Over the last 300 hundred years there has been a series of Christian awakenings that have taken place in America and then spread throughout the whole world in many ways.  After the reformation, and the bloody and gruesome years of Christians killing one another because they thought they had a corner on the market of God’s interpreted gospel, we see a great awakening of the church break into history.

The “city on a hill” Puritan dream collapsed in the mid 18th century (1700’s) and God burst into our history with this great move of His Spirit under such men as Theodore Frelingheisen, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Samuel Davies. The gospel was preached with boldness and love, prayer was central to the Christian life, and lives were changed and brought under the obedience and Lordship of Jesus Christ because God chose to move and the church exposed the lies of the day. This period of time is called the first great awakening, which took on many different forms.

A second great awakening during the early part of the 19th century broke out after the death of the first great awakening under such men as Henry Ward Beecher, Asahel Nettleton, and Charles Finney who called people back to Jesus, His gospel and submission to Him in the midst of a church that had been overtaken by the story of the day, rather than God’s story. This awakening led to great transformation and heart change that brought about obedience to Christ in daily living and a heart for prayer.

A third great awakening brought new life in the mid to late 19th century after the second great awakening died off. This awakening, like all the rest were birthed in fervent prayer (1857) preaching of the gospel with boldness and love, and a commitment to the true story of the world, not the story of the day. We see this awakening burst into history through men such as D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday. This particular awakening carried into the 20th century under men such as William Seymour who was the leader of the Azusa Street Revival in 1906.

A fourth great awakening yet took place in the mid 20th century (1940-1960) which brought the new revived evangelicalism that had previously died after the third great awakening because of Christian liberalism and fundamentalism that stopped believing and living out the core of the gospel. So guess what God used to ignite this fourth great awakening? You guessed it… the prayer and the preaching of the gospel with godly confidence and love. Men such as Billy Graham and David du Plessis were key figures in this great awakening.

According to church historians, there hasn’t been another awakening in the church that is equal to any of the previous four in the last 300 years. If there were to be any movements that would be equal to awakenings in America over the last 300 years, we would have to go to China, nations in Africa, South America, and certain parts of India, but not in America. Why is that? I have a few ideas of what could be our problem in America, things that I’ve observed as we have planted Kineo over at 37th Ave and Camelback.

The beginning and end of each of these great awakenings are similar to varying degrees. They all began with a growing unrest with the culture’s status quo, the culture’s false stories that have won out over and above God’s story, and the church retold and lived out God’s story in a fresh new way. These awakenings usually ended with the church growing comfortable and lulled to sleep by the culture’s story that in-filtrated the church and became the more dominant story and the church didn’t know it.

We are on the heels (by 40 or 50 years) of the fourth great awakening and the church is ripe for another awakening, but something powerful has been standing in the way, and the church is still having a hard time noticing it. It’s because every culture has a story that is the dominant story that directs life. It’s the true story you think you are living in.

The great thinkers of our day call our culture “postmodern”, some even say “post-Christian. Post means “after”, so our culture is after the modern era right now. The modern era made science and reason THE god, the god that was placed in the ultimate position over and above the God of Scripture, and eventually in the modern era, many believed that we have killed God because we do not need Him anymore… we have science and reason that can answer all our questions now.

A modern mind would say that industrialization (build systems to grow business) was what the world needed and anything that went against this worldview was oppressive. Well, the gospel didn’t disagree with industrialization, but it did say that it wasn’t the answer for a utopian society. So the gospel (and Christians) were minimized and viewed as narrow minded and ignorant.

In the last 40-50 years, the modern way of thinking has been refuted by “postmodern” thinking that realized there was no “one true” story that was true for the masses. Rather, everyone has their own truth. This is called relativism, that has led our culture in a selfish pursuit of pleasing ourselves because our story and our need is real and true for us, so it’s only right to get what I want; which is where consumerism (your way right away) and individualism (it’s all about you) has come from.

This understanding of the world has so permeated every part of our culture, even the church, and is now expressed in the way we live our lives (Chuck-E-Cheese, entertainment, comfort, leisure), build and run our churches (building or business), and conduct businesses (for individual profit to fund our habits often to the neglect of the needs around us).

Let’s take Chuck-E-Cheese for an example. You get $10 in tokens to get as many tickets as possible to fuel the need for your child to get a cheap thrill of buying a toy that costs 50 cents that will break within one day. Then the kid will get upset and want another toy that costs 50 cents to make or not even care in some cases because their options are so great. “Darn you Chuck-E!” says the parent, but they never see the god of consumerism and individualism that has controlled their decision making. This is consumerism and individualism at it’s finest. It can be summed up in two words:
“I (individualism) want (consumerism).”

If we were to take this one step further, materialism is fueled by “I want” because it takes money to get what we want. So “I want” therefore “I work to make money” so that “I can get what I want” has controlled our culture, even Christians.

It seems at times that we believe the answer to everything is material:
– Give money to the poor and they will get better by good programs.
– Send money to the missionaries and they can reach the lost.
– Build good facilities and then we can be established.
– Get better resources then people will be reached.
– Get economies to flourish in the poor communities, then they will thrive.

Now, while all these things may be necessary eventually, and “very good”, they are not the answer as we have seen over the last 50 years. What’s missing? Well, what did we see in the first four great awakenings? A discontentment with the cultural status quo among believers that drove them to prayer, righteous living, and a re-telling of the gospel story with a new godly confidence and Christ-centeredness that spoke against the subtle idolatrous story of the day. Christians radically altered the way they lived.

We need another movement today that is thoroughly Christ-centered and Spirit-filled. The life cycle of all movement, churches, schools, and people go through the same process: birth, growth, maturity and consolidation, and death or decline. We are in decline or death in many areas of Christianity in America namely because we have bought into the individualistic, consumeristic, materialistic idolatrous story that has lulled the church to sleep. We need to live by the tune of a different story.

The only thing that can interrupt the above mentioned life cycle is God’s grace to the church that is given by the power of the HS and is usually poured out on those who aren’t just calling on the Lord with their lips, but with their obedience to Him (1 Peter 3:12). We need a renewal that brings about a new heart for prayer and for obedience in our daily lives. How can we wake up from our comma?

We need to know the true missionary story of God, believe it and live it out!! This is the only story that can rival the other stories of our culture in such a way that will dismantle the strongholds and bring about another great awakening in our day. Here’s the story:

CREATION: God created man and woman in His image (vice regents) and likeness (sons/daughters), meaning that we are to be kingly servants of God in this world as well as His children who rule and have dominion over this earth in such a way that they display the beauty and worth of God. He placed them in the middle of Paradise…the Hebrew word for God’s original creation and plan is called “shalom” (universal peace and flourishing, the way things are supposed to be).

God created: How have you usurped God’s role in being the giver of all things? How did you get to where you are today? Hard work? Faithfulness? Blood, sweat and tears? We must identify where we have retold the creation story with our lives in a way that says, I say God created, but I really believe I created, or money crested, or wars created, or capitalism crested, or America created.

FALL: But something terrible happened! Man let their kingly role get to their heads and thought they could dethrone God and totally went against what He had established. At that moment God’s shalom was shattered into pieces and man waged war against God and shalom. But God wasn’t going to let the brokenness of shalom prevail because He loves us and He loves shalom.

Mankind sinned: How have you been lulled to sleep with your role in all this mess? Where have you placed wrongful blame? Where have you not taken responsibility? What do you see as the problem that needs to be fixed that makes you out to not be the worst part of the problem? Abusers are the problem? Wars are the problem? Irresponsible consumers/stewards? Bad economy? My marriage is the problem?

REDEMPTION: What happened next is God called a people who were not a people, blessed them, gave them a new name, a new place to live, and a new purpose to be alive. This new people (who we are going to call Israel) started with Abraham, whom God made a promise to, that He will bless Him “SO THAT” he will be blessing to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12-17)

God blessed these people, and over the next thousand years or so they grew in number as free people and as slaves. God redeemed them out of slavery and gave them precepts that would help them live a shalom-like life. Before He gave them the specifics, He told them that He wanted them to know why He was doing this. He wants them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:4-6).

This is God’s plan for God’s people for all time: To be a kingdom of priests (a people group who God blesses so that they can mediate God’s blessings to other people groups who do not know Him, because ALL the earth is His);  And a holy nation (a people group who obey God and resist idol worship and are in the world to display the beauty and worth of God, yet create a counter-culture, a more attractive culture than that which the pagan world has created). You tracking with me?

So the rest of this story is basically a commentary on how Israel “can be” a royal priesthood and a holy nation and also “how they utterly failed” in living out God’s mission. We see Israel time and time again running back to their own vomit, prostituting God’s grace once they are comfortable, and only calling on God when times are bad, never taking a collective stance against the culture.

And then we have the fulfillment of all prophecy’s that God set in place from before the beginning. Jesus, the God-man, came to redeem man from His sinful state, crush the head of the serpent, and restore our broken relationship with God. The perfect life of Jesus, His death, resurrection and ascension sealed the deal for all who submit to Him! Jesus took what we deserved and gave us what He deserved!

Jesus is the solution: If we’ve been lulled to sleep by a different story than this, then we (even though we don’t say it with our words) believe that Jesus isn’t really the answer for us. If the problem for you (see above; the Fall) is the law breakers, then your solution is to take care of the lawbreakers. If the problem for you is your marriage, then fix it and get out of it and things will be better. Same goes with your job, the economy, your past, wasteful spenders, injustice, etc. We must believe and retell the true story of God and let this story tell us what’s true.

God is the creator and sustainer of all things and I am here because of Hid grace and because He has seen fit to allow me to be born in this country and this date and not in rural India 1250AD. I am the problem and my sinfulness must be exposed and God must do something on my behalf if I am to be delivered. So Jesus came and took my place. This story must be retold with words, actions, and conviction. This is the only story powerful enough to save and refute the idols of our day.

RE-CREATION: This must happen because there will be a day when Jesus will return to judge all who have not submitted to Him, and the true story of the world and will restore shalom and gather His people. This is the utopia the world wants, but most don’t know they want it or how good it will be. This is the final outcome, not world peace through capturing men like Kony, although he needs to be captured. Not globalization that seeks to brings wealth and food and good economy to all as the final outcome, although we need to labor in that manner. Jesus’ return and restoration of all things is utopia!

When that day comes, Satan will be defeated and crushed and thrown into the lake of fire for eternity!! There will be no more freedom for him to roam and steal, kill and destroy!! The presence of sin will be removed because God will glorify our bodies in the order of the firstborn Son, Jesus. A new heaven will come down to earth out from the old heaven, and God will make His dwelling place with man, and this whole earth will be re-created, shalom re-established!1 Romans 8 says us and ALL of creation are groaning and longing for this day. Christ’s return will so utterly undo sin and it’s effects, the whole universe will feel His redemption. Every nook and cranny that has been marred by sin will be renewed, remade.

But until that day comes, we are caught in the middle of post-resurrection Church era and pre-new heaven and new earth era, in the already not yet. This is the true story of the universe and we are to live in light of this gospel story of Jesus, not the gospel story of America, consumerism, individualism, etc.

Want to see the gospel grow and God’s kingdom expand and our generation be awakened? Want to see our generation live in light of the true story of the universe Want to plant churches that have the power of the HS? Start with you!

1) Grow up into your salvation (confess hidden sin, stop pretending, be controlled by the gospel story, not by the culture of consumerism, individualism, busyness, etc, and stop trying to justify yourself before God, live in your brokenness let Jesus justify you by believing what He did for you and let His grace be the motivation of all that you do)

2) Obey God’s word (that means you read it and know it and study it, you pray and ask for God’s Spirit to fill you with the grace to obey Him, you live your life among unbelievers in an honorable way as a holy priest, seeking to bless the sojourner, the widow, the poor, the outcast, you go when He say go, and you stay when He says stay; radical, sacrificial obedience)

3) Remain united (holy, living stones need other holy, living stones to make what God wants with His people (a spiritual house), we need each other and we need to stand together more than ever, we must be more united which means we must rally around Jesus’ death and resurrection and let other disagreements be secondary and non-divisive)

God help us as we pray for and live towards another great awakening for Your glory and our good!

Seeing Jesus in Scripture (Creation and Fall)

Two men walking to Emmaus, and Jesus meets up with them after he had been resurrected, but the two men didn’t recognize Him. Jesus asked what they were talking about and the two men were amazed that He didn’t know what had happened. So they told Jesus about this “Jesus” who was a prophet that they had hoped was the one to redeem Israel, but he was crucified, and now His body is not in the tomb, but some women said they saw and angel who told them He was alive:

25 And [Jesus] said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

This is why we are going through the story of God, so we can interpret the Scriptures that concern Jesus, which concern us, and our transformation and mission.

In the Christian worldview, God created all things and His creation is seen as a gift from God. Under no obligation or necessity, and out of His great pleasure, He created us inside this vast universe, living on earth, breathing air, enjoying sights, sounds, tastes, smells, feelings, relationships and many other things that we enjoy on this earth. God graciously gifted all these wonderful things for us to steward and enjoy!

Christians have always believed in creation by an omnipotent, sovereign God. It’s only been since a couple hundred years ago that the origin of creation has been debated in what we call the “age of reason” or the “Enlightenment”.

But there needs to be a disclaimer about the creation account before we begin to unpack it. It’s far too easy to read the first chapters of Genesis with the questions of our time: “Were the days of creation 24 hours long?” “How long ago did this happen?” “Is this history or myth?” “How does this square with modern views of science and evolution?” Of course, these are important questions and we can probably learn some things from Genesis 1-11 that are relevant to them.

But we don’t learn very much from a text if we ask it questions that it was not written to answer. Genesis is answering questions like: “What are human beings? What are we here for? What is our relationship to the nature and the world? Who is God and what is He like? Genesis 1 is not about the “How” of creation but rather about the “Why”.

Jesus in Gen. 1
So if we were to begin with Moses, he wrote the first five books of the OT. So open your Bibles to Genesis 1:1-2 and let’s look for the Jesus.

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

There He is. Did you catch that? He’s there in the first verse, but we learn this later in God’s story as we read passages like this:

In Colossians, Paul speaks of Jesus being “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Col. 1:15-16).

Then the apostle John brings further clarity to this reality as he teaches about Jesus Christ being the “Word” (or words of God) at the “beginning” as he starts off his gospel: “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

So it’s clear that we see the Trinity at work in creation: God, through Jesus, by the movement of the Spirit, creation of the world begins; the Spirit and the Word.

At the beginning of our universe as we know it, God existed and acted. He receives no introduction or explanation. He simply is present, acting in the most profound manner imaginable. He is the creator. He is the center of life, and truth can only be known through Him, since He is the Creator of all things. Alright, back to verse 1.

Exposition of Gen. 1: Creation Account
Gen 1:1: “created the heavens and earth”: the word “created” is the Hebrew word “bara” and is only used of God, never of human activity. Humans may “make” (asa) “form” (yatsar) or “build” (bana), but only God creates (bara; ex nihilo; out of nothing).

Gen. 1:2: “and the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving” This verse shows the utter need at the outset of creation for God to move and the power by which He will move and create (by the Spirit).

Gen. 1:3: “And God said (God speaks! This is the word of God), ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” We learn here that God speaks, and whatever He says happens exactly the way He says for it to happen. Also, in vv. 2-3, we see God using two instruments to create with:

The “Spirit of God” (the movement) and the “Word of God” (the authority). In the creation of the world, and in the re-creation of believers in salvation, the Spirit and the Word work together to bring life where there is death. God never brings life and growth without the Word and Spirit.

Also, notice that in verse 2 there is darkness, and in verse 3 there is God speaking light into darkness. This is God’s MO (mode of operation). In 2 Cor. 4:6 we read: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” (referring to Gen. 1:3) has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So right out of the gates, as God is revealing Himself to mankind, He is revealing His plan to redeem mankind through the Son being the light that reaches into the dark hearts of mankind to take their old hearts, and give them a new heart, a new birth. This is God’s gospel being revealed to us from the beginning.

And starting in verse 3 on through the end of the chapter, we begin to see repetitious patterns appear that teach us about God’s gospel. Let’s look at them:

1. “God” with the word “made” or “created”. “God” appears 35 times in the first 34 verses. He dominates and overshadows everything. Nothing happens unless God makes it happen. Nothing is made or created except by Him. And notice there is no argument or fight with other gods during creation…that’s because there aren’t any!

2. “and God said”: This phrase is found 10 times in this chapter and indicates the divine command which called things into existence at will.

3. “and it was so”: This is used 6 times in this chapter to affirm that the creative command of God was perfectly accomplished and is powerful. We do not see God saying, “I’m going to do this” and then go do it. Almost always, he says: “Let there be…” and immediately “it was so”. Our words only express the intention to act, but God’s word is an action itself.

4. “it was good” or “very good”: This is found 7 times in the passage and it demonstrates the benevolence and wisdom of God in creation. It also serves as a type of benediction (a closing utterance). In verse 31, we have a kind of ‘master benediction’, where God sees “all that he had made… was very good”.

5. “separate” or “separating”: This word is used or assumed 6 times in the passage. The initial act of creation (v.1) is ex nihilo (Latin for “out of nothing”), but after that God’s creative work consists of elaborating, distinguishing, separating, and “drawing out” the creation into greater complexity.

6. “and there was evening and there was morning: This phrase occurs 6 times and shows us that there were days that were allotted to creation and by which God worked within. It’s clear to see that the division of the creative work of God into six days is a repetition in and of itself.

The Imago Dei: Created in God’s Image
Gen. 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”: Up until now, the phrase used for God creating things has repeatedly been “let there be”, whereas this verse shifts unexpectedly to “let us make”.

This suggests a few things to the reader: 1) that something big is about to go down on the 6th day; 2) that God says “us” and “our image after our likeness” which begins to teach us of the Trinity; and 3) an ancient Near Eastern Hebrew would take this to refer to a divine counsel that is taking place in the heavenly realms, which leads us to believe that the “man” being made is being given dominion over the earth while the heavenly beings are being stripped of their dominion in this realm.

“in our image”: The Hebrew word here for image is “selem” and indicates physical resemblance or concrete similarity. It comes from a root word which means “to cut or carve”, much like a statue is made that depicts a great king, etc. In the ANE, the word “selem” would be used to refer to “rulership”.

“[and] according to our likeness”: Likeness is “demuth” in Hebrew, and indicates abstract similarity. It comes from a root meaning “to be like.” In the ANE, the word “demulth” would have implied “sonship”

Ruler and Son/Daughter. This is fully realized in the person of Jesus. This is who you were created to be from the beginning, but you will never fully know it until you know Jesus. Humans rule in ways God didn’t intend. We must look to how Jesus ruled (i.e. power through weakness; sacrificial love; covenant keep Son/Father)

What does the Imago Dei not mean for us?
– It does not mean we are gods, halflings, angels, or animals (incarnation as a different creature)
– It does not mean that we are just a body (materialism/atheism).
– It does not mean we are just a mind (we think therefore we are).
– It does not mean that we are just a product of our environment (born rich therefore you are valuable / abused therefore you are useless / born in a corrupt society, therefore you are corrupt). Ultimately you are not a victim of your own society.
– It does not mean we are just souls (the body and mind are not apart of our true humanness – body and soul).
– It does not mean that we are just creatures with emotions who feel, hurt etc…

Gen. 1:26b: And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. Let “them” together rule over this earth, as co-regents, exercising authority over the created things and elements that God gave them.

Gen. 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.” Human intimacy and sexual complementation is implied in the Hebrew words used here for “male” and “female”.

Their sexual acts teach us that man is a planter and a woman is a receiver. We hold a complimentarian position when it comes to man/woman relationships. We are different, have different roles, and created to accomplish different things (pregnancy, nursing, relationships, etc…)

The man needed the woman to complement him as much as the woman needed the man. In this relationship there is a corporate aspect to the image of God. Your image is not fully realized in and of yourself… you need the other sex. We were created for this integrated relationship on all levels of existence.

Read vv. 28-31: Be fruitful, multiply, subdue, rule over all that God created, and God said that all the he had made was VERY GOOD!

Read vv. 2:1-3: God rests, which teaches us that we are to rest. Sabbath is good, but it was not to be held religiously, rather it is to be held to help preserve shalom; the way things were supposed to be…Gen. 1 (universal peace and flourishing)

In Gen. 2, we see more of a micro or detailed view of what God created, and some clear Garden of Eden rules get implemented for the shalom of Adam and Eve. Within this SHALOM, God gives man a tree of life that they can eat from freely that will preserve their created order and allow their life to never end.

But God also created another tree called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and this tree was off limits, and if they eat the fruit of that tree, they will surely die.

Genesis 2 on Marriage
Read Gen. 2:18-25: Here we see the way in which God created Eve and the marriage institution, and we can learn a lot about marriage, which we will just briefly touch on because of time:

1. All this was created before the entrance of sin, so sex is a very good thing between a man and a woman whom God has made one (in a covenantal relationship); it’s not sinful.

2. God made a woman to be a helper for the man (not, daddy’s little helper, and not someone to help you get an orgasm) but rather in the same fashion as Psalm 54:4: Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.

3. God made one woman for Adam, He didn’t create 30 women and run them by Him like He did the animals and have him pick the one he liked the most. God intends for a man and a woman to have one partner in their life; not multiple. This is why porn is destructive. A man can have thousands of partners who have his heart and now his  wife is sharing her husband with many women. No wonder marriages suck!

4. God intended that man’s standard of beauty be the woman that he marries. Before you get married, you need to pray about who it is that God wants you to marry and it better not be only based on how she looks, because if it is, she will change after children and age and you will want to find someone else who looks like the woman you married earlier.

So the man’s standard of physical beauty was meant to be his wife and change as his wife changes. If your wife is short, you like short. If your wife is large, that means you like large for now. You may say, “what if she used to be skinny?” “then you don’t like skinny anymore!” Got it!! Be content with what you have. This goes both ways.

5. God created a man and a woman to be married together. Two different genders with two separate parts. God has always intended for marriage to be between a man and a woman. God did not create another man for Adam and then a woman and give Adam the choice. If that was the way God intended things to be, then it was no fair for Adam. But that’s not how it was intended to be. Any kind of sexual relations outside of a covenantal marriage between a man and a woman is destructive and wicked.

6. A man was meant to leave his mother and his father and become one with his wife and hold fast to her. That means he moves out of his parents home and stops being a mama’s boy. He grows up. He acts like a man and leads, loves and protects her; and the woman expects him to. The two become one and share life together unlike any other relationship in their lives. Are you sharing life with your wife, or are you hiding things in your life with her? Are you holding fast to her, or your own selfish sexual desires?

All of the above was to convince you that God is good, He is the creator of heaven and earth, the maker of mankind who placed His image on us, gave us the role to be co-regents with Him, to reign over the earth and everything in it, gave us all that we need (food, friendship, a place to live, good sex within His boundaries of marriage, the ability to reproduce, and Himself). This is the way things were supposed to be. This is a great picture of the Hebrew word “SHALOM” (universal peace and flourishing, God’s way).

The Fall of Man
And you guessed it, the unthinkable happened… something very terrible goes wrong in this great story. Man, whom God created to represent Himself to the world, chooses to disregard God’s rules, and tries to be like Him.
A serpent in the garden approaches Eve and begins to plot against her so that she would be like him, and not God. We call this serpent, Satan for lack of better words.

What was Satan’s strategy to Eve?
1. To question God’s word (“has God said” 3:1)” One twist of God’s word here was Satanic and so poisonous that it has affected every man that has ever lived. Rather than rebuking Satan, Eve entertained his lies. and was deceived by him (most crafty beast in the field). Eve chose Satan over God, and pride over humility. Do this sound familiar in your life?

2. To discredit God’s word (“you surely will not die” 3:4) (implications) Satan discredited God’s word by planting a seed of doubt in Eve’s heart as to whether or not she will actually die if she eats of the fruit. This is why believe every word of the Bible and seek to understand what every passage says.

3. To slander God’s character (“God knows that the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil” 3:5). (implications) Satan now has Eve in his grip and totally turned the whole page in Eve’s head and has her believing that God is holding out on her for selfish reason and that God is in some way trying to protect His deity, but actually God was protecting man’s well-being.

The Silence of Adam
Men! Where was Adam during all of this? Why was he silent? (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, he was made to love her, protect her, care for her, provide for her and honor her….and he stood by watching, letting Satan work his wife over // he was checked out: football, porn, working on the car, working out…wake up dudes and get in the game!)

When sin entered the world, the effect on our relationship as male and female was devastating. God comes to Adam after he had eaten the forbidden fruit and asks what has happened. Adam says in Gen. 3:12: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

In other words “It’s her fault (or yours for giving her to me!), so if somebody must die for eating the fruit, it better be her!” It is right here that you have the beginning of all domestic violence, all wife abuse, all rape, all sexual slurs, all the ways of belittling woman whom God created in his own image, etc.

Gen. 3:13: Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” “Don’t kill me, kill the serpent! Give the serpent what I deserve. It’s all his fault!”

It is here that you have the beginning of blaming and not taking responsibility for your own sin. It is here that we have the origins of identifying everything but “sin” (worship of anything but God) as the problem (wars, Democrats/Republicans, the wealthy, men, women, etc…)

God then goes on to curse the serpent and the ground that Adam and Eve live on, and brings great complication to all of life (pregnancy, marriage, strife, etc…)

So what is sin?  

Sin is rebelling against God. He is the Creator of all things, therefore, He sets the standard of everything. So ultimately, sin is preferring anything above God.

Cornelius Plantinga Jr. calls sin a perversion against God’s gracious plan. Shalom was created in the Garden of Eden, and sin “vandalized” shalom.

As humans, we prostituted the greatest gift we could receive from God by distorting/ruining “shalom”. Thus, the heart of all the evil we see because sin stems from idolatry. Idolatry is anything we prefer above God.

D.A. Carson says that sin is “the de-godding of God. It is the creature swinging his puny fist in the face of his Maker and saying in effect, “If you do not see things my way, I’ll make my own gods! I’ll be my own god!” (Christ and Culture Revisited, 46) Wow, sin has created one big ball of UGLINESS!

Question: How in the world does this ugliness point to Jesus? Answer: It points to Jesus because it begs for the healing that only Jesus can bring to the relationship between men and women, between man and his relationship to the earth, between himself, and most important of all, between he and God. It is very clear that at this point, we need radical help!

And just what are the first glimpses of Christ-like help do we see in this passage?
1. Gen. 3:14: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. This is called by some scholars the “proto-euangelion” or the first proclamation of the good news foreshadowing Jesus’ advent (coming). The serpent WILL be crushed by Jesus taking what Adam, Eve and the serpent deserves, by dying on the cross to pay, once and for all, the penalty that mankind deserve for their rebellion.

2. Gen. 3:21: And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. The shame of their sin was not going to escape them unless they were covered. God in His grace kills an animal (sin produces death; this was the first death recorded in Scripture) and uses it’s skin to make garments for Adam and Eve to have their shame covered. One day, Jesus will come and cloth them for good, never to have their shame be able to be exposed…garments of Jesus’ righteousness.

At the end of chapter 3, God sends Adam and Eve out of the garden away from the tree of life, lest they eat of the fruit of that tree, which would cause them to remain in their broken and sinful state that they were in. So kicking them out of the garden was grace as well, and was God’s way of saying, I’m not going to let you remain this way!


Ruth week 4: True Love. Complete Redemption

Read Ruth 4:1-22.

As we come to the end of our series on the book of Ruth, the main question we should ask ourselves is: “What is the lesson of this book? What one main thing does the author want us to take away from reading this story? It is after all one story that was originally meant to be read in it’s entirety, and it was not broken up into 4 chapters.

The Lesson of the Book of Ruth: Here’s what I would suggest as the main lesson: God plans for your eternal joy and  divine legacy, but the road there makes you believe He’s against you at times. The life of the godly is not the I-10 going from Cali to Louisiana, but instead, it’s an old forest road winding through the woods on the Rim. There are rock slides and steep drops off. There are dark mists and bears, and curves in the road that make you lose control and sometimes can radically alter your life. But all along this hazardous and twisted road that doesn’t let you see very far ahead, there are signs that say, “Scenic View Ahead”. And every now and then you get a long strip along the Rim that takes your breath away only to go back into the woods, to the twists and turns that are often times scary.

The book of Ruth is one of those signs for you to read. There is a “Scenic View Ahead”, but one day, because of God’s “hesed”, that “Scenic View” will be an eternal reality with Jesus. It has been written to you by the Lord, and I have preached to you, so that it may serve to be an encouragement and hope for you in your life, that all the despair and feelings of hopelessness are not dead-end streets. No, but instead, they all serve to make the eternal joy that awaits you greater than they ever would be. In all the sufferings and disappointments in your life as a believer, God is planning for your joy.

As we embark on the final chapter of this book, we see the faithfulness of Boaz to honor God’s process of the closest relative redeeming Naomi’s land and family. He loved Ruth, but he loved God more and wanted to honor His plan instead of make his own way to what he wanted. Does that sound familiar to any of us today? Have you wanted something so bad that you made it happen even though you knew that you were being rebellious and making your own way without God’s blessing?

Boaz models to us the way to true righteousness, submitting to and obeying God. Obedience is often overlooked in “grace” cultures, but we are quick to forget that it is grace that moves (kineo’s) one to obey. A lack of obedience is not a sign of one receiving grace, rather it’s a sign of misappropriated grace. Grace moves us to obey!

So now we pick up the story and good ole’ Boaz is taking care of business this morning. Most business owners after 10 years of famine would be lusting over their fields (profit and food) and could care less about a foreign Moabite woman who they would possibly have to marry and give up time, money, land, and not focus on their job. Not Boaz! Boaz loves Ruth and he wants to marry her. So there’s Boaz sitting at the gate waiting for “Punk With No Name”.

At the gate is where men wait to meet business partners and gather other men around to be witnesses as two business men make a deal. Boaz waits, and low and behold, it just so happens that “Punk With No Name” shows up, and Boaz calls him friend, which is Hebrew for “Punk”! “Sit down Punk, I’ve got something to settle with you!”

Punk is a loser because he’s legally and spiritually obligated, as the closest living male relative to Naomi and Ruth, to take care of them. Leviticus 25 speaks of this, “That he is to make sure they’re okay,” and at this point, he hasn’t done a thing for these women; they’re starving to death, he hasn’t even stop by to check on them. He probably lives a mile or two away. It’s a smaller town. This would be equivalent to you, as an adult male or female in our culture, who owns your home and has a job, and your aunt and cousin live a few miles away, and they’re starving to death, and you don’t even call. You don’t check in. You know their story. You know Eli blew it. You know they’re new to town and need help to get on their feet. And you know you are loaded. You don’t even go visit, There’s no “How are you doing? Do you need any food? Your husbands are dead. Can I pray for you?” Nothing.

This is a loser of a dude who has not paid any child support and is milking the system to make sure he never has to. He has neglected all of his responsibilities. He is a loser! And Boaz’ main job is to dump him essentially, so he can take care of Ruth. Ladies, you ever had a Boaz type dude go to your loser boyfriend and have him dump him for you. This is what’s going on. This is great!

So in v. 3 Boaz begins to tell him how Eli has died and that he is the one who is to buy the land from Naomi so she can live. “Will you do that?” Punk says, “Sure, I’ll buy it.” “Great!” Boaz says. “With the land you inherit a Moabite woman named Ruth, have babies, be their father, and redeem what Eli lost. You still want it?” Punk lives up to his name and begins to back pedal and says, “On second thought, I actually have all my money tied up right now and I’m not gonna be able to afford that land and the cost of a wife and kids.” “Thanks!” Boaz says, it’s been nice doing business with you. So they carry on with their traditional means of signing a contract and make this deal legal and right. And look what the elders of the town says at the end of the deal:

vv. 11-12: Like Rachel and Leah; like Perez who perpetuated the family name through Tamar shrewdly getting pregnant from Judah. Little do the elders and the people realize what God is doing here through Ruth and Boaz. We will get there in a minute.

So we’ve read that Boaz can now redeem Naomi and Ruth as he dumped No Name Punk and get the girl, but there is a looming dark cloud overhead. Ruth is barren. Or at least she seems to be. In Ruth 1:4 we were told that she had been married ten years to Mahlon and there were no children. So even now the suspense is not over. Life is one curve after another, and we never know what’s coming. But the point of the story is that the best is yet to come and we must not be so quick to say that God is not for us when our plans seem to be thwarted by His seemingly impersonal will. No matter where you are, if you love God, the best is yet to come.

But the cloud over the head of Ruth and Boaz only lasts for a little while, yet for them (her), it didn’t seem to be “just a little while!” (10 years and then losing her husband, following bitter Naomi, etc…). God, who is full of mercy, causes His grace to crash over their heads.

Read vv 13-22: “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.” This is a good day for Ruth: she has a man fight for her; dump a lousy boyfriend; marry her and pay for the wedding; go on a honeymoon and got pregnant. This is a good day for Ruth, and for Naomi. Husbands died, desperate hungry, no future hope; now these are 2 valiant women who are prominent in the town, have kids, and worship Yahweh. Redemption is sweet!

First of all, we need to realize that according to the OT Law, Boaz was not obligated to marry Ruth. The Law says that the brother of the sister-in-law was to marry her and bring her under his covering. Boaz is by no means under any lawful obligation to redeem Ruth. We must not miss this. Boaz is not making a legal transaction as a religious gesture of faithfulness to God. No! Boaz loves Ruth, therefore he redeems her. This is a love story. And Ruth is the object of Boaz’ love, and Boaz is a type of Christ in this story and you are a type of Ruth.

Secondly, did you notice how the focus in vv. 14-22 is not on Ruth or Boaz, but on Naomi, the son, and those who came after the son. Why? If we follow the story line of Ruth, we see it begin with Naomi’s loss and pain; and we see it end with Naomi’s gain and joy. This story began with death and it ends with birth. A son. But who is that son for? Look at verse 17 again: “And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.”

To Naomi, not Ruth! Why? The child is for Naomi because of the levirate law of kinsman redeemer, but it’s also to show that it was not true what Naomi said back in 1:21, that the Lord had brought her back empty from Moab. Oh, if we could just learn to wait and trust in God, then all of our complaints against Him would prove untrue, and our joy would be fuller, and He would be more glorified.

In the final genealogy, we learn where king David came from. The promise of a righteous King to rule Jerusalem is partially realized in King David, the great grandson of Ruth and Boaz. King David is the kingly type of Christ. As David ruled Jerusalem with power and military might, so Jesus, the anti-type of David, would rule the world one day with power because of His sacrifice on the cross and His divine power to conquer the death of death.

Ruth was written to help us see the signposts of the grace of God in our lives, and to help us trust his grace even when the clouds are so thick that we can’t see the road in front of us, let alone the signs that say “Scenic View Ahead”. But it was also written to unfold to us the great history of redemption that God has unfolded in Scriptures.

God, who promised in Genesis 3 to send us a redeemer, one to save us from ourselves, has caused His plan to continue as planned. In Genesis 12 we learn that through Abraham, all the nations of the world would be blessed. And we know from the redemptive history we learn in the OT, that Boaz is from the line of Abraham, and at that, the line of Judah, one of Abraham’s great grandson’s whom God said this savior would come in his family line, the line of Judah, building up to the coming of the great Savior, Messiah, Jesus the Christ. GO OVER THE GENEALOGY IN MATT. 1.

God is not a god of religion. He is a God of grace and mercy who includes in His family all who are willing to come to Him… ALL! Do not mistake religion with redemption. To help you not to do that, here is a list from Tim Keller that helps identify religion vs. redemption:

RELIGION says: I obey-therefore I’m accepted
REDEMPTION says: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION says: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity
REDEMPTION says: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION says: I obey God in order to get things from God
REDEMPTION says: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION says: When circumstances in life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life
REDEMPTION says: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION says: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs
REDEMPTION says: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION says: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment
REDEMPTION says: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION says: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure
REDEMPTION says: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION says: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other
REDEMPTION says: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION says: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God
REDEMPTION says: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

You tracking with me now?

And because of the relationship of the story of “Ruth with the New Testament, it suggests that Boaz foreshadows Christ, while Naomi and Ruth foreshadow the union of ethnic Israel and of Gentiles in the church. Naomi of Judah and Ruth of Moab typify the union of ethnic Israel and Gentiles respectively in the church, and Boaz typifies Christ.”

1. Boaz: A Type of Christ. Boaz did more than share: he sacrificed himself financially to give Naomi and Ruth land and an inheritance in perpetuity [permanently]. Jesus Christ, the greater antitype, sacrifices his blood to give his church a regenerated earth and eternal life… “Boaz” gave the dead immortality: by his sacrifice he bought back those who had verged into death and debt and secured a “Ruth,” his Gentile bride. “Boaz” brought his “bride” into final rest. As Boaz brought Naomi and her family rest (see Ruth 1:9; 3:1) so David brought Israel rest, and Christ gives the church rest.

2. Ruth: A Type of Redeemed Gentiles in the Church. “Ruth” becomes the people of God by commitment to “Boaz,” her Bridegroom. By public proclamation of her identity with him, she comes to have blood links with Abraham (Gal. 3:16, 29). Through her, “Boaz” gives life to a seed that will destroy the Serpent (Gen. 3:15: Ruth 4:18–22; 1 Chron. 2:5–15; Matt. 1:3–6; Luke 3:31–33; 1 Tim. 2:9–15).

3. Naomi: A Type of Ethnic Israel in the Church. “Naomi’s” fate and “Ruth’s” fate are inextricably linked to one another. “Naomi” comes before “Ruth” in being the people of God, and “Naomi” mediates “Ruth’s” entrance into the covenants God originally made with “Naomi.” “Ruth” is her daughter. They are equal heirs of the covenant relationship because “Boaz” redeems them from a land of death. The new and young “widow,” full of hope and promise, rejuvenates “Naomi,” the old and failed “widow,” who on her own was without hope. By her faith and covenant loyalty, “Ruth” transforms bitter and hopeless “Naomi” to the joy of salvation. “Naomi” in the end will again be called Pleasantness.

Overall, God, in His sovereignty ensures redemption. His words are sure. His promises we can count on. And this beautiful book shows us that God always keeps his promises. For those who love God and submit to Jesus, the best is yet to come. This is the unshakable truth about life; through faith in Christ, many are made righteous. As well, we see threads of redemption in the OT pointing to Christ Jesus, who is the whole creation’s redemption.

Again, my prayer is that you don’t read this and walk away with a religious overtone. Boaz was not bound by the Law to marry Ruth. He was not the one that was legally bound to redeem her or Naomi’s land. He redeemed her because he loved her. Jesus is not bound by a religious commitment to obey the law. No! He fulfilled the Law, therefore he could have done whatever He wanted to do. And He chose to redeem you. Marry you. Associate with you. Live in your pain and not overlook it. This is our redeemer.

Let’s Pray!

Ruth week 3: Risky Business

Larry Walters had always dreamed of flying, but was unable to become a pilot in the US Air Force because of his poor eyesight. Walters had first thought of using weather balloons to fly around the age 13, after seeing them hanging from the ceiling of a military surplus store. Twenty years later he decided to do so. His intention was to attach a few helium-filled weather balloons to his lawnchair, cut the anchor, and then float above the city at a height of about 30 feet for several hours. He planned to use a BB gun to burst balloons to float gently to the ground.

So this retired vietnam vet, Larry Walters, and his girlfriend, Carol Van Deusen, purchased 45 eight-foot weather balloons and obtained helium tanks from California Toy Time Balloons. They used a forged signature from his employer at FilmFair Studios, saying the balloons were for a television commercial. On July 2, 1982, Walters attached the balloons to his lawn chair, filled them with helium, put on a parachute, and strapped himself into the chair in the backyard of a home at in San Pedro. He named his ride “Inspiration”. He took a BB gun, a CB radio, sandwiches, cold beer, and a camera. When his friends prematurely cut the second cord that tied his lawn chair to his Jeep, he streaked out into the sky as if he was shot from a canon where he leveled off at a nice cruising altitude of 16,000 feet. At first, he did not dare shoot any balloons, fearing that he might unbalance the load and cause himself to spill out. For several hours he drifted, cold and frightened. He slowly drifted over the primary approach corridor for LAX airport. A TWA pilot first spotted Larry. The pilot radioed to the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair… with a gun! Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating at 16,000 feet above the airport. LAX emergency procedures went into full alert. Larry finally shot enough balloons to lower himself down safely into some power lines in a nearby neighborhood.

He was immediately arrested upon landing ; when asked by a reporter why he had done it, Walters replied, “A man can’t just sit around.” After his flight, he was in brief demand as a motivational speaker and he quit his job as a truck driver. He was featured in a Timex print ad in the early ’90s.

There’s not much that we wouldn’t do for a good thrill or to gain some sort of significance. After all, “a man can’t just sit around.” We need life to be exciting, thrilling; we want to feel significant, wanted, accepted. This morning, we encounter a really crazy story in Scripture that seems to be a thrilling, nerve racking experience, with some sort of pursuit of significance in a very risky way. The unfortunate thing is in our day and age, this chapter often gives us freedom to find thrills and significance from relationships, and we miss the big picture of the message of Ruth 3. Ruth 3 gives us a glimpse of 2 hope-filled women who are trusting God for significance and put themselves out there in a way that could bring about more pain, more rejection, and more hopelessness.

vv. 1-5: Naomi – She has a plan and she is not going to waste a stroke. We see Naomi in this story move from being an oppressed victim, to an awakened, hope-filled orchestrator of righteousness. As long as Naomi remained a victim, she would remain motionless with no strategy or never put to use what God has given her to work with. She doesn’t stay in her junk, but she chooses to see where God is working and work along side Him. Naomi’s plan is clear: to win for Ruth a godly husband and a secure future, and preserve the family line.

But we have to admit that Naomi’s plan is crazy. Naomi tells Ruth to wash up and anoint herself. In modern terms, she says, “Ruth, go take a shower, shave your legs and armpits, pluck your eyebrows, put on some nice perfume and lotion that makes your body shine, get all dressed up and then go to Boaz’s office, follow him home, and after he goes to bed, sneak in to his house, lay down at the foot of his bed and cover yourself up with his blanket.” That’s racy! That plan would sell box office tickets in our day, but none of us (in our right mind) would encourage our daughters to do this).

Everybody, including Ruth, must think she’s crazy! Not to mention what people would be thinking: “And just where do you suppose that will lead, huh!?” To which Naomi gives her hope-filled answer in the last part of verse 4: “…he will tell you what to do.”

Okay, this is what we do know: We do know that Naomi’s plan is for Boaz to marry Ruth, but why not just go talk to him the next day? Why plan something that could possibly blow up in a sinful way? What did she mean by “lie at his feet?” Does that mean sleep with him or just lie there and freak him out when he wakes up in the morning? We have to agree, that this is not prescriptive counsel for us today.

We don’t know exactly what Naomi’s strategy is and the author is okay not tying that up for us, but we do know that Naomi seemingly wasn’t intending for Ruth to get lucky that night with Boaz as many would think.

vv. 6-9: Ruth – She says, “Alright old bitter mom-in-law, I’m not sure of your plan, but I like that you’re livening up a little bit.” Ruth apparently goes right along with her plan and is placing her trust in Naomi (hope must be really contagious!). But we learn that Ruth doesn’t do all that Naomi tells her to do.

As Boaz wakes at midnight and is startled to find a woman at his feet, he asks, “Who are you?” Good question! I can just imagine what’s going through Boaz’ head at this point, so this question is a good start.

Ruth says, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” (v. 9) She was, in effect saying, “You are the one who can redeem our family and I would like to be the one to whom you pledge your faithfulness to in marriage.” In modern day language, “I’m not here for sex, but I am here to ask you to seal the deal and marry me, share your inheritance and give me a child for the clan of Elimelech.” Great proposal huh? Any normal man would run, but we soon find out that Boaz is anything but normal.

This is where Ruth doesn’t adhere to her mother-in-law’s instructions. Instead of leaving the situation dangerously open to misunderstanding, as a godly woman, Ruth wanted to make her intentions clear right away. Her goal was to be redeemed and get married, not to have a seductive night of passion to manipulate Boaz to redeem her and Naomi.

Ruth was not intending to give Boaz an invitation to have sex (They were both God-fearing and knew that pre-marital sex was forbidden by God; OT and NT Scripture forbids it), rather we see the depth of Ruth from this comment, “Spread your wings over your servant.” The same word that Boaz said to Ruth in 2:12 (referring to finding refuge under God’s “wings”).

Ruth tells Boaz that he is God’s agent to reward Ruth, not knowing that this was Boaz’ intentions in the first place. Ruth says, “You are the wings that God desires to use to redeem me and bring me to a safe place. Would you be that man?” I think Boaz had every intention of being this man, but didn’t want to presume upon the young beautiful Ruth. He respected her and wanted her to desire to be redeemed by him.

vv. 10-12: Boaz – Now it’s time to see Boaz’ plan unfold. And out of the gates, he remarkably comes up with beautiful, mature words for it being midnight, and him being startled and presumably buzzed:

“10 May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter (this is how we know that Boaz got the message loud and clear from Ruth; he intends on treating her as an Israelite; purity). You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.

Ok, this had to have been a bitter blow to Ruth. At this point she was probably feeling that things had been going well for her, but the DTR talk went bad. I can imagine Ruth wondering to herself whether she is going to have to repeat this midnight extravaganza with another man or not. Ruth launched off the ground in her lawn chair and is now uncertain about how to get down, and is likely cold and frightened.

But Boaz, the man, he will take care of it for her. Listen to what Boaz says:
v. 13: Remain tonight [sweetie], and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. [You can take that to the bank. So for now,] Lie down until the morning.”

The stars are out in all their beauty, the mood is right, they are alone, she is all dressed up, he is relaxed, it’s midnight; and he says this? What a man! What a woman! For the sake of righteousness he doesn’t touch her and he even is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that there isn’t a closer redeemer to redeem her. What a dude Boaz is!

Boaz tells Ruth to stay until dawn and secretly leave not because he had ill intention, but so that her mission wouldn’t be misinterpreted by witnesses. Oh that may we have more Ruth and Boaz’s! Oh that for the sake of righteousness we would turn from what feels right and good! Oh that we would choose what is right even when we feel that we deserve it! Oh that we would reject the tone of our culture that says “If it feels good, then do it!” There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

Ruth and Boaz chose what is right according to God’s good plan and the end was the protection of the line of Jesus, our savior! Let the morning dawn on your purity. Don’t be like the world. Be like Boaz. Be like Ruth. Profoundly in love. Subdued and discerning in communication. Powerful in self-control. Committed to righteousness.

vv. 14-18: 14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”

Boaz sends Ruth home with six measures of barley (80 lbs. worth; Ruth is no weak woman) as he has shown he is always committed to taking care of Ruth and Naomi and Naomi reassures Ruth that Boaz will not rest until he has followed through concerning her request. Game is on and this provision is just a glimpse of the kind of provision Boaz is going to offer Ruth. This is also a glimpse of the kind of provision (salvation) God ddesires to work on our behalf. God’s salvation is holisitc (body and soul).

As I read over this story in chapter 3, two words kept coming to my mind: thrill and significance. We are often moved by one or the other. Or maybe we are moved to do something thrilling in order to find significance, much like Larry the lawn chair pilot. This chapter is definitely thrilling and full of blood pumping action, and Ruth and Naomi are surely looking to find significance, and for a moment it seemed that Naomi was looking outside of God’s will for this kind of significance. But we see Ruth turn the corner and fall back on holiness and trust in God’s provision. Her motive to lay at Boaz’ feet was not a self-centered desire for thrill & significance. Rather, it was a God-centered thrill & significance that led her to do this seeming foolish, reputation ending act.

The part of the story I didn’t read about Larry the lawn chair pilot was that later in his life, he did volunteer work for the US Forest Service, then later broke up with his girlfriend and flight crew member of 15 years and could only find work sporadically as a security guard. Finally, 11 years after his “dream flight”, Larry committed suicide at the age of 44. The thrill and significance he sought never lasted, and actually left him more empty and lonely.

Thrill and significance: these two cravings are the very things that God uses to draw us to Himself, but they are also used by the enemy to keep us from being faithful to God in the way that Ruth and Boaz were in this story.

One quote regarding teen pregnancy says this: “Teenagers are far more likely to have babies when their lives begin to seem pointless and when the doors to the future seem closed.” There is a very close connection between saying “life has no point” and saying “life has no edge”.

Thrill & significance is what we all long for, but when we make thrill & significance our chief goal, we lose out. “I just want to have fun.” “I just want to be accepted (be significant).” “There’s noting I wouldn’t do to get (blank).” Thrill & significance pursued as a means to your happiness is empty and devastating.

If we put these two deep cravings together, I think what we’re saying is this: “I want my life to have meaning that is exciting to me and others. I want my life to be admirable. I want life to be a thrill; I want more joy in my life. I want to live for something that I would give my whole life for. I want to now that I’m gonna be somebody”

When we define ourselves by what we do, then when we don’t do (or fail to get) that thing that defines us, we cease to be significant (there is no thrill in life). Now oddly enough, the 2 things that keep us from being faithful to God are the very things that are satisfied when we are faithful to God.

Some of us would ask, “How in the world could Ruth and Boaz be this faithful, or generous?” They weren’t looking for cheap thrills and false significance. They were looking to be faithful to God. Their pursuit to be faithful to God gave them the very things they (and every human) longed for: thrill & significance. The other thing we find in Scripture is that you weren’t meant to try and be Boaz. The picture of Boaz is a picture of redemption that God works out on our behalf as we turn to Him for redemption. We can’t be the Boaz…we are Ruth, we are needy, we need to be redeemed and are relying on His power to save us. This is a glimpse into the gospel.

Can you identify times in your life where you have run to cheap thrills and false significance? Can you identify the affects the let down of those thrills have had on your life? Did those thrills make you feel significant? If so, how long did that feeling last?  What might you be overlooking today that God has already provided for you to receive the thrills and significance in Him? Or what has God called you to do, but you have not acted on it?

You are free to obey, and your obedience to God is the beginning of the thrill & significance you were meant to find in Him and His plans for you. You are not bound to the law. If you’ve made the wrong decision in the past, you will be ok! You will not be zapped dead by God. He will not forsake His promise to you. He has already redeemed you through Christ, if indeed you receive Jesus as your King. He will continue to redeem you, and give you the faith to obey and then you will walk in the thrill of being with God and receive your significance from you God says you are.

There is another One who forsook cheap thrills and false significance; He was deeply committed to God’s will; He trusted in God’s timing so much so that He obediently was led to the cross because of the hope set before Him, and the joy that would come to many. He forsook cheap thrills and false significance so that you could have eternal thrills and divine significance. This Jesus the Christ, the greater Ruth and Boaz.

Jesus is the One who set all things right.

Jesus’ righteousness makes many righteous.

Jesus’ plan gives us purpose, and thrill, and significance.

Jesus is the redeemer we need to turn to.

Let’s Pray!

Ruth week 2: The Wings of Refuge

Last week in Ruth 1 we saw God’s hand fall hard upon Naomi and her family. A famine in Judah, a move to Moab, the death of her husband, the marriage of her two sons to foreign wives, the daughters-in-law were barren for 10 years, then the death of her two sons. One blow after another caused Naomi to say (1:13, 20), “The hand of the Lord has gone out against me . . . the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” In fact, she is so oppressed by God’s bitter providence in her life that last week we saw that she couldn’t see any signs of hope as they start to appear (ex: “Call me Mara!”)

She knows there is a God. She knows He is Almighty and rules in the national and personal affairs of men, and she knows that He has dealt bitterly with her. Her life is tragic, but what she has forgotten in her suffering is that in all the bitter experiences of His children, God is always plotting for their joy and happiness.

Psychologists tell us that the kind of losses that Naomi and Ruth have faced lead to depression that is insurmountable: loss of their husbands/children, financial ruin, social ruin and shame, infertility, a major move to a new culture, and loneliness. These kinds of wounds don’t easily heal. Actually, this kind of pain is the kind that affects you for the rest of your life. This pain has tremendous staying power. We can safely assume that both of these women are battling depression with the forecasted hope of barely getting by for the rest of their lives.

vv. 1-2: As we pick up the story here in chapter 2, Ruth must go out to work as a field laborer because there’s no food in the pantry. So she asks for Naomi’s blessing to go, and off she goes, a barren, widow, foreigner who looks foolish to every eye that sees her, into the fields to glean, to toil and sweat for hours for a handful of grain. This is her lot, for now at least…

v. 3 Ruth goes to work and we read: “So she set out and went and gleaned in the field and she [just so] “happened” to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.”

The Hebrew equivalent to “gleaning” would be a homeless shelter, food bank, food stamps, or the welfare system. The equivalent situation of Ruth today would be like one of you young college gals moving to Phoenix by yourself with no parents to pay for anything, find a place in a respite shelter, and then sitting and waiting at a labor force outfit waiting to get hired to do construction site clean up with men who aren’t respectful.

And as she went out to find a field out of all the fields to glean in, she just so happened to go out to the filed of Boaz; Boaz just so happened to be a godly man; he just so happened to be a single man who is wealthy; and he just so happened to related to Eli.

Let me help you out here: this is God’s doing and God’s providential care and provision for Ruth and Naomi. As Christians, even in the midst of our free choices, we know that God is over all things and this is not good karma or luck. God is showing “hesed” to his daughters Naomi and Ruth whom he loves through ordinary events in life that seem to be just a coincidence.

v. 4: Then Boaz’, the business owner, the big boss man, rolls up to check on his fields and his workers. Look how Boaz greets his employees. “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.” At the end of each service we end with a similar blessing from Numbers 6:24-26.

Can you imagine your boss rolling up into the office one day greeting you with a blessing like this? Boaz is a good dude, and he’s created a great place for his employees to work at, and we will see later that Boaz’ good character rubs off onto his other workers, which is significant in the time of the Judges.

vv. 5-7: Boaz checks in with his assistant and inquires as to who this woman is, and he quickly learns who she is and offers her his blessing of gleaning, but he also ensures her physical safety as well. Unlike the men in the book of Judges, Boaz does not exploit her and treat her as a piece of property as he easily could. Women, take note, this is the kind of man you ought to be looking for. Ruth looks her worst, Boaz is impressed with her character, and loves her by protecting her. Look for men who give, not take.

vv. 8-9: 8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”

In stark contrast of the society around Boaz, he not only treats Ruth respectfully, but offers her extra-ordinary grace. He addresses her as “my daughter” (v. 8), which means that he accepts her as a true Israelite, not as a foreigner. Then he tells her to stay on his field to glean, drink water from his well, and his men were told not to touch her, but instead serve her. In plain English Boaz says to his employees: “You see that pretty lady over there? She’s pretty ain’t she? If you touch her I’ll kill you. I have a lot of fields and secret places no one knows of… they’ll never find your body!”

Okay, this Boaz guy is just getting to be a dream guy…Men! Here’s your example. Be a Boaz kind of man! Ladies, they’re out there… don’t settle. Hold that bar up high… God will honor that decision… I promise!

vv. 10-12: Rightfully so, Ruth is shocked and falls to her face and asks Boaz why she has found such favor in his eyes? This is a good question many of you ladies should learn from. Ask the dudes that like you, “Why are you so good to me?” Get their intentions out in front. They may not have good motives for being nice to you, just sayin!

So Boaz says, “11 All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” This is what you want to hear!!
Essentially, “The provision and protection I give to you today Ruth, are just foretastes of what God is going to do for you. He is the one providing for you through me.” Great theology Boaz! “God is the source of your provision Ruth! He is the ‘hesed’ giver. He is the orchestrator of all of this!” Boaz has been kind to her because of godly character.

But notice what is happening here. Ruth wanted to know why she had received grace from Boaz, and it wasn’t because she didn’t do anything, because she did. Why did she receive grace? Boaz says that she received grace because she came to take refuge in God, under His wings. So this grace is free, but was given under a condition, “You must come!”

v. 13: Ruth humbly receives her roles as Boaz’ servant, who by the way is not eligible for marriage in this culture. But she is now Boaz’ property and is under his wings for refuge, trusting his goodness and his care. But it gets even better for Ruth…

vv. 14-16: Boaz breaks every rule and says, not only do I want you to stay here on my field, but come and eat with me and my other workers until you are full. Then he tells his young men to not only let her glean, but as she is gleaning, pull out grain from the bundles that you pick for her to glean, and do not correct her, because what they are doing for her was not supposed to happen. Some rules must be broken!

vv. 17-20: So Ruth gleaned till it was dark and when Ruth came home from work that day, she gave Naomi the special gift of what she had left over from the lunch she shared with Boaz. Then she says, “Oh yeh, I almost forgot mom, I have 22 liters of barley baby! It’s all beaten out and ready to cook!

Ruth is truly an amazing woman. In verse 7 we read that “she has continued from early morning until now without resting even for a moment.” Verse 17 goes on to say that she gleaned until evening and then before she quit, she beat out what she gleaned, measured it, and took it home to Naomi. In case you’re wondering, that’s a lot of work!

There is no doubt that the writer wants us to admire and copy Ruth. She takes initiative to care of her destitute mother-in-law. She is humble and meek and does not put herself forward presumptuously. She works hard from sunup to sundown. She doesn’t complain. She takes initiative. She’s a keeper! Ladies, Ruth is a model of a godly woman! Dudes, look for a Ruth!

Then Naomi asks, “Where did you get all this barley?”, and Ruth tells her, “At Boaz’ field”. Naomi blesses Boaz and thanks him and God Almighty (I AM) for His “hesed”.

v. 20: And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”

Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz is a close relative of theirs and is one of her “redeemers” (2:20). Do you sense a “hesed” providence behind all of this?

Kinsman Redeemer: The word “redeemer” comes from the phrase “kinsman-redeemer” which is part of the Israelite law of marriage (Deut. 25:5-9) that God established to preserve families like Naomi’s. According to the law, other sons or close relatives of hers should marry the childless widows and use their seed to preserve the deceased relative’s name (have children) and land inheritance.

By law, God set this up to protect women in these situations and to keep families from poverty. A kin (or relative) was to step up and sacrifice for the sake of his relatives’ family, marry her or her daughter (or daughter-in-law in this case), and he will get no payoff from this, and will be looked to by many as a fool. His children with her are not “his” children who will take on his land or build his wealth. Rather, he will be preserving Naomi’s name and legacy for Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion.

This is where we get the phrase “kinsman redeemer”. This is a huge risk and foolish sacrifice to many people, especially those in the days of the judges. But Naomi is now seeing glimpses of redemption. Sweet redemption!

And this redemption was initiated by God’s “hesed” for His people, given freely to those who run (or come) to God for refuge and help. There are many people who never run to God for help and run off to foreign lands or live destitute lives because they do not trust God to provide for them. We saw that last week with Eli and Oprah, I mean Orpah.

Also, many times the relative (redeemer) won’t redeem what he is supposed to redeem. But the good news for us this morning is that Jesus fills perfectly the role of kinsman-redeemer for us. We are part of God’s family (Gen. 1-2; He created us). We had everything and lost it all and have no hope of survival on our own (Gen. 3; we rebelled from God’s rule). God sent a kinsman-redeemer to purchase us at the cost of His own life, and our eternal gain, so that we have hope of life, not just here, but eternally with Him, sharing in His wealth and glory (Jesus).

Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer who left His place of wealth, power and prestige, and looked foolish to many. And unlike Boaz, gave everything He had up for us, including His life so that our sin would not be held against us. The only contingency of us receiving this “hesed”, is that we come and rest under God’s wings of refuge.

This is the message of the gospel in the Old and New Testament. God will have mercy on anyone (all people groups) who humbles himself like Ruth and takes refuge under His wings. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus said: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

All that the Israelites had to do was to take refuge under the wings of Jesus. If they would’ve stopped justifying themselves; stopped relying on themselves; stopped glorifying themselves; then they would have been redeemed.

But they would not. Ruth was not their model. There was no falling on their face before Jesus. There was no humble acceptance of Him being the King. There was no bowing down. There was no astonishment at grace. Don’t be like the religious leaders.
God is not the type of business owner who is looking for people to work for Him. He is like a mother hen looking for her offspring to shelter under her wings. God is looking for people who will leave (as Ruth did) father and mother and homeland or anything else that may hold them back from a life of love and redemption under the wings of Jesus.

vv. 21-23: After Naomi discovers that it was Boaz who showed Ruth “hesed”, Ruth goes on to tell Naomi that Boaz wants her to stay and glean in his field until everything has been harvested. Ruth is working for a redeemer, she is protected from nasty men with terrible motives who want to exploit women for their gain, and they have food to eat and trade with so that they can live, and move, and have their being.

And we would do well, once we find our refuge under the wings of Jesus, to remain there. To trust Him even when things seem iffy. To glean from his fields and not fields from owners who will take from us, enslave us, and exploit us.

Are you gleaning from the wrong fields right now? Are you enslaved a bad slave master? To whom or where have you run to to take refuge? What are you bowing down to, or what impresses you more than God’s gracious gift of Jesus?

Today, may we stop justifying ourselves; stop relying on ourselves; stopped glorifying ourselves. Today may we humble ourselves before King Jesus; bow down and worship Him; glean from His fields; be astonished at His grace; take refuge under His wings; stay close to His workers.

May the workers of Jesus (or May those who call themselves Christians) obey their boss in the same way Boaz’ workers obeyed him; may we love well; passionately protect; graciously share; lovingly include. Or as the prophet Micah said it: May we “do justice; love mercy; and walk humbly!”

Let’s Pray!