Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

2 Samuel 15:13-37 (Part 3 of 3)
David Escapes from Jerusalem

As I stated a couple of blogs ago, this series of chapters we are in right now about David and his unruly children could easily be formed into a sermon series about being a father. David shows us in this sequence of chapters, often, what not to do as a dad. Today, we return to that theme of fatherhood. However, this time teaches us, as dads, a valuable lesson of the fact that sometimes we must simply get out of the way and let life teach our children the lessons they need to learn.

With my youngest child, she is now almost 28 years old, I have spent the last few years doing just that – allowing life to teach her the lessons she needs to learn. Often, life lessons learned on our own can teach us so much more than our dads ever could. As I have stated before here, my youngest child never really knew what life was like in a normal household. From the time she was about 2 years old, marital strife was the home that she knew. By the time she was that age, her parents’ marriage (in which God was not the center of it due to our not being Christ followers) was winding its way to its ugly end. Then, after the divorce and my remarriage, I failed her miserably as a dad during the 9 years of my second marriage. Then, while I was single those six years before I married my wonderful and final wife, Elena, I spoiled my youngest girl rotten. Anything she wanted she got. Any immature behaviors were never dealt with. I spoiled her, I admit it, to the point she did not mature as she should have. She was so spoiled that she did not get her first job until she was almost 20 years old. I would bail her out financially at every turn such that she had no incentive to really make something of herself. Her behavior was that of entitlement and expectation that things would be handed to her.

Finally, a few years ago when she was in her mid-twenties, I finally had to say enough is enough after one final act of kindness. We gave her Elena’s car and said this is it. You are on your own now. No more financial assistance. You’ve got to do this yourself. Since that time, she really has not had that much to do with me except when she emerges from her “radio silence” and acts as though she wants to restore our relationship but really she is simply looking for another handout. I have had to show her tough love these last few years. It has pained me terribly. I miss the closeness we once had where she and her crew that she hung around with as teenagers thought I was “the cool dad.” But now, she hardly speaks to me. The last time that I talked to her was probably six months ago in a text exchange by phone. The last time that I talked to verbally was by phone was almost a year ago. The last time that I saw her in person was maybe over a year ago. I hate it. I mean, it is not like I am so angry at her that I do not want to speak to her. I love her so much. But it is by her choice that she does not want to have a real relationship with me anymore. If she showed up here in Illinois at my house right now, I would wrap my arms around her and hold her and cry tears of joy.

However, she did not even come to say goodbye to me the day Elena and left the Upstate of South Carolina to move to northwest Illinois. She has effectively cut me out of her life because I cut her off financially. However, that is how being a dad is sometimes. You have to do things that are going to make your kids hate you at the moment and just let life play out in their lives. It’s not because you hate them. It’s because you love them. Some kids, like my oldest child, who want to become independent and self-sufficient and they will do it. Those kids you can give advice and they will heed it. However, some kids, you just have to let life teach them their lessons that they need to learn. With this type of child, you just sometimes have to quit protecting them and let life happen to them. They may get angry at you for taking the safety net away but you are doing them no maturity favors by keeping the safety net there. You have to take it away, let life happen to them, and just know that you love them regardless of whether they believe that fact or not. That is where I am at with my youngest.

That was the thing that I thought of today when I read this passage for the second time of three readings that I have planned for this passage, 2 Samuel 15:13-37 – that idea that sometimes, as a parent, you just have to step out of the way and let life happen to your kids. Let’s read the passage now:

13 A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!”

14 “Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.”

15 “We are with you,” his advisers replied. “Do what you think is best.”

16 So the king and all his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to look after the palace. 17 The king and all his people set out on foot, pausing at the last house 18 to let all the king’s men move past to lead the way. There were 600 men from Gath who had come with David, along with the king’s bodyguard.[a]

19 Then the king turned and said to Ittai, a leader of the men from Gath, “Why are you coming with us? Go on back to King Absalom, for you are a guest in Israel, a foreigner in exile. 20 You arrived only recently, and should I force you today to wander with us? I don’t even know where we will go. Go on back and take your kinsmen with you, and may the Lord show you his unfailing love and faithfulness.[b]”

21 But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.”

22 David replied, “All right, come with us.” So Ittai and all his men and their families went along.

23 Everyone cried loudly as the king and his followers passed by. They crossed the Kidron Valley and then went out toward the wilderness.

24 Zadok and all the Levites also came along, carrying the Ark of the Covenant of God. They set down the Ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices[c] until everyone had passed out of the city.

25 Then the king instructed Zadok to take the Ark of God back into the city. “If the Lord sees fit,” David said, “he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle[d] again. 26 But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him.”

27 The king also told Zadok the priest, “Look,[e] here is my plan. You and Abiathar[f] should return quietly to the city with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. 28 I will stop at the shallows of the Jordan River[g] and wait there for a report from you.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the Ark of God back to the city and stayed there.

30 David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. 31 When someone told David that his adviser Ahithophel was now backing Absalom, David prayed, “O Lord, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!”

32 When David reached the summit of the Mount of Olives where people worshiped God, Hushai the Arkite was waiting there for him. Hushai had torn his clothing and put dirt on his head as a sign of mourning. 33 But David told him, “If you go with me, you will only be a burden. 34 Return to Jerusalem and tell Absalom, ‘I will now be your adviser, O king, just as I was your father’s adviser in the past.’ Then you can frustrate and counter Ahithophel’s advice. 35 Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, will be there. Tell them about the plans being made in the king’s palace, 36 and they will send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to tell me what is going on.”

37 So David’s friend Hushai returned to Jerusalem, getting there just as Absalom arrived.

In this passage, we see that David, knowingly or not, teaches us another lesson in parenting. Here, we see him just get out of the way and begin to let circumstances play themselves out for Absalom. He could have rushed forward with his army and attacked Absalom by surprise and maybe even captured him before he tried to seize the capitol city. He maybe could have saved face for himself and even Absalom. He could have approached this situation by clandestinely meeting with Absalom and pulled the father/king card in a face to face meeting. However, he chose to step aside and let circumstances begin to play out. Eventually, in the coming passages, Absalom proved that he was not ready to be king like he thought he was. Experience was to be a better teacher than any parental lecture could have been.

Often, we must do the same as parents as David has begun doing here. Sometimes, we must let our children learn the facts of life, so to speak, the hard way. And in many ways, this is often how God deals with us as his children. Because He has set boundaries for us (for our own good not because He wants to keep us from doing things), He lets sin and its consequences play out in our lives so that we can learn the price of sin. Many of us are hardheaded because we love our sins and blame God for holding us back from what we want to do. Many of us blame God when we get in a jam and He has not miraculously pulled us out of the consequences of our sins. We get angry at Him for not bailing us out. We get angry at Him but yet it is our sin, our decisions to sin and rebel against Him, that ensnarls us. It is often NOT that God is punishing us but rather it is that sin always has negative consequences. Our sins often cause our pain. Our sins often cause the jams we get into in life. Our sins create these tangled webs of events and decisions in life that bring us to our knees. It is often only through letting our sins play themselves out in our lives that we are ready to kneel before God in all humility and say “Lord I have truly messed up my life and I need your help!” Even when we do that, God will not erase the long-lasting effects of our sins. He will let them play themselves out so that we learn from them and turn from them. It is when we have that a-ha moment that it is ourselves that is the enemy and not God that we are ready to stand before God and beg Him to provide us with the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Some of us are smart and heed God’s Word and accept Christ as our Savior as a young person and follow Him wholeheartedly all of our lives. Some of us are smart in this way and use God’s Word as the standard for their lives from a young age. I admire these folks. They have troubles too but man the impact that such people can have for the kingdom when they follow Jesus from an early age is far beyond what I will ever achieve. Some of God’s children are like me, fools! We lived life hard. Running from God and His Word for most of our lives. Life and the consequences of sin must be our teachers. We learn the hard way from real life examples in our lives of the hard road that sin brings us. For people like me that have to learn the hard way, the road to the cross is long, hard, and filled with cuts, scrapes, bruises, and broken bones. For God’s kids like me, we come to Him only after we have been down the road and find ourselves at the bottom of the valley and have hit rock bottom. I was age 39 when I finally came to my senses and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Man, if I could go back and do it all over again, it would have saved me so much heartache and pain, but that’s the past. My mess is part of my message. I learned the hard way to the cross. But just as I would run to the street to greet my youngest daughter and give her a great big welcome home hug if I saw her right now, God is waiting for you and me with a great big hug and tears of joy…if you will just come home!

Amen and Amen.

Advertisements

1 Samuel 1:19-28
Samuel’s Birth and Dedication

It is at this point every year that we begin our budgeting process for coming year at my church. The new calendar and budget year are really not that far away. This year, 2017, is winding down. As of this morning, there are only 50 days left in 2017. Next year, 2018, is right around the corner – just over 7 weeks from now. It is now that we start thinking about the dollars and cents of ministry. It is time to prioritize what we can do and what we cannot. Sometimes, there are tough decisions to be made. To hire for a much needed position within the church or not to hire. To spend money on certain ministries or not to spend. To replace equipment or not to replace equipment. Tough choices sometimes. It all comes down to what we feel that God is leading our people to give on an annual basis.

When reading today’s passage, it made me think, being our church’s finance director and all, about “what if…” What if God’s people were sacrificial in their giving? What if we gave in the way that Hannah did? So many of us Christians nowadays do not think in this way. Often we are no different than the culture around us. Many of us see it as someone else’s responsibility to give sacrificially. So many of us are just like the culture in that we live off more than we make. The typical middle class American lives off their salary plus credit. In other words, we live off more than we make. The society seems to think who has the newest, most expensive toys wins the contest in the end. We as Christians are often no different. We think we have to have the newest car. We think we have to live in the neighborhood that’s just beyond our means. We think we have to have the latest electronics. We think we have to have the boat and the jet ski. We think we have to have an expensive vacation every year. But when you think about it from an eternal perspective, the old saying holds true, “You can’t take it with you” and “you never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.”

That is why it is one of my passions to teach God’s people about biblical financial principles. I have lived that life of chasing the rainbow and never being satisfied with what you have and always wanting more. I have lived the life of maxxed out credit cards. I have lived that life of too much month and too little paycheck. I have lived that life of creditors calling me to the point I dreaded hearing my phone ring. It took my wife and I a good long while to get free of our smothering of debts. We had to quit renting houses at the beach that cost almost $3k for the week. We had to quit blowing bonuses and tax refunds on additional stuff and start paying off debts with them and not acquiring new debt just because we paid off an old one. Even recently, we downsized our home and mortgage. We cut our mortgage payment by 1/3 by getting a smaller house. After living in our previous house for seven years we realized that we did not use half of that house so it was time to downsize. What if we had started living that way from the time we left our parents’ homes. What if we had lived frugally from the beginning of our adult lives.

One of the things that we learned early on in this process was to honor God with our finances. We could not tithe at first but we began to get our way there a percentage point at a time. We made honoring God first a part of who we are as people. The first check we write when I get paid is to honor God. We learned to live off the rest instead of living beyond our means. I want to teach our people the peace that comes from “living off the rest”. I want to teach people that honoring God with our finances changes our perspective about our things that we have to have. The freedom of heart that has come from putting God first in our finances has enabled us to appreciate why He commands us to tithe. As with all things, God gives peace to those who honor Him. We trust him with our finances. We as a result are able to give more than just our tithe now. We have opportunities to help others now that we would have had to forgo in years past. Being able to use our money to demonstrate God’s love to others has reminded us of why we work hard to keep our finances under control.
What if more of God’s people learned what we have learned? What if more people gave to the church more than the spare $20 bill that they might have in their wallet on Sundays? What if more people saw honoring God with their finances to the point they could be obedient in the tithe? What if people lived off less and gave more? What if just our people at our local church did that? What if that did happen? What if we as a people at our church became sacrificial givers? What if our church’s budget was 2.5 to 3 times bigger than it is now if all of our people tithed or just gave more sacrificially? Imagine the ministry that we could do through our church. Imagine the quality of the people we could hire to lead our ministries. Imagine how many more lives that we could touch with the gospel. Imagine how many more ways we could reach into the community and show them the love of Jesus Christ. Imagine if our people started thinking with an eternal perspective. Imagine each of us living off 90% or less of what we make. Imagine a people focused more on being generous. Imagine a people putting God first in their finances so that they could put forth the gospel first with their paychecks rather than the car sitting in the driveway. Imagine us being a sacrificially generous people. Just imagine that!

That’s the thing I thought of this morning as I read how Hannah, so deeply desiring to have a child, sacrificially gave her son up to the Lord. She gave til it hurt. What if we had that kind of heart of sacrificial giving? Let’s read 1 Samuel 1:19-28 now:

19 The entire family got up early the next morning and went to worship the Lord once more. Then they returned home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her plea, 20 and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[a] for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.”

21 The next year Elkanah and his family went on their annual trip to offer a sacrifice to the Lord and to keep his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go. She told her husband, “Wait until the boy is weaned. Then I will take him to the Tabernacle and leave him there with the Lord permanently.[b]”

23 “Whatever you think is best,” Elkanah agreed. “Stay here for now, and may the Lord help you keep your promise.[c]” So she stayed home and nursed the boy until he was weaned.

24 When the child was weaned, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They brought along a three-year-old bull[d] for the sacrifice and a basket[e] of flour and some wine. 25 After sacrificing the bull, they brought the boy to Eli. 26 “Sir, do you remember me?” Hannah asked. “I am the very woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. 27 I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. 28 Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they[f] worshiped the Lord there.

In this passage, we see that to do what she promised (1 Samuel 1:11), Hannah gave up what she wanted the most – her son – and presented him to Eli to serve in the house of the Lord. In dedicating her only son to God, Hannah was dedicating her entire life and future to God. Because Samuel’s life was from God, Hannah was not really giving him up to God. Rather, she was returning him to God, who had given Samuel to Hannah in the first place. These verses illustrate the kinds of gifts we should give to God. Do you gifts cost you a little (Sunday mornings, a comfortable donation of time and/or money) or are they gifts of sacrifice? Are you presenting God with tokens or are you presenting him with your entire life?

Let us resolve to live off less and give more sacrificially? Let us resolve to arrange our finances such that we can give more to our church and assist in the spread of the gospel in our community, nation and world. Let us arrange our finances so that we think first of eternal things instead of temporary things. Let us arrange our finances so that we can think of others instead of ourselves. Let us arrange our finances so that we can be sacrificial givers instead of wishing we could give anything. Let us arrange our finances so that we can invest in the eternal destinations of the people in our community. Let us be able to participate in leading people to our doors where they can hear the gospel preached and react to it. Let us be sacrificial because eternity is at stake. Let us help assure the eternity with Jesus in heaven for more and more people because we were so concerned about it that we gave up our pursuit of new houses, new cars, new toys. What if we had a sacrificial mentality to spread the gospel? What if our finances reflected our concern for the salvation of the world rather than our next new toy?

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 4:13-22
The Descendants of Boaz

An Open Letter to My Granddaughter, Ralyn,

Yesterday, I wrote about looking back at my life and being ashamed of the life I lived before I met Jesus Christ. Today, I want to write about my future. You are a big part of my future. You are only 15 ½ months old now, but time will fly and you will become a young lady long before your dad and your granddad are ready for it. I wonder what you will be interested in. What will be your hobbies? What will be your passions? Will you excel at school or will you have to work hard at it? Will you be Poppy’s little buddy? Will I be your confidant for those things that you don’t want to tell your mom and your dad? What will your reputation be as you grow up? Will you be a girl that people can count on? Will your parents be able to count on you doing the right thing? Will I have had any influence on your life at all?

Oh, you are so terribly cute right now. You slay my heart every time I see you. I love you from the depths of my soul and I have only known you a little more than a year. I hope that you and I will be as “thick as thieves” as you grow up. I hope that you will look forward to coming to Papa and Mimi’s house. I hope that you and I will play tricks on Mimi and then just laugh and laugh. I hope that you when you get tired come crawl up in Papa’s lap and snuggle up to my neck. I hope that we can go for long walks in here in The Village and talk about anything and everything. I hope that we can spend time reading books on the front porch. I hope that I can show you important things like “righty tighty, lefty loosey”. I hope that I can teach you how to cut grass. I hope that I can teach you how to trim shrubs. I hope there will be a day when I am cutting grass that you are right behind me with your toy lawnmower following Papa’s every move. I hope that I will be there at your first kindergarten thanksgiving play. I hope that I will be there for the sport that you choose to play and be there at as many games as I can. I hope that my refrigerator will be full of your art masterpieces. I hope that you will ask Papa millions of questions about everything. I hope that I will be there when you want to talk about boys. I hope that I will be there for those conversations about your first kiss. I want to be there to hear about your first school dance. I want to hear about the first boy you decide to call your boyfriend. I want to be there for you when you get your heart broken by that very same boy. I want to be there all along the way. I don’t want to be some stranger to you when you get to be a teenager. I want to still be your confidant then too. I want to hear about that boy that you are madly in love with. I want to hear about that girl who said some unsavory things about you and how you are going to handle that. I want to hear about the high school drama – and I am not talking about the drama department. Who said what to who and who was with who when he was supposed to be with this other girl. I want to help you understand a tough subject in high school. I want to help when you have a tough decision to make – to go with the crowd or do the right thing. I want to be part of your life when you are deciding on what college to go to (subliminal message—go to Clemson, go to Clemson, go to Clemson). I want to be there when you graduate high school. I want to be there when you go off to college (subliminal message—Clemson). I want to be there when you are deciding on what to major in. I want to be there for those talks about the future. I want to be there for those conversations about your career. I want to be there when a professor just introduced a concept that rocked your world and help you process that. I want to be there when you just need to get away from college for a day and we can go for one of our walks like when you were little. I want to be there when you get engaged. I want to be there when you graduate college. I want to be there when you get married.

I may not be around for much after you get married as I will probably be in my 80s by then but one thing in all this stuff is that I want you to know that you were loved so much by your Papa! I want you to know that I had your back while I was here. I want you think about your Papa and it bring a smile to your face no matter how old you get. And most of all, I want to impart a legacy to you about being a Christ follower. I want to be your example of what a true Christ follower looks like. I want to be there to influence you and talk you about sin and salvation. I want to be there when you accept Christ as your Savior. I want to be there and celebrate that. I want to be there for your post-salvation baptism where you proclaim to the world outwardly what has already happened inside your heart and soul. I want that to be my greatest legacy to have passed on Jesus Christ to you.

I Love You More Today than Yesterday,

Papa

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this final passage of the book of Ruth. I thought about legacy as I read through Ruth 4:13-22. What will be my legacy after I am gone? Here in this final passage, we know of the legacy of Ruth and Boaz and the role they not only played in their lifetimes but also the legacy that they passed on. Let’s think about that as we read:

13 So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. 15 May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”

16 Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. 17 The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.

18 This is the genealogical record of their ancestor Perez:

Perez was the father of Hezron.
19
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
20
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.[a]
21
Salmon was the father of Boaz.
Boaz was the father of Obed.
22
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of David.

In this passage and in this book, we see that some might think of the book of Ruth as a nice story about a girl who was fortunate. However, in reality, the events recorded in Ruth were part of God’s preparation for the births of King David and of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Just as Ruth was unaware of this larger purpose in her life, we will not know the full purpose and importance of our lives until we are able to look back from the heavenly side of eternity. We must make our choices with God’s eternal values in mind. Taking moral shortcuts and living for short-range pleasures are not living life with eternity in mind. Because of Ruth’s faithful obedience, her life and legacy were significant even though she may have not been able to see the results of it in her lifetime. We must live like Ruth. We must live in faithfulness to God, knowing that the significance of your life will extend beyond your lifetime.

So, my most important remaining job in life is to be Papa to my sweet little Ralyn. This will be the most important job I have left to do. I must impart wisdom and knowledge and common sense and love and understanding and advice and most of all be an influence toward my granddaughter coming to know Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord when she is ready for it. May that be the greatest legacy I leave behind. May that be the final important thing that I do. May that, then, be the lasting legacy. That Ralyn’s mom, my daughter, is a Christ follower, that Ralyn will be, and Ralyn’s daughter and Ralyn’s granddaughter…May that be the legacy.

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 3:1-18 (Part 3 of 3)
Ruth Follows Naomi’s Plan

Sometimes in our lives when we look back on the person that we were before we came to know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we go “wow, how could I have been that kind of person!” How could I have been that kind of person and think that it was OK to be that kind of person. I grew up in the church. I heard the gospel. I knew the Bible stories, in general. My dad was a preacher. So, it wasn’t like I was a person who did not grow up knowing right from wrong, moral from immoral, and so on. But growing up in a parsonage does not guarantee that you will be immediately a follower of Jesus Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I was not necessarily a bad kid or bad seed. I was just a regular kid. I did well in school. Rarely got in trouble. I was just one of those kids that was a good student but wasn’t a nerd. I was a kid who danced on the edge of getting in trouble with parents and teachers on occasion. My trouble in life was always feeling less than. My trouble was always feeling like an outsider. My trouble was always feeling like the guy who got to the party but just went the party was about over. Never felt like I was in the know.

It was these feelings of being an outsider, a step behind, late to the party, catching a trend just when everyone has moved on to the next trend that kind of defined my pre-salvation days. I was always trying to fit in. I was an approval seeker. I wanted validation that I belong and that I matter to other people. It is still something I struggle with even after salvation but not like in my pre-salvation days. In those pre-salvation days, I would do whatever it took to win approval of others to the point of committing sins that grieve my own soul now. My moral compass fell off the table and broke into pieces over the years. And my word became worthless as I shucked and jived so as to keep all the people happy in my life from who I desired approval. My finances were a shambles from all of that too. So my word meant nothing when it came to financial matters and certainly my creditors probably felt my word meant nothing. My self-image of myself as a decent, moral person was far different from my daily practices of situational ethics. Then, there comes a day when you look at yourself in the mirror and say who have you become. There was a time when people thought you were a good kid and respected you for being a young man of your word. Now, look at you. You would lie to save your ass in a minute. You would lie to get out of trouble. You would lie to make yourself seem more important than you are. Looking in the mirror, who is this man? I don’t know him anymore. He acts as though there is no judgment because he lives according to his own gospel which is not the canonical Gospel of Mark. The ends justified the means for this guy looking in the mirror.

When I look back at the man I had become in the months and weeks before I accepted Christ as my Savior, I didn’t think of myself as a desperate sinner in need of a Savior. I thought I had become something that I didn’t wanna be but I thought I was still good enough to get in heaven if God made a few exceptions for me. I thought I was good enough to get in if God look at my good deeds vs. my bad ones. I figured that being a martyr in my divorce, trying to keep two families happy (my exwife and my daughters on one hand, and my second wife and her boys on the other) and feeling like a martyr in that, working hard, etc. All that would make up for my moral failures and my situational ethics. It was not until that play that night at Abundant Life Church in December 2001 where my life was lived out in a play right before my eyes on the stage at church. The central character thought the same kind of mindset. It wasn’t until he spent 30 minutes in hell during that one hour play that he realized that his sins no matter how small are enough to sentence him to eternity there. No matter the good deeds we do to make up for our bad ones, our sins prevent us from living with our Father in heaven in eternity. That was the final mirror in my face. The Holy Spirit broke my soul that night. Since then, it has been a long and winding road and a difficult job for the Holy Spirit to sanctify me and He still has a ton of work to do.

However, one thing that is important to me now is my word. I want to keep my word even if costs me something. I want to do what the Bible says is right no matter if it costs me something or not. I desire to please God in this way. I want to be a person who honors his commitments. I want to be a person who is known to tell the truth. I want to be a person that is known to have integrity. I want to a person that will give the cashier at the Wal-Mart the money back when she mistakenly gives me too much change. I want to be a person who does not try to return goods that I broke and pass it off as defective goods. I want to be a person of honor. In many ways, I am getting better at that each day because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my soul. I look back at the man I was before salvation and I am disgusted at him. In the process of being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, when I look back even in the years after salvation, I am disgusted by the man I was a the day of my salvation. I am disgusted by the man I was 10 years ago and even 5 years ago. I know too that as I progress deeper in my walk with Christ that the man that I am right now will disgust me in 10 years. As we grow in Christ, the Holy Spirit wins battles with the sins and habits and thoughts that we think are OK right now. Over time, though, the Holy Spirit shines the light of God on those things in our lives that are not holy. It takes a lifetime for the Holy Spirit to do this and He does not have his final victory over our ego-driven selfishness until we arrive in heaven and join our Savior there. As a Christ follower, sometimes we really do need to sit down and think about the person we used to be compared to now and marvel at the work, the tireless work, of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Are you not disgusted by the person you used to be before Christ, about the person you were just after salvation, and the person you were just a few short years ago? It’s funny how we think we are at the apex of our spiritual maturity until the Holy Spirit shines the light on something that we thought was acceptable all along til then.

Let us always remember who we used to be before Jesus Christ. Let us remember who we are now and where we will be in just a few short years down the right. We are a work in progress under the construction of the master remodeler, the Holy Spirit.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when I read through this passage for the second of three times that we will write about it – how Boaz and Naomi had reputations as being trustworthy and upright people to the point that people took them at their word (when they said something you could trust it like gold in the bank). Let’s read the passage together for the last time this morning, Ruth 3:1-18, before we move on:
3 One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. 2 Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 3 Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.”

5 “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law.

7 After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”

10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. 11 Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. 12 But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. 13 Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”

14 So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” 15 Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops[a] of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he[b] returned to the town.

16 When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”

Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, 17 and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

18 Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.”

In this passage, we see that, as a foreigner, Ruth may have thought that Naomi’s advice was odd. However, Ruth followed the advice because she knew Naomi was kind, trustworthy, and filled with integrity. Each of us knows a parent, an older friend, or relative who is always looking out for our best interests. Be willing to listen to the advice of a person who is older and wiser than you are. The experience and knowledge of such a person can be invaluable. And then there was Boaz. Naomi knew that Boaz would follow through on his promise at once. He obviously had a reputation for keeping his word and would not rest until his task was completed. Such reliable people stand out in any age and/or culture. Do others regard you as one who will do what you say? Keeping your word and following through on assignments should be high on anyone’s priority list. Building a reputation of trustworthiness takes many years but losing your reputation can take just minutes.

I want to be like Naomi and Boaz. I want people to be able to trust what I say. I want to be a person who says what he means and means what he says. If I make a promise to you, you should be able to bank on that promise. I want to be that guy who is seen as one who has integrity. I want most of all to be an honorable representative of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I want the person that I am on Sunday morning to be the same person who, when given the opportunity to do something unethical, will do what is right even if it costs my success or advancement according to earthly treasures. I want to be a guy like Boaz where it is known that I will not rest until I have kept my promise. I want to be a person like Naomi where, even if you think my advice is strange or odd, you will follow it anyway because you consider me a completely trustworthy source. I want to continually look back at my life and see growth in Christlikeness. I want to be a big kid Christian someday. I want to be like Christ. I also want to remember what that man in the mirror looked like in the months before salvation back in 2001. I never want to be that man again. I want to be God’s man. Again, as I said just a second ago, it is my desire more than anything else to be an honorable, trustworthy, reputable, representative ambassador of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I don’t ever, never, never, never, never, ever want to go back to being the man that stared in the mirror in 2001 and had that meltdown moment of horror at the person that I had become. Thank God for my salvation. Thank God for the joy that I have found there. Thank God for the Holy Spirit and His kicking my butt around these last 16 years. Thank God!

 

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 3:1-18 (Part 2 of 3)
Ruth Follows Naomi’s Plan

Usually, I will relate a personal experience to the passage at hand. That’s my schtick! That’s how I make the Bible relatable to my life … to take the meaning and truth from a passage and find an experience in my life that I can use as proof of that truth. However, today, there is just so much beautiful symbolism in this story that I would not want to ruin it with some profane attempt to relate it to my mundane, ordinary life. There are two things that we have to, have to talk about here. First, the “laying at the master’s feet” and, second, the covering.

In Israelite custom, it was not uncommon for a servant to lay at their master’s feet. It was for the security of the servant and it was also for the convenience of the master. Usually, when outdoors, it was necessary to sleep with the availability of one’s weapons nearby. There were thieves and murderers in the last millennium before Christ just as there are today. When you go camping today, it is not uncommon for a dad to have a weapon nearby to protect his family from what evil person may lurk in the night or some wild animal that may approach because of the smell of some previously eaten food. As a father of a wife, two daughters, and a stepdaughter, these women are my life. All four of these ladies, I would lay my life down for. It was the same back in the day in Boaz’s and Ruth’s time. A servant who was normally unarmed would lay at their master’s feet because their master would usually “be packin’!” They would have had their choice weapon of the millennium before Christ – a sword, a club, a rod or a staff, some object of defense against marauders or wild animals.

Ruth laying at Boaz’s feet meant that she (1) was telling him that she was his servant and (2) that she wished to be under his protection and care. It takes humility to admit that you need help and become someone’s servant. It take humility to lay at someone’s feet as if they are superior to you. I know that mindsets of people about their own human rights were different back then but still there is some sense of pride swallowing to humble yourself to lay at someone’s feet. In Israelite culture, feet were considered profane in the sense that they encountered dirt and filth more than any other part of the body. Thus, feet washing when a person entered a home was not just a honorable gesture it was one considered necessary to keep one’s home holy and set apart from the profane and dirty world outside. So, to lay at someone’s feet was a recognition of one’s lowly state in relationship to the person at whose feet you were laying. Is this not symbolic of our relationship with Jesus Christ? We will come back to that thought.

Laying at his feet was recognition of the servant-master relationship but it also recognized that she was now under his protection. As a servant, she became part of which Boaz would now defend with his life. He was now responsible for her. He would make her a part of his household. He would defend her from things in the night that could hurt her. By laying at His feet, she would be protected by his weaponry that He had available. By laying at his feet, she was in proximity to the source of her defense. How symbolic is that in relation to Christ’s defense of us? We will come back to that thought.

As well, because of being a servant, they, when traveling with their master, did not necessarily have everything they needed for a night’s sleep. Everything was about the master’s comfort and not the servant’s. Thus, when sleeping outdoors and sleeping at the master’s feet, the master would often cover their servant with their blanket or covering. It demonstrated the master’s care for the servant’s well being. There is nothing worse to a master than a sick or dead servant. Through the covering, the master ensured the health and continued service of the servant. It is the same with us and Jesus. How symbolic is that? We will come back to that thought.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when I read through this passage for the second of three times that we will write about it – how this scene is symbolic and forward pointing to how we are in relationship to our Master, Jesus Christ. Let’s read the passage together for the first time this morning, Ruth 3:1-18:
3 One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. 2 Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 3 Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.”

5 “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law.

7 After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”

10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. 11 Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. 12 But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. 13 Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”

14 So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” 15 Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops[a] of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he[b] returned to the town.

16 When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”

Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, 17 and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

18 Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.”

In this passage, we see that, in v. 4, that Naomi’s advice seems strange to us 21st century Americans, but she was not suggesting a seductive act. In reality, Naomi was telling Ruth to act in accordance with Israelite custom and law. It was common for a servant to lie at the master’s feet and even share a part of his covering. By observing this custom, Ruth would be symbolically informing Boaz that he could be her family redeemer and that she was his faithful servant. As her family redeemer, he would take responsibility for her and find someone to marry her or marry her himself. It was family business, nothing romantic. However, this story would later become beautifully romantic as Ruth and Boaz developed an unselfish love and deep respect for one another.

In our relationship with Jesus Christ, we must humble ourselves and lay at His feet. We cannot be in relationship with Him until we recognize his vast superiority to us. We must humble ourselves before the Creator of the Universe. We must recognize that Jesus is God. We must recognize that He is perfection and we are sinners. We must recognize that in the absence of Him, we are destined to hell. We must recognize that He was humble enough as the God of the Universe to come to earth and live as a man, live the perfect life so that he could become the once and final perfect sacrifice for man’s sins, and that He as God in the flesh was able to conquer sin and death. That is recognition that Jesus is pretty freaking awesome! And then there’s us. It takes humility to recognize that we are not in control of our lives and that we need an intervention from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh, the One through whom all things were created. We must humble ourselves to recognize that we are nothing compared to Him. We must humble ourselves and lay ourselves at His feet and beg simply to be His servant.

In our relationship with Jesus Christ, when we accept that we are his lowly servants and accept Him as our Savior and Redeemer and Lord, He gives us His covering. He gives us his cloak of righteousness. Our best attempts at holiness are but filthy rags in comparison to the royal robe of righteousness of Jesus Christ. In His love for us, when we accept Him as our Savior, Redeemer, and Lord, we are cloaked in his royal robe. We are covered by His righteousness. He ensures our eternal future as His servant when He covers us in His perfect royal covering. We are no more filthy rags that are exposed to the elements of sin. We are covered in His impenetrable warm covering of righteousness.

In our relationship with Jesus Christ, when we sleep at His feet in recognition of His Lordship over your lives and His covering of righteousness, we gain access to His protection from all that can hurt us and drag us down. Under His covering, we are most protected against the evil of this world. We can renounce evil and have victory over through Jesus Christ who is completely victorious and completely superior to all that is evil in the world. We cannot do it alone. We must be near and close to the Lord so that we are within His protection. When we do not sleep at the Christ’s feet, we are susceptible to the marauder and the wild animal known as Satan who wishes to ensnare us and capture us and devour us in sin so that He can say He has another one! When we rest at the Master’s feet, He will protect us. He will send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us to teach us, correct us, and remind us to stay at the Master’s feet and within His protection.

Oh wow! How this scene in Ruth chapter 3 is so symbolic of what our relationship with Jesus Christ is like. There is nothing like it. There is nothing to compare it to. That’s why today I can give no example from my life other than to say I am at the Master’s feet. I admitted that I needed Him in December 2001 and my life has changed completely since that time. It has not always been easy for this prideful sinner to lay at the Master’s feet but it is at His feet that I can be found for He is my Savior, my Redeemer, and my Lord. I am His servant. I am subject to Him at His feet. He has covered me in His blanket of righteousness. I am His. He is my Lord. He is my Savior. He is my Redeemer.

Amen and Amen.

 

Ruth 1:1-5

Elimelech Moves His Family to Moab

Recently, this past week, I had someone make a comment on a blog that I had written about two and a half years ago, yeah, that’s right. Two and a half years ago. So, the dude really must’ve been examining my blog space to find a blog from two years ago to take issue with me. This blog from two years ago was about the wonders of the grace offered us through Jesus Christ. I used myself as an example of the wonders of grace and how grace is superior to legalism. In that blog, I noted that according to Scripture that divorce is a sin. The only reason that God gave Moses rules about divorce was to regulate the way that it was handled. Since God’s people were stiff-necked sorts, God wanted to ensure that women were treated properly in this distasteful and sinful marriage breaker. Under the law, divorce is sin. Plain and simple. It is validated by Jesus himself. In Luke 16:16-18, Jesus says,

 

 

 

16 “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in.[a] 17 But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned.

 

 

 

18 “For example, a man who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

 

 

 

Under the law, I stand condemned as does my wife of the past 7 ½ years, Elena. We both have been married twice before. However, both of our previous marriages (two for her and two for me) each began prior to each of accepting Christ as our Savior and Lord. That does not make divorce any less sinful, but it does go to our motivations for marriage. It does go to the fact that we did not have Christ at the center of our lives at the times that we were choosing our spouses during those years. We were not Christ followers during those years. I did not come to Christ as my Savior until near the end of my second marriage (which crumbled under the weight of her adultery, my mistakes with money, and the death of her oldest son). Elena came to know Christ as her Savior about six months before we got married (as we sat in the small group meeting at our pastor’s house when we lived in California). Under the law, we both stand condemned. Under the law, we are sinners because of our divorces even though the marriages began when we were rebels against God and we chose poorly as to who we should be married to. Under the law, we are condemned as should have no access to God or to worship in the temple. We should be excluded from the people of God because of just this one sin much less a lifetime of other sins committed. According to my commenter at my blog, my mention of how God can redeem a second or third marriage is giving him the thought that he could steal money from a bank, beg for forgiveness from God, and then say that because he begged for forgiveness that it validates the stolen money as OK to spend. I think this fellow missed the whole point of the blog which was that God is in the redeeming business. Elena and I did not steal anyone’s spouse when we met. We were already divorced when we began dating but that does not minimize the sin of divorce for us. We are condemned by this sin alone and, like I said, not mention that we have mountains of sin that convict us as well. On our own merits, we stand convicted before God for the sins that we have committed. We do deserve a sentence to hell on the merits of our divorces alone. We can’t pretty that up or make that right or go back and change. According to the law, yes, we should be excluded from the pleasures of God’s righteousness. We should be excluded from heaven. We should have no claim to enter the gates of heaven on just this one sin alone. Just this one sin. What are we to do? How can we fix this? How can two sinners who have these sordid, sinful pasts that we cannot undo before the Lord before we met one another. How do we reconcile our sinful past to the purity required before God?

 

 

 

Grace is the answer. It is through Jesus sacrifice on the cross for all sins of all time that we can now approach the throne of God. Jesus paid the price and the penalty for our sins, past, present and future. I get the commenter on my blog is afraid that people abuse grace. I get that. But you have to ask the question that if a person claims grace over his apparent and unrepentant practice of sin, then, you may have to question their salvation to begin with. However, those that are truly saved have the Holy Spirit come to dwell in us and changes us from the inside out. Through the Holy Spirit’s working in my soul, I know that my past divorces are sin and it is because of just the divorce sins alone that I stand convicted by God and condemned to hell on my own merits. In the absence of the Holy Spirit, I would see that my divorces were OK and find reasons to justify them just to make myself look good. It is through the Holy Spirit that I am convicted of that sin and it pushes and prods me to make this marriage my last no matter what comes at it. I will no longer duck and run when our marriage hits a rough space. I will work on it and get through it. It is through the grace of Jesus Christ on the cross that I stand pure before God and the everyday working of the Holy Spirit that we become more and more like Christ every day. So, just as Peter stood convicted before Jesus for something he could not go back and change, Jesus asked this obvious sinner to feed His sheep. Jesus redeemed Him. Jesus made him useful to the kingdom. Jesus does the same for us through the cross. We can have our marriages that are sinful in the sight of God be made clean and holy through repentance and through grace. That is what makes for the joy of salvation and sanctification. We made free from the penalty of our past. We are given new life. We are made children of God. He can make the foulest clean!

 

 

 

What does this have to do with the passage at hand today? It has everything to do with it. Let’s read Ruth 1:1-5 together now and then I will explain:

 

 

 

1 In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there.

 

 

 

3 Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. 4 The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.

 

 

 

In this passage, we see that Moab was the land east of the Dead Sea. Moabites, who were related to Israel through Lot (Gen. 19:37), occupied parts of central Transjordan at various times. It was one of the nations that oppressed Israel during the period of the judges (see Judges 3:12 and following verses), so there were tensions between the two nations. The famine must have been quite severe in Israel for Elimelech to move his family there. It is a demonstration of how sometimes we compromise our beliefs to get what we want or think we need.

 

 

 

Marrying a Canaanite or anyone who previously occupied the Promised Land was against God’s law. Moabites were not allowed to worship at the Tabernacle because had not allowed the Israelites pass through their land. If an Israelite married a Moabite woman, they would have been prevented themselves, even though they were Israelite, from worshiping at the Tabernacle because of their marriage. Sometimes, when we are in desperate circumstances we compromise our beliefs and that is what we see here. Desperate times had come but as God’s chosen people, these Israelites, even in the land of Moab, should have set the standard for moral living for other nations. However, they mixed in with the culture and even married into it. How often do we compromise our values to just fit in with the culture around us? How many times have you and I stood quiet when people were Christ bashing and we should have stood up and said something? How many times do we commit sins that we try to justify later as being OK? How many times do we ignore God’s Word because we are in desperate circumstances? How often do we do an end around on God’s Word because that’s the easiest way from Point A to Point B. All of us stand convicted on this point. We have all sinned and grieved the Spirit of God. We have all made mistakes that somewhere down the road the Holy Spirit makes us want to throw up over the kind of person that we used to be.

 

 

 

Here in this passage we see that something bad happened that was against God’s law for the people of ancient Israel – to marry outside God’s chosen people, to marry into cultures that did not worship God. And, that is something that Elimelech’s sons did. They marry the wrong kind of person according the law. They clearly did this. There was no hiding it or justifying it. They compromised because of conditions. They went against God’s own law because of their situation. Bottom line, they stand convicted. Bottom line, they broke the law. However, because of the redemptive nature of God’s love and because Naomi and Ruth had such great faith, they were eventually redeemed from the horrid life that they were going to have to live. Because of their faith, they were rewarded. Because of their faith, the bad situation that began with a sin of marriage to the wrong crowd, God actually redeemed it. God made Ruth, who was from the wrong side of the tracks…I mean….wrong side of the Dead Sea, into one of the great women of the Bible. God made Ruth into part of the lineage of King David. She was his great grandmother. She also became part of the earthly lineage of our Savior and our Lord, Jesus Christ. She became part of God’s family and the line through which Jesus’ earthly family came. Her marriage was born in sin but it was redeemed. She would not have come to know God had it not been for this apparent mistake or sin of marrying outside the people of Israel. God used this mistake of the past because of the faithful obedience of Ruth after she came to know God and turned it into something beautiful.

 

 

 

No matter where you are at right now in life. Murderer. Idolater. Adulterer. You name it. God can redeem it and make it part of His plan. Your past you can do nothing to change. All you must do is admit before God that you are a sinner and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross as punishment for your sins that you personally deserve. And proclaim with your mouth that He is indeed the rightful one to do this because He is the Son of God and that as the Son of God He arose from the dead to give you victory over sin and death and you will be saved. You will be redeemed. Your sins are forgiven through your repentance and revulsion over your past sins. Your sins are forgiven through the grace that covers them at the cross. You are now redeemed. You are now made new. Through the Holy Spirit, you will come to repent and be grieved over each and every sin you commit from now on and you will be changed from the inside out by Him. Through the Holy Spirit, you can see how we really do deserve hell in the absence of Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit process of sanctification, we are made useful to the kingdom. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, we see joy of our salvation as we stand at the precipice of what was our eternal damnation in the fires of hell. Through Jesus Christ, we are pulled back from the brink. Through Jesus Christ, we are made clean. By God’s grace, we are made into a part of the kingdom of priests. By God’s grace, we are made part of those who are useful to God in bringing about His kingdom here on earth.

 

 

 

Yes, I am a sinner. Yes, thank God, I am redeemed. Yes, thank God, he has made my marriage clean. Yes, thank God, He has made two mistake-makers into a couple that is useful to His kingdom. No cheap grace here. Changed lives here. Joy here at what God has redeemed, made clean, and made part of the fabric of His redemptive plan. Joy here at God taking filthy rags and clothing them in the embroidered cloak of grace.

 

 

 

Amen and Amen.

 

The Book of Ruth: An Introduction (Part 4 of 4)
As we close out the introductory points about the Book of Ruth, we find that it teaches about God’s redemptive plan for man. As widows, Ruth and Naomi could only look forward to difficult times. Boaz took the responsibility of being the family redeemer. A family redeemer was a relative who volunteered to take responsibility for the extended family. When a woman’s husband died, the law (Deut. 25:5-10) provided that she could marry a brother of her dead husband. However, Naomi had no more sons. In such a case, the nearest relative of the deceased husband could become a family redeemer and marry the widow. The nearest relative did not have to marry the widow. If you chose not to, the next nearest relative could take his place. In no one chose to help the widow, she would probably live in poverty the rest of her life as, in Israelite and most ancient Middle Eastern cultures, inheritance was passed on to a son or nearest male relative not to the wife. The laws for gleaning and family redeemers helped take the sting out of these inheritance rules.

That Boaz went to all the trouble he did to redeem Ruth and take her as his bride is symbolic of what Jesus Christ did for us. He did not have to do what He did for us. He could have easily stayed in heaven and just allowed us to be judged and it would have been just and right for Him to do so. However, Jesus set aside His glory and came down to earth to redeem us from our poverty caused by our desperate state of sin. As John 3:16 famously states, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In the absence of Boaz’s redemption, Ruth would have faced a bleak future and may have had to resort to sinful behaviors such as prostitution to simply survive. It would have been a hellish existence. That is no less what Jesus does for us. He redeems us from our prostitution to sin. He redeems us from the penalty of sin. He redeems us from our bleak existence. He cleans us up. He took the penalty of our sin through his taking His Father’s wrath against sin on the cross. His blood shed on the cross is what makes us pure again in the sight of God as Jesus took the punishment for our sin instead of us having to do that ourselves. Therefore, we are made pure in the sight of God when we realize that Jesus died for our sins, that we were destined for hell in the absence of his sacrifice on our behalf, and that Jesus was the only one who could do that for us. He was the only one who could redeem us because He is God in the flesh and He was without sin. When we realize that He was God in the flesh and that He arose from the dead as victory over our sin and death, we are made His bride and we are presented to God as unblemished and spotless. We gain our right to new life through Him.

Boaz similarly redeems Ruth who was destined for hopelessness just as we are destined for the hopelessness of hell without intervention from Jesus. Boaz gave Ruth new life as His bride. Boaz gives her access to all his riches through his redemption act. Boaz gives her access to a new life that she would not have had otherwise. He did so willingly because of his love for Ruth. He gave her a new lease on life through His love for her. Jesus loves us that much too. He willingly made the trip to the cross for us because of His desire that we not spend eternity separated from God in hell. We are locked into a life destined for eternal misery without His redemptive love just as Ruth was destined for an earthly life of desperate poverty in the absence of Boaz’s redemptive love. Be sure that it was not lost on Ruth exactly what Boaz did for her. She knew what he was saving her from – a life of horrible poverty that could have led her to do things that poverty will cause a woman to do. She knew that Boaz’s love for her saved her from a horrid life. Jesus does the same thing for us. His love for us saves us from a life locked in the results and consequences of sin and has us sentenced to hell. Ruth most likely celebrated her husband in Boaz and was thankful every day for what He had done for her. As redeemed Christ followers, we should be thankful every day for Jesus, our bridegroom, has done for us. He has redeemed us from hell. He has redeemed us from our sin. He has redeemed us from our old life. He has redeemed us from our old sin self and has placed us in our spotless bride’s dress, all white and pure before God. He gives us a new life from the inside out. We should never forget and always celebrate the redemption by our bridegroom in Jesus Christ. As Christ followers, we should be the most joyous people on the planet. We know the eternal life that we were destined for and by all rights deserved. We know that hell is real and it is not a pretty place. We know that it is a place of eternal torment and anguish. We know that it is what we deserve for our sins as our just punishment before a sinless, pure and righteous God. That Jesus would redeem us from our deserved destiny should be a source of constant joy and contentment. No matter what we face on this side of eternity, it pales in comparison to the eternity of hell. No matter how bad our life gets, we know that Jesus has given us the keys to the eternal glory of heaven with God. Why then are we often the most morose people on the planet. We have joy unspeakable through Jesus Christ. We must celebrate it everyday. We must let it permeate our being every day. We must ooze out joy from the overflow in our soul. We must tell people the source of our inexplicable joy! We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ!

Boaz also made provision for her even before he married her through allowing her to glean the grain just as Jesus provides for us even before we come to salvation in Him. His death on the cross two millenia ago is the once and final sacrifice for all sin for all time. All we have to do is glean the grain. Jesus does not have to repeatedly be crucified. His act was the once and for all completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system for sin. Since Jesus was complete perfection and lived the perfect, sinless life there is no need for repeated sacrifices. There is no need for Jesus to do it over and over again. It was the ultimate one-and-done. He leaves the grain at the edge of the field. He leaves the grain on the threshing floor. All we have to do is pick it up and take the food that is necessary for our eternal salvation. It is there for the taking. All we must do is believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and proclaim it with our mouth that He died for our sins and that He arose from the dead to give us hope eternal. The grain has been left there for us to pick up and eat. It is up to us to reach for it.

The Book of Ruth is such a beautiful book and a real life example of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. So, let’s meet here at my next blog as we dive into the Book of Ruth.

Amen and Amen.