Women and Children First

When watching a movie that has a seagoing setting and the cry goes out, “Women and children first,” you know that the peril is great and the ship is sinking.

This tradition of putting the utmost urgency to saving the most precious among us reputedly goes back to the experience of the HMS Birkenhead. The ship sailed along the coast of southern Africa in 1852 with 638 aboard including 476 British soldiers and 20 women and children.

The ship struck a rock off of Danger point and her metal hull was torn open. Over a hundred of the soldiers drowned while still in their bunks. The rest assembled on the deck. They tried to help free the lifeboats, but only 3 of the 8 could be wrested from the paint encrusted rigging. The women and children were put into the three lifeboats.

As it became clear that time was running out, the captain shouted, “Every man for himself.”

Immediately the soldier’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Seton drew his sword and ordered his men to stand fast. He knew that a free-for-all rush to the lifeboats would mean that they would be swamped and the women and children would likely perish.

He had no need to use his sword as the soldiers stood fast in ranks even as the ship broke in two. Only 193 of the 638 souls aboard survived that day. Neither the captain nor Lieutenant-Colonel Seton were among the survivors.

There is a tremendous contrast in the attitudes of the two men when facing this disastrous situation. Captured in the words, “Every man for himself” is the attitude of selfishness. Forget everyone else and save yourself. If someone gets in your way or needs your help too bad for them because you are the one who matters.

On the other hand you have immortalized in the saying, “Women and children first” the second attitude, an attitude that has formed the bedrock of western civilization for the last 150 years. Men will put themselves at risk to protect the most precious and the weakest among us.

When the disciples would have forbidden the children from being brought to Jesus, He was very displeased. “Let the little children come to me and don’t forbid them,” He said. Then He took them in His arms and blessed them. Jesus loves children!

Peter also was guided to write that husbands give “honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life.” It is right to protect and give greater honor to the women and children.

You have to wonder what reception before Jesus awaited the captain and the commander as they started eternity on the same day. Neither could be saved except by the grace of God as they accepted Jesus death as the only satisfactory payment for their sins. We don’t know whether either one of both had done that while they had the chance.

I think we can agree that if both were saved, that one was probably acutely embarrassed by some of the final words that he uttered. If Jesus had followed the mantra, “every man for himself” he would have never offered himself up for the likes of us. Thankfully he loved the weak and gave Himself up for us.

Thankfully also, western society has held on to a degree of the rightness of protecting our women and children. “Women and children first,” words immortalized in tragedy, but words that shaped a culture for good.

Can’t Say Can’t

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV

Worry seems to be the besetting condition of many people. We worry if we have a lot. What if this happens, or what if that happens, I could lose everything. We also worry if we have little. Where will I get that when I need it? What will I do about this? There is in all situations something to worry about if that is what we choose to do.

The Apostle Paul had come to a place of contentment regardless of the current situation that he found himself in. Whether he had a lot, or whether he had nothing, his contentment came from a deep personal knowledge of the character and love of his heavenly Father. Because of this personal knowledge gained through experience and seeing with the eyes of faith he could say with settled confidence that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

This is the same conviction and state of living that all Christians should come to. The word can’t should not be in our vocabulary. God says we can (see above). That should settle it. Unfortunately it doesn’t always. The Lord calls us to do something for Jesus. We want to say, “I can’t do that.” God says, “You can do it through Christ’s strength”. You can almost see this ending up in the classic children’s argument. One says, “I can swing higher than that bush.” The other says, “No you can;t.” It quickly degenerates into; can, can’t, can, can’t, etc. This is understandable for children. But are we going to sit there and argue with God? He says we can. That ought to settle it.

Here is the issue. It is not that we can’t, because God says we can. It is a question of whether we will or won’t. It is really that simple and straightforward of a question. Will we, or won’t we do what He asks?

It really boils down to an issue of faith. Without faith is impossible to please God we are told in Hebrews. Peter also makes it clear that our faith will be tested to prove it is genuine. Our faith is the most precious thing that we possess, far more precious than gold or any other material thing. Jimmy Evans is quoted as saying, “God put giants in the Promised Land to keep unbelievers out.” Our trust in God’s ability rather than our own reasoning will be tested. God wants to be pleased by our overcoming faith in Him. He says we can. The question is, will we believe Him, step forward in faith, and do it? One thing is for sure, if God has called you to do it, you can’t say can’t.

Are You Sitting Out in the Courtyard?

The first of Jesus’ trials took place in the dead of night just after He was arrested praying in the garden. This trial was before the Caiaphas the Jewish high priest at the time, and the scribes and elders. The details of the trial are laid out in Matthew 26:57-68.

The verdict of the “trial” was a forgone conclusion. Guilty was the verdict from the start. All they were looking to do was find two false witnesses that were in agreement on something they could charge Jesus with. They brought in many false witnesses, but were in despair because they could not find two who were in agreement about the same falsehood. What a dilemma. They had to find two in agreement. The righteous law of the Lord made clear that on the testimony of two or three witnesses, every fact should be established. They seemed to miss the irony of how much of the law they were ignoring while insisting on keeping this one point. Also lost on them was establishing lies as “facts” by false testimony. The importance of God’s people preserving “justice” was way over their heads.

Finally to their relief they finally found two witnesses to agree on their false testimony. They declared that “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’”

Ah, now they have Him! No one could destroy Herod’s magnificent temple and then rebuild it single-handedly in three days. Even saying that he wanted to destroy the temple would be something they could condemn him both before the Jews and before the Romans. Checkmate.

But what did Jesus really say? When Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple the first time the Jews asked Him, “What sign do you show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered them in John 2:19 saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Wow! Do you see the difference? Destroy the temple has no subject. The subject is understood to be “you.” He said, “You (will) destroy the temple (My body, where the Holy Spirit is dwelling).” After you do that, “in three days I will raise it (My body) up.” This was the ultimate sign. He knew that they would reject every sign. They were not looking for “evidence” to be persuaded of the truth. They would make up their minds not by, but in spite of the truth revealed before their eyes.

In this mockery of a trial, Jesus shined the light of truth once again upon their hypocrisy. They would destroy the One who was full of “grace and truth.” They would wrongly condemn and crucify Jesus who is “the way and the truth and the life.” He would once again prove that He is the Christ, the Son of God by rising from the dead.

When Jesus is called to answer these accusations, He keeps silent. You or I would have cried out at the terrible injustice of it all. He saw that there was nothing that He could say that would persuade them to believe in Him which is what they desperately needed. Thus He kept silent.

When the Chief priest put Him under oath by the living God to “tell us if You are the Christ the Son of God,” we have another very interesting picture. Caiaphas was unknowingly calling on Jesus to swear on Himself. Here was the living God standing right before Him. “Through Him all things were created, and without Him nothing was created that has been created.” Swear by yourself Jesus. Are You the Christ the Son of God? Just as “every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” here too Jesus takes the testimony from Caiaphas’ own mouth. “It is as you say.” Caiaphas put a big “if” in there. Jesus declared it definite fact!

You have to love the persevering love, mercy and grace of God. Jesus is not content to just state the fact of His deity. He now reaches out one more time to give them another chance to see the truth. He tells them “hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Once again after they “destroy the temple” He will raise it up after three days. What did it prove when He arose? It was the ultimate sign to prove who He is. Where did He go after He arose? He ascended into heaven where He is sitting at the Father’s right hand. He will return from there to judge the living and the dead.

You must believe in Me! There is hope nowhere else. There is salvation nowhere else. I must be either the chief cornerstone that you build your life on, or I will be both a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence over which you will trip to your own destruction.

The Jewish leaders chose to reject even this last offer to reconsider. They condemned, mocked, spat on, struck, and crucified their Creator. What a travesty of “justice.” Yet it had to be so because of my sin and your sin. We have fallen short of the glory of God and stand condemned before Him. Yet Jesus in mercy took our place. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Praise God for a glorious gracious Savior!

Perhaps the saddest part about this whole kangaroo court episode was what framed it. Verse 58 tells us that Peter came and sat in the courtyard “to see the end.” Verse 69 after all this mockery of Jesus as He stood alone before the hypocritical “judges” and lying “witnesses” tells us that “Peter sat outside in the courtyard.”

Peter did not stand up for Jesus. He didn’t call the liars, liars or the judges, hypocrites. When he is now asked if he knows Jesus he denies it vehemently and repeatedly. How sad. Yet we are more often than not sitting outside instead of standing up for Jesus or pointing out who He is, how He fulfilled Scripture, and how He is the only one who can and must save.

It is also true that there is no way that we can do anything other than cower outside like Peter did unless we also are filled with God’s Spirit as Peter later was. We are baptized with the Spirit when we believe in Christ. But we are also commanded to be continually be being filled with the Spirit. We must be filled with Him, and He must control us. Otherwise we too will be sitting silently outside while Jesus is yet another day vilified by the religious and irreligious alike.

House or Tent Please?

Given our choice between a house or a tent, we would all pick the house to live in. But what if there were conditions attached to that choice? Proverbs 14:11 says:

The house of the wicked will be overthrown, But the tent of the upright will flourish.

We would all strive for the permanence of a real house. But what if that isn’t God’s plan for your life? Will you be better off concentrating on gathering so that you can have that good solid house to live in, or to go where God wants you to go at the time even if that involves living in a flimsy impermanent tent?

It might seem that the solidness of a house would be the best choice, and all things being equal it would. However, solidness and logical thinking will not stop the hand of the Lord from taking it away if it is not what He wants for you. On the other hand, while dwelling in tents for 40 years in the wilderness we know that it is said of Israel that their feet did not swell, nor did their clothing wear out. It is safe to assume that their tents did not wear out as well. The seemingly impermanent can be far more secure if that is where the Lord is leading. In fact, that is the place of flourishing!

House or a tent please? Before you answer and strive with time, might, and will, stop to consider where the Lord would have you be. Where does He want to bless and use you?

That by all means we may save some