Chosen For Such A Time As This!

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 You are Special, you are Loved, you are Chosen; You are the Chosen One!

You are Chosen For Such a Time as This!

Mark 11:1-11

…And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you:and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded:and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him”

The triumphal entry was the last week of the Christ’s earthly life, when he made his appearance in Jerusalem as a meek King, riding upon a colt. Such was a crucial point in history and of the entire making of the biography of the Christ. In the midst of such an important agenda, and preparing for the triumphal entry which was to signal that he is the victorious king, the conqueror, the reigning lord; he bid his disciples to go find a colt which has been specially prepared for such a time as this. The colt is nowhere before and after mentioned in scriptural discourse, yet it is such an important actor in the life of the Christ. It was chosen at the right time, for the right purpose, by the right person.

This was a fulfillment-  “Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy salvation cometh” (Isaiah 62:11); “The heifer on which never came yoke” (Numbers 19:2) & Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly…thy King cometh unto thee”. Such an occasion was envisioned, and prophesied long before it occurred. This colt was a subject of prophecy. Long before it was born, before it knew existence, it was chosen for this special purpose. So whilst waiting, tied by the cross roads it was just waiting for its rightful time to come. The colt was envisioned same time as the coming Messiah. Its purpose and identity to be closely tied with the Messiah. It was set apart for this special purpose- for no man had ever ridden upon it. It had one mandate, one agenda, one purpose only- to carry the Christ on his way as he enters the Holy City.

The beauty of the text lies in the understanding that we (just like the colt) have been CHOSEN to fulfill a divine destiny. To each is specially subscribed and attached a special mandate: a song to sing, a move to dance, a text to write, a story to narrate, a part to act. None of us can be described as a mere crash of event, an accidental purpose, an unexpected phenomena. The truth of the text llies in the comprehension that, you have been chosen! You have been picked, set apart, and ordained with a special sacred mandate that only you can fulfill. The mandate might not have been made clear yet, you might not understand where you fit, what your purpose is; but this does not remove nor diminish the truth that you are chosen. You are chosen not because of something you had done, not because you are a good person, or a capable individual; it is not because you are industrious or shrewd; it is not because you have this or that qualification or the nature of your profile. You were imbued, anointed,  and ordained for a special mandate before you were even reality. You existed before the world was ever created because when God planned the world, he realized there will be need of you. The is something in this world that only you can do; no one else can do it if you dont. No one can do it for you, and no one can replace you. The purpose is tiedly linked to your existence. Just as the colt was specifically chosen and prophesied in the OT as the one upon which the Lord would sit so are you.

But please note the colt had to wait for Gods appointed time. This reminds us that God has his own TIMETABLE and own WAYS of doing things. It might not be revealed when you want it; you might not understand what it is, or even have a clue of what it involves; but it is on its way. Soon, you will know, and you will understand. Very soon, it will all make sense to you. It will make sense why you were born in the home you were born in, why you were raised in the neighborhood you grew up in, why you attracted certain people in your life, why you like the things you like; why you like watching certain movies, listening to particular type of music. Soon, you’ll understand  that you were indeed chosen for such a time as this!

Perhaps the colt could have wondered what its purpose is; why are other donkeys being utilized and ridden upon, yet it has never experienced such joy. What is different about it? Perhaps it had asked itself this questions. That, “Why I’m I tied, whilst other colts are free to roam about? Why is no one using me for this or that purpose? What is it about me that I seem to be overlooked, rejected, and neglected? What is it about me that no body cares about me? No one bothers to even look at me?” And perhaps sometimes many of us struggle with the same questions. We do not understand why things happen to us,and even why they happen the way they do; we would like to be active and about; we would like to be recognized, and appreciated; we would like to be needed and special. But the fact that you haven’t experienced the joy of walking in your purpose yet does not mean its is not there. Hold on, the Christ has not forgotten about you yet, and you shall not go unmentioned. Your purpose, your mandate is on its way!

The design of a product always reflects the purpose it will fulfill. The same is true of the colt. The mouth of a bird is designed to allow it to feed upon its prey. The fish is designed with gills so it can breath in water; the bear is designed with thick coat of skin that retains heat so it can survive in extremely cold weather. The eagle is designed with strong feet and claws so it can pick up prey double its weight. The way you are is never far away from your purpose. Your purpose is never far fetched: it is within your abilities, your personality, your likes, your passion, your interests, your inspirations. The colt was never before ridden, but this was not a mere coincidence- it was reserved to be ridden by the king. Unlike other colts, it could not just be mount by anyone; its rider was divine. It was set apart to carry the messiah.

Christ knew exactly where the colt was.  Christ is one area, and he speaks of a colt tied somewhere in another area. How did he know? Not only does he know its geographical location, but he knows the exact spot it is situated. Isn’t it beautiful to know that God knows where you are. When others seem to pass you by, when others have forgotten about you. When you see stuck in one place, in one position in one station in life’s cycle- God knows where you are! He sees you, and he is not oblivious to your situation. He understands your concerns, your anxieties, your fears, your worries and your cries. He knows your longings, your desires, your wants, your ambitions. Don’t you for a second think he has forgotten about you. No matter what station you might be in life, he know exactly where you at. He sees you when others can’t, and he has a purpose for you.

Not only did Christ know where the colt was, he also knew its history. he knew that no body had ridden it. God knows us infinitely. He is well acquainted with our past. He knows where we have been, he knows our background; he knows how we grew up, he knows what we struggled with.  The tendency is we always want to shield our history and background from people, because of fear and insecurities. We keep it in closets because we perhaps don’t want the pity, shame, and sometimes the judgement that comes with our past exposed. For many of us, our past is not good, and thus it would make sense why we would want to hide it. But God wants to use your history, your background, your past to bring about a great purpose. Your history is not a mistake. When you look clearly at what you went through, and then look at your purpose, you will appreciate why you had to go through what you went through. Your history is not an obstacle; it is not a stumbling block. It is in fact a great blessing!

You might not have yet experienced this or that, but its alright. You might have not driven this or that car, but its still okay. You might not have lived in this or that neighborhood, but you know what, none of us are dead! Its Okay. You are still here. You can still make it. The reason you are still alive is a testimony that your purpose is not done yet. There is still something for you to do. So keep pressing on, keep on believing, keep on trying, keep on hoping for yet another day! You are strong, you are capable, you are a survivor, don’t be afraid; there is nothing you can’t face. Step up and know, You can make it another day, you are strong enough to last.

 Prepared for a Blessing- the colt was divinely positioned and it was prepared for a blessing. For with divinity there is no room for accident, incidence or coincidence.  This lets us know God is “God of Preparation” and he prepares people to fulfill their purpose. You are more than prepared to fulfill your purpose.  Divinity has invested time and potential in you. Divinity believes in you. God invested in you because he knows you can bring the return. You are more than capable. God prepares people and resources through which to bless us- “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies”. For instance

a)     John the Baptist was prepared for a blessing that was to come

b)    The lad with Five loaves of bread and two fish was prepared for a blessing

c)     The water pots at Cana were specially prepared for a blessing

d)    Jesus requested the room on which he together with the apostles partook of the Passover to be prepared for a blessing

God has his own timetable- when the time was right; God loosed the colt, sat on it and led it unto its divine destiny. For with God, everything has its own perfect time! The tendency sometime is we want to be loosed too soon. We want to be like everyone. But not all meals cook right about the same time. There are some light meals that only take a few seconds in the Microwave to cook; and then there are solid meals that require time in the heat to boil and cook deep and properly. In the very same sense, when one’s shopping list is long, one relatively takes longer in the grocery store. But one whose list is shorter, comes in and immediately out of the grocery shop. The means, the greater your purpose the greater the time you can be expected to wait. The time waited, is not time wasted. Christ waited for thirty years to prepare for a ministry that was to last for only three years, have generational impact and consequences. Waiting can make you gain the necessary weight to carry your purpose!

If God can use a colt then surely he can use You- “The Lord hath need of him”. How can the Creator have need of the created? How can he need a colt that is ‘all-tied-up’? BUT even the lowliest things have some high purpose, or capacity of glorifying God. They may exclusively or more fittingly express the divine glory. The truth of the matter is, God has a purpose that he needs you to fulfil on earth. He needs you to fulifl that mandate. He has faith in you, and he needs you to take your stand and bestow your gift to the world. A colt can be regarded as a weak thing, a cheap thing. A colt is not worth comparing much with a Stallion of a horse. But even the lowly horse, the lord has use for it. He could have chosen a white horse, but he chooses a rejected, looked down upon despised, seemly useless colt. Who has overlooked you? who has told you that you cant do it? who has told you that you are useless? who has told you that you are weak? who has told you that you are immature? Well, next time you can tell them, the Lord has need of you. You are important to him. God needs you. When others did not see the value and the worth of the horse, Christ did. When others saw it as useless and lazy, Christ saw its worth. When others kings chose royal horses he chose a simple abandoned colt. If he can take a simple colt and make it fulfill a wonderful mandate, so can you.

Sit on me! – When Christ sat upon the colt, the colt began to move! The word sit in Greek has the idea of taking charge, or command or being in authority- “Heaven is his Throne and the earth is his footstool”. God sits on his Throne, just as a king, judge, or executive would sit to show they are in charge. Before Christ sat on the colt it did not move; but suddenly after he sat on it, it moved to its destiny. If only Christ can sit on you, you will do wonders; if only Christ can sit upon families, if only he can sit upon our churches, if only he can sit upon our children, then everything will align to its purpose. When Christ sits, he takes charge. When the judge sits, it says to everybody that the court is now in session. If Christ can sit upon you, he will ride you to your destiny. 

As Christ was ridding upon the colt, the Bible says people threw roses and garments on the floor. A red carpet was made. But who was walking upon the roses and the garments? Was it Christ? No. It was the colt. The colt for once in its life experienced what it had never knew- walking upon flowers with titillating crowds, singing songs of joy and victory. The colt felt how its like to walk upon the red carpet. If Christ had not sat on it, it would not have experienced such an encounter. When Christ sits on you, he will make you ride on the red carpet, and you’ll receive red carpet treatment. You’ll experience things you never dreamt of before.

Christ has chosen us in Him before the beginning of time to fulfil divine destiny. When we meekly submit to him, he will sit on us and elevate us to walk in that destination, unleash our full potential and ride us into the presence of greatness.

Chris Mhlongo, Preached @ Victoria Falls Synagogue

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Give Her What She Deserves!

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Proverbs 31:31Give her the reward she has earned; and let her own works bring her praise her in the city gate

she is not less of a man, just because she is a woman: why women don’t have to outcompete & outperform men, just to get the same recognition that men receive.

Woman’s rights

The strenuous advocacy of the rights of women by shrill oratory has injured the true cause of women by covering a serious subject with ridicule, and suggesting the unreality of the grievances urged. When extravagant demands are made, people assume that every just right has been conceded; and when the self-elected advocates of women put forth a programme which the great body of wives and daughters repudiate, it is supposed that there is no ground for considering any complaint as to the legal and social treatment of women. But this is unreasonable and unjust. There are women’s rights, and these fights are by no means universally conceded.

WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO WORK. The Oriental notion, that women are but idle ornaments of the harem, finds no place in the Bible. Here they appear freely in the world, and, though their first duties are in the home, they are not idle, nor are they wanting in enterprise. The ideal woman in the Book of Proverbs is a manufacturer, a merchant, and a landowner. Woman’s work cannot be wholly the same as man’s, because nature has placed limitations upon her physical energies. But she has spheres for work, and it is cruel, unjust, and selfish to keep her out of any region of activity where she can do good service, by law or by social displeasure. To choose to work as a woman is not some form of rebellion or wayward thinking that needs correction. To choose to prioritise your career as a woman, relative to the pursuit of an immediate family is not a wrongful shameful act that needs to be pitied. Even to choose not to marry, and commit oneself to civil service and the pursuit of human politics is not a lone, sorrowful pursuit devoid of fulfilment and happiness. Women have the right, and even the divine privilege to choose to order the discourses of their lives in a manner that is not essentially in keeping with societal accepted norms and expectations. Two wrongs in particular need to be swept away.

1. The motion that work is degrading to a woman. Surely idleness is more degrading. It is rightly said that woman’s sphere is the home. But it is not every woman who has a home. Surely it is a degrading and insulting idea that the main business of a young woman is to secure a husband, and so obtain a home. There are women who are manifestly cut out for other positions; many women never have an opportunity of obtaining a home of their own except by sacrificing themselves to men whom they do not love. In early life young girls are not the better for being kept in idleness, waiting for the chance that may turn up. Half the ailments of women of the comfortable classes come from want of occupation. It needs to be known and recognized that it is a right and honourable thing for a woman to be engaged in any ordinary occupation that is suitable to her powers.

2. The fear of rivalry with men. There have been professions the members of which have bitterly resented the invasion of their ranks by women. Such trade unionism is most ungenerous. It is an humiliation to have to confess that men could not hold their own unless under a system of protection against the competition of women. Certainly no Christian principle can justify such selfishness.

WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO THE RESULTS OF THEIR WORK. 

1. In payment. The wife who earns wages has a right to her purse as much as the husband to his. Where there is a true marriage, no thought of separate interests will rouse any jealousy as to the several possessions of the two. But true marriage is not always realized. We see brutal husbands living idly on the earnings of their wives. It is not enough that the poor women are supposed to be protected by a Married Woman’s Property Act, for the husband is still too often the tyrant of the home. We shall only see a more just arrangement when Christian principles are applied to domestic practices.

2. In honour. “Let her own works praise her in the gates.” Women who contribute to the service of society are deserving of double honour, because they have had to work under exceptional disadvantages. Women who have proved themselves wise, industrious, and generous in the home life do not receive their meed of praise. Too much is taken for granted, and accepted without thanks, because the service is constant and the sacrifice habitual. In after years, when it is too late to give the due acknowledgment, many a man has had to feet sharp pangs of regret at his heedless treatment of a wife’s patient toil or a mother’s yearning love.

3. In position. Opportunity should be proportionate to capacity. If women can work, they should have scope for work. It is the duty of Christian society to give to woman her true position. If she be “the weaker vessel,” she needs more consideration, not less justice. Christ gave high honours to women, accepted their devoted service, and laid the foundation of Christian justice in regard to them.Within the job market, there is wide spread job discrimination, paying men and women unequally who have the same job of equal standards and have equal seniority. Although this has been illegal in the United States since the 1963 Equal Pay Act and Title XII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it does not, however, mean that unequal pay for men and women is a thing of the past. Jobs of comparable work that are traditionally held by women consistently get paid less than those traditionally held by men. Women although diligent hard workers are seen as the cheaper instrument, they are more subservient and obedient, and they rarely dream anything above being an administrative secretary or nurse, but openly and unceasingly fantasise about the idea of marrying the doctor-guy colleague or the manager-boss. It becomes an accepted norm that women rarely dream beyond and above finding someone to love them, marry them and give them children.

Within the job market women are mostly less competitive, and less demanding, and relatively honest and faithful to the company. They will not unlike their male counterparts rise to the boss’ office and demand a raise. They are able to do more with less, and be complacent with a meagre salary, and a fixed lifestyle. Their ideal however is accepted as finding a male partner who will provide financial stability for them, but this is not a duty they perceive as their own immediate responsibility. Many women are happy for instance with a man that pays for dates, and always searches his pockets, as this is viewed as a sign that he can provide security and stability, the same however is never expected of them. 

Particularly because of such judgements of women as consisting of aspirations that are limited to getting married and having a family, employers engage in valuative discrimination. Women’s careers are interrupted among many things by pregnancy, marriage and quitting the job or staying off the job market to spend time to rear a family. Thus the male is a much more stable job candidate when considering these regards.

This is especially saddening because the role of being a mother is unappreciated and less acknowledged in this male driven society.In this white male dominated business culture, which alienates and isolate minorities and women, when woman choses to quit their career to become a mother this is seen as a step backward, as a weakness, as somewhat a not so positive thing to the economy- there is in fact a name for this and it’s called, motherhood penalty. Mother’s Work is Not Acknowledged. Whenever economic statistics are taken of the goods and services in the economy, the unpaid services performed inside the household are always left out. Mothers at home are, by definition, unproductive, even though by educating and socializing their children they contribute to the human capital that is critical to economic growth. And because their work isn’t quantified, they disappear from pictures of the economy that are drawn with the data.

Chris Mhlongo, as preached @ Main-Church

 

 

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You Are More Valuable Than Rubies!

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You are more important than you realise

What beauty a stone a ruby is. It is rare, it is scare and a priced jewel. In many instances, and considering its rarity, it is more expensive than even a diamond. Of such value, the virtuous woman is considered. She is not comparable to the most expensive stone.  You can get a ruby but it still cannot afford her. She is worth more than many rubies. Just as the ruby is scarce and rare so is a woman with virtue.

             And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Such a one is more valuable than precious stones. There may be allusion to the custom of giving treasure in exchange for a wife, purchasing her, as it were, from her friends. At any rate, few only are privileged to meet with this excellent wife, and her worth cannot be estimated by any material object, however costly. You may go to the ends of the earth to find her equal in value, but there is none. She is like a costly treasure not everywhere to be found; no commonplace blessing: an ornament and a joy above all that earth affords of rare and beautiful. A treasure on which the heart of the possessor ever dwells with delight

            But who is the Proverbs 31 woman? She is wife, she is a mother, she is a chef, she is seamstress, she is a philanthropist, and she is a landowner, an entrepreneur. Many a women do noble things but she surpasses them all. She excels first at home, and she excels in society. In the first instaces she is pictured as existing within the beautiful framework of a home; she is a house wife. But before we go any further let me correct a few misperceptions: it is not wrong to be a house wife; there is nothing shameful, derogatory to be a wife and mother who does not dream of becoming ‘the wolf of wall street’. The problem with modern age feminist teaching is that they assume that every woman is against the idea of being a housewife, and can’t wait to get an opportunity to be liberated and challenge the corporate world. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have met many women who aspire to be house wives. I have also met many other women who don’t want to be housewifes. Let me make it clear that this is a choice and a preference. Not every woman is cut to be a house wife, and not every woman is all for being a business woman.

The Proverbs 31 lady is presented within the framework of marriage. She is a wife. She is not a virtuous woman because she is wife, but she was a woman of virtue long before she became a wife. One in the like sense does not need to be married to be a Proverbs 31 lady. There is invaluable service for the world which only women who are free from the ties of home can accomplish; there is a noble mission for single women. But there is nothing in Scripture, reason, or conscience to suggest that virginity is more holy than marriage, that the maiden is more saintly than the matron.

But as a wife she fulfils her duties in the best way she can. She chooses to be married; and thus marriage is not a burden or an obligation forced on her by society. It is also true also that not every woman wishes and dreams of being married. Moreover, for unmarried women household cares and quiet home duties usually have the first call. Some women may be called to more public positions. A queen may adorn a throne. A Florence Nightingale may live as an angel of mercy to the suffering. But these are exceptional persons. Every Jewess was not a Deborah, and even the martial prophetess, unlike her French counterpart, Joan of Are, was “a mother in Israel.”

The ideal woman is thus first judged with regards to her responsibilities. The typical woman will be judged primarily in regard to domestic duties. The true wife is the helpmeet of her husband. Her first aim will be to “do him good” (Proverbs 31:12). If she falls here, her public service is of little account. A wife might be a brilliant investor, a gifted model; but if she forsakes her responsibility to her home, she is the ultimate victim. But no so with the virtuous woman. She reflects consideration on her husband. Her thrift makes him rich; her noble character gives him additional title to respect. His personality derives weight from the possession of such a treasure, the devotion of such a heart. Her business capacity, her energy, and the quiet dignity of her life and bearing; the mingled sense and shrewdness, charm and grace of her conversation (Proverbs 31:24-27);—are all a source of fame, of noble self-complacency, of just confidence to the man who is blessed to call her “mine”

Her character which is closely tied with her virtue comes out in quite a striking manner.  This is described in a graphic picture of her life—a picture which is in striking contrast to the ignorance, the indolence, the inanity of an Oriental harem. Observe its chief features.

She is trustworthy. The true wife is her husband’s confidant. She must be worthy of confidence by icing. She does not speak badly about him, or gossip him with her friends. She respects him, serves him, and looks out for his best interests. In short she plays her part in the marriage irrespective whether the husband is living up to his side of the bargain. Her husband trust her, and has no reason to doubt her; her friends can rely on her. Her word is her life. And she considers carefully the promises she makes, and rarely goes back on her word.

She is a hard working woman. Nothing can be more foolish than the notion that a “lady” should have no occupation. The ideal woman rises early and busies herself with many affairs. In old days, when the spinning was done at home and most of the family garments were made by the women of the house, the clothing of husband and children bore testimony to the industry of the wife. Machinery has destroyed this antique picture. Yet the spirit of it remains. The true wife still finds an abundance of domestic occupations.

She is a gifted woman. The wife of the Proverbs is quite a business woman, selling the superfluous work of her hands to merchants, and buying land with the proceeds. Yet by her foresight she provides warm clothing for the winter, and therefore she can afford to laugh when the snow cometh.

She is a strong woman. “She girds her loins with strength.” The idea of being strong is readily and mostly applied to men, but not so with the virtuous woman. She is a strong lady. She cannot be described as fragile, weak, inconsistent, undecided lady. She is strong both in mind and in body. The physical education of women is just now receiving especial attention, and rightly so. It is a woman’s duty to be strong, if by means of wholesome food and exercise she can conquer weakness. No doubt the ailments of many women spring from lassitude, indolence, and self-surrender. But eve, when bodily frailty cannot be conquered, strength of soul may be attained.

She is a charitable lady. The strong, hardworking and strategic, and so would be expected to be hard, cold, and selfish. But the true woman “stretches out her hand to the poor” (verse 20). She has a big and open heart that looks not only for the interests of her own household, but for strangers and members of her community. She is a free giver.

She is gracious in speech. So energetic a woman might still be thought somewhat unlovable if we had not this final trait: “in her tongue is the law of kindness” (verse 26). How much may the tone of a woman’s conversation do to keep peace in a household, and shed over it a spirit of love and gentleness! Words of beauty and consolement proceed out of her mouth. Not idle critiques, negative comments, nasty jokes. She is beautiful in thought and in speech.

But the root of the matter is the reality that she a lady who fears the Lord. She does not take for granted her spiritual wellbeing; she is aware of the presence and providence of the Deity, and as such she is a spiritual woman. And this is replicated and shown in her:

In her influence. “Her husband is known in the gates.” She helps him to honour. Herself too busy in the private sphere to take her part directly in public life, yet indirectly she is a great force in the large world through her influence over her husband. Her husband enjoys the popularity and respect in the gates because he has such a woman like her. She thus does not make his life wearisome and tired; she is not one to nag and constantly complain to such an extent that his husband is always depressed and down and cannot correctly fulfil his civil duties.

 In her success. We have here a picture of a wife in affluence—not of a poor domestic drudge in the squalor of abject poverty. Nevertheless, the prosperity of the home largely depends upon her. Her thoughtfulness, energy, careful oversight of others and kindness of heart and words, are the chief causes of the welfare of her happy, comfortable home.

 In the honour of her family. “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” (verse 28). Surely this is a better reward than public fame. She is respected and honoured in her home because of her influence. This true woman deserves to have “the fruit of her hands.” If she is to be spoken of “in the gates,” it should be in praise of her domestic duties, which cannot but be known to her neighbours, however modest and retiring her manners may be. Her children, as they grow up, bless her for the inestimable boon of a mother’s care and love. She has revealed to them God; and never can they cease to believe in goodness so long as they recollect her. She basks in the sunshine of a husband’s constant approved. “Best of wives!” “Noblest of women!” is the thought ever in his heart, often on his lips.

 It is quite fascinating that no mention is made of the physical attractiveness of the ideal woman. There is no evident connotation to her length, her weight, the width of her curves, and the tone of her skin. It could be that Lemuel’s mother had taught him that outward beauty is fictional and only fading away. The only beauty that is worth esteem and consideration when choosing an ideal partner seems more to be the character, the virtue of the woman in question. Although there are some who propose that if a woman is beautiful the husband can mould her into the type of virtuous woman she ought to be. In a sense that one can train a harlot (as in the movie “the wolf of Wall Street”) to be a nun. Although this is not wholly debated and rejected, it were better for one to avoid themselves all sorts of risk and effort and choose a woman who already proves themselves to be a wife. Here are a few points that are worth nothing to why Lemuel’s mother did not think ideal character the beautiful physique of the woman:

It is but temporary. The bloom of beauty fades with youth; but a wife is to be a man’s helpmeet throughout life, and, if both are spared, his companion in age. In making a choice for life a man should consider enduring traits.

It is superficial. Beauty of face and grace of form are only bodily attributes; they may have no corresponding mental, moral, and spiritual merits.

It is deceptive. The fascination of a pretty face may delude a man into neglecting more important considerations in the woman of his choice. Ill temper may be taken for strength of character, frivolity for liveliness, mere softness of disposition for love. But the great disillusion of lifelong companionship will dispel all these mistakes, when the discovery is to, late to be of any use. On the other hand, there is no need to take refuge in a monkish contempt of beauty. All beauty is a work of God. It is the duty of a woman to make herself pleasing to others. The finest beauty is a product of health, good temper, and the expression of worthy sentiments—all of them desirable things. Note: The vanity of beauty shows the mistake of pursuing “art for art’s sake,” to the neglect of morality, duty, truth, and charity.

The beauty of the ideal woman is rooted in her virtuous character, who is fully acquinted with matters of spirituality. She is not necessarily a Christian woman, nor is she a Church going woman. She is a woman who fears God. The “woman that feareth the Lord” is to be prodded. Though, perhaps, less beautiful in form and countenance, she has the higher beauty of holiness. The Madonna stands infinitely above the Venus. The grace of the God-fearing woman has its own true attraction for those who can appreciate it. This type of enduring beauty:

It is enduring. Beauty fades; goodness endures. This should ripen with years into a more rich and mellow grace.

It is deep. The prolonged acquaintanceship that reveals the utter hollowness and unreality of those attractions which consist only in bodily form and skin-complexion only makes more apparent the treasures of a true and worthy character. Trouble that ploughs fatal furrows in the cheek of the mere “beauty” unveils the tender grace of the truly godly woman. Those scenes wherein earthly beauty fails open up wondrous treasures of heavenly grace.

It is satisfying. A feverish excitement accompanies the adoration of earthly beauty; but the beauty of a sweet, true, generous soul is restful and comforting.

It is worthy of honour. Poets give us their dreams of fair women. A higher subject would be the praises of God-fearing women. How much of the world’s blessedness springs from the devotion of unselfish women—the self-sacrifices of true wives, the toils and prayers of good mothers! I’d rather choose to be married to a woman of virtue, a woman with nobility of character, a wise woman, with a commanding understanding and rational, than be married to a model who cannot work out a simple budget for the month.

In deciding how to conclude his narrative, the philosopher, devotes his chapter to the Proverbs 31 woman. She is worth emulating, the perfect example of how a mother and wife ought to carry themselves. Many have dismissed her as an ideal, an unreachable goal, something that only exists in wonderland and cannot be relayed to real practical life. But why would the teacher dedicate his time to a character that cannot at all be emulated? Why teach me how to build a car, when you know I cannot possibly build one?

The ideals spoken of about the virtuous woman are ideals every woman is supposed and expected to have. No one argues that these are beautiful ideals and it is no wonder Proverbs 31 has gained such wide praise as a beautiful picture of womanhood. This woman, she exists in a partrichal society, she is married, but her identity is not her husband or what her husband does. Many a woman are concerned with marrying a particular calibre of a man, with a certain successful profession, but the same cannot be said of them. The Proverbs 31 woman, she is a mother, a wife, a businesswoman, a philanthropist, an investor, a trader, and a land owner and a vineyard owner. Nothing is said of her husband. Nothing is said of her children- she does not lose her identity and fervour for life just because she has children, and also important she does not define herself by her kids, and what they do. She has a complete passionate identity of her own that is worth emulating by both men and women.

And although she has to carry all these different titles, she fulfils them all with vigour and passion and fulfils them all well. She is a balanced woman, a visionary, a wise leader, a gracious being who cares for the interests of not only her family but also her community. Many a woman exist around the world, but she outshine them all.

 Chris Mhlongo, as Preached at Women of Worth Conference, Cape Town

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My Mother!

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“… the oracles which his mother taught him” Proverbs 1: 1

My mother is a woman like no other- she gave me life she nurtured me, she taught me, dressed me, fought for me, held me, shouted at me, kissed me, but most importantly loved me unconditionally. There are no words I can use to describe just how important my mother was to me, and what a powerful influence she continues to be.

Mother! That one word that spans the entire world. It means life, it means giving. A mother’s heart is the patchwork of love. All that I am, and wish to be, I owe it to my mother. Nothing could be better than to have a mother. There are million flowers in the garden, thousand bees, thousands of butterflies, but we all have just one mother. And when she is no more, she can’t be replaced, you can’t simply get another one. Nothing could be comparable to a mother. A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the whole world. A mother is one who will, when she realizes there are only four pieces of pie for five people, will say, I never wanted the pie.

The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him. Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb! Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers! Do not spend your strength on women, your vigour on those who ruin kings. It is not for kings, Lemuel— it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31: 1-9

The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him- the name Lemuel, means, “Unto God”. Dedicated to God. When he was born, his mother dedicated him to the Lord. His life was thus directed from the onset, in this direction. What a beautiful woman, and mother. And how blessed to have been raised by such. How many a mother dedicate their children to the lord, and how many even teach them about deity; how many inculcate on their children a spiritual ideology, how many teach them how to pray.

These are a mother’s counsel to her son—wise and good and eloquent with love and yearning anxiety. Here is a picture to suggest the inestimable advantage to a young man of a mother’s guidance. In thoughtless, high-spirited youth this too often passes unheeded, and precious advice is then wasted on ungrateful ears. It would be more seemly to consider its unique merits.

It springs from a woman’s nature- We have many beautiful pictures of women in the Bible. Inspired women have conveyed to us some parts of the biblical teaching. Deborah (5:7), the mother of Samuel, and now the mother of Lemuel, all help us with great Divine truths or holy thoughts and influences. It is the gift of women to see into truth with a flash of sympathy. The wonder is that we have so small a part of the Bible from the tongue and pen of women.

It is inspired by a mother’s heart- The biblical gallery of holy women does not introduce us to the cloisters. The Hebrew heroines were “mothers in Israel,” not nuns. Maternity completes woman. “The perfect woman, nobly planned,” is one who can think, love, and act with the large heart of a mother.

It is characterised by unselfish devotion-There is nowhere in all creation such an image of utterly unselfish, of completely self-sacrificing love as that of a woman for her child. She almost gives her life for his infant existence. All through his helpless years she watches over him with untiring care. When he goes forth into the world, she follows him with never-flagging interest. He may forget her; she will never forget him. If he does well, her joy is unbounded; if he does ill, her heart is broken. Without a thought of self, she spends herself on her child, and finds her life or her death in his conduct.

It is guided by deep knowledge- The mother may not know much of the outer world; she may be quite ignorant of the most recent dicta of science; some of her notions may seem old-fashioned to her modern-minded son. But foolish indeed will he be if he dares to despise her counsels on such grounds. She knows him—his strength and his weakness, his childish faults and his early promises. Here lies the secret of her wisdom.

It cannot be neglected without cruel ingratitude- The son may think himself wiser than his mother, but at least, he should give reverent attention to her advice. So much love and care and thoughtfulness do not deserve to be tossed aside in a moment of impatience. The wise son will acknowledge that his mother’s wishes deserve his most earnest consideration. It may be, then, that he will be held back in the hour of temptation by the thought of the poignant grief that his shameful fall would give to his mother. It is much for a life to be worthy of a good Christian mother’s counsel.

Lemuel was a king, and these are the teachings inspired to him by his mother. Although he was a high ranking official in his society, he did not despise his mother or even her teachings. He now produces them, as learnt from her bosom. She was no doubt a wise woman, a spiritual woman, an experienced woman, and no doubt a mother who loves her son. She raised him, she taught him, she inspired him, and she guided him. Lemuel could look at himself and say I am where I am, what I am, because of my mother. I am a direct product of her teachings. The duty of teaching children is sometimes thought to be something that the daddy must do; but Lemuel was taught this oracles by her very mother.

These are the words Lemuel sucked from his mother’s bosom, we are not informed of the father. We can speculate as to the position of his father, but as far as we know, his mother was his inspiration, and she taught him valuable lesson on life. He might have been raised by a single mother; but he turned out quite well. Being raised without a father should not be looked at as being a curse, one can be raised and taught by his or her mother, and be a complete being. His mother did not excuse the need to teach his son, by the apparent absence of a father; she took it upon herself to inspire and to teach her male son. She did not push him to the uncles or to the other prominent men in society, but she taught him that ‘my son this is how you choose a wife…’, ‘this is how a man ought to behave’.

His mother not only dedicated him, but also trained him. The early experiences of the mother include much beyond the physical realm; they include the education of the intellect, the training of the Will, and the first imparting of religious instruction, the solemn dedication of her child to the service of God, repeated and earnest prayer on his behalf. Her child is not only her offspring; he is “the son of her vows,” the one on whom she has expanded her most fervent piety.

Give not your strength unto women- don’t spend your life, your energy chasing after women. Don’t let your vigour be sapped and enervated by sensuality. The prayerful, anxious mother would consider rather her son’s personal wellbeing than his worldly circumstances. Women are meant; and the prince is enjoined not to surrender his life, conduct, and actions to the influence of women, who, both by the dissipation and sensuality which they occasion, and the quarrels which they provoke, and the evil counsels which they give, often ruin kings and states. The Septuagint reads, “Give not thy wealth unto women, nor thy mind, nor thy life unto remorse. Do all things with counsel; drink wine with counsel.”

It is not for kings; or, as others read, far be it from kings. The idea is emphasised to signify its importance. Nor for princes strong drink; literally, nor for princes (the word), Where is strong drink? The evils of intemperance, flagrant enough in the case of a private person, are greatly enhanced in the ease of a king, whose misdeeds may affect a whole community. There is no secret where drunkenness reigns. The proverb says, “When wine goes in the secret comes out;” and, “Where drink enters, wisdom departs;” and again.” The Septuagint reads, “The powerful are irascible, but let them not drink wine.” Drunkenness opens all the sanctuaries of nature, and discovers the nakedness of the soul, all its weaknesses and follies; it multiplies sins and discovers them; it makes a man incapable of being a private friend or a public counsellor. It takes a man’s soul into slavery and imprisonment more than any vice whatsoever, because it disarms a man of all his reason and his wisdom, whereby he might be cured, and, therefore, commonly it grows upon him with age; a drunkard being still more a fool and less a man.

This gives a reason for the warning. Lest they drink, and forget the Law. That which has been decreed, and is right and lawful, the appointed ordinance, particularly as regards the administration of justice. The Septuagint reads, “Lest drinking, they forget wisdom.” And pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted; literally, of all the sons of affliction; i.e. the whole class of poorer people. Intemperance leads to selfish disregard of others’ claims, an inability to examine questions impartially, and consequent perversion of justice. This is particularly important because the king and his behaviour affects others. The wellness of the community, is rested on his power, and as such in his actions, he must consider others.

Open thy mouth for the dumb. The “dumb” is anyone who for any reason whatever is unable to plead his own cause; he may be of tender age, or of lowly station, or ignorant, timid, and boorish; and the prince is enjoined to plead for him and defend him. In the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction; literally, the sons of passing away; i.e. not orphans, children whose parents have vanished from the earth, nor strangers from a foreign country, nor, generally, mortals, subjects of frail human nature (all of which explanations have been given), but persons who are in imminent danger of perishing, certain, if left unaided, to come to ruin. Septuagint, “Open thy mouth for the Word of God, and judge all men soundly”. Plead the cause; rather, minister judgment, or do right; act in your official capacity so that the effect shall be substantial justice.

We have not many words from women’s lips in the inspired record, and we may therefore esteem the more highly those we possess. None but the mother can say, “The son of my womb;” “the son of my vows.” These claims are based upon: all that motherhood means to us; upon the fact that the mother has borne her child, has cherished him at her own breast, has watched over his infancy and childhood with sedulous care, has shielded and succoured him, has fed and clothed him; as we say in one word—has “mothered” him. Even though Lemuel is now a grown up man, a king, the mother sees ‘the son of her womb’. To her that’s how he will always be. Many people might see many different thing, but the mother only sees one thing: the child that she birthed. People might see negativity, and might project all sorts of harsh opinions but the mother’s view is not at all clouded. She loves unconditionally, and endlessly. And so she guides him and instructs him based purely and sacred on this relationship. And her words did not fall on deaf ears.

The words of Lemuel’s mother are charged with deep affection and profound solicitude. And it is those who truly love us, and who are unselfishly devoted to our interest, that have the strongest claim upon us. A claim which is only that of natural relationship, and is not crowned and completed by affection, falls very short indeed of that which is strengthened and sanctified by sacrificial love.

Chris Mhlongo

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When Opportunity Meets Preparation!

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Before anything else, preparation is the key. The most beautiful thing happen when an opportunity finds one prepared. But when an opportunity knocks, and one is not ready, leaves one of the most painful regrets in life. To be prepared is key, everything else is outside your control. 

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you:but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage:and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” Mt 25

Are you ready for an opportunity? In our everyday Christian lives God presents unto us opportunities. How we respond to those opportunities will be decisive of whether or not we receive the blessing. But God’s blessings usually come dressed up in opportunities. Progress is nothing but opportunity meeting preparation. The parable thus teaches about the need for preparation in order to inherit the blessings of the Lord.

The text is set like the usual custom of the Jewish wedding. On the appointed day the bridegroom accompanied by his friends proceeded to the brides house and thence escorted her with the bride maids to his own or his parents’ house where a joyous celebration would be hosted for a full week. In the parable however, the proceedings are somewhat different. Here the bridegroom is not in the town, but somewhere at a distance so that though the day is settled the exact hour of his arrival is unknown. He will come in the course of the night and the virgins who are to meet him have assembled in the house where the wedding is to take place.

The two keywords in our discourse are preparation and opportunity. It is a terrible thing to have an opportunity and you are not prepared for it. An opportunity is nothing but a chance for success! An opportunity is a set of circumstances. How I relate or respond to those circumstances determine where I succeed or not. Without opportunity there is no success, because an opportunity is the window or opening, for success for progress, for growth. Now preparation is part of waiting- as a matter of fact preparation is waiting. To prepare someone is to make them ready or able to do or to deal with something. To make ready requires time. Thus where there is no waiting there is no preparation.

Ten bridesmaids- Yod (Hebrew, ten) is a closed hand. In the bible ten is the number of perfection. Such a number was required to form a synagogue, and to be present at any office, ceremony or formal benediction.

Talmudic authorities affirm that the lambs used in bridal processions were usually ten. The bridesmaids are the friends of the bride who are arranged to meet the bridegroom as soon as his arrival is signaled.

The church therefore is the bride; the members of the church, individually called are the guests; in their separation from the world and expectancy of the Lord’s coming, are the virgins. The bridesmaids therefore represent the Christians. The bride is unnamed, as she does not occupy center position in this illustration.

All ten bridesmaids were running for the same office- admission at the joyous wedding celebration. In todays weddings as a bridesmaid you are expected to pay for your own clothes, travel expenses and parties before the wedding. In those days however, it was the free ticket to free drinks, free food, and free networking (for some it is an opportunity to meet potential bridegrooms) entertainment for a full week was up for grabs, and the competition is tight. They are the maids of honor, which means they have been honored with an opportunity.

In those days, prominent people had a large group of bridesmaid to show the family’s social status and wealth. In a similar sense we are the maids of honor, and God has honored us with an opportunity to partake of the joyous heavenly wedding. But the honor is not restricted to that, for God honors us daily with precious opportunities to elevate our spiritual and physical position.

So a wedding can stand and fall with the active role of the bridesmaids. Bridesmaids assist the bride on the days of the wedding, and sometimes they assist with planning the wedding and reception as well. In modern times they are typically asked to help in planning wedding related events like the bridal shower or the bachelorette party.

Out of the ten bridesmaids, five were wise and five were foolish. They are categorically called wise or foolish because of their inner characters and how they treat the opportunity granted to them. They were the same in other ways: they were the same outwardly, they wore similar clothing, and they were provided with the same lambs, they were to perform the same office. But they had different characters. How they each responded to the opportunities presented to them exposed their individual characters.

Note the text does not say they were evil or wicked. It says they were ‘foolish’. One does not necessarily have to be wicked to be foolish. A Christian can do no wrong, but yet still be foolish. Their foolishness is shown in the fact that at the time of action they were unable to do a part, which a little care and forethought would have enabled them to perform successfully.

They that were foolish took no oil with them. Two thoughts are present here: either they brought no oil of their own at all, trusting to get their lambs filled by others, or they neglected to bring in an additional supply to replenish them when exhausted. They undoubtedly knew the oil reservoirs were small, and so it was a custom to carry another vessel from which to refill them.

Both parties knew this, but they all responded differently. People might be faced with the same circumstance, but yet come out different- because they respond differently. You take away all the power from a particular occurrence or event in your life when you don’t respond the way it would have you respond. We both can lose employment: I can choose to shut my family and the world out, feel sorry for myself, and give myself off to alcohol; or I can choose to accept what has happened, allow the family to support me emotionally, pray and look for another job. It all depends with the final response.

So both parties knew the oil reserves are very small, but the foolish bridesmaids chose to depend on their companions for their oil supply. There are certain people they just love benefitting off others. They always want things to be done for them. They always want you to give them, but they give nothing for their own keeping. They are like mosquitos, for mosquitos have not their own blood, but what is in them is the substance of whatever they were parasiting upon.

Its not that they don’t have, or they can’t have. It’s just that they don’t want to have. They just enjoy benefiting and depending on others. They have been raised with the dependency mentality. They must always have someone giving something to them, or else they don’t feel whole.

The funny thing is, on the other hand there are those people who just love dependents, they always want you to depend on them. They are threatened by independency, they wont help you so you can be independent, but they will help you so that you can keep coming to them. And by so doing, it soothes their ego for control and having people under them or not at the same level with them; it helps them feel wanted and needed and important. They have a depend-on-me mentality.

The problem arises because the foolish have a dependency-mentality but the wise do not have a depend-on-me mentality, so they don’t complement each and friction will inevitably arise.

The contrast between the two classes seems to lie in the foresight of the one and the negligent carelessness of the other. The one group was wise because they took with them an additional supply to replenish their lamb. The bridesmaids who neglected to carry oil were those who expected perhaps the bridegroom would appear sooner. They planned for the here and the now. They had not a vision, they can’t see into the uncertainty of the future. They were thought foolish because they were short sighted, they were thoughtless, and they lived in the present and took no thought for the future.

Life is full of emergencies, delays, and uncertainties and it is the wise that prepare for those emergencies. It is a foolish thing for a Christian not to take thought for tomorrow. One does not have to worry about tomorrow, but they must surely prepare for it instead of just enjoying the present.

A wise Christian prepares for the future. They don’t just live for month to month- the first moment they get their pay they go on a shopping spree! They plan, they save, they invest for the future, they spend their money wisely, and they prioritize. They prepare for every opportunity whether good or bad, whether advantageous or not. They prepare for their exam, they prepare for their job, they prepare for adulthood, they prepare their lords supper, they prepare for the future.

Their lamps- they all made separate, independent, personal preparation for the meeting. In the same manner each believer must have his or her own lamp. Your lamb is not mine and mine is not yours. The lamps were hollow cups/saucers, which were filled with oil. They were fastened to a long wooden pole and borne in the procession (Edersheim).

The lamp can represent our Christianity. The foolish are satisfied with their spiritual state, the wise maintained their supply. The foolish are satisfied with having underwent the waters of baptism and coming to church only on Sunday. The wise constantly edify their faith through reading scripture, prayer and stewardship.

While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept-  all wise and foolish began to sleep. The act in itself was not sinful, it was only natural. We all sleep and we all need to sleep. We all tempted, we all get challenges, we all fall, we all sin, we all face difficulties. It’s only natural. We cannot be on top and up all the time, sometimes we will be down. The text suggests that the bridesmaid ceased for a while to think of the bridegrooms coming. Some of us have began sleeping, some of us the zeal for the lord has cooled away.

We all sleep at one point or another. We all lose focus at one point or another, we all fall short of the glory at one point or another. We all make misakes. It depends on how one chooses to look at their mistakes. If we look at them correctly, mistakes are nothing but an opportunity to learn and do things better. They are wonderful opportunity for improvement. None of us is perfect. Even though the other five were described as being wise, they also for a moment ceased being watchful of the coming bridegroom, at one point they thought nothing of him.

They were wise, but they were not perfect. No one even in the bible was presented as being perfect. The bible tells us about the strengths of each character and the weaknesses as well. Noah was an obedient man who listened to God’s voice to build the ark; but Noah was a drunkard. Abraham was a man of faith, but Abraham slept with his bondservant and got her pregnant. Abraham being a man of faith and a wealthy man chased out the slave girl with the child he put in her womb with a loaf of bread and a canteen of water. Abraham failed to pay child support. Jacob was a deceiver. Judah, from whom Christ came, used to sleep with prostitutes (even though he had a wife). At one point, he even slept with his daughter-in-law and got her pregnant. Moses killed a man and buried him in sand. Jonah was a runaway prophet. David was a man after God’s heart yet David murdered a man, took his wife and slept with her. What of Peter, the hypocrite who also denied Christ three times. What of Paul the great apostle, the one who murdered and lynched hundreds of Christians.

The Bible presents human beings just as they are, in their perfections and imperfections. We live in a generation of phony Christians who live as if they live on top of the mountain. They don’t sin, they do no wrong and should you fall short they look at you in a condescending attitude. But the Bible is honest and it lets us know, they fell short and they slept.

At midnight- the implication is that when sleep is deepest and the awakening most unwelcome. When they are most unwatchful. You cant always be on the watch, but you can always be prepared. The wise can afford to sleep because they know they are prepared and have the oil. The foolish slept without the oil.

Be weary of constantly living your Christian life by comparing yourself to others. You don’t know their motivation, you don’t know their values, and you have no idea of their ideals. You don’t know why they are sleeping. Be your own best competitive advantage. Any athlete that runs the race looking at what the next racer is doing never finish the race.  They are prone to get distracted and lose the race. Are your friends sleeping? It doesn’t mean you must sleep as well. Are other Christians uncommitted? It doesn’t mean you must lower your commitment. Are they not working as hard as you are? Be competitive at your level.

Trimmed their lambs- when they all heard the cry that the bridegroom had transpired, the wise quickly woke up and revived their lambs. The trimming consisted in removing the charred portion of the wick and replenishing the vase with oil. The one party was ready to meet the emergency, whilst the other was wholly unprepared. Even if the foolish woke up, they suddenly discovered that they had no oil in their lambs; they had brought no further supply with them.

The foolish said unto the wise- some persons would take advantage of you because you are companions. They want to hide their deficiencies, when the wise brought a supply they were negligent. Some persons want to use other peoples hard work, other peoples commitment other peoples merits to get anywhere in life. They don’t want to work for themselves, they just love benefitting from other peoples hard work and preparation.

Not so; lest there be not enough- “ Not at all it will never suffice for us and for you”. No man can protect us if our works betrays us, not because he will not but because he cannot. There comes a time you say no persons that don’t want to do anything to change their circumstances. We can only do so much to help persons that have a negligent character in themselves. No matter how much we might help them, because of they refuse to change their character, their way of life, their attitude, their laziness: there will come a time we cannot help them anymore.

But go ye rather to them that sell- the beauty of advice, it is only persons that truly care that will give a wise advice. The wise cannot of themselves supply the lack. I cannot go for you; you have to go for yourself. You have to buy for yourself- everyone must bear his own burden. But the heeding of the advice was too late because while they went to buy the prepared bridesmaid left with the bridegroom. Opportunity meets preparation is success. And when an opportunity comes and finds unprepared, failure is born. When the time was right, they should have gone and bought for themselves.

I do not know you- I do not know you because you were not prepared for me, they were not in the bridal company, nor joined in the festive processions, so the bridegroom had no knowledge of them. Opportunity is life, and missing out on an opportunity is missing out on life!

In many parables, the final thought usually reads, “depart from me you, you cursed ones into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”. But not this one- “but stay awake and be prepared, because you don’t know the day or hour”. Although the bridesmaid might have been unprepared for this particular wedding, another wedding will come and they can learn of their mistakes and do things better. Opportunities are like buses. There is always another one coming. But when it finally comes, will we be prepared for it?

Chris Mhlongo, as preached @ StellenboschCOC

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The Proverbs 31 Woman!

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Proverbs 31: 10-31

This chapter of scripture contains praise of the virtuous woman, derived from a different source from that of the words of Agur; no doubt this thoughts were inspired and inculcated into him by his mum. But there is also no doubt that she could not teach them about the virtue of a woman whom she was not, so Agur first took what he saw demonstrated in his mum and he made it his goal to look for a woman of such values and principles. It is an acrostic; that is, each verse begins with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, arranged in the usual order. The spiritual expositors see in this description of the virtuous woman a prophetic representation of the Church of Christ in her truth and purity and influence.

This is the only section of scripture dedicated to the expectations of a principled woman. The book of Proverbs has long since been regarded as a book of wisdom; and after the writer has written exhaustively about every thought of discernment, he now turns his attention to this ideal woman. As with every piece of art, music, and even writing, the end always end with a bang; and the end is always a conclusion of the matter, a summoning of all the thoughts the writer might have raised. And so the author concludes his writing by looking at a woman, whom every man should aspire to be sojourned to. It implies that even though a man can gain all the knowledge in the world, he can be a principled man, well versed in all thirty chapters of proverbs full of wise ways of living, but if he does not choose the right woman he is destroyed. Just as it has been suggested that you are fortunate if you meet the right woman, for she will complete you. But if you meet the wrong woman, she will finish you! No man is complete without the proverb 31 woman. She is the fabric that holds him all together. He can have Proverbs 1 to 30, but without Proverbs 31, he is incomplete.

           Who can find a virtuous woman? The expression, woman of virtue actually means “woman of force”; the expression combines the ideas of moral goodness and bodily vigour and activity. It is useless to try to fix the character upon any particular person. The representation is that of an ideal woman—the perfect housewife, the chaste helpmate of her husband, upright, God-fearing, economical, and wise. See an anticipation of this character (Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 19:14); and a very different view (Ecclesiastes 7:26). It is very remarkable to meet with such a delineation of woman in the East, where the female generally occupies a most degraded position, and is cut off from all sphere of activity and administration. To paint such a portrait needed inspiration of some sort. Such a one is hard to find. Her price is far above rubies; or, pearls; the Septuagint reads, “Such a one is more valuable than precious stones.” There may be allusion to the custom of giving treasure in exchange for a wife, purchasing her, as it were, from her friends. At any rate, few only are privileged to meet with this excellent wife, and her worth cannot be estimated by any material object, however costly. You may go to the ends of the earth to find her equal in value.

The heart of her husband cloth safely trust in her. The husband of such a wife goes forth to his daily occupations, having full confidence in her whom he leaves at home, that she will act discreetly, and promote his interests while he is absent. So that he shall have no need of spoil; rather, he shall not lack gain. The wife manages domestic concerns so well that her husband finds his honest gains increase, and sees his confidence profitably rewarded. Septuagint, “Such a woman shall want not fair spoils.” Her husband has full confidence in her; she is the incomparable, and to him, she is the best! We live in a society where many husbands do not trust their wives; many have need to check their cell phones to see which guys they have been chatting to; they are restless and constantly anxious and insecure. But a man, who has been fortunate to meet the virtuous woman, he rests secure, and has no need to worry because her wife has given him no need to doubt her.

 She will do him good and not evil. She is consistent in her conduct towards her husband, always pursuing his best interests. All the days of her life; in good times or bad, in the early spring time of young affection, and in the waning years of declining age. Her love, based on high principles, knows no change or diminution. She seeks to do good to her household; she does not hurt, curse, fight, insult, degrade, disrespect, speak down, nag, shout, and stress her husband. She loves him, respects him, cares for him, and looks after his every need.

 She seeks wool, and flax. She pays attention to these things, as materials for clothing and domestic uses. Wool has been used for clothing from the earliest times and flax was largely cultivated for the manufacture of linen, the processes of drying, peeling, hackling, and spinning being well understood. The prohibition about mixing wool and flax in a garment (Deuteronomy 22:11) was probably based on the idea that all mixtures made by the art of man are polluted, and that what is pure and simple, such as it is in its natural state, is alone proper for the use of the people of God.

 And works willingly with her hands; or, she works with her hands’ pleasure; i.e. with willing hands. She works at the business of her hands. What is meant is that she not only labours diligently herself, but finds pleasure in doing so, and this, not because she has none to help her, and is forced to do her own work (on the contrary, she is represented as rich, and at the head of a large household), but because she considers that labour is a duty for all, and that idleness is a transgression of a universal law. The Septuagint reads, “Weaving wool and flax; she makes it useful with her hands.” It is quite interesting that even though she is a wealthy woman, she is a business woman, and has a lot to do, but she still finds time to do the duties of his household. She can easily delegate such duties to her hired servants, but she still insists on working with her hands. Taking care of her husband and children she sees it as a duty directly connected to her.

 She is like the merchants’ ships. She is like them in that she extends her operations beyond her own immediate neighbourhood, and brings her food from afar, buying in the best markets and on advantageous terms, without regard to distance, and being always on the look out to make honest profit. Septuagint, “She is like a ship trading from a distance, and she herself gathers her livelihood.” The expressions in the text point to active commercial operations by sea as well as land, such as we know to have been undertaken by Solomon, Jehoshaphat, and others, and such as the Hebrews must have noticed in the Phoenician cities, Sidon and Tyre.

 She rises also while it is yet night. Before dawn she is up and stirring, to be ready for her daily occupation. A lamp is always kept burning at night in Eastern houses, and as it is of very small dimensions, the careful housewife has to rise at midnight to replenish the oil, and she often then begins her household work by grinding the corn or preparing something for next day’s meals. Early rising before any great undertaking is continually mentioned in Scripture. And giveth meat to her household. The word for “meat” is tereph, which means “food torn in pieces” with the teeth, and hence food to be eaten. The wife thus early prepares or distributes the food which will be wanted for the day. And a portion to her maidens. Chok, “final portion,” may apply either to work or food. The Vulgate has cibaria, “meat;” Septuagint, ἔργα, “tasks.” The former, which is in accordance with Proverbs 30:8, would be merely a repetition of the second clause, the meat mentioned there being here called the allotted portion, and would be simply tautological. If we take it in the sense of “appointed labour,” we get a new idea, very congruous with the housewife’s activity.

 She considers a field, and buys it. She turns her attention to a certain field, the possession of which is for some cause desirable; and, after due examination and consideration, she buys it. Land is expensive- this woman has lots of money, and it is not her husband’s money; for she works with her hands. We live in a generation where many ladies are looking for men who will do things for them, who will finance their expensive lifestyles, and their costly fashion taste. Although it is not wrong for a man to provide for her wife, as a matter of fact it is highly encouraged. But this woman does not make it her goal to depend on her husband. She sees a field, she goes and get the funds and she invests into it. With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. Her prudent management and economy give her means to buy vines and plant a vineyard, and thus to increase her produce. Possibly it is meant that she sees the field she has gotten is more fitted for grapes than corn, and she cultivates it accordingly. Vineyards are a good (although also costly) investment. She is in all understanding a business woman, and she knows where to invest her money. Many a man today aer in financial pitfalls because of their wives. They are merely interested in spending and shopping, they know nothing nor care anything about investing.

 She girds her loins with strength. This seems at first sight a strange assertion to make concerning one of the weaker sex; but the phrase is metaphorically expressive of the energy and force with which she prepares herself for her work. Strength and vigour are, as it were, the girdle which she binds round her waist to enable her to conduct her operations with case and freedom. So we have a similar metaphor boldly applied to God (Psalms 93:1): “The Lord reigns, he is apparelled with majesty; the Lord is apparelled, he hath girded himself with strength”. Strengthens her arms. By daily exercise she makes her arms firm and strong, and capable of great and continued exertion.

 She perceives that her merchandise is good; the Vulgate reads, “She tastes and sees,” expresses the meaning of the verb taam here used. Her prudence and economy leave her a large surplus profit, which she contemplates with satisfaction. There is no suspicion of arrogance or conceit. The pleasure that is derived from duty done and successfully conducted business is legitimate and healthy, a providential reward of good works. Septuagint, “She tastes that it is good to work.” This comfort and success spur her on to further and more continued exertion. Her candle (lamp) goes not out by night. She is not idle even when night falls, and outdoor occupations are cut short; she finds work for the hours of darkness. The ‘candle burning at night’ also has reference to activities of intimacy that traditionally take place in the night. In this sense, she pleases her husband sexually. Although she is hard and work and busy during the day, she does not use this as an excuse for the lack of romance and intimacy in her marriage. She makes effort and time to enjoy her husband during the hours of the night.

 She lays her hands to the spindle. This is probably not the spindle, but the distaff, i.e. the staff to which is tied the bunch of flax from which the spinning wheel draws the thread. To this she applies her hand; she deftly performs the work of spinning her flax into thread. Her hands hold the distsaff. This is the spindle, the cylindrical wood (afterwards the wheel) on which the thread winds itself as it is spun. The hands could not be spared to hold the distaff as well as the spindle, so the first clause should run, “She stretches her hand towards the distaff.” The Septuagint translates, “She stretches out her arms to useful works.” Vulgate, Manum suam misit ad fortia. This rather impedes the parallelism of the two clauses. There was nothing derogatory in women of high rank spinning among their maidens, just as in the Middle Ages noble ladies worked at tapestry with their attendants.

 She is not impelled by selfish greed to improve her means and enlarge her revenues. She is sympathizing and charitable, and loves to extend to others the blessings which have rewarded her efforts. She stretches out her hand to the poor. “Hand” is here caph, “the palm,” evidently containing alms. She knows the maxim (Proverbs 19:17), “He that has pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord,” etc.; and she has no fear of poverty. Yea, she reaches forth her hands to the needy. “Hand,” is here yod, with its nerves and sinews ready for exertion; and the idea is that she puts forth her hand to raise and soothe the poor man, not being satisfied with dealing alms to him, but exercising the gentle ministries of a tender love. The Septuagint reads, “She opens her hands to the needy, and reaches forth her wrist to the poor.” Like Dorcas, she is full of good works and alms deeds (Acts 9:36). It is doubtless implied that the prosperity which she experiences is the reward of this benevolence (Proverbs 22:9).

 She is not afraid of the snow for her household. “Show,” “covers the streets of Jerusalem two winters in three, but it generally comes in small quantities, and soon disappears. Yet there are sometimes very snowy winters. That of 1879, for example, left behind it seventeen inches of snow, even where there was no drift, and the strange spectacle of snow lying unmelted for two or three weeks was seen in the hollows on the hillsides. Thousands of years have wrought no change in this aspect of the winter months, for Bennaiah, one of David’s mighty men, ‘slew a lion in the midst of a pit in the time of snow’ (2 Samuel 23:20).” She has no fears concerning the comfort and health of her family even in the severest winter. For all her household are clothed with scarlet; with warm garments. The word used is שָׁנִים (shanim), derived from a verb meaning “to shine,” and denoting a crimson or deep scarlet colour. This colour was supposed, and rightly, to absorb and retain heat, as white to repel it; being made of wool, the garments would be warm as well as stately in appearance. Warm garments were the more necessary as the only means of heating rooms was the introduction of portable chafing dishes containing bunting charcoal. The Septuagint has taken liberties with the text, “Her husband is not anxious concerning domestic matters when he tarries anywhere for all her household are well clothed.”

 She makes herself coverings of tapestry. Pillows for beds or cushions are meant. Septuagint, “She makes for her husband double garments.” Her clothing is silk and purple. שֵׁשׁ (shesh) is not “silk,” but “white linen” ( βύσσος, byssus) of very fine texture, and costly. Purple garments were brought from the Phoenician cities, and were highly esteemed. The wife dresses herself in a way becoming her station, avoiding the extremes of sordid simplicity and ostentatious luxury. For my own part, I should wish any devout man or woman always to be the best dressed person in the company, but at the same time, the least fine and affected, and adorned, as it is said, with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. Every one ought to dress according to his position, so that good and sensible people should not be able to say you are overdressed, nor the younger under dressed.

 Her husband is known in the gates. Such a woman advances her husband’s interests, increases his influence, and, by attending to his domestic concerns, enables him to take his share in public matters, so that his name is in great repute in the popular assemblies at the city gates. She is indeed “a crown to her husband” (Proverbs 12:4). When he sits among the elders of the land. Her husband’s life is orderly and he lacks nothing. She does not give her a headache and depression to such an extent that he can’t fulfil his community duties. He is proud of her, and because she plays her rightful place in her husband’s life, her husband is respected and esteemed.

 She makes fine linen, and sells it. The word for “fine linen” is sadin, and denoting linen garments; or body linen. Delivers girdles unto the merchant; literally, unto the Canaanite; i.e. the Phoenician merchant, a generic name for all traders. Girdles were necessary articles of attire with the flowing robes of Eastern dress. The common kind were made of leather, as is the use at the present day; but a more costly article was of linen curiously worked in gold and silver thread, and studded with jewels and gold. Such rich and elaborately worked girdles the mistress could readily barter with Phoenician merchants, who would give in exchange purple and other articles of use or luxury.

 Strength and honour are her clothing. She is invested with a moral force and dignity which arm her against care and worry; the power of a righteous purpose and strong will reveals itself in her carriage and demeanour. And thus equipped, she shall rejoice in time to come; or, she laughs at the future. She is not disquieted by any fear of what may happen, knowing in whom she trusts, and having done her duty to the utmost of her ability.

 She opens her mouth with wisdom. She is not merely a good housewife, attending diligently to material interests; she guides her family with words of wisdom. When she speaks, it is not gossip, or slander, or idle talk, that she utters, but sentences of prudence and sound sense, such as may minister grace to the hearers. Wisdom is often attributed to men, and the man in the house is often the one expected to advice and guide his children with wisdom, but this is not so with the virtuous woman. In her tongue is the law of kindness; i.e. her language to those around her is animated and regulated by love. As mistress of a family, she has to teach and direct her dependents, and she performs this duty with gracious kindness and ready sympathy. Septuagint, “She places order on her tongue.

 She looks well to the ways of her house; the actions and habits of the household. She exercises careful surveillance over all that goes on in the family. Eats not the bread of idleness; but rather bread won by active labour and conscientious diligence. She is of the opinion of the apostle who said “that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Septuagint, “The ways of her house are confined, and she eats not idle bread.” She considers the ways of her house, because she accurately examines all the thoughts of her conscience. She eats not her bread in idleness, because that which she learned out of Holy Scripture by her understanding, she places before the eyes of the Judge by exhibiting it in her works.

 Her children arise up, and call her blessed. She is a fruitful mother of children, who, seeing her sedulity and prudence, and experiencing her affectionate care, celebrate and praise her, and own that she has rightly won the blessing of the Lord. Her husband also, and he praises her; in the words given in the next verse. Having the approbation of her husband and children, who know her best, and have the best opportunities of judging her conduct, she is contented and happy. Septuagint, “Her mercy raises up her children, and they grow rich, and her husband praises her.”

 Many daughters have done virtuously, but you out beat them all. Septuagint, “Many daughters have obtained wealth.” But it adds another rendering, “Many have wrought power which is nearer the meaning “force,” virtue, “strength of character” shown in various ways. “Daughters,” equivalent to “women,” We may regard it as a representation of the truly Christian matron, who loves husband and children, guides the house, is discreet, chaste, good, a teacher of good things; such a woman out beat them all. She is the Best!

 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain. “Favour,” may signify either the good will with which one is regarded, or gracefulness, beauty. As being in close parallelism with the next words, it is best taken as referring to loveliness of form. Mere gracefulness, if considered as a token of a wife’s work and usefulness, is misleading; and beauty is transitory and often dangerous. Neither of them is of any real value unless accompanied by religion. Quite interesting there has been no mention of the physical attributes of the virtuous woman. The author did not find her physique, her sexiness to be of any importance. He wholly focuses on her personality and her mind.

 But a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised. So we come back to the maxim with which the whole book began, that the foundation of all excellence is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Such, too, is the conclusion of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 12:13), “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” The Septuagint reads, “False are charms, and vain is the beauty of woman; for a prudent woman is blessed, and let her praise the fear of the Lord.”

 Give her of the fruit of her hands. So may she enjoy the various blessings which her zeal, prudence, and economy have obtained. In a world where many women earn lesser than their male counterparts, the bible teach that she must be given what she is worth. Give her what her hands produce, don’t rob her because she is a woman. Pay her well. Septuagint, “Give her of the fruit of her lips.” And let her own works praise her in the gates. She needs no farfetched laudation; her lifelong actions speak for themselves. Where men most congregate, where the heads of the people meet in solemn assembly, there her praise is sung, and a unanimous verdict assigns to her the highest honour. Septuagint, “Let her husband be praised in the gates.” This frequent introduction of the husband is cuprous, but still fitting.

 This is a short yet concise description of the Proverb 31 woman. She is also a wife, but she is a woman. For a woman does not need to have a husband to be a wife. ‘Wife’ is not a noun, it is a verb. One is called a wife because of what they do. No mention is made of the husband and how he exerts his influence on the proverbs 31 woman. She was a wife before her husband met her. If a woman is not a wife before you put a ring on her finger, putting a ring on her finger is not going to make her a wife. She has to be it to become it. Everyone can be the Proverb 31 woman, because this ideal is not generic, but humaric.  

 Chris Mhlongo, As preached @ Central Church of Christ.

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I’m Still Standing!

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We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed

2 Corinthians 4: 8, 9

Tough times don’t last; tough people do. They refuse to quit, they refuse to stay down. No matter how many times you flung them on the ground, they always bounce back up. And ultimately they win, because they refused to give up. So if you are bruised, if you are hurt, if you are bleeding, if you are tired; if you are exhausted, if you are struck down, if you are troubled on every side- that’s your motivation! Don’t let it all be for nothing; get something out of it! 

Our text is inspired by a man who has endured many life situations and trials. He has known pain, suffering, disappointment, persecution, lack, fear, sadness, loneliness, and rejection. And he here writes as one involved in a hand to hand combat; He writes as one who is in a wrestling match (for life in many ways is indeed like a wrestling match) and he fighting at a loss. He is cast down, flung to the ground. The circumstances of life have thrown him down, as one wrestler might throw another in the arena; but he is not yet finished. He is down, but he is not yet out.

            In a wrestling combat opponents strike each other and punch each other until the other one is out. When the count begins, and the opponent resuscitate themselves, the match continues. In the sport of boxing, for instance, there are all kinds of ways that a boxer can be knocked out. If a boxer is knocked down, and unable to get up to his feet and gain his balance and composure before the referee counts to 10, he is considered technically knocked out. And if and when he gets to his feet, he’s given a standing 8 count. If the referee feels that though the fighter is on his feet but he’s in no condition to continue the fight, the referee will stop the fight, and the boxer is considered technically knocked out. Then there’s the three knock down rule.

But being punched down, and knocked down comes with its own hurt and injuries. Life can sometimes leave one scared and injured; broken and bruised by the troubles and trials of life. But although he was damaged, he still had some energy left in him. He can still stand. And so long as he can stand, the match continues.

            In many ways many of us can relate to the apostle, we have been punched, pressed, persecuted, and perplexed. Sometimes life leaves all confused, unconscious, but we are still alive. After everything life has thrown at us, we are still standing. The very essence of life in us, implies the battle is not over, till it’s over. We are not flattened; we are not defeated.

            Don’t throw in the towel yet. You might be down, but you are not out! You are still in the game. You are not defeated, even though sometimes it might feel like it. Life might have knocked you down, but you don’t have to stay down. You can still get up, because there is still life in you; you are still kicking! You may not know that you are a fighter, but just the simple fact that you’re still standing and still holding on despite all the hell you’ve gone through tells me you’re a fighter. Life will through an unexpected blow and knock you clean off your feet. Is there anybody in here that’s been hit with something in life that left you totally numb?

A fighter can train all he can; be in the best shape of his life, and still get hit and knocked down by an unsuspecting punch. Thus it is with us. I don’t care how much Bible you know, nor does it matter how strong and prayed up you are life will hit you with a blow that will literally knock you senseless. Don’t get me wrong. It pays to be prayed up and it pays to study and learn the word, because that’s your training. And it’s according to how well a fighter train that determines how fast he recovers from a serious knock down.

            You are able to stand, and the reason you still standing is because, you are not alone. God is able to make you stand. You might be persecuted from all sides; forsaken by friends and family, but you are never alone. No matter how many are against you, and you have no one on your side- you are not alone. They might fail you all, they might forsake you all, but God will never leave you. When you go into the storm he is with you. When you can’t see clearly the way ahead, he is still right there beside you.  He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, a confident, and a comfort in difficult times.

            You have took the licking, but you have kept on ticking. Quitters never win! Life will throw so many curves at you, that sometimes it seems like quitting is the only way out. No one has ever won a race when they have fallen down and stayed down. No fighter has ever won a fight by staying down after they get knocked down the first time, and you cannot win, by falling down and staying there. You have to learn to get up, and dust yourself off, stick out your chest, and refuse to stay down.

            It’s not over yet. I may be broke right now, but I’m coming out of this. I may be sick right now, but I’m coming out of this, I may be confused right now, but I’m coming out of this. My mind may be a mess, but I’m coming out of this. The bible says in Ps. 30:5 weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Just because you are going through a night time experience, does not mean that the sun won’t shine again. Weeping may endure for a night…….

            The righteous man falls down 7 times, and rises back up again. The difference between a winner and a loser, is that a winner will get back up when he falls down, and continue to fight. A lot of times we will look at what we are going through in life, and get confused and think that this is where we are staying. Do not confuse what you are going through, with where you are going to. In order to get to the top of a mountain, you have got to climb up one side or the other. You cannot see a rainbow without first seeing a little rain. In order to get away from the bondage of slavery, and get to the Promised Land, we must go through the wilderness.

            I am coming out of this. I’m coming out of this and I don’t care what it takes. I’m trusting that God will bring me through and I am confessing victory in life from this day forward. I have tried everything that man has given me, and it did not work, I’m pressing through the crowd. You might be challenged, but you are not conquered.

            Pain is temporary, glory is forever. Tough times don’t last, tough people do. So don’t quit; you have already gone through heavy stuff, you are already in pain, you are already hurt, you are scar and bruised. So get something out of it; get a reward out of it. No one who ever fought one more round regretted it. Rather suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion. Every champion was once a contender that refused to quit.

Chris Mhlongo, As preached @ Church-on-Main

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