Psalm 70 (Part One)

Hasten, O God, to save me; come quickly, Lord, to help me (70:1 NIV).

This psalm is very similar to 40:13-17. There are just a few minor alterations. Compare the similarity between Psalms 14 and 53. Both Psalms 40 and 70 are ascribed to David, who probably took the last section of Psalm 40, modified it, and set it forth to God’s people as a brief prayer for help (cf. Mt 13:52). There is a time to repeat truth. In addition, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a safeguard for you (Philippians 3:1 CSB). In fact, there are times to highlight a part of former teaching and use it for a particular purpose.

Many evangelicals are accustomed to freestyle prayer, but we must remember that it is not superior to praying a set form of words. When I was young, I was taught that to repeat prayers was wrong, that it was something done only by people that called themselves Christians but weren’t. Many arguments were used for this that aren’t worth repeating. The attitude of the heart and faith is far more important than whether or not we are original. Jesus himself prayed the same words over again, and on at least two occasions gave the words of the Lord’s Prayer.

This psalm is characterized by a sense of urgency (70:1, 5). God knows that though he is eternal, we are bound by constraints of time. Here the Holy Spirit inspires words that plead for a quick answer from the Lord. Here the children urge God the Father to hurry! However, we should balance this by some other thoughts.

  • We may need to wait humbly before God in order to gain understanding. Consider the experience of Daniel the prophet. In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three full weeks. I didn’t eat any rich food, no meat or wine entered my mouth, and I didn’t put any oil on my body until the three weeks were over… “Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:2-3, 12-13 CSB). Sometimes the laborious wait is God’s route to blessing.
  • We may need to wait because God has other plans he is working out before he can bring about our desired answer. Think of Jesus delay when he heard that his friend Lazarus was sick. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was (John 11:5-6 ESV). Why did Jesus wait? He knew God’s plan to do a greater miraculous sign for the glory of God—the raising of Lazarus from the dead. God may not be doing something as dramatic in our lives, but we ought to trust his timing. I had someone complain to me a few times (yes, this happened more than once) that God always seemed to answer her prayers at “one minute to midnight”, and she didn’t like his way of doing that. We ought to rejoice whenever God answers! We are often unwise, impatient, even demanding children. Perhaps God simply sees the need to teach us patience and humility.
  • We may wait expectantly because God can do his work swiftly. Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you… Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified. The least one shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the Lord; in its time I will hasten it (Isaiah 60:1, 20-22 ESV).

David knew that he needed God to be involved in his life, so he asked God to save and to help. His example of faith shows us to abandon self-reliance. Quit trying to be the problem-solver in your life! Believers know that we need the Lord to lift us up and do what we are unable to do. Since the saint is alive to God, he understands that God is able to act in history and to carry out a rescue operation. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).

Grace and peace, David

Elijah’s Greatest Challenge (Part Two)

1 Kings 17:17-24

We can know God, trust God fervently, and yet come into situations where our faith in God is incredibly tested. We may even know that God has done miracles in response to our faith in him, but we wonder, “Can God provide the help I need now?” Faced with the death of the widow’s son, Elijah knew that  he must trust the living God for a greater miracle. So, Elijah said a powerful prayer. He believed that prayer was more worthwhile than the other actions he could have engaged in. We need to rid ourselves of the saying, “All we can do now is pray.” Stop it. Ideas like that corrupt our minds. Prayer is the best thing we can do.

  • Elijah prayed instead of argued. We need to follow Christ when we cannot understand the ways of God. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23 ESV). It’s a good rule not to take offense at the words of a grieving person. Not every saint is able to bow before the Lord as meekly as Job was able to (cf. Job 1:21; 2:10). Love should cover sorrowful, bitter words that occur at a time of grief.
  • He prayed instead of debated. Some are under the totally misguided notion that all times are opportunities for theological debate. As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2 CSB) Sadly, I have observed this attitude. Don’t dispute in the face of suffering. Show mercy! Humbly, let us remember people need compassion rather than our knowledge. Some think they are being “bold for the Lord” when they are merely being brash for themselves. Christ was compassionate; imitate him.
  • He prayed instead of complained. Some would complain, “Now I’m in such a mess! She’s blaming all this on me, and I didn’t do anything. Poor me!” Does it really matter what someone thinks about you, when they need your help?
  • He prayed instead of questioned. “Why did this happen Lord?” It’s very natural to ask, “Why?” But it may be better to invest the greater part of our energies in asking, “What do you want me to do now, Lord?” Or better, “What will You do now, Lord?”

Elijah refused to look at second causes. Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?” (17:20 NLT) Elijah believed that God is in control, even including the hard events of life. We need to have a larger view of the sovereign God in our thoughts and viewpoints. Think on what the Spirit has written in the Word.

  • [Job] said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:21-22 NIV).
  • I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things (Isaiah 45:7 NIV).
  • When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it? (Amos 3:6 NIV).

The time of trouble and trials is the time to worship the Lord as God over all, and to call upon him as the Ruler of all.

“Whatsoever is good for God’s children they shall have it, for all is theirs to further them to heaven; therefore, if poverty be good, they shall have it; if disgrace be good, they shall have it; if crosses be good, they shall have them; if misery be good, they shall have it; for all is ours, to serve for our greatest good” (Sibbes).

Grace and peace, David

The Difficulty of Faith (Part One)

1 Kings 17:8-16

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Get up, go to Zarephath that belongs to Sidon and stay there. Look, I have commanded a woman who is a widow to provide for you there” (17:8-9 CSB).

In our last article about Elijah, we left him by a brook which had dried up. That dried up brook was no mistake in Elijah’s life, but a definite part of a sequence in God’s purpose to reveal his glory. When we read the Biblical storyline, it is very easy to get wrapped up in the characters, miraculous events, and moral issues. We must remember that the Bible reveals the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ through salvation by judgment. We must ask, “What does this tell us about the surpassing value and shining brilliance of our God?” However, it is also true that the Lord continued to prepare his servant. Elijah’s alone time with God was about to move to a slightly larger circle.

Certainly, most of us would rather do without the tests that come in the school of faith. We would rather receive the blessings which faith receives without the actual exercise of faith. We can be like children who want to go to amusement parks, but who dislike the long lines when they get there.

Part of our problem is that we must trust in the true God, whom we cannot fully understand and whom we cannot control. Even Elijah, who had such great faith as to stop the rain and the dew for three years, had to humbly depend upon God. Remember at this point in his life, Elijah was living in the realm of his prayer of faith; that is, there was no rain because he prayed that God wouldn’t send rain. His faith produced a situation that required more faith in God, which in turn provided the Lord with another opportunity to make known his greatness and love. Let us look at three lessons about the difficulty of faith. We will begin with the first in this article.

Faith is difficult because of the obedience that it requires. It requires us to do exactly what the Lord says. We must operate a computer program as it was written to receive the benefits of that program. If we attempt to do things that the application was not designed to do, we frustrate ourselves. “This stupid app!” No, it isn’t stupid; perhaps we’re demonstrating our own ignorance of what it can do or visualizing dreams that it can do what it isn’t designed to do. For Elijah, it put two limits on his actions.

  • Elijah could not leave the brook until God gave him orders. He had to sit and watch the brook dry up. This had been a daily process.
  • Elijah had to leave the brook when God ordered. He had to walk away from the place where God had provided for him to go to another. Abraham had to leave Ur to go to the Promised Land. Israel had to leave Egypt for the same reason. The way forward required obedient faith in God’s promises. The Lord is not as interested in our resourcefulness and ingenuity as our obedient faith.

Faith is difficult because it requires us to put our hope in God instead of our wisdom or apparently favorable circumstances. Elijah could not argue with God about where God sent him. Don’t join “The Jonah Debating Society.” Yet it seemed counter to God’s wisdom.

God sent him to the home territory of his enemy, Jezebel. Among other things, this would demonstrate the weakness of her malice. Elijah will learn the meaning of Psalm 23:5: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies (NIV). Once I received twenty dollars while on a trip from an unlikely person, whom I later found out was causing problems for my parents. They could hardly believe what had happened, but God knew my need.

The Lord sent Elijah to a Gentile land. This could have provided Elijah with reasons to question what God was doing.

  • Hadn’t Naomi and David both gotten themselves into difficulties by leaving Israel?
  • Weren’t there Jewish people who could provide for him? cf. Luke 4:25-26.
  • Could he expect anyone there to care for God’s prophet?

He could not dispute about the apparent contradiction in God’s plan. The whole plan would seem unnatural at his time: a woman taking care of a man; a widow supplying the needs of a preacher. One greater than Elijah was provided for in a similar way (Luke 8:2-3). The prophet would have to swallow his pride. Some people are too arrogant to receive God’s gifts. The whole plan would have seemed unworkable. A widow would usually be among the poor of the land.

Meditate on the following:

  • When you have confidence in the sovereignty of God, you obey his commands. You find that his grace is sufficient for you. 2 Corinthians 12:9.
  • It is usually God’s way to use the weak, the lowly, and the despised to do his work. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. This is for his glory!

Grace and peace, David

Drying Brooks and the Ways of God (Part One)

1 Kings 17:2-7

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Leave here, turn eastward, and hide at the Wadi Cherith where it enters the Jordan” (17:2-3 CSB).

God had set the stage for a dramatic encounter. Elijah the prophet had announced a terrible judgment. There would be no rain or dew on the land until he said so. What great works would God have him do next to testify to the reality of the living God? You and I would probably have had Elijah do a number of awesome miracles, or at least set out upon a preaching tour in order to warn Israel to turn back to the Lord. But that was not the Lord’s method. He wanted his prophet in another place, a place that shows that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). But in the strange place to which God sent him, Elijah was able to learn to depend upon the Lord . May we learn that same lesson in the places we are.

The text (17:2-7) is easily studied by a four part outline, which also shows us a valuable sequence in the life of faith. Here we find God’s command, God’s promise, our response, and a test. We will think about the first of these in this article.

God gave Elijah a command (17:2-3). The timing of this command was unusual. We can think that we ought to be busy for the Lord when he wants us to rest, think, and pray. And the reverse can be true also! Remember that the Lord took Philip from a great revival in Samaria to find one man from Africa.

The command came when he was active for God. We usually discover God’s will when we are busy doing his will. Abraham’s servant discovered that God was leading him when he was already doing what he was told (Genesis 24:27). If you are young, as you think about what you should do with your life, begin by obeying what the Lord has already told you to do. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 Timothy 2:19-22.

Service for God involves consistent obedience to God. He did the first step properly; would he do the second? Saul was inconsistent in obedience. He attacked the Amalekites as ordered, but did not destroy them (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

God included two purposes in this command.

The Lord taught his prophet. This would try Elijah’s humility and submission to God’s will. Many men are tempted to pride and self-will when they are filled with success. Elijah had to remember that God was the “boss” and that he was the servant. It would also perfect his reliance upon God. How does God teach his people to live by faith? He does not teach it as much in the lecture hall as in the laboratory of life. Elijah was put in a lonely place where he could learn:

  • That God was able to supply his needs. Elijah was not commanded to plant a garden but to wait for ravens beside a brook. The Lord was teaching him total dependence on God alone.
  • That God was able to be his friendly companion. Elijah was probably alone with God for at least one year. Elijah had much time to meditate and pray. Think of John Bunyan in prison. He was there for twelve years, while his family suffered terribly! Does that make sense to you? It doesn’t to me. But God did great things through Bunyan because of those years in prison.

As we meditate on this text, we ought to be disturbed. (It’s good when God’s word disturbs you.) The Spirit of the Lord can speak through this text like this, “My child, what if that was you by the brook Kerith? Are you so living for me that you could live by faith beside that brook alone with me? Am I enough for you?” Are you willing to ask yourself those questions?

Learning humility and reliance were important lessons for Elijah to learn. Together they helped prepare him for the contest on the mountain. God usually uses the events of life to teach us to live by faith.

At the same time as the Lord taught Elijah, he judged the people of Israel. The judgment of drought was temporal, but the absence of the prophet was spiritual: It was a loss of spiritual rain (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11). The greatest famine that can come on a nation is a famine for the word of God. Look, the days are coming—this is the declaration of the Lord God—when I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and roam from north to east seeking the word of the Lord, but they will not find it (Amos 8:11-12 CSB; cf. Psalm 74:1-9; 2 Corinthians 4:1).

Grace and peace, David

Intended for Good (Part One)

Genesis 50:15-21

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20 NIV).

We come to the climax of our study about God’s providence in the life of Joseph son of Jacob. Through many twists and turns, God planned the events of Joseph’s life for the Lord’s goals in the great story of his glory in Jesus Christ. It is this section that provides God’s viewpoint on all that has happened.

We should approach this with more than a casual interest. It is one thing to say that God intended good in the events of Joseph’s life. It is quite another to make that same affirmation about our own lives. The way to begin is not to hope for or to wait for some crisis in our lives, and then to hope that we will see that God is working for our good. Instead, we must see God involved in our lives today, and every day and night. Wise military commanders prepare their troops for battle before they ever enter into harm’s way. God’s instruction about his story prepares us to serve him in all circumstances of life.

The account begins with the brothers’ misinformed plan (50:15-18). People, especially men, have the tendency to approach problems as “the fixer”. We listen to someone’s difficult situation for a couple minutes, and then spout out solutions to fix the other person or their circumstances. We try this with ourselves constantly by seeking advice from supposed experts or reading self-help books or surfing the internet. This approach is a recipe for disaster, and it could have made things much worse between Joseph and his brothers. Let’s think through their proposed solution.

  • It arose from uncertainty in their hearts: “what if.” They were trapped in guilt producing fear sequence. Guilt so awakens fear that a person will not feel secure. Cain became ruled by guilt and fear after he murdered his brother (Genesis 4:13-14). Joseph’s brothers lacked insight about Joseph’s character. Godly people are often misunderstood. The Lord Jesus was misunderstood by his family, Paul by the Corinthians, and David by his wife Michal.
  • It showed a mixture of worldly-wisdom and spiritual wisdom. They hid behind their father’s coat tails. They told a doubtful scenario from our perspective, but it might have happened. Did Jacob know about the sin of the ten against Joseph? Did they mislead Joseph that Jacob did? Would Jacob doubt Joseph’s intentions? The brothers took advantage of the grieving process, when a tender heart would be even more sensitive to an appeal like this. They did ask for forgiveness. Perhaps they should have used a better approach, but they did attempt to correct their problem.
  • It was presented in an inexact way. We have the advantage of possessing the Scriptures, and so we should do better. They spoke through a messenger instead of personally. Fear, rather than love was controlling their hearts. The brothers appealed to Joseph with a legal attitude: “we are your slaves.” Compare the lost son in the parable (Luke 15). They wouldn’t claim the relationship that was theirs. How do you approach God after you have sinned? Do you attempt to pay your way back into his favor, or do you ask for cleansing because of Christ’s atonement? Christians don’t make light of their sin, but they exalt the preciousness of the blood of Christ. The brothers’ plan to fix their relationship caused Joseph more hurt. While he could be glad about their repentance, their distrust of him after years of kindness would hurt (50:17).

Are you in need of restoring a relationship with someone? Are you tempted to follow worldly wisdom to find a fix to the situation? Make a fresh start by seeking the Lord in prayer. Call upon him in your trouble. He can act in the hearts of all involved (you and the other person or people). Humble yourself in prayer, asking him to act by his powerful grace and love.

Grace and peace, David

Humility Before God

dscn0073Psalm 115:1

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (ESV)

Worship does not come easily to the human heart. There are many reasons, but at the core is sin, the great evil that rejects God as God, refuses to love him foremost, and rebels against him and his ways. Sadly, we reject him as our Creator, Preserver, Ruler, and Holy One. We struggle with the Biblical idea that God alone is the cause, means, and goal of everything. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36 ESV). You see, we want to be the goal of everything. We want our needs and desires to be satisfied. We want the world to go at our pace. We don’t want anyone or anything to disrupt our plans, because we must be happy! A simple way to evaluate yourself on this is to think about your plans for the Christmas season: people you want to be with, places you want to go, parties you want to attend, pleasures you want to experience, and presents you want to receive. Did you notice the recurring phrase? How many of them give preference to God’s glory and will?

Worship does not come easily to the human heart. Worship declares God’s worth and primary significance. How can we worship and bring glory to God?

  • We must know the God that we are to worship. True knowledge of God comes through Jesus Christ (cf. John 14:6). To know God, we must trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. We first must be rescued from our sin and selfishness.
  • We must humble ourselves before God. Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8 HCSB). We cannot worship when we try to usurp his place or put other things in his place.
  • We must refuse praise that belongs to God. Not to us, O Lord, not to us… We like to be admired, congratulated and thanked. But we must make certain that God receives the praise, because apart from the Lord we can accomplish nothing of eternal significance (cf. John 15:5). Spiritual gifts are from the Spirit of God, and so we must honor God as we use them. This requires a conscious effort to honor the Lord.
  • We must become spiritually fruitful. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples (John 15:8 HCSB). God desires to see us display the way of life that honors him, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

The aim is that others might see and honor God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Those who follow Christ Jesus are God’s covenant people. We belong to God. We give this testimony to the world. When we praise God for his actions in our lives, we point others toward him. For example, “I trusted God in my affliction, although people thought he had abandoned me. But look, I am here today! He has preserved me, he has met my needs! God is faithful; we can rely on his love!” During this Christmas season, let’s evaluate our aims. Do we strive to honor God? In the activities of a busy holiday season, do we make room in our hearts to worship?

Grace and peace, David

The Cry of the Powerless

DSCN34112 Chronicles 14:9-15

God brought Asa and his people to the time to act in faith (14:9-15). God constantly does this. Part of his purpose for his people is to declare his praises (1 Peter 2:9), and we do this when we trust God and demonstrate his surpassing glory by a life of faith. Do not be surprised when trials come when you must rely on the living God. Be ready to believe; be expectant of God’s grace.

I repeat, in a fallen world, times of crisis and fear will come. This world is not heaven. The people in it are marked by rebellion against God. Therefore, they do not love God or people. They are greedy and lust for what others have. Those who have worldly wealth try to get more at the expense of those who are weak. Those who lack worldly wealth assume they are right in trying to take from those who already have. How did this happen to King Asa and his people?

An attack came from the area southwest of Israel. Zerah led a very large army against Judah. Although Asa had prepared wisely, he could not absolutely prevent the greed of others who wanted to rape and pillage. Do not think that if you follow Christ, then others will join with you or respect you for doing so. If you stand in the way of their lusts, they may try to ruin you to enrich themselves.

The approaching attack required Asa to lead his army to a defensible position southwest of Jerusalem. Mareshah had been fortified by Rehoboam years before (cf. 11:8). It was wise to put his army in the best forward place for defense, before the enemy could do additional damage.

In a time of fear, Asa exercised faith in the Lord (14:11). Though he acted responsibly with his army, he did not rely on his own strength. Instead, he also did the best thing he could do. He prayed to the living God, who rules over all.

  • In humility Asa confessed the Lord’s holy power. There is no one like the Lord to help the powerless against the mighty. Here is theology (the right teaching about God) put in action.
  • In humility Asa confessed their dependence on the Lord.
  • In humility Asa asked God to remember his covenant relationship with Israel and to defend his honor and his people.

What happened? Many in our time are not convinced about the significance or prayer. Yes, I know that people ask for prayer when they think there is no other hope. But do they actively seek the Lord as able to act in space-time history as a usual part of life? What do even most Christians do? They strategize; they put out calls for action from like-minded; they dream of political solutions. But pray? Faced with Zerah’s army, would today’s western Christians call out to the Lord in faith, or would they melt away in fear. My friends, the “armies of Zerah” are coming, they will always come, and the followers of Jesus Christ must call upon Lord in faith!

In his faithfulness, the Lord defended his people (14:12-15).

  • The Lord acted against the attackers in some unstated way. Whatever the action, God struck them so that they could not recover. Fear overtook them and they fled.
  • Since armies in that time carried a great deal of wealth with them, the victory also provided Judah with a great deal of worldly wealth. And so the Lord completely reversed the intentions of Judah’s enemies. Not only were they safe, they were also wealthy.

We serve the living God, who is able to do much more than we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). If we consider only our own resources and live according to opinion polls, we can get very discouraged. But if we trust in the Lord and call on him, as Asa did, then we may see him act in unexpected ways for his glory and our good. Now is the time to exercise strong faith in the living God. Desperate situations call for fervent prayer to the Lord of all. We might be powerless, but we serve the all-powerful, Sovereign Lord. Let us call upon him now.

Grace and peace, David

Under His Wings

IMG_1173Ruth 2:10-13

On part of our recent trip, we traveled through Cleveland a couple times. In the process of finding our way through the city, we had to pay attention to the directions from Google Maps. (Yes, I lived in Cleveland, but I was a toddler, and a lot has changed since then.) When we pay attention to the fine points, it is easy to miss the big picture of a city in celebration of a championship – at least until you talk to the locals. This also happens when we read sections of the Bible that tells God’s story of glory in Jesus Christ. We get involved in what’s happening in the current part of the story, and so miss important points that the living God wants us to think about and live accordingly.

Here it is easy to see that Ruth replied respectfully to Boaz’s generosity (2:10). We can notice her humility before Boaz. His kindness surprised Ruth. Her life had suddenly taken a change for the better! She expressed her gratitude in her posture. She probably dropped to her knees and then put her face to the ground. She demonstrated her neediness and dependence on his goodness.

We should see more. Ruth was amazed about his grace. We must remember the times in which Ruth and Boaz lived. It was the time of the Judges, and Israel had many spiritual problems

On a purely human level, she had to wonder about the reasons that a rich, influential man like Boaz would notice a poor widow like Ruth. In addition, why would a godly man of Israel care about a foreigner, especially a woman from Moab, when Israelites could be expected to avoid them? We need to know the larger picture. Near their lifetime, the following happened in Israel. Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. (Judges 10:6 NIV) To a godly man living under the law covenant, a Moabite woman had danger written all over her. Later on when the Proverbs were written, the idea of a foreign woman continued to have rather negative connotations. This is the part of the story we must not miss. Though Boaz would have been aware of all this, he still extended grace to her. In the same way, though we come from a people who have committed the evil exchange (Romans 1:18-25), the Lord Jesus has also reached out to us in amazing grace. Ruth understood that Boaz’ kindness came from grace—unmerited favor, and she appreciated it highly! Do you have a sense of amazement about Christ’s grace to you? Today is the day to regain it in your heart.

Boaz explained his kindness to her (2:11-12). He was aware of her sacrificial giving. He knew what she had done for Naomi, after the death of her husband. Thus, he plainly is referring to how Ruth helped Naomi return to Bethlehem. The news about Naomi’s return would have spread quickly through such a small town in ancient times when people had a much greater sense of community. He appreciated what this had cost her. She had left family and what is familiar to become a foreigner in Israel, where the law covenant would provide barriers to her acceptance. She had imitated Abraham, who had left Ur (Gen 11:28; 24:7) to follow the promise of God, and so she shows that she had the character of a daughter of Abraham. She had come to live among an unfamiliar people, and so she probably was friendless, which is sad. We all need to be more like Boaz and realize what hardships people are experiencing. The day for the proverbially oblivious male is past. Wake up and care, in order to show Christ’s kindness.

Boaz prayed for Ruth. He asked the Lord to reward her. “The Lord” or Yahweh is God’s covenant name with Israel (cf. Exodus 6:2). He believed that his covenant Lord would be able to repay Ruth for her kindnesses to Naomi. His prayer for reward is within the context of faith (Hebrews 11:6). The Lord motivates us to believe him by promising great rewards for those who do. Things like eternal life, forgiveness of sin and justification, a place in God’s family, and an eternal inheritance seem like good motivational rewards, would you agree? Let’s contrast this with what the resurgent atheism of our time offers. The best they can say is, “You are a meaningless nothing in a world of no value; cruelness and kindness are equivalent meaningless ideas; when you die you are just a collection of meaningless atoms slumping back into an inanimate state; there is no hope or good in this meaningless world. Live meaninglessly in despair!” Instead my friends, rejoice in the good news of Jesus! The reward he offers faith in him is so much better!

Boaz acknowledged her faith in God. He viewed Ruth as having taken refuge under God’s “wings”. This is a picture that occurs a few times in the Old Testament Scriptures. We first encounter it in the great Song of Moses, where he speaks of God’s care in delivering Israel from slavery (Deut 32:8-12). From this base, a number of pictures develop from this imagery.

  • God is a place of safety (Psalm 17:8).
  • God is a place of refreshment (Psalm 36:7-9).
  • God is a place of quiet peace in a storm (Psalm 57:1).
  • God is a place of celebration (Psalm 63:7).
  • God is a place of hope amid destruction (Psalm 91:1-8).

The great idea is that God is the gospel, the good news; God is here, God cares, God rules, and God provides.

Ruth responded with a respectful request (2:13).  By her words she expressed her gratitude for Boaz’s kindness. Ruth needed to say thank you to him. Gratitude is important in God’s perspective. Take time to say “thank you” to the Lord this week. If your small group meets this week, use this special opportunity to share your thankfulness with others. Ruth’s words also asked for continued favor. She knew that her needs were great; she was not ashamed to hint about this to Boaz.

We see also a developed awareness of her need for grace. She took a lowly position, calling herself a “servant girl”, which was someone on the lowest rung of the social ladder. She honored Boaz by referring to him “lord” or “master” (adonai). Ruth had an attitude that is largely lacking in our time. It is called “humility”. What is precious in God’s sight is despised in our land. Don’t put God to the test, thinking that you can get away with pride. Listen to the word of the Lord. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:6 NIV).

Grace and peace, David

A Place for You (Part Three)

IMG_02321 Corinthians 12:7-26

Every believer, every part of the spiritual body of Christ is needed (12:21-26). We must accept each other in his body and value the contribution of each person (12:21). Every local church has a unique gathering of individuals, and these groupings might not seem to offer much promise for friendships at first glance. For example, one person might not be able to approve of much another does. The second might not particularly want a third as you’re their close friend. But for Christ’s sake we must accept one another in love and spur one another on to love and good works. Let me say some things to push us all to consider the actual condition of our local gatherings. In order to make progress, we must see one another as “in Christ” and realize that we are members together of one body. I think most will claim, “Of course we believe this and do this!” But I ask, “Is your assembly (church) really this way? Or are many being rejected in subtle or not so subtle ways (James 2:1-4)? Toleration is not the same as reaching out in friendship.

There is a place for “other-esteem” in the church. We must see each other with the Lord’s eyes. Yes, we will see failures and weaknesses, but we should also see the grace of the Lord, and seeing that, prize each other highly. If a local church is more like a social club than the body of Christ, worldly distinctions like ethnicity, education, economic level will abound. In some churches, people are valued above others because of their attainments in doctrinal knowledge. In other churches, it is because they are skilled social mixers. However, we ought to prize one another because each one is “in Christ”.

Everyone in the body must have a concern for everyone else (12:25). What about special friends? People can be drawn close to one another in surprising ways. Close friendships are not a problem as long as the friendship is holy. Then they become very beneficial to the whole body. You probably will feel closer to some than to others, but do not neglect the whole for the sake of the few. Move out of your comfort zone and seek out fellowship with others that you suppose are unlike you. (You see yourself as an eye or ear, and see others as knees and elbows.) My friend, show some loving concern for those members that you suppose are beneath you. This requires ongoing, special effort; it doesn’t simply happen.

The local church is a spiritual body, and it only develops as the parts of the body enjoy spiritual fellowship with each other. Local institutional churches grow for many reasons: a good location, enthusiastic inviters, an upbeat, contemporary music program, a watered down message that offends no one, or they grow for the fact of being large enough so that those attending can do nothing but attend and enjoy the big crowd, or because they promise healing and prosperity to the faithful, etc. A few actually grow because they are faithful to the Lord, according to the light they have! But we need to ask: what is developing—a gathering of disciples who make disciples who make disciples, or is it merely a weird kind of social club?

The spiritual health of each part affects the spiritual health of the whole body (12:26). Your holiness and sinfulness affect more than you. Your spiritual condition affects all of us. The best course of action is to walk with the Lord in holiness, love, joy and peace and share these blessings with others. If you are taking steps toward heaven with the Lord, why not share that journey with others?

Grace and peace, David

P.S. Yesterday, Sharon and I went all day to the Philadelphia Flower Show, which was the reason for no new article. We had a great time, and we will feature some pictures from our excursion there. For today, a flower from a few years ago.