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There was something that bothered me about setting up the table in the house of the Lord.

“I don’t feel right about this,” I said to my friend.

“Don’t worry,” he replied. “Look at this crowd. There’s money to be made here.”

“But shouldn’t we be doing this on the street?”

“Look around you. Everyone else is doing it. You don’t see the chief priests or Pharisees objecting, do you?”

I nodded in agreement. No one seemed to object.

“We’re doing a service to the people selling doves right here in the temple court.”

“I guess,” I reluctantly agreed.

Suddenly I heard a snap like a whip. I turned to see a man approaching the tables. There was another crack of the whip and he started to overturn tables as he began to drive people out of the temple courts. My friend and I froze as he approached our table.

I winced as he raised his whip and stared at us with steely eyes.

“Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

My friend grabbed what cages he could and fled as the man overturned our table and moved to the next. I followed close behind. I had never seen someone with such zeal for God.

As we fled to the street with the others who were selling in the temple courts, my heart was filled with remorse. “Had I violated the sacredness of the temple?”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who saw Jesus clear the temple in John 2:13-17

© 2019 CGThelen

Why did I have to be with the last ones? I knew it was my own fault for hesitating to leave when my division packed up and headed out laden with silver, gold and clothing as well as their unleavened bread. It all happened so fast. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when I saw the Egyptians urge us to hurry and leave. I think they were actually scared to have us around after all those plagues, especially that last one. I have to admit I was scared as the first born son, but we did as the Lord instructed through Moses and I was not harmed.

Only the mighty hand of God could’ve ended our slavery and brought us out of Egypt. But now fear and doubt returned as I stood between two walls of water. It was the same fear I felt when we were camped near Pi and I thought the Egyptian army was going to overtake us. I thought we were going to die right there in the desert. Moses’ words still echoed in my mind: Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I saw it all with my own eyes. A pillar of cloud kept the Egyptian army from reaching us all night with darkness on one side and light on the other. I thought we were trapped by the sea until I saw Moses stretch out his hand and a strong east wind blew all night so that the waters of the Res Sea parted creating a dry path to the other side. It was an amazing sight to behold. But now here I stood watching the Egyptian army advancing, pursuing us on the same path through the Red Sea, but with fast moving chariots. I quickly trudged up the dry shore to the other side of the Red Sea with the last few people to cross, knowing I would be the among the first struck down by the army.

I wanted to run as fast as I could after reaching shore, but the word of the Lord that Moses gave us caused me to stop and turn around. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” The Lord has brought us this far, yet fear began to fill me again as I watched the army coming closer. “Can I just be still and trust the Lord will fight for us, for me?”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who is part of the exodus out of Egypt through the Red Sea based on Exodus 12:31-14:31.

© 2019 CGThelen

My father. He’s a hard man. We didn’t part on the best terms. I said some things I shouldn’t have said; awful words thrown at him like poison darts. I intended to hurt him.

“What does this Jesus know,” I grumbled to myself. “My father would never take me back. He would never forgive me.”

I rolled over on my mat and tried to forget standing in the crowd listening to this Jesus teach with stories. The afternoon was hot and I laid down to rest a bit to get out of the heat. People in my village told me I should at least go and listen to him. They were right. I had never heard anyone talk like that.

I tried to clear my mind, but his words replayed in my head:“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Repent. How could that even happen to a serial sinner like me? The Pharisees told me I was too far gone, that there were not enough sacrifices to cover my sin. Could my father really care that much about a nobody like me, the lost sheep, the black sheep of the family

How could he be so joyous over a totally lost person like me repenting from sin? I get it, I mean in the sense that Jesus talked about in that story about the lost coin. If I found that coin I lost last month I’d be filled with joy. But I hardly think I have that much value, certainly not the value of a silver coin. I don’t think my father would waste time searching for me, someone with such little value.

I rolled on my back and stared at the ceiling. All I could think about was how I squandered so much of my life, my time and my resources on worthless things. I felt like that son in the story Jesus told, the son who took all his father’s inheritance and spent it on wild living. I too would willingly be a slave in my father’s house just to share in his abundance, just to have a small portion of his wealth.

Unable to sleep, I left my mat and walked to the front door. The rotted wood door creaked when I opened it and flakes of plaster fell from the wall. I stepped outside then sat on the front step and watched the people milling about the neighborhood. I looked down the street and noticed the shadows of people moving on the walls of the buildings. A dusty haze lingered, stirred up from the movement of people and animals. I imagined what it would be like to see my father on the street spot me sitting here, then run arms open to hug me. No one was ever that excited to see me. Could it be possible?

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who heard Jesus tell the parables in Luke 15.

© 2019 CGThelen

The camp fire crackled as I stared at his face illuminated by the orange glow of dying embers. I had never seen this courageous warrior with such concern on his face. I could see the fear in his eyes.

“I tell you, they’re coming for us!” He exclaimed.

“So let ‘em come,” I snapped back. “We can defeat them.”

“No!” He snapped back, grabbing my hand and staring intensely at me. “You don’t understand. God is on their side.”

“So they have a god behind them. So what? Everyone has their own beliefs. I believe we are tougher than them.”

“Listen to me! Their Lord God is in heaven above and on the earth below!”

“Okay, so?”

“Haven’t you heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea when they came out of Egypt? How he completely destroyed Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan?”

“Those are just rumors, scare tactics.”

“Believe what you want, but our turn is coming. I don’t think we’ll escape their judgement.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Word has it that the Israelites sent spies to survey our land. Someone spotted them leaving when the city gate was closed.”

“You keep talking like that and you’ll make the men lose courage. Their hearts will melt in fear.”

“So, if you don’t fear this God of theirs, what will you do when they are standing at our gate? When they’re here to decide your fate.”

I stared at him silent for a moment. His words made me uneasy, but I didn’t want to give even a hint that I was concerned. “Well, until that day comes, I don’t believe this God is all powerful.”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of two soldiers under the service of the king of Jericho, based on Joshua 2:1-11 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

I sat down after a long day to rest my weary body after a day of toil in the fields. My young children came to me and a I greeted them with a hug. How blessed I felt as I gazed above the heads of my children in my embrace at my beautiful wife preparing our evening meal. She smiled at me. Suddenly this moment was interrupted by a knock at the door.

My wife frowned as I glanced at the door. Once again their was a knock. I sighed and released my children as I stood up. “Who could that be?” I looked at my children gazing up at me with a curious look. They were as puzzled as I was about who was visiting us at this hour.

When I opened the door I was surprised to see the widow from down the street with her two boys. One of the boys held an armful of empty jars.

“Well, good evening,” I greeted her. I did not know her, but I had heard of her plight — how her husband died and now his creditors were likely to take her sons as slaves to pay for the debt left by her husband. I was sure she was looking for handouts to avoid the fate of her boys. In my mind I thought they were getting what they deserved. It was a consequence of taking on debt. I wasn’t about to give up what what I earned. By this time my children gathered behind me by the door as my wife looked on from the table while she continued to prepare our meal.

“Please, can you spare a few empty jars?” She asked.

“Empty jars?” I didn’t expect that request. “What do you want with empty jars “ I asked. She certainly did not have anything to put in them.

“I am only doing what the prophet Elisha asked me to do.”

“Elisha?!” My eyes widened. “Is he at your house?”

“No, I went to him and pleaded for help to save my sons from slavery.”

“I’m aware of your situation,” I replied. “As are most people in town, yet this is all your ask for?”

“It is what the man of God told me to do.”

I nodded. I had a lot of respect for Elisha and I wasn’t about to argue with his instructions. “Children. Go get a couple empty jars from your mother.”

They immediately ran to the table where my wife already had two jars waiting. She smiled at me and nodded in agreement. When I took the jars from my children, I noticed they were the jars my wife’s mother made for her. I glanced at her, unsure whether I should give up these special jars. She smiled again and nodded.

“Here you go,” I told the widow as I handed her the jars.

“Thank you,” she replied with tears in her eyes. She handed the jars to her son who held them tightly in an embrace. “I hate to impose, but do you have any more jars you could spare?”

I glanced back at my wife. She reached toward the shelf behind her and grabbed a jar that was given to me by my grandfather. She looked at me and I nodded. “Son, go get that other jar from your mother.”

My son retrieved the jar and I handed it to the widow. “I’m afraid this is all we have to spare.”

“Thank you so much,” she said as she handed the additional jar to her son who carefully added it to his armful of jars.

“May I ask what the prophet intends to do with these jars?”

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “After I pleaded with him to help, he said, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ Then I told him I had nothing except

a small jar of olive oil. That’s when he told me, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

I nodded at her as we exchanged a stare. Behind her eyes I saw hope. She revered the Lord like her husband.

“Thank you for the jars,” she said with a slight smile.

“You’re welcome,” I replied.

I began to close the door, but paused as I watched her walk to the next house with her two sons. I admired her faith, her trust that this prophet would work a miracle for her.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who encounters the widow at his door asking for empty jars based on 2 Kings 4:1-7 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

She was just a poor old widow barely getting by on what little she had. Yet I’d never seen someone with such devotion to God. Despite the trials, despite losing her husband, she did not lose her faith in God. All she had was two small copper coins to her name, but she wanted to show her gratitude to God.

I pleaded with her not to go, to keep the two small coins. I reminded her that the teachers of the law should be taking care of her. It was their duty after she lost her husband. “Why support the temple when it doesn’t support you?” I questioned. She just smiled back at me. She wouldn’t listen to me and proceeded to the temple to give her last two copper coins.

I followed behind her. She was too stubborn to want my help, but I would follow her just in case she needed someone to assist her. Inside the temple court, as she made her way to treasury, I spotted those teachers of the law putting on a show as they deposited large amounts into the treasury. The coins made a large noise. When this widow made her deposit, the two coins were barely audible. I stood a ways back, slipping behind a pillar so she wouldn’t see me as she exited the courtyard. That’s when I saw him standing within earshot of me.

I had heard about this teacher who called himself Jesus. I noticed him watching the woman leaving the courtyard. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

His words amazed me. Such wisdom. I knew she gave all she had in belief that God would provide, but how did he know? It was as if he knew her heart, as if he had listened in on our conversation, as if he knew my thoughts. This widow’s faith, her actions, and now the words of this Jesus pierced me to the core. My heart stirred like never before in my life.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who witnessed the poor widow contributing to the temple treasury based on Luke 21:1-4 (NIV).

“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” – 2 Corinthians 8:12

© 2019 CGThelen

Day after day the pounding continued. It would not stop. But this morning I awoke to silence. After listening for so long to the mallets pounding on cypress wood beams and planks, the silence seemed strange.

I climbed out of my bed and peered out the window at the massive structure. It was eerily silent. No activity at all around it. “Is it finished?” I mumbled as I dressed and made my way to the door. I had a strange feeling about it all. I needed to see for myself what was going on. I wondered if perhaps the people had enough with this idiot and his family and dragged them away. “Good riddens!” I mumbled. I was pretty fed up with having that self righteous man as a neighbor.

This Noah and his family were quite the talk of the town. Noah acted so righteous, so pious. He walked around like he was better than everyone else and now he was building this stupid thing he called an ark. Despite what everyone said, I was convinced they built it to lock themselves away from everyone. After all, they were stockpiling all kinds of grain and stuff inside that ark.

It was just as well since Noah never went to any of our parties. He seemed to think they were corrupt and violent, I called them fun. Such a boring and arrogant man. Who needed him anyways. If they dragged him and his family away, they had it coming. We didn’t need them around.

“Anyone here?” I shouted as I approached the ark and gazed up at the open door on the side. I studied the massive ark with its cypress planks. The smell of fresh pitch coated on the wood was strong. It was an unusual house built by an unusual man. “Anyone here?” I repeated.

A moment later Noah poked his head out from the open door and motioned at me. I shrugged my shoulders, not sure what he was trying to tell me. He motioned again. What was this silly man up to? Then I heard a soft rumbling sound from behind me. I turned and was surprised to see an odd assortment of animals approaching as if they were being herded. “What is that nut up to now, collecting meat for his stash of food?”

I moved away from the ark as the herd approached, seemingly in pairs. Dust rose from the movement of the great number of animals. I kept my distance as I looked for someone herding the animals. There was no one in sight. Perhaps they were hidden by the dust cloud. Things were getting weirder by the minute.

I shook my head and walked away. I didn’t want any part of this silly man’s antics. I didn’t want to be associated with Noah and his family. What would people think if they saw me with all these animals? They might think I helped herd them into the ark. “Let him lock himself up in this thing,” I laughed as I hurried off to my friend’s big party. “He’s going to miss all the fun and excitement.”

#WednesdayWalk through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a neighbor to Noah based on Genesis 6:9 – 7:16.

© 2019 CGThelen

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” – Luke 17:26-27

I have heard a lot about this man, how he is the best defense attorney around. With him as an advocate, all his clients who were accused went free. It never meant much to me until I realized I was in trouble.

I hesitated to reach out to him. Could I really believe what I heard was true or was it rumor? With the crimes I had committed, I knew I was condemned to die. Whoever I chose to defend me, I would have to believe in them and their ability to advocate for my life before the judge.

An acquaintance kept telling me not to believe it. “You are a criminal and you’ll always be a criminal,” he kept telling me. He acts like a devil, spewing discouraging words at me all the time. “You’re too far gone to save,” that devil insists. He keeps telling me I am no good. But something deep inside tells me otherwise; that my life could be spared despite what I did. Could this advocate actually save my life, even win me freedom?

It is true that I am a sinner. That I am doomed to eternal death. That I can believe about myself. But to believe in this Jesus; that as the Son of God he can free me from my sin — save me from condemnation before God — well, that is another question. I contemplate if what John said is really true. Did this defense attorney really pay the price for me, to free me from condemnation?

“Read it again,” I tell my friend. He picks up the scroll and reads: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the world.”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who heard John’s words in 1 John 2:1 (NIV) read to him for the first time.

© 2019 CGThelen

I answered the call of the messengers, the call to arms. I did not hesitate to respond, immediately joining my buddies to follow the call of this Gideon. “This is our moment,” I said as we marched, joining thousands of others. I was tired of hiding from the Midianites, tired of the years of oppression. The Lord heard our cries and now Gideon would lead us to remove the stench of Midian from our midst. It was time to extract revenge on them.

Camped at the spring of Harod, I looked over the sea of men, as far as I could see. My best friend told me we were 32,000 strong. I smiled as I thought of the fear that must be present in the Midian camp. I looked north toward the valley near the hill of Moreh and imagined them frozen with fear, knowing we had come to even the score, to punish them for years of tormenting us. “Vengeance is ours this day,” I thought. “We have the strength here to save ourselves!”

Suddenly Gideon appeared and shouted something to the men. “What did he say?” I asked one of my buddies. “I think he said if we’re scared we can leave,” he replied. I couldn’t believe my ears. “That can’t be true!” I said in disbelief. “This is our moment.”

Then I saw Gideon wave his hand. A hush fell over the crowd of men. He repeated his statement as if to anticipate skepticism: “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.” There was a moment of hesitation, then a handful of men started to leave. Soon hundreds followed them. “I’m outta here,” my buddies said. “Wait!” I shouted as I grabbed the arm of my best friend. “This is our moment!” He shook his arm free of my grip. “I’ve seen what those Midianites can do to us,” he replied as he picked up his things. “It was stupid of me to think I wasn’t scared of them.”

I watched in amazement as all my buddies left me standing alone. My heart sank as I watched a river of men pouring out from our camp. I sighed as I scanned the remaining men — a fraction of the force we once had. “Better to get rid of the cowards,” I reassured myself. “We are actually a stronger force now with brave men,” I convinced myself as I moved closer to the remaining men in the camp. Then I saw Gideon again. My heart raced. “Could this be our call to battle?” I wondered.

Gideon motioned to us to go to the water to get a drink. “Smart man,” I thought. I could tell he considered all the details. He wanted to make sure we would not grow faint from thirst as we went into battle. I followed the men into the water and knelt down to get a drink. The water refreshed me. As I stood up I noticed a few men cupped the water in their hands and lapped it like a dog. “They’re acting like an animal,” I mumbled. “What kind of soldier is that? They certainly can’t be a good soldier if they do that.” I watched as Gideon pulled those men aside. Apparently Gideon agreed with my assessment. But then he did something that astounded me.

There must have been about 300 men standing with Gideon when he announced that those men would stay and the rest of us should go home. I couldn’t believe what was happening. The men around me shook their heads and grumbled about Gideon. I had to agree with them. How could we possibly have a victory now with a few hundred men. I followed the other men as we started for home, so disappointed that Gideon had squandered this moment to beat back the Midianites. I stopped a moment and looked back at the small group of men standing with Gideon. “The dogs!” I thought as I turned and continued walking. “They’ll be slaughtered.” The man walking next to me nodded in agreement. “It will take an act of God to save them.”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a man who answered Gideon’s call to fight the Midianites, based on Judges 6:1-2, 6 & 34-35; 7:1-8 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

I had never before heard teaching like this. Who is this man who teaches what the Kingdom of God is like? His words resonate with me like none other. “It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

A mustard seed so small yet it grows large to support birds. Could someone like me, so insignificant, be seen as so great in the Kingdom of God? I continue to listen, drawn to his teaching, hanging on every word until evening approaches. Finally I watch as he wraps up and walks away from the crowd. I hear him tell his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”

I don’t want him to go. I see him get into the boat with his disciples and they push off from shore. I see other boats push off from shore to follow them. I quickly run to shore and spot my friend starting to push his boat into the lake. “Let me go with you!” I shout as I run toward the boat. My friend smiles and waves at me as he pauses. I quickly climb onboard and he shoves off.

We start to follow not too far behind Jesus’ boat when suddenly a furious squall comes up. The waves break over the boat so that it is near the point of sinking. We fear for our lives. In the midst of the panic in our boat I catch a glimpse of Jesus getting up. A moment later the wind dies down and it is completely calm. I have never been so fearful in calm water.

We were close enough to the boat to hear Jesus across the still water. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I was sure he was speaking to his disciples, yet his words penetrated my heart. Across the water I could hear his disciples asking each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Indeed, who is this man? Is he truly the son of God? I wonder if I, like the wind and the waves, could obey his words.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is based on Mark 4:30-41 (NIV), particularly verse 36 which mentions, “There were also other boats with him.” It is written from the perspective of someone who ends up in one of those boats after listening to Jesus teaching.

© 2019 CGThelen

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