September 24, 2011

Today you should read: Ruth 1:14-22

Contract: an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified.

Today we continue the story of Naomi returning home to Bethlehem from the land of the Moabites. We read earlier in chapter one that Naomi’s husband and two sons have died. Now she is only left with her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. We see a great deal of heartbreak between these three women as they had all suffered loss. However, there is something more than heartbreak found in Naomi. She is extremely bitter toward the Lord and has a lot of self-pity (pride) in her speech.

“She said to them, ‘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?’” (Ruth 1:20-21).

Why does she say things like “I went away full, and the Lord brought me back empty”? Her retirement plan had been taken away. In her culture, there was no such thing as a 401K, social security, or welfare. Women had to rely on their husbands to take care of them. If something were to happen to their husband, their sons would take care of them. So Naomi felt that God had ruined her.

In other words, Naomi had a “contract relationship” with God. It stated: “If you bless me and take care of me, I will worship you. If you do not do these things, I will not worship you and I will let everyone know that my life is terrible because of you”. Naomi found her happiness in her family and God was the agent that upheld her dream. Many of us have “contract relationships” with God. We desire to have the Christianized American dream and if God allows trials to come into our lives we become angry with him. Let me clear something up: God does not make contracts. He only makes covenants through His grace.

Grace is God’s love extended to us through His son, Jesus. It has nothing to do with us and he owes us nothing. He has not promised us a good life; He has only promised us Himself. We are to find our hope and identity in Jesus and Jesus alone.

Posted by: Chad Wiles

September 23, 2011

Today you should read: Ruth 1:1-13

The book of Ruth is a fascinating story! If you haven’t read it before, you will really enjoy it. We’ll be reading it together over the end of this week and most of next.

The story takes place about 125 years before the birth of David. The author of the book, although not identified, is probably Samuel and was written years after it actually took place. This is determined by Jewish tradition.

The book is rich in examples of faith, patience, and kindness – it shows us the care that God takes for those who trust in Him. It’s a picture of our Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus, who bought us back from sin. It is also a significant historical book, helping us to understand the linage of Jesus.

It takes places in the days when judges ruled over Israel. It must have been toward the beginning of the judges’ time because Boaz, who married Ruth, was born of Rahab (she received the spies in Joshua’s time). The story begins with a severe famine in the land. This was one of the things God said He would do if the people did not obey Him (Leviticus 16:19-20). So, Elimelech, a man from Bethlehem (yes, the same place Jesus was born, which becomes significant in the last few verses of the book) and his wife, Naomi, left to live in Moab where they could find food. He was married and had two sons. After his death, his two sons married Moabite women – one of whose name was Ruth.

About ten years later, tragedy struck the family again and both of Naomi’s sons died. Not knowing what to do or how to survive, she decided to go back to her homeland of Judah because she heard that God had given them good crops again. She started out with her two daughters-in-law with her. But, along the way she decided to let them go in order for them to start their young lives over again. She told them goodbye, kissed them, and cried.

What a story! You’d better keep a box of Kleenex handy! What can we learn from it?

Certainly this story is a vivid picture of life: full of ups and downs, of times when we are at the top of our game, and times when we have hit rock bottom. Naomi sees both extremes in this story.

Where are you right now? Where have you just been? Where are you headed? Which extreme best describes you? Either way, Jesus is still Lord; He’s the Lord of our good times and our bad. There is no panic button beside the throne of grace. God knows about and allows everything to come into our lives. Nothing can come into the life of a Christ-follower without God’s permission.

This reminds me of a verse that I want you to meditate on today. Romans 8:28…you may already know it.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

God causes all things to work together for our good! Why?

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” (v. 29)

Tough times seem to be the best recipe for growth and correction. Remember today – whether things are good or bad – that God loves you and has a plan for your life. Look to Him – trust Him – obey Him!

Posted by: Tim Parsons