Miracles about feeding others are found throughout the Bible, but here are more lesser- known examples all involving Elisha, the prophet Elijah’s successor.
First, a widow complained to Elisha that her husband’s creditors wanted to enslave her children because she had nothing left, except a jug of oil. Elisha told her to borrow empty vessels from her neighbors, and keep filling them with oil. She did, and filled so many that she was able to sell the excess oil, pay her creditors, and live off the rest of the proceeds (2 Kings 4:1-7).
Next, after bringing a couple’s son back to life near the Sea of Galilee, Elisha traveled south towards Jerusalem. He helped prepare a meal for a group of local leaders, but a servant carelessly added a toxic ingredient to the stew. Panic ensued when this was discovered, but Elisha told them to add meal to the stew, which made it safe to eat (4:8-
A man brought Elisha twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits. Elisha told him to distribute them among the scores of people nearby, but the man objected because it would not be enough to feed them all. Elisha told him that the Lord had said “they shall eat and there shall be some left over.” Once everyone had eaten, there was food left over (4:42-44).
Elisha followed in his mentor’s footsteps. Elijah helped provide the Canaanite widow of Zarephath with food for a year (1 Kings 17:9-16), after she sacrificed what little she had to prepare a meal for him, and the Lord told Moses he would feed the Israelites with daily manna in the desert (Exodus 16:11-35).
Feeding someone is an act of stewardship. When we provide spiritual or physical food for those who are hungry, we are using our time, talent, and treasure to care for God’s creation.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
Beyond the many wild, fascinating, and hilarious Bible stories found amongst the ones we often read, there are also some pretty crazy characters in and of themselves found in the pages of the Bible. From Og and the land of giants to Cain’s wife (who seems to have appeared out of nowhere), there is no shortage of fascinating people in the stories we don’t read every day. Some of the people have funny stories; some have tragic stories; still others have violent ones — but there’s no doubt that they’re all interesting!
In Chapter 21 of the Book of Numbers, the authors of the Bible introduce us to King Og. We don’t learn too much about Og at this point, but we do learn that his people rule over the land promised to the Israelites by God. But with God on their side, the Israelites are fortified: “Do not fear him, for into your hand I deliver him with all his forces and all his land,” God reminds them. Sure enough, the Israelites triumph.
Decades later, the Israelites retell the story of this conquering, chronicled in the book of Deuteronomy, and we learn much more about Og. He was the last of the Rephaim (a race of giants that lived in the Promised Land) and for some reason, the Bible gives very specific details about the dimensions of his bed — approximately 13 ½ feet long by 6 feet wide! So, in case you were planning to build a bed for a giant (or just think your bed needs a little extra space), or needed to be more amazed at the feat it took for the Israelites to defeat him, look no further than Og!
Last week, we learned the story of the prophet Elisha, who was so upset about being teased for his bald head that he released two vicious she-bears onto the children who taunted him. If that’s enough to bring down the wrath of God, imagine what happened to Korah, who was trying to work in the sacred center of the temple. He stages an uprising against Moses and Aaron, challenging them as to why he and the other disgruntled Jewish people aren’t allowed into the most sacred part of the temple. He says “‘You go too far! The whole community, all of them, are holy; the Lord is in their midst. Why then should you set yourselves over the Lord’s assembly?’” (Numbers 21:3a)
Korah says all the right words, but God is unfortunately on the side of Moses and Aaron. Speaking to them, God tells the brothers to gather all the rebellious ones into one location in the temple square, and to step away from everyone else. Despite Moses and Aaron’s request for mercy on the rebels, God then opens the ground and swallows the rebellion alive. That’s one way to get rid of people who disagree with you for sure; and God, with his penchant for a dramatic flair, has no issue doing so!
These are just a few of the funky, unconventional, and unusual characters in the Bible. Join us next week for Part 2.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
This week we focus on yet another lesser-known example of stewardship in the Bible that parallels our main message series, Bible Oddities, a story of mutual stewardship among King David and his soldiers (2 Samuel 23:8-17).
Along with his loyal warriors, David was fleeing for his life from the rebellion led by his son Absalom. David wished longingly, but rather thoughtlessly, for water from the well of Bethlehem, which was heavily guarded by the Philistines. Three of David’s soldiers overheard him, and fought their way through to the sacred well to bring David some of its water.
But, to their surprise, David would not drink what they had risked their lives to obtain; he poured the water out on the ground instead (23:14-16). So are we to think David didn’t really want it, or appreciate his soldiers’ efforts to get it for him? No, he wasn’t rejecting their sacrifice or the water itself; rather, he was admitting their sacrifice was too great and
the water too special for just him to drink it selfishly.
David’s action teaches us something: We should not selfishly live our lives for ourselves. He poured the water out on the ground as a sacrifice to the Lord to return it to its source. Likewise, we should take the priceless gifts that God has given us and pour them out in sacrifice and service to him and to others and not just keep them to ourselves.
As stewards, we should give God the first and best of everything we have, including our efforts and possessions, because God will reward us with even more than what we gave up.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
Being full of some of the oldest stories in the world (if not the oldest), it’s only natural that the Bible has some funky parts! After all, they had quirky people and quirky stories just as much in the first century as we do today. And, the divine inspiration given to authors of the Bible didn’t mean they couldn’t add in some of the more humorous stories as well. God wants us to laugh at those silly anecdotes that always have a bit of a lesson wrapped up tightly inside. We’re going to talk about a few more intriguing Bible stories today, and see for ourselves just how crazy life could get back then.
In the second book of Kings, the prophet Elisha travels across the land, spreading the news of God. By the time he undertakes this journey, he is not a young man. As he hikes into the city of Bethel, a small group of young boys start jeering him with cries of “Go away, baldy! Go away, baldy!” Angered by this and tired from his journey, Elisha has little patience for these boys who don’t seem to care about the lessons and news he brings; thus, he cries out to the Lord for patience, as well as the destruction of these insolent little children. Then, two she-bears come charging out of the woods, where they attack the young children in the name of the Lord. Talk about taking a bite out of crime! Luckily, God doesn’t normally send vicious bears after humans, but it might be best from refraining to comment on someone’s bad hair day just in case! (2 Kings 2:23)
Another lesser-known prophet, Balaam, was riding into town one day when his donkey suddenly swerved in the road. Balaam, annoyed that the donkey will not follow the path, continues to try to force him back onto it, beating her back onto it three times. Finally, an angel of the Lord appears to Balaam, explaining that he had been sent to end Balaam’s ministry because something he had done had displeased the Lord. Here’s where it gets especially weird though: the donkey turns her head and starts speaking to Balaam, asking why the injustice of whipping her. Balaam then talks back to the donkey, as though this is a completely average occurrence. So maybe the next time your dog won’t come when you call, he’s just protecting you from the wrath of the angel of the Lord. (Numbers 22:22-40)
Only in the Bible will you find hair-sensitive prophets, talking donkeys, the remnants from a bris used to save Moses’ life, and woman-giant hybrids (which happen to look like rock monsters in a recent popular Hollywood movie). All that between two slim covers, the Bible is full of twists and turns and has a lot of guidance that we could take advantage of, if only we could open our ears to listen. It’s a little like talking to an elderly relative — a treasure trove of stories and advice open only to those open-minded enough to try it.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
From Bob Marley’s burial with his Bible to the largest (and smallest) Bibles ever printed, there’s enough odd factoids to fill several books with tidbits about the Holy Book. But if you ever open up and read the entire Bible, it seems that God always has the last laugh, and plenty of laughs there are. Some biblical stories are familiar to most Christians: the Creation story, Jonah and the Whale, Jesus feeding the 5,000 with loaves and fishes. Some others, though, I stumbled upon online and needed to affirm that they did indeed occur in the Bible. Somewhat surprisingly to me, they all did.
In the Book of Judges, for example, the Israelites turn from the ways of God and begin to worship false idols. So God strengthens a king, Eglon, who oppresses the people for eighteen years until they cry out to God for mercy and compassion. To aid the Israelites, God raises a hero, Ehud, who prepares a lavish offering for Eglon. After the offering has been presented, Ehud tells Eglon that he comes bearing a secret message from God for the king. Intrigued and excited that God has a special message for him, he sends all the attendants away. Once they are alone, Ehud unsheaths a dagger that he had secretly strapped to his thigh and stabs the corrupt king. The Bible says “Now Eglon was a very fat man . . . [and] the hilt went in also after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade because he did not withdraw the dagger from the body.” So not only was the king stabbed, but the murder weapon left in him for dramatic effect. To add further insult to injury, Eglon escapes, leaving the king dead on the floor, where he remains for several hours until his attendants think to look in on him (Judges 3:12-30).
Jesus has a few feisty moments himself throughout his ministry. I like to think that these stories are there to remind us that it’s okay to be a little sassy or impatient once in a while, and God is still going to be there to love and support us. In Matthew 17:24-27, the temple elders are testing Jesus and Peter (as they are wont to do), asking whether they pay the temple tax. Jesus, always two steps ahead, smoothly explains why he shouldn’t have to pay, but happily will anyway. Then, instead of just asking Peter to give them a coin from the money bag for the tax, Jesus tells him to go fish in the sea, and “take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth, and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.” It’s almost as though Jesus is rubbing it in the faces of elders who’s boss in this town!
Of course, no one can forget the time that Jesus finds a fig tree on his way into town. Excited to eat a fig, then severely disappointed when the tree has no figs (even though it is not fig season and there is no reason to think that a fig would be on the tree), Jesus curses the tree, and “immediately the fig tree withers” (Matthew 21:19).
These are just a few of the funky, unconventional, and unusual stories in the Bible. Join us next week for Part 2.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
This week we focus on another lesser-known example of stewardship in the Bible that parallels our main message series, Bible Oddities. We find another great steward in Moses. In Exodus, he led the Israelites out of Egypt, after crossing the Red Sea on dry land, while the Pharaoh’s army was drowned. Three months later they arrived at Mount Sinai, and Moses, Aaron, and other Jewish leaders made many trips up the mountain and back, receiving laws and guidance from the Lord.
The Book of Leviticus consists mostly of laws to teach the people how to keep themselves pure and holy in the eyes of God. In Leviticus 25:1-7, the Lord tells Moses to let the people farm the land for six years, but stop tilling and farming it in the seventh year. This directly relates to our working six days a week and resting on the Sabbath, but on a much greater scale. The bottom line is, based on God’s advice, Moses lets the land have a break to conserve it for the future. What does this have to do with stewardship?
We see that God owns the earth, oversees the growth of all produce and living things, and knows how to manage the land, whether by letting it lie fallow or by rotating crops, so its fruitfulness is renewed. We should too. As stewards, we are reminded that, since everything belongs to God, he makes his desires for his creation known (Luke 12: 34, 37, & 42-44).
This means that conservation efforts to preserve the earth and our natural resources are a part of stewardship. We should always try to find ways, no matter how simple or complex, to care for our environment, because God gave us (that is, humankind) dominion (or responsibility) over everything in his place.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
Stewardship is rooted in service to others. All of today’s readings focus on service, and give many different, uplifting examples.
In the first reading, our father in faith Abraham recognizes his three unexpected guests as a visit from the Lord; some scholars think this is an early appearance of the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament. Abraham invites them to rest in the shade of the great tree, helps prepare a sizeable meal, and waits upon them (Genesis 18:3-10). As a result, Abraham and Sarah are rewarded for their service with a son in their old age.
The psalmist tells us a steward walks the path of righteousness and justice, speaks well of others and doesn’t do them any kind of harm. A steward doesn’t cheat or burden others financially or otherwise, or take bribes from or against anyone (Psalm 15:2-5). If we live our lives in this way, then we will live in peace and in the presence of the Lord.
We can really relate to today’s wonderful Gospel story about Jesus visiting Martha and Mary’s home. Anxious that everything is perfect to welcome and serve Jesus, her special friend and guest, Martha does her best but feels abandoned and overloaded. As a reward, Jesus acknowledges and sympathizes with her worries, and praises Mary for taking time to listen to what he wants to share with them (Luke 10:38-42).
Saint Paul acknowledges his mission as a steward to share God’s word with everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike, and bring it forth to fruition (Colossians 1:24-26). As stewards, we should heed Jesus’ advice, that blessed are they who “have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance” (Luke 8:15). Since we reap what we sow, we can be confident that our efforts are both our harvest and reward.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
Today we kick off a brand new Sunday message series called Bible Oddities. For the next six weeks through the Labor Day weekend, we’ll explore some odd, amazing, fun, and interesting aspects of the Bible that you probably never heard of, as well as some surprising insights into many common misinterpretations of the Good Book.
To get us started on this fascinating journey, here are a few very odd facts about the Bible we found on a popular website that will probably have you scratching your head:
· In 1631, a publishing company published a Bible with the typo “Thou Shalt Commit Adultery.” Only 9 of these Bibles, known as the “Sinners’ Bible” exist today.
· The Bible is not a single work but a collection of works from a wide variety of authors, such as shepherds, kings, farmers, priests, poets, scribes, and fisherman. Authors also include traitors, embezzlers, adulterers, murders, and auditors.
· The longest word in the Bible is “Mahershalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8:3).
· The Bible has inspired more song lyrics than any other book, including “40” by U2, “Adam Raised a Cain” by Bruce Springsteen, “Adam’s Apple” by Aerosmith, “All you Zombies” by The Hooters, “Be Still” by Kelly Clarkson, “Blackened” by Metallica, “Cinnamon Girl” by Prince, “Come Sail Away by Styx, “Every Grain of Sand” by Bob Dylan, “I am God” by Kanye West and many more.
· The Bible is the most commonly stolen book in the world, most likely because it is so available in hotel rooms and places of worship.
· Bob Marley was buried with a stalk of marijuana, his red Gibson Les Paul guitar, and the Holy Bible.
· There are 93 women who speak in the Bible, 49 of whom are named. They speak a total of 14,056 words, or about 1.1 percent of the Bible. There are a total of 188 named women in the Bible.
· The world’s smallest bible can fit on the tip of a pen. Scientists etched the 1.2 million letters of the Old Testament on a tiny silicone disk, which they call the “Nano Bible.”
· The world’s largest Bible weighs 1,094 pounds. Built by Louis Waynai in 1930, the book is 43.5 inches tall and a laid open width of 98 inches.
Test your knowledge of the Bible this Summer. Join us each Sunday for a biblical adventure in discovering what you probably don't know about God's Word.
 Karin Lehnardt, “50 Amazing Bible Facts,” www.factretriever.com/bible-facts.
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