Do You Feel Like It?

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 21.15-17
15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

Reflection: Do You Feel Like It?
By Allen Hamlin Jr

In the age of “you do you,” we often feel more freedom to shape our identity, and we indulge ourselves to choose our own actions and responses. As a result, many have determined that there’s no obligation to do anything that falls outside of what they want, what they’re in the mood for, or what they think reflects the self that they want to present to the world.

Even in a life of faith, it’s easy to lean on our present emotions and our sense of self-determination to undergird the nature of our prayer and worship. Should I go to church? Should I give thanks? Should I praise?

I just don’t feel like it, so I won’t.

In the midst of establishing the law of the nation, the Lord sets forth a heavy chapter featuring five intense scenarios. Deuteronomy 21 addresses unsolved murder, prisoners of war, the death of defiant children, and capital punishment.

Within this litany of legislation is one contrasting presentation (v.15-17). Rather than an occasion of death, the focus is on love. What or whom we love often drives our actions and responses.

But the Lord says this should not be the case. Regardless of which son has the father’s favor (v.15), there is a reality that drives the right response. The firstborn is the firstborn, and shouldn’t be treated otherwise according to the father’s feelings (v.16-17).

Propriety is not based on our affections. My right actions are grounded in what is real, not in what I feel.

When we look at Jesus, we know that he too is the Firstborn–of all creation. He is the Heir. Whether I feel like worshiping or obeying him, the reality of his worth doesn’t change. And the proper response for us is to give him his due.

Even when I don’t feel like it, I will.

As Deut 21 shows us, despite questions, fickle desires, favorites, frustrations, or vindictiveness, we are called to remain rightly responsive to the realities of who God is, and who we are. God is the one who makes atonement (v.8), who sets us in right relationship with himself. Those truths remain the guardrails of our responses, whatever our hearts may feel in the moment.

Our calling is to do what is right in the sight of the Lord (v.9), rather than determining for ourselves what we want our engagement with God, and the world, to be.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who trust in him! — Psalm 34.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 21 (Listen 3:33)
Romans 1 (Listen 5:02)

Read more about Inner Light of the Heart
Centering our hearts on Christ can change our visages, our vision, and our vitality.

Read more about A Long Journey to Maturity
Marks of spiritual maturity include character growing in likeness to God and actions that demonstrate our love for God and care for his people.

Helping Fathers and the Fatherless

Psalm 109.9-12
May his children be fatherless
    and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars;
    may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has;
    may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him
    or take pity on his fatherless children.

Reflection: Helping Fathers and the Fatherless
By John Tillman

People of David’s time understood that fatherlessness was a known cause of suffering for children and families. If children were fatherless, they were expected to be poor, wandering beggars. God’s people are commanded to be compassionate to widows and orphans precisely because God knew and cared for their hardship. 

What David may not have foreseen, however, is that today’s fatherless children would suffer not only the disinterest of society but the disinterest of their own fathers. Most of the fatherless children in David’s day knew that it was the horrors of war or exile or accident that had taken their fathers away unwillingly. Today’s fatherless often are left fatherless by choice not by catastrophe. They aren’t orphans of war, but of willful abandonment.

According to Vincent Dicaro at the National Fatherhood Initiative, fatherhood in the United States has made some gains in recent years, but not for everyone.

“While it is true that among middle-class families, father involvement is looking very good, it is also true that America has record levels of father absence, a crisis that mainly affects lower-income families. In fact, 24 million children, 1 out of every 3, lives in a home in which their biological father does not live. That rate is closer to 2 out of 3 in the African American community. And among those children living in father-absent homes, 1/3 have no contact with their dads, and another 1/3 have contact once per month or less.

So, the picture is actually quite bleak in too many communities across the country.” 

Fathers in our communities need the church’s help and support, not our judgment. The fatherless are in our communities not to suffer for the sins of their parents, but that we might have an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God, their true Father.

May we, along with introducing our communities to God the Father, introduce them to a definition and example of fatherhood that is based on the love that God has shown us.

May we work to ensure that the benefits of fatherhood and the resources needed to be a good father are spread to all levels of our communities.

May we lovingly bless the fatherless in our communities knowing that they are not there because of the sin of themselves or their parents, but that through them we might show the glory of God.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come now and see the works of God, how wonderful he is in his doings toward all people. — Psalm 66.5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 19 (Listen – 3:04) 
Psalm 106 (Listen – 4:52) 

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 20 (Listen – 2:55), Psalm 107 (Listen – 4:12) 
Deuteronomy 21 (Listen – 3:33), Psalm 108-109 (Listen – 4:28) 

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You are the Father all fathers should be.
Gentle. Caring. Loving. Righteous. Just.