Psalm Eighteen (Part Four)

Psalm 18:7-19

The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry (18:7 NIV).

In this psalm, David taught his people to sing with him about God’s deliverance of him, so that they might have confidence that God would bring full deliverance one day through the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah. He previously declared the desperate situation he was in. Next, he pointed out in marvelous poetic pictures God acting to rescue him.

We gain our identity from big events in our lives. In birth, we enter this world and a family. That family gives us our name and forms our basic ideas, expectations, habits, and morals. It can take our God-given personality and either nurture it or twist it. When a man and a woman join in marriage, they give what they are to each other, and they form a new family identity, which in turn will nurture the new partners or twist them.

God gives us a new identity when he saves us and makes us part of our people. Our new identity comes from the event of redemption. God intends it to form us increasingly into his image, as we walk with each other in newness of life. Sadly, what we learn and experience with others in a local fellowship of believers can distort us from what our likeness to God ought to be. If you’re with people that are greedy or angry or judgmental or shallow, you will be influenced by their attitudes and behavior. In this new covenant age, the redemptive event is what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross and his resurrection. We ought to be gospel formed people. Our identity then influences how we think and act: You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20 CSB). Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1 NIV). The truth of the gospel sets the direction of our way of life.

In the old covenant, the event of redemption was the exodus from Egypt, including the crossing of the Red Sea and the receiving of the law covenant at Sinai. Much of what we hear about the old covenant people Israel in the Prophets and the Writings flows from the exodus. It gave them their identity. They were a physically redeemed people. Why did I go into this matter? It matters because David wrote about his deliverance from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul (see the heading of this psalm) through the “lenses” of the exodus. He used the language of the crossing of the sea and the giving of the law to talk about how the Lord rescued him.

We can speak of poetic language and metaphors, but this is more than that. It is personal and redemptive. David understood that the God of the exodus and Sinai was the Lord who delivered him. It was the God who redeemed his people from their enemy Egypt who delivered David from his enemies.

In our next post on this psalm, we want to look at the imagery that David used from the exodus and Sinai. But at this point, let us examine ourselves. Do we consciously think of ourselves as redeemed people? Does the truth of the gospel events permeate our world and life view? Do we act as people set free by Christ? We have a lot to glory in. Let us move forward with the joy of redeemed people. But the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isaiah 35:9b-10 ESV).

Grace and peace, David

Redemption Accomplished

IMG_4130Ruth 4:9-12

The Bible is the story of God’s glory in Christ. Our God has revealed himself through his word, the Bible, and we can listen to it, and be filled with worship, confidence, and joy, because of the greatness of our God. In this story, we are happily surprised that he includes people, including people that seemed ruined and forsaken like Ruth and Naomi, as well as an ordinary guy like Boaz, who trusted the Lord and tried to imitate his kindness. We are part of the great story or purpose that God is working out in life’s history. By the grace of God, we have significance; our lives are important; we are here for his purpose. And in this account of redemption accomplished, we view God move toward the fulfillment another part of his plan of redemption.

In previous articles, we saw that Naomi and Ruth needed to be redeemed, but their closest relative refused to do what was necessary for them. Therefore, he gave the right to redeem them to Boaz. Now we come to the great moment of this story.

Boaz kept his promise and redeemed (4:9-10). He redeemed the property that Naomi wanted to sell—what belonged to her husband Elimelech, and her sons Kilion and Mahlon.  Buying this much land must have been costly for Boaz, but by doing it Naomi had sufficient to live on, and Boaz was able to gain the crops that the land would produce. This transaction benefited both of them in different ways. Naomi got short term cash, and Boaz acquired long term profits. It was a fair deal in many ways.

Jesus Christ redeemed his people by dying on the cross. (To redeem means to set free by the payment of a price.) We were in bondage to sin and Satan and in this bondage had earned the hard wages of eternal death. But by his redeeming blood, Jesus set us free! We are free to live forever, and Jesus receives glory and joy by rescuing us. Here is the great deal. Trust in Jesus and he will set you free.

By buying Naomi’s land, it stayed in the family. They could keep what the Lord gave them as their inheritance. God’s gift and purpose are respected. Do you know what are God’s gifts and purpose for the church, Christ’s new assembly? Do you respect them in your approach to life?

Boaz redeemed Ruth. For the first time we learn that she was the widow of Mahlon, but now she will become the wife of Boaz. In this way, the names of both Elimelech and Mahlon would be maintained in Israel, since the first son born to Ruth and Boaz would inherit their land. This was important in old covenant Israel. The land would stay in the family, not just to the Year of Jubilee, but beyond—to him and his heirs. The end of the story tells who got this land.

Ruth also was redeemed from what had seemed a hopeless future. She became the wife of Boaz, and was provided for through his riches. In all this we should see a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we should live.

Jesus paid the very costly price of our redemption by shedding his blood on the cross. Ruth was desolate; she had neither husband nor children, but Boaz set her free to become his wife and the mother of his children. So also, we were spiritually desolate, but through Christ, we died to the law that we might belong to the resurrected Jesus, and so be able to bear fruit for God (Romans 7:4-6). Ruth was a foreigner, a stranger to the covenants of promise, but when Boaz married her, she had a place in the covenant nation. So in Christ, though we were far away, we are now brought near to God and have a place in God’s household and are fellow citizens with God’s people (Ephesians 2:11-22). The Spirit of God shows us in this story that as Boaz received Ruth the Moabite as his wife, so he receives people from all the people groups of the world.

Jesus wants us to set others free. There are so many people that need to be redeemed and set free! We live in a messed up world. Some are in misery because of addictions; they need people to bring the good news of the Redeemer to them. He alone is strong enough to break their chains. Some are ruined by poverty; they need people to befriend them and help them in their struggles. Some have had their family lives ruined by sexual immorality and abuse; they need someone to love and accept them. When we reach out to them, we can lead them to the Lord Jesus, who can bring about true restoration.

Your local assembly must be known as a place of love and acceptance. First, of course, you must accept one another as Christ as accepted us (Romans 15:7). But then each one needs to provide opportunities where people can experience the acceptance that the grace of Christ gives.

Grace and peace, David

Boaz Acts on His Promise

IMG_1021Ruth 4:1-12

What means more to us—people or possessions? Oh, I know what we’re supposed to say – “people”. Yes, we all do quite well in theory. We give the proper answer and congratulate ourselves on our knowledge. However, life isn’t about theory. Life concerns practice; it demands hard, costly choices that stretch us and our faith. When an unnamed law expert heard the story we call the parable of the Good Samaritan, he was able to give the right answer! But Christ did not commend him for having such keen theoretical knowledge. He pointed him to a new practical way of life that would demand faith and love. Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). In the same way, the story of Ruth is about costly love, and in the start of the fourth chapter of Ruth, we see two men confronted with the need for costly, redeeming love. Let us listen, not to learn more facts, but to live by faith in Christ.

Boaz set up the process for redemption (4:1-2). As he did what he promised to do, God assisted Boaz by his providence. Boaz went to the right place to be able to function as the redeemer. The city gate was where legal matters were transacted. Boaz needed to be there to be able to redeem Ruth. God wants us to be in places to fulfill his will. For example, Christ has sent us “into the world” (John 17:18). We will not reach the world by keeping our distance from people that are part of it. We must always carry Christ’s missional perspective with us, wherever we may go. In our passage, the Hebrew text carries the idea of surprise. Boaz waited at the gate, “and just then” the other kinsman redeemer walked by. Yes, this was a small providence, but the Lord often helps his people in little ways as they do his will. Do what you’re supposed to do (the commands that Christ has given to his people in the New Testament Scriptures). Then wait on the Lord for his help in the details.

Boaz made sure all was done legally. He invited the other man to talk with him. “My friend” is too generous a translation. Better is “Mr. So and So.” The Holy Spirit does not name the man, though Boaz surely knew who he was. The significance of this will become clearer in the rest of the chapter. But the phrase used is not complimentary. Think of how you can refer to someone as “so and so” either not to reveal their identity or to imply that he or she is a “mean old so and so.” Boaz got ten of the elders of Bethlehem to function as legal witnesses for this discussion. Their job was to make sure that all was done in a legal manner and to testify to the result, if that would prove necessary. Jesus relied on witnesses about his saving work: the Father (John 8:12-18), John the Baptist (John 1:29-34), and the apostles (Acts 1:8). Our ongoing mission is to be a witness for Jesus.

Next, Boaz negotiated with the other kinsman-redeemer. From the manner in which he presented the matter, we find out that Boaz was a clever or shrewd businessman. Boaz presented the need to act as a kinsman redeemer (4:3-4). He told his relative about the land that Naomi wanted to sell. Clearly, she had the right to do this, since none of the elders objected (cf. Leviticus 25:8-28). She needed to sell the land to support both Ruth and her. This probably looked like an excellent real estate deal, since Elimelech and his sons had not left any heirs. If he purchased it, at the year of Jubilee, it would permanently become his, since he was the closest relative. The unnamed relative jumped at the deal. He could look good in town by helping out Naomi and keeping the property in the clan, which meant much to the people of Israel. And when Naomi was gone, the property would be his, since she was past childbearing. Do you catch the suspense of the story at this point? It seemed that Ruth would not be able to marry Boaz and that the family of Elimelech might disappear from Israel. Will the story end in this sad way?

The greater subject is the accomplishment of God’s plan, which involves Ruth and Boaz. All seems to hang on the choice of “Mr. So and So”. What did this unnamed man value more – people or possessions. Did he care enough about Naomi to do all that was necessary to redeem her? It would require costly love, sacrificial love.

You and I will not reach people with the good news of redemption in Jesus Christ unless God’s kind of love motivates us. It requires turning from the enjoyment of our possessions to the good of other people. It is too easy to disguise our love of possessions with the excuse of “I’m too tired” (or stressed or busy) to avoid getting involved with people who need the Lord. Examine yourself. Which do you actually love more: people or possessions?

Grace and peace, David

Kindness and Protection

DSCN3649Ruth 3:13-18

We live in dangerous times. A quick look at today’s news provides unwanted confirmation of that somber fact. To watch the evening news in a metropolitan area is to see a recount of a number of murders, armed robberies, or other acts of violence. Boaz and Ruth also lived in a dangerous time, the time of the judges.  In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit (Judges 21:25).

Boaz protected Ruth’s person. He told her to stay with him the rest of the night. There was good reason for this, since this was a time of celebration, and men could be wandering around drunk late at night, and Ruth might be harmed. There are situations that a woman should avoid, especially a young woman. A mature man knows these situations and protects the woman.

Boaz acted in a sexually moral manner. This is indicated by the Hebrew word translated “stay here” (or “lodge”) used in this context. It has no sexual connotations. Being a Christian is not an excuse to act in a foolish manner.  A man knows how men are and acts wisely. Young women take far too much pride in their freedom and go to places and at late hours that are dangerous. You can be godly and street smart at the same time.

Boaz protected their reputation. He wanted to avoid any hint of sexual immorality. If people found out that they were at the threshing floor together, no amount of explanation would clear their reputation. It is better to avoid giving material to gossips. He also would avoid complicating problems about redeeming Ruth. If anyone found out about their midnight rendezvous, it could make the process difficult. Please don’t complicate problems! If something is bad, don’t make it worse!

His kindness added provision (3:15-18). Boaz gave fullness for the present. Boaz had already done a lot for Ruth and Naomi. He had even done more than the old covenant law required! Yet he decided to do more. Boaz was a very generous man. He did not think about the least he might do, but what the two widows needed. This is the way of love. Be assured that when you give generously for Christ’s sake that he notices everything you do (Matthew 25:34-40). This is God’s way of love (John 15:12-13), and Christ is the supreme example of it.

He did something immediately (for the “now”) to help her and Naomi. He gave her six measures of grain. Six might simply be a fact, but it could be symbolic. He did not give seven, since seven was the number of completeness, so he stopped at six. There was the promise of more to come. Though we cannot be exact, it seems that he gave her about 60-95 pounds of grain to carry home. Yes, Ruth was a strong young woman! This was for Naomi, since he had promised to marry Ruth if possible. Guys, if you’re really interested in a girl, be very nice to her mother. For example, if you take a young woman out to the Cheesecake Factory, buy an extra piece of cheesecake for her to take home to her mom.

Boaz provided confident anticipation for the future. He returned to town to do what he promised. Boaz was on a mission. The next place we see Boaz is at the city gate, where such actions occurred. This illustrates Christ going to Jerusalem to accomplish our redemption. Naomi saw that his action gave hope for the “not yet”. Things were going to change, because Boaz went to town! She reassured Ruth that Boaz will do what he promised.

The Lord Jesus Christ has already accomplished redemption by shedding his blood on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. He rose from the dead that we might be right with God. He ascended to heaven to pour out the promised Holy Spirit, and now he lives to intercede for us, waiting for the time set by the Father to return in power and great glory. Is Christ your Redeemer? He will set you free from sin and death and condemnation, if you turn from your sins and trust in him. Right now is the time for that to happen. Right where you sit, you may call on the Lord Jesus and be saved.

Grace and peace, David

Hope in a Redeemer

IMG_1063Ruth 3:1-2

Redemption is costly. We should not be surprised, since everything in life comes at some kind of price, whether of money, work, investing time in relationships, helping to carry someone else’s burdens, etc. Many champion “unconditional love”, but they fail to see that someone pays the price, someone suffers loss of some kind to help or to forgive or to set free. It is better to talk about “sacrificial love”, because that is God’s kind of love. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 NIV). I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 NIV).

Let’s think of the meaning of redemption: To redeem is to set free by the payment of a price. The redeemer must give something to secure the release of someone. As we have said, Ruth and Naomi were in a precarious financial position, since they were widows. Ruth’s hard work of gleaning had eased their crisis temporarily, but how could they be securely free? They needed a redeemer. To gain freedom, a price must be paid. God built this idea into the old covenant law. Consider two examples:

  • Since God delivered Israel through the means of the plague on Egypt’s firstborn, God required Israel to redeem all its firstborn males, whether sons or animals (Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16; cf. Numbers 3:40-51).
  • God required his people to protect human life. This included keeping dangerous animals, like bulls, from harming people. If a person’s bull gored a man or a woman to death (what we might call involuntary manslaughter), the bull had to be destroyed, but the owner could redeem his life by paying whatever was demanded (Exodus 21:28-32).

Boaz would have to pay to redeem Ruth and Naomi, when he functioned as their kinsman redeemer.

God redeemed his people by the payment of a ransom price. In the shadows of the old covenant, God gave Egypt and other nearby nations in exchange for Israel’s freedom (Isaiah 43:3-4). In the reality of the new covenant, God gave the precious blood of Christ to redeem us from an empty way of life (1 Peter 1:18-21). For this reason, don’t live for evil human desires; live for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-5).

Redemption provides hope for the future. At this point of the story of Ruth, we have reached the turning point. When Naomi saw how much Ruth had gleaned and learned in whose field she had gleaned, she regained hope (cf. 2:20). She returned to worship, because she thought about redemption and began to act according to it! This also set Naomi to thinking about remarriage for her daughter-in-law. Picture her making scones one day. (By the way, Sharon makes great scones!) Picture Naomi musing about her new career as a matchmaker. “Let’s see… Ruth is an eligible young woman, and Boaz is one of our kinsman redeemers. Now if I can get the two of them together in a more promising romantic situation than when Ruth is sweaty and dirty from gleaning, Mr. Boaz might notice Ruth. If we do this right, he might want to do more than give her some roasted grain. Hmm, what can I do to help this along?”

In a far greater way, God planned to give us hope and a future in Christ. We were hopelessly in debt because of sin (Romans 6:23), separated from Christ, excluded from citizenship in God’s nation and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). We were destined for wrath (John 3:36). But God decided to send his Son as a kinsman-redeemer. To make him eligible as our kinsman, he put him in the human family (Hebrews 2:10-11), in order to redeem us through Christ’s blood, so that we might have our sins forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), and receive the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). This is the story of God’s glory; it is good news for us.

My friend, have you trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Redeemer? The Lord Jesus paid the very costly price necessary to set free all who believe in him from sin, guilt, condemnation, and wrath. Freedom from all these is offered to you through faith in Christ. Today is an excellent day to receive the free gift of eternal life.

Grace and peace, David

When God Speaks to His People

IMG_0519Isaiah 43:14-17

In the book that bears his name, Isaiah prophesied of the exile of Israel to Babylon. This was difficult news for God’s old covenant people to receive. God had given them the Promised Land. It was the place where he would live among them; it was the place of blessing and peace. The Lord God had warned them that if they did not obey him fully, he would remove them from the land; in fact, he would scatter them among the nations. Exile would mean separation from all they had known, loss of their property, separation of family and friends, and no way to worship the Lord according to the terms of the law covenant. The prophesied exile to Babylon was a warning shot over the bow, and as we sadly know, they did not listen.

However, Isaiah’s prophecy was more than a gloomy message of punishment for their breaking of the covenant. It was also an encouraging announcement of hope. At all times God wants us to understand our situation in his presence and the better life we can experience when we walk with him in faith. For this reason, the Lord talks to Israel through the prophet about “a new thing” that he will do in what was then their future. In order to give them this word of hope, he reminds them of who he is. It is necessary to know God, so that we might be able to lay hold of what he is able and willing to do for those who trust him. To know him, we need to listen carefully when he reveals himself to us.

First, the Lord (Yahweh) calls himself their Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel (43:14). God joins two names that might seem to pull them in opposite directions emotionally. Redeemer is a joyous name. God proclaims that he cares about them and is willing to do what is necessary to set them free. This would fuel confident expectation in people contemplating the horrors of exile. Though they would be exiled, God promises to free them from captivity. Yet at the same time, he is the Holy One of Israel. He is the One supreme over all things, including the false gods they had been worshiping. He is set apart from the sinfulness of people. A study of the Old Testament Scriptures reveals that idolatry was a constant problem in Israel before the exile. Idolatry in the heart is a very serious spiritual problem (Ezekiel 14:3-5). A life based on idols will breed sinfulness in a person’s way of life. So then, God promised to free them from exile, but the deliverance would be consistent with his holiness.

Second, the Lord repeats the truth of his holiness, and then reminds them that he is their Creator and King (43:15). God is asserting his rights in relation to Israel. The Creator has ownership rights of what he has created. This is one motive for people to deny creation and to prefer evolution. God is telling Israel that they belong to him, and so he has the right to send them into exile and to free them. Since he is their King, he also has the power and authority to do this. The people needed to have a proper view of the dependence on God for their destiny, in order to have a firm basis for confident expectation in God’s plan. Simply put, you cannot deny God’s rule and have real hope. Without hope, you fall into defeatism, depression, dread, and despair. God calls to his people to avoid this dark path.

Third, the Lord reminds them of his glory in the exodus from Egypt (43:16-17). He points them to redemption in their past to lead them to hope in a fuller redemption in their future. Egypt had seemed unbeatable, and they had acted arrogantly toward Israel, oppressing them in terrible ways. However, God had set them free from Egypt through ten mighty signs and wonders. But then, Egypt had decided that they did not want to lose their slave labor and pursued them to the brink of the sea. When all seemed hopeless, the Lord made “a path through the mighty waters” and defeated the enemy army totally. In the same way, we need to remember how God has set free those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. His victory in that redemption provides us a firm basis of hope as we contemplate our future. We can know that followers of Christ are now like “scattered exiles”, and yet God has already given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (cf. 1 Peter 1:1-3). Is your hope and trust in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ? You can have eternal confidence when you turn from your rejection of God as God, your refusal to love him first, and your rebellion against him and his ways to trust in Christ for forgiveness and freedom from sin, guilt, and condemnation. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).

Grace and peace, David

The Helmet of Salvation (Part One)

20150101_151010Ephesians 6:17

Helmets. I see them constantly on my walks around Valley Forge Park. They are worn by men and women, girls and boys. Why do I see so many sporting such unfashionable headgear? Why are bicycle riders required to wear helmets? That’s right—to protect their heads. In the same way the helmet is probably the most important part of the armor. A soldier might be able to survive and continue to fight with wounds to other parts of the body, but most wounds to the head are either fatal or crippling. “The Roman soldier’s helmet… was usually made of a tough metal like bronze or iron. ‘An inside lining of felt or sponge made the weight bearable. Nothing short of an axe or hammer could pierce a heavy helmet, and in some cases a hinged vizor added frontal protection.’ Helmets were decorative as well as protective, and some had magnificent plumes or crests” (Stott).

Here Paul compares salvation to a helmet. Why is salvation in general such an important part of the armor of God? How can this helmet offer such protection? It might help if we consider the three “tenses” of salvation. Every true follower of the Lord Jesus can say, “I was saved; I am being saved; and I will be saved.

Today, we will consider four past blessings of salvation. The first is election. For reasons known only to God, he decided to save a people from the wreck and ruin of human sin. God could have justly passed by all humanity, allowing all of us to perish, as he did the angels that rebelled against him. But to magnify the fame of his name, God chose to save some from the guilt and pollution of sin. This election was of people in relation to Christ from before the creation of the world without any regard for anything they might do (Ephesians 1:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 8:33; 1 Corinthians 1:27-29; James 2:5). Everyone who follows Christ should gain confidence from the Bible’s teaching of election. God wanted us to be his people, and we need to hear this when the enemy or our doubts cause us to wonder about that. Before the first seraph ever cried out, “Holy, holy, holy!” God had chosen us to salvation in Christ.

The second blessing is redemption. Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed his blood as the ransom price, and so he redeemed us to carry out God’s eternal purpose. In every way the Lord Jesus Christ has the honor of saving us (Ephesians 1:7). His redemption set us free from the penalty and curse of sin, from our slavery to sin, and from bondage to the law. He has bought us and now we are his bondservants. See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Redemption teaches us our liberty in Christ (Galatians 5:1). When the enemy attempts to fill you with false information that you are in slavery, assert your freedom in Christ!

The third blessing speaks of the application of redemption: regeneration (the new birth from above) and effectual calling. Securely bound in the darkness of sin and dead in sin, God made us alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). When the Spirit of God made alive spiritually, we received the gifts of repentance (a change of mind) and faith, by which we turn from the pursuit of sin and trust in the Lord Jesus alone for salvation. A battlefield becomes filled with corpses, and the evil one may tempt you to think that you will share that fate. But do not give in to such thoughts. The great promise of salvation is that the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

The fourth blessing is justification. Having believed, we are declared right with God ­(Romans 5:1). We have already talked about Christ as our righteousness in the article about the breastplate. Again the great goal is confidence for all followers of Jesus. We are on God’s side and fully accepted by him! He has saved us, and we have a new relationship with the living God. More on this relationship next time, God willing.

Grace and peace, David