Who, Then, Is This? (Part Two)

Luke 9:1-17

Summoning the Twelve, he gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Then he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick… So they went out and traveled from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere (9:1-2, 6 CSB).

Jesus is someone with a great vision (9:1-6).

He sent the twelve apostles out to expand his own ministry. This was a training mission for their later ministry. He taught them and provided them with the opportunity to apply and to practice what they learned.

Action Step: Every mature Christian should be looking and praying for a younger saint that he or she can mentor. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2 NIV). We should see a plan for “four generational” ministry: Paul, Timothy, reliable people, others also. Women are to teach other women. Then they [the older women] can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God (Titus 2:4-5 NIV)

Notice that the apostles did the same things that the Lord did: preach and heal the sick. As Luke makes clear in his second writing, the book of Acts, they performed the healings through the name of Jesus (Acts 3:6; 16:18).

He taught his disciples the way of faith (9:3-4). They would have to believe that he had supplied them with the necessary power and authority for the mission. We, too, have authority to tell the good news of Jesus, the Son of God (Matthew 28:18-20). They would have to believe that God would provide the necessary physical support for their mission. As they went they would see God supply. God would speak to the hearts of people to supply the needs of his servants. This would prevent the apostles from looking for a better deal from the house down the street and from wasting their time. They would learn contentment and a gracious, appreciative attitude toward their hosts.

The fact that Christ commanded the apostles on a short-term to live by faith in this way does not mean that anyone else must. Consider that later he told the apostles to take provisions (Luke 22:35-36). The rest of the New Testament Scriptures clearly teach the proper support of ministers of the gospel.

Jesus demanded a change of mind in regard to the message of the gospel (9:5). The Jews in that time would often shake the dust from their feet when they left Gentile territory and reentered the Holy Land. So Jesus is saying, if they will not listen to you preach the gospel, treat them as cut off from God’s covenant people. They might be in Israel, but they are not God’s Israel (cf. Rm 9-11).

When God sends his servants into an area, it is not only a reason for joy and hope, but also for serious attention to the word of God. To reject the gospel is to ask God for his wrath to fall upon you (Matthew 10:15). The apostles followed this practice when people would not listen to the word of God (Acts 13:51).

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord is not playing church or other religious games. We had better not be playing around. To live for the Lord Jesus Christ is to be on a serious mission in a dangerous place (John 17:14-19). Wherever you are, you are God’s witness and you are to testify for him.

Grace and peace

Beyond Coincidences

IMG_0910Ruth 2:1-7

Once in a while, you might see a movie or read a novel that presents both sides of a story. The main characters function as both protagonists and antagonists. An example would be the movie Gettysburg, which attempts to tell the story of the battle of Gettysburg from both the perspective of the Union and the Confederates. In this section, we encounter something similar occurring. As we see Ruth take center stage, we see two sides of the story. On one side we find Ruth, her significant choices, and random or chance events. But on the other side the story is about the invisible but true God, directing her life so that it moves beyond coincidences.

Ruth exercised a bold initiative; she decided to act. Ruth knew that having a house and a table is insufficient. They needed bread on the table, if they were going to survive. She was not afraid to work for that goal. The Bible teaches that we both pray for God to supply our food (Matthew 6:11) and actively fulfill our responsibility to work for it (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Ruth overcame the temptation to laziness and the apparent depression of her mother-in-law. When Naomi agreed to Ruth’s action, she gave a two-word answer in Hebrew. So then Naomi was not in a good emotional or spiritual condition. If you are in a depressed condition, you need to return to active service for Jesus. To do this, look to his cross and see a better covenant made with you by his blood. The Lord is on your side and he is committed to help you, regardless of your present circumstances.

Ruth used a provision in God’s old covenant law for her good (Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-22).  To glean means to gather or collect. God allowed those who were in need in the specified circumstances to provide food for themselves from the property of others, since the land belonged to God ultimately. We should see more than the law; we should see the kindness of the Lord who gave the law to his people. God’s commands flow out of his nature, all revealing his glory as God in some way.

We need to see all that we have as coming from the kindness of our Father in heaven. Whatever we give is his anyway, and by giving we reflect God’s kindness. Observe carefully that Ruth was not guided to glean by some nighttime vision or dream, by hearing voices from heaven, or by an angelic escort. She simply walked according to the word of truth, the Bible.

Ruth took a risk. There was danger because of her ethnicity. People have many prejudices in regard to people of other ethnic groups. Many of these arise from differences in skin color, language, customs, and religion. Though the Lord had given the law of gleaning to provide for the aliens in Israel, not everyone would be willing to obey God’s law. The law of God reflected God’s character and will, but it did not achieve it. Grace comes through the gospel, not the law.

There was danger because of her gender. The time of the judges (cf. 1:1) was marked by open sexual immorality, like our time. (Sexual immorality is always a human problem in this world, cf. Mark 7:21; Romans 1:24-27.) Without a strong central government committed to God’s law covenant, outward expression of the heart’s sexual immorality was not hindered as it should have been. It could have been risky for a woman to go out to the fields alone. We will notice more about this in the next section. Israel had become more like the nations that she was to be separated from. Having forsaken God and the good news of Jesus, our nation will become increasingly sexually immoral and violent, which is the companion of sexual immorality. (Read Romans 1:18-32.)

There was also a risk because of her limited knowledge. All people face this in various ways and degrees. Ruth was not sure about who would show favor to her. Would they treat her as a needy person or as an unwelcome, troublesome foreigner? She simply didn’t know. But she took the risk. God expects us to live by faith according to the Scriptures. In his providence, Ruth was a widow, an alien, and poor. In his covenant law, he had provided for her provision in the law about gleaning. By faith she had to act on God’s revealed will and to trust God to provide.

Ruth’s risk was rewarded by God (2:3). Here we see the hand of the invisible God silently at work. From the human perspective, Ruth simply made her choices. “Let’s see; that looks like a nice field and the workers seem happy. That might mean that the owner is generous. So, I’ll try my luck there.” But Ruth might not have even thought that much. The Hebrew text literally reads, “Her chance chanced upon.” She might have simply wandered into the field with a sigh and a shrug of her shoulders and started to glean.

However, what people call chance or luck is not simple random occurrence. Instead, this is God’s sovereign providence. God guided her steps to her destiny that he appointed for her (Proverbs 16:9). God directed her steps, so that she walks seemingly “by chance” into the fields of Boaz.

My whole life has been shaped by various chance happenings, like a computer picking my college roommates for my freshman year, randomly sitting next to someone in my first class at a new college, and a man suddenly recalling at the right moment that he had my phone number on a scrap of paper in his Bible. Those are three examples from what I do know, and God alone knows in how many other ways he has guided my life through “chance” happenings.

The life of faith is an adventure. It’s exciting to think of what God might do; that is, if you’re trusting him! Are you?

Grace and peace, David