Saved by Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

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Scala Sancta (Pilate’s Staircase) in Rome

Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase.  Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step.  It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.”  It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.

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Figures of Pilate and Jesus at base of Scala Sancta

At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate.  Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!”  This reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15).  By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith.  Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.  

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Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther in the movie, Luther

It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther.  It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works.  One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:  ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:17.  He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror.  The text never lost its power upon his soul.  From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.  His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy.  When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.” 

Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.”  However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity.  His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation.  He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God.  Today, where are you placing your faith?  In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Great Controversy; Wikipedia

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Wife Despises Husband

michal2I was reading the account of King David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem and how this time the ark was carried the correct way by the Levites who had to sanctify themselves first.

It was a momentous occasion, the ark coming into the city of David.  The king was beside himself with joy.  While he was leading the procession, his wife Michal looked out of the window and saw him.  When she saw him leaping and whirling before the Lord, she was filled with contempt.  She despised him in her heart.  Why?

Unaware of the negative feelings he had stirred in his wife, David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord and when he was done, he blessed the people in Lord’s name. Then he distributed a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins to all of the people who happily departed to their homes.  Everyone was in a celebratory mood except Michal.

When David returned to bless his household, she came out to meet him.  I can just imagine the expression on her face. There was no warm welcome.  No embrace.  No hello kiss. Nothing except contempt.  Instead of a word of greeting, she weighed in on him, her voice dripping with sarcasm and distaste, ““How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”  She was not only objecting to his dancing but to his dress.  He had set aside his royal robes and was a linen ephod.  Her remark implies that he was indecently dressed but according to 1 Chronicles 15:27, in addition to wearing the ephod, David was clothed in a fine linen robe like the Levites who carried the ark.  He was dressed for a very special occasion. 

In his defense, David’s responded, It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord.  And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

It’s safe to say that this marriage fell apart after this.  How could David respond to a wife who despised him for dancing before the Lord?  Perhaps David would have appreciated a wife like that of Phinehas, the son of the High priest Eli. She was devastated when her husband and his brother took the Ark and it was captured by the Philistines.  She declared in her distress, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”  She would have rejoiced when David returned with the ark.  The return of the ark seemed to be the last thing on Michal’s mind.

We learn that Michal never had children.  This probably means that David never had marital relations with her again.  She died a bitter and barren woman.

Do you think Michal had a legitimate reason for the way she felt towards David?  Was the way he was dressed the real reason for her resentment or was there something else?

Michal had once been deeply in love with David and had saved his life by helping him to escape from her father, Saul.  While David was in exile, Saul gave Michal in marriage to another man.  During those years of separation from David, Michal heard of his other wives and their children.  How she must have felt.  After years of waiting for him to come back and claim her, her hopes were dashed until her love for him began to turn to bitterness.

There is no indication that David loved Michal.  We only read that, “Michal Saul’s daughter loved him” (1 Samuel 18:20, 28).  It pleased David to be Saul’s son-in-law (verse 26) as opposed to be pleased that Michal was to be his wife.  And after Saul’s death, David went to claim her as his wife not because he loved her but because, “I was betrothed for one hundred Philistine foreskins.”  He still wanted to be the former king’s son-in-law and it didn’t matter that Michal was now married to Paltiel who loved her.  When she was taken from him, he went with her, weeping as he went, as far as Bahurim and then he was told to turn back.  Did Michael resent David for coming back into her life after so much time had passed and abusing his power as king to break up her marriage?  What about all those other wives he had?  What did he need with her now when he hadn’t bothered to come back for her when she desperately wanted him to?

Should David have tried to understand how Michal was feeling?  Should he have been more patient and sensitive?  After all she had been his first wife and now she was one of many.  I can sympathize with Michal.  When she rebuked him, what should David have done?  Should he have responded in anger?  Should he have said what he said?  What if he had said, “I was dancing before the Lord who has been gracious to me by appointing me rule over His people.”  He didn’t have to remind her that God had chosen him instead of her father.  He could have left out the part about being undignified and that he would rather have the female servants’ admiration than her respect.  What if he had said, “I’m sorry you thought I was acting shamelessly but I was dancing before the Lord with gladness because the ark of the Lord is with us.”  Perhaps this gentle response might have made a difference.  Perhaps not. 

Has your husband done something that rubbed you the wrong way?  Did it change the way you related to him or thought of him?  Did it make you lose your respect for him?  Did you ask yourself if you had good reasons for feeling this way?  If the answer is no, then let it go.  Remember the things about him that made you fall in love with him in the first place.  Ask God to help you to let go of the resentment and bitterness and all of the emotions that are preventing you from loving your husband.  If the answer is yes, then ask God to help you to work through this and to give your husband the support he needs.  He doesn’t need your condemnation.  He needs your love and forgiveness.  Give him time.  Give your marriage a chance to heal.