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!

Ruth week 1: Not the way it’s supposed to be

Ruth is probably the best short story in all of Scripture. It’s riveting, it’s real, it’s engaging with our hearts and emotions, and it’s got the a great ending! The big picture of Ruth serves as the means of recording how Yahweh continues to sovereignly bring salvation to earth through Abraham’s seed (Gen. 12:1-3; blessed to be a blessing), to the seed of Jesse (king David), to the seed of Mary (Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit).

This is in part, why the Hebrew word hesed is used to describe this book. Many people define hesed as mercy, loving kindness, faithfulness, and goodness. But Bruce Waltke (the main OT theologian who I’ve used to unpack technical terms in this series) defines hesed in the book of Ruth in many ways, one of them being “help for the helpless”; thus, the title of the series. That’s all for now. Let’s get right into the story:

Act 1: Ruth migrates from Moab to Bethlehem (1:1-22)
This first act has two scenes: Elimelech’s household migrating from Bethlehem to Moab, and its grieving widows returning to Bethlehem.

Scene 1 (1:1-5):
v. 1a: In the days when the judges ruled… The book’s setting is during the time of the Judges, where we see the cycle of rebellion (apostasy), slavery (taken captive by other nations), repentance (crying out to God to be delivered), and redemption (being delivered from the hand of their oppressor by a judge that God sends for the sake if Israel) among the Israelites.

The last passage in the book of Judges says this: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (25:21) There was no fear of God, no love for neighbor, and no sacrifice for the greater common good. This was a godless and wicked time in the history of Israel.

v. 1b: …there was a famine in the land, Scripture isn’t clear in this passage, but there was a famine in the land more than likely because God had raised up oppressors to come against unfaithful Israel and plunder all their grain. Then God withholds the rain to create a famine.

vv. 1c-2a: a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech

There was famine in the land, and the land this family was from was called Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”; go figure! People are hungry in the house of bread. The man’s names is Elimelech, whose name means “My God is King” acts like He has no king to trust in. Why do you say that?

Well, we need to understand a little more about Moab. The whole city began from an incestuous relationship, when Lot’s (nephew of Abraham) daughters got him drunk on 2 different nights, slept with him and had children; the first child being named Moab, the father of the Moabites. This is where Eli is going. To the nasty forbidden Moab, an incestuous perverted pagan city, where they worshipped pagan perverted gods, namely the god Chemosh, simply because there were financial opportunities in the city compared to the bread shop.

Eli has camped his wife and kids in the middle of a foreign land with no church family, no prospects for his sons to marry (at least prospects acceptable to Jews who were supposed to marry other Jews) and the whole reason he went to Moab was because of a famine at the bread factory! This proves to be a bad move for Eli and sons!

v. 2: and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. Here we meet Eli’s wife Naomi (whose name means “Pleasantness” or “Sweetheart”) leave Bethlehem with their two sons Mahlon (whose name means “Sick) and Chilion (whose name means “Dying”). Great names for sons, huh?

v. 2b: They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. (cf. 1 Sam. 17:12). In short, this would have sounded to the listening ear in this day, that this family is possibly of great prestige… they were like a family from north Scottsdale.1 This also means there were other options to stay rather than uproot your family, go on your own, and try to survive.

v. 2c-3: [So,] They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.

So Eli moves to Moab, why? So he doesn’t die. What happened to wise old Eli? He died! Bad move Eli. Bethlehem was under the care of God, not to mention the place where his church family was, and now Eli dies and leaves his family in Moab, alone!

v. 4a: These (her 2 sons) took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth.

Naomi loses her husband, and then as her two sons find wives (Ruth and Orpah) to carry on the family name, from Moabite women because their entrepreneur dad left them no other options. We need to understand what this meant. Moabites were not allowed into the house of Jewish worshippers because they worshipped pagan gods. That’s like marry a woman (dudes) or a man (ladies) who isn’t allowed to be a member at Kineo. They can’t worship together which proves to be a bad way to build a family!

vv. 4b-5a: They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, Oh man, this went from bad to worse. In v. 1 we learn that there is no grain seed (“there’s a famine in the land”), and in vv. 3-5 we learn that there is no human seed (“the death of all the men in the family”).

Eli leaves the house of bread, goes to a pagan land to live because there’s financial opportunity there, and he dies, and so do his sons. Would you call that bad planning?
v. 5b: so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. This phrase seems to minimize the pain and loss of Naomi. Naomi buried her husband, and her two sons! Not to mention without having an heir to her name. In these days, without an heir, Elimelech’s household will lose its inheritance and will socially become an outcast in Israel. This is losing more than loved ones, its also losing any chance to live a normal life, if she survives herself. As an old woman in these days, her situation is dreadful.

The young widows (Ruth and Orpah) can remarry and haves sons because they are young, but Naomi is stuck as an older woman. It seems that Naomi’s life as she knows it would be better if she had never been born.

Her grief and demise has stirred up a lot of deep struggles with God, His goodness, and love for her (1:20-21). Naomi’s pain and struggles are very similar to that of Job’s. We must remember where Naomi is at right now. She is suffering and God is asking her to trust Him even though He has not revealed to her major pieces of the puzzle. But Naomi is even worse off than Job because she’s a woman who is childless and post-menopausal if you know what I mean! This is a road Job didn’t have to go down.

Job could work again, rebuild his wealth. Naomi can’t. He may endure unjust accusations from friends, but he will not face degradation, discrimination, possible physical/sexual abuse, or social oppression. Naomi has all that to navigate through and live in fear of. This is a terrible situation, worse than we could imagine, or maybe many of us this morning can unfortunately imagine it more than we would like.

But Naomi must go on. Death has stripped her down until she stands naked before God without anything else that women culturally have to rely on to give them significance (husband, children, a home, provision, ability to have kids, ability to work, etc.)

She is stripped of everything and has nothing to hide behind, and neither do we if we are honest with ourselves. We are all naked before God and our only hope is Him. Is this resonating with anyone? Have you ever felt hopeless, powerless, devastated to the point of quitting? This is Naomi. She does not look like a candidate to play a leading role in salvation history.
Scene 2 (1:6-22):
v. 6-7: 6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.

This new scene begins with a small ray of hope for Naomi as she hears that the Lord had lifted the famine in Judah, and has given them food. God, the name used here is Yahweh, whom we know to be Jesus. Jesus visited His people and gave them food! Naomi is headed home, back to the house of bread, and back to her people who worship Yahweh with her 2 daughter-in-laws.

Here, in this verse, we see God’s sovereignty at work, behind the scenes, yet still at work. God works by the means of miracles sometimes, but most of the time God works in invisible ways, at least to the normal eye. God works in very normal ways, among very normal people like you and I, to accomplish His purposes. And within His purposes, God works sovereignly (He is the highest authority, He rules and reigns, He’s over Satan, demons, death, He is even over the accidents and in all that He is good!)

vv. 8-15: As Naomi is headed home with her two daughter-in-laws, she turns to them and urges them to go to their mothers’ home, find husbands, remarry, that the Lord may “deal kindly” with them. Here is where we learn of that beautiful word that permeated this story of Ruth; “Hesed”.

May Yahweh bless you and bring you hesed, loving kindness that will never abandon you, but be kind to you in rich ways. And as Naomi is weeping, Ruth and Orpah respond and say “No, we will return to you to your people.” (1:10).

So Naomi turns up the heat and says: “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” (1:11-13).

In short, Naomi tells them that they have “No!” future with her. “According to the Israelite law of levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5-9), other sons or close relatives of hers should marry the childless widows and use their seed to preserve the deceased relative’s name and land inheritance.”2 This is where we get the phrase “kinsman redeemer”.

In the time of the judges, Naomi has little, to no hope that a relative will sacrifice his fame and fortune to help a young widow by bearing her sons that will neither bear his name nor add to his property or wealth (or in her bitterness forgot about Boaz or other relatives).

By law, God set this law up to protect women in these situation and to keep families from poverty. A kin (relative) to Naomi was to step up and sacrifice for the sake of Naomi’s family, marry Ruth, and he will get no payoff from this, and will be looked to by many as a fool, not mention the child would be Naomi’s, not his.

So Naomi says to Ruth and Orpah, that the only practical and sensible thing to do is to go back to your home, and marry and live a normal life. Naomi says that she is a dead end road; “forget about me” is essentially what Naomi says.

She places their interests above her own and makes the decision to face her own dark future alone. This is not the right decision, as she is sending these women back to their homes to serve vile false gods (Baal, Chemosh, etc.). Naomi is bitter and angry and acting in the flesh.
vv. 14-15: 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

They weep together, but Orpah takes her up on it. She chooses to live by sight, not by faith. She would rather fall back and serve false gods than risk losing a normal life. She was a pretending Christian… But Ruth… this is a really good “But” that we find in Scripture. Oh the beautiful “but’s” of Scripture:

vv. 16-17: 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me [literally: stop afflicting me] to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Facing the same realities that Orpah couldn’t handle, Ruth divinely insists that she remain with Naomi no matter what! She is sticking to her covenant she made with the house of Elimelech and her deceased husband Mahlon. Ruth uses the Hebrew word [pagaʿ]: “Stop afflicting me!” She is set on what she is called to do and she backs her word up with an oath: “May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Like Abraham, Ruth leaves her family and homeland to follow Yahweh to an unknown land. This is a clear picture of God providentially planning to establish His kingdom here on earth. But this seems to be a bigger act of faith than even Abraham’s obedience, if I dare say that! Abraham is told by God to go, and to our knowledge, Ruth is going with what she believes to be right, not necessarily because she received a word from God.

So they return to Bethlehem together and upon their arrival, the years of anger and bitterness had aged Naomi to the point where her friends and family say: “Is this Naomi?” And Naomi interprets what has happened in her life like this:
vv. 20-21: “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

Naomi basically says, “Call me old hag for I am miserable and bitter”. That’s at least being honest. I love Naomi for her honesty! We could learn from Naomi’s honesty about where she’s at with the Lord (expound on this).

v. 22: So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. But ironically, Naomi is able to return to her hometown because the Lord had ended the famine, and she is not alone, and it just so happened to be harvest time for the barley.

This paints a picture of many of our lives in different ways. Some of our lives truly resemble Naomi’s life, and other’s lives resemble her life emotionally. You feel abandoned by God. You truly think He’s publicly against you and wants to punish you.

You feel like He’s playing one big joke on you that isn’t funny. You don’t believe that He is good or that He is “for” you… you think his sovereignty means that He’s in control of everything, but He’s not not good. God is sovereign and He is eternally good! But sin is bad! Humans are bad! Demons are bad! God is good! He is sovereign and He is good!

But I don’t think any of us would say about how Naomi feels, “That’s crazy! Why would she feel that way! She’s over doing it a bit!” We wouldn’t because we know her story and we have seen all that has happened to her. But we are not angry for her as we would be if we didn’t know the end. (the prodigal daughter and she doesn’t know it!)

We see the end. We see how God is working. Even before the big moment of redemption. Ruth is with her. The famine is over. She is back home. Even though Naomi can’t see the hesed of the Lord yet, the end of this journey home is the beginning of a new journey. Two destitute women arrive safely in time for barley season!  This is true for you and I today. We may not be able to see what God’s doing, but we do know He is not against us, in the same way we know and see that He is not against Naomi.

We read the Hebrew used of God here in chapter 1 is Lord, Yahweh; which we learn in the NT that Yahweh is Jesus. Jesus is the One who visited His people in Bethlehem. And He has visited us through the cross. He gave it all up so that we could gain it all. God is for you today because He sent Jesus. No matter where your story is at right now, the end can be sealed in sure redemption and reconciliation.

But to do that, we must be honest with ourselves today. We must learn from Naomi. Instead of coming in here with thoughts about God that are concealed (“How are you?” “Oh, I’m good, it’s a beautiful day!” and inside you can’t figure out why God seems so far from you today or that He would let this or that happen to you.)

Are you like Naomi today? Are you bitter and angry at God? Be honest. Let Jesus visit you this morning as He did Bethlehem.

Maybe you’re Eli, and you have taken the reigns of your life and think you’ve got everything figured out, but you’re headed towards death. You’re producing sons called “Walking pneumonia” and “Tuberculosis”. Submit, acknowledge you need help.

Maybe you’re Ruth and you’ve made a tough decision, and you don’t know what’s next and are afraid, but you’d rather trust Jesus. Be encouraged today. God is with you and you are not alone. Let someone here know where you are and let them walk with you.

Let’s Pray!

Philippians Week 12: He’ll Take Care of the Rest

As Paul closes out this letter this letter, he is closing as a good friend and pastor would. You make me happy. Thank you. Keep looking to Jesus for contentment. Keep being generous, for it is a sure sign of the gospel at work within you to the watching world. And when times are tough and provisions are slim, remember that God will provide all you need….and then the benediction.

Paul’s a good leader. He’s a faithful under-shepherd of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head pastor/shepherd of His Church. Let’s close this series by taking a deeper look at the six sub-topics that Paul intentionally tacks on to the end of his letter to the Philippian church; joy, contentment, confidence, generosity, provision and grace.

Joy: 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.

The theme of joy is weaved throughout the entire letter as Paul uses the word chaírō in different forms. Let’s take a look at them:

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (1:3-5)

17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice (1:17-18)

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith (1:25)

complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (2:2)

17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me (2:17-18)

In regards to Epap being sent back to the Philippians Paul says: 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men (2:28-29)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord (3:1)

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved (4:1)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (4:4)

Joy repeatedly bursts forth from the apostle’s heart. But now Paul expresses the intensity of his joy: the adverb “greatly” in v. 10 is used only here in the NT, and it serves to strengthen the verb “rejoiced” to the point that Paul’s joy surpasses the joy of his friends.

In the context of this paragraph, the past tense “rejoiced”, seems to reference the gift that the Philippian church brought to Paul while he was in prison (4:18). The gift that he received made him “happy” it seems. But notice what Paul says he “rejoiced in”: it was not the gift that Paul rejoiced in, rather it was the Lord who is the Giver of all good gifts.

Paul is always aware of the Lord’s faithfulness. Good gifts never distract Paul from the  central focus of the gospel: God, the ultimate Provider of all good gifts, namely, Jesus! I believe this is why he moves right into him being content and how he has learned contentment.

Contentment: 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

When Paul uses the word “autarkeia” (contentment; autós: self and arkéō, to be sufficient) it was meant to shock the Philippians’ and to get their attention because the word he used came straight from pagan Stoic philosophy.

The Stoics viewed contentment as the fundamental quality of all virtues. To a Stoic, contentment described the mind-set of the person who had become self-sufficent, not needing anything or anyone. Their mantra was, “man should be sufficient unto himself for all things, and able, by the power of his will, to resist the force of circumstances.”

Seneca, a well-known Stoic, put it this way: “the happy man is content with his present lot, no matter what it is, and is reconciled to his circumstances.” So the picture we get is some kind of a superman who could rise above any circumstance on his own and attain euphoria through contentment.

But like the word “gospel”, which was a secular Greek term, Paul redeems the word “contentment” and brings it into a proper understanding for the Philippians.

Because Jesus is the source of contentment, Paul knows how to share in his sufferings (I know how to be brought low), and Paul knows how to share in his glory without boasting in himself (I know how to have plenty). Paul learned (key word here) how to be content through not only intellectually learning the gospel, but through living it out day in and day out (1 Cor. 4:11-13; 2 Cor. 4:8-12; 6:4-5; 11:24-27; 12:9-10). This is called maturity through obedience (sanctification).

Contentment is a secret that only those on the inside know about. It is not until you enter into the satisfaction of the Giver, that you can know about this secret.

Most people search for happiness, and they never get it. You never find happiness when you search for it. It isn’t until you encounter and trust in the Giver, that you can be confident in your happiness, or contentment. This leads us straight into v. 13.

Confidence: 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

This has to be one of the most quoted verse in the Bible. It is pasted on posters, t-shirts, bumper stickers, slogans in the weight room or locker rooms. “I can kick your butt in cage fighting because of Jesus!” And when it doesn’t happen, we wonder if this passage is even true. We wonder because this verse is mostly used out of context.

We have turned this into an individualized passage that gives us confidence that God wants us to do anything our heart desires because He strengthens us. And because of this verse, well meaning Christian parents who are both no taller than 5’4” and together weigh less than 250 lbs, ignorantly tell their son who wants to be an NFL football player that “he can do all things through Christ!” Poor child’s dreams are gonna be shattered.

Let’s quickly bring this passage to it’s proper meaning and then move on to Paul’s next point: “As with every other line of Scripture, the assertion ‘I can do all things’ is controlled by the context. Thus what Paul says is that in whatever circumstances I find myself, in whatever extremes — whether experiencing abundance with the wealthy or fellowshipping with the poor or struggling to proclaim the gospel to people who don’t want to hear or enduring the wrath of the establishment or bringing peace to the church or languishing in prison — I can be content and ‘can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ Paul is confident that he will be divinely strengthened to do anything and everything that God calls him to do. Not only could Paul be content and confident in every circumstance, he could also be sure that he would be equipped with divine power to deal with it.” 1  And if we’re content “with” and “in” the Lord, we hold very loosely to possessions.

Generosity: 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

In this passage, we see the thread of “partnership” (v. 14: share “sunkoinōnéō”; sún, with, and koinōnéō, to partake. To participate in something with someone) that came through being generous in all areas of life (sacrificial giving).

Do you remember when Paul began his letter? He began with this: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:3-5). Then, 2 verses later: 1:7: “for you are all partakers with me of grace.”

Paul uses that word 6 times in this letter, and the last place we see it is right here as he is closing. This serves as somewhat of an inclusio (a literary device that creates a frame around a unit by placing similar material at the beginning and at the end) just like the language of joy and rejoicing serves as an inclusio as well. Paul begins with these words, carries them throughout the letter and closes with them as well. He is driving home some very important themes to us in this letter.

And in this passage, Paul wanted his readers to know that “giving to support his ministry was taking up fellowship with him as a partner in his present tribulations. Though the Philippians were not in prison with Paul, they participated in his afflictions by their sympathy and [financial] sacrifice.” 2 No other church did this but Philippi (15b-17).

Then in verse 17, Paul says that your financial generosity and partnership has been more of a credit to you than to me. It has served as your spiritual growth and a sign of your faith in God. And this is where we all go: “Now you are going too far. You’re saying our giving is part of our spiritual growth? Okay, maybe, but it definitely can’t be a sign of our faith in God! You’re getting to be like all the money hungry pastors who just wants to make a good living by guilting people into giving!”

Turn with me to Luke 19:6, 8-10 and let me show you something that Jesus teaches us:
6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully… 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord (and here’s the key of the whole verse), “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him (now Jesus interprets to us and to Zach what just happened), “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The generosity that welled up in Zach’s heart was a sign (but it isn’t always a sign just like a profession of faith isn’t always a sign that one is truly saved) of his heart being regenerated and maturity taking place (spiritual growth).

If we were to look at the kind of fellowship Paul spoke of and the context that the fellowship in this letter involves, here’s what you get, and it ain’t no venti caramel frappachino and apple fritter kind of fellowship: 1) participation in the great task of getting the gospel out; 2) the grace of participation in others’ suffering for the sake of the gospel; 3) participation in the Holy Spirit, through whom we are all baptized into one body; 4) the longing to participate in the sufferings of Christ; and 5) participation in the spread of the gospel through the generous giving of material resources.3

Giving sacrificially is a sign of partnering in the gospel. But when you add financial sacrificial giving, you are now attaching a string to our heart because we love money. You need money to live. You must eat, have a place to live, buy clothes to wear so you don’t embarrass yourself or others.

And we all struggle with the love (or finding comfort from) money. When we can freely give to God’s kingdom sacrificially, it is a sure sign that we are growing in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus and His kingdom. When we get there, this next verse becomes real to us and we believe it.

The kind of fellowship Jesus is after involves the generous sharing of our material substance for the proclamation and display of the gospel.

Provision: 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

He’ll Take Care of the Rest. God loves you and will take care of you. You help him in  taking care of His business, and He’ll take care of your business. Do you believe it? We have had this 12 week series to challenge us and move us to be a people who believe Jesus is who He says He is, and you really are who He says you are in Him.

This belief in the gospel is what produces, joyful, sacrificial, partnership with God and people which leads to satisfaction, contentment, and more joy knowing that you have all that you need in Christ. There is nothing anyone can do to you or take from you that can rob you of what Christ has given you. They can rob your $100 bill in your pocket, but you have billions in the savings account that no one can touch. So in light of the gospel…

Grace: 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

About this final greeting, John Calvin notes: “it is evidence of divine mercy that the Gospel had penetrated that sink [pit] of all crimes and iniquities.” Yes! Though both the Philippians and Paul were under Roman oppression, there were brothers and sisters within Caesar’s walls who were on their side and praying for them.4

Love one another. Partner with each other for the gospel/ Resolve your differences. Model Christ’s humility. Live like children of the King. Pursue Jesus and do not fear suffering. Seek the glory that comes from God, not from man. Rejoice in the Lord. Bless one another. Give radically. Then trust that God will take care of the rest by His gracious love for His saints. For everything depends on Jesus. Consider Col. 1:15-23:

15-18    We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

18–20    He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

21–23    You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message. (The Message)

As Christians, we believe acknowledge that Col. 1:15-23 is true, but we often struggle with believing our beliefs. Such a story such as God’s story and revelation of Jesus Christ demands we ask some honest questions of ourselves:

Am I believing that God can take care of me?
Am I believing that God loves me?
Am I believing that I am not a twig tossed about by the tides of life, but that God is actively working on my behalf precisely because is the the Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Lover of my soul?
Am I believing that God actively rewards those who honestly seek Him?

If you say yes to these truths, or desire to say yes to these truths, then your belief is deepening and it will change your life.

Why? How?

Because such belief assures that you are not a random thought that is thrown to and fro like a branch in the ocean, but a product of a sovereign God, who care for you, loves you and is actively blessing you right now in Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit!

Let’s pray!

Philippians week 11: A User’s Guide to Joy and Peace

Read Philippians 4:1-9

v. 1: Therefore, my brothers and my sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. The “Therefore”, points back to all the “imperatives” (commands) that Paul has given us to stand firm and be of one mind. But I want you to notice something here. All of Paul’s imperatives are based on Biblical “indicatives” (reality, truths).

For example: the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ  (3:7-17), the tragic destiny of the enemies of the cross (3:18-19), the present reality of our heavenly citizenship, and the expectation of Christ’s return to restore all things (3:20-21) are all the indicatives (realities, truths) that Paul uses to motivate or compel us to stand firm and to be of the same mind (4:1-3).

Paul’s commands are not random statements of his personal authority. He always bases his imperatives on the solid ground of the indicatives of what Christ has done and will do. Grace always precedes, surrounds, and empowers the life of obedience. I pursued my wife before I asked her to spend the rest of her life with me and to love and be with me. You tracking? God redeems, and asks us to obey in light of our redemption.

v. 1: Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown… Okay, it doesn’t get much more personal and endearing than this in Scripture, other than from the mouth of Jesus or the pen of the Psalmists. Paul loves the Philippians. They are his joy and crown.

As your pastor, I really want you to feel this passage and get the heart of Paul in this. This is my heart for you today. “I love you and long for you all to live in harmony with Jesus. I am jealous for your affections to be for Jesus and not things that perish and destroy. I love being your pastor and laboring along side you for Jesus’ sake!

v. 1b: my joy and my crown: Paul has the theme of joy threaded throughout this whole letter. The Philippians are Paul’s joy because the are family (adopted by God into the same family; brothers and sisters) and share in the community and fellowship of the gospel. This is a relational joy that came from sharing life together, not a situational joy that is contingent upon performance (blood brothers, parent to child, brother to sister).

Paul says in my own words, “Because of you O Philippians, I joyfully celebrate a great victory: you are my crown.” This indicates that Paul envisions a great celebration, much like a celebration that one would see at the end of the Olympic games, where the champions are given their wreaths on their heads and there is a great celebration!

“Since Paul refers to his friends in Thessalonica as “the crown in which we will glory in the presence of the Lord Jesus when he comes” (1 Thess 2:19), he may have the time of the Lord’s return in mind when he refers to his Philippian friends as his joy and crown. He told them earlier to hold firmly to the word of life so that he would be able to boast on the day of Christ (2:16). And his announcement of the Lord’s imminent appearance from heaven to transform our lowly bodies (3:20-21) sets the immediate context for this reference to his friends as his joy and crown.” 1 Kineo, you are my joy and my crown!
After Paul addresses the entire community in love, he turns to address two women who are in conflict:

2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Surprise, surprise! Women in conflict? (Come on, laugh with me!) These are two women who are leaders within the community are divided and have taken separate stands and different members of the community have been asked to stand with them in support of their argument. Paul avoids favoritism by appealing to both women with a plea (he entreats both of them separately).

This also shows that their conflict was not one of doctrine or one that at least distorted the gospel. So why would Paul call these women out? Why would Paul speak to these two women so urgently if their conflict did not have any impact on the church? “

“If their conflict seriously threatened the unity of the church, then his reference to them by name in a letter to be read to the whole church appropriately and understandably identifies a major cause of the problem of disunity addressed in numerous ways throughout the entire letter. Paul’s call for these two women to be of the same mind in the Lord repeats his major challenge to the entire community to be like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind (2:2).” 2

To be of the same mind means to have the same attitude or goal. What attitude or goal is Paul referring to? Well, we can go back in the letter and see where he gives an example of an attitude to model and a goal to press in after:

2:2-5: 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind (attitude), having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind (attitude) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,

3:14-15: 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (boasting in and attaining the Kingdom of God). 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Paul’s asking them to humble themselves, think of the others’ needs before their own because they are family. Press to know God’s kingdom and advance it, not your own.
“When their common bond in the Lord becomes central, their attitude toward each other will be the same as Christ Jesus expressed on the way to the cross: they will not claim their rights for their own advantage; they will take the form of a servant; they will humble themselves (2:5-8).” 3 And when treated like a servant, they will not shriek in anger or cry injustice. Rather, they who are mature will see the bigger picture and seek peace.

Paul is concerned with this conflict to the point of not only calling out both women to be of the same attitude, but he also brings in a third party, a moderator which is a great idea when two believers are at an impasse. “Help these women”, Paul says, “as they are believers who are a part of God’s family. Entreat them to live like they are.”

Now Paul turns again to fire off imperative after imperative (command after command):

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice: This command extends the theme of joy that Paul is after in this letter. This Imperative (command) serves to set the tone for all that follows in this passage. Paul is writing this letter from prison to Christians who are suffering for aligning themselves with Jesus and His kingdom more than Caesar and his kingdom.

This command calls for an attitude that is cheerful in every circumstance as being the dominant theme in the life of a Christian. All other satisfaction is birthed out of rejoicing in the Lord (being satisfied in/with HIm). Ultimately, the source of our joy “comes from what the Lord has done in the past, from what He is doing now, and from the hope of what He will do.” 4

Until the return of Jesus we are all going to endure loss, pain, disappointment, stress, sickness, humiliation, and even our own death. The only joy that lasts is joy found in God. Satisfaction in Him. Remembering our conversion like King David did: 1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. (Ps. 40:1-3a)

5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; “In light of your rejoicing” (or “As you rejoice”), be reasonable with it. The Gk. word here is “epieikḗs” which means gentleness, compassion, or sympathy. So we can say “let your softness” be known to everyone. The KJV gives us the word moderation. Don’t be a Joseph who rejoiced with his brothers when they didn’t even get it. Be gentle with those who aren’t rejoicing or don’t get why you should be rejoicing in all things. Jesus was gentle and lowly in heart, so should we be (Matt. 11:29). He is with us, and He is coming back!

So we get the kind of rejoicing that Paul is after in v. 4 is gentle, humble, caring for others kind of rejoicing, that is patient with others, not in a self-righteous kind of way.
6a do not be anxious about anything: Don’t worry, be happy now… This wasn’t some happy go lucky comment that is detached from reality kind of statement. He was in prison, tomorrow was uncertain, suffering was his reality at that moment. Danger was everywhere. Same with the Philippians. They were in danger of poverty, hunger, isolation, heretics that sought to destroy them, and a government that wanted them dead in Rome.

This sounds much like the words that Jesus rendered to his listeners at the sermon on the mount: 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?… 28b Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you… 31 Therefore do not be anxious… 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matt. 6:25, 26-27, 28b-31a, 33

6b but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God: Don’t worry, but wait and pray with a thankful heart! Pray with a thankful heart. Prayers that are devoid of thanksgiving are prayers that come from those who are devoid of grace (or at least being able to see evidences of God’s grace). Grace produces thankfulness. Pray with a thankful heart for who Jesus says you are, and what He has promised for you today and in the future.

7 And (here is the implication of obedience to the imperatives)…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. What a trade off! “Seek me first with rejoicing and thankfulness, and I will give you peace.” “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:26

This peace transcends all rational thinking or any reality that you are facing today. This peace is, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:20 is “far more” than we could ever ask or even think of. Peace in our souls is what is at stake here. Peace that guards (garrisons) our hearts and our mind through the good news of Jesus! Peace will overwhelm-ingly flow to those who with thanksgiving, make their requests known to God!

This is how you get to what Paul closes with. Rejoicing in the Lord and conversing with Him with a thankful heart allows us to think in the way that he closes with only because God’s peace that is more than we could ever imagine has garrisoned our whole selves:

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

In other words, think about and preach the gospel to yourselves. Talk about how God, by the power of the gospel, has transformed your life, restored relationships, brought you out of despair, gave you hope, etc… Whatever is “good”, think and talk about that. There is enough bad gossip that we like to run to naturally because of our love for sin, so fight it by talking about the gospel! ) Give brief reference of Adam and Eve in Gen. 3 vs. Joseph in Gen. 39. Adam and Eve focused on the forbidden fruit and never looked up at the thousands of trees that were provided. Joseph looked away from the forbidden fruit at all the Potiphar had entrusted to him. Think about all that God has given and stop desiring that which is forbidden.

9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. This is a “work out what God has worked in” statement. Indicative: All that Christ has done for you. Imperative: Now practice, or put to use what you have already been given by Christ. Then peace… No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace!

Let’s Pray!

Philippians Week 10: God’s Plan for Biblical Hermeneutics

Read Philippians 3:17-21: 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

This passage we have before us this morning comes on the heels Paul talking about himself, how Jesus is his righteousness through faith and how that radical grace has propelled him to not pursue anything else with more intensity but to attain all that Christ Jesus has prepared for him. Let’s review over what Paul has just said to us:

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…

10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own…

14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus…

This gives us a little glimpse into where Paul may be headed this morning; basically, Jesus is everything and there is nothing in this world that is worth giving ourselves to in any way that would rob from the glory due to the High name of Jesus!

He purchased my salvation! He robed me with a white robe of righteousness! He absorbed my blood stained clothes and clothed me in beautiful white robe! He sealed me with His promise by His Spirit and forever dwells in me! He is making me more like Himself day after day! He remains faithful even when I am not! He is coming back again to reclaim His lost sheep to dwell with Him forever! He holds all things together and in Him and for Him all things were created! This is our Jesus!! You get me?

Now Paul is inviting us into this radically different life when he says: “Brothers, join in imitating me…” literally, mimic me. To casual readers, this could sound totally arrogant in our day and age. But notice what Paul says after this statement: and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

The “those” Paul is talking about is probably understood to be Timothy and Epap (2:19,25). Remember that these excellent men had followed the example of Christ by not seeking their own interests but rather the interests of others (cf. 2:4, 20, 21).

Modeling godly men and women who have gone before us is of grave importance. It is how good athletes become great, good musicians become great, good writers, and dancers, and mothers, and teachers all become great by being learners and having great models to watch and observe and follow after their way.

Consider Hebrews 13:7: Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Observe those godly leaders whom God has placed around you and consider their outcome of life, and model them. This is a good thing. It seems arrogant, but look at it in perspective to the rest of life. We all mimic mentors and people training us at jobs, parenting, school, sports, etc. This is how God set it up.

Who are you imitating? Who’s influencing you? What kind of crowd are you running with? You running with Tim’s and Epap’s? Or are you running with the dogs and cannibals (3:2)? We must choose our friends and mentors wisely.

And for you leaders, “it is of greatest importance that…[you] not descend to be professionals — that we constantly desire to know Christ and “the power of his resurrection” and the fellowship of his sufferings — that we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call” with all our being. Those who pursue Christ will produce those who pursue Christ. And it is only those who continue to run after Christ who will stand firm.” 1

The Problem: We are all worshipers, but the problem is that we worship wrongly. We were created to worship and imitate God, but instead we worship and imitate what He created. This always leads to destruction.

Paul is so concerned with imitating godly men and women because there are enemies of the gospel that Paul has warned them about who are in grave danger: 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. These guys are the exact opposite of Paul’s above examples.

Their lifestyles mocked the gospel and the life of accepting suffering was foolishness to them and sacrificing for Christ’s sake was a joke. They are enemies of the cross; claiming the benefits of the cross, but not living in the power of it. Paul uses such strong words to oppose these opposers with 4 strong phrases. He says:

v. 19a: Their end is destruction. (cf. 1:28): “These people had faces and names familiar, and even beloved, to the Philippians. Nevertheless, their cross-denying behavior…is destructive to their souls and to others who follow them.” 2

v. 19b: their god is their belly: Essentially their appetite for lustful glutenous and sexual delights made gods out of good things that God gave to man. Their pursuit of worldly comforts and pleasures have drowned out their necessity for the cross of Jesus Christ.

“Today the professed Christian whose own physical and personal needs come before the Lord, whose bodily comforts (what and where he eats, how and where he lives, and what he spends to satisfy his own pleasures) displace the cross, had better take note because his god has become his belly. Beware of any pleasure that impedes the passionate pursuit of Christ.” 3

v. 19c: and they glory in their shame: This refers to the sexual excesses and exploitation of our bodies and others’ bodies. The word shame to a first century Jew or Greek would bring to mind shame of nakedness (with their bodies). This brings to mind:

1 Cor. 5:1-2, 6: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you…. 6 Your boasting is not good! Bragging about their sin because of misapplied grace. This is an offense to the gospel. Playing with sex by the means of your own rules, forsaking God’s great plan!

v. 19d: with minds set on earthly things: Their whole disposition in life was driven by the sinful culture or worldview, without any consideration of God being the Creator and sustainer of all.

This all smells so much like the words of John in 1 John 2:15:17: 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

John gives us 3 things to focus on in this passage: “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The first two are pleasures, things we don’t have/want, and the third one is possessions, things we do have:
– lust of the flesh (raw carnality/what my body wants, crude or cultured)
– lust of the eyes (image/what we want people to think of us)
– the pride of life (cars, job, house, education, power, money)

The Greek first century world was driven by these three things: power, pleasure, possessions which are all fueled by pride. This all starts in the heart, internally, yet we focus on the external. We put out the outward fires, but the problem is a huge forest fire destroying our heart. Outwardly, we look great, happy and content. Inwardly, we are withering away with discontentment, anxiety and sadness. What we thought would make us happy is working out to be our destruction (Phil. 3:19a).

What Paul is trying to say to us is that the way we live (our appetites, desires and motives), the things in which we find comfort and joy, and our character when no one is looking all tell which worldview we are living by or believe to be true.

Many of us as believers live this way. We know God, we have been purchased and redeemed by His love, but do not experience Him. We live in recognition that there is a God, yet see no connection between that belief and how we go about our daily affairs.

We never consider or factor God into our decisions, or pattern our lives after His values. Consequently, we believe in God but behave and live life as if He doesn’t exist.

It’s a dichotomy, a split between what we say and what we do. It explains the chasm between what many people say they believe and how they live out their lives. Statistics about our culture bear this out:

Many of us believe God exists:
– Almost 9 out of 10 (88%) Americans claim to believe in God (Gallup, 2007)
– More than 3 out of 4 Americans (77%) claim to be Christian (Gallup, 2009)

Yet few of us live like God exists:
– Less than 1 in 10 (9%) of people hold to a basic Christian worldview, including a Biblical understanding of Jesus, Satan, salvation and heaven (Gallup, 2009)
– Slightly more than one out of ten people (13%) attend (or are apart of) a Bible-believing church (ARDA, US Census 2009)

Many Christians speak of feeling disconnected from God and discouraged with life because they have come to believe that it isn’t possible to genuinely experience God or that a great move of God will change our life as we know it. We’ve lost sight of the “good news” of Jesus being a reality now, not just in the future. This destroys the beauty of God in our lives and to the world.

The Answer: You are a citizen of heaven. You await a savior to give you all your heart has ever desired. He will transform your lowly body. You will reign with Christ!

Look back at Phil. 3:20, this is where it gets good. Paul says: 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

So Paul moves from the earth dwelling enemies of the gospel, to the kingdom dwellers who have a citizenship in heaven and live differently because of it. Do you see the problem and answer in this passage?

v. 20a: But our citizenship is in heaven: This takes us back to Phil. 1:27 when Paul tells the Philippians to let your lives be lived in a manner worthy of the gospel. ”In 1:27 it is the verb politeúes-the, and here in 3:20 it is the noun políteuma. Both are built on the noun polis, which means “city.” All kinds of English words come from this: police, metropolis, political, politician.” 4

The reality of Paul’s words means that there is a city that you are aligned with (citizens of) more than you are a Roman. This is a direct assault against patriotic love for nation being supreme over your love and loyalty to God and His kingdom. These are fighting words for the “Don’t mess with Texas” mentality in Philippi. Paul is making a clear and HUGE statement here!

v. 20b: and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: With eager expectation, we long for (wait for) the return of Jesus Christ, the one who saved us. This is the name that is highly exalted, by which every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

We wait for this glorious King…v. 21: who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself: The outcome of the great and glorious King who is coming will be the transformation of our lowly, sinful and broken bodies into the likeness of His glorified body. Our future bodies will be like His post-resurrected body that the 500 witnesses gazed upon, talked to, ate with… Jesus!

All this is done and is enabled by the same power that Christ used to subject “ALL” things to Himself. There is a sure-ness, an absolute-ness to what God can promise because of His power. Only Christ Jesus can command our destiny, our future. It’s all about Jesus!! Let’s all live like we believe it:

Lesslie Newbigin took the pastorate of a tiny church in a poverty-stricken neighborhood of London when he was 80.  Here in 1987, he talks about how the Indian, Muslim and Caribbeans in the community around where he is pastoring are easier to talk to about the gospel than the typical Westernized American. It is a good reminder of the upward battle we have to witness to the gospel to people who have become immune to it.

“To the Muslim the gospel is shocking but at least it is significant. To Hindus and Sikhs it is something really worth listening to – even if one finally decides that it is just another version of the ‘religion’ which is common to us all. Many of the Afro-Caribbean people in our inner cities are devout Christians whose faith, hope and love put most of us to shame.”
“But for the majority of the natives, the Christian story is an old fairy-tale which they have put behind them. It is not even worth listening to. One shuts the door and turns back to the TV screen where endless images of the ‘good life’ are on tap at all hours. How can this strange story of God made man, of a crucified saviour, of resurrection and new creation become credible for those whose entire mental training has conditioned them to believe that the real world is the world which can be satisfactorily explained and managed without the hypothesis of God? I know of only one clue to the answering of that question, only one real hermeneutic of the gospel: a congregation which believes it.”

Closing Exhortation:
May the body of Christ provide you with many examples to follow.
May the lives of the enemies of the cross be cause for tears and alarm.
May the wonders of your citizenship and your future dance in your soul.
May you live by and believe the gospel in your daily life.
And may you “stand firm” in your pursuit of “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14).5

Let’s Pray!