James W. Primrose Weddings and Funerals Book

My great-grandfather – James W. Primrose – was a circuit pastor in the Midwest at the turn of the century.

The book contains marriage records in the front, 27 of them. Flip the book over and the funerals are recorded in the back, starting with the back cover and working toward the front. I’ve included what I’ll call the introductory page as written by my grandfather Rev. Leonard Eastman (James Primrose’s son-in-law.)

“This was given to me by Mother Primrose on May 26, 1964. Rev. Leonard Eastman

Mrs. May H. Primrose, who made the gift of this book to me went to be in the presence of the Lord on November 26, 1973 at approx. 6:15pm”



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The book notes a wedding was performed in Chicago, IL but not otherwise recorded.

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Page 4 (Performed in the Indian Territory before that area became the state of Oklahoma)

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Leonard and Tabitha vow renewal

Eva and Gary Leech wedding performed by Leonard Eastman.

Hallelujah, He is risen! He is risen indeed! – John 20

Hallelujah, He is risen! He is risen indeed! – John 20

Sunday is Easter Sunday, the day Jesus was raised from the dead three days after being killed as a criminal, also in fulfillment of the prophecies about Him. I love the account we read from John chapter 20.

Last week we talked about Palm Sunday. Jesus came riding into Jerusalem humbly, on a young colt, not as the victorious King the Jews expected. Yet they praised and worshipped Him in fulfillment of the prophecies.

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.
Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.
Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
Then the disciples went back to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.
And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.
They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” ~ John 20:1-13

Jesus knew what was coming for Him, He even told the Apostles about it ahead of time.

And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” ~ Luke 9:21-22

“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” ~ Luke 9:44

Mary Magdalene is a witness in this moment of Jesus’ resurrection to testify that it had happened just as Jesus said it would. There are many, many eyewitnesses to the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.

Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…. He will glorify me” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit …. opens our eyes to see the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the narrative of his life and death and resurrection. He enables us to see Jesus as he really was, so that he is irresistibly true and beautiful. ~ Pastor John Piper

King David believed and foretold Jesus’ resurrection.

Because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. ~ Psalm 16:10

When the Apostle Paul saw Jesus after His resurrection, he believed and then he spoke in his testimony about it:

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
~ Acts 2:22-24, 29-32

Others will also testify of His resurrection

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
~ John 20:14-18

Mary Magdalene doesn’t recognize Jesus at first. Though she has been told that He will be raised from the dead, somehow she can’t see the miracle of Him standing right in front of her!

Something similar happens to some of the other disciples as we see in Luke 24:
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.
But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.
Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.
But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.
Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.
Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ~ Luke 24:13-27

Luke tells us “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”. The whole Bible points us to Jesus as the Savior of the world. Here we see that Jesus is able to show them the Old Testament scriptures that point to Him. Yet, even as He is doing so, they are still unable to see the risen Savior. It reminds me of how the Holy Spirit works in our lives or the lives of those around us, and yet sometimes we don’t recognize Him. He is doing miracles in our lives and their lives, for their good and for His glory. All we need to do is see it.

We suddenly, see a transformation that happens when “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him”! What a beautiful thing it is when that happens today! It brings joy to my heart when an unbeliever is beautifully transformed as the light of Christ dawns on their dark heart, and they choose to believe on Jesus to be saved. Or a believer that has strayed far from God has suddenly had his or her eyes opened to see and remember of who Christ is. These disciples remind us that God does these miracles, He opens minds and hearts to reveal Himself.

As we read the Bible, learn the Scriptures, and testify of what God has done in our lives, God uses what we’ve learned and our testimony to reveal Himself to others around us.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
~ John 20:19-23

Sometimes, doing the work of God can be frightening or startling. That’s our human flesh, our doubt, our lack of faith. That is simply human. God has done miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle in my life. I have no need to fear.

I can be afraid of the future. I can be afraid of the unknown. I can be afraid for my family. I can be afraid of evil. I can be afraid of crime. I can fear for my bank account. I can fear what others think. I can be afraid that I’m dumb, boring, ignorant, pompous, self-righteous, angry, abrasive, and sinful.

Jesus assures me. He shows me how powerful He is in my own weakness, just as He assures the disciples. He says : “Peace be with you.”

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
~ John 20:24-31

He shows us in the Bible that He has risen from the dead. We have many eyewitness accounts of His resurrection. Why should I be afraid? I have a risen Savior that does miraculous and wonderful things!

In Luke 24, we read that, as Jesus appeared to the disciples “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’ ” (Luke 24:45-47)

Here we see Jesus remind them with His words that He was to suffer, die, and rise again “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations”. He explains the Scriptures to them and in doing so, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”. As we read God’s word, the Bible, God does the same for us. It’s important to read and study both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Both of them point to God’s eternal plan for us and they point to Jesus Christ. If we read only one of the other, we don’t see the whole picture that God has given us. Jesus gives us that example all throughout the New Testament and as He uses the Old Testament in His teaching to point back to Himself.

A traditional Easter greeting in the Western church is the exclamation “He is risen!” and the traditional response is “He is risen, indeed!” This comes from Luke 24:33-34:
And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”

Hallelujah, He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman (John 4)

Last week we learned what Jesus meant when He said that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, and that “whoever believes in Him is not condemned” and in fact would have eternal life (John 3:16-18). This week in John Chapter 4, we see Jesus put those words into practice in a way that you and I can understand and even act on in our own lives.

John 4
1 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John
2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),
3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.
4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

David Guzik:
“Although the road through Samaria was the shortest route to Galilee, pious Jews avoided it. They avoided it because there was a deep distrust and dislike between Jews and Samaritans.

When the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians, they took almost every captive, exiling them to the Babylonian Empire. All they left behind were the lowest classes of society, because they didn’t want “that type” in Babylonia. These that were left behind intermarried with other peoples who slowly came into the region, and the Samaritans emerged as an ethnic and religious group.

Because the Samaritans had a historical connection to the people of Israel, their faith was a combination of law and ritual from the Law of Moses, and various superstitions. Most Jews in Jesus’ time despised the Samaritans, even more than Gentiles.

Why must Jesus go through Samaria? Because there were people there who needed to hear Him.”

What people are there in our world that we find really difficult to love, much less have a normal conversation with? Every time I read this chapter I am convicted by the story. For Jesus to have a simple conversation with this woman was a remarkable thing. Incredibly, we will see that He took things a step further and explained to her the way of eternal life. How is God calling you and I to act today?

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?
12 “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,
14 “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The idea of God being the “Living Water” was not new, as a matter of fact it was an old statement made by the Lord God about Himself:

For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
~ Jeremiah 2:13

“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
~ Zechariah 13:1

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
~ Isaiah 12:3

We all need water to live. The human body is 65% water. Your body can only survive so long without drinking water; some say 3 days, others say as long as 10 days. Jesus is making the bold offer of water that gives eternal life.

Jeremiah calls God a fountain of living water. Zechariah says it’s a fountain-like shower that can wash us from our sins. Isaiah tells us it’s like a deep well where we can pull out water that gives us eternal life. Jesus Christ is that living water for each of us.

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’
18 “for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
20 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

Here, Jesus knows exactly what this woman needs to hear to cause her to understand that He is God in the flesh. She initially believes that He is simply a prophet, but as they continue their conversation, she realizes He is the Messiah.

There are so many examples throughout God’s word of wise prophets from God revealing truth to the unbeliever – Daniel and Joseph come to mind. But Jesus is different from all the rest in that He makes the claim to be God. He was clearly not simply a prophet as other religions suggest. No other man in the Bible claimed to be the Son of God and performed such miracles to prove His authority.

C.S. Lewis made the point that Jesus was either a complete liar, or He was a crazy lunatic, or He was in fact Lord God in the flesh. Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. He couldn’t be anything else.

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Jesus points her to the way of salvation. He says: “Believe me.” He tells her to “worship the Father in spirit and truth”. She firmly believes that the Messiah is coming, and he says “I am He”.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ~ Romans 10:9

27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”
28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men,
29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”

This woman believed and very quickly went out to tell others. She immediately acts on her new belief. Without knowing it, she is following God’s call to each of us to proclaim the Gospel.

In Mark and Luke, we see that Jesus instructed the man who had been relieved of demons was told to go tell others what Christ had done for him:

And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” ~ Mark 5:19

Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
~ Luke 8:39

This Samaritan woman is simply responding to what God has done in her life. In this short conversation, Jesus showed this woman more love, kindness, and compassion than probably any man had ever shown her. Consistently throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus reached out to those who were difficult to love.

Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.
And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” ~ Matthew 9:10-13

I love this: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Jesus is calling each of us to help “those who are sick”. To show them “mercy and not sacrifice”. That’s exactly what Jesus did with this Samaritan woman in a Samaritan town, and in doing so, He changes the whole city!

30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.
31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
35 “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
36 “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.
37 “For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’
38 “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”
39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”
40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.
41 And many more believed because of His own word.
42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

The love, kindness, compassion, and mercy Jesus showed to one woman changed this entire town! “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” Each of us is called to “look up” right now, right where we are. If you are in Spokane, Minneapolis, Decatur, Berlin, Tokyo, or Seattle – we are each called to show Christlike mercy to those around us who are among the most difficult to love.

Verses 36-38 show us that sometimes we are called simply to plant the seeds of faith – to “sow” by sharing Christ by reflecting love and mercy, or by telling our own testimony. Other times, folks before us have done the seed-planting and we are there to reap the harvest by praying with someone as they believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation.

43 Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee.
44 For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.
45 So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.
46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.
47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.
48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”
49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”
50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.
51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!”
52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.
54 This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

This man simply man “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way”. Jesus made the way to salvation very easy so even the simplest mind can have eternal life. He is the living water, all I need to do is to accept that he died for me so that I can have eternal life with Him in heaven.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 6:23

Gabriel Visits Mary (Luke 1:26-55)

As we read this portion of Luke chapter 1 today, think about Zechariah’s reply as it compares to Mary the mother of Jesus. We will see her response in vs 34.

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

The angel Gabriel plays a big role in this chapter as this is his second appearance in chapter 1. The first occurrence was with Zechariah when he came into the temple and announced the coming birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth. Gabriel comes straight from the throne of God Almighty Himself as we see in verse 26: “the angel Gabriel was sent from God”, but also in how Gabriel responds to Mary in vs 19: “And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.'”

We find Mary’s response to Gabriel to be much different than Zechariah’s reply. Mary’s initial reaction seems to be fear and she was also troubled or confused. Wouldn’t any of us be confused if an angel appeared out of nowhere? Check it out:

29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary asks “How will this be?” in verse 34. Compare that to Zechariah’s reply of doubt. He asks “how can I be sure what you’re saying is true?” back in verse 18: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

As further evidence that Mary’s answer was of faith and Zechariah’s was one of doubt, we saw that at Gabriel’s word Zechariah was left mute. He couldn’t speak until after John was born. I love Gabriel’s reply of assurance to Mary in verse 37 below.

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”
As believers, we tend to doubt God don’t we? We wonder if He can really do a medical miracle of healing, or we doubt that God can create the universe in 6 days. Why do you think we doubt God? I believe it’s because He doesn’t always do what we want Him to do. When we don’t see Him perform what we ask, then we doubt that He can.

But we know that’s not the way God works. God doesn’t give us every single thing we ask for. If He did, He would be doing no better than the parent that spoils their child. If we believe that God knows all, then we can believe that he knows what is best for us. We can also know for absolutely certain that He can do anything.

Jesus says so Himself:
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
~ Matthew 19:26

And the prophet Jeremiah tells us the same:
‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.
~ Jeremiah 32:17

Mary had faith and Zechariah doubted. In this one chapter, Luke provides us this great contrast that we can all learn from. God shows us throughout His word that He is able to do absolutely anything. God saved Daniel and his friends because they had faith that He could. Victory was given to Gideon as He trusted God. Every time we have a challenge, we can choose to believe or we can choose not to believe. Faith is a choice we make every day. Even when we have doubt in our hearts, we can still choose to believe. I love the story of faith in the Gospel of Mark when the loving dad brings His boy to Jesus seeking healing and deliverance from a demon:

17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute.
18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”
20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.
21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.
22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”
27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
~ Mark 9:17-27

The father’s reply to Jesus is one I have quoted back to God many, many times. “I believe, help my unbelief!” God loves it when we affirm that we believe but still ask for help from God to get rid of any doubts. Imagine how different this story would be if Zechariah’s reply to God from Gabriel’s message had been “I believe, help my unbelief”. When we ask God for help dispelling our unbelief, we are affirming that we believe He can do it!

At the end of Gabriel’s visit to Mary, she responds in complete faith that He can do it, and in total trust that God’s will is best:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Wow, what faith this young girl had! She affirms that she is God’s servant, and then confirms that she wants God’s will over her own. God knew what He was doing to choose a young woman of incredible faith to raise Him up in complete faith that he is the Son of God.

Now, to tie this all back together with Zechariah, Elizabeth, and the birth of John the Baptist:

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,
40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,
42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Elizabeth affirms that Mary is in fact carrying the Messiah. She knows this only by God’s Holy Spirit and speaks it out in complete faith.

Again, in total faith, Mary responds in praise and worship to God Almighty:

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

(Lord, I do believe that you can do anything through me to reach this world for Jesus. Please help my own unbelief. I am your servant. Do with me and through me whatever you choose.)

Sit Still – Ruth 4

Let’s recap where we are so far. Naomi is a widow, who with her daughter in law Ruth is also a widow. They have returned to Bethlehem poor and destitute. Ruth has been shown incredible kindness from a relative named Boaz. I response to his kindness Ruth has humbly asked Boaz to ‘redeem’ her in a gentle marriage proposal.

Boaz responds:

    And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.
    Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.
    Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning.”
    ~ Ruth 3:11-13

Boaz has replied that he would welcome her hand in marriage, but there is another relative who is closer and has the first rights. By law, that relative must be given the chance first. What an honorable man Boaz was!

    Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. ~ Ruth 4:1

Guzik: “The gate of the city was always the place where the esteemed and honorable men of the city sat. For an ancient city in Israel it was a combination of a city council chamber and a courtroom. The city gate was ‘A kind of outdoor court, the place were judicial matters were resolved by the elders and those who had earned the confidence and respect of the people … a place for business and as a kind of forum or public meeting place.’ ” (Huey)

    And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. ~ Ruth 4:2

Whenever big decisions are being made or possible conflicts are being resolved, having eyewitnesses there is always a good thing. It doesn’t leave much room for argument later if there are witnesses to the discussion and decision. This idea is taught all through God’s word.

    But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established’. ~ Matthew 18:16

Matthew Henry: “Why was Boaz so hasty, why so fond of the match? Ruth was not rich, but lived upon alms; not honorable, but a poor stranger. She was never said to be beautiful; if ever she had been so, we may suppose that weeping, and traveling, and gleaning, had withered her lilies and roses. But that which made Boaz in love with her, and solicitous to expedite the affair, was that all her neighbors agreed she was a virtuous woman. This set her price with him far above rubies.”

    Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. ~ Proverbs 31:10

It’s beautiful to see that while Boaz is an honorable man, Ruth is also a virtuous woman. A match made in heaven 🙂

    Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’ ” And he said, “I will redeem it.”

    Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.”

    And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

We read in the Mosaic law last week (Leviticus 25 and Numbers 27) that The Lord had provided a way for a property to pass down to relatives and for the family line to pass down as well. God provides for a family member to ‘redeem’ property and/or marry a widowed family member to continue the family and inheritance of the deceased. Here we see Boaz begin the conversation by proposing to his relative that the man redeem the land of Elimilech. That means this cousin would buy back the land from Naomi to keep it in the family. This land sale would no doubt provide money for Naomi to live on.

Buying land would have been a fairly simple business decision in those days. The man either has the money or he doesn’t. He either wants the property or he doesn’t. Easy squeezy. But then Boaz reminds the man that with the land comes the responsibility of taking Ruth as his wife.

At this point Naomi and Ruth are in absolute suspense. They may very well have been sitting there watching the entire exchange wondering how it would turn out.

When I used to get stressed out as a kid, my dad would tell me “Don’t worry about the things that you can’t control”. It seems like good advice. However, God doesn’t want us to worry about anything at all.

    Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
    Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
    Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
    So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
    Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
    Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
    For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
    But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
    Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. ~ Matthew 6:25-34

Remember, Ruth was new to the God of the Israelites, but Naomi was raised in faith in Jehovah. For most believers, faith and trust in God are learned over many, many years through lots of trials and trouble. Back in chapter 3, after Ruth has proposed to Boaz that he redeem her, Boaz replied and tried to calm her fears:

    And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.
    Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.
    Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning.
    ~ Ruth 3:11-13

Upon Ruth’s return to Naomi after meeting with Boaz, Naomi also sees Ruth is stressed about the situation and reassures her:

    Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.” ~ Ruth 3:18

Sit still. Right.

I confess to you: that is so hard for me! I can imagine Ruth coming back to Naomi all worried or in tears. God has developed Naomi’s faith over many years. She has the wisdom of a godly older woman. Ruth has probably learned to be a ‘virtuous woman’ from the beautiful example that Naomi reflects. We see Naomi’s wisdom and faith so wonderfully summarized in that simple statement: Sit still.

    Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
    ~ Psalm 46:10

    “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
    ~ Lamentations 3:24-26

One of my favorite examples of this is in Exodus 14 when the Israelites had left Egypt in the Exodus and had their backs up against the Red Sea with no way of escape. I love what Moses says to reassure them!

    And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.
    The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
    ~ Exodus 14:13-14

Do not be afraid. Stand still. Those are soothing words to my own soul.

    Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel.
    Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal.

    And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi.

    “Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day.”

    And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.” ~ Ruth 4:7-12

What a love story! “All the people who were at the gate and the elders” were witnesses to this redemption. Notice that the people proclaim blessing on them using the lineage of Christ. I love how the word of God consistently points us to Jesus! (See Matthew 1 for the genealogical line from Adam to Christ.)

    So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.
    Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel!
    And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”
    Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him.
    Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
    Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron;
    Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab;
    Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon;
    Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed;
    Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.
    ~ Ruth 4:13-22

God uses each of us in such incredible ways! We cannot possibly know what the future holds for each of us, and certainly we can’t know how God will use our current choices in His future plan. God used Naomi’s decision to return to Bethlehem. God used Ruth’s choice to propose to Boaz. In all of this, God had a plan for Israel’s future king – King David.

    And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

Adrian Rogers:
“God can take things that are bad and put them in the crucible of His wisdom and love. He works all things together for good, and He gives us the glorious, wonderful promise that He will do so. We know that we have victory over sin and over Satan, but this verse in Romans teaches us that we also have victory over our circumstances. It says that all things work together for good.”

Rest in that today. Sit still.

Why Do We Need a Kinsman Redeemer? (Ruth 3)

Remember what has happened in Ruth so far:
Naomi was a wife and mother of two sons. Her husband and two sons all passed away leaving her a widow with two daughters-in-law. One daughter-in-law left and the other, Ruth, stayed with Naomi. They returned to Naomi’s homeland, Israel, where Ruth promises to take Naomi’s God and people as her own.

Ruth and Naomi are destitute in Israel and so Ruth takes on a role as provider of food for the household. She leaves the house every day to glean food from a local farmer named Boaz. The wheat farmer shows incredible kindness to Ruth. He not only allows her to glean but he also provides her meals and protection while she is working in the field.

Boaz provided for Ruth and Naomi, and in doing so he allows God to use him. The love and concern Boaz offers is an example of God’s own love for each of us. His love isn’t something we earn or we deserve. He gives it to us out of His own goodness. In chapters 3 and 4 we will see God provide a redeemer for Ruth and how Jesus’ sacrifice for us is His act as a redeemer for you and I.

    1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?
    2 “Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. ~ Ruth 3:1-2

Naomi would love nothing more than to provide a long-term solution for Ruth’s well-being. Not only does Ruth NOT have a husband to provide for her financially, but she and Naomi also have no way of continuing the family-line of Elimilech. There is no husband for either of them with which to have a son. I think of Abram who was promised a son and believed God’s promise.

    For all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.
    And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.
    ~ Genesis 13:15-16

The Lord had promised to Abram in (Genesis 13) that He would not only give him a son, but make the number of his descendants so vast they couldn’t be counted.

    After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
    But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”
    Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” ~ Genesis 15:1-3

Even in spite of the earlier promise, and having heard it directly from the mouth of God, Abram had doubt. Don’t we all?

I love this story from Mark, and I have prayed this prayer so often in my own life:

    Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
    Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” ~ Mark 9:23-24

David Guzik says it so well:
“There is a difference between a doubt that denies God’s promise and a doubt which desires God’s promise. Abram wants to believe and is looking to God to strengthen his faith.”

Naomi knew the Word of God that tells us that He cares for His people, and she believed God’s promise and is looking here for God to somehow fulfill that promise.

    3 “Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
    4 “Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”
    5 And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.”
    ~ Ruth 3:3-5

This Hebrew God is all new to Ruth. She may be thinking that her mother-in-law is crazy, but nonetheless she trusts and obeys her. God loves to bring us to those places of putting our trust in Him! Those times become opportunities where God builds our faith. This is a chance for Ruth to see the God of the Hebrews fulfill His promises.

    Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
    ~ Psalm 37:4

Ruth was learning and growing in faith just as we do today when we trust God to work in our lives.

    6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her.
    7 And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.
    ~ Ruth 3:6-7

The threshing would be done at night after the long days’ work. Threshing required the thresher to use the wind to separate the grain from the chaff by throwing it up into the air over and over again, sifting out the junk and letting the grain fall onto the threshing floor. Boaz would have been exhausted from the days work, and then still worked into the evening to get the threshing done.

After this long day, Boaz collapses in sleep. He is so sound asleep that he never notices Ruth sneak in, uncover his feet, and laying down over his feet.

(We have a cat that comes into our bedroom at night and often lays at my feet and I don’t even notice. I’d like to think that if a strange woman came in and laid on my feet, I would notice. That’s how tired Boaz is!)

This would have been an incredibly submissive act on the part of Ruth and certainly one that required much faith. In this moment, she was completely putting her life into the hands of Boaz, and trusting that the advice of Naomi would not bring her harm or embarrassment.

    8 Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet.
    9 And he said, “Who are you?” So she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.”
    ~ Ruth 3:8-9

We talked a little bit last week about the Hebrew law regarding strangers and how Boaz in showing kindness to Ruth was obeying the law. There was another Hebrew law given by God to Moses which allowed a close relative to ‘redeem’ another out of slavery or poverty.

    Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger’s family, after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; or his uncle or his uncle’s son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself.
    ~ Leviticus 25:47-49

We also find yet another Hebrew law which dictates how property is to be inherited within the family. Many of the inheritance laws that we use in the United States today that prescribe how property is passed down within a family were written based on this very Mosaic law.

    And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter.
    If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers.
    If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.
    And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the relative closest to him in his family, and he shall possess it.’
    And it shall be to the children of Israel a statute of judgment, just as the LORD commanded Moses.
    ~ Number 27:8-11

When a man dies, his estate passes first to his children, sons first and if no son, to the daughters.
No daughters then to his brothers.
No brothers, then to his uncles.
No uncles, then to the nearest relative in the family.

David Guzik:
“This amounts to a marriage proposal from Ruth. This shows that this was not an inappropriate thing for Ruth to do towards Boaz. It was bold, but not inappropriate. Ruth understood this as she identified Boaz as her close relative (literally, you are a goel, a kinsman-redeemer).

Though deceased, Elimelech had the right to have his family name carried on and as goel, Boaz had the responsibility to do this for Elimelech. This could only happen through Boaz marrying Ruth, and providing children to carry on the name of Elimelech. Ruth boldly, yet humbly and properly, sought her rights.

Don’t lose sight of the larger picture: Ruth came to claim a right. Boaz was her goel, her kinsman-redeemer, and she had the right to expect him to marry her and raise up a family to perpetuate the name of Elimelech. But Naomi wisely counseled Ruth to not come as a victim demanding her rights, but as a humble servant, trusting in the goodness of her kinsman-redeemer. She said to Boaz, ‘I respect you, I trust you, and I put my fate in your hand.’ ”

    10 Then he said, “Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich.
    11 “And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.
    12 “Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.
    13 “Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning.”
    ~ Ruth 3:10-13

Naomi and Ruth have recognized in Boaz a man who is honorable, loving, charitable, and kind. This kind of act was probably not something Ruth could have taken with other men in Bethlehem as Boaz even warned Ruth about them earlier in Ruth 2:8-9.

Boaz is honored that Ruth would choose him, an older man, out of all the men in the area. He recognizes that she is an honorable woman and is doing this out of respect and not out of greed or dishonor. Even so, Boaz also knows that there is another man, another heir to Elimilech, that is closer to his family line than he is. We know that Elimilech’s sons died, so this other heir may be a brother, uncle, or cousin. He honors that man’s right to claim Ruth first and in doing so he is trusting the Lord.

    14 So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”
    15 Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.” And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city.
    16 When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “Is that you, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her.
    17 And she said, “These six ephahs of barley he gave me; for he said to me, ‘Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’ ”
    18 Then she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”
    ~ Ruth 3:14-18

Even though Boaz and Ruth don’t do anything inappropriate that night, he doesn’t want Ruth to suffer in her reputation as honorable. He is sending her away while it is still dark out. In her return to Naomi, Boaz wants to show them both how much he cares for them. He does that by sending her away with lots of grain for them to share.

Naomi receives Ruth and recognizes the kindness show by Boaz toward both them. We recognize in this story the incredible picture of Jesus as our own redeemer. Check it out:

Jesus is our relative in that He was born as a son of Adam, of human flesh. (Hebrews 2:14)
Jesus calls us, the Church, His Bride. (Ephesians 5:25)
Jesus is wealthy as God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10)
Jesus offers to take us under his wing as our protector. (Ruth 2:12 and Psalm 36:7)
Jesus provides us with every good thing including our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11 and James 1:17)
We are in poverty and in desperate need of a wealthy redeemer. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Boaz becomes the great-grandfather of Kind David. Jesus was born in the family line of King David (of the tribe of Judah) to fulfill prophecy and to further reveal to us that he is God’s ‘kinsman-redeemer’ for each of us. What an incredible Savior we have!

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself – Boaz and Ruth

Naomi and Ruth – two widows with virtually no means of supporting themselves and no plan.

    1 Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
    2 The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there.
    3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.
    ~ Ruth 1:1-3

Ruth is the daughter-in-law to Naomi. Naomi and Ruth were each widowed in Moab when each of their husbands passed away. When left with nothing, they returned to Bethlehem in Israel where they are still destitute but at least near family. In Ruth chapter 2, we will see that “the LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) We will read of God’s glorious provision!

We will also see Boaz give us an incredible picture of the love of Christ for us, and we will see Ruth demonstrate the proper response of undeserved favor upon her life.

    1 There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz.
    2 So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”
    3 Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
    ~ Ruth 2:1-3

Verse 1 tells us that Boaz is “a man of great wealth”. When Naomi and her husband and her sons had left Israel because of the famine, Boaz stayed behind. God took such good care of them that Boaz was now wealthy. When we studied the Book of Joshua, we learned that God says over and over in His Word that He will never leave us. This is an important lesson for each of us. But it is one that we can only learn in desperate and fearful times! Our human natural instinct is to rely on anything or anyone else other than God when the storms of life come. We can only learn to rely solely on God when there is none other to lean on.

    Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. ~ Deuteronomy 31:6

My guess is that Boaz had learned this lesson, and that would have only happened in a difficulty such as this famine that occurred. So often in the rocky and harsh conditions of life, we blame God for hat has happened. There were certainly some that blamed God for the famine. But in those times, God is simply trying to lead us and teach us through it.

    Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. ~ Psalm 25:5

Notice while the psalmist is asking God to teach him and lead him, he also calls the Lord the “God of my salvation”. He knows that the teaching and the difficulty can go hand-in-hand.

Let’s talk about “glean heads of grain” and “gleaned in the field after the reapers”. The reapers were the workers that were actually harvesting. They were often hired by the farmer to work in his fields because during the harvest you would need lots of workers. You had to get the grain in as fast as possible before it over-ripens.

“To glean” means to pick up off the ground whatever is leftover. Ruth would be following behind them literally picking up scraps of grain.

    When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.
    And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
    ~ Leviticus 19:9-10

“Leviticus 19:9-10 commanded farmers in Israel that they should not completely harvest their fields. They were commanded to “cut corners” in harvesting, and always leave some behind. Also, if they happened to drop a bundle of grain, they were commanded to leave it on the ground and to not pick it up.

This was one of the social assistance programs in Israel. Farmers were not to completely harvest their fields, so the poor and needy could come and glean the remains for themselves.
This is a wonderful way of helping the poor. It commanded the farmers to have a generous heart, and it commanded the poor to be active and work for their food – and a way for them to provide for their own needs with dignity.” ~ Guzik

    4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered him, “The LORD bless you!”
    5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
    6 So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.
    7 “And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.”
    ~ Ruth 2:4-7

Boaz obviously notices this young woman gleaning in his field, and it sounds as though he may not have noticed her before. Bethlehem was a small little farming community, and a stranger working in the field would have been easy to spot. The law in Israel told them that they were to allow Ruth to glean. So these servants were following the letter of the law in letting her follow them.

    8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women.
    9 “Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”
    ~ Ruth 2:8-9

Boaz recognizes Ruth’s obvious need. She may be malnourished, certainly she and Naomi had not been eating well. So she may have looked like she was poor and starving. Regardless, Boaz observes that she is in need.

As we look at Boaz and his actions and the way he treats Ruth, we see an incredible picture of the love of Christ for us and the love that He wants us to show to others!

Jesus instructs us to help the poor and those in need:

    For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in.
    ~ Matthew 25:35

Ruth’s response to this favor is much like ours is when God shows favor to us.

    10 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 responds in humility exactly like Paul instructs us to respond when others are kind to us.

    Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
    ~ Philippians 2:3

The Hebrew law says that Boaz and his servants are required to allow her to glean. Ruth doesn’t act as though she even knows this law exists, and she may not. But her response is not one of entitlement, as though the food was owed to her. She replies “in lowliness of mind”, or in absolute humility.

This is the response we have when we fully realize that Christ died for us even though we were sinners who don’t deserve His free sacrificial gift.

    For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.
    But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:7-8

We don’t deserve the sacrifice that Jesus gave us in giving up His life for ours. Ruth realizes that she doesn’t deserve the kindness that Boaz is showing to her.

    11 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.
    12 “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.”
    13 Then she said, “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.”
    ~ Ruth 2:11-13

Ruth is a picture here of us as we choose to follow Jesus. When we leave our old ways and our old life and follow Christ, it is a whole new beginning. And in seeing this same choice in Ruth, Boaz asks God to give her a blessing! This blessing is the same for us today as we choose Christ.

“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.”

In choosing Jesus as our Savior, like Ruth chose the God of Israel, God will give us “a full reward” which will be our eternity with Him. When we follow Jesus, like Ruth followed Naomi and chose the God of Israel, we come under His wings for refuge. What a wonderful picture of love and protection!

    14 Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back.
    15 And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.
    16 “Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”
    ~ Ruth 2:14-16

Now in further extending his love and hospitality toward Ruth, Boaz goes the extra mile. He actually instructs his workers to leave some extra grain for her to pick up. This would make her job a little easier if she can find larger gleanings as she goes along. She picks up more grain with less effort.

    The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
    ~ Leviticus 19:34

In the New Testament we find this same lesson taught to us by Jesus when He tells His disciples to “love your neighbor as yourself” in Mark 12:31 and also in the lesson of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.

    17 So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
    18 Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied.
    19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.”
    20 Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.”
    21 Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ”
    22 And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.”
    ~ Ruth 2:17-22

Finally, in this chapter we see Boaz begin to truly care for Ruth in a loving and Christ-like way.
In verse 8 and 9 he tells Ruth:
“Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”

In verse 14: “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” Verses 15 and 16 show us he makes sure that Ruth stays to eat a really good meal and rest.

We see additional instructions from Boaz in verse 21: “You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.”

Boaz provided for Ruth and Naomi, and in doing so he allows God to use him. The love and concern Boaz offers is an example of God’s own love for each of us. His love isn’t something we earn or we deserve. He gives it to us out of His own goodness.

I’m so thankful!

God’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (His plan for you)

Ruth. In this Old Testament book, God has given us the account of a woman in the Old Testament who goes from living a normal life (in those days) to being absolutely destitute, and then to finding new life and fulfillment in the promises of God. It’s a beautiful story! Even if you stop reading right here, take the time to go to the Bible and read the entire story of Ruth. It’s a short, easy read and it’s absolutely wonderful.

    1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
    2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.
    3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.

“In the days when the judges ruled” speaks of a time in Israel’s history before they had their first king, King Saul. At this time, the nation was governed by judges, some were good and some were not very good. The account in the Book of Judges gives us a reference point in history’s timeline.

In these first three verses we learn that there was a Hebrew man from Bethlehem – Elimelech – who had a wife and two sons – Naomi, Mahlon, and Chilion respectively. We also learn there was famine in Israel at that time so they traveled to Moab in hopes of finding a better life. There in Moab we see that Elimelech dies, leaving behind his wife and two sons.

In our world today we see similar circumstances happening don’t we? We hear about refugees fleeing famine and starvation in one country and moving to another in hopes of finding a better life. Some of these refugees come to America where they have some real opportunities to make better lives for themselves and their families.

This is not unlike my own ancestors who left Italy and Germany to find hope in America. However, as we go through the book of Ruth we will see that the real hope for anyone lies in the Lord; not in any particular country and not in any other person.

    For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
    ~ Psalm 62:5

    And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in you.
    ~ Psalm 39:7

Our hope, our only hope, is in the Lord.

    4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years,
    5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. ~ Ruth 1:4-5

The father had passed away . The two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, each had a desire to start a family of their own. So they each took wives for themselves named Orpah and Ruth. Then each of the sons passes away, creating a sad and difficult circumstance for these three women. Three women left without husbands in the middle of a famine was not an easy situation.

There are many accounts that we can find in the Bible where men and women were in a situation where they felt like they had absolutely no hope. The wonderful news is that everyone has hope! We each have hope in a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and always with us. He is right here with you and with me, just waiting for us to call out to Him.

– Look at the woman at the well with Jesus in John 4
Read the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery and then imprisoned in Genesis 39-45

– Find the stories of King David, Abraham, Moses, Samson, and so many others.

Each of them at one time or another was in a place where they could see no hope in their situation except for the hope they had in the Lord. In this story of Ruth, we know that Ruth came from the country of Moab and was not even a Hebrew believer. Yet we will see in the coming studies that she finds hope in the one true God!

    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.
    ~ Ruth 1:6-7

Naomi hears in the fields that God has given food to her people – the Hebrews. Naomi seems to be a woman who still holds on to her faith in the God of the Israelites in that she understands “the LORD had visited his people and given them food”. We may wonder why God didn’t give food directly to Naomi and her family?

God directs each circumstance in our lives much like a conductor manages an orchestra. The conductor gives the musicians direction in an incredibly coordinated production in order to bring about one beautiful piece of music. Like the conductor, God uses the situations in our lives with amazing precision and coordination to draw our hearts to Him. We can see God’s actions in our lives in so many different ways that, all together, cause us to look to Him.

In Naomi’s life, God allowed famine and starvation. He coordinated the entrance of two young women into her life. The Lord allowed her husband and sons to die. He then supplied food to the Israelites only.

All through the Book of Ruth, we can see God’s hand in the lives of Ruth and Naomi. In chapter 1 we watch as Naomi follows God’s lead and returns to her home and to His people – Israel.

“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.”

God was orchestrating all of the different things in the lives of Naomi and Ruth to bring them to a new place of faith and trust in Him. As He was conducting this orchestra, He was molding and shaping them into the women He wanted them to be. How beautiful is that!

    But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~ Isaiah 64:8

I have never felt more like clay in the hands of the potter than these last three years. God has done some incredible things in my life and in our lives as a family to get us to a place where we can be used in ministry. He completely orchestrated the situations in our lives as a family to get us to a place where we can be useful to Him in ministry. If He had called me three years ago, I wouldn’t be in the same place!

    Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.
    Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
    ~ 2 Timothy 2:20-21

Right this very moment, God is working in YOUR life and in mine to make us more useful for His work. Right now. Today. God is working in you and me to cleanse us from what is dishonorable. He is setting us apart.

All we need to do is to call on Jesus as our Savior and accept the free gift of His death on the cross as taking the punishment for all our wrong. When we do that, just praying a simple prayer of saying “yes Lord I accept you as my Savior”, we take the first step on that path. He will begin to work in your life in incredible ways!

    8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.
    9 The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.
    ~ Ruth 1:8-9

Naomi is given wisdom and determines to return to her home country. However, she also attempts to help her daughters-in-law by giving them what seems like good advice: “Go back to your mother’s house.” She encourages each of them to return to their own native family home in Moab where they can be taken care of. As we will see, one daughter accepts her advice, and the other refuses.

    10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.”
    11 But Naomi said, “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.”
    14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
    ~ Ruth 1:10-14

Orpah listens to Naomi and departs. Ruth not only refuses what seems like great advice, but the Bible says “Ruth clung to her”. Often in our Christian walk, we hear from the Lord in ways that don’t seem to make much common sense. Sometimes in these situations, people around us will give us advice that seems like wisdom. The Bible is full of stories of people that followed God on a path that everyone around them believed to be destructive.

David versus Goliath. Moses versus Pharaoh. The Hebrews with their backs against the Red Sea. What hope do we have to cling to? We have Jesus. In God we have all the hope we need. He is the conductor of the orchestra. As the God of the universe, He holds our future in His very hand. He is trustworthy. We can rely on Him and we can count on His mighty hand to save us.

    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.”
    16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge 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.”
    18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
    ~ Ruth 1:15-18

Isn’t it wonderful that Ruth chooses not only Naomi to follow, but she chooses Naomi’s people, and she chooses the God of Naomi. “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” What a beautiful statement. When we choose to accept Jesus as our Savior, we are choosing to identify ourselves as “His people.”

    But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ~ Romans 10:8-9

That’s exactly what Ruth was doing. She was proclaiming out loud to anyone and everyone that she was adopting into the family of God. Each of us has that choice today. I made that choice many, many years ago. All along that path, God has been the conductor of the orchestra in my life. He has coordinated the events in my life to make me more and more useful to Him.

    19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?”
    20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
    21 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?”
    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.
    ~ Ruth 1:19-22

Naomi still doesn’t quite understand how her life is being used in God’s eternal plan. She has no idea what is coming in the next chapters of her life. Right here in this moment, she is discouraged and depressed.

“The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty…the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

That happens so often in each of our lives doesn’t it? For some, it seems to happen every single day. Discouragement. Depression. Terrible circumstances.

But God has an incredible way of bringing those things into our lives that mold us, shape us, and change us to make us more useful for His kingdom.

Many have heard this verse and it is so true!

    For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare[fn] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

However, many folks have not seen the next two verses which speak to exactly what we are talking about:

    Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
    You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
    ~ Jeremiah 29:12-13

God has a plan for you and for me. His plan for each of us includes a future and a hope! He does this by orchestrating the people and events in our lives to bring us to that point where we call upon Him.

He wants you to seek Him with “all your heart”.

Where is the Promise of His Coming? (2 Peter 3:3-13)

In 2 Peter chapter 3, Peter gives us some great insight into the coming return of Jesus to earth in 11 short verses. Not only do we gain understanding about the return of Jesus, we also hear from Peter about how we should live out our lives with His return in mind.

    Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
    2 Peter 3:3-4

From David Guzik:
“Christians should not be surprised to find that there are those who scoff at the idea of Jesus coming again. Peter told us that the scoffers will come. This is the first thing to know.

In a sense, the last days began when Jesus ascended into heaven. Since that time, we haven’t rushed towards the precipice of the consummation of all things; but we have run along side that edge – ready to go anytime at God’s good pleasure.”

Once we understand that the scoffers will come, and we can expect that they will, it helps us to know in advance how we should respond to that. Guzik suggests affirms that the “last days” mentioned in the Bible immediately started ticking when Jesus ascended into heaven. It seems to us a little odd that the “last days” would last 2,000 years. But to give you a word-picture, I would compare the “last days” to a 2,000 year time-clock that started ticking as soon as Jesus ascended.

    Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
    And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
    “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
    Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
    And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
    who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
    ~ Acts 1:6-11

I love this lesson here for me. Immediately before Jesus goes up into heaven, He tells the apostles “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” He instructs them to be witnesses and testify of Him in their local area (Jerusalem), their wider metro area (Judea and Samaria), and then out to the ends of the earth!

I just had a tour this last week of the Moody Aviation School where they teach and train missionary pilots. These guys are obedient to Acts 16 as they take the Bible to “the end of the earth”. At the end of an upstairs hallway is a stately-looking old bookcase filled with 40-50 Bibles, each printed in a different foreign language. My tour guide was telling me that these are all the different Bible translations that Moody aviation students have been involved in getting translated and printed. How beautiful and rewarding is that! But the disciples were also called to teach the Word of God locally and in their broader area. Did you know we are called to do the same? For me, that may mean sharing Christ with my neighbors, or with a clerk at the grocery store (my Jerusalem). It also means cooperating with my pastor and my church in reaching our community for Christ (my Judea and Samaria). On top of that, we are all called to sponsor missions work “to the end of the earth.”

Some people have the idea, “We don’t know when Jesus is coming, so it doesn’t really matter.” Others have the idea, “We don’t know when Jesus is coming, so we have to find out and set a date.” The right response is, “I don’t know when Jesus is coming so I have to be alert, eager, and ready for His coming.”

If we knew that the Lord would have us behaving and acting as though He is returning to earth later today or tomorrow, how would that change what we do and say? How would that change how I spend my money and my time?

    Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.
    ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:6

Paul tells us to not sleep through this important opportunity to share Jesus. We don’t want to miss this one chance we have.

    I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. ~ John 9:4

We love our gardening at our home. However, we also live in a climate where we can only work in the garden for about 6 months out of the year – April through September. There comes a season every year when it’s too late. Jesus shows us by His own example that we are to do the work while “it is day”. This means there is coming a time when it’s too late!

    Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
    ~ John 4:35

The time to harvest the garden is now!

    For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. ~ 2 Peter 3:5-6

There was another time in the earth’s history when it became too late. Noah was a man of God, and God called upon him to build the ark to save a remnant of people (Noah’s own family) to repopulate the earth after it was destroyed. At the time of Noah, just like today, God didn’t want anyone to die without having a chance to turn to Him. So He sent Noah to preach to them.

    And did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
    ~ 2 Peter 2:5

The wicked people on earth didn’t listen to Noah’s warnings, and therefore only 8 people were saved (Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives).

    But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
    For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. ~ Matthew 24:37-39

God is calling you and I to reach out to our world to point the way to Jesus! Jesus died to save each of us from our sin and every person in the world needs to hear that. But today the world itself tries to make them forget that the flood of Noah ever happened. They deny the flood and teach an evolutionary theory to convince them. “For this they willfully forget….the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.”

    But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 2 Peter 3:7

In the end this planet will be destroyed by fire. The Lord explicitly said that He would not destroy it by water again in Genesis 9 (the promise of the rainbow). Peter goes on to describe that destruction even further in verses 10, 11, and 12:

10: “The heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up”

11: “All these things will be dissolved”

12: “The heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat”

It seems pretty clear what God’s plan for the end of the earth will be doesn’t it? But remember that the Lord doesn’t want any single person to perish, He would love to save everybody. As a matter of fact, Christ came to earth to live and to die to save all people who would come to Him.

    And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:15

He came to die for me and He died for you. He died for your co-worker, your neighbor, and your friends. He died for the man on death-row, and He died for the President of the United States.

    But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. ~ 2 Peter 3:8

“Time” is nothing more to God than a tool of measurement that He created. It’s like when we look at a foot-log ruler and observe that it’s 12 inches long and we can hold the ruler in our hand. He created “time” along with the rest of His creation and He said that His creation is good (Genesis 1-2). But He is in no way limited by time.

God has existed for all eternity and He has no limitations. Imagine you hold a DVD in your hand. On that DVD is recorded a two hour movie. You can hold that two hours in your hand for a month, and it’s still a two hour movie you hold. With God it’s the same way. He holds a day in His hand the same way He holds 1,000 years. It’s no different to Him. Young-earth creation experts will tell you that the universe and earth are about 6,000-10,000 years old. Imagine that God is holding in His hand a movie that is about 10,000 years long. 🙂 Yet He exists outside of that movie.

    The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
    ~ 2 Peter 3:9

I love knowing that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”. He wants every one of us in Heaven with Him for all eternity! He puts up with us (suffers us) for a long time in order to give us every opportunity to come to Him for grace and mercy.

    The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.
    ~ Psalm 145:8

How long did God “wait” for me to come to Him? If He had returned to earth in 1977, I would have waited too long to accept Jesus as my Savior and I would have missed it. He is so gracious, that He is “longsuffering” for us.

    The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. ~ Numbers 14:18

But you know He won’t wait forever right?

    But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
    Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
    2 Peter 3:10-12

When Christ returns on “the day of the Lord”, He will come with no warning “like a thief in the night”. While He waits a long time for each of us to come to Him for forgiveness and salvation, He will not wait forever. Someday soon, judgment is coming. The only shelter we have from judgment is in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us you only need to “believe on Him and you will be saved.”

This portion of Scripture finishes with some reassurance for us.

    Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13

Someday all believers from all time will dwell with God forever in a new heavens and a new earth. I look forward to that day!

    For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. ~ Isaiah 65:17

False Teachers and Those That Follow

The entire chapter of 2 Peter 2 focuses on false teachers and those that follow after them. There is so much to learn here!

    But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
    And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. ~ 2 Peter 2:1-2

The first lesson we see is that there were false teachers and fake prophets in Peter’s day and he tells us there will be false teachers in our day. In other words, they’ve been around since the beginning of time and will be here until the end of time.

Lesson number two is in verse two, that many people will follow them. These two lessons in the first and second verses sum up the entire chapter. The remaining 20 verses describe false teachers so we can know what they look like, and we also get a description of what happens in the lives of their followers.

So what do false teachers look like?

Verses 3 and 14 tell us that they will trick you with covetousness and that they are trained in covetousness. What does that mean? Well, remember that Satan is incredibly skilled at fooling us into covetousness – which can mean jealousy and greed. He tricked Eve in the Garden of Eden by showing her how yummy the fruit looked and then telling her that God lied by saying she would die (Genesis 3).

    By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
    ~ 2 Peter 2:3

That’s exactly what Satan did to Eve! “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words” – with greed and jealousy these false teachers will lie to you and deceive you.

False teachers of our day use the same kind of trickery that false teachers have always used. They fool us into thinking about ourselves, our wants, desires, and our own will rather than about the Lord and His will.

    Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
    And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
    Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
    So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
    ~ Genesis 3:1-6

How did Satan use covetousness? “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Your eyes will be opened
You will be like God
You will know good and evil

    For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
    ~ 2 Peter 2:4

“God judged these wicked angels, setting them in chains of darkness. Apparently some fallen angels are in bondage while others are unbound and active in the earth as demons.”
“Those who insist on freedom to do whatever they want are like these angels: so ‘free’ that they are bound with chains of darkness (a powerful poetic description of their miserable bondage). True freedom comes from obedience.”

“It is clear that at some time, angelic beings had a period of choosing; of testing when their future destiny would be determined. “How long that probation was to last to them, and what was the particular test of their fidelity, we know not; nor indeed do we know what was their sin; nor when nor how they fell. Jude says they kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation; which seems to indicate that they got discontented with their lot, and aspired to higher honours, or perhaps to celestial domination.” ~ Clarke

    and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
    and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;
    and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked
    (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—
    then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
    ~ 2 Peter 2:5-9

God punishes the wrongdoers as He did to the angels, the ancient world, and Sodom and Gomorrah. God also truly saves the righteous as He did with Noah and his family and with Lot and his family.

Peter also assures us that “Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment”. We have many examples all through the Bible where God delivers the godly out of temptations.

Joseph was tempted with Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39. God delivered Joseph from that. Daniel was tempted to eat the king’s food in Daniel 1 and to worship the king in Daniel 6. God rescued Daniel from both circumstances.

But God also assures us all throughout His word that in the day of judgment, the unrighteous will suffer eternal punishment. So what makes a person “righteous” or “unrighteous”? It’s a choice left up to each of us. The solution is found in Jesus Christ and in Him alone. Jesus took the punishment on our behalf. We only need to choose Christ!

    But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. ~ Isaiah 53:5

    He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. ~ 1 Peter 2:24

    And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
    ~ Acts 16:31

In choosing Jesus as our Savior and accepting His sacrifice for us, we are made righteous, clean, and acceptable to God.

    and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,
    whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
    But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption,
    and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,
    having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. ~ 2 Peter 2:10-14

Peter goes on to describe the false teachers us lustful, they despise authority, they are presumptuous, self-willed, they speak evil of those in authority. He calls them “spots and blemishes”, they have eyes for others, they have no resistance against sin, they entice and entrap others, and their hearts are bent toward jealousy and greed.

Verse 15 and 16 offer us a Biblical example of a false prophet.

    They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
    but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
    ~ 2 Peter 2:15-16

Balaam was a prophet of God who was actually planning to curse the people God had called blessed so that he could collect a fee for himself. His heart was greedy for the money, and for that he was willing to say things against the Lord’s word.

    These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
    For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.
    While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. ~ 2 Peter 2:17-19

The key to avoiding the trap of false teaching is to stay in the word of God! Read your Bible. Read it every day. If you do that, you will be so much better equipped to discern the lies of a false teacher from the truth of Scripture.

    All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
    ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
    ~ Psalm 119:11

    This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
    ~ Joshua 1:8

Biblical discernment only comes from reading the Bible.

    For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
    For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. ~ 2 Peter 2:20-21

From Guzik:
“Peter described a picture that certainly has the appearance of people losing their salvation.
– He speaks of those who have escaped the pollutions of the world.
– He speaks of those who did this through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
– He speaks of those who had known the way of righteousness.

Christians warmly debate the issue of whether or not it is possible for a true Christian to ever lose their status as a true Christian and fall away to damnation. Perhaps the best way of understanding the issue is to say that it is certainly true that those who appear saved – those who fit the description of Peter here – can end up in a place where it would have been better for them not have known the way of righteousness.
To divide along the lines of this debate – which focuses on things that are unknowable to outside observation – seems to fall into the category of being obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, as in 1 Timothy 6:4”

    He is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions.
    ~ 1 Timothy 6:4

    But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” ~ 2 Peter 2:22

This last verse gives us a picture of the incredible tendency that we humans to have to return to the same ways of sin over and over and over again. Obviously within this context it’s talking about those folks that know the truth and then turn away to a life full of son. But it also speaks to every single believer doesn’t it? We all do that in varying degrees. For each of us has sins that “easily entangle” us. There are sins in each of our lives that we tend to return to againa and again.

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
    ~ Hebrews 12:1

God’s word calls us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”. When a runner is running a race, they want to be as lightweight as possible. Have you ever tried to run while carrying something? It’s not easy to do! And the heavier the object is that you carry, the harder the run becomes. That’s true in our Christian walk as well.

Stay in the word of God, and throw off the entanglements of the world!