasoned, she was obviously spoiled, disregarded safety measures, possibly going to observe the ‘daughters of the land’ to discover the latest in fashion trends without her parents knowing her whereabouts. Others wanted to blame her father and mother who doubtless pampered her and allowed her to go visiting without a chaperone; they should have known it wasn’t safe for her on her own.
Let me offer just a couple of corrections. We do not know that she was Jacob’s only daughter, only that she is the only one named. The Bible often leaves out the names of daughters in genealogical records. It is likely that the family had been living in the area for roughly eight years and would have developed some friendly relations with the locals—for both socializing and trade. Jacob learns that his daughter has been raped, but from whom? It appears that Dinah did not return to her family until later, so it is likely she had an escort who came and delivered the news to Jacob. From the text, it appears that Dinah, a teenaged girl between the ages of 13-17 years, had gone to town to visit with friends with at least one other and found herself overpowered by a man, one of the local leaders, and raped.
If there is any individual of this story who was overly-indulged by parents it is likely the perpetrator of the crime, Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the local prince. After his rape of Dinah, whom he calls a ‘young girl’ he demands that his father make the necessary arrangements with her family so that he can marry her, effectively making her his property. The Bible says that after raping Dinah, Shechem then ‘fell in love with her and spoke tenderly to her.’ This is not love as we understand love. This is not a romance between two young people. Shechem is old enough to be recognized as the ‘local prince’ or in other words one of the influential rulers in the area. He has raped a young girl and decided he wants to keep her. Given the culture of many ancient and current day societies, it is likely that Dinah felt she could not return to her family as she was now ‘spoiled goods’…better to stay with her rapist, then never to marry at all or to expose her family to shame.
When Jacob finds out what has happened to his daughter, his sons are out in the field tending the herds and so he stays silent, maybe feeling powerless to confront this local prince on his own. Word of their sister’s defilement reaches Jacob’s sons and they come immediately back to their home, shocked and furious. The Bible does not indicate which of the sons became deeply upset, but it is safe to assume that none were apathetic to the news. Was their reaction for their sister? In part. However, I suspect a considerable amount of their indignation centred around the fact that someone dared mess with their family and they had been treated dishonourably as a whole. They each took the affront personally.
However, you may have noticed that there is no apology or even admission to the act by Hamor or his son, Shechem, that Dinah has been raped. It may be that they thought Jacob and his sons were unaware—so why upset them—or that they would accept Shechem’s actions as a culturally acceptable practice. They were wrong…
The desire for revenge is a natural knee jerk reaction for people, like a default setting in our sinful humanity. There is a place for righteous anger, but not revenge. How would you explain the difference to someone? [righteous anger seeks to right an injustice – revenge seeks to extract payment]
ULTERIOR MOTIVES – Genesis 34:13-24
“But since Shechem had defiled their sister, Dinah, Jacob’s sons responded deceitfully to Shechem and his father, Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We couldn’t possibly allow this, because you’re not circumcised. It would be a disgrace for our sister to marry a man like you! 15 But here is a solution. If every man among you will be circumcised like we are, 16 then we will give you our daughters, and we’ll take your daughters for ourselves. We will live among you and become one people. 17 But if you don’t agree to be circumcised, we will take her and be on our way.”
18 Hamor and his son Shechem agreed to their proposal. 19 Shechem wasted no time in acting on this request, for he wanted Jacob’s daughter desperately. Shechem was a highly respected member of his family, 20 and he went with his father, Hamor, to present this proposal to the leaders at the town gate.
21 “These men are our friends,” they said. “Let’s invite them to live here among us and trade freely. Look, the land is large enough to hold them. We can take their daughters as wives and let them marry ours. 22 But they will consider staying here and becoming one people with us only if all of our men are circumcised, just as they are. 23 But if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised.”
While it is not clear what Jacob’s response to their suggested arrangement was, the two men entirely underestimated the reaction of Jacob’s sons. We don’t know if it was all of Jacob’s sons or just Dinah’s brothers, Levi and Simeon who later take center stage, who had no intention of dealing honourably with the perpetrators. The scheming behaviour of Rebecca and Jacob, Laban, Leah and Rachel is also evident in this next generation of Jacob’s sons. They had grown up in a divided household, filled with intrigue, competition and favouritism. Asking God’s help in dealing with this situation probably didn’t even cross their minds. They set upon a plan to get even, but pretended to be in agreement…if their condition that every man be circumcised was met.
Hamor and Shechem are entirely oblivious to the fact that they are walking into a trap. The plan is proposed to all the leaders at the town gate and because Shechem was a highly respected member of his family, they are easily persuaded. It seems that Jacob and his family had lived sometime in the area and had made a favourable impression. Alliances were often made to increase the strength of a community. This was a transaction that would bring obvious benefit to the town. Why not amalgamate with this powerful family? Hadn’t they proven themselves reliable and trustworthy? What did they have to lose?
What the townspeople did not know, however, was just how untrustworthy this family had been in the past, even to their own, and what level of cruelty they were capable of.
WANTON REVENGE – Genesis 34:25-31
“But three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, 26 including Hamor and his son Shechem. They killed them with their swords, then took Dinah from Shechem’s house and returned to their camp.
27 Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons arrived. Finding the men slaughtered, they plundered the town because their sister had been defiled there. 28 They seized all the flocks and herds and donkeys—everything they could lay their hands on, both inside the town and outside in the fields. 29 They looted all their wealth and plundered their houses. They also took all their little children and wives and led them away as captives.
30 Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!’
31 ‘But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?’ they retorted angrily.”
It appears that Jacob had no idea what at least two of his sons had been planning and the rest of his sons later participated in. I suspect that Jacob would have preferred to let the whole affair slide. He may have himself seen some advantages to creating an alliance with Hamor’s people, or at the very least not antagonizing anyone living in the land against his family. I find Jacob’s response self-serving and cowardly. “What after all is the sacrifice of a daughter to maintain the peace?” may have been part of his reasoning.
But when the men of the town were still incapacitated from their recent wholescale circumcision, Simeon and Levi saw their chance at revenge and killed all the men. Whether it was for Dinah’s sake or for the ‘family’s honour,’ Simeon and Levi were incensed, “You cannot simply take something that is ours.” After killing the men, they retrieved their sister from Shechem’s house where she had been held as his captive wife during this whole time. After they took their sister back to their camp, things went from bad to worse.
The other brothers—which ones specifically we don’t know—arrived to find all the men killed and proceeded to loot the place—the herds, the houses, the women and children. All in all, the sons of Jacob ended up perpetrating a greater harm than was originally committed—the killing of all the men, the enslavement of all the women and children and the ransacking of a whole town and surrounding countryside.
Later in the laws God provided Moses, we read that “an eye for an eye” was permitted, and even very specific consequences around what should serve as justice when rape occurred, but this is wholly other. This is out of control revenge—blood lust and greed disguised as ‘justice.’ Some biblical commentators have attempted to vindicate Jacob’s sons, but that is nonsense. How would we react to a similar act of retaliation in Kyrgyzstan today in response to Aizada’s kidnapping and murder that we read earlier? Neither a Jacob-like response of silence or taking matters into our own hands like his sons will provide a lasting solution.
How could this story have had a more just ending? [discussion]
What does Jesus tell us is required? [forgiveness and love – this in no way diminishes the guilt of the perpetrator or removes consequences, but it frees us from acting out in sin or allowing the harm to be replayed in our own lives]
What can we take away from this story?
· Imbalances in power result in abuse.
· Victim blaming has a long tradition, one we must renounce.
· Some cultural practices should never become normative / accepted.
· Neither staying silent nor revenge seeking provide sound solutions.
· There’s good reason God has prohibited us from taking revenge.
· Those who seek revenge are no better than those who do the original deed!
· We are called to forgive and allow God to provide judgement.
Sunday, April 18, 2021- Guest Speaker: Donald Peck - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
Daily Devotional – Thursday, April 8, 2021
“You are a slave to whatever controls you.” (2 Peter 2:19b, NLT)
I was reminded again recently of the Christ-follower’s need to submit every area of life over to his Lordship. Why? Because whatever we haven’t given to him remains an area in which the enemy can work. God has promised to keep secure that which we entrust him with, but what of those things we refuse to let go of? Withholding anything from God puts us in jeopardy.
In Peter’s second letter, he warned his readers from being deceived by false teachers into returning to a life of disobedience to God. I know there is a long-standing debate in religious circles concerning whether or not a Christ-follower can ‘lose’ their faith. I believe that our relationship with Christ is not something you can lose, but it is certainly something you can choose to turn away from. Why else would Peter continue his warning, “And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life” (2 Peter 2:20-21)?
James’ encouragement would appear to back this thought up, “Submit yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world” (James 4:7-8). And isn’t that really the issue? Divided loyalty. We want what God has to offer, but are unwilling to live without the things we enjoyed before coming to know God. Peter puts it bluntly, “They prove the truth of this proverb: ‘A dog returns to its vomit.’ And another says, ‘A washed pig returns to the mud’” (2 Peter 2:22). Though true, neither analogy is appealing. But the question remains: do they apply?
As Christ-followers we need to take our allegiance to God seriously. Have we fully submitted to his Lordship, or do we hold back areas of our life from his transformative work? Are we resisting the devil, or attempting to walk the dangerous line of trying to gain advantages from both God and the world. If you’re one who is trying to juggle loyalties, Paul has a strong warning, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant” (Galatians 6:7). We must give up the notion that we can ‘dabble’ in a relationship with God. We are called to be loyal to Jesus alone. He will not tolerate divided allegiances. Everything we are and everything we have must belong to him or we put ourselves in jeopardy, not only in the here and now, but also in the hereafter.
Peter, James and Paul all agree…it’s to be all or nothing.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional Wednesday, April 7, 2021
“The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” (1 Peter 4:7-9, NLT)
Peter saw the end of the world as imminent—so convinced was he of Jesus’ soon return. 2000 years later, we are still waiting, so shouldn’t we be taking Peter’s words very seriously about being prepared for Jesus’ second coming now that it is two millennia closer? And as he saw the end approaching what is Peter’s advice on being ready? Prayer. Tangible demonstrations of love. Hospitality.
If you’ve ever been asked to contemplate how you would spend your time, if you knew you only had 24 hours left to live, have prayer, hospitality and care of others made it to the top of your list? Peter makes it clear what our priorities should be. When Jesus comes back, Peter recommends that we get caught in the act of doing good, not squeezing the very last ounce of enjoyment out of life for our own personal pleasure.
None of us knows when Jesus will return, just that he will. It’s guaranteed. So, given that fact, how should we spend our time, our money, our resources? Peter tells us to consider how best to demonstrate God’s love to the world…then get busy. Good talk without actions leaves us liable…having known the good we should do, but not doing it, is sin (James 4:17). Helping others can cost us, it’s true, but isn’t that what the life of the believer is to be all about? We’ve got all of eternity ahead of us to enjoy being with Jesus in heaven. Now’s the time to be busy filling up heaven’s registrar with all those who will respond to Jesus’ invitation!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional – Tuesday, April 6, 2021
“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. 2 You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. 3 You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols. 4 Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. 5 But remember that they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:1-5, NLT)
My morning devotional reading found me in 1 Peter and I couldn’t help but notice just how much the fourth chapter remains a challenge for those of us living 2000 years later. Peter tells us that we should ‘arm ourselves with the same attitude as Jesus when it comes to our readiness to endure physical pain.’ It is thought that Peter wrote this letter to believers from Rome, shortly before the systemic persecutions of Christians by Nero that saw many become the martyrs of the early church. Peter does not have a martyr-complex, he simply recognizes the experiences that many were being forced to endure because of their faith in Christ. He does not advise them to pray away the possibility of suffering for their faith, but to prepare themselves with the same attitude as Christ to be ready to suffer, even physically.
Their changed lives mark them as targets by those who were former friends. It is much easier to destroy another’s reputation than to give up sinful habits and so these new believers should not be surprised when their desire to do God’s will causes old friends to slander them in their attempt to discredit the believers’ faith. But Peter encourages them to be ‘finished with sin,’ for everyone will have to meet God face to face for his judgement. Only those who have lived a life for Christ will be judged guiltless because of their belief in, proclamation of and obedience to his Lordship.
As the recipients of Peter’s letters today, I suspect many of us balk at the thought of having to suffer—whether from the slander of former friends or physically for our faith. We have made far more preparation to ‘demand rights,’ ‘fight for freedom,’ and ‘stand our ground’ no matter the cost. While I fully support seeking justice, I do not believe that the current focus of many believers—me, me and me—lines up with God’s word as provided to us through Peter’s pen. Are we prepared to give up our own desires? Are we anxious to do the will of God? Peter tells us the proof of this is in having the same attitude as Jesus, part of which was his willingness to suffer for others according to God’s will. And don’t worry about non-believers’ responses to your obedience—we will each be brought before the Judge and his perfect justice will be served.
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!