Naomi became Obed’s Nurse

Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him (Ruth 4:16)

The book of Ruth begins with pain, grief, loss and bitterness, but it ends kind of like the book of Job. Naomi’s life was “restored” and her old age was “nourished” by this little grandbaby Obed (Ruth 4:15).

Obed didn’t take away the grief and memories, but he did help Naomi revive by giving her a new purpose. “Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him.”

There are tremendous blessings and benefits that come from serving and caring for others.

Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account (Philippians 4:17).

According to Paul, there is a “fruit that abounds” to our account. Paul did not mean, nor do I, that we serve to get something. God knows our hearts. But if we are serving and sacrificing for others, God sees it and promises blessings will come our way. But those blessings are not about money and material kickbacks.

For Naomi those blessings were that this child would restore her life and nourish her in her old age. Our life is restored and nourished when we pour ourselves into serving the people around us God has placed in our lives.

You have seen those “before” and “after” shots of people on those infomercials, right? Some “revolutionary” new treatment takes someone who is 90 and makes them look 15 again. Well, I would love to see the before and after shots of Naomi. The Naomi of chapter 1 who walks slowly back into Bethlehem wanting to be called “Mara,” and the Naomi of chapter 4 who holds this little bundle of joy called Obed.

The name Obed means “serving,” I believe, which is fitting.

Naomi did not “retire” in the kingdom of God, she was called by God into the service of a young child. There is no retirement in God’s family, no one is “put out to pasture” like a crippled, old horse.

Find someone to serve, someone to care for. Look around, especially within your congregation and see someone who is discouraged or going through some trial and find a way to brighten their day a little.

Be a Naomi for an Obed today.

Greeting with a loud voice in the morning

He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it will be counted a curse to him (Proverbs 27:14).

This proverb is one that I have lived. I’m a morning person, Anna is not. Enough said? Some folks are 0-90 in the morning, and others are a slow build. After a few cups of coffee and some silence they are ready to go. So, for this knucklehead (me) to go around the house blasting the Beatles on the radio at 6:30 a.m. is a really bad idea!

This proverb is about knowing how to be appropriate, and how to approach people and situations properly. Your personality and the way you want to be approached may not be the same way others want to be approach. This requires humility, wisdom and seeking advice. It also means that sometimes we really blow it by approaching people the wrong way.

Here is another proverb that speaks to being proper and wise in how we approach things.

Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart (Proverbs 25:20).

Remember those elementary school science experiments? Baking soda and vinegar…what happens? Well, it erupts and makes a mess! That’s precisely what happens when we try to sing “I’m Happy Today!” to someone who just suffered extreme loss. It erupts and makes a mess.

Here are two passages about learning how to say the right things at the right time. Let’s meditate upon this and pray for God’s wisdom to guide us today in how we approach people and situations.

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:5-6).

A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is! (Proverbs 15:23)

An old Anglican prayer

Today I want to share with you an old Anglican prayer that I heard someone pray yesterday. Meditate upon these simple words:

What we know not, teach us

What we have not, give us

What we are not, make us

Here are some prayers in Scripture that go along with each of the above statements

What we know not, teach us

  • Teach Me your way, O Lord (Psalm 86:11). In Psalm 119, David repeatedly asked God to “teach” him.
  • Samson’s parents prayed for wisdom and instruction on how to raise their son (Judges 13:8).
  • Paul’s prayers for what he wanted the brethren to learn and understand (Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 1:15-19).

What we have not, give us

  • Wisdom (James 1:5).
  • You have not because you ask not (James 4:2).
  • Boldness to speak the gospel clearly (Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:2-4).
  • Earthly blessings of this life (1 Chronicles 4:10).
  • Longer life, physical healing (2 Kings 20:1-6).
  • Nehemiah, among his many prayers, prayed for success before speaking to the King of Persia (Nehemiah 1:11).

What we are not, make us

  • To stand perfect and complete in the will of God (Colossians 4:12).
  • To be strengthened by God in the inner man through the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:14-21).
  • You are the potter, Lord; we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8).
  • Prayers for forgiveness would fit within this prayer. If we are not forgiven, please Lord make it so through Your grace (Psalm 51; Ezra 9; Nehemiah 9; Daniel 9).

You could find many other examples. I think this would be a great sermon to preach, or a great devotional study you could lead at someone’s house.

This simple prayer packs a lot of power in it. Pray it today.

The house of him who had his sandal removed

“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’
(Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

If a man died childless, then his family line was certain to die out. God made provision in the Law of Moses for the nearest relative to marry the childless widow and raise up a child in the name of the dead husband.

This was part of God’s provision and mercy upon families. God wanted the people of Israel to be able to maintain their family line. He also ensured through the Law that each family would have a piece of property on which to perpetually raise their family and provide food and income for their families.

Another provision of this law shows how important this was to God. If a man would not perform his duty to redeem his family and raise up a son in the name of his dead brother (relative), then he was to be publicly disgraced and humiliated. You can see in the above passage in Deuteronomy how that occurred. The widow, in the public square, would take off this man’s sandal and spit in his face.

The man who would not take his role to care for his relatives would forever live with that stigma. His name would forever be ruined and his reputation sullied. That’s how important this was to God. In fact, one of Judah’s sons was struck dead by God because he refused to fulfill this obligation (Genesis 38).

God takes providing for our families and next of kin as serious business, doesn’t He?

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:8)

Certainly, God doesn’t want us to do this as a grudging obligation, but to do so with joy. It should be a privilege and an honor to fulfill this role. We should consider ourselves blessed to be able to take care of those closest to us. The apostle Paul demonstrated this attitude as a spiritual father, and he “most gladly spent” to provide for the needs of his relatives in the faith, and that is the attitude we all must have in our hearts (2 Cor. 12:14-15; Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).

Plumbing the Depths of God’s Love – Transparency

3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.  4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah.  5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:3-5 NKJV)

Are you living transparently with God and with those who mean the most to you?

Remember the points under discussion this week.  We have all sinned, sinned against God, and God alone.  He will forgive us of our sins.  Only He can.  The result of our trust in this…in His mercy through faith is that we can live a blessed life regardless of our circumstance or relationships.  This is a great promise and hopeful perspective.  Yet we don’t always allow God to forgive us…we either ignore or deny the sin in our life and the consequences are grave.

David describes how terrible it was to keep his sin to himself.  His bones wasted away through his groaning all day long. His strength was dried up and the hand of the Lord was heavy upon him.  David is describing the burden of the guilt of his sin.  His sin is eating at him continually and the guilt is wearing him down.

What does this look like in your lives?  Do you carry around sin and the associated pain?  Does your conscience keep after you with ever present reminders of the fact you did something you shouldn’t have?  Sin hurts us individually and it hurts those we care about.  Sin ultimately and initially hurts God!

It’s there for all of us whether it is a sucking chest wound or a mere flesh wound.  It doesn’t matter, it’s there.  Ignoring sin leads to committing more sins.  In fact, what we think of as small sins (flesh wound) grow into more serious sins (sucking chest wounds).  For some reason we truly think we can get away with our actions.  For some reason we think that since we can hide our sins from one another and from our family, God will not know.  This course of action leads to our own spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical destruction.

God is going to work on us to bring the sin to light.  He is not going to waiver in this and when we can see the sin and the destruction it is causing, like David did, we will go from “worldly sorrow” to “Godly Sorrow”.  World sorrow deals with fear of being exposed or sorrow from being caught.  Godly Sorrow comes when we are looking at the Lord and not ourselves and realize we have done all this wickedness to God and we need to make it right.

David is no longer in denial here.  He is not looking for the easy way out.  He is done trying to fix things.  He “acknowledges” and “confesses” his sin and iniquity to God.  No more hiding!

This is man’s part.  We have to go to God with our sin…no more hiding.  God is faithful to do His part…forgive, atone, not impute our sins, transgressions or iniquity upon us.

Let’s change our mind.  Let’s not just expect others to “be right” or “make right” or “be exposed” for what they have done, but let’s demonstrate reconciliation in our own lives.  We are all exposed…God sees…God hurts…God longs for reconciliation.  When we get that right, then our feelings for others go from “being hurt because of” to “hurt for”.  Because we want everyone else to feel the same peace/joy we have found…we hurt when we see them languishing in sin like we did.  We can endure that kind of hurt.  God does.

No more excuses.  No more denial.  No more trying to hide.  No more trying to “fix it”.  Acknowledge your sins, confess them, ask God to forgive.  You and those most important in your life cannot afford anything less.

Psalm 26 part 1

Today and tomorrow we will look at Psalm 26. Take time to read it and meditate on it.

Of David. Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.
(Psalm 26:1-12)

Please think about the prayer of David here. Consider the requests he made of God.

Request #1Vindicate me, Lord Lord. David wants the righteous and merciful judge to litigate his case.

Request #2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. This is one of many times that David invites God into his soul to search it, examine it and test it. He wants to be right with God, and he wants anything not found pleasing to God to be taken away.

Request #3Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men. David’s heart and desire is to be in fellowship with God and with His people. He does not want to be associated with the wicked, nor does he want to be swept away in their lifestyle and the consequences of it.

Request #4 Redeem me, and be gracious to me. The thing he wants the most is the mercy, grace and redemption of God.

This is a great prayer. It would be good to consider using this prayer in your time with God, maybe even today.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will look at David’s heart, desires, hands, eyes, feet, voice, etc. that are discussed in this Psalm.

With All Who Had Separated Themselves

Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together (the Passover) with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel (Ezra 6:21).

Imagine how awesome and exciting it must have been for the Jewish exiles to come home to Jerusalem from captivity! Even more so, now the temple has been rebuilt, and they are keeping the Passover feast. What a joyous time of celebration. The Passover feast was a memorial feast that served as a reminder of how God delivered them from Egyptian bondage.

Please take note in the above passage, it was not just the Jews who ate the Passover. There were apparently Gentiles who became proselytes to the Jewish faith and sought the God of Israel. They “separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel.” If you think about it, that is such an encouraging and powerful statement. These Gentiles left their pagan ways, they saw their ways as “filth” and wanted to get as far away from it as possible. They repented. God became first in their lives. If you go back to Moses’ law, it also required that the Gentile males had to be circumcised before keeping the Passover (Exodus 12:47-49). Now they are eating “together” with the Jews in this feast.

This is like the book of Ephesians. Jews and Gentiles both are united under one Lord. Together (Ephesians 1:10; 2:5,6,21,22; 4:16 – New King James Version).

In order to be together, both Jews and Gentiles had to separate themselves from the filth of the world. Here is a point about influence, men. The Gentiles were led to God because the Jews were living for God. The Jews had first left behind the ways of the world and the filth of the nations, and it became an example and a light for the Gentiles to follow.

We see other examples in Ezra and Nehemiah of God’s people doing the exact opposite. Instead of separating from the filth of the nations, they married into that filth and raised kids in it. Their kids became pagan instead of godly (Nehemiah 13). So here in Ezra 6 is a positive and powerful witness of what your influence can do for God. But you must first separate from the dirty-ness of the world.

Your friends and co-workers will see that change. Pray that they like these Gentiles will also want to come and seek the Lord God. May they be united and together with us at Christ’s table as we celebrate Jesus as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

 

And they listened to him until this word

Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ” And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” (Acts 22:21-22).

The apostle Paul was defending himself in front of an angry Jewish mob in Jerusalem. Some had falsely accused him of taking Gentiles into the temple. If there was any word I would not have said in front of this angry Jewish mob, it would have been “Gentiles.” Especially in a sentence that claimed the Messiah Jesus had sent Paul to the Gentiles, whom the Jews considered as dogs. But the Holy Spirit in His eternal wisdom guided Paul to say these words, and you can see the reaction of the crowd. At this word, they shut down. No more listening, it’s time to kill Paul (Acts 22:23).

The problem here was not Paul’s choice of words or his timing or his presentation, it was the heart of the people hearing the message.

It brings up a point or two for consideration about listening.

How well do I listen?

Are there times when someone at work, school or home is trying to talk to me and they say “the wrong thing” or say it in “the wrong way” and I just shut down and refuse to hear anything else they say?

Would you and I be characterized as someone who truly lets someone freely talk to us without freaking out, overreacting and shutting down?

Paul said the “wrong word” to these Jews and it was over. They were not going to listen to another word. They were so mad they wanted him dead. Now you may not want someone dead, but you may kill a relationship because you refuse to listen. Think about it.

Nicodemus was one Jew who understood this principle, even though he was outnumbered in the Jewish council.

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7:50-51)

Have you experienced these things? Are there people in your life that you cannot talk freely to because of how you know they will react? We don’t like that quality in others, understandably, but we don’t want to have that same characteristic. We as God’s men want to be the kind of men who will let others freely talk without shutting down, making quick judgments, or walking away, or over-talking, etc.

He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him (Proverbs 18:13)

It would help us to do more praying before and during conversations to ask the Lord to open our ears and muzzle our mouths.

God of the valleys

Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD'” (1 Kings 20:28).

We are currently studying the Kings and Prophets in our adult Bible class, and we are about to discuss 1 Kings 20 on Sunday. God used the wicked king of Israel, Ahab, to defeat the Syrians in order to show King Ahab that God is truly God. “And you shall know that I am the Lord…” (see 1 Kings 20:13,28).

The first battle took place in the city of Samaria, and the men of Israel were outnumbered (1 Kings 20:15). Nonetheless, they were victorious and “killed the Syrians with a great slaughter” (1 Kings 20:21). After this battle, a prophet came to King Ahab and warned him that the Syrians would be back in the Spring (1 Kings 20:22).

So, now read verse 21, and think about the conclusion the men of Syria made about God and why they were defeated in battle.

Then the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills. Therefore they were stronger than we; but if we fight against them in the plain, surely we will be stronger than they (1 Kings 20:23).

They had a regional view of God, and that makes sense when you are in a polytheistic culture. But their poor theology led to really bad conclusions about why they were defeated, which in turn led to a second catastrophic military loss. They thought they could beat Israel if they fought in a different location, and God showed them in a mighty and devastating way that He is God of the hills and the valleys. Once again Israel was outnumbered, but Syria was no match for God’s power (1 Kings 20:27). In the second battle 100,000 Syrian soldiers were killed and another 27,000 died because of a city wall that fell in on them (1 Kings 20:29-30).

There are so many ways we can apply this concept of God being the God of the hills and valleys.

  1. God is not a regional God. He is Lord of all your life, not just part of it. Either we choose to let Him reign over all of our life, or none of it at all. We cannot serve God and another master, Jesus said. God is a jealous God, He desires for us to come completely under the shelter of His wings and to make Him Lord of all of our life…of every fiber of our being.
  2. God is Lord of the hills and valleys in our lives. It sure is easy to sing praises to God when we are on the mountaintops, but what about when we are in the valleys? If you read the previous two chapters of 1 Kings, chapters 18-19, you will see that Elijah learned this very truth. Elijah had a mountaintop experience when he with God’s power defeated and executed the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (chapter 18). But in chapter 19, Elijah is scared, depressed and in despair! God showed Elijah that He was God of the valleys, too. We have to remember that. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, because You are with me” (Psalm 23).
  3. We sometimes forget to connect our previous victories with God to current challenges we face. Consider the faith of David when confronting Goliath (1 Samuel 17). His conclusion by faith was that if God helped him defeat the lion and the bear, then Goliath was no match for God. He knew God wasn’t just a God of lions and bears; He is Lord of everything. Remember that the Lord promised the Christian, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “The Lord is my helper…” in the hills and the valleys.
  4. There is nowhere that you are stronger than God. You will not find a location where you can out-smart, out-man, or gain an advantage on God. All of us in some way have tried this, if we’re honest! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23). As a dear older sister (Katie Marcus) used to tell me, “Your arms are too short to box with God!”

Praise the God of the hills and the valleys, the great I AM!

It Has Been Fully Reported

And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12).

Ruth was from Moab; she was an outsider, a Gentile. When she was shown such great kindness and generosity by Boaz, she was overwhelmed with gratitude. But she was also puzzled…why me?

So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10).

Ruth’s humility here is evident. Her whole mindset was to serve God and work hard to take care of Naomi and herself. She didn’t expect a parade for her service, nor did she expect this bountiful treatment from Boaz. Ruth was perfectly content to get dirty and sweaty working in the fields to get just enough for two widows to survive.

However, Boaz kindly reminds her of why she was being so treated.

“It has been fully reported to me…”

The behavior of Ruth got people talking. Ruth’s commitment first and foremost was to serve the Lord God. She left Moab, her family in Moab and her gods in Moab to come under the sheltering wings of the great I AM. Secondly, her life was but to serve Naomi and to make sure Naomi was provided for.

Ruth’s manner of life got the attention of the people of Israel, and word eventually came to Boaz. He was greatly impressed and I believe he was encouraged by such behavior. It seems like Boaz saw himself as one of God’s instruments in helping provide for Ruth and Naomi. Boaz knew full well that God was pleased with the commitment of Ruth, and he was convinced that the Lord would repay her for her work (Ruth 2:12).

The same is true for us today as God’s people. If our mindset is the praise of men, we will get our reward, Jesus said. When our heart is all about the reward and the material goods, we will get our reward (Matthew 6:1-4). But when our hearts are set on heaven as was the heart of Ruth, heaven takes notice.

Jesus Himself observed this kind of behavior in a poor widow. He watched how the rich people were giving large sums to the temple treasury, but what really grabbed His attention was the two coins given by a widow who gave all she had. Those two coins didn’t make much of a sound when they dropped in the container, but they thundered in heaven (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). Ruth’s service was just like that…God took notice of her and used Boaz to take care of her.

Let us reflect on our own service to God. If our hearts are like the heart of Ruth, then heaven will take notice. And really, it doesn’t matter if anyone else notices if God is the one who sees it.

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister (Hebrews 6:10).