Archive for July, 2012
This post focuses on one verse, Ruth 3:3. Naomi, the one who knows, offers instructions to Ruth when the young woman prepares to meet Boaz. Because the meeting could be life-changing for all three parties, every detail is important. Naomi even tells Ruth what she must do before she leaves their home. She must wash herself, anoint herself, and put on her cloak or new clothing.
These would be normal preparations today, but they would have required major effort in Ruth’s time. Each offers obvious physical benefits. But they also represent spiritual realities, because each uniquely prepared Ruth to meet the challenge before her.
Because some might wonder if putting on new clothing could actually refer to a spiritual truth, I included additional Scripture references: Zechariah 3 and Ephesians 4:22-24. You might also appreciate Job 29:14 and Colosians 3:12-16.
Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:11:”13)
During a prayer meeting we attended last week, a fellow shared a challenging prophetic message. I felt it was important at the time so I jotted down what I could, and stuck it in my Bible.
From there it went home where it was placed on a stack near my desk.
Tonight I’m feeling overwhelmed, faced by the need for internal and external resources I don’t have, feeling self-imposed pressure to make decisions that can wait. And we’re going on a short jaunt for a few days
Here’s the message I found when trying to organize that stack of papers:
Arm yourself with the Word, with prayer, with praise, and with the blood of Jesus.
Put on the armor to stand against the enemy.
Become an enforcer [in the Spirit]. Use your sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
Rise up and take your place. Take your righteousness.
Don’t be shy.
Don’t be ashamed.
Don’t be afraid.
Authority belongs to me and I’ve given it to you.
It’s your will.
It’s your choice.
It’s your move.
So move forward.
Do not retreat.
Do not draw back.
Go forward and the gates of hell will not prevail.
Now, I know this message could be criticized on several counts. But you don’t know the man and you didn’t hear it in context. He’s not suggesting God wants us to foolishly take on spiritual battles we aren’t ready for.
But God is calling His people to spiritual battle. The world needs Jesus. I need more of Jesus, you need more of Jesus, we all need more of Jesus. And we won’t receive Him as we need Him unless we put on God’s armor and do what He tells us to do.
I also know I’m not the only one who has heard a message, identified it as important, and then walked away. But I’m so glad God didn’t let me get away with it. He saved it for tonight—when I’d be too tired and vulnerable to set it aside again.
I initially remembered a verse. Proverbs 25:11 reads, A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. If ever a word was fitly spoke, this one it. But there’s even danger when I revel a word—and savor it as a way of avoiding the bite
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not weighed down by condemnations by this message. In fact, I’m not as burdened as I was before it hit me.
The word convicted and liberated.
God knows how to deal with people that way.
And here’s the crazy thing: I don’t feel called to a specific function—I’m called to a different mindset.
There are times and there are times. And this is one of those times.
It is time to listen to the Spirit.
It is time to actively listen to the Spirit.
Add it’s embarrassing to acknowledge He’s saying this to me because I do hear Him—quite a bit.
I get messages now and then. God is my friend.
Yet He’s telling me to listen.
And I know it is time to hear His voice.
I know it. I feel it. He is calling me—and probably many others—to something different. Something new.
Do you feel it, too?
Ruth continues to labor in the fields throughout the barley and harvest season. This post, based on Ruth 3:1-5, looks at what Naomi does and doesn’t say after she learns Ruth’s benefactor is their kinsman Boaz.
Then the season comes to a close and Naomi does offer specific advice. As the one who understands, she becomes a counselor with a plan. Naomi knows that although Ruth gleaned in the fields simply to survive, God was doing something bigger, something special that could open up a future.
And as is always the case, moving forward to receive God’s plan requires another leap of faith and an increased level of obedience.
After the tragedies happened (this post will not discuss what preceded them), three so-called friends visited him to offer advice. But although their words sounded good, they sent the already desperate man deeper into an abyss of sorrow. Job was their target. They insisted he suffered because he was hiding sin; he knew he had been walking with God.
A fourth friend whose name was Elihu entered the discussion after the others ran out of steam, but he had a different message. Rather than focusing on the tragedies, he extoled God. Although he identified where Job had misunderstood God, he said, “I desire to justify you.” (Job 33:32 ESV)
This is all very vivid, because I read the book this week. And I’d like to highlight a few things I noticed during the reading.
Job talked about life after death, but the three friends did not.
In addition to defending himself from accusations, Job asked the ultimate question: “If a man dies, shall he live again?” ( 12:14)
And he boldly proclaimed, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” (19:25)
This type of confession was missing from the trio who came to advise him. Their viewpoint was limited to life on earth; their concept of God’s blessings was limited to earthly blessings.
Although Job knew God, his friends knew about God.
The friends never mentioned their interaction with God.
Eliphas asked, “Is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are in the right, or is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless?” (22:3)
Bildad added, “How then can man be in the right before God?” (25:4)
Zophar never gets beyond judgment. At one point he declared, “God will send his burning anger….” (10:23)
These men’s words did not come out of personal unity with the living God. It would seem they walked apart from or separated from Him.
And they were offended by Job’s statements that referred to his relationship with God. Such as, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.” (23:3,4)
Job spoke boldly to God because they had visited before. They were friends. Based on their relationship, Job knew he was righteous—not because of his own merit but because he walked in God’s grace. And before the book comes to a close, we learn that Job truly was a man approved by God.
When oppressed by difficult events, focus on God’s character rather than on earthly sorrow.
We easily identify Job’s pain. But after God reveals the nature of His character Job said, “I have uttered what I did not understand…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore, I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:3,5)
So although we understand Job’s response to his circumstances, we must also understand that the man could never do or say anything that would remove his sorrow. Only God could bring healing to Job. And we, like Job, must look to Him as well.
In the end, God honored His servant Job.
God told the three friends to prepare a sacrifice—and then He would receive Job’s prayer for them. Isn’t that interesting?
And then we read the final report: Job received twice as much of everything he had lost—except for his children. There God gave him the exact number he had before because Job knew they would live after death—and in heaven the children who died during the tragedies would be added to the children born after his restoration—so the total number would be twice as many as he had lost.
Meanwhile, Job lived a long life—140 altogether. Years filled with opportunities to bless people who would benefit from his kindness.
When Ruth entered the fields to glean, interesting and unusual events worked together. Ruth must have realized something was afoot, but she was unfamiliar with the culture of Bethlehem. She didn’t know anything about a kinsman-redeemer or how he could change her life. And so she meets Boaz with no hidden agenda. She simply appreciates his intervention when he offers fresh water and protection as she labored in the fields.
Naomi, on the other hand, is familiar with the provision for marriages within the Hebrew culture. But when she becomes Ruth’s teacher, she doesn’t tell Ruth too much. She offers simple advice that supports the young widow’s personality and character. In that role, she becomes a metaphor for the Holy Spirit who leads and guides us, not usually with full disclosure, but with enough to support us as we draw near to our Savior.
Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and who ever receives Me does not receive Me but Him who sent Me.” (Mk. 9:36,37)
Do you every visualize Jesus?
I’ve visualized Him since I was a child—perhaps the age of the child Jesus lifted up in this verse—long before I received Him as Savior.
But I always visualized Him outside and, unless the story indicated otherwise, He stood.
In fact, I’d been a Christian a long, long time before I could think of Him as confined by a house. In my mind He always stood on a hill where he breathed air washed by breezes that blew directly from the Sea of Galilee. And when that viewpoint expanded, it didn’t expand enough to place Him within an enclosure.
But a vigorous Jesus who preached from the side of a mountain and who walked for miles to get from one village to another is only part of the story. Sometimes Jesus really did enter into people’s homes.
One day a friend suggested that Jesus had a house of His own in Capernaum. Mk. 9:33 tells us, They came to Capernaum, and when He was in the house…. My friend thought the verse refers to the house He lived in when He was there.
Well, that had never occurred to me. But in light of the text, I had to admit He was in a house at the time. And I supposed He could have had a residence of His own. Really?
The story begins in verse 35 with, Sitting down (in the house), He called the twelve and said…
A discussion with His disciples follows. Then, in the first verse of the next chapter we read, Getting up, He went from there….
The point is so simplistic that many will wonder where my mind had been. Apparently Jesus not only lived as a man who taught outdoors to large and small groups. He also lived with people indoors. He picked up children while sitting in a home.
This when lighting was poor—before electricity.
He visited, He taught, He reasoned, He loved, He laughed. And much of this happened within the confines of a building. The synagogues He visited—as was His custom—were buildings.
This somehow gave Jesus another dimension in my mind.
When we love someone, we want to know all about them. I still enjoy hearing stories of my husband’s childhood. What contributed to his becoming the person he became. I smile and sometimes I hurt when he lets me in on his past.
And that’s the way it is with Jesus. Sometimes I wonder about His days. I wish I knew details that haven’t been recorded. I like to imagine being in the crowd when He taught on the hillside. When He taught from an open boat.
I want to delight in the joy of dreaming about this Savior who loves me. I want to think I could be a child playing while my mother prepared dinner. Then, when I least expected it, my Jesus would reach down, pull me up onto His comfortable lap, embrace me, and use me as an example to illustrate Truth.
Or perhaps, instead of being child, I’d be a mother busy meeting the demands of the moment, wishing I could enjoy visiting with Him while hearing Him says the best part in life is loving Him. Or perhaps I’d be married to a man who would follow Jesus by leaving home for long periods of time. That wouldn’t be so wonderful.
But then I could look ahead to the times when Jesus visited, when He finally came through the door into my daily life.
I believe God uses our imaginations, and it can carry us many places. Good and bad.
Imagining Jesus when He lived on earth is good.
And there is another way to imagine Him. With eyes open or closed I can welcome Him into a building right now. I can imagine Him entering into the building I call home.
Into my kitchen or living room. The den. The office area of our guest bedroom where I’m working on the computer right now.
Lord, You are here.
After Chapter 2 of Ruth introduces Boaz, we learn how he and Ruth interact during this first encounter. After all, Boaz knew about Ruth and his connection to her, but he hadn’t tried to establish a connection or relationship. Now she shows up in his field and he must make a choice. How will he treat the young woman?
Also in this message, a brief look at how Ruth’s ongoing faith-based decisions set the stage for her. God has a plan, and she is an importnt participant.