Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ruth's Story

The third woman in the lineage of Christ I am studying is Ruth. Her story began with Naomi and Elimelech, who were living in Bethlehem during a time that Israel was under God's discipline. Apart of God's discipline was a severe drought, so they decided to move their family to Moab, initiating a season of grief for Naomi. She grieved the loss of a familiar home, a familiar culture, and extended family. They moved because the rains had ceased, thirsty plants wilted, cows starved, and there family was experiencing hunger they could not fill and thirst they could not quench. They went to a green fertile place in Moab, which was steeped in pagan worship. While there, Naomi's husband died and her two sons married Moabite women, killing her hopes of ever returning home. 

Within ten years in Moab Naomi had buried her husband as well as both of her sons. Her grief became unbearable and she found herself once again longing for home. In her pain, she had come to believe the hand of God had come against her personally. She told her daughters-in-law to return to their families and to their gods so they could remarry. At first, both women protested. But when she reminded them she was too old to bear sons who could become their husbands, Orpah rose to return to her family. But, Ruth stood her ground, refusing to leave Naomi, declaring allegiance to her and to her God. Maybe Ruth believed that by holding on to Naomi she could hold on to the memories of her husband or maybe she had grown to love her and didn't want her to travel the dangerous roads alone. Whatever her reason, Ruth knew she might not be accepted in Judah and that she could possibly live the rest of her life as a widow in the midst of a culture she knew would never accept her. 

The two women arrived in Judah just as the barley and wheat fields was ready to be harvested. When the women in the community recognized Naomi they greeted her fondly, but Naomi asked to be called Mara, which means literally means "bitterly dealt with." I love her honesty and know there have been times I could relate to her feelings and wish I had been that honest with those around me instead of trying to cover up the pain I was feeling.

Ruth soon went to the barley fields to glean what the reapers left. She ended up gleaning in Boaz's fields. When Boaz saw her, he asked about her. Upon hearing she was the daughter-in-law of Naomi, he instructed her not to leave his fields and to stay with the women who were working for him. He provided her with water and with food and instructed the workers to pull grain from their bundles and leave it for her to find so she would have ample grain for Naomi and herself. He treated the young foreign widow with the upmost respect and protected her as she gleaned. This was important because a woman in her position was vulnerale to being mistreated or assaulted. 

When Ruth told Naomi about the grace and the kindness Boaz showed her, Naomi realized that her God had not forgotten her. She explained to Ruth Israel's provision for widows through a kinsman redeemer. At Naomi's instruction, Ruth bathed and anointed herself with perfume and went to the threshing floor and uncovered the feet of Boaz and laid there. He awakened and she asked him to be her kinsman redeemer. Even in the darkness of the night with a woman lying at his feet, Boaz integrity was impeccable. He listened to her and treated her with godly respect. He knew there was a closer rleative with the right of redemption, and he wanted to be able to legally take Ruth as his wife. As soon as it was light enough for her to go home safely, he sent her on her way, protecting both her reputation and her purity. He asked for the right to marry her from the relative nearer than he and it was granted. I love Boaz and his heart. He was the son of Rahab (the harlot) and Salmon (the founder of Bethlehem) and they raised him in such a way that he was a compassionate, loving, man of integrity who did everything he could to be loving and to show Ruth honor and favor. 

I love this story because it is an honest account of woman who had suffered a great loss and for a season experienced deep grief. It is also an account of a woman who in spite of the grief she was experiencing was able to rise up and choose to love her bitter mother-in-law well. And it was that love that led Ruth to follow Naomi to Judah and enabled her to leave her own culture and her pagan gods and embrace a new and different culture and the great and mighty Jehovah-Jirah.

Maybe God placed Ruth in the family line of Christ to show us the importance of being tenacious followers of God. Ruth was so tenacious she didn't let Naomi's desire to isolate deter her from walking her to Judah. She didn't let Naomi's bitterness deter her from choosing to love and care for her. She didn't let Naomi's tainted view of God deter her from fully trusting Jehovah to be her God. She was so tenacious that she didn't let Naomi's sadness or her status as a foreign woman deter her from trying to provide for her. 

Maybe God put Ruth in the family line of Jesus to show us God cares for those who are suffering in the aftermath of loss. It doesn't matter whether the losses are people, possessions, the sense of security, one's health, or one's dreams--the pain of loss is very real and our God fully understands it because of the cross. We would do well to remember though our losses cause pain, they are not proof that God doesn't love us. Nor are they proof that He doesn't care about the pain we are experiencing. Just as Ruth's losses were what propelled her from a place of poverty to a place of wealth, our losses have the potential to open up new things in our lives. Ruth's loss also propelled her to be in the place she needed to be to become the great grandmother of King David and to be a part of the family line of Jesus.  

Maybe God put Ruth in Christ lineage to show us how leaning into Jesus in faith during loss can provide us the opportunity to see God work the things that are happening in our lives out for our good and His glory in ways that we can't even imagine. God saw her faith and her heart and He honored it in the sweetest and most inclusive way. What might be the hidden treasures in the darkness we are experiencing right now?  

Maybe God put her in the lineage of Christ to show us that "God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him." (Acts 10-34-35) This means He is an inclusive God. He doesn't discriminate on our gender, on what we believed before we came to know Him, on what family we grew up in, on the sin with which we struggle, on the race we were born into, or what country we come from. Jesus' invitation is for whoever will believe on the name of Jesus. He placed Ruth in Jesus' family line to remind us that in His family there are no outsiders and there are no second class citizens.
Maybe He put her in the lineage of Christ to show us that we don't need to compromise our integrity to have our needs met. We can trust a God who was willing to die for us to meet our needs on a daily basis. We don't have to manipulate or lie to get what we need. He will provide.

Ruth being in the lineage of Christ reminds us Jesus understands our grief. He understands the pain parents feel standing over the grave of a child lost too soon. He understands the pain a widow feels as she watches her spouse slip into eternity. He understands the grief that comes when a marriage ends and the grief an infertile couple feels every month. He understands the grief of watching houses burn to the ground or floods washing away crops and animals. He understands the loss experienced when a family member is injured and forever changed. 

I can't help but think that there is significant meaning in this story of a Israelite man marrying a Moabite woman being set in Bethlehem, which means "The House of Bread." I can't help think that it taking place just as the barley and wheat are harvested is no coincidence. This would be taking place during the feast of weeks and in Leviticus 23 we see that God had instructed Israel to bring two wave loaves made of flour and baked with leaven to be the first fruits to the Lord. Could the two loaves of bread possibly represent the faithful disciples in both the old and new dispensations? Could they represent the two separate, but now fused races of people who comprise the church--the Jews and the Gentiles? How neat for Ruth to not only be a forerunner of the Savior, but a reminder to every gentile that they, too, have been fully fused into the family line of Jesus. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Rahab's Story

When I was young, I thought the stories in the Bible were about good people. But, I soon discovered God's epic story was full of unexpected characters, one of whom was Rahab, the Harlot. She was a Canaanite, living in Jericho whose residence was imbedded in the city wall right next to the city gate. This made it easy for traveling men to find her and for city dwellers to notice who was frequenting her business. While she was able to hear all sorts of news from travelers who used her services, she was probably scorned by women in her community and probably maltreatment at the hands of the men frequenting her.         

Her story takes place after Moses died and when Joshua sent two spies to Jericho to spy out the Promised Land. When the spies arrived in Jericho, they went to Rahab's house and she was forthright about the state of her city. She told them she knew the Lord God had given Israel the land in which she lived and shared that her city upon hearing how the Lord had given them victory over the Egyptians and the two kings of the Amorites beyond the Jordan had become fearful. She also revealed what was in her own heart, "For the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath." She had responded to what she had heard, by believing in Jehovah. 

Someone saw the spies enter Rahab's place and reported it to the king of Jericho. He sent a band of men to her home to get them, but Rahab had taken the spies to the roof and hidden them under drying flax. She told the king's men the spies were not there and sent them on a wild goose chase. Once the band of men were gone, she went up to her roof and boldly asked the spies to deal with her with the same loving kindness she had shown them. She requested that they save her parents, her siblings and their families, and her when they came to take the city. They instructed her to remain silent about their visit, to bring everyone into her home for safety, and to hang a scarlet thread from her window. They promised that as long as she did as these things, they would be faithful to deal kindly with her and her family.  

On the day of battle the doors of the city were shut tight. Instead of coming in with weapons blazing, the Israelites came in quietly and set up camp. Then every morning for six days the men of Israel rose up and marched silently around the city walls. On the seventh day, they arose and marched around the city seven times and then blew trumpets and shouted a warrior's cry. The city walls crumbled--all except for the part of the wall containing Rahab's home. During those seven days, Rahab waited patiently, standing firm in her faith. She waited when she heard the walls of her city crumbling all around her in what had to sound and feel like a holocaust. And, she waited until the Israelites came for her and her family. 

Rahab was taken in by the Israelites. By faith and the mercy shown her, she was given a new start, which resulted in her becoming a wife to Salmon who was the founder of the city of Bethlehem and a mother to Boaz whose story is in the book of Ruth. We know Rahab was a changed woman as her husband was well respected by Israel and her son was a man of impeccable character who showed great kindness as we will see next week. Because of God's redemptions she was the grandmother to a king and was grafted into the lineage of the King of kings. 

Maybe God put Rahab in the Jesus' family line to remind us we don't have to let our past define us. In Christ, we are not victims to what we were, we have the power to make different choices now. In Christ, we can have the boldness of Rahab and become the women God created us to be. We can be mothers and grandmothers who break the bondage of generational sin to raise up godly men and women who do great things for the Kingdom of God. In Christ, we don't have to let our culture and what others say about us limit us. We can boldly ask the impossible of our God who has unlimited power to do above and beyond anything we can think or ask. In Christ, a godless heritage no longer defines us, because God places us in His family, giving us His heritage to call our own.  

Maybe God put Rahab in the family line to remind us of His faithfulness. Each of us has been given knowledge of God. It is written on our hearts at conception. It is written in nature where His splendor is on display for all to see. And, His story is being lived out in the life of every believer like an open book available to be read by unbelievers. When just one person in one community responds to what they know in their heart of hearts, to what they have seen around them, and to the testimonies they have heard, He will mercifully rescue them and set them free from the bondage of their sin. Just as God faithfully led the spies to Rahab, He will faithfully send someone to help those He has called His own.  

Maybe God put Rahab in Christ's family line to remind us our sin does not define us. No matter how bad our sin was, Jesus' love was big enough to reach out to us. His blood spilt on the cross was pure enough to cover even the sin we deem the worst. This means that when we are saved, those ugly labels like dirty, unworthy, addicted, murderer, thief, slutty, adulterer, gluttonous, defective, forgotten, invisible, weak, broken and outcast no longer matter to God. All that matters are the labels that describe who we are in Him--chosen, called, forgiven, accepted, redeemed, reconciled, restored, clean, strong, healed, worthy, gifted, and beloved children of God. 

Maybe God put Rahab in the family line to remind us we have Hesed. This is a legal agreement to cover someone with protection. It is like being under an umbrella in a storm. The umbrella can't stop the rain, but it can protect us from it. It is what Israel experienced in Egypt during the Passover when they painted blood over their doors and were protected from the angel of death. It is what Rahab and her family experienced when she hung a scarlet cord from her window and were kept safe from the walls falling and the battle raging around them. Just as Rahab was safe under Hesed, we are safe under Hesed, fully protected by the blood of Jesus from the wrath of God for sin. 

Maybe God put Rahab in the family line of Jesus to remind us faith is to be exercised by actions not just talk. Rahab was rescued because she exercised faith by hiding, protecting, and leading the spies out. She exercised faith by hanging a scarlet cord in her window, inviting her family in, and remaining in place as she waited on God's timing. Her story reminds us there will be times when life gets rocky and we experience fear. That is when we have the opportunity to exercise faith, not only through words, but through deeds and courageous restraint. We don't have to understand all that is going on, we just have to stand firm in faith, acting out of who God says we are instead of how we feel in the moment. 

Rahab responded to what she heard about Jehovah with faith--faith that resulted in her and her family being saved, in her having a new life in which she became a wife to Salmon the founder of the city of David, and a mother to Boaz the grandfather of David and a forefather of Jesus. May we be a people so touched by Rahab's story that we never forget our God is not a God who rewrites stories, but a God who takes the most sinful, ugly, painful stories and weave them into a glorious redemption story. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Tamar's Story

We don't often think about the women who were in Jesus' family line. So, I decided to write about them during this season of Lent. Some of their stories aren't easy to understand because the culture and laws of their day were so different than ours. However, their stories can still help us understand the depth of the Lord's compassion towards women and the graces He extended to those who are broken and bruised by life's events and circumstances. This week we are looking at Tamar whose story is found in Genesis 38.

Her story begins with Judah who had taken a Canaanite woman's daughter as his wife. She bore him three sons--Er, Onan, and Shelah. As was customary, Judah arranged for Tamar to be the wife of Er. But, Er was wicked and the Lord put him to death. It was also customary for the patriarch to send a second son to raise up children for his dead brother. Onan, knowing the children Tamar would conceive by their union would not be his legal children, spilled his seed on the ground, leaving her barren and her husbands lineage unfulfilled. So, the Lord put him to death as well. Judah was afraid that giving Tamar his third son could result in his death as well. So, he sent her to live in her father's house as a widow, telling her he would send for her when Shelah grew up.

Tamar lived as a widow, hoping Shelah would come for her. However, as time passed and Shelah had grown, Tamar realized her father-in-law had no intention of fulfilling his word. Her grief over becoming a young widow was compounded by the hopelessness caused Judah's actions. She knew the withholding of his last son from her meant her longing for companionship, love, and children would never be fulfilled. She felt forgotten, overlooked, rejected, and betrayed by a man who held her future in his hands.

More time passed and Judah's wife died. Tamar heard that after his period of grieving that Judah was going to Timnah to shear sheep. Having grown tired of life as a widow, she took matters into her own hands. She removed her widow's garb and put on the garments of a cult prostitute, which included a veil. She waited at the entrance of a city on the road to Timnah. Judah approached her and did not recognize her because of the veil. He propositioned her with a goat for her "services" and agreed to leave her his signet, cord, and staff to hold onto as a good faith promise for the goat. She conceived a child by him and returned to her father's house to her widow garments.

Judah sent the goat to Tamar through a friend, but she was nowhere to be found. He was unable to pay her the goat and unable to obtain his things from her. He dropped the matter as he didn't want anyone to think he was foolish for what he had done. But, three months later Judah received news that his daughter-in-law was pregnant. Assuming she had been immoral, Judah ordered his men to bring her to him so she could be burned for her sin.

Tamar came prepared to plead her case. She handed his things to him and told him the man to whom the things belonged was the man who had fathered her babies. Judah recognized his things and announced she was more righteous than him because he had failed to give Shelah to her. I find myself a little irritated that he acknowledged his failure to keep the custom of giving his third son to her, but didn't outright own the moral failure of hiring a prostitute.

When I was younger, I judged her quite harshly, thinking I would never do what she did, no matter the circumstances. But, if we were really honest and took a good look at our own lives I don't think any of us could stand. What did we do when we experienced the pain of unmet needs and unfulfilled longings? What did we do when we felt forgotten, overlooked, rejected, and betrayed? Maybe we didn't try to meet our needs with an act of prostitution or use the same type of deception Tamar did. But, I bet many of us have employed manipulation at some point to get what we wanted. Many of us have tried to fill longings with things that were never meant to satisfy. And, many of us have just simply numbed our longings and our desires and began to live life depressed and/or bitter. But isn't dealing with life these ways that are apart from our Creator, our Savior, our Provider forms of spiritual adultery? Isn't that just as wrong as what she did?

I wish I could ask the Lord a thousand questions about Tamar's story. But, I know that what He wants us to learn from Tamar's story could be lost in too many details. Maybe God placed Tamar in Jesus lineage to show us He is the Redeemer of those who have felt like outsiders looking in. Maybe God put Tamar in Christ's family line so we would know He is the healer of those who feel forgotten and rejected. Maybe God placed her there to show us He is the lover of the unloved, the rescuer of the betrayed, the acknowledger of those who were set aside, and the host to those who felt uninvited. Maybe He put her there to remind us that Jesus is even Savior to those who take matters into their own hands, using deception and sin to try to find what only He could give. Maybe, God put Tamar in Christ's family line so we would know there is more to the story we are living than we see right now.

Just as God placed Tamar into Jesus' story and into His family, by faith we have been placed into His story and into His family. Tamar reminds us of that that. You and I--we are loved, we are called by His name, we have been placed into His family, and our futile lives and be given significance. Jesus's family is a family full of broken, forgotten, loved-starved people just like Tamar, just like you, and just like me. It is a family full of people who are lavishly loved and in desperate need of God's grace.


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!