Managing Editor: David Sper
Cover Photo: Wes Thompson/The Stock Market
©1995 RBC Ministries--Grand Rapids, MI 49555 Printed in USA
For many people, the Bible has become like commonplace scenery on a daily commute to work. Others view the Scriptures as a collection of archaic stories about strange people from a different place and a vastly different time. In either case, the Bible appears no more inviting or relevant than 1,200 pages from the Congressional Record.
But what if an event described in the Bible took place in your neighborhood or your office? What if a previously distant event suddenly became front-page news in your life?
In this excerpt of Pinstripe Parables, author David McCasland retells some familiar Bible stories as they might look if they happened today. None is intended to be an exact parallel or an improvement on Scripture. Our prayer is that this booklet will challenge you to read God's Word through new eyes.
Martin R. De Haan II, President of RBC Ministries.
Table of Contents
It was a stupid mistake, really, and a big one too. Why did I do it? I don't think I really know. There are a lot of things about it I can't explain to anyone--even myself. I suppose it was a shortcut, just something I thought I had to do at the time.
In the absence of any statement from me, there has been a lot of speculation about exactly what I did and why. You see, there's nothing quite as disconcerting as a failure with no adequate explanation. Whether it's a beautiful movie star who takes her own life or a trusted church treasurer who steals from the benevolence fund, people wonder why. What made them do it?
I'm not sure I can tell you why I failed, but I want to set the record straight about what actually happened.
First, you need to understand something about my family. After my mother was transformed by a religious experience, our home became the unofficial headquarters and hotel for the people with whom she was involved. Our big house bulged with people all the time--people praying, eating, talking, laughing. They sat at our table, helped me with my homework, and shot baskets with me out in the driveway. They were the friendliest, most genuine men and women I had ever known. Because I was a young teenager with no dad at home, they made a major impression on me.
And then my uncle Joe brought Craig Wilson to our house. He had become front-page news with his political fall from grace, and the nightly TV coverage followed every development of his federal indictments. When he said he had become a born-again Christian, everyone thought it was a sham to avoid prosecution. But not my ever-trusting uncle, who brought Craig over for hamburgers one Friday night.
After supper the two of them talked for hours. Instead of heading upstairs to play Nintendo, I sat out of sight around the corner and listened to everything they said. After that evening, nothing seemed quite as important to me as it had before. I wanted to be like them and was ready to do whatever it took to follow God in their footsteps.
Just after my high-school graduation, Uncle Joe invited me to postpone college for a year and travel overseas with him. He and Craig were going to do some teaching and preaching and wanted me to come along and help. Unbelievable! It took me about 2 seconds to say yes and start packing my suitcase. A month later we were on a 747 headed for places I had only heard about before.
After 3 exciting weeks, the adventure of being a missionary ended pretty quickly and things got tough. Craig became very ill and the whole enterprise ground to a miserable halt in a noisy, polluted Third-World city where I couldn't speak a word of the language. While my uncle tried day after day to change flights and reschedule meetings, I was stuck in a cheap hotel room with Craig who was wracked by vomiting and diarrhea. It wasn't my concept of changing the world for Christ.
I'm embarrassed to tell you how quickly I quit
and came home. It didn't make sense to suffer when I could get myself out
of it so easily. I thought my uncle and Craig would see the wisdom of heading
home if I led the way. I bailed out, but they pressed on.
You see, I didn't think I was turning my back on the Lord, but I guess I was. Somehow, I couldn't trust God for the unknown things ahead.
So, I blew it. It was a tough way to learn, but I'm beginning to understand some things more clearly.
I thought that with a good family background, a great heritage of faith, and the most dynamic role models, my success was assured. But it all came down to my personal choices. For me, the issue was "Who's going to call the shots in my life--God or me?" Well, I called the shot and it was an airball.
I also learned some things about trust. It takes a long time to build trust, but it can be destroyed in a moment. Uncle Joe and Craig depended on me. They gave me a great opportunity and responsibility--but I let them down.
It took years for me to accept the idea that my failure didn't have to be final. A friend back home helped me understand that. He had been down a similar road and discovered that God's grace was bigger than his mistakes. "You can be like Judas or like Peter," he told me. "Peter denied Jesus three times, but he didn't just run away after he failed. He came back and Jesus forgave him. Judas pushed it all down inside himself. In his depression, he took his own life."
I had been looking at my failure, at my lost opportunity, and asking, "What would have happened if I had stayed, instead of deserting Craig and Uncle Joe?" I agonized over that for a long time.
Finally, I realized I could never know the answer to "What would have happened?" It was the wrong question.
The right question was, "What will happen
if I follow Jesus and obey Him today?" I began to do just that and
God changed me in ways I never thought possible. It happened slowly, over
time, but it began with that decision.
My conclusion is that God doesn't look for the heroes who have never failed. He looks for people who ask His forgiveness and pick up where they left off with Him.
And pardon me for not introducing myself earlier.
My name's John, but most people call me Mark.
ACTS 12:5-12 (APRIL, AD 44)
Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell.
He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.
Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent His angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating."
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.
ACTS 12:25--13:5,13 (SPRING, AD 47)
When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the Word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper. . . .
From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.
ACTS 15:36-38 (SUMMER, AD 50)
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the Word of the Lord and see how they are doing." Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.
COLOSSIANS 4:10 (EARLY, AD 62)
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)
2 TIMOTHY 4:9-11 (SEPTEMBER, AD 67)
Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. . . . Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
Table of Contents
Of course I had thought about quitting before. Anyone who has worked for the government has thought about it at one time or another. You get tired of the hassle, tired of the picky details, tired of being a cog in a machine.
But there are other considerations. Working for the government provides a great deal of security. It was especially true in my department. When times got tough, they were tough for everyone but us. No matter what the economy did, there always seemed to be more than enough money, above and below the table, to keep us living in the style to which we had become accustomed.
Oh, sure, sometimes it bothered me that I earned more than people I knew, and that I was getting it at their expense, but that's life, isn't it? If you divided it all up evenly, the same people would have most of it back by the end of the game.
A lot of the guys I had gone to school with resented me and my job. But they could have done what I did if they had wanted to. They made their choices and I made mine. While they sweated it out working overtime, I was home relaxing in the hot tub. As I said, there are other considerations.
Besides, the only sensible reason for quitting one job is to take a better one. It always made sense to me to stick with something, no matter how bad it was, until I had a better alternative in the bag. Food stamps, unemployment lines, and social services questionnaires were not my idea of the good life. Neither were newspaper want-ads, endless interviews with personnel directors, and rejections. No thanks!
I suppose I would still be right there with the IRS if it hadn't been for him and his friends. Unaccustomed as I was to brown-bagging it in the park, the weather seemed too nice that day for the usual three-martini lunch at Jacoby's. I decided that sunshine, a bagel with cream cheese, and a kosher dill would do nicely.
I was sitting alone on a park bench when he asked if he could join me. How long had it been since I had eaten lunch with someone besides the guys in the office? How long had it been since anyone had asked to eat with me? Perhaps my world had become more narrow than I had realized.
In a few minutes, we were joined by an unlikely mixture of men bearing burgers and fries. A business suit, a butcher's apron, and the dirty jeans of a construction worker were all present. What followed was the most extraordinary conversation I had ever heard.
For an hour, I laughed and listened like never before in my life. The laughter came from somewhere deep inside me--a place I had never discovered, or else known long ago and forgotten. Instead of being couched in the superficiality of double entendres or golf jokes, it grew out of the reality of life. It was a laughter that left me feeling cleaner than before.
As these men talked, I said nothing. That was unusual for me, but somehow I felt there was nothing I could add to their conversation. I was skilled in talk of sailboats, tax evasion, and weekends, but they were conversing about life. Walking back to the office I realized that I had been so intrigued I had forgotten to eat half of my lunch. A first for me.
Those impromptu gatherings in the park became more frequent. I found myself declining the expense-account meals my colleagues and I had raised to an art form. Instead, I opted for a nourishment of a different kind--a meal of the mind and heart that satisfied, yet at the same time left me hungering for more.
A few months after that first lunch in the park, the man who had first asked if he could join me, the leader of our discussions, walked unannounced into my office. Right there, in front of God and everyone else, he asked me to leave my job with the government and come with his organization.
We had never discussed it before, although it had crossed my mind. I knew that working for him would plunge me from affluence to poverty overnight. Frankly, I wasn't ready to buy my clothes at K-Mart and drive a 10-year-old car. The few times I thought seriously about it, I dismissed it all as fantasy. My usual reaction was, "Why would he ever want me?" When his invitation came that afternoon, I was startled.
Was it smart to leave everything I had worked for? The government's pension plan rewarded those who stayed around to retire, not those who quit. Did I want to sacrifice that? I had no real idea what job I was being asked to do, how I would buy groceries, or what the future held. Could I afford to take the risk, do something that appeared totally irresponsible, and take whatever came?
Could I afford not to?
As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow Me," He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Table of Contents
A large bubble formed in the depths of the water and slowly made its way upward, breaking the surface with a muffled bloop. Two men and a woman conversed over their cups.
"Be nice if we got to go to the mountains once in a while like the boss instead of having to hang around here and do all the work."
"Wouldn't it? Questions come up and he's never here to answer them. Everyone who has a problem wants to talk to the man in charge, and frankly, I'm sick of telling them to check back next week. Don't they have phones at that conference center? Why doesn't he return his calls?"
"Give him a break," said the third party. "He's already gotten us a better working agreement than we've had in a long time, and there's talk that when he gets back this time he'll have an even better one--all down in black and white."
"I'm not any better off than I was 5 years ago," said the first. "I haven't seen or signed anything."
"That's right," replied the second, drawing another cup from the cooler. "The company cafeteria may be free, but the same thing day after day? I miss the old haunts and a little variety."
"You have something against low-fat yogurt, salads, and fruit--every day?" the woman asked in mock amazement.
"Humph!" the man grunted, tossing down his water in a gulp. "I could go for a hot reuben sandwich and a cold beer."
The brother of the absent manager entered the office and strolled toward the water cooler. "Morning," he said. "This the meeting of the minds?"
"This is it," came a curt reply. "This is about the only place any decisions get made around here anymore."
Surlier than usual, thought the brother as he stepped toward the insular walls of his office.
"Any word from the divine Mr. M?" a well-watered employee asked.
"Nothing yet," the brother said. "But you know how those contract meetings can drag on. Imagine he'll send a fax when he knows something. Well, I'd better get back to work."
He withdrew, tired of defending his absent brother, tired of trying to manage a family business.
That afternoon, a few more disenchanted people gathered around the water cooler. "Why can't anyone tell me if he ordered the parts or not?" a man shouted. "If the line shuts down, it's my fault. If we wind up with a double inventory of parts, it's still my fault."
"Consolidated Engineering says that without our main man's signature on the contract this afternoon, they'll cancel their order."
"I don't get it," a woman said. "We have fax, E-mail, cellular phones, Fedex, and the United States Postal Service, and all we get from him is silence."
The talk became more heated, the threats more concrete, the plans more radical. The more they talked, the more they forgot.
Somehow they forgot that the manager had hired every one of them out of a situation of personal difficulty. Many had been overextended with their creditors and heavily in debt. Some had been convicted of financial misdealings and sentenced to prison. Others had been only a step away from a similar fate.
They all forgot that they had been given a new start, including a profit-sharing plan and a generous stock option. In reality, they owned the company. But the more they talked and complained, the more complete their self-inflicted amnesia became.
No one remembers who came up with the idea to send out for pizza, but a little impromptu office party seemed just the thing to forget their troubles--a head start on the weekend. It all began innocently enough.
Before long, bottles appeared and soon the water cooler was up on a desk, its contents being mixed with fiery waters of another origin. They ordered more food and sent petty cash to the closest liquor store for additional spirits. The party was really cooking.
"You know," said one man, "if it hadn't been for this water cooler we never would have gotten where we are today. It was all those talks around the cooler that did it."
Laughter! Toasts! A tipsy song sung to the conquering water cooler.
Hands wavered toward glistening foreheads in mocking salutes.
"Present arms! We salute you, our fearless leader!"
More laughter. A demand that the manager's brother acknowledge the water cooler's role in their deliverance. "Make him spray-paint it gold and salute it himself."
The brother, fearing for his own safety and eyeing the security guards who had joined the insurrection, yielded to the demands among cheers and toasts.
Why fight an unruly crowd? he said to himself. Maybe we can straighten it all out over the weekend.
The party was in full swing when the door opened quietly and the manager slipped into the room. He stood unnoticed, just inside the door, his face a mixture of pain and rage. He had planned a special celebration to accompany his presentation of the new contract, but now this. Would these people ever learn? In their cynical impatience with him, they had unknowingly traded Chateaubriand at the finest restaurant for pizza from a cardboard box. Somehow it seemed to symbolize their whole approach to life.
And the contract. Would they ever know what they had lost?
Half the people still didn't see him walk slowly across the room, tearing the new contract to shreds. But when he hurled the huge glass water jug against the floor, the party was over.
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."
Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord." So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings.
Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'
"I have seen these people," the Lord said to Moses, "and they are a stiffnecked people. Now leave Me alone so that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation."
But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. "O Lord," he said, "why should Your anger burn against Your people, whom You brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that He brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn from Your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on Your people. Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom You swore by Your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.' " Then the Lord relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.
Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.
When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, "There is the sound of war in the camp."
Moses replied: "It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear."
When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
Table of Contents
Audio Journal. Tape-recorded tidbits; talking to myself. For my ears only.
Resolved: Do things differently this year. I've earned it after all my time on active duty. It's time for me to start enjoying life. Besides, I'm not actually retiring from military leadership--just changing hats. From field commander to commander-in-chief.
War is a young man's game. Let some of those young turks get shot at. Gives them a new perspective on life. I've had all the battlefield insight I need.
As I told the VFW Convention earlier this week, "Victory abroad depends on stability at home. Veterans deserve good jobs." They loved it. Gave me a standing ovation. I'll take care of the government at home this time. Let someone else take care of the war. Rank has its privileges, and so does political office. People expect me to enjoy my perks. I'd be a fool not to.
Beautiful evening tonight. City lights twinkle down below. Just back from a walk around the penthouse enjoying the cool air and the view. Speaking of the view, it was a bit careless of my new neighbor not to draw her curtains. Where has she been all my life? Unborn for much of it, I suppose. But is she a work of art! Can't I admire art?
What a paradox, this blend of opportunity and restraint. I spend my prime years gazing at stars from war zones, concerned for God and country, and find myself transfixed by her on this midlife night. So, forget it. Forget her. Nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel, ear to the ground. Duty, honor, self-discipline . . . hunger.
Woke up Saturday, Sunday, and today thinking about her. Finally told Carlton to find out who she is. It's nice to have one discreet aide who won't go running to the press to sell the latest gossip about me.
Tuesday--March 22, 11:00 a.m.
Didn't sleep well again last night--thinking about her. A full agenda of decisions to make and here I sit, consumed with only one. A lifetime of holding back and asking, "How could I?" is suddenly swallowed by an overwhelming, "Why shouldn't I?"
Wednesday--March 23, 10:00 p.m.
Good old Carlton works quickly. When his report arrived early this afternoon, I promptly canceled my meeting with the treasury secretary and devoured every page and every photo of her.
So she's married--to Captain Alan Miller, one of my company commanders who's away becoming a military hero. He may even become a dead one. She could be lonely with him away.
Get a grip! I can't think this way. But why is the whole idea of right and wrong being overruled by a sense of urgent need, desire, and . . . yes, maybe there is something I have to prove to myself. . . .
Just phoned Carlton and told him to invite her to a dinner on Saturday evening. "The honor of your presence is requested . . ." I don't think she'll refuse. We won't tell her it's a table for two until after she arrives.
Three weeks since our first evening together. Another note from her today. We're starting to carry on quite a little correspondence--besides all the other carrying on. I love the fragrance of the paper, the fragrance of her words, the fragrance of her.
"Pregnant!" Her note this morning was only one word. Oh, God, what do I do now? I've got to think, be calm. Get a hold of myself. I held the note over a match and the word disappeared in the flame. If only the problem would go away as easily as her note. I won't panic. I'm in charge. I'll make a decision.
Don't know why I didn't think of it immediately. Carlton sent the message this morning. We'll bring her husband back here as a courier of classified information. He'll bring the battle reports, brief me directly, and have a night at home before he returns to the front. That should take care of the problem.
Tuesday--May 3, 11:00 p.m.
Captain Miller arrived on schedule today, and we had a cordial meeting. His formal report and my usual military chit-chat. "We're all very proud of you. Keep up the good work." Right now he should be at home with his wife, solving my problem.
Wednesday--May 4, Midnight
Why isn't anything simple anymore? Miller spent the night at the BOQ last night--some gung-ho nonsense about not feeling right about going home while his men were in the field in battle. I can't believe it!
So, I had him join me for dinner tonight. He sat in the very chair she occupied for the first time a few weeks ago. Courtesy demanded that he empty his glass each time I filled it. He staggered out of here half an hour ago--undoubtedly on his way home to the little woman, I hope.
Thursday--May 5, 9:00 p.m.
Got to get some sleep tonight. This Miller thing has gone on too long. With a little luck it should be settled soon. The man is amazing. Last night he was drunk as a skunk and still slept at the BOQ instead of going home.
Today at noon I sent him back to the field with a written message to be personally delivered to Lieutenant Colonel Phillips, battalion commander. I know Miller won't read it. Anyone who spends 2 nights at the BOQ instead of going home to his wife wouldn't think of stealing a glance at a message to a superior officer. It's a short message, but it should do the job.
Basically, I ordered Lieutenant Colonel Phillips to put Miller where it's hot, then withdraw his support. Everyone will follow orders without asking questions. A few heroes will die and the army will win the battle because of their sacrifice. We'll give Captain Miller a posthumous award for valor.
Today's intelligence summary reported the death in combat of Captain Alan Miller. He was a brave man. Naive, but brave.
Almost 4 months since this whole affair began. Today we had a quiet wedding and she was a beautiful bride--my bride. Some think the marriage was a bit sudden after her widowhood, but people always talk. Soon they'll come to see me as the good guy, stepping in to support and raise Miller's unborn child.
In a few months, the dust will settle, people will forget all about it, and we can get on with our lives. Give it a few years and no one will know or care what really happened.
My tracks are covered. My conscience is clear.
2 Samuel 11:1--12:7
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, "I am pregnant."
So David sent this word to Joab: "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house and wash your feet." So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master's servants and did not go down to his house.
When David was told, "Uriah did not go home," he asked him, "Haven't you just come from a distance? Why didn't you go home?"
Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!"
Then David said to him, "Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David's invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master's servants; he did not go home.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, "Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die."
knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David's army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died. . . .
When Uriah's wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
"Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity."
Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!"
Table of Contents
"Generous to a fault." That's how everyone described my dad. He extended credit to customers in business, made personal loans to friends, and generally gave money away like it was ripe fruit on an overloaded backyard tree.
He lived by a simple motto, "If I have it and you need it, it's yours." Did people take advantage of him? Did they ever. Especially my older brother, Phil.
It started with a loan for Phil's first car and escalated from there. Every year he needed cash to "get through a tight spot" or "until things turned around." A house, a boat, a business, a divorce. On and on and on. So Dad made loans, gave gifts, and cosigned notes while Phil never seemed to care which was which. Consequently, I don't think my brother ever repaid a thin dime.
I made up my mind as a teenager never to presume on Dad's generosity. In fact, I had been on my own for years when I found myself in a real bind. With every other possibility exhausted, I turned toward home for help.
My fax to Dad asked for a $10,000 loan at the going interest rate. It was for my business, not a vacation, and I included a repayment schedule, just like I would with a bank. The next day, a check arrived by overnight delivery. Dad was amazing. And then I noticed the check was for $20,000--double my request. I should have known why before reading Dad's letter:
Thanks for your fax. Always good to hear from you. Glad I can help in this situation. I always told you to "holler" when you needed help.
You'll notice that the enclosed check is for what you requested plus another $10,000.
Please accept your $10,000 as a gift from me to you, not a loan. You deserve a loan and I know you can repay it. But you're my son and this is the way I want to handle it.
I want you to give the extra $10,000 to your brother, Phil. It's a gift from me to him, just like the money I'm giving you.
I know he can use it right now. All I'm asking is that you deliver it in person and tell him it's from me.
Love you both,
Why did Dad do things like that? I hadn't asked for a gift, just a loan so I could get over a temporary tight spot with a creditor. I was responsible and had every intention of paying it back. My deadbeat brother didn't deserve another penny, with his track record of squandering everything he'd already received.
My request was between my father and me. Why should I have to deal with Phil again?
Of course I understood exactly what Dad was up to. He knew how I felt about Phil. I hadn't spoken to my brother in years and wasn't interested in breaking the silence now. So Dad answered my request way beyond what I asked, gave the same to my no-account brother, and put it all in one check. If I wanted my money, I had to give Phil's money to him--in person.
I thought about it for a long time and decided if that's how things were, I'd find the money another way or just do without. I didn't care what it cost to do it this way. I still had my pride.
With a red marker, I wrote VOID across the front of the check and added a little note before dropping it in the mail:
Re: your gift, thanks . . . but no thanks.
Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
Table of Contents
Just like that, one day she told me. "I'm pregnant, Joe. I know, I know, but . . . Please, Joe. Just let me explain."
Explain? Hold my hand and spell out just how and why you've become pregnant by someone else? I don't think so.
Whatever it was I wanted from her at that point, it wasn't an explanation. An absurd line kept running through my mind like words from a B-grade movie script: "I guess this means our engagement is off."
What was I supposed to do? Give her a hug and say, "It's okay. We'll work things out"? Should I call the newspaper and ask them to reprint our engagement picture inside a circle with a slash through it?
I walked out the door as she begged me to stay, and I didn't even say goodbye. What happened next is still a blur. I recall walking away, slowly, with my head down. I saw no one and heard nothing. I must have walked for miles, trying to choke back an agony that came from somewhere so far down inside that I'd never felt it before. Finally I started sobbing and didn't care who saw me.
Then I was running. How far would I have to go before my lungs and legs would hurt more than the pain inside? It must have been my fault. Why would she do something like this if I hadn't somehow made her do it? But what had I done?
It made no difference. I would punish myself for the wrong and take the blame instead of her. I couldn't undo the damage, but I could say it was all my fault. I kept running farther and farther from familiar surroundings with no thought of when I would turn back.
And then I was in a park, wandering from one bench to another, trying to find a place without people. Why did the lovers keep walking past me? What right did they have to embrace with their arms and their eyes in the presence of my pain?
Her betrayal refused to release its stranglehold on my mind. My fiancée. The girl I loved more than anyone in this world, carrying the child of another man. My feelings rampaged like a swollen stream--murky, churning, filled with debris. What kind of a world could create a hurt this monstrous? What kind of a God could allow it?
I picked up rocks and threw them as hard as I could into the dense growth along the nature trail. The slashing sound of stone tearing through leaves and twigs fueled my anger. More rocks, more harm, more hurt. And then I stopped.
Each stone traveled only a few feet into the foliage before dropping with a soft thump to the ground. Futile. Whatever I did was useless. I could expend all the energy and make all the noise I wanted, but it wouldn't change a thing.
My dilemma stood like the forest that had swallowed the stones of my rage. The trees seemed to stare back at me--fixed, unmoving, oppressive.
Explain? Right. Sure, go ahead. How could I even listen to someone who would do this to me? Why explain the obvious? What words could describe why I had been rejected and tossed on the scrap pile?
There was no explanation. No possibility outside what I felt.
Wasn't she the one I had risked to love because I knew she would never do this to me? We had promised to wait and had kept the fullness of our love from each other, for this?
Explain? I wish you could, Mary. I wish you could.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.
Table of Contents
This booklet, Taking A Second Look, is based on a portion of the book Pinstripe Parables, written by David McCasland. David is the author of the award-winning biography Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God and co-author of Blind Courage with Bill Irwin. David and his wife, Luann, have four daughters and live near Austin, Texas.
David McCasland's book Pinstripe Parables is published by Discovery House Publishers, a nonprofit ministry of RBC Ministries. We are pleased to be able to incorporate an excerpt of a full-length Discovery House book into our Discovery Series at least once each year. We feel that this is a good way to expose to our Members other sources of solid, biblical teaching.
Discovery House Publishers was established to provide resource materials that RBC Ministries cannot offer on the usual no-charge basis. For more information about Discovery House or for a list of their biblical resources, call 1-800-653-8333 or write to:
Discovery House Publishers
P. O. Box 3566
Grand Rapids, MI 49501-3566