And They Lived Happily Ever After…Not!

Weddings are one of those occasions people hope will be problem-free. We want to start the marriage right and we want the happy ending at the end of our lives. But what do we do when things start falling apart—like the wedding ceremony above?

Join me today as we explore how to respond when we don’t get the happy ending.

TODAY’S READING

Leviticus 16:29-18:30
Mark 7:24-8:10
Psalm 41:1-13
Proverbs 10:15-16

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Leviticus 17. The purpose of forbidding the sacrifice of animals “outside the camp” is to prevent the people from making sacrifices to foreign gods (verses 1-5).

Verse 7 refers to the Egyptian practice of worshiping goat idols (satyrs), which consorted with spirits and demons. Apparently, this form of idolatry survived in Israel for a long time.

The New Bible Commentary offers some interesting insights to explain why eating blood was forbidden: “The primary reason for the ban on eating blood…was its sacredness as the major element in the sacrificial rituals. A secondary reason may have been that it inculcated a basic respect for life, which was not to be frivolously destroyed or treated with contempt. This was a very ancient principle in Israel, related to the covenant with Noah (see Genesis 9:4–6).”

Leviticus 18. The beginning of this discourse on prohibited sexual relationships begins with “I am the Lord your God” in order to reinforce the seriousness of his commands.

The sacrifice of children, homosexual sex, and bestiality were known elements of worship in Egypt, Canaan, and other surrounding cultures. Incest was fairly common among Egyptian royalty.

Violation of God’s commands regarding sex were particularly strident. We read in verse 28 that “If you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” The New Bible Commentary further explains, “The destruction of the Canaanites was not a matter of arbitrary divine favouritism, but of explicit moral judgment on a society which is described in the Bible, and confirmed by archaeology, as degraded, perverted and oppressive.”

Mark 7:24-30. If you’ve noticed thus far in our reading in Mark, whenever Jesus ministered in Israel, crowds flocked to him. In order to get a breather, he traveled to Tyre, which was inhabited by Gentiles, most of whom wouldn’t know his identity. Instead of a crowd, Jesus was recognized by a Greek woman with a child who was harassed by an unclean spirit.

While dogs were considered scavengers in Jewish society, in Greek culture, dogs were often considered pets. Jesus was saying that children should be fed before their pets. While in agreement with Jesus, this pagan woman demonstrated great faith by saying that only a crumb of Jesus’ power could heal her daughter. Which it did.

Mark 7:31-37. The Decapolis, which means “Ten Cities,” was inhabited mainly by Gentiles.

Psalm 41. This is the end of book 1 in Psalms. It began in chapter 1 with “Blessed is the man…” and concludes with “Blessed is he…”

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Psalm 41 intrigues me. In the first three verses, David extols the virtues and blessings of taking care of the weak or poor. But for the remainder of the psalm, David writes from the viewpoint of being one of those weak people.

Throughout the heart of the psalm, the writer begs for God’s mercy and intervention, in the same way that he showed mercy to the poor and weak.

This psalm, though, concludes without resolution to David’s problem. We don’t read the about the happy ending.

Isn’t that the way life is? Very rarely does it resolve according to our wishes. Nevertheless, David concludes by praising God (verse 13).

Most successful movies and best-selling books conclude with a happy ending. We all want the happy ending. We envision ourselves living the happy ending.

But what do we do when the ending isn’t happy—or we wait endlessly for the resolution to our problems?

That’s when we see what’s really inside.

I’ve known people who live in denial, and lift their voices in praise to God in the middle of difficult situations. Instead of acknowledging their problems, they ignore them altogether.That’s not what I’m talking about. The psalmist was obviously facing his problems because he recounted his pain and frustration in prayer.

But which comes first? The heart change that’s dedicated to praising God or the words of praise that change the heart?

Both. But if you’re like me, and your default setting isn’t always set on praising God, then the best place to start is by praising God no matter what.

What’s the benefit? It gives us God’s perspective and reminds us that God is good and great. We can trust him.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What kind of people can assess their problems and still lift their voices in praise to God in the middle of a difficult situation? Describe a time when you witnessed this.
  3. Is it wrong to dream about the happy ending? Why or why not? How do you usually respond to the unhappy ending? How has God met you in the unhappy ending?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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