With his wife’s full knowledge, he kept back part of the money for himself but brought the rest and put it at the apostle’s feet.
“Ananias and Sapphira.” The names are mentioned together, like “Bonnie and Clyde.” We remember both couples for their crimes and the manner of their deaths.
We don’t know why God struck Ananias and Sapphira dead for lying about how much money they received for the property they sold. What is clear is that both husband and wife were held accountable. Sapphira knew the details of the transaction, but she stayed home while Ananias presented their offering. Three hours later, she arrived at the assembly. Perhaps she expected a grateful welcome. Instead, she saw no sign of her husband. Before she could wonder why Peter asked her a question: “Is this the amount of money you received?”
Carefully coached, she confidently said, “Yes.” She died in the same manner as her husband.
Sapphira could have made several choices. She could have objected when Ananias sold the land. She could have asked him to give all the money to the church, instead of holding some back. Most importantly, she could have refused to lie about it. When Peter asked her directly, she could have told the truth. Instead, she committed the same sins as her husband. When we stand before Christ we will not be able to say, “I was just following orders.” The choice to stand in truth will always be our own.
For this reason, although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right, I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of love.
Apphia (Philemon 1:2) was probably Philemon’s wife and therefore had a part in Onesimus’s situation. Onesimus was a runaway slave who had robbed his master Philemon and escaped to Rome. While there, he met Paul, and Onesimus became his spiritual son. Paul sent the runaway slave back to Apphia’s household with a letter appealing to Apphia and Philemon to respond to Onesimus in Christian love. How the newly converted slave would be treated depended upon how Apphia, as well as her husband, Philemon, reacted to the apostle Paul’s request for leniency.
No doubt, emotions ran high in Philemon’s household. He and his wife may have reacted with shock when Paul asked them to take back the escaped slave as a brother in Christ. After all, legally, they had complete authority over their slave and could even have had him put to death.
Though the couple could have made life very difficult for the runaway, Paul called them to compassion, even hinting that they might free Onesimus and send him back to continue the ministry he had begun with Paul (Philemon 1:12-16).
Like Apphia, we face times when our emotions may edge us toward revenge. Will we try to exact as much as possible, or listen to the apostle’s voice? Seeking retribution leaves us with empty hearts and spirits. But forgiveness can fill our souls and the lives of those around us.
A Roland for an Oliver means a tit for tat, a blow for a blow. Paul steps forward and asks Apphia and Philemon that if Onesimus had wronged them in any way, or owed them anything, to charge the debt to his account (1:18). Sounds a lot like Jesus. How we react to our own Onesimus’ will also display Jesus in our lives. When someone has wronged you, will you respond with a Roland for an Oliver (retaliation), or will you respond with a hand of mercy that has fully embraced the pure joy of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ of Nazareth? The choice is ours.
As Paul closes his letter, he says, May I have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ (1:20). When we choose love over retaliation, not only do we offer the refreshment of Christ to the one needing it, we also refresh anyone else with eyes to see and ears to hear.
But My righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I have no pleasure in him.
Jesus says fear comes from little faith (Matthew 8:26). When we struggle with fear, and it causes us to be anxious or timid, the Bible says to look away from ourselves. We grab hold tightly to the beautiful truth: He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains (Isaiah 53:4), and we see the emphasis is on He HIMSELF. The remedy to fear is not found in ourselves but in Jesus Christ. Our fear gets crushed when we turn our eyes to Jesus, “He Himself” because he is our remedy.
Below are four examples of women who did not shrink back when fear tempted them. Don’t think for a minute it was because the invitation to make a difference did not require bold courage. It did. These women were human just like you and I. Just because the text does not indicate their sweaty palms, their butterfly stomachs, and sleepless nights does not mean it did not exist for them. It just signifies they overlooked their body’s response to uncertainty and focused their eyes on something more significant.
During these days of uncertainty, we must choose courage. We need the courage to do what is hard. Courage to not fear. Courage to not retaliate. Courage to give a blessing when someone close to us is behaving like an enemy, and most importantly, the courage to stand when we feel like retreating. Choose bold courage today. Love when it’s risky. Be merciful. Be thankful. Forgive. Have peace. And most importantly, trust God.
She summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you: ‘Go, deploy the troops on Mount Tabor, and take with you 10,000 men from the Naphtalites and Zebulunites? Then I will lure Sisera commander of Jabin’s forces, his chariots, and his army at the Wadi Kishon to fight against you, and I will hand him over to you.
Barak was hesitant to obey the LORD, but Deborah boldly reminded him of God’s promise to go before them, and the blessings that come with obedience. She encouraged him by saying, “Hasn’t the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you…to go?” She trusted God so much that she even planned to take part in his plan. Encourage someone to be brave. Remind them of God’s promises. We need courageous Christians to step forward. Be prepared to stand with God, come what may, and encourage someone who needs reminding.
Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, day or night. I and my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.”
Esther is an inspiring and remarkable woman willing to risk her life to save others. She is an outstanding example of a woman ready to be courageous, even under the most stressful circumstances. Jesus Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Most of the time, our lives may be pretty routine, but when defining moments present themselves, be prepared to put godly principles above personal benefit. She teaches us that we must break fear’s intimidation and use our influence to bring glory to God. Be a difference-maker.
Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with their tambourines and danced.
Moses’ sister Miriam displayed remarkable intelligence and confidence. She helped save his life by hiding him among the reeds at the edge of the river when authorities wanted to kill him. Later, Miriam, with her brothers Moses and Aaron, led the Hebrew people through the forty years when they searched for the Promised Land that God had promised. I like how Miriam led the women to worship the God who saves. She encouraged the women not to keep silent when God demonstrated his awe-inspiring works. Who can you invite to give God glory? It is always perfect to start with ourselves. Miraim did by picking up the tambourine.
“I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the most admired figures in Scripture. It is her courage that is applauded because she was willing to trust God’s call even when that meant a disruption in the life she planned. Mary experienced considerable joy in her submissiveness but also significant suffering. Despite these things, she responded to God with great obedience and submission to His way. Her life did not rob Jesus of His glory, for her mission was to witness the glory of the Son of God. She humbly surrendered her life and reputation to the purposes of God. Her submission shows us that when we consecrate our life to the Lord, He can do amazing things. We too can lead courageous lives so that we, as well as others, are a witness to His glory.
By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful.
Sarah often gets blamed for lack of faith when she urged Hagar upon Abraham. But a closer reading reveals a startling fact: God did not promise Abraham a son through Sarah until more than a decade after Ishmael had been born. Perhaps she thought bearing a son through her maidservant was God’s plan all along.
Her faith is what is held up as an example in the Hall of Faith found in the book of Hebrews. Trying circumstances work out our faith — breaking down fragile hope and rebuilding robust hope in the strength of Christ. They expose faith in our own strength and wisdom, and they exercise our faith so that we will increasingly put our hope and confidence in Christ and his promises instead.
With twenty-twenty hindsight, we see her mistake. But apparently, this was an accepted practice in that era. After all, four of the twelve tribes – Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naphtali – were born to maidservants.
When God’s plan didn’t match Sarah’s expectations, she added her own spin. Did she pray about it? We are not told. If she had prayed…if she had waited…if Abraham had said no…if, if, if. What we do know is that once God promised Sarah, she would be a mother, she believed.
Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”
Many of us have at least one “if only” in our lives. Like Sarah, our mistakes don’t end our usefulness to God. If we stumble, let us acknowledge our error and move forward with confidence because the One who promises is faithful.
After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons.
Mary had seven demons cast out of her (Luke 8:1–3), was present at Jesus’s crucifixion (John 19:25), saw where Jesus was buried (Mark 15:47), and saw the resurrected Jesus (Matthew 28:1–10). Mary was living proof of Jesus’ power to change lives. Through her deliverance, people could see God fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy that He would “let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people” (Isaiah 58:6).
Jesus had removed Mary’s spiritual chains, and she responded with love, devotion, and service. Even in her grief and dashed hope, following Jesus’s death, she was up before sunrise on the Sunday after Jesus’ death and on her way to His tomb. What is so astonishing about Mary Magdalene is that she was the first person Jesus appeared to after being raised from the dead (John 20:11-18). Jesus did not first show himself to his mother, nor to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary.
Jesus met Mary in her overwhelming grief and let her be the first person to glimpse the resurrection proof of His victory over death so that she could share the message of victory and joy!
Mary Magdalene is a telling woman. She told herself that in Christ, she was a new creation. Her old self had passed away, and the new had come. She told herself that in Him, her past sin, or abuses and injustices she had suffered, and the ways she viewed herself and the way others saw her because of it, was not who she was. She told herself that in Him, she was God’s child (Ephesians 1:5). She told herself that He washed her and made her holy (1 Corinthians 6:11). She told herself that no one had the authority to say otherwise (Acts 10:15). She was His beloved (Romans 9:25). She was no longer represented as her sin (Psalm 51:7). Because Mary told herself these things, doubt and fear were merely distant reminders. What clung to her now was the beautiful joy of her foremost treasure. Nothing would stop her from spreading the victorious message to the others because lies no longer had the power to haunt her.
Jesus gave the resurrection proof to this telling woman. Tell yourself the things Mary told herself and proclaim the life-changing Message you know. Undoubtedly, Mary knew she had been given the new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3) and was thrilled to be the first herald of this wonderful news. Don’t allow any grief and dashed hope to halt the beautiful feet of the herald, who proclaims peace and brings news of good things (Isaiah 52:7).