Bitter to Better – Ruth 2:15-23

The following is a sermon I preached at The Alpine Chapel in Telluride, Colorado, as part of a thru-the-Bible teaching on the Book of Ruth. 

INTRODUCTION:

It is a new month, and there are many new things on the horizon for The Alpine Chapel. I’ll share some of those in a bit, but for now, let’s pick up where we left off last time in our verse-by-verse, in-depth study through the Old Testament Book of Ruth…

(Ruth 2:15-16) 15 And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.” 

Basically, Boaz is saying to his workers, “Make sure Ruth gets all that she needs… as you are working, purposefully leave some of the good stuff on the ground for her to pick up. This way all of her needs will be met.” This is Grace. Grace has been called, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”.

These workers could have responded to Boaz, “Hey… that’s not fair! We’re having to work hard for what we get… and it’s our job! But you’re letting this woman have it easy, she just is able to pick up what we’ve already worked to pull out of the ground!”But that’s what grace is. It is receiving something that you didn’t deserve, couldn’t earn, and would never have gotten otherwise. Boaz is showing Ruth grace… as does Jesus to us. Grace is “God’s Riches At Christ’sExpense”… He paid the price, and we benefited big time.

(Ruth 2:17-19a) 17 So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work?…

I read this week that Christians use to greet each other this way: “Where have you gleaned today?”What if we still did that? Can you imagine? Talk about openness and accountability!

Unfortunately, I find it way too easy to describe the latest TV show I’ve watched, or movie I’ve seen, or sports game I’ve attended… than I do to describe the latest spiritual insight I’ve received from God’s Word. What we tend to talk about most, can identify where we’ve been gleaning. This is one of the reasons doing what we are doing now… diving into God’s Word… is so very important.

EXAMPLE:

In-N-Out example: Driving through Utah, I filled up on Burger King… and wasn’t hungry for a Double-Double from In-N-Out… something I was desperately hungry for!

All too often we’ve been feasting on the stuff that doesn’t satisfy, and we find we’ve lost appetite for the stuff that does.

(Ruth 2:19b-20) …Blessed be the one who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.”

20 Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.”

Check out the drastic change we see here in Naomi. Pretty cool when you think of where we first started out with her. Remember? In chapter one, verse 20: “…Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”Back in that study we talked about how the Hebrew word ‘mara’ is literally “bitter”. Naomi was so hurt, in the midst of her grieving, that she wanted people around her to actually call her, “bitter”.

Now, however, is the first time we see her coming out of that bitterness. Now, she is blessing the Lord again. Instead of blaming the Lord, she’s blessing the Lord. What caused the change?What took her from being “bitter”…to“better”?

Notice a few things: First, Naomi blessed Boaz for what he had done; “took notice of you”… and for who he was; “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives”. Then Naomi blessed the Lord, “who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!

This is huge! She blessed Boaz for what he had done, and for who he was. These are the two things that we too should bless the Lord for! We worship/thank/bless Him for all that He’s done for us personally… and we worship/thank/bless Him for all that He is too us.

Whenever we feel like it’s hard to worship and bless the Lord… a good thing to do is to remember those two things. Take a second and meditate on Who He is (all the nameson the bookmark) and then take a moment to meditate on what He’s done.

I suggest to you that it’s hard to remain bitter… about ANYTHING… when we truly stop and consider all that God has already done for us. Listen… there are a lot of things I have prayed over the years, wishing that God would ‘do’ for me. But the truth is… if God never did one other thing for me… He has already done more than enough by giving me His life on the Cross.

In the second Book of the Bible, the Book of Exodus there is neat story that shows us how to deal with the bitter things that happen in this life:

Exodus15:22-25a

22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.

God had done so many wonderful things for these people – delivered them from slavery, helped them escape the Egyptians (bad guys) by splitting the Red Sea and taking care of them. Now, however, they are thirsty. They begin to complain… and whine. It’s almost as if they have forgotten all that God has done for them.

We do that, right? No matter how good God has been, when we face a hardship… a trial…we tend to forget… to complain… act as if God has forgotten us… like He doesn’t care about us or for us.

So, all the people come to this lake. It’s looks awesome at first, but then when they try and drink it… it’s too bitter! They called it “Marah”, because “marah” means “bitter” in their Hebrew language. They’re stuck. They’re thirsty. They’re at the end of their rope… or so they think.

Their leader, a guy named Moses, cries out to God and the Bible says, “and the Lord showed him a tree…When he cast itinto the waters, the waters were made sweet.

Moses saw how desperate these people were, he knew they needed to drink, yet would be unable to, due to the bitterness of the only water around. So, he prays to the Lord, and the Lord “showed him a tree”. Moses cuts it down and tosses it into the bitter water and in a split second… the water loses all bitterness and becomes sweet!

Approximately1,476years later… there would be another Tree. We know it as the Crossof Jesus Christ. The New Testament Books of Galatians(chapter 3) and 1 Peter (2:24) talk of the Cross and refer to it as “the tree”. It is the Cross of Calvary… the Cross that Jesus died upon… which still transforms biter experiences, bitter people, and bitter circumstances.

How?By realizing that the wrongs done to us, the offenses against us, the disappo0intments registered by ushave allbeen paidfor, dealtwith, washed cleanby the blood of Calvary.

In our text, we see Naomi begin her transformation from “Bitter” to “Better”, because she goes from blaming the Lord, to blessing the Lord – to recognizing WHO BOAZ IS… and WHAT HE HAS DONE.

Please hear me carefully today: So too… if you and I are struggling with the hurts of this life causing bitterness to be rooted deep within us – the key for us is the same. We too, must stop and recognize, not only WHO GOD IS… but exactly WHAT HE HAS DONE. We must, in a sense, toss in the TREE – Remember God’s greatest gift – Jesus’ life on the Cross. As we do… we will watch the waters of our bitterness be miraculously transformed into the sweetness of praise.

We could stop here, but I want us to see one last lesson in our text… let’s read on and finish this chapter…

21 Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young menuntil they have finished all my harvest.’”

Okay… so this is odd. Ruth is referred to here specifically as, “the Moabitess”. Why?

I think it might be because she is showing a bit of her ‘Moabitish’ tendencies here. She quotes Boaz and tells Naomi that he specifically told her; “You shall stay close by my young menuntil they have finished all my harvest”… but go back and read verse 8,… what did Boaz ACTUALLY say? “…Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women”. Boaz didn’t tell Ruth to hang out with the young men, he said to hang out with the young women. Ruth twisted what he had told her.

Do we ever do that? Has God ever spoken something clearly to you that you either mis-heard, or flat out changed to better fit what you were more comfortable with? I wonder if this is what is happening here with Ruth? If it is… notice Naomi’s reaction

22 And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.” 23 So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.

Here Naomi reiterates exactly what Boaz ACTUALLY said. “Stay by the young women, Ruth, that’s what’s best for you!” And then we’re told in verse 23 that Ruth did exactly what Naomi andBoaz bothadmonished her to do.

Listen, Ruth was young… not only age-wise, but young in her walk with the one, true God. Boaz was a much older man, and Naomi was a much older woman. Both of them older in age, but also they both had known of, and walked with, the one, true God all their lives. In other words… The older, more mature ones are speaking into the lifeof the younger, less mature Ruth. This is awesome… and it is so needed today. The Body of Christ… the Church… is made up of mature believers – those who’ve walked with the Lord for many, many years. And the Body of Christ is made up of fairly new believers – those who are brand spanking new to this entire way of life.

New believers are in desperate need of someone with some maturity to lovingly, and with much care, speak into their lives! It’s easy for a new believer to get things twisted. It’s easy to misinterpret what the Master has said. In those times, the mature brother or sister must come alongside, and “tell the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

CONCLUSION:

Today, I know that I’m speaking to many who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ. You’ve been amazed at how He has changed your life. You’ve ‘tossed in the Cross’ and He has miraculously changed the bitter to so much better! Praise the Lord!

However, that’s not the end of the story for you. Finding salvation is wonderful. Being saved from our sins is incredible. But the Lord is not finished with you and me yet. He has plans for us. He wants to use us… in the lives of many others who He will bring along our path. Those who are mixed up and have misinterpreted Him. We must be those who speak out… and speak up… and lovingly correct.

Where are the spiritually mature?

Where are the spiritual mothers and fathers, who will come alongside the next generation?

Pareto Principlesays that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people in any organization. That often is the case in most churches too. Here at The Alpine Chapel we are wanting to turn that statistic on its head. It is time for all those who are mature to step out… and step up… and begin to do something.

READ:Ephesians 4:11-15

equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” – This is my job as a pastor. So, starting this month, and every month from now on, there will be more opportunities to ‘equip’ our folks for this awesome work of ministry.

Let’s pray…

 

[*I use The New King James Version, and most quotes from the Bible will be from NKJV, unless otherwise noted. Also, I use various books and commentaries when preparing a message. I have NOT given credit in each instance, but will say that I do not use on-line commentaries such as Blue-Letter Bible, or other on-line sources. I use the following on a pretty regular basis, because I own them: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, Jewish New Testament Commentary, The Complete Biblical Library (NIV), Skip Heitzig’s ‘The Bible From 30,000 Feet’, William MacDonald’s ‘Believer’s Bible Commentary’, Matthew Henry’s ‘A Commentary On The Whole Bible’, Jon Courson’s ‘Application Commentary’, Holman’s Study Bible, The Archeological Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, William Barclay’s Commentaries ‘The Daily Bible Series’. I think that’s about it.]

Meaningful Memorial Day – Ruth 2:5-14

The following is a sermon I preached at The Alpine Chapel in Telluride, Colorado, as part of a thru-the-Bible teaching on the Book of Ruth. 

INTRODUCTION:

It’s Memorial Day weekend. Originally known as ‘Decoration Day’, the holiday was established on May 5th, 1868 by the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans. Envisioned as an opportunity for the nation to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead, General John Login declared May 30thas the official date of commemoration because by that time, flowers would be in bloom all across the country.

Ceremonies were first held at Arlington National Cemetery with children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan home placing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, all the while reciting prayers and singing hymns.

[The Origins of Memorial Day, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Public Affairs. See: www.1.va.gov/pubaff/mday/mdayorig.htm]

History has a way of sanitizing even the most brutal of circumstances, but can you imagine the pain and sorrow that must have been represented on the green fields of Arlington that first Memorial Day morning? I close my eyes and I can see a little girl of just five or six, a yellow ribbon in her hair, placing a rose beside a granite marker of her father – a man she never knew. He fell at Shiloh, or Vicksburg. I also see a boy of maybe 10, dressed in his Sunday best, who is kneeling in the shadow of a towering oak tree. He is now old enough to read the markings on his daddy’s grave and mature enough to remember him, too. This is now the final resting place of his father who left with the other idealistic young men who marched off to fight in our nation’s bloodiest war. Six hundred thousand of them never came back, and many of those who survived were horribly disfigured and disabled.

The prosperity that we enjoy today has been purchased with their blood, sweat, and tears… and we cannot, we must not, forget the sacrifices in the Civil War and on a thousand other battlefields around the world since then. Perhaps we can draw new inspiration from the words of Abraham Lincoln, spoken in a Gettysburg ceremony where so many brave men had recently died:

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave us the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

This Memorial Day weekend we pray that American military personnel currently deployed in Pakistan, Yemen, South Korea, and Somalia – and those also in Iraq and Afghanistan… and other places around the world… will be able to help bring about this ‘new birth of freedom’ of which Lincoln spoke on behalf of those who are oppressed, exploited, and imprisoned. We also pray that the terrorism that arises within our own beloved country upon innocent people in schools and churches would cease… and for the brave police officers, fire fighters, and other emergency responders. Our world is broken… in desperate need of Jesus. But, this weekend is so much more than just a 3-Day-Weekend. It’s a day when we honor those who shed their blood that we might live in freedom. It’s a day when we remember those that gave their lives that we might enjoy liberty.

This being Memorial Day weekend, I want us, as a church family, to consider another One, Who shed His blood that we might have liberty. Let’s think about One, Who gave His life that we might live eternally and in freedom presently. I want us to consider Jesus Christ and how we might honor Him. You see, Monday across the country there will be parades honoring the soldiers who died on the battlefield so bravely. There will be speeches orated, and various monuments concerning those who gave their lives sacrificially. Jesus, though, our King, is the greatest soldier of all. He single-handedly stormed the gates of Hell… single-handedly gained the victory and gave His life sacrificially. It’s an amazing thing that He did for us.

How do we honor Him? Do we, like they are going to do on Monday, march in a parade to show our pride and love for Jesus? Or… do we erect a monument in His honor? Jesus, interestingly enough, didn’t ask us to march publicly in a parade in honor of Him. That’s not really His style. In fact, we are told that He “wouldn’t be heard in the streets” (Matthew 12:19). Jesus moved with such humility… such quietness… that when it came time to betray Him, He had to be ‘kissed’ and identified as ‘the Man’, because people were still unfamiliar with Him. It didn’t seem that Jesus was really into parades. He wasn’t interested in monuments or even buildings being set up for His honor either. Remember He said, ‘Not one stone will be set on another’– speaking of the Temple. “This place is going to be totally obliterated… not standing at all!”And if you know your history, you know that the Temple, sure enough, was totally torn down in the year 70 A.D.

So, if Jesus isn’t into parades, monuments, or buildings… what does He want from us? How are we supposed to remember His death? How are we supposed to memorialize Him? Believe it or not, the Bible comes right out and tells us… pretty plainly:

1 Corinthians 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,“Take, eat; this is My body which isbroken for you; do this in remembranceof Me.

Or a ‘memorial for Me’. “This is what I want you to do… not parades, buildings, or monuments. Just take and eat and do THIS in remembrance of Me.”

Today, we’ll be sharing the communion meal together… but before we do… let’s continue in Ruth, chapter 2… and pick up where we left off last time… verse 5…

(Ruth 2:5-7)5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.”

Here we are introduced to this unnamed servant. Who is this guy?He reminds me of the other unnamed servant, we spoke of a few weeks ago, who Abram sent to find a wife for his son. The story is found in Genesis 24, and the servant found Rebekah for Isaac.

These unnamed servants are awesome pictures to you and me of the Holy Spirit. The One who seeks a bride for Jesus; the One who moves in secrecy, never speaking of Himself, always pointing to Jesus – the One who drew youand me into a relationship with Jesus.

(Ruth 2:8) Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. 

This is what our ‘Greater-than-Boaz’, Jesus Christ still says to us today: “Don’t go to some other field to find your sustenance. Stay in MY field. Don’t go elsewhere to find some deeper theological truth, or some exciting new mysterious, esoteric experience, some new slant on doctrine. Stay in the field of redemption… the field of God’s Word.”

(Ruth 2:9)Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”

I love this! She doesn’t even have to find her own water. Boaz is totally looking out for her! He’s protecting her from the advances of the young men, and he’s providing water to quench her thirst. Sounds a lot like what our Greater-than-Boaz, Jesus Christ also does for us.

When we choose to walk after God, stay in His field, find our sustenance in Him alone… He has got our backs. Jesus told the woman at the well that He could give her water that would foreverquench her thirst,…

and then He stood up in the synagogue, in John 7:37-38and cried out,

If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

Jesus in the last day of the great feast of Tabernacles, when no water would be brought from the Pool of Siloam [tell story – Psalm 118:25 “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.”], cried out in reference to their emptiness and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Again, the Holy Spirit… like the unnamed servant… draws the bride to the BrideGroom… into relationship with Jesus – where ALL OUR NEEDS ARE MET! Only Jesus can protect us and satisfy the deepest thirst of our souls!

(Ruth 2:10-12)10 So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

 Notice Ruth’s response to the grace that is being shown to her. She falls on her face. She bowed down to the ground. She calls herself a ‘foreigner’, but we know she’s more than that! She’s a Moabitess! God had cursed the Moabites and proclaimed they could not come near the tabernacle for ten generations (Deuteronomy 23:3). This meant that if your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother had Moabite blood in her, you could not come into the Sanctuary, even though you were an Israelite. Indeed the Moabites were a cursed people – and Ruth knew it. That is why she was blown away by Boaz. The “big man in Bethlehem” was so good to her. “Why have I– a Moabitess – found grace?”she asked.

That’s exactly how I feel. How could it be that I have found grace in God’s sight? When I realize that I could do nothing! I had absolutely nothing to do with my salvation. The Holy Spirit drew me, and Jesus filled me… I causes me to be blown away too!

I also love how Boaz basically says, “Hey, Ruth… I know you. I know all about you.”

I think of Nathanael – When Philip came to him in John 1, saying he had found the Messiah, Nathanael sarcastically said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Come and see,” Philip said.

When Jesus later saw Nathanael coming, He said, “Behold an Israelite in whom there is not guile – one who is not easily tricked.

I love that! Jesus could have condemned Nathanael for his sarcasm and unbelief, instead, he commended him for his caution.

How do you know me?” asked Nathanael.

Before Philip came to you, I saw you sitting under the fig tree,” Jesus answered (John 1:48).

The Lord sees us. The Lord knows us. And the Lord has chosen to show grace to us. I don’t understand it. I know I don’t deserve it. But I am so grateful for it.

This is the Good News!The Lord does not condemn you. He commends you. He doesn’t focus on your sin. He hears your sigh. He hears your heart saying, “I want more of You, Lord. Even though I am a Moabite, even though I have problems, I want to be right in your sight.”

And He responds with grace.

(Ruth 2:13-14)13 Then she said, ‘Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.’ 14 Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, ‘Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.’ So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back.

And here we have another beautiful picture for us. Boaz invites Ruth to share a meal with him… eat of the bread and dip it into the vinegar. The word there for ‘vinegar’ is the Hebrew word, “homes” and is translated literally, “wine vinegar”.

It is the word used in Psalm 69:21

They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegarto drink.

Other translations translate this word as “sour wine” (NLT, ESV).

This, obviously, is a Messianic prophecy… because when Jesus hung on the Cross we read,

“Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.”(John 19:29).

CONCLUSION:

This is Memorial Day weekend…

1 Corinthians 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,“Take, eat; this is My body which isbroken for you; do this in remembranceof Me.

Remember this is also a ‘memorial for Me’. “This is what I want you to do… not parades, buildings, or monuments. Just take and eat and do THIS in remembrance of Me.”

Today, we don’t only remember the death and the sacrifice of the ONE who purchased our freedom… we also remember the AMAZING GRACE He has shown us… Moabites… who didn’t deserve it.

Let’s pray…

 

[*I use The New King James Version, and most quotes from the Bible will be from NKJV, unless otherwise noted. Also, I use various books and commentaries when preparing a message. I have NOT given credit in each instance, but will say that I do not use on-line commentaries such as Blue-Letter Bible, or other on-line sources. I use the following on a pretty regular basis, because I own them: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, Jewish New Testament Commentary, The Complete Biblical Library (NIV), Skip Heitzig’s ‘The Bible From 30,000 Feet’, William MacDonald’s ‘Believer’s Bible Commentary’, Matthew Henry’s ‘A Commentary On The Whole Bible’, Jon Courson’s ‘Application Commentary’, Holman’s Study Bible, The Archeological Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, William Barclay’s Commentaries ‘The Daily Bible Series’. I think that’s about it.]

Are You In The Way? – Ruth 2:2-4

The following is a sermon I preached at The Alpine Chapel in Telluride, Colorado.

INTRODUCTION:

We’re continuing through the Book of Ruth, a powerful little love story that ministers a message of hope to any who feel hopeless, helpless, and hurting. We’ve finished up chapter one, and got all the way through chapter 2, verse 1 last week!

Let’s pick up where we left off last time…and for the sake of context I’ll start at the beginning of chapter 2…  

(Ruth 2:1-2)1 There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz.So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.”And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.

Ruth, although a new follower of the one true God, must know something about Scripture. Notice, this is not Naomi (the woman who was a Hebrew and knew the Lord), it was Ruth (the woman who is a ‘Moabitess’) who is asking/begging to not just sit around and starve, but go out and work for food by gleaning heads of grain.

The Midrach – the Hebrew commentary respected by all biblical historians– declares that Ruth was none other than the daughter of Eglon. Do you know who that is? He was the king of Moab who oppressed the Israelites for eighteen years! He is the only man in the entire Bible referred to as, “a very fat man” (Judges 3:17). This guy was a bad dude! He finally was taken out by a man, that God had raised up, named Ehud. It is absolutely one of the coolest stories in the Bible!

Quickly tell the story from Judges 3

Anyways… Ruth is this fat guy’s daughter! This is how she was raised! In a totally secular, immoral, anti-God way! And yet, in verse 2 we see her begging Naomi to go out and glean grain. Maybe you think… “So what?” Well, it’s a BIG DEAL, because in the Law of God, God had made another beautifully compassionate provision for the poor which stated that a poor person could go into the fields during the time of harvest and gather whatever was left behind by the reapers.

Deuteronomy 24:18-19– “But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this thing. ‘When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless youin all the work of your hands.

If you put two-and-two together here, you begin to realize that Ruth,a young woman who was raised in a completely anti-God way, by an evil and immoral father, somehowknows the Word of God well enough that she has to, in a sense, remind her mother-in-law, of what Scripture declares. She begs Naomi to allow her to go and do EXACTLY what Scripture declares she CAN do… and it is going to result in, not only them not starving, but in her meeting the man of her dreams!

Gang, it doesn’t matter where you come from… who your parents were… how awful your upbringing might have been… when God becomes YOUR GOD… diving into reading the Bible is going to end up being awesome for you! We don’t read the Bible, as Christians, because its sort-of this RULE (all good boys and girls read the Bible). No man, we read the Bible because it will benefit US! God wants to bless you! God wants to do things that you can’t even imagine, and the BEST WAY for you to be blessed and to make GOOD CHOICES… is for you to know what God’s will is. The best way for you to know what God’s will is… is to read HIS WORD. Ruth must have read His Word… because she is quoting it perfectly here in verse 2.

(Ruth 2:3)Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happenedto come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

The wording here is very interesting: “she happenedto come to the part of the field belonging…”. I think that is so cool! She just “happened” to wind up in the field belonging to some guy who just happenedto be related to her deceased father-in-law. Listen, Ruth didn’t know that this guy was a close relative… a ‘kinsman’. God was directing her steps!

In this story, Ruth is a picture of you and me. We’re the Bride of Christ… but we didn’t start out that way – just like Ruth didn’t start out being the bride of Boaz.

We were lost. We were hungryand maybe we didn’t even know it! And then one day we just ‘happened’ to find ourselves in the field of Jesus. One day, someone invited us to church, or to Bible study. Or maybe we just happened to have parents or grandparents, or a friend that introduced us? Or maybe we were clicking thru channels on the TV, or the radio dial… and we just happenedto hear this GOOD NEWS?

However it “just happened”… it was ALL PART OF GOD’S PLAN… that we were allowed to come in contact with our ‘Greater-than-Boaz, Jesus Christ!

Listen, when we are obedient to God’s Word, as Ruth was, and obedient to His Holy Spirit’s promptingswe can be assured that we are in His covering and in His hands.

Psalm 119:33Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me.

Proverbs 16:9A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

Psalm 37:23(NLT) “The Lord directs the steps of the godly, He delights in every detail of their lives.

Jeremiah 10:23(NLT) “I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course.

Turn with me to Genesis 24… this is another love story: Abraham wanted a wife for his son, Isaac… but he wanted her to be from the land of Canaan. So he had his lead servant travel there and find the perfect wife for Isaac. The servant was a little intimidated by this great task, but obeyed his master, Abraham. When he arrived he went to a well, and… you’ll have to read it later to get all the cool details… he ran into this beautiful, young woman named, “Rebekah”. After meeting and talking with her, he knows she’s the one that God has picked for Isaac, and the servant…

Genesis 24:26-27Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord. And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the Lord led meto the house of my master’s brethren.”

Many times, people wonder how God will lead them. “How will I know whether to take that job, get involved in this relationship, or take on a new ministry?” they ask.

The servant says, “As for me, being in the way, the Lord led me…” I think the wording here is super-duper awesome!Centuries after this story took place there would be this Rabbi named, Jesus, and He would have the audacity to declare, “I am the Way” (John 14:6); and did you know that the first group of Christians… the early church… would be called, “the Way” (Acts 19:23)?

When you and I are walking in the Way, if we’re obeying Jesus and walking with Him…living according to His Word, we will end up at the right spot, and at the right time. We never have to waste our time struggling and striving to find God’s will.

Simply walk day by day in the Way, and, as He did Abraham’s servant, and as He did for Ruth… God will lead you.

Maybe you’re listening to me, and you’re thinking;

Man, how in the world am I supposed to walk in the Way?

You don’t know how hard my life is?

You don’t know the kind of people I work with… or live with?

I don’t think Jesus wants to be anywhere close to where I’m livin’!

Look at the nextverse in Ruth…

(Ruth 2:4)Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, ‘The Lord be with you!’ And they answered him, ‘The Lord bless you!’

This is pretty cool: Boaz walked among his reapers, saying, ‘The Lord be WITH you’…

Just like Jesus, our ‘Greater-than-Boaz’,is called, ‘EMMANUEL’, which means, “GodWITHus”.

God desperately wants to walk withyou and me. He ALWAYShas:

Genesis 3:8And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the gardenin the cool of the day…

Deuteronomy 23:14For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you…”

John 1:14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory…

Philippians 2:5-8Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

God has ALWAYS desired to walk WITHus.

But the truth is… man hasn’t always desired to walk with God.

But that is going to change. That passage in Philippians doesn’t end at verse 8…

Philippians 2:9-11Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confessthat Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Every person is… one day… going to see Jesus walking among us.

And like the workers in the field, who saw Boaz and heard Boaz say, “The Lord be withyou!”… responded by saying, “The Lord bless you!

So too, will every person, not only recognize that the Lord is walking among them… they will bless His name. Everyone. Even the person you may be thinking of right now, that you would NEVER imagine that they’d ever bless the Lord or confess Him… they too will bow their knee and bless the Lord.

Praise the Lord… we know that we can walk with Jesus right now!I use to sing an old hymn that had this line in it: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other has ever known!

For the longest time I just wanted to know who “ANDY” was!  But it ain’t ANDY that we’re talking about… it’s JESUS.

We have a great hope! Just like Job had (a guy who had a pretty rough life, by the way):

Job 19:25For I know that my Redeemerlives, and he shall stand at last on the earth;

CONCLUSION:

It’s not a coincidence that you are here this morning. God wants you! He wants to walk with you… daily.

He wants to speak to you through His Word.

He wants to direct your paths.

You’re not just “happening” to be hearing this today. God wants you!

Communion: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Let’s pray…

 

[*I use The New King James Version, and most quotes from the Bible will be from NKJV, unless otherwise noted. Also, I use various books and commentaries when preparing a message. I have NOT given credit in each instance, but will say that I do not use on-line commentaries such as Blue-Letter Bible, or other on-line sources. I use the following on a pretty regular basis, because I own them: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, Jewish New Testament Commentary, The Complete Biblical Library (NIV), Skip Heitzig’s ‘The Bible From 30,000 Feet’, William MacDonald’s ‘Believer’s Bible Commentary’, Matthew Henry’s ‘A Commentary On The Whole Bible’, Jon Courson’s ‘Application Commentary’, Holman’s Study Bible, The Archeological Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, William Barclay’s Commentaries ‘The Daily Bible Series’. I think that’s about it.]

 

Picture Perfect – Ruth 2:1

The following is a sermon I preached at The Alpine Chapel in Telluride, Colorado.

INTRODUCTION:

We’re making our way through the Old Testament Book of Ruth; 4 chapters, and only 85 verses long, the mighty midget with a meaningful message! It is a powerful little loves story which shows how the Lord can take something totally wiped-out and make it totally far-out. It’s a Book in the Bible that ministers a message of hope to any who feel hopeless, helpless, and hurting. We’ve finished up chapter one, where we were introduced to Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth; two ladies who’ve lost their husbands and have made their way to the city of Bethlehem-Judah, from the city of Moab.

Oftentimes, before God changes our circumstances, He wants to change our hearts. If our circumstances change for the better, but we remain the same, then I’m not so sure things are actually “better”. God’s purpose is not to make us comfortable, but to make us conformable, “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Looking more like Jesus is really the ultimate goal for each of God’s kids.

As we talked about last time, Naomi was bitter against God, but Ruth was willing for God to have His way in her life, so God began His gracious work with Ruth. Ruth would end up influencing Naomi, and then God would bring to pass a wonderful work that would eventually bring the Son of God into the world. Ruth and Naomi had no idea that they were an integral part of an eternal plan. That plan was to bring the Messiah – the ‘Anointed One’ – the ‘Deliverer’ – the ‘Light of the World’ – Jesus Christ. Ruth would end up being in Jesus’ family tree. The love story that we’re talking about here, results in Jesus being birthed!

Listen, I find this really, really cool! Ruth’s story begins with the death of her husband, and it ends with Jesus being birthed! This is an amazing truth that still is true today. Sometimes our heartaches and trials can seem to be the end… but if we’ll hold onto God during those seasons of heartbreak, we too, will see Jesus being ‘birthed’ through our lives!

Let’s pick up where we left off last week…in the first verse of chapter 2…  

(Ruth 2:1)1There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz.

Here we are introduced to Boaz. His name in Hebrew means, “standing in strength”. Remember, he lived during the “days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1)… and those days are described in the last verse of the Book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The days, the country, and the culturewere extremely tough, yet Boaz was a man who truly stood strong and true in days offilth and famine.

This guy was impressive, to say the least. He was ofthe tribe of Judah, and from him would come the greatest king Israel would ever have, King David… and ultimately, the king of Kings, Jesus Christ! Solomon was so impressed with his great, great grandpa, that he named one of the two main pillars of the Temple after him (1 Kings 7:21)… If you think about it, “standing in strength” would be a pretty good name for one of the main pillars in the Temple, right?

So, here you have this strong, impressive man, Boaz… and he is apicture of Jesus.The word ‘relative’ here is the Hebrew word ‘modat’, which literally means, ‘kinsmen’. In other English translations thatisthe word used (KJV, NASB). What’s interesting, is that this word, ‘kinsman’, is found eleven other times throughout the small Book of Ruth, and in each of those eleven times it is not the word ‘modat’ that is used, it is the Hebrew word, “ga-al”. I don’t want to lose you here, but I find this very interesting. Every other time “relative” or “kinsman” is used in this story, it is the word “ga-al”. Maybe you say, “So what? Who cares?” Well… the Hebrew word “ga-al”, which is also translated “kinsman” eleven times in Ruth, has a few other meanings: “relative”, “kinsmen”, and “deliverer”, “avenger”, and “redeemer”.

Again… Boaz is a picture of Jesus. I grew up hearing things like, “Jesus is our Kinsmen-Redeemer”, but to be honest… I never really understood what that meant. To get a grasp on what an awesome thing that is, we must first understand that the word “ga-al” has its roots in chapters 25 of Numbersand Leviticus, where God had outlined a plan to prevent capitalism from getting out of hand. Every fifty years, there was something called the ‘Year of Jubilee’. In this particular year, all properties purchased by corporations or wealthy individuals due to bankruptcy were to go back to the original owner. In the Year of Jubilee, all debts were canceled. It was Father God’s safeguard against the greed which causes such a gap between the rich and the poor.

As gracious as the Year of Jubilee was, however, fifty years is a long time to be without your land – especially if you’re a farmer. So, the Lord made another provision: The closestrelative, or ‘kinsmen’, had the right, at ANY time, to buy back property which had been lost through bankruptcy, poor business practices, or mismanagement. That is why the word ‘ga-al’ is translated both ‘kinsman’ and ‘redeemer’.

So… above and beyond all of that, a redeemer was a relative who could “buy” a personthat had been sold into slavery, usually because of debt. If a person became enslaved because of debt, the redeemer would “purchase” the person to obtain their freedom. As a result, the redeemer would “own” the person, but as a close family member, not as a slave. This entire Book of Ruth is an example of this whole awesome process. Its why, I believe, we have this love story in our Bibles. Boaz acts as a kinsman-redeemer for Ruth. In Ruth 4 (verses 5,13)it says he “bought” her and she became his wife. God has given us this story, as a PERFECT PICTURE of what is happening with you and me today:

Jesus is our ‘Ga-al’. We’re bankrupt. We’re out of it. Like Ruth and Naomi, we have nothing. Sin has come in and separated us from a loving and beautiful God. But there is One who stands in strength. He is our Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Colossians 2:13-14(NASB)– “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

I love that! Jesus, our Kinsman-Redeemer, forgives us “all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt…”. Everything I owed… gone! You see, my sin cost something… big time! Romans 6:23declares that “…the wages of sin is death…”. The cost is DEATH!Because I chose a life of rebellion, I was going to have a day of reckoning. But Jesus, stood strong on my behalf. He went to the Cross and died a horrific death… being nailed to it. In so doing, “…He has taken it(my debt)out of the way…”.

When I was a kid we use to sing a song in church based on Isaiah 51:11 (KJV)“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away”.

The redeemed of the Lord” in that verse is speaking of the Lord’s people having been brought across the Red Sea, delivered by God miraculously out ofslavery. God calls them “the redeemed”… but His goal wasn’t just to free them from slavery! He wanted an intimate relationshipwith them!

Exodus 6:6–7–“Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem youwith an outstretched arm and with great judgments.I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians”

God was saying that He would be their Redeemer and take them as His people, as a man takes a woman as his wife, as Boaz did for Ruth. God did not just want to release them from slavery, but He wanted an intimate relationship with His people, like that of a husband and wife. He redeemed them out of love for them and wanted them to be close to Him forever. Often the Scriptures speak of God as the husband/redeemer of Israel:

Isaiah 54:5– “For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth.

Jesus, who was our Redeemer from sin, also “purchased us” as His people with His blood that was shed on the cross. As Peter says,

1 Peter 1:18 – 19– “knowing that you were not redeemedwith corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

Peter points out that Jesus was the spotless lamb… and it was the Lamb’s blood that paid for our freedom. Just like the lamb’s blood protected the Israelites in Egypt and led to their redemption from slavery. In the same way, Jesus’ blood redeemed us from our debt of sin, and the death we deserve because of it. Through His death, Christ “bought” us as His people, but not justto set us free. Instead, like a husband taking a wife, He redeemed us out of His great love, so that we could have an intimate relationship with Him.

Boaz is about to redeem Ruth and free her from her situation of indebtedness… being poor… being without hope – even as Jesus Christ has redeemed us, the church, and brought us out of our slavery to sin… but also into intimate relationship with Him… as His bride.

As we can see… this is a PERFECT PICTURE.

Boaz,the kinsman-redeemer/ Jesus,ourKinsman-Redeemer.

CONCLUSION:

Today, I’m grateful for this glimpse at Who Jesus is, and what He’s done for me. It’s good to be reminded. I think it’s easy for us to forget… how much gracewe’ve been shown.

Remember the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and the anointing oil? They complained.

Luke 7:47– “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

Do you love little, today? How much have you been forgiven?

You and I will NEVER be CONFORMED into Jesus’ image, if we love little.

We will never see Jesus “birthed” in our world… if we don’t see the depth of our sin, and our need for a Kinsman-Redeemer.

We must be those that look at the PERFECT PICTURE…

of Boaz’ love and saving of Ruth,… and see Jesus.

But… I also wonder if you and I could be a picture perfect,PERFECT PICTURE?

Like…we can read this story, look at Boaz, and see Jesus…

But wouldn’t it be cool if people could look at us… and see Jesus?

It starts with understanding we’ve been forgiven… A LOT.

Then falling in love with Jesus.

 If the world sees that… then maybe they’ll see Him. 

 Let’s pray…

 

[*I use The New King James Version, and most quotes from the Bible will be from NKJV, unless otherwise noted. Also, I use various books and commentaries when preparing a message. I have NOT given credit in each instance, but will say that I do not use on-line commentaries such as Blue-Letter Bible, or other on-line sources. I use the following on a pretty regular basis, because I own them: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, Jewish New Testament Commentary, The Complete Biblical Library (NIV), Skip Heitzig’s ‘The Bible From 30,000 Feet’, William MacDonald’s ‘Believer’s Bible Commentary’, Matthew Henry’s ‘A Commentary On The Whole Bible’, Jon Courson’s ‘Application Commentary’, Holman’s Study Bible, The Archeological Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, William Barclay’s Commentaries ‘The Daily Bible Series’. I think that’s about it.]

Emotion or Devotion – Ruth 1:6-22

The following is a transcript of a sermon I preached at the Alpine Chapel in Telluride, Colorado.

INTRODUCTION:

Last week we began our journey through the Old Testament Book of Ruth, the 8thBook in the Old Testament, that is only 4 short chapters, but packs a mighty punch. It’s a love story that contains many beautiful pictures and lessons for those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. Last week we were introduced to a woman named Naomi, who lost her husband, and then her two sons. We talked about how she and her family had fled from Bethlehem-Judah (The House of Bread and the Place of Praise) during a famine and run off to Moab (which is a picture of the sinfulness of this world). We talked about how oftentimes, we Christians are tempted to do the very same thing spiritually; leave the House of Bread – the Word of God and the intimate relationship we have with the Lord during times of spiritual famine. When things are dry… instead of staying put and crying out to the Lord (as 2 Chronicles 7 describes), we can tend to “flesh out”… run off to something sinful. When that happens, the thing that dies first is the “KINGship” of Jesus, which is followed up by the loss of the praise (song) on our lips, and then the satisfactiondissipates as well.

Today, our story pics up with the widow, Naomi, and her two widowed daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth heading out of Moab and going back to Bethlehem-Judah, the House of Bread and Place of Praise. We’re going to see these three ladies, all of which are grieving – they just lost their husbands! But we are going to see that they each have very different reactions, which I find interesting.

Everybody responds to bad things happening to them in different ways, right? Especially, when we’ve lost someone or something that was very close to us: Whether that be a loved one passing, or a relationship ending, or even a job not working out like we had hoped. When life throws a curve-ball at us, it’s going to hurt… and as Christ-followers, it unfortunately hurts no less. However, as Christ-followers, how are we to react in the midst of our grief? Our text today gives us 3 possible ways

Let’s pick up where we left off last week…  

(Ruth 1:6)“Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heardin the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread.”

How sad it is when people only hearabout God’s blessing, but never experience it themselves, because they are not in the place where God can bless them. Naomi had left the House of Bread and Place of Praise, and now she hears how Bethlehem is being blessed, and those who waited it out there, were receiving bread. It’s always that way.

(Isaiah 40:31) “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

(Gal. 6:9) “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Again, the lesson from last week: Stay at home! Cry out to God… wait on Him… don’t grow weary in doing good… God ALWAYS shows up… eventually!

I also think it’s interesting that Naomi only heard that the famine had ended in Bethlehem AFTER her husband and sons had died. Was it her loss that led her to finally listen?

C.S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasure, but He shouts to us in our pain.”

Let’s read on

(Ruth 1:7-13)Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house. The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters, go—for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, 13 would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!

So, Naomi says to her daughters-in-law, “Go back to your hometown of Moab. Go back to your people… go back to your false gods… go back to the life you had before you ever met me or my sons. Go back to the life you had before you ever met our God.”

This is odd to me. Why would anyone want their loved ones to go back to their false gods?

I mean, Naomi is being pretty adamant here. In Numbers 10:29, we read where Moses is talking to his father-in-law, begging him to go with them the place the Lord had promised to the Israelites. The father-in-law didn’t want to go, but Moses kept insisting, saying, “if you go with us…whatever the good the Lord will do to us” the same will be done for you (vs 32). But Naomi here is doing the exact opposite! Why would she want them going back to the old life, worshipping false gods… living amongst pagans?

Perhaps Naomi didn’t want to take Orpah and Ruth to Bethlehem because they were living proof of her past sin; that she and her hubby had permitted their two sons to marry women from outside the covenant nation?

(Proverbs 28:13) “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

When we try to cover our sins, it’s proof that we really haven’t faced them honestly and judged them according to God’s Word. True repentance involves honest confession and brokenness within.

(Psalm 51:17)“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will no despise.”

Instead of brokenness… Naomi had bitterness. We’ll talk more about her bitterness in a moment…

(Ruth 1:14-22)14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.15 And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you,Or to turn back from following after you;For wherever you go, I will go;And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;Your people shall be my people,And your God, my God.17 Where you die, I will die,And there will I be buried.The Lord do so to me, and more also,If anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.19 Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi;[a] call me Mara,[b] for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?  22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.”

We see these three women, who are all hurting and grieving, yet they each have drastically different responses in their grief.

First, Naomi.Naomi is, apparently, very bitter. We see this in how she is behaving, but also she tells us… when she arrives in Bethlehem the whole city is excited to see her (which is pretty cool by the way… whenever a person who has walked away from the House of Bread and the Place of praise… even if it was due to their own sin… that’s who the people who hung around should respond, right? Remember the story of the prodigal son, he took off to enjoy sin for a season, and when he realized that it was a mistake and he wanted to come home, of course the Father is excited – God always is when prodigals come home! But remember the older brother? He was NOT excited! He was mad! “I’ve been here the whole time, what about me?!” These people are excited to see their friend and sister come home. So too, should we be.) So Naomi arrives and everyone is excited, and the women of the area say, “Is this Naomi?” (It’s been over ten years). Naomi responds, “Don’t call me Naomi (“pleasant”)… call me “Mara”,which means ‘bitter’…for the Lord has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” Sounds a lot like what she told her daughters-in-law, up in verse 13, “…the hand of the Lordhas gone out against me!”

Naomi is interpreting her hard circumstances as coming from God’s hatred toward her; as the rest of the Book will make plain… but she is mistaken. God didn’t hate Naomi… He simply allowed some things into her life – not to punish her, but to correct her and get her back on track. God still allows things like this – never to punish, but always to correct. Listen, God is not mad at you, angry with you, or disappointed in you, but loves you and wants to speak to you and get you to where He can bless and use you best.

I wonder if Naomi’s bitterness towards God, and her blaming God, is what led to Orpah going back to Moab? I wonder if she had properly represented the Lord, if she would have brought back with her TWO trophies of grace, rather than only one (Ruth)?

Quick side note: Can I just say… God doesn’t like us to MIS-REPRESENT Him? If you don’t’ believe me, just read Numbers 20:2-13, where God asked Moses to go before the people and speak to a rock so that water would overflow and quench all the people’s thirst, but because of Moses’ anger and bitterness towards the people who were doing nothing and complaining – rather than speaking to the rock, as God instructed, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff. God still poured out water and quenched the people’s thirst, because He loved them and cared for them always… but God wouldn’t allow Moses to enter into the Promised Land. Why? Because Moses hit a rock a couple of times? No. Because Moses MIS-REPRESENTED God. God wasn’t angry, and Moses made Him out to be.

Bitterness will always eat up a person and cause them to MIS-REPRESENTGod. If we are going to call ourselves ‘Christians’ – “Christ-followers”… then bitterness has no place in our hearts. Even when we think we have every right to be upset, angry, and bitter… we must always remember that the world is watching.

I’m NOT saying that we can’t grieve… and be sad… but in our grief, we must remember who God has called us to represent: Him.

Second reaction I see is Orpah’s reaction: She goes back to the old life… the old hometown… the old gods… the old sin. Granted, her mother-in-law was begging her to go back, and the witness was awful, but ultimately, every person is given a free-will, and Orpah ‘choose’ to go back on her own volition.

What I find very interesting about Orpah here, is that she is totally filled with emotion.

I mean, they’re all weeping, and the original language makes it sound like they’re being LOUD about it! She is showing LOTS of EMOTION… verse 14even says that Orpah kissedher mother-in-law before heading back to the old life.

I think we see this a lot in the Body of Christ, the Church, today. People filled with lots of emotion… but no real DEVOTION. It’s easy, maybe, for them to seem “all-in” one moment, outwardly passionate… but inwardly, it’s not AUTHENTIC. The first chance that comes… the first chance some other Christian is a poor witness – perhaps because their eyes were on a person, rather than on Jesus? – they turn back to the old life.

Hebrews 12:1b-2a– “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”, Other translations will interpret that as, “fixing our eyes on Jesus”. In other words, letting NOTHING else… or NO ONE else… get in the way to distract us from looking unto God alone.

Men and women will always let you down, even those men and women in the Church… but Jesus will never let us down. We must look to Him alone. Yes, Naomi was a poor example and witness, but Orpah apparently never really had any DEVOTION to Naomi’s God… just Naomi.

So… guess what? She had lots of EMOTION… but no DEVOTION. How many Christians today, in churches all across the world… have lots of EMOTION (they love the goose-bumps and the happy feelings they get from religion and church), but their hearts are far from an authentic relationship with the living God?

The third reaction, Ruth’s reaction, is the one that is the perfect example for you and I this morning: Authentic DEVOTION.

Read: (Ruth 1:16-18)“But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you,Or to turn back from following after you;For wherever you go, I will go;And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;Your people shall be my people,And your God, my God.17 Where you die, I will die,And there will I be buried.The Lord do so to me, and more also,If anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.

Notice the radical stubbornnessof Ruth? Verse 18 says that Naomi even stopped talking to Ruth! Can you imagine that? Ruth is DEVOTED!

“I’ll go with you!

                        I’ll stay with you!

                                    I’ll die with you!

                                                Your people will be my people!”

This is radical, right? I often use these words in wedding vows, when I’m officiating a wedding. To me… these words are unbelievable!

   I mean, listen…

Ruth is hurtingtoo.

Ruth is grievingtoo.

Ruth has a poor witness exemplifying Godtoo.

Ruth has friends and familyback in Moab too.

But there is something inside of Ruth, that won’t let her go back to the old life, and I think it’s a lot more than just a really awesome mother-in-law!

Psalm 34:8– “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

CONCLUSION:

What have you and I tasted? Have we tasted the real thing?

May webe:

Those that are willing to ‘WAIT’ on God, knowing that He will renew our strength!

Those that guard our hearts from becoming ‘BITTER’, even in the midst of trials.

Those that ‘NEVER MIS-REPRESENT THE LORD’… knowing that the world is watching.

Those that are not only filled with “EMOTION”… but authentic “DEVOTION” for God… always FIXING OUR EYESupon Jesus.

Those that would be radically stubbornfor our God, willing to lay everything else aside, in order to gowhere He leads… and BE who He has called us to BE.

May we truly walk with the Lord this week… TASTING and SEEINGhow good He really is!

Let’s pray…

 

 

[*I use The New King James Version, and most quotes from the Bible will be from NKJV, unless otherwise noted. Also, I use various books and commentaries when preparing a message. I have NOT given credit in each instance, but will say that I do not use on-line commentaries such as Blue-Letter Bible, or other on-line sources. I use the following on a pretty regular basis, because I own them: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, Jewish New Testament Commentary, The Complete Biblical Library (NIV), Skip Heitzig’s ‘The Bible From 30,000 Feet’, William MacDonald’s ‘Believer’s Bible Commentary’, Matthew Henry’s ‘A Commentary On The Whole Bible’, Jon Courson’s ‘Application Commentary’, Holman’s Study Bible, The Archeological Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, William Barclay’s Commentaries ‘The Daily Bible Series’. I think that’s about it.]

Ruth 1:1-5 – Stay At Home

The following is a written transcript of the first sermon I preached in Telluride, Colorado as the new Senior Pastor of The Alpine Chapel. It is also the beginning of a trek through the Old Testament Book of Ruth.

 

As you can imagine, today is a very special day for me. It is my first Sunday where I’ve been given the opportunity to share God’s Word with Alpine Chapel, as the Senior Pastor. The past month has been a rough one… to say the least. I’ve said goodbye to family and friends, and accepted the ‘call’ to move here. I know that the pastoral search committee, and the leadership council, have spent countless hours in prayer and researching who exactly should be the next Senior Pastor here… but please know, that I too, have spent countless hours. I stand before you today, absolutely certain, that I am supposed to be here. But that didn’t necessarily make it an easy thing. So… in the midst of moving, and leaving one place to come here… I’ve also been considering exactly HOW I should begin my teaching. You might think it’s funny that I’d choose to title my first message, “Stay At Home”… I sorta did. “Michael… isn’t a pastor supposed to try and talk people into comingto church? Staying at home seems to be the opposite of what you’d want people to do!” Well… stick with me, and you’ll see why I choose that title.

If you would, turn with me to the Old Testament Book of Ruth. It is the 8thBook of the Bible… Joshua, Judges, Ruth (not very nice of Joshua, huh?).

I’m what is called an ‘Expository Preacher’, which is just a fancy way of saying that I love to teach verse-by-verse, through the Bible. Wikipediadeclares that EXPOSITORY preaching differs from TOPICAL preaching in that the former concentrates on a specific text and discusses topics covered therein; whereas, the latter concentrates on a specific topic the speaker chooses and then references texts covering that topic. So… after much prayer on exactly HOW I should begin my ministry here in Telluride, I felt the Lord leading me to choose the Book of Ruth.

Let’s pray…

The Book of Ruth is a short, little book and has been called “The Mighty Midget With A Meaningful Message”. It’s basically a love story…

The story is told that, when Benjamin Franklin was Ambassador to France, he spoke to a group of intellectuals who continually scoffed at his belief in the Bible. Unconvinced that these men were familiar with the Book they mocked, Franklin said, “By the way, gentlemen, I have come across a most intriguing love story that I would like to read for you tonight. I think you’ll find it interesting.”He then proceeded to read a handwritten copy of the Book of Ruth.

After he finished the four short chapters, his audience was ecstatic. “That is the greatest love story we have ever heard,”they exclaimed. “You must publish it at once.”

Franklin answered, “It has already been published. It’s in the Bible.”

And the scoffers were silenced.

Let me give you a bit of background:

The theme of this Book is threefold: Redemption, Revival, and Restoration. These themes are the reason I was drawn to begin my ministry here with this particular Book.

The main characteris, of course, Ruth, who happens to be the great-grandmother of King David. She is a picture, or representative of you and me… the Bride of Jesus Christ.

The hero in the story is a guy named Boaz, who is a picture of our great Hero, our Redeemer… Jesus.

This little story shows us how the Lord can breathe life into a situation that appears lifeless. Our Lord is a Restorer; He is a Rebuilder; He is a Reviver – and the Book of Ruth ministers the message of hope to any who feel wiped-out, hurting, or hopeless.

The time this story is taking place is during a period of Israel’s history when life was not easy. There was no king in Israel, as a matter of fact, to get a proper understanding of the times, we must read the last verse of Judges, the Book preceding Ruth: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Israel, during these days, is at one of its lowest points in history – there is massive amounts of division, cruelty, civil war, national disgrace, and even apostasy (that’s a big word that simply means ‘the abandonment or renunciation of a religious belief).

Sounds kinda familiar doesn’t it? Spiritually, our culture is much the same. There is no King… and there won’t be until Jesus returns. Like Israel in the past, many of God’s people today are living in unbelief and disobedience and are not enjoying the blessings of God. It seems crazy to me that this beautiful love story takes place at such a horrible time in Israel’s history… but then I remember that today, we live in pretty dark times too; We’re experiencing national and international horrors, moral decay, and difficulties of every kind, and yet God loves this lost world and is seeking for a bride. In spite of alarms in the headlines and dangers on the streets, we can be sure that God still loves the world and wants to save lost sinners. When you know Jesus, as Savior and Lord, no matter how tough the times may be, you are a part of a beautiful love story.

So, there’s a bit of background… Now let’s read, starting at Chapter 1, verse 1…

Text: “Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah…” (Ruth 1:1-2a)

So, at the beginning of this story, we’re introduced to this happy, Hebrew family living in the country of Judah, in the city of Bethlehem. I know they’re happy, because check out their names… names always meant something back then:

Elimelech = “God is my King

Naomi = “Pleasant

Mahlon = “Song

Chilion = “Satisfaction

(according to Our Nearest Kinsmanby Roy Hession)

This was a family where God was King and there was pleasantness, song, and satisfaction. Why? Because they were living in Bethlehem, which means, “The House of Bread”. I believe the same is true for you and I. We will always be happy, blessed, satisfied people if we will dwell in the House of Bread… which is the Word of God. When we’re eating Heavenly manna, we’ll be experiencing Earthly happiness. How do I know this?

Psalm 1:2-3 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His lawhe meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

The ‘law of the Lord’ is speaking of God’s Word… and the one who reads it, devours it, meditates on it… chews on it day and night… is like a tree. Picture a strong oak tree. What is an oak tree? An oak tree is simply a little nut that refused to give up. I love that! Because that’s what we’re supposed to be. We’re all little nuts, and maybe all ‘a little nuts’ too. But if we refuse to give up and we plant our roots deep in the Word of God – if we’ll study it, devour it, and make it a top priority in our lives – we’ll find ourselves growing in strength and stability. We will find ourselves experiencing God’s blessing.

Also… notice that Elimelech’s family not only lived in the city of Bethlehem, but in the area of Judah. All throughout the Book of Ruth, Bethlehem is always hyphenated with Judah, which is cool, because ‘Judah’ means, “Praise”.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence! There is an intimate connection between the House of Bread, which is the Word of God, and Praise, which ascends toward God. David said, in Psalm 119:171, “My lips shall utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes.

A person who is learning about the ways of God and the character of God through the Word of God cannot help but overflow in praise to God.

If you or I are having a difficult time praising and worshipping God, if you feel far removed from Judah, the Place of Praise… it could be because we’re not dwelling in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, the Word of God. Once we’re dwelling in the Word, we can’t help but become worshippers.

(Ruth 1:2b)“…And they went to the country of Moab and remained there…”

Elimelech and his happy family left Bethlehem-Judah when famine came to the land. “Wait a second! How could famine come to the House of Bread, the Place of Praise?

In 2 Chronicles 7, God told His people that if they turned from Him and began to serve other gods, He would send famine to their land. Evidently that is what happened here. It can start off slow and subtle, but when people turn away from the Lord… dry times.

The prophet Amos wrote about a famine… not of food, but of hearing the Word of the Lord (Amos 8:11– “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God, that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”). Maybe you relate to that? Perhaps you no longer feel like you’re hearing from God or in communion with God. There was a time when every time you opened the Bible, God seemed to speak to you. There was a time when coming to Church and studying the Bible was the most exciting thing for you. But not now. There is famine in your land. The days are dry, dreary, and difficult.

Gang, it doesn’t matter who you are, or how long you have called yourself a Christian, or even how close to God you might be now… you can count on the fact that there will come into your walk with God seasons of dryness and times of difficulty. The question is not whether times of famine will come. The question is: “Where will you go when they do?

2 Chronicles 7goes on to teach that the curefor famine is to remainwhere you are and call upon God. But Elimelech and his family went to Moabinstead. This is a fundamental mistake that we often make. Isaiah 43:2tells us that the Lord will go with us throughthe fire. But we want to change our circumstances. We want to run from the difficulties. And God is saying, “Michael, stay at home! Call on Me! I want to walk through these difficulties WITH you… not have you run from them!

So, when famine came, Elimelech, upon the prodding of his wife Naomi, decided that instead of praying it through and remaining in the land until God graciously blessed again, they would make a move to Moab, where they heard there was plenty of food and water. It seemed to be the chance of a lifetime. In reality, however, it was a death march toward the grave.

Do you know where Moab came from?

There’s a yucky story in the Book of Genesis, chapter 19, where a guy named Lot and his family had left a city called, Sodom, just as God’s judgement was being poured out. Lot’s wife, famously, turned around and looked at the judgement when she wasn’t supposed to, and turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his two daughters took refuge in a cave overlooking the city, and while living in this cave, Lot’s two daughters got their father drunk and seduced him. The children born from that sinful and incestuous relationship were Moab and Benammi. These two boys were the fathers of the Moabites and the Ammonites – two people groups that would continually haunt the children of Israel.

In Zephaniah 2:8-11we read that God was gonna wipe out Moab, like He did Sodom… and in Psalm 108:9, God refers to Moab as His “washpot”. A more correct and literal translation would be, “Moab is My toilet bowl.

So, in taking a trip to Moab, Elimelech and Naomi were saying, “It’s getting tough here in the House of Bread, the Place of Praise. Let’s go swim in the toilet for a while.

Isn’t that just like you and me?“Where’s God? I’m going through some pretty tough stuff, and He’s nowhere to be found! Things are dry spiritually… my devotions are lame… I’m bored with worship. I wonder what I can find on the internet to swim around in for a while,”as we head to Moab. “Don’t worry, Lord, I’m not moving out permanently. I’m just taking a little break from the intensity of the House or Bread and the Place of Praise. I’ll be back… someday.”

Man, don’t be fooled. Moab is like a black hole – easy to get sucked into, but extremely hard to get back out of. Ask Naomi.She’ll spend ten years there.

(Ruth 1:3)“Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.

In Moab, Elimelech died. “God is King” always dies in Moab. If I’m swimming in the toilet bowl of the world, I can no longer say, “God is my King.” Once I leaveBethlehem-Judah, the House of Bread and the Place of Praise, the rule and reign of God in my life will dissipate and die.

(Ruth 1:4)“…Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years.

Following Elimelech’s death, and totally against the Lord’s command in Old Testament Law, these boys took Moabite wives. Quick little lesson for those of us who are parents, or grandparents: When we choose notto STAY AT HOME, in intimate relationship with Jesus, in the House of Bread and Place of Praise… when we kick back and relax spiritually… and choose to pursue worldly things – our kids (and our spiritualkids) pay the price. Kids can often choose Moabiteish women (friends) when parents choose Moab over Bethlehem.

Orpah’sname means “Youthful” or “Immature”. We’ll see her exhibit those qualities later in the story. Ruth’sname means “Friendship”.

CONCLUSION:

I’ll wrap things up today with verse 5…

(Ruth 1:5)“Then both Mahlonand Chilionalso died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.

When God is no longer my King, it is only a matter of time before the song on my lips ceases to exist. Whereas at one time, there was a beautiful flow of praise and adoration to the Lord – there is now skepticism and dryness, grumbling and criticizing, because Mahlon(song) is dead.

Chilion(satisfaction) was the next to die. Have you ever thought, “What’s wrong with me? Why has the satisfaction,which was once so sweet to me, departed?” Could it be that you left the House of Bread and the Place of Praise?

You see, Naomi’s experience is a perfect pictureof exactly what takes place when we leave the House of Bread and the Place of Praise:

First, God is no longer our King;

then the song departs from our heart;

finally, satisfaction leaves our soul.

This is the order that it always seems to take place in… and if we’re honest

we have all experienced it to some degree.

Where are you today?

May you and I “Stay At Home”…

[*I use The New King James Version, and most quotes from the Bible will be from NKJV, unless otherwise noted. Also, I use various books and commentaries when preparing a message. I have NOT given credit in each instance, but will say that I do not use on-line commentaries such as Blue-Letter Bible, or other on-line sources. I use the following on a pretty regular basis, because I own them: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, Jewish New Testament Commentary, The Complete Biblical Library (NIV), Skip Heitzig’s ‘The Bible From 30,000 Feet’, William MacDonald’s ‘Believer’s Bible Commentary’, Matthew Henry’s ‘A Commentary On The Whole Bible’, Jon Courson’s ‘Application Commentary’, Holman’s Study Bible, The Archeological Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, William Barclay’s Commentaries ‘The Daily Bible Series’. I think that’s about it.]

EXCITING NEWS

Kelli and I have exciting news to share:

We have accepted the invitation to be the new Senior Pastors of Alpine Chapel in Telluride, Colorado! Telluride is a small town in Southwest Colorado, and it is at a high elevation (something very good for Kelli’s health). We have fallen in love with the community and the people of Alpine Chapel. We KNOW the Lord is guiding us in this direction.

Here are some answers to FAQ’s:

Why are you leaving Calvary Worship Center? Didn’t you just become the Creekside campus lead pastor?

Answer: I have loved my time at CWC, and leave with no bad feelings whatsoever. About a year ago my pastor confirmed that I had a “senior pastor’s” call on my life, and felt that I should consider returning to that roll. At that time I sent an application to Telluride for two reasons; because they had an opening, and it was at a high altitude. The Creekside campus was birthed during this past year and I wanted to give it all I had, not knowing what the Lord’s will was going to be. I did give it my all, and have seen Creekside launched in the healthiest way I know how. I do believe that campus will flourish with the leadership that Pastor Al will choose. I’m excited for what God will do at Calvary Worship Center Creekside! I love the people there, and thank God for the season I’ve had with Pastor Al Pittman and Calvary Worship Center, but I also know that my season has come to an end.

Why did you leave CWC without saying “goodbye”?

Answer: When I gave my month’s notice to CWC, it was felt the best thing would be for me to leave quietly and quickly. The Easter season is one of joy and celebration, where we rejoice that Jesus conquered death!!! No one wanted to see that atmosphere dampened by me crying all over the place (something that anyone who knows me, knows would definitely happen!) This blog is my chance to say goodbye to all of you. I love you and will miss you. Please keep in contact with me! I’m still in town for a few weeks and you can email me at: pastormcraft@gmail.com

Aren’t you leaving all your kids, grandkids, and future grandkids?

Answer: Yes…that’s been the toughest part of all this. But we’re only 5 hours away, and we will make the trek to see them VERY regularly! They are excited to have me preaching and teaching again, and stand with us that this is the Lord’s will for us.

Will your sermons be available?

Answer: Yes. To a website near you. Stay tuned.

March/April – Week Thirteen – Daily Devos

March 26th – “Offended At God” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25; Luke 7:11-35; Psalm 68:19-35; Proverbs 11:29-31]

“And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” – Luke 7:23

John the baptizer had sent his own followers to Jesus in order to ask him a very important question: “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:20). This seems an odd question coming from John, who knew Jesus pretty well, considering they were cousins. Also considering that when Jesus came to John to be baptized, John said to Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). I was under the impression that John knew exactly Who Jesus was! However, when you understand where John was when he sent his disciples to question Jesus in this way, it sheds a bit of light on the reason why he sent them… and why Jesus responded the way He did. You see, John was in prison according to Luke 3:20. Perhaps, John is a lot like us? Perhaps, he at one time believed Jesus to be the “Coming One“, the “Messiah“, and now that he is rotting away in a prison cell, seemingly all but forgotten, he is having some doubts? Perhaps he thought, like many others at that time, that the Messiah would be the physical deliverer of God’s people from the tyranny of Rome? Perhaps John thought that Jesus should have ridden in on a white horse, stormed the prison, overpowered the guards, and rescued His cousin? I mean, after all, Jesus was the Deliverer, right?

There are times when I can also feel as though Jesus has forgotten all about me. I’ve been taught that Jesus is the Deliverer, and that He “rescues” those who are hurting and in trouble, and when He doesn’t come through like I want Him to, or imagined Him to… I can become offended. This is why Jesus’ answer to John’s disciples is so powerful. He says, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dear hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them…” (Luke 7:22) – These are all things that the coming “Messiah” was absolutely going to be doing, according to the prophet Isaiah! Jesus is saying, “Yes, I am doing all the things the Messiah is supposed to be doing… but I’m not coming in on a white horse and saving you, cousin. My mission is much bigger than overthrowing a Roman government. My mission is to overthrow Satan, and defeat sin and death once and for all! Tell John that he’ll be blessed if this fact doesn’t offend him. Sometimes I don’t perform your will… I must perform My Father’s will instead.”

John had performed exactly what God had wanted him to, he had prepared the way for the coming Messiah. Now he would die. John would never be the one in the spotlight. John would never be the one who would be what it was all about. He knew it in his head (John 3:30), but apparently being in a dark prison cell caused him to have his doubts. So too, when I am left in the dark… when I feel lonely and forgotten… is when my doubts start to surface. Jesus’ message to John is the same message He whispers to you and I in those times: “blessed is he who is not offended because of Me“.

“Father, I want to understand all that You are up to behind the scenes, but at times You ask me to simply trust You. Forgive me for my doubts. Forgive me for my whining and complaining in times of darkness. Strengthen me so that I can be a man that is completely submitted to Your will and Your plan for my life.  I love You.” – Michael

 

March 27th – “I Got This!” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20; Luke 7:36-8:3; Psalm 69:1-18; Proverbs 12:1]

“…, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end – then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.” – Deuteronomy 8:16-17

God had done so much for His people. He had fed them, quenched their thirst, protected them, delivered them, and provided for their needs again and again. He allowed them to go through trials too, but always in those trials did He keep His hand on them. We’re told here that one of God’s purposes for all this was to “humble” His people and “test” them in order to ultimately bring about their “good“.

Why would making His people humble through testing them be for their good? Because, God knows that man’s tendency is to take all the credit for ourselves. When we do this, we begin to rely solely upon ourselves, our might, and our power and ability. This can actually be a very dangerous thing, because some of the obstacles that we’ll face will be way too much for us. If we walk into a battle with a false sense of security, because we’ve only counted on what strength we can muster up in and of ourselves… we could die. God desperately wants us to understand that we NEED Him. As the Holy Spirit said through the prophet Zechariah, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6).

“Father, I need You. Forgive me for pridefully taking things into my own hands and trying so hard to do everything by myself. You’ve given me talents and skills, but I’m unable to do all that You’ve called me to do, without Your empowering me to do it. Today, help me to walk in a state of total dependency upon You. I don’t particularly enjoy the tests that I go through, but I do appreciate how they remind me of my own inadequacy and my desperate need of You. I love You so very much!” – Michael

 

March 28th – “God Has the Gall” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22; Luke 8:4-21; Psalm 69:19-36; Proverbs 12:2-3]

“They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” – Psalm 69:21

The word “gall” in Hebrew is “ros“, which means, “poison; bitterness, venom”. In the Old Testament the word is used of a plant characterized by bitterness, probably wormwood (Deut. 29:18; Hos. 10:4; Amos 6:12). Ancient people believed that the poison of serpents lay in the gall (Job 20:14). We see it used in the New Testament, but there the Greek word “chole” is used. Some regard this word as referring to myrrh, because that is what is used in Mark 15:23.  Myrrh was often used as an embalming liquid, and was highly deadly if ingested. This little verse in Psalm 69 would turn out to be one of many Messianic prophesies that Jesus uniquely fulfilled. Matthew tells us that as Jesus came to the place called Golgotha to be crucified they offered Him “sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when he had tasted it, He would not drink” (Matthew 27:34). Some have speculated that perhaps they were trying to poison Him and hasten His death. Others have said that perhaps they were trying to prolong His death and cause even more suffering for Him.

Regardless of why they offered Jesus ‘gall’, it is interesting to me that the words “gall” and “myrrh” seem to be interchangeable. We know a few things about ‘myrrh‘ from Scripture. It was very expensive. Exodus 30 describes how it was used to anoint prophets, priests, and kings. It is used as a perfume in Psalm 45, and in John 19 it was used for embalming. Of course, after Jesus’ birth, it was a gift that was given to Him from the wise men (Matthew 2:11). Why would that particular gift be given to Jesus? Because He is the ‘Anointed One’. He is a prophet. He is a priest. He is a King. His name is like a fragrant perfume that has been poured out (Song of Solomon 1:3). And Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)… He came to die.

Whenever I find Old Testament prophesies that point to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, I am encouraged. Nothing is coincidental. The Holy Spirit has been working for a very long time to bring about the Father’s will. The fact that this prophecy was written hundreds of years before Jesus would fulfill it exactingly. And the idea that one of the gifts that was given to Mary and Joseph for their Son would one day be the very thing that He would be offered to drink as He was dying, and that that very thing would symbolize exactly Who He was… Prophet, Priest, King, the Anointed One and the Ultimate Sacrifice for the world’s sins… is awesome!

“Father, why do I ever doubt? How can I fear anything when You so obviously are in control of EVERYTHING? You orchestrated so much in history to accomplish Your perfect will, and You are still the God Who is in charge of my little life. Help me walk in faith today and in a ruthless and radical trust in You. I’m so thankful that You have the gall to love someone like me. I love You back!” – Michael

 

March 29th – “Happy Wife, Happy Life

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32; Luke 8:22-39; Psalm 70:1-5; Proverbs 12:4]

“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” – Proverbs 12:4

Later, in Proverbs 31:10, we read, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” This is a phrase that Boaz uses when speaking of Ruth, in Ruth 3:11, “…for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.” (Interesting note: In the Hebrew ordering of the Old Testament, the Book of Ruth comes immediately after the Book of Proverbs, which closes with a description of a”virtuous woman”). The word, “virtuous” literally means, “having or showing high moral standards, righteous, good, pure, saintly, angelic, ethical, upright, upstanding, exemplary, principled“. When a woman is this way, she is the very best thing about her husband (his “crown“). Conversely, when she is not this way, she can cause her husband shame. This shame is “like rottenness in his bones“, which is another way of saying, “she causes the loss of her husband’s joy and strength“. So, how a woman lives her life… how she walks with God… how she walks with integrity… actually affects her husband’s life as well.

I believe this goes both ways. I’ve seen the anguish on the faces of too many women who have found their husbands behaving sinfully. Whether they’ve caught their husbands viewing pornography or watched them lose their temper, the shame that a woman can feel can be draining to her. Likewise, when a woman has a husband who is chasing after Jesus and walking with integrity and holiness… it is a true blessing to his wife. When we make the choice to be married, we are making the choice to become ‘one’ with another human being. When we become ‘one’ with them, we must realize that how we behave from then on out will greatly affect our spouse, and others in our families (children, grandchildren). It is no longer just ‘our’ relationship with God that is on the line, it is our entire family’s relationships that could be on the line. This is one of the reasons why Scripture admonishes us to be “excellent at what is good and innocent of evil” (Romans 16:19). Our lives impact others, especially those closest to us.

“Father, thank You for my awesome wife! Other than Jesus, she is the greatest thing about my life. She is my pride and joy, my crown. Help me live my life in such a way as to make her proud of me too. Forgive me for the times I’ve caused shame to You, or to the ones closest to me. I truly do not deserve how much You’ve blessed me with a wife that is so awesome. I love You, Lord!” – Michael

 

March 30th – “12 Years A Slave” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23; Luke 8:40-9:6; Psalm 71:1-24; Proverbs 12:5-7]

“And He said to her, ‘Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”“But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, ‘Little girl, arise.’ Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately…” – Luke 8:48 & 54-55a

Two females experience restoration in these verses: one is a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years, the other is a 12 year old girl. This means that 12 years prior to this day, there were two very different stories beginning. The first story was of a husband and wife who had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was their pride and joy, I’m sure. But at that same time, across town, there was a second story beginning… a woman who began to bleed. This would have been startling for her at first, and then become very concerning as days turned into weeks that turned into months. As years passed by, the baby girl grew older and brought her parents times of much joy, while the woman across town had become damaged and shamed and spent every last cent of her money on doctors who were no help whatsoever. One day, twelve years later, the young girl became sick herself and was “at death’s door”. Now she is desperate for help… like the other woman. Both women encounter Jesus. Both women are made well. Both women are revived… renewed… restored to their former health.

Everybody has a story. One person’s story may be beautiful and joyous, while the person living right next door to them is going through hell. However, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Jesus is our Hope, He is our Deliverer, and Jesus is a Master at restoration. He is awesome at taking someone who is broken, damaged, used up, hurting, thrown out, and seemingly useless – and transforming them into something beautiful and useable once again. Whatever sin or hurt we may feel like slaves to, Jesus can set us free. Whether life is joyous or painful, my hope is always Jesus. Only He can bring life… and restore.

“Father,  whether in good times or bad, teach me to look to You for hope and restoration. I know in my heart of hearts that in You alone is life, joy, peace, and healing. Set me free today, that I might be healed and whole and free to free others for Your glory. I love You!” – Michael

 

March 31st  – “No Abracadabra” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20; Luke 9:7-27; Psalm 72:1-20; Proverbs 12:8-9]

“Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.” – Luke 9:16

Jesus, before doing the mighty miracle of feeding the five thousand, stopped first to pray. The way this is worded it can be a bit confusing. Did Jesus bless the “bread and fish” and then break them, or did He “bless God for the bread and fish” and then break them. In John’s account of the same story he makes it a bit more clear, “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” (John 6:11).

Have you ever prayed a prayer like this or heard someone pray this way before a meal; “Dear Lord, bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies” or “Our Father, bless this food and may it strengthen us to do your work, Amen”? While these are common and acceptable prayers, they perpetrate a widespread spiritual misunderstanding. According to the Bible, we should be blessing God and not the bread. Think about this for a second – if an outsider, not versed in our prayer rituals, would hear us ask God to “bless the food,” it may come across as superstitiously silly. It’s almost as if we invoke a magical incantation to envelop our macaroni and cheese.

To grasp the biblical foundation for blessing and thankfulness, it helps to understand Jesus’ Jewish world. The written Scriptures that Jesus grew up reading were the books from the Old Testament, and He would have had similar oral traditions as practiced by Jews living two thousand years ago. In the Bible, God blesses people’s fields, crops, livestock, and future offspring by making them fruitful and abundant (Deut. 7:13-15), and the people return the favor by thanking their Provider for His goodness and bounty. Jesus follows this practice in the New Testament, when He serves food to others, He offers prayers of thanksgiving and blessing to God (Luke 24:30, Luke 22:19, Mark 14:22, Matt. 26:26, I Cor. 11:24). The word “bless” in many of the Bible’s prayers means expressing thanks to God. An ancient Jewish blessing that is still pronounced today with the entrance of the Sabbath on Friday evenings, as participants sip wine from a cup is,; “Blessed are you, O Lord, Our God, King of the Universe who creates the fruit of the vine.” Another blessing, as members break bread is; “Blessed are you, O Lord, Our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth.” These would probably have been very similar to the prayers that Jesus would have uttered during the famous “Last Supper”. Notice that in these “blessings”, God the Creator is being thanked for giving food (bread) and drink (wine), not the bread and wine. The next time we sit down to a big breakfast,  we should thank God for it and not abracadabraize the pancakes. Bless God, not the bread. A prayer we learn in pre-school summarizes this perfectly, “God is great, God is good, Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” Let us remember to thank God the Creator of our meal, instead of enchanting the grub we’re about to eath with “God bless the food!

“Father, thank You for always providing everything I need. Help me to slow down and give thanks to You before chowing down on anything.  I love You!” – Michael

 

April 1st – “Cockroaches and Fakeness” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 18:1-20:20; Luke 9:28-50; psalm 73:1-28; Proverbs 12:10]

“A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” – Proverbs 12:10

A person that treats animals well is usually a person that has a high regard for “life”. What Scripture is really getting at here is the comparison between the righteous man and the wicked man. To make the point, he assumes that most of us know that there is nothing esteemed much lower than an animal. To this lowest of creatures a righteous person still has regard (the dictionary defines, “regard” as; “showing consideration, care, concern, thought, notice, taking heed, or giving special attention”). However, a wicked person who believes they are showing “tender mercies” to this lowly creature, is in fact, still cruel. Both individuals feel they are being kind, but the big difference is that the righteous person really is being kind, while the wicked person is only being cruel.

Dr Livingston, who is famous from the phrase, “Dr. Livingston I presume?“, was absolutely fanatical about “life”. There is a story that is told where he received a piano when he was on the mission field. Upon opening up the back of the piano, hundreds of cockroaches poured out. The man he was with began to fervently stomp on them to kill them all. Supposedly, Dr. Livingston stopped him immediately by yelling something like; “What are you doing!? Those creatures have done nothing, except for what they were created to do. God created them, you should not end them!” Now, it may seem odd that a person would have such high regard for a cockroach, but that story has always amazed me. Why? Because, apparently Dr. Livingston really cared about “life”, and according to this Scripture… he was righteous.

“Father, even a wicked person when trying to be nice, is actually cruel. I think that is because we can’t fake what we really are inside. I want to be authenticly following You and walking uprightly. Convict me whenever I’m simply faking it. I long to please You with the way that I’m living. I love You so much.” – Michael