The summer I turned 16 my mother took we 4 kids and my cousin who was also about to turn 16, camping around Europe for nearly a month. Mom had rented a Volkswagen van with a pop-up top and a separate large tent which we 3 boys slept in, while my mom, cousin, and sister slept in the van. We started in Amsterdam and made a loop down to Rome and back - it changed my life.
While visiting the Vatican my cousin wore a pink skirt with a hem that ended above her knees a few inches. Upon reaching the door to St. Peter's Basilica she was denied entrance because her skirt was too short. That was the only 'good' outfit she brought on the trip, and we weren't going to go shopping for something below the knees, but we also didn't want her to have come so far only to be turned away.
At first she was highly, highly offended, but once her temper cooled her anger turned to defiance. She decided she would show them, and promptly pulled her skirt down around her rear end, pulled her blouse out to (barely) cover her underwear, and marched through the door with a skirt well below the knee. Once inside with a turn of her head and sticking out her tongue to spite the guards on the other side of the huge doors, she pulled her skirt up to normal length.
If you were a bystander and didn't know the Vatican rules back then, but was just watching what happened to my cousin, you wouldn't fully understand what took place. There is another story about hemlines in the Bible that doesn't make sense either unless we understand the culture. In I Samuel 24:1-8 David is being chased by King Saul, and he and his men take refuge in a large cave in the wilderness.
The king needed to relieve himself so for privacy sought out a cave - but he didn't realize he chose the one David and his men were hiding in!
While King Saul was occupied, David snuck up and cut off the hem of his outer robe, but verse 5-6 says: "And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him (or "David's heart convicted him"), because he had cut off Saul's hem. And he said to his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord's anointed."
When you or I read that we see a ruined robe, and we wonder that David was so tender hearted that he felt that bad about it, and we may realize something deeper may be at play but are unsure what. Here it is.
In Numbers 15:37-40 & Deuteronomy 22:12 the Lord commands that they put borders on their garments representing the Word of the Lord, so that whenever they looked at their clothes and wore them, they would remember the Word and know the symbolism of being clothed with the Word. In modern times we think of prayer shawls with their tassels, but in ancient days those were on everyday clothing.
The custom in David's day even to this day in Orthodox funerals, was that at a person's funeral that hem of the garment would be cut off, symbolizing the dead person is now free from the bounds of the Law on earth; they could go on and be with God. David performed the funeral ceremony of cutting off Saul's hem, telling him he is a dead man and go on and die - basically, drop dead King Saul.
That is why David's heart 'smote him' that he had stretched forth his hand against the King, and why if you read the passage, he repented and acknowledged his action to Saul. David respected the anointing, lines of authority, and was quick to acknowledge the sin of his heart by responding to his conscience.
The friend at midnight
Jesus employed many teaching styles to communicate His point, and one of those was to use 2 or 3 comparisons in a row to say the same thing in several ways. This is one example of 3 teachings in a row on the same subject:
In Luke 11:2-5 He gives the disciples a basic outline of a prayer that was in the Old Testament format of the day that we call 'The Lord's Prayer'. It is written in the 'aorist' tense which means it is an ongoing process not a singular event, and it is written as a statement of that ongoing process, though some versions of the Bible have taken it out of the aorist and turned it into a series of singular requests by adding 'Give us...': But this is what Jesus said:
"When you pray say, Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done as in heaven, so on earth. Give us by day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone indebted to us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."
That's it - that is the whole prayer in Luke's gospel. If you re-read that as an ongoing process it becomes a prayer of humility and thanksgiving. As a process the Father is working His will on earth, as ongoing process He daily gives us our bread, as an ongoing process He forgives us as we as part of an ongoing process forgive others, and he always as part of the process of our lives, leads us away from temptation and always delivers us from evil. It's deep if you'll spend time on it.
As the Lord's prayer reveals the goodness of the Father and His ongoing involvement in our lives, Jesus immediately follows that with a parable to show what the Father is NOT like in verse 5-9 called 'The Friend at Midnight':
"Then He said to them, Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey and I have nothing to set before him'. And from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door is locked and my children and I are in bed; I can't get up and give you anything."
I tell you even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it WILL be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened."
Jesus is saying that on a friend to friend basis here on earth, it sometimes takes persistence between friends to get what you need, but that is not the case with the Father: Ask and you receive, seek and you will find, knock and He WILL open for you.
To make His point more clear in case anyone has any doubt, Jesus continues with a 3rd point:
"Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; will he give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, he won't give him a scorpion will he? If you then being basic evil men know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"
Notice how He started with the Father in the Lord's Prayer, switched to the stubborn friend to show what the Father is not like, then returned to the goodness of the Father by pointing out earth-dads and their goodness to their children, sandwiching the stubborn friend in between 2 teachings on the goodness and giving of the Father.
The theme this week has been one of heaven and one of earth
The Father's goodness and David's sensitivity to his heart and the things of the Spirit are related. David had already been anointed to be king, but Saul was the current king and David once convicted of what was in his heart, responded to do right even at the risk of losing face and possibly, his life.
David wrote in Psalm 110, which starts in verse 1 with: "The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool." The Lord (Father) said to my Lord (Christ), sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool."
Because David knew the Father and how Christ would be seated until all was made subject to Him, David having crossed the line in his heart with Saul, repented to wait for his own turn to be king. Because He knew the Father he was sensitive to the things of the Spirit. Know Him! Talk to the Father conversationally, then listen for His quiet response, often without words, but communicating volumes.
I'll wrap up this series next week with talk of a white stone and more, until then, blessings,