Thursday, May 18, 2017

Letters old and new

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TODAY’S SPECIAL: Acts 15:22-35

“So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.
When they read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.” Acts 15:30,31

In these days of instant messaging across the world, it’s interesting to try to put ourselves in the place of these early Gentile Christians. Their missionaries had gone to Jerusalem to get a verdict from church leaders (the Apostles) on how they were to conduct themselves in this new life. Now Paul, Barnabas, and a delegation had returned with the Apostles' decision in a letter. What would the letter say?

Letters played an important role in Bible times.

Sometimes letters sealed a fate.
  • Uriah carried his own death sentence letter from David to Joab at the battlefront - 2 Samuel 11:14.
  • Jezebel (King Ahab’s wife) sent letters to Israel’s leaders with a plot to kill Naboth so Ahab could take his garden - 1 Kings 21:8.

Kings sent threatening letters to their rivals and enemies.
  • The king of Assyria sent one such to Hezekiah, prompting a panicked prayer meeting and divine help - 2 Kings 19:14.

Sometimes kings sent letters on behalf of their subjects.
  • The king of Syria asked the king of Israel to heal Naaman of leprosy - 2 Kings 5:5.
  • King Artaxerxes sent letters on behalf of Nehemiah asking for safe passage  for him through territory and wood for rebuilding Jerusalem - Nehemiah 2:7-8.

The book of Esther is full of letters.

  • The king sent letters mandating male authority in the home - Esther 1:22.
  • Haman’s plan to annihilate the Jews was spread by letter - Esther 3:13.
  • Mordecai’s victory allowing the Jews to defend themselves was spread by letter as was the establishment of a holiday to remember this event - Esther 8:10; 9:20.

Of course we know how the New Testament is largely made up of letters
—missives that, thankfully, do more than threaten or carry evil plots. The letter in our reading today is one such. We discover that the reading of it brought joy and encouragement (Acts 15:31), as did most of the letters of Paul, John, Peter, and James (along with teaching, reproof, and training in righteousness, delivered with large amounts of love).

Do you still write letters? I suppose emails and even text messages could be considered modern letters.

What can we moderns do with letters?
  • Send information about plans and events.
  • Think through and discuss ideas about anything—how to garden, to faith in God
  • Express gratitude and appreciation.
  • Assure the recipient of our care, concern, and prayers.
  • Tell someone we’re remembering them on a special day (birthday, anniversary etc) 
  • Encourage and cheer.

Let’s continue to use this old-to-new way of communicating for good today!

PRAYER: Dear Father thank You for distance communication that has survived the centuries. Help me to use the amazing modern communication resources at my fingertips for good today. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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