RSS Feed

Category Archives: Faith

Given to Hospitality…or Not

Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house.” And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. 

 Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you (Luke 10:4-9).

English: Engraving of a woman with a water jug...

English: Engraving of a woman with a water jug, seen from the back. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Jesus sent the disciples on this particular evangelistic trip, He told them to travel light and to stay with hospitable folks along the way. For the disciples to stay with others was not considered an imposition. Showing kindness to strangers was a custom since the time of Moses.[1] Travelers depended on the hospitality of others because there weren’t many commercial places to stay or to buy food and water. Cities were built near water sources, and that’s where travelers looked for a place to refresh. God established laws to help strangers and aliens that hearkened back to the time when Israel was a stranger in Egypt. “Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19). Showing hospitality filled a need in ancient Israel because everyone made a journey at some time—a kind of you help me and I’ll help you.

The fate of a “dusted” city

But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, “The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.” But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city (Luke 10:10-12).

Not every city was hospitable to strangers, especially not to those bringing a new religious message. Jesus knew that elders in some towns would not allow the disciples to enter. A city that refused to admit a disciple of Jesus had in essence refused to hear a message from God. A rejection of the good news brought consequences. As a near-term consequence, that city was “dusted.” As a long-term consequence—at the resurrection of the dead—that city earned for itself a less tolerable judgment.

For a disciple to wipe off the dust of a city from his clothing was a denunciation of that place. If a city of Israel refused the disciples, that city descended to the level of the heathen, so miserable that its dust defiled those to whom it clung.[2]  Shaking off the dust also symbolized that the disciples hadn’t come to take anything for themselves—not even dust. It was infected with evil. It would some day rise and testify that the city had rejected the Gospel.[3]

Faith to Follow

For the men and women in Jesus’ company, traveling was an exercise in faith. “He and his disciples lived upon the charity of well-disposed people, that ministered to him of their substance.”[4] What must it have been like to live one day at a time in the presence of the Man who really didn’t worry about tomorrow?

 During His three-year ministry, Jesus was “a stranger in his own world; a wanderer.”[5] As He and the disciples went from place to place, they depended on God to provide for them, either miraculously or through the generosity of others.

Do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

 Women Who Served

 A number of women regularly traveled with the twelve disciples and Jesus. The women’s helpful actions “greatly aided Jesus in His missionary activities.”[6] He had cast evil spirits out of three of the women who were often among the traveling group. They subsequently supported His work “from their substance” (Luke 8:2-3). Mary, Joanna and Susanna had money or other material possessions they put toward the needs of the group. Another disciple named Mary, who was the mother of James and Joses, traveled with Jesus and contributed materially to His work.[7] Salome, who was the mother of James and John, accompanied Jesus in Galilee. Later she and other women came with Jesus to Jerusalem.[8]

Two women are mentioned as having hosted Jesus in their homes. Martha of Bethany owned a home and made it a welcome place for Jesus and others with Him. Martha, her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus were close friends of Jesus, and He probably spent many restful hours with them. The mother of John Mark, also named Mary, had a large home in Jerusalem. The upper room where Jesus and the disciples ate the Passover may have been in her home. Mary’s home was a regular gathering place for the disciples (Acts 12:12).

One of the most supportive ways that women served Jesus was by staying with Him during His crucifixion. Among those who attended His last hours were Mary Magdalene, Mary His mother, Salome, and Mary the mother of James and Joses. In grief they stood through His final suffering so He wouldn’t die alone.

The women who traveled with Christ, who opened their homes to Him, who supported His work financially and who stayed with Him until the end, gave what was needed, when it was needed. They were aware, gracious, nurturing, selfless, fearless women who had the privilege of knowing and serving Jesus Christ in the flesh. Theirs is an enduring example of the importance and essence of hospitality.—Mary Hendren

[1] Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34, Deuteronomy 10:19

[2] Adam Clarke’s Online Commentary, notes on Matthew 10:14

[3] Gill’s Online Commentary, notes on Matthew 10:14

[4] Matthew Henry Online Commentary, note of Matthew 8:18-20

[5] Barnes Online Commentary, note on Matthew 8:20

[6] All the Women of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, p.101

[7] Same source, p.106

[8] Mark 15:40-41

Rebekah: A Marriage in Ancient Israel

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac” (Genesis 24:1-4).

The Search Begins:  the Bride Price

The old man had two gold bracelets and a ring, gifts for a woman he didn’t know. Camels accompanied him with food and gear for the journey and with many gifts. These were intended for people living somewhere in Haran where Terah had settled.  Abraham insisted that his son marry someone from his own people and not a Canaanite woman. That’s why he sent his trusted servant to find a wife from Terah’s family (Gen. 22:20-24). Abraham believed the servant would find a bride in Haran because God “will send His angel with you and prosper your way” (Gen. 24:40). So, the old gentleman was on a mission of faith—Abraham’s faith.

(Note to readers: Many commentaries, like Nelson’s cited in the footnote, believe the servant’s name is Eliezer “because of his high position over all that Abraham had.” [1] I will occasionally use the name Eliezer in referring to the servant.)

English: Rebekah and Eliezer, as in Genesis 24...

English: Rebekah and Eliezer, as in Genesis 24, illustration published 1908 by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Eliezer arrived in Mesopotamia, he stopped at the well of Nahor where Terah’s people lived. The old man prayed for immediate success in finding the right woman for Isaac. He asked that she be identified by three signs: she would come to the well for water; when he asked her for a drink she would give it to him; and she would offer to water the camels. Immediately, beautiful Rebekah appeared at the well, filled her pitcher, gave him a drink and drew water for the camels. If that were not enough reason for joy, Rebekah said she was related to Abraham’s brother Nahor. Out came the bracelets and the nose ring.


Eliezer knew she was the answer to prayer. God had divinely singled out Rebekah as the young woman intended for Isaac. So he “put the nose ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists…and worshipped the LORD” (Gen. 24:47-48). In bestowing the jewelry, Eliezer claimed Rebekah for Isaac. In accepting the jewelry, she allowed Eliezer to touch her wrists and face—she was willing to proceed. She “ran and told her mother’s household these things” (Gen. 24:28). Rebekah’s appearing before them wearing bracelets and nose ring opened the way for Eliezer to meet her family and propose marriage. After hearing the servant’s remarkable story, Rebekah’s father and brother agreed that this “comes from the LORD…let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the LORD has spoken” (Gen. 24:50-51). Was she committed at this point? Not yet, although everyone began eating, drinking, and acting as if she were.

More gifts

Because the talks had been favorable, Eliezer presented mohar, a gift from the family of the groom to the parents of the bride. It was traditionally given to the bride’s father when the parents gave their consent to the marriage. Mohar could be in the form of money, land, jewelry, clothing or something “precious” (Gen. 24:53). Mohar had somewhat a feeling of being compulsory and expressed the legal aspects of an arranged marriage.[2] It was thought to compensate the bride’s family for her loss. Some fathers kept their daughter’s mohar as insurance in case she was widowed or divorced.[3] In Rebekah’s case, Eliezer gave precious things to her brother Laban and to her mother. The Bible does not mention why Bethuel, the father, did not receive mohar, although he did give permission for the marriage (Gen.24:50).

Even more

Arrangements had come together quickly. Eliezer gave Rebekah special gifts from the groom to the bride called mattan. Mattan[4] could be cash or property or something of a personal nature, “jewelry of silver, jewelry of gold, and clothing” (Gen. 24:53). Mattan was a voluntary assurance of the groom’s personal interest in his bride. Isaac was a wealthy man (Gen. 24:34-36) and his mattan must have been sumptuous—purple linens, exquisite jewelry, embroidered fabrics, gold and silver ornaments, fragrances—everything to delight Rebekah’s heart. Was she committed to marriage now that mattan had been given?

A Purchased Bride?

Not quite. The parental arrangements for marriage and the exchange of gifts may give the impression that men in Abraham’s time could buy their wives. If a man proposed and gave gifts to a girl’s father, did she have any say in the matter? Daughters and sons were very much under the authority of their fathers. Jewish practices, however, made it clear that a wife had to consent to be married.[5] “The opinion that Israelites were required to buy their wives from the parents or relatives seems unfounded.”[6] Rebekah was finally asked for her consent when Eliezer packed up for the return trip.

Eliezer:  Since the LORD has prospered my way; send me away so that I may go to my master.

 Family: We will call the young woman and ask her personally…will you go with this man?

 Rebekah: I will go.

A final round of gift-giving occurred when Rebekah departed. The family allowed Rebekah’s nurse and maids to leave Haran and serve her in Isaac’s household. Her nurse and maids became a parting gift, shilichin,[7] (something given by the family to a beloved daughter leaving home).

Not every man could afford the investment Isaac made in procuring a wife. “It would undoubtedly be expected that the mohar should be proportioned to the position of the bride and that a poor man could not on that account afford to marry a rich wife (I Sam. 18:23).[8] Isaac and Rebekah’s son Jacob, for example, paid his Uncle Laban in work for the privilege of marrying Rachel. The relationship between the two men got off to a bad start because of Laban’s deceit, and it didn’t improve over the years. When Jacob separated his family from Laban’s family, there was no shilichin, no happy parting gifts.

Where is love?

Marriage in ancient Israel was about family, property and alliances. Love was usually not the reason for an arranged marriage. The negotiations, exchange of gifts, consent of the bride, wedding celebration, and blessings for the departing bride preserved the identity of the family. Love was not a factor that Eliezer and Laban discussed in the marriage proposal. However, with Divine chemistry at work, Isaac and Rebekah began to love one another the day they met (Gen. 24:63-67).—Mary Hendren

[1] NKJV Study Bible, note on Gen. 24:2

[2] The Ultimate Wedding, “Ancient Jewish Marriage Traditions and Their Fulfillment in   Jesus the Messiah”

[3] Israel, “Marriage”

[4] The Ultimate Wedding, same article

[5], same article

[6] New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, “Dowry,” p. 317

[7] The Ultimate Wedding

[8] Unger’s, p. 818

Michal’s window


Young David had made quite a name for himself. Who had not heard the glorious tale? Imagine! Felling Goliath, the Philistine giant, armed with only a slingshot and his faith in the God of the armies of Israel (I Samuel 17). Word had it that such a deed would not go unrewarded. “It shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel” (vs. 25). The future looked bright for the handsome lad.

David and Saul

David and Saul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From that momentous day, David served Saul wherever he was sent, and word of his exploits spread throughout the land. He soon became a familiar figure in the royal household, often soothing his tormented king with music. He and Jonathan, the king’s son, forged a lasting friendship. Did he notice the princesses Merab and Michal watching him with admiring eyes as he went about their father’s business?

Hero or menace?

He often went into battle, and always returned victorious. Women danced and swayed to the rhythm of their tambourines, singing jubilantly of his conquests. “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” The king’s mood turned dark toward this young hero; no rewards were forthcoming, only sudden fits of anger and malevolence. David’s acclaim grew. So did Saul’s paranoia and fear. His troubled mind devised a plan to rid himself of this perceived threat.

Of traps and snares

First, there was the promise of Merab’s hand in marriage. Just fight for me, the king had said, hoping for David’s death in battle, and you can have her to wife. But when David failed to fall into his trap, Merab was abruptly given to another.

Then word came that his younger daughter Michal was in love with David, and Saul immediately saw her as the snare to bring this interloper’s demise. It became increasingly clear that life with Saul was going to be a challenge.

A window of escape

Michal could hardly believe it. David provided  the bride-price Saul requested: one hundred foreskins of his enemies, the Philistines–in fact he doubled it. Only after a tally of the grisly payment were they allowed to wed. When her father should have felt secure as David repeatedly proved his loyalty, he only grew more obsessed. Even her brother Jonathan couldn’t reason with him, and became alarmed at their father’s murderous intent.

What could she do? Even in the dark, she felt the presence of her father’s assassins waiting near the courtyard below. Slowly a plan crystallized. Perhaps it was her trusted servants, or even Jonathan himself who helped her quietly lower David from her window to the ground. She leaned out after him, watching him disappear into the inky night.

Michal’s feint

Now she must move quickly. Her father’s messengers of death could enter her room at any time. Michal managed to pivot a household image onto David’s bed, and disguise it with goats’ hair and clothing. After a few minor adjustments she was satisfied it would pass for her sleeping husband—at least temporarily. By the time Saul’s henchmen discovered her ruse David was well on his way to Ramah.


Saul’s rage would not be cooled until David was dead, that he proved by an endless, merciless pursuit. Michal’s fugitive husband was forced farther and farther away. There was spotty news of him now, usually from the mouth of an itinerate tradesman, and what little she did receive only caused her heartbreak and despair. Could it be true—he had another wife…was her name Abigail? And then another? Why had he not sent for her?

As if unknowing was not enough, her father did the unthinkable. He gave Michal as wife to another, one Paltiel, and with the passing years, she made a new life. When she learned that her father and brother were killed in battle, there was still no word from David—only reports that he had been made the king of Judah.

Key to the contest

Now some fourteen years later[1], David laid claim to the throne of Israel in order to unify its tribes with Judah. Once again Michal found herself helpless, now in the midst of a contest for a united monarchy. Key to David’s ascendency as she was his rightful wife and daughter of Israel’s deceased king, he wasted no time in demanding her return. In spite of Paltiel’s tearful pleadings, Michal now found herself  in David’s palace.

English: "David danced before the LORD wi...

English: “David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod”; 2 Samuel 6:14; watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A window of judgment

Once again she stood at her window, drawn by sounds of trumpets and shouts of jubilation. The ark of the Lord was coming to Jerusalem! As she watched the nearing crowd, she spied her husband, leaping and whirling, in an ephod[2]. Disgust filled her heart. He should have stayed a shepherd. Such dancing in public and he, the King!

Hours passed before David returned home. His day had been filled with celebration, offerings, and gifts for the whole multitude of Israel. Now his own household would receive his blessings. Michal met him with cold anger and disdain. “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”[3]

Unintended consequences

Michal had gone too far. David met her derision with a stern rebuke. “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”[4]

Michal’s scorn for her husband ended with the ultimate curse for a woman of her day: “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”

[1] The Woman’s Study Bible, Topic “Michal,” says, “Fourteen years later and seven years after the death of Saul, David was still not the king over all of Israel. As condition of a treaty with Abner, David demanded the return of Michal in order to stabilize his position over the Kingdom. Once again, Michal was used for political advantage” (page 475).

[2] The ephod was a linen vest worn by a priest over his robe. It was much shorter than the usual outer garment, which made it convenient for dancing. The Woman’s Study Bible, reference, 2 Samuel 6:14.

“From the historical books we learn that ephods were worn by persons other than the high priest. Thus, the boy Samuel was girded with a linen ephod while assisting the aged high priest (1 Sam 2:18); the priests at Nob, 85 in number, are described as men wearing a linen ephod (22:18); and David was girded with a linen ephod when he danced in the procession that brought the ark into Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:14). (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

[3] 2 Samuel 6:20

[4] 2 Samuel 6:21-22

Mary’s Song

The announcement

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her,”Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-33)

The words of Gabriel filled her with awe, some fear, and wonderment. She, a virgin, would conceive and bear “the Son of the Highest!” Still, bolstered by her faith and trust, she managed to answer, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (verse 38).

John MacArthur, in his book, Twelve Extraordinary Women (2005), wrote, “There’s no evidence that Mary ever brooded over the effects her pregnancy would have on her reputation. She instantly, humbly, and joyfully submitted to God’s will without further doubt or question. …Her great joy over the Lord’s plan for her would soon be very evident” (page 114).

Miracle and blessing x two

Mary was not the only one touched by a miracle. Her relative, Elizabeth (whom some say could have been in her eighties), would also bear a son—this after having endured a lifetime of barrenness. These two, John and Jesus, would work in tandem, each fulfilling his awesome part of God’s unfolding plan.

Mary’s heart song

Her heart full of awe and reverence, Mary rejoiced with what is now known as “the song of Mary,” or her “song of thanksgiving.”[1]Perhaps its inspiration came to her as she walked from Nazareth to south of Jerusalem where Zacharias and Elizabeth lived. The long walk allowed plenty of time for pondering the angel’s words.

view of Nazareth

view of Nazareth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not capable?

Some may wonder if a young unschooled girl was capable of composing such a magnificent song. It reflected knowledge of scripture and Old Testament concepts and phrases,[2] but she had not attended a synagogue school—that was reserved for boys. She must have learned it at home.

Jewish parents strove to provide a “well-rounded education” for their daughters and sons. Synagogue school for boys supplemented what was taught to all children at home: practical skills and “wisdom centered around one’s relationship with God.”[3] The major concern of Jewish parents was that their children come to “know the living God.”[4]

“Familiarity with the OT was not at that time so unusual for a pious Jewess like Mary as to bar her from consideration as its author. Moreover, it reflects qualities suitable to the mother of the Lord” ( Expositor’s Commentary, Vol. 8, page 835). This commentary notes the “ability of people in ancient times to absorb and remember the spoken word, especially the biblical word.”

It is likely that Mary and her siblings had a strong foundation in the Old Testament scriptures and an understanding of their relationship to God.

Offering praise

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

 Mary began by magnifying God.  “The verb megalunein…signifies ‘to celebrate with words, to extol with praises.’This is the only way in which God can be magnified, or made great; for, strictly speaking, nothing can be added to God, for he is infinite and eternal; therefore the way to magnify him is to show forth and celebrate those acts in which he has manifested his greatness.”[5]

Mary offered humble reverence:

For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His name (verse 48).

 Highly favored

God favored her with a unique role in human history. She would be remembered for it. Things would never be the same after that. Some commentators state that Mary’s praise of God’s power in verses 51-53 refers to the past and the future. “These verses portray a ‘reversal’ in the end times, when those who have abused power will be judged and those who have suffered persecution will be exalted. Mary was looking forward to the day when God’s people are no longer oppressed, but are instead blessed by the Lord. God’s strength with His arm figuratively describes His activity and power as Savior of His people.”[6]

Mary understood her role in the promises God made to Abraham:

He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever (verses 54-55).

 Happily blessed

The word “blessed,” from the Greek makarios, conveys being especially favored, happy and privileged. Gabriel stated that Mary was blessed among women (Luke 1:28). Three times Elizabeth used the word “blessed”: blessed among women, blessed the fruit in her womb, blessed in believing (verses 42-45). Mary recognized she would be remembered as a woman “blessed.”

Undoubtedly, she enjoyed many happy hours with her baby. She may have been an especially joyful and grateful mother. Her natural love for the infant Jesus was enriched by God’s love for His Son through her. What a pleasure it must have been to hold her child, to look in his eyes, to see his first steps.

However, the state of being blessed referred to by Gabriel, Elizabeth and Mary herself related to her privilege of bearing “the Son of the Highest,” the “Son of God” (verses 32, 35), and not necessarily to her happiness.

Why a “song”?

Sometimes the use of certain words leads to questionable impressions. For instance, translators have labeled Mary’s exaltation as a “song.”[7] And indeed through the ages her words have been incorporated into hundreds of musical compositions in various forms; they figure prominently in the liturgy of various denominations even today. These hymns or “canticles” can be sung or spoken,  and customarily have musical accompaniment.

Did Mary set out to compose a song with future use or presentation in mind? The Bible account does not give that indication. Rather it would seem her words were a spontaneous outpouring of a deep devotion to God–a prayer, if you will–which somehow Luke was able to quote in his Gospel account.

Upon reflection

I believe Mary composed the song herself, that her parents instructed her in the ways of God, that she loved the scriptures. To me, her betrothal signifies a sound-minded, realistic appreciation for marriage and family. Because her song touches on prophetic themes, I believe God inspired her words.—Mary Hendren (with Karen Meeker)


[1] Luke 1:46-55

[2] Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, note on Mary’s song, p. 835.

[3] “Childhood and Adolescence,” Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 452.

[4] Ibid, p. 453.

[5] Adam Clarke Commentary, note on Luke 1:46, Online Bible.

[6] NKJV Study Bible, Second Edition, note on Luke 1:50-53.

[7] Did you ever wonder where the chapter and section headings found in Bible translations came from? “With the exception of the titles in Psalms, the Bible’s authors didn’t write their books of Bible with chapter or section headings in mind. They were added later by translators in order to help organize and divide the Bible into easier to digest pieces.

You’ll note headings in most English translations of the Bible, though they do vary across different translations. For example: Genesis 1 begins with the heading: “The beginning” in the New International Version 1984 translation, “The Account of Creation” in the New Living Translation, and there’s no header at all in the King James Version. A side by side comparison of Genesis 1 in five translations easily highlights the differences in section headings.”

%d bloggers like this: