Posts Tagged 'redemption'

Video Sermon: 7 Things All Christians Have, Part 2

Good morning, and Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads reading this. I lost my Dad a couple of years ago, and I sure miss him. So take my advice, if you’re Dad is still with you, do tell him you love him while you can. Believe it or not, he won’t always be around.

Most people know Mother’s Day has been celebrated for a very long time. It began back in the 1860’s and was declared a national holiday in 1914. Father’s Day is a slightly newer invention. In 1908, a preacher in a church in West Virginia preached a sermon in remembrance of some 362 miners who had been killed in a coal mining explosion. That was, as far as we know, the first time men had been honored in such a way. But it wasn’t until the next year that Sonora Smart Dodd sought to make a day honoring fathers a national tradition. She and her six siblings had been raised by her father alone, and she felt that all fathers should be honored the same way as mothers. It took a lot of time and effort, and lobbying the government, but in 1910, her home state of Washington celebrated its very first Father’s Day on June 19.

Years later, it was President Nixon who declared Father’s Day a national holiday in 1972.

So, as I say, Happy Father’s Day! I hope it’s a special one for you.

Here’s your VIDEO SERMON for this week. May the Lord bless you and speak to your heart.

 

REDEMPTION, PART 4

God Renews and Strengthens

Jesus Christ is our redeemer. But we were not redeemed just to save us from Hell. Christ’s redemption is not just for the future but for the here and now.

In 1 Corinthians 3:3, the apostle Paul makes a compelling statement:

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

The implications are startling. The unredeemed—the “worldly” as Paul calls them—are “mere men,” meaning by comparison the redeemed—Christians—are more than “mere men.” All human beings have limitations, but as Christians we are able to tap into a limitless spiritual reserve of power to help us live our lives in believers in an unbelieving world.

1. God is our strength, Isaiah 40:27—31; 41:8—10

a. Strength, 40:27—31

A common problem among the people of Isaiah’s day is a common problem among Christ’s people today: the perception that God is afar off. When injustice abounds and we are surrounded by trouble, it’s easy to forget the truth about God:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? (Isaiah 40:21)

This is God’s way of gently rebuking His children for not trusting in His sovereignty. God is supreme over all the earth, including all those who live on it. There is nothing that happens anywhere on the earth that goes unnoticed by the Lord. No human being is allowed to do anything not allowed by God. He alone has absolute control over human existence and there is no power in the universe that can challenge Him in this.

This is a truly majestic view of God, and such a magnificent God never fails to comfort His people. A series of questions and statements helps us grasp the grandeur of God and the strength that is ours through a relationship with Him:

Is our way hidden from God? (vs. 27, 28) If God knows, numbers, and shepherds the stars in the heavens, how can He not be mindful of His people? God’s children do not live at the whim of fate, nor are their rights disregarded. The fact is, God is an everlasting God who never sleeps and never lacks insight.

God’s strength is unfailing. (vs. 28b, 29) God upholds the stars but He also supports His weary people. He who is never weary has ample strength to share with those who need it.

God has unlimited insight. (vs. 28) No one can plum the depths of God’s understanding and knowledge. This reminds us of what James wrote:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

God supplies supernatural strength. (vs. 30, 31) It’s natural to grow weary for all kinds of reasons. Even the strongest and most ambitious person will eventually grow old and get tired. But supernatural strength is reserved for God’s people, who are far more than just “mere men.” This super-charged, supernatural strength is available only to those who “hope in the Lord.” It doesn’t come automatically when you need it, it comes when you put your full hope and confidence in God to supply it. The context makes it clear that this strength is given for a purpose: to live a holy life for God.

b. God’s presence, 41:8—10

In the context of Isaiah, the election of Israel in the person of Abraham represents the pledge of its deliverance in the coming crisis. In Cyrus’ day, the people of Israel would be living in exile in Babylon, which itself was about to fall to Cyrus. God’s exiled people were filled with fear. This was perfectly natural, given their circumstances. But God gave them encouragement.

The most encouraging aspect of these verses is the persistent use of the personal pronoun “I” of God’s presence. God promises to do all kinds of things for His chosen people. Israel is referred to as God’s servant, which seems to indicate that this election was not to be an unconditional salvation but a special call to service. If this be true, then Israel, like believers, bear a responsibility:

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall… (2 Peter 1:10)

But God’s presence is a guarantee that Israel, and believers today, will not fall. Strength comes from the divine presence.

2. Made righteous in Christ

a. It’s a gift, Romans 6:17—23

Before our redemption, we were slaves to sin. Our redemption freed us from that awful bondage. However, freedom from sin does not mean we are free to live as we please!

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (verse 18)

We were once subjects of sin, but now we have become subjects of righteousness. This is a real paradox! We have been freed from sin and are now living in perfect freedom, able to serve righteousness. We are now able to live for God.

This is important because before we were redeemed, we were enslaved to sin and our wages would be death. But now, in our freedom we are made able to serve God in righteousness. And in return for our service, we are given, not wages earned, but a gift: eternal life.

b. It’s a life of righteousness, Colossians 3:1—8

As Paul makes clear to his friends in Colosse, the Christian life is a life “hidden with Christ in God,” but it is still a life lived out on earth, in front of everybody. So it’s important for the faithful believer to not only pay attention to his inner spiritual life, but also to his outward life as he seeks to clothe his faith in front of his fellow man.

Christians ought to live lives that reflect the grand spiritual reality of resurrection.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1, 2)

We have the promise of God’s help in living a righteous life, but we have a duty to “set our hearts on things above.” That means we ought to strive for heavenly things. The center of our lives, the focus of all we do, must be Christ and doing what brings Him glory. We are hidden in Christ—He is our safety and protection—but we must accurately represent Him on earth in our conduct, behavior, and attitudes.

3. Renewed in the inside

a. Renewed to reflect God’s image, Colossians 3:9, 10

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Living a righteous life means living a life that Christ would live if He were back on earth. One thing Christ wouldn’t do is lie. Grammatically, Paul tells his readers not to “lie to themselves,” suggesting that if you lie enough, pretty soon you won’t be able to tell the difference between the truth and a lie.

The “new self” is renewed “in [true] knowledge of its Creator.” The thought here is that the “new self” never grows old, tired, or bored, but is constantly renewed the more it learns of God. “Being renewed” is written in the present tense, meaning this spiritual renewal is constant and ongoing. It doesn’t happen at a meeting on Sunday night.

b. Renewed for glory, 2 Corinthians 4:16—18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

It’s a fact of human life. Minutes after we are born, we begin to die. Life is the process of dying no matter how many pills you take, or how many greens you eat. Paul acknowledges this, but instead of declaring this truth in a defeatist, depressing manner, Paul is upbeat and positive! Yes, our bodies may be dying, but inside our spiritual self – our true self – is being renewed all the time. The weaker our physical beings become, the stronger our spiritual beings become. This is a profound thought. We are far more than what we can see with our eyes. Our essential person is the side of our being no man can see, and if you are a Christian, we have the promise that our essential person will never die, never grow old, never become weak or worn out.

In fact, according to Paul, God allows outward afflictions to do good things in our lives. It’s not that all problems are good, because very often our trials are the result of bad decisions we may have made. But there are things that happen to us for “no” apparent reason. When this occurs, we can be sure God is doing a work in us.

Paul gives believers a vital piece of advice: stop paying attention to what you can see. We are not to fix our constant attention on the things we can see around us. These are the things that are passing away. This includes our bodies, by the way. There is an obsession with health these days; just look at all the clinics and pharmacies in the average American town! But the Word advises us not to be overly concerned with things that are passing away. This, of course, does not mean that we shouldn’t try to live healthy lives. It’s hard to serve the Lord when you’re sick all the time, after all! But the point is, believers ought to be aware of their spiritual selves and the necessity of paying attention to it.

The truth is, everything changes in our world. Nothing ever stays the same. Cities change. Bodies change. The climate changes. Nothing stays the same or lasts forever. But we do, spiritually. So let’s pay attention to our new life, hidden in Christ. Let’s be aware of the special strength that is ours that enables us to live lives of righteousness that glorify God.

REDEMPTION, Part 2

Christ the Redeemer

Christ, Our Redeemer

Revival and renewal. These are two words Christians love. They are two things Christians love to experience and long to experience. And the fact is, all believers need spiritual renewal throughout their lives. Sometimes difficult circumstances, trials, or times of temptation can cause us to need a personal revival. Negative circumstances, especially when they are sustained over a long period of time, can cause our faith to weaken and wane and we know we need “something” to kick-start our faith. The truth is, we all need spiritual renewal regardless of our circumstances to that our relationship with God may stay fresh and vibrant.

Spiritual renewal began the moment we became born again. We became revived creatures when Christ redeemed our lives. Before the Holy Spirit took up residence in us, we were spiritually dead. Now we are spiritually alive in Christ! Revival and renewal are really key ingredients of our redemption, so in order to understand revival and renewal, we need to better understand the facets of our redemption.

1. It’s cost

The Suffering Servant, Isaiah 53:1—12

Who has believed our message …

To the people of Isaiah’s day, the thoughts of a “suffering Messiah” were inconceivable. It is just not humanly possible to reconcile greatness with suffering. But that’s the point of this chapter: the greatness of the Messiah came by way of His suffering.

As Christians, we understand that what Jesus went through on the Cross was what set us free. He literally experienced our punishment so that our condemnation could be lifted. Literally, our salvation cost Jesus everything and that fact alone causes us to rejoice and exalt Him. Out of sheer appreciation for all He did for us—all He went through to procure our forgiveness—we love Christ even more. Not so the Jews:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (verse 3)

This was their estimation of the Messiah. It’s prophetic and was fulfilled when Jesus hung on the Cross. Why was He despised?

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)

Not all the people hated Jesus, some like the apostles simply hid their faces from Him. They were ashamed. Jesus-as-Messiah didn’t fit their preconceived notions as what the Messiah should be like.

But Christ’s suffering was not to make Him great, it was for a distinct purpose:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (verse 5)

All of Christ’s suffering was for our “peace.” The Hebrew word means more than just the absence of strife, though; it means things like soundness, well-being, prosperity, and completeness. And He was wounded for our healing. Christ’s suffering was not only redemptive but curative as well! Yes, divine healing was provided for in our great Atonement!

Our High Priest, Hebrews 9:11—14

In the Old Testament, the high priest was the mediator between God and His people. The many priests involved in the elaborate worship and sacrificial ceremonies all functioned under the authority of the high priest. Regardless of the number of priests, there was only one high priest and he was the ultimate spiritual authority in the land.

But no matter how much authority he carried and no matter how many services he presided over, the high priest’s work never done; it was only temporary. He had to repeat his work year after year, generation after generation. Only Christ, the great High Priest, did His work once, for all people. Christ’s work of mediation was carried out one time because it never needs to be repeated. Christ’s sacrifice was the powerful and that effective.

2. Its value

The value of justification, Romans 3:21—26

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (verses 23, 24)

Man’s condition without Christ is dark and depressing; utterly hopeless. In the midst of the gloomy darkness, God’s light broke through from the Cross of Christ.

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

Paul quoted from Habakkuk in Romans 1. Of course, the Old Testament prophet knew nothing of Jesus Christ, but Paul did, so in Romans 3 he adds the object of faith: Christ Jesus.

The word “justified” or “justification” comes from the Greek dikaios, which refers to a pronouncement of righteousness or a declaration that one is just. In this context, justification refers to a legal declaration that a guilty person is now innocent because his debt has been paid by someone else.

The really stunning point of this verse is that our justification was “freely” provided. This doesn’t mean it was free or of no value, it means that Jesus Christ willingly, of His own accord, provided it.

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. (Romans 3:25a)

Our Lord became a “sacrifice of atonement,” or a “propitiation,” an acceptable sacrifice for our sins. His blood was of sufficient value to give in exchange for our sins. That’s the true value of our justification.

The value of our redemption, 1 Peter 1:18—20

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Notice that not only were we justified by grace, we were redeemed by that same grace. “Free grace” might well be the most misunderstood phrase in the English language. God’s grace is anything but free; it cost Him the life of His one and only Son. It’s free in the sense that we didn’t pay for it even though we possess it.

The word “redeemed” comes from the Greek lytroo and hearkens back to the institution of slavery in Rome. Most first-century churches would have been made up three groups of people: slaves, freemen, and freed men. Individuals became slaves in different ways: the results of war, selling themselves to cover debts, or they could even have been sold by their parents. In this sense, “slavery” was term limited. Eventually a slave would serve their term and become free or they could exchange their money for their freedom. The price was their lytron.

We had no way to pay our “sin debt,” so Christ stepped in and paid it for us. That’s what free grace is! It is free from our perspective, but it’s value was the blood of Christ, shed for us.

3. Its results

The coming of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 3:13, 14

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

We were redeemed—bought back—from the treadmill leading nowhere by Christ becoming a curse for us. A lot of people wonder exactly when Jesus became a curse. It couldn’t have been at His Incarnation because Luke 1:35 refers to Him as “holy.” He couldn’t have become cursed as a child because, again, Luke says Jesus grew and God the Father looked on Him with favor, Luke 2:52. Nor was Jesus cursed during His ministry because God was well-pleased with Him, Matthew 3:17. He became a curse while He hung on His Cross—the tree. A lot happened while Jesus hung, dying on that tree. Among them, His death secured for us the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. That’s how badly we need the Holy Spirit! Jesus had to endure the shame of the Cross, becoming a curse for us, so He could in turn give us His Holy Spirit.

The promise of eternal blessings, Ephesians 1:3—10

Because we have been redeemed, we have become the recipients of blessings beyond our imaginations. In Ephesians, Paul refers to these blessings as “they mystery of His will.” We can know God’s will because we have been redeemed by Him! The thing is, though, many of these blessings are in “heavenly places.” In other words, some of the blessings Paul refers to aren’t ours just yet. We have to wait for heaven, then, all will be revealed to us with perfect clarity.

Believers were chosen in eternity to be the recipients of these eternal blessings. This group of verses is not teaching that believers had no choice in their salvation. The fact is, we became one of the chosen when we accepted Christ as our Savior. At that moment, the promise of all these blessings kicked in for us. These included:

  • Our adoption, vs. 5. Paul carefully chose His words: we were adopted “as sons.” No, he’s not being sexist here. In his culture, the son had more rights and greater favor than the daughter. Far from being sexist, this is the greatest proving the equality of men and women under Christ! All believers receive the highest and the best blessings and favor from God.

  • Our forgiveness, vs. 7. This forgiveness is full and complete because it is based on God’s wealth, which is endless.

  • A revelation, vss. 8, 9. This third blessing made ours through our redemption is “revelation.” This “revelation” is wisdom and understanding right from God. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, who is always leading and teaching the Church as we allow Him to move in our midst. This is why the Gospel and the things of God make so little sense to the world; they don’t possess the Holy Spirit. We do, however, and He reveals God’s mind and sometimes, though not always, His purposes. Eventually, though, we will know all that God knows as it relates to the lives we lived on earth.

  • A gathering, vs. 10. At some point in the future, in the “fullness of times,” the final aspect of “revelation” will occur. God will literally “gather together” everything under His Lordship. He will be revealed as the ruler of all in heaven and earth (Matthew 6:10). This will be the culmination of all things when Christ becomes King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

These tremendous promises are all ours because of redemption in Christ.

TWO COURAGEOUS WOMEN, Part 1

Courage and Obedience

Ruth 1:1—3:18

You’d never know it, but women play an important part in the Biblical story of the redemption and atonement of mankind. People who don’t know what the Bible really has in it think God is some kind of great big cosmic chauvinist, who always chooses men to do the really cool stuff. These people, some of whom may be Christians, couldn’t be more wrong. Women have always played key roles in God’s work on the Earth. Two such women are Ruth and Esther.

These two Old Testament women were not from Israel, but lived in foreign lands. Ruth wasn’t even a Jew, she was a Moabitess, who lived in Moab and later lived in Israel. Esther, a Jewess, lived in exile. Their contribution to God’s ongoing work of the redemption of sinners can never be overstated. We’ll examine the significance of Ruth and Esther in this series, Two Courageous Women.

1. A courageous decision, Ruth 1:1—18

(1) A bad situation, verses 1—5

Using only 19 well-chosen Hebrew words, the writer of Ruth sets the whole scene, giving us why a Hebrew family had to migrate into a foreign land during the time of the judges. Famines were all-too common in Palestine, and this one must have been severe for it forced a family to leave Bethlehem and migrate to Moab temporarily, until conditions at home improved.

Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. (verse 3)

We don’t know how long Elimelek’s family was in Moab before he died, nor do we know why he died, but he died leaving his family high and dry. The names of his family give us insight into their character:

  • Naomi, his widow, means “my pleasantness”

  • Mahlon, son number one, means “sickly.” He married Orpah, a Moabitess, whose name means “back of the neck,” or perhaps “stiff necked.” Both of these name are very apt; Mahlon died and his widow remained in Moab when her mother-in-law returned home.

  • Chilion, son number two, whose name means “wasting away,” did just that. He died, leaving a widow, a Moabitess named Ruth. Her name means “friend” or “to be saturated.” Her name is also appropriate to her character since she befriends her mother-in-law, Naomi, and journeys with her back home.

We are left with the impression that Naomi lost her family in rapid succession. With the loss of the male family members, these three widows were now in a very dangerous place: no protectors, no income, no prospects for the future. This situation must be the most tragic in the Old Testament. These kinds of tragic circumstances are often accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, despair, and despondency. But for the we Christians, circumstances never dictate God’s involvement in our lives. His love for us unconditional; He loves us just as much when times are good as when times turn bad. We may stumble and falter, but God never abandons us. Circumstances deceive our feelings; they make us feel like orphans; like people who have been forsaken by God. But that is never the case. God never abandons us.

(b) Some good news, verses 6—13

As soon as Naomi learned that the famine back home was over, she started to head back, accompanied by her two daughters-in-law. Orpah and Ruth did not question their duty to Naomi even though it meant leaving Moab, their homeland.

We get the impression the three ladies didn’t travel too far before Naomi thought twice about the wisdom of taking these two young “daughters-in-law” (the Hebrew is kallah, and can also mean “bride”), and released them from their obligation:

Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead and to me. May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” (verses 8, 9)

Naomi’s parting wish for her daughters-in-law was that “the Lord bless them.” Even though these young ladies were not Jewish, and their god would have probably been Chemosh, Ruth wanted Yahweh to be kind to them.

To their credit, both women refused to leave Naomi. This action speaks volumes about the character of all three women. Orpah and Ruth’s devotion to Naomi was truly remarkable because it meant giving up everything that was familiar to them: their friends, their families, their gods, and especially their prospects for future marriages.

(c ) The decisions, verses 14—18

Eventually, Orpah decided to return home.

Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by… (verse 14)

We shouldn’t be too hard on Orpah, she did, in fact, abide by her mother-in-law’s wishes. But she did return to her gods, which is in stark contrast to Ruth’s decision to remain with Naomi.

Ruth clung to her. (verse 14)

The Hebrew for “clung” denotes a deep love and devotion. Ruth was as committed to her mother-in-law as she was to her husband, and she was absolutely determined to stay with Naomi:

Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (verses 16, 17)

But Ruth’s greatest statement was: “Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Ruth was determined to leave behind not only her people but her gods, as well. She had seen something in the lives and faith of her in-laws, and in particular her mother-in-law, which won her not only to them, but also to their Lord.

There is a very profound lesson here. Do our lives testify to God’s grace, mercy, and compassion as Naomi’s obviously did? When the unsaved look at our lives, do they want the faith we have? These are important questions to consider, especially in light of what Paul wrote to Titus:

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9, 10)

Do you make God’s Word attractive? Good question.

2. Faithful service, Ruth 2:1—20

(a) Ruth’s integrity, verses 1—7

When the two women arrived in Bethlehem, they needed to make living doing something. They had no visible means of support, so Ruth set out to glean in the fields after the reapers had done their work. This is not to be thought of as “scavenging” or “trespassing.” Gleaning in fields was a privilege reserved in the Law for the poor:

When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deuteronomy 24:19)

Because Ruth was clearly foreigner, this Law didn’t apply to her, but she apparently knew all about the Law and she asked Naomi’s permission and she asked the permission of an overseer if she could glean in Boaz’s field.

Once again, Ruth’s character shines through. She demonstrated here industriousness by taking the initiative to go out and work, and she was wise enough not to hide the fact that she was not a Jewess by coming right out and telling her situation to an overseer. He didn’t have to give her permission to glean, but he did. Proverbs 15:33 shows us that one who is humble, like Ruth, will be blessed because of their humility:

Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the LORD, and humility comes before honor.

(b) Boaz’s kindness, verses 8—16

Obviously, Ruth impressed Boaz greatly, and he bent over backwards to make sure she was able to glean from his fields. The way he addressed her as “my daughter” seems to indicate that Ruth was somewhat younger than he. What was it about Ruth that impressed Boaz so?

I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (verses 11, 12)

It wasn’t her physical beauty that impressed Boaz, rather, it was her character; it was what was in her heart. Not only that, take note of verse 12: Ruth had become a full-fledged believer in Yahweh.

Not only was Ruth allowed to work Boaz’s fields according to the Law, she was afforded something no other poverty-stricken widow had been afforded:

At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”  When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. (verse 14)

She got to eat with Boaz with the rest of the people who worked for him. But she hadn’t come to Boaz’s field to eat, she came to work. Verse 15 implies that she ate and immediately left everybody else to go back out and finish her gleaning.

(c ) A blood relative, verses 17—23

Ruth had an amazing first day of gleaning. Her hard work had paid off, and the two widows had plenty to eat. But what excited Naomi the most was not how much Ruth had brought home, but rather who had allowed her to glean:

The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our family guardians.” (verse 20)

What a coincidence! While not the next-of-kin, Boaz was Naomi’s nearest relative. This is a stunning development in the story that shows in God’s economy, there are NO coincidences. The nearest relative had all kinds of duties and responsibilities toward a family member who had fallen into bad circumstances, like a widow with no prospects for remarriage. In fact, the male next-of-kin was obliged to marry the widow of his deceased brother, this according to the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 25:25; Numbers 35:19; Deuteronomy 25:5—10; etc).

This next-of-kin was a cornerstone in Judaism because it ensured that family members were taken care of. The Hebrew for “close relative” is goel, and primarily means “redeemer” and “protector, vindicator.” It was used by Job in a cry of desperation:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. (Job 19:25)

From the pits of desperation, Job cried out for help; he needed somebody to come and change his circumstances; to literally save his life. This was the job of the goel, the next-of-kin; of Boaz; and of Jesus Christ on behalf of Christians. He is our goel.

3. A good plan and a good result, Ruth 3:1—18

Naomi was a woman of sterling character. She was also shrewd; she was nobody’s fool. As the harvest drew to a close, Naomi set in motion her plan for Ruth. It was probably obvious to anybody that Boaz had feelings for Ruth beyond those of relative. Naomi’s matchmaking plan was clever:

Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” (verses 2—4)

While this sounds like something we might see on cable TV, the fact is Naomi was correct: Boaz was their kinsman-redeemer, their goel, and as such, Ruth had every right under the Law to claim him as her own. So far in the story, Ruth has done thing to claim Boaz, other than working tirelessly on his property and maybe flirting with him. But now, as far as Naomi was concerned, was the time for Ruth to ratchet up her relationship with her goel.

What Naomi tells Ruth to do is a wonderful picture of how the sinner comes to Christ. There are four steps Ruth was to take, and there are four steps every sinner must take in coming to Christ:

  • Wash yourself. Coming to Christ is not a matter of works or our own good behavior. Our salvation is a matter of Christ’s mercy being laid up on, washing away our sins and unrighteousness. Paul calls this “the washing of regeneration” in Titus 3:5.

  • Perfume or anoint yourself. When you’re working out in a field all day, you don’t get all “dolled up.” But when you know somebody is interested in you, as Boaz was apparently interested in Ruth, it’s time to make yourself attractive. When we become born again, we are filled with the Holy Spirit and our lives become anointed by Him. We make the Gospel attractive in how we live our lives.

  • Put on your best clothes. When we come to Christ, we cast off the filthy rags of our own righteousness and Christ puts His righteousness on us. We are given a new suit of clothes by our Savior!

  • Go to where your Goel is. This was the most important step for Ruth to take. She had to go to where Boaz was. And this is also the most important step for every sinner to take. It’s not enough to clean yourself up. It’s not enough to join a church. It’s never enough to run around doing good things all day long. A sinner, if he wants to be saved, needs to come to Christ. Simply knowing about Jesus doesn’t do it. Knowing Jesus personally is what it takes.

The plan was foolproof. The plan should have worked. And it would have worked except for one problem:

Although it is true that I am a family guardian, there is another who is more closely related than I. (verse 12)

Boaz was aware of something that, apparently, Naomi was not. Ruth had no claim on Boaz because he was not the goel; there was another, closer relative. The question is, how did Boaz know this? He knew this because he had already investigated Ruth and Naomi for Ruth had captured his heart and he was falling in love with the young widow. Boaz would have taken Ruth in a second, but he was a man of integrity and this other relative, perhaps Elimalech’s brother, would have to be dealt with, first.  Ruth and Naomi had done all they could. Ruth’s future now lay in the hands of Boaz.

Did you know we can trust in Jesus the way Ruth had to trust that Boaz was going to make things right? Jesus is completely trustworthy. He will always do what’s in your best interests. The work of your redemption is His work, not yours. The work of keeping you in grace is His work, not yours. You can rest in Jesus.  He’s never let anybody down, and He won’t let you down, either.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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