Thursday, August 29, 2013

ruth: true love under His wings (part 13 - conclusion)

Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, "Come over here, my friend, and sit down." So he went over and sat down. Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, "Sit here," and they did so. Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, "Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line."

"I will redeem it," he said. Then Boaz said, "On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man's widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property." At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, "Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it." (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.) So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, "Buy it yourself." And he removed his sandal. Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, "Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon's widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!"

Then the elders and all those at the gate said, "We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah."

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: "Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth." Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, "Naomi has a son." And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. (Ruth 4)

Once Ruth proposes to Boaz, he promises to take care of her and immediately leaves to address the one obstacle that may prevent their marriage. You see, there is another kinsman who is a closer blood relative with rights to claim Ruth and Naomi. So what does Boaz do? He wisely gathers ten witnesses to join him and approaches the unnamed kinsman. Then, Boaz simply trusts God to handle the details as he honestly explains the terms to his bretheren. He does not manipulate or try to persuade anyone in a dishonorable way merely to get what he wants. No, he acts respectfully and within the structure of the law. For to act manipulative would only exhibit a reverse of Boaz's faith in God's ability.

Watch Boaz as he informs the kinsman of Elimelech's estate. Upon hearing the news, the kinsman is excited and ready to take ownership of the property. (Who wouldn't want to inherit a lot of land? Especially when farming was crucial to their survival and status of wealth?) But then, Boaz continues to inform his blood relative of the remaining terms of the deal. In assuming ownership of the land he must also assume the responsibility to care for widow Naomi and the Moabite woman, Ruth. With this news, the kinsman rejects the land and all responsibility for their welfare. He is not at all interested in caring for two widows. He could care less about them. (Some family, huh?)

There is such a difference between how these two men treated these two women. Boaz clearly shows honor and love not only to Ruth, but to Naomi. He has consistently made the effort to care and protect these women. The other kinsman, not so much. Boaz shows us a very important character in how a godly man should protect and provide for their wives and family. He reflects Christ's example - covering His future bride with complete love and provision. Just as important, notice how Ruth (and Naomi) respect and love Boaz. Naomi coaches Ruth to honor him by going to him quietly with her proposal. She instructs her on how to be godly in her actions while remaining attractive, attentive, assertive and available to Boaz. Notice how no one acts inappropriately or manipulatively to get what they want. Rather, even in their initial sorrow... even in their uncertainty... these three walk in faith and trust God to handle the details of their lives.

Of course, God delivers! Boaz is free to take Ruth as his wife. Naomi gains a family again - which proves to be a great example of God's provision and love to her entire community. (Look at how involved all the women around them are!) Finally, after all the trials and uncertain moments... Ruth is blessed with a baby boy. Family is restored. Love endures.

But does God stop there? No! Not to His faithful. God gushes over dear Ruth and Naomi and Boaz! God grants a Moabite women honorable lineage to the Savior of the world! There are no boundaries to how God can use and bless a life, are there? For we read in scripture that Ruth and Boaz are to be the great, great grandparents of King David. The line of Christ is revealed and the testimony and hope of this family is seen even to this day! Hallelujah!

While finishing this last chapter in the book of Ruth, I can't help but remember how this whole story started with famine, death, separation from God, and emptiness. And yet, here we are with a once dry land now fruitful. With a once grieving household full of life. With ungodly surroundings changed and the once lost now abiding in God's promised land. With empty, barren arms made full. Furthermore, as I look to this story and read about these real people from a real time, I'm amazed at how God still uses their Old Testament story filled with multilayers of lessons, warnings and blessings to demonstrate the significance of the coming Messiah. Only God could intertwine such precision while remaining mindful to share His everlasting message of grace and redemption. What an awesome God, huh? What a Royal Husband! What a Kinsman-Redeemer! What a Comforter, Protector, Provider, Judge, Healer... What a love story we have in Jesus! What a Savior, indeed!

Just like Ruth, without our Kinsman-Redeemer we are helpless, outcast, cursed. Just like Naomi, without faith and family we are barren, empty, removed. But just like Boaz, Jesus fulfills all our needs. He is a man, a God, of honor! He made Himself man so that He would become flesh like us. He took on our sins so that He could assume role as our Redeemer. He removed the rightful grasp of Satan and death in order to restore us to His home and welcome us into His kingdom. Jesus loves us eternally, indefinitely, and undeniably. He wants more than anything to be our Heavenly Husband and spread his covering of love, protection and provision over our lives FOREVER! Have you jumped at the chance to pledge yourself to Him? Have you received Him and all that He offers? Have you confessed your barrenness and bankruptcy to Him and proposed to take His perfect hand in marriage? Are you part of His kingdom? Oh, I hope so. I hope you are anxiously waiting for Him to return to you and sweep you off your feet! I hope you are hopelessly devoted to rest faithfully in His promise to renew, restore, refresh your life. Welcome in His headship and allow Him to take full control and care. He will make good, I promise.

The final and most important blessing given to us in the book of Ruth is the revealing of Jesus. He is the Son of Man - our brother and kinsman... and yet He is also the Son of God! He chose to become one of us, through the bloodline of Ruth, Boaz, David. Why? To find us... to save us... to free us of this sinful world... to love us and be with us forever! How majestic is His Name in all the earth! For we can see His love demonstrated in every dew drop... every ray of sunshine... every field, every creature, every constellation, every moment!

How could anyone deny the love of the King of kings? He is the hope... the One! There is no greater love than with Jesus! So, glean in His field. Know His character. Drink and eat of His bounty. Cover yourself under His cloak. Trust in His promises. Wait on His timing. Love Him more than life... for He is worth it! Receive Him, DW! Let your life be a testimony of His everlasting love! Let your love story be shared and shared and shared forevermore!

"Under His wings, I am safely abiding;
Tho' the night deepens and tempests are wild.
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me;
He has redeemed me and I am His child.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort and there I am blest.

Under His wings, O what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life's trials are o'er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me;
Resting in Jesus I'm safe evermore.

Under His wings, under His wings.
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever."
(Author Unknown)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength. Know His love in return. He is your Kinsman. Allow Him to be your Redeemer today and every day! And all God's people say.... AMEN!

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

ruth: the proposal and the anticipation (part 12)

So she (Ruth) went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. "Who are you?" he asked. "I am your servant Ruth," she said. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer."

"The LORD bless you, my daughter," he replied. "This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning."

So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, "Don't let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor." He also said, "Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out." When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town. When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, "How did it go, my daughter?" Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, "He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, 'Don't go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.'"

Then Naomi said, "Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today." (Ruth 3:6-18)

OK, let's recap what has happened so far. Naomi has told Ruth to go to Boaz at the threshing floor to let him know she is interested in him taking on the role as her kinsman-redeemer. Ruth quietly does everything that Naomi tells her to do and waits for Boaz to wake up and notice her. And when he wakes up, Ruth does something that Boaz never expects, but is happy to oblige. She proposes.

Here was a widowed Moabite woman who had come to Bethlehem with no obvious intention of husband-hunting now quietly proposing to the most wealthy, renown man in town. Crazy? Maybe. For before this time, Ruth had placed herself below the status of Boaz's servants. But now, she makes her heart's desire for marriage perfectly clear to him and asks Boaz to symbolically spread his garment over her. In doing so, Ruth is officially requesting Boaz for his full protection and covering as husband - the same way we as Christians have asked Jesus to spread his wings of protection and love over us. Mind you, according to the Mosaic Law, Ruth could have called the elders of the city together and brazenly claimed Boaz in public as her kinsman-redeemer. But Naomi wisely instructed Ruth that their relationship must start more intimately, more privately, more modestly. Ruth was not brazen or puffed up. No, she loved Boaz and wanted him alone to know this.

The difference in age between the two must have been significant. Boaz was clearly and older, established man of integrity who obviously loved Ruth. But once he realized she loved him in return and desired for him to be her husband, Boaz enthusiastically blesses her and is ready to claim her as his wife. You see, to Boaz, Ruth was quite the catch. The "bee's knees," if you will. This was not to be a relationship based on pity towards a lonely Moabite girl. Boaz was not merely jumping at the chance to extend charity to a poor, young widow. Rather, once Ruth changed out of her mourning clothes, Boaz looked at her as a gorgeous free agent to marry... and boy, did he jump at the chance! Just imagine how happy and surprised he must have been to learn that Ruth loved him as much as he adored her? Equally, just think of how thrilled our Savior and Kinsman-Redeemer is when we intimately, privately, modestly and whole-heartedly informed Him of our commitment and love for Him?

So now what? Well, the ball is in Boaz's court. The text informs us that there is another relative who is technically allowed rights to claim Ruth. So, Boaz let's Ruth know that He wants to do everything she has asked of him (and more)... but He is respectful to do things according to the law to insure their union is acceptable in God's eyes. Similarly, Jesus knows that according to God's law, our sinfulness has sentenced us to an eternal death. Satan has snared us and we are unable to break free from him without Christ's intervention. But just like Boaz, upon hearing of our affection and commitment to be His bride and take on His family name, our Savior has enthusiastically responded with delight and is willing to claim us legally as His own. So much so, that He overcomes death in order to be with us... legally taking on the role as our Kinsman-Redeemer and making our union acceptable in God's eyes. Why? Because He loves us and longs to be with us THAT MUCH! His sacrifice to die on our behalf frees us from Satan and sin so that we may be married! Our beloved Jesus has made it possible to be together with him... forever! What a love story!!!

So now, just like Ruth, we will wait for our Love to handle all the details. We will lay our life at his feet and wait out the night of this cold, harsh world. He has promised to take care of us as he prepares a new home for us. So, just like Ruth, we can wait on on our Lord - trusting Him to feed us and cover us and protect us until he returns to claim us as His bride.

Our Beloved will not rest until we are together again. He has promised to redeem and restore us and has made a way to claim us legally as His own. He has done all the work of redemption and invites us to enter into His place of rest. Once we claim Him, Jesus will handle all the details. For it is Jesus who saves us. And He does not offer us a marriage based on pity. Although we are bankrupt and have nothing but ourselves to offer, our wonderful Savior views us as quite the catch. Why? Because He desperately loves us! He longs to be with us! We are precious in His eyes and He is jealous for our love!

So, dear Ruth, let us wait and trust our Boaz. Let us put our faith in Him to handle all the details of our marriage and prepare a new home for us. Let us allow our Kinsman-Redeemer to handle all matters and sit still and wait on our Lord. He has not left us empty-handed. He has blessed us with His Holy Spirit and provides for our every need. So, let's wait and see what He does next... let's rest in His promise and trust Him to make things happen! Let's endure the trials of this temporary place until He returns to us and leads us to our eternal home.

Wait patiently, dear bride... your groom will not rest until you are together forever! His kingdom comes!

I don't know about you, but I'm excited to read the conclusion of this love story in chapter 4! God is soooooo good!!! Until tomorrow, my DW loves! XOXOXOXXO ~Victoria

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ruth: are you attractive, attentive, assertive, available? (part 11)

One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, "My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don't let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do."

"I will do whatever you say," Ruth answered. (Ruth 3:1-5)

So, some time has passed and Ruth has continued to glean in Boaz's field, staying close to his servant girls and remaining under his full protection. Soon it becomes evident to Naomi that Boaz is interested in Ruth. In true kinsman-redeemer form, he has continued to provide for her every need, and outwardly appears to care for Ruth immensely. As a result of his actions, Naomi knows that it is in Ruth's best interest if Boaz became more than just a kind-hearted benefactor. So she delicately instructs her daughter-in-law on what to do. Naomi has devised a plan whereby Boaz would be informed of Ruth's interest, but in a way that he could say "no" with minimal embarrassment for everyone.

She then outlined her four-part strategy to Ruth. First, Naomi told Ruth to be attractive. Ruth was to remove all vestiges of mourning her late husband and start making herself attractive for Boaz. Naomi instructs her to wash up, to put on perfume, to adorn herself with her best clothes. It is likely that Ruth had been wearing mourning garments this whole time thus explaining Boaz's romantic inertia. But now, Naomi was telling Ruth to make it visually obvious to Boaz that she was ready to return to life again. The old was gone... the new had come for Ruth. It was time to showcase herself as an available "bride" and gain Boaz's attention.

Second, Ruth was to make herself attentive to the place where Boaz would be. Specifically, she was to go to the place where Boaz would be resting after he finished a long day of work. This is not to imply that Ruth would be tip-toeing over the bodies of Boaz's sleeping team in order to get to him. No, apparently Boaz slept somewhat apart from the rest of his workers. This is logical, as most bosses have earned a more reserved location (or office) where one could regroup. According to Naomi, Ruth was to attentively meet Boaz in this place, approaching him when he was relaxed and finished with his job.

Third, Ruth was to be assertive. Naomi told Ruth to go uncover Boaz's feet and then lie down. Now, don't start thinking Ruth was compromising her integrity by laying down in front of him. This is not a story conjured up from a Hollywood script. No, Ruth always remained clothed and kept an appropriate distance. Her actions merely symbolized to Boaz her humility to him while gaining his attention subtly and gradually. According to the Mosaic system of the day, it was incumbent upon Ruth to assertively make such a definite move. If she didn't, it would have constituted a rejection to Boaz as a suiter. Naomi's plan was for Ruth to show Boaz that she wanted him to fulfill the roll of kinsman-redeemer rather than a nearer relative who currently held the right. (Which we will see in tomorrow's lesson.) You see, Boaz was not the first in line to be Ruth's kinsman-redeemer. Since Boaz was a true gentleman and man of the law, he would never aggressively pursue Ruth unless he was certain she wanted him. Once he knew this, he would skillfully begin legal proceedings to redeem her.

Lastly, Ruth was to make herself available to Boaz. Meaning, she was to wait patiently for his response. As Naomi put it, "He will tell you what to do." Ruth had shown her desire to be covered in Boaz's protection indefinitely and now is displaying true submission, respect, and faith in Boaz's ability to follow-through. She has laid her heart out on her sleeve and now must wait for her redeemer's instruction - trusting his position and ability to follow-through.

We can learn a lot about how to approach our husband (or anyone else for that matter) by following Ruth's gentle, effective, patient approach. Furthermore, in studying this text we can learn how to receive and rely upon our eternal Husband, Jesus. We must be willing to cast off all that is old - all that has depressed us. Then, we must joyfully receive Him and make His goodness our priority. He is definitely attractive... but how can we, in return, be attractive to our God? With a meek and quiet spirit? With a sacrificial and obedient heart? Ladies, have you washed yourself in His Word and faithfully clothed yourself with His traits? And how attentive are you to Him? Is your life all about you or your Savior? Is your heart, soul, mind, and strength focused on His image or your own? Also, how assertively do you go to Him and humbly lay your life before His feet? Do you strive to be with Him at all cost and outwardly show Him how much you long to be His bride? How much do you desire Him? So much to always be available to Him? Do you trust His authority and ability to redeem you? Do you wait patiently upon Him to follow-through on His promises and provide and protect for your life? Is Jesus the Kinsman-Redeemer you wish to be married to... or would you rather remain alone or choose someone else? According to God's law, our sin must be paid for and the default legal solution insures us death. But Christ is willing to pay the ultimate price in order to legally claim us as His own and save us from destruction. With Him, we are no longer poor. With Him, we need not continue mourning. With Jesus, we are renewed and promised a new life of happiness. With Jesus, we gain a new home, a new family, a new life!

Are you interested? Does He know you are interested? If so, let your own eternal love story begin. Get yourself ready for the wedding! Jesus, your Bridegroom... your Kinsman-Redeemer, will take care of all the arrangements. All you must do is prepare yourself for Him!

Be attractive, be attentive, be assertive, and be available to the Holiest of Holies! Make Jesus your Kinsman-Redeemer and lovingly, patiently wait on His instructions and promises... His kingdom will come! His will shall indeed be done!

Until tomorrow... Blessings!
Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Monday, August 26, 2013

ruth: living long in God's promised land (part 10)

And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor." Naomi said to her, "Go ahead, my daughter." (Ruth 2:2)

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.

Her mother-in-law asked her, "Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!" Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. "The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz," she said. "The LORD bless him!" Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. "He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead." She added, "That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers." Then Ruth the Moabitess said, "He even said to me, 'Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.'" Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, "It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else's field you might be harmed." So Ruth stayed close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:17-23)

Throughout the book of Ruth, I cannot help but notice how Ruth always makes a point to honor and care for Naomi. Her actions prove to always be respectful and submissive to the authority of her mother-in-law. Notice in verse 2 when she asks Naomi for permission to go into the fields to glean food. Was that really necessary? Did Ruth really need Naomi's permission? Well, the short answer is this... since Ruth was an alien to Bethlehem, she knew that Israel's religion offered different forms of benevolence to the poor, the widow, and the orphan. However, Ruth lived "in the days when the judges ruled" (see Part 1 of this series). As such, nothing in her life should be taken for granted - especially for a Moabite woman living in Bethlehem. So, Ruth asked Naomi for guidance. Naomi, in turn, approved Ruth's plan and told her daughter to go ahead. Both women knew that their decision could put Ruth in harms way. However, both women had come to trust God fully (even in their despair). No matter what, the Lord would provide and protect.

Later, notice the dynamic between this mother and daughter once Ruth meets Boaz. Ruth had labored all day to bring food to Naomi. Mind you, it is likely that Naomi was too old or physically frail to accomplish this task on her own. Remaining true to her family commitment, Ruth chooses to love Naomi best by attending to her needs. Later, when Naomi sees how much Ruth has gathered, she becomes enthusiastic. As she hears of Boaz's favor to Ruth, her dismal temperament is gone. Naomi is no longer depressed, but rather delighted and full of hope. Notice her words, "The LORD bless him (Boaz)! He (God) has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead. That man (Boaz again) is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers."

Ladies, a kinsman-redeemer was basically a close, influential relative to whom members of a family could turn to for help. He was usually approached for help when the family line or possessions were in danger of being lost. He was responsible for buying back any land that was sold in times of crisis and/or saving relatives that were enslaved or widowed. Kinsman-redeemers would be asked to care for heirs left behind - usually in difficult circumstances. Also, they held the right to avenge a relative who had been killed.

The idea of the kinsman-redeemer that Ruth and Naomi found in Boaz also parallels the ultimate redemption found in Jesus as our Messiah and Savior. Christ, the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer, came to buy us back into God's family. He chose to pay the ultimate ransom for us and save us from the most difficult of circumstances - death! Just like Boaz looked after the needs of Ruth and Naomi, ultimately becoming their benefactor, Jesus provides and protects His own while blessing richly. Naomi was indeed right... Our Kinsman-Redeemer God has never, ever stopped showing His people kindness. So much so, that while we were yet sinners... Christ showed up and died to save us. He always demonstrates His love and provides for our every need! As His faithful, we must follow His example and attend to one another's needs. Like Ruth, we must start with those we are closest to... our own family. According to God's commandment, Ruth knew that honoring her mother would insure her a long life in God's promised land... the land in which she deliberately came to be close to God.

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)

Ladies, as we wrap up chapter 2 in the book of Ruth, let's consider how we also demonstrate and extend our love to family members. Let's honestly determine if we are willing to follow our Kinsman-Redeemer's example and pay the price to sacrifice ourselves for the encouragement of others. Ruth's actions brought Naomi hope and led her out of her slump and despair. May our actions prove equally uplifting to our own family members. May we respect those older than us and take care of our parents as we would wish to be cared for. No matter how depressed, angry, or miserable someone may be... we are to always respond with the love and respect Christ demonstrates to us.

We will be wrapping up the book of Ruth in the next day or two. Get ready for the climax of this wonderful story... it's pretty terrific. Until then... LOVE LOVE LOVE, my lovely DW's!

XOXOXO! ~Victoria

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Sunday, August 25, 2013

ruth: are you owed or awed? (part 9)

Today, I want to continue meditating on the life of Ruth by considering a key component of her character. Ruth was humble. She was a woman who never demanded her rights. In fact, when we study the book of Ruth in it's entirety, we see a woman who lived her life giving to others rather than taking for herself. We witness a woman who did not presume anything while always being respectful and encouraging to those around her. We can really learn a lot from Ruth's humble character. For Ruth never felt she was owed grace. Rather, she was completely awed by it. This is humility, ladies.

The Bible describes humility as meekness, lowliness and absence of self. The Greek word translated “humility” in Colossians 3:12 means “lowliness of mind.” You see, humility is really a heart attitude. It is not something you wear on your outward demeanor like a pretty dress to be noticed. A lot of women fall into this trap to "look" holy before other Christians. Every Sunday, they walk through the doors of their church while putting on a real "show" of humility. But their day-to-day lives reveal a character much different. When their plastic smile fades and their true colors shine through, all evidence points to their pride and arrogance rather than a meek and quiet spirit.

Jesus said that those who are “poor in spirit” will inherit the kingdom of heaven. This means that only those who admit to an absolute bankruptcy of spiritual worth will inherit eternal life. So, clearly humility is a prerequisite to receive God's grace. We are to live in gratitude of our King's provision and commit our lives to Him and to others. This is how Ruth lived. She “died to herself” and became a new creation in Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Ladies, let's learn from Ruth's example and renew our commitment to God by truly serving Him and others in all lowliness of mind. This is how Jesus wants us to live - sacrificial, grateful, and in awe of Him. Such an attitude precludes selfish ambition, conceit, and the strife that comes with self-justification and self-defense. So, rather than be puffed up and defensive of our own pre-conceived rights... let's live defending God's truth. Our ego must be laid aside completely in order to serve the King of kings.

Jesus knew this. Jesus was not ashamed to humble Himself as a servant and taught us to do the same. In His humility, Christs was always obedient to His Almighty Father. As such, we should live in accordance to His example.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-16)

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8).

Today, let's live as Jesus did and put aside all selfishness. Let's submit our whole life in obedience to God and His Word. True humility produces godliness, contentment, and security. So as Christians, that is what our own lives should exhibit. God has promised to give grace to the humble. He opposes the proud. He is against the puffed up and entitled. We must understand that any entitlement we have is only because of our blessed Savior. (See Proverbs 3:34 and 1 Peter 5:5) Because of this, we must confess and put away all pride. We must stop living in opposition to God on this very important point and ask Him to give us His humility in all areas. We must stop being spiritually "fake" in attempts to gain the attention and praise of other individuals we wish to impress. Jesus is the only One we need impress. In His Name, let's submit ourselves fully to Him and live amazed and in awe of His never ending love and grace. Ruth lived like this, and she was blessed beyond measure. Let's learn from her example and humble ourselves to the Lord.

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:11)

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Saturday, August 24, 2013

ruth: the first day of a new life - chivalry lives! (part 8)

Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, "Whose young woman is that?" The foreman replied, "She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, 'Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.' She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter." So Boaz said to Ruth, "My daughter, listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled." At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me - a foreigner?"

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

"May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord," she said. "You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant - though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls."

At mealtime Boaz said to her, "Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar." When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, "Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don't embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don't rebuke her."

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. (Ruth 2:5-17)

OK, I'm so enthusiastic about how generous Boaz is to Ruth, I have to start today's blog by highlighting the last point of our scriptural text first. Do you know how much an ephah of grain is? It is equivalent to about six gallons! Better yet, it's enough grain to feed approximately fifty fighting men! Clearly, this much food would be enough to feed Ruth and Naomi for several weeks on end.

What does that say about Boaz? How do you think he felt about Ruth?

Think about it. Here is a man of status... a rich, powerful, renowned man of Bethlehem. A man who openly shares his love of the Lord in every area of his life. A prosperous man - mighty in wealth and mighty in the Law. It is likely since Boaz lived in the time of the judges that he also carried a high ranking as a soldier in Israel's army. We can conclude from his inquiring statements above that he did not recognize Ruth - so, he was not standing in the crowd when Ruth first entered into Bethlehem with Naomi. Probably, Boaz was out of town that day - off on a campaign or business engagement. However, when he returned... when life became business as usual, Boaz started hearing a lot of gossip about this beautiful foreign girl. Surprisingly, it was good gossip. People were impressed with the actions of this Moabite. They were amazed at her faithfulness to Naomi. They were surprised that she wasn't chasing after all the eligible men in town, but rather sacrificing herself to fill the empty arms of her grieving mother-in-law.

Boaz must have thought, "How often do you hear good gossip about a person?" Yes, something must be different about Ruth. Clearly, she must be a woman who trusts the Lord God in order to bravely leave her home country and travel to a land that doesn't take kindly to her people. (Remember, Israel and Moab were not friendly.) So before ever laying eyes on her, Boaz knew a little something-something about Ruth's character. Ahhhh, but then he saw her in person...

"Whose young woman is that?" He inquired. Translation: WOW! Who is she? Is she married? Does she belong to someone? Let's not mince words, Mr. Boaz. Let's get straight to it and find out who the beauty gathering food in your field is. Funny thing is, I'm sure Boaz was not desperate to find a wife. I'm sure every single girl in Bethlehem had attempted to turn his head at some point or another. Rich, powerful, righteous... Boaz had it all. He had to be considered THE bachelor to nab by every matchmaker and mother in town. But this man of God never took the bait. He had never fallen head over heels in love... at least, not until now.

Did you know that the love story of Ruth was part of the five Megilloth - one of the five small scrolls that were read annually at just about every Jewish festival. So, it is safe to assume that this romantic story was told over and over again to every Israelite until the time of Christ. For generations, God's people would hear about Ruth and Boaz, about the love they shared, and about the hope their union would bring. Yes, Boaz was smitten from day one with Ruth. Immediately after seeing her, he does everything he can to take care of her. He cordially asks her to not stray to another field, but rather stay in his field with his servants. He tells his men not to touch her and further provides for her every need by offering her refreshments as she worked. When lunchtime came, Boaz invites Ruth to sit and join him. He's intrigued to learn more about her and takes every appropriate opportunity to do so.

And how does Ruth respond? She is amazed. How in the world did she gain favor with this most wonderful man? She is nothing. She is a Moabite and a poor widow with a depressed mother-in-law to care for. Why would Boaz even want to sit next to her much less speak to her? Ruth knew before she entered Israel that she would be rejected and looked down upon. She knew that Israelites would turn their back to her - for what self-respecting Jew would have dealings with a Moabite? Yet, here with Boaz, Ruth found those racial barriers to be obsolete. Here she sat eating lunch with one of their most handsome, most renowned, most wealthy, most kind. When she left that morning to find a field to glean in - to find the smallest spec of food to feed herself and Naomi, Ruth never would have imagined that anyone would take notice to her - except possibly those who would mistreat and abuse her. It was dangerous for a poverty-stricken woman to be out alone. But Ruth selflessly took the risk because she loved and cared for Naomi. She trusted God to guide her steps, and boy did He. God led Ruth right into the heart of Boaz.

And now we'll see this little love story develop and flourish into greatness. We will witness a man with everything to offer, choose to love a woman with nothing to give. Revealed in this text, we will be blessed by the parallel of God's love for us - sinners who have nothing to offer. Yet... thankfully, while we were yet sinners, Christ still chose to die for us. (See Romans 5:8)

Such a love is unheard of in this world - yet, here it is. We can only stand amazed and wonder as Ruth did... why, dear Lord, have I found such favor in your eyes? Why on earth would you notice me? Feed me? Protect me? Care for me? Why would you (and all that YOU are) ever invite me (and all that I'm not) to your bountiful table to dine face-to-face in your presence? This is unheard of! I never would have imagined this kind of grace and love possible - yet, here I sit safely in your perfect presence. You call me beautiful and adore me. You demonstrate your love to me and save me from my sin. What a love story we have to share with every generation! Oh, my sweet Jesus, may I continue to find favor in your eyes!

Ladies, the day Ruth met Boaz was the day she walked away full. It was the first day of a new life - a life abundantly fed and provided for. A life filled with unending love, respect, security, and peace. When Ruth brought the many gallons of grain home to Naomi that day, she had no idea what extent of a blessing Boaz would be... but in time, she would learn and love him for it. For now, she would just be happy to bring her new found abundance home to those she loved and share the story of this wonderful man.

The same is true for us! The day we received Jesus as our Savior was the first day we would be free from the poverty of sin. It was the day we would find His grace and start a new life filled with unending love, respect, security, and peace. And whether we know it or not right now... if we believe in Him and follow His ways, we are indeed full in Christ. We may not know everything about Him - we may never know everything about Him, for He is so awesome... but what we do know about His extraordinary character, we must be happy to share and share and share. You see, one thing is very clear - our Savior is a wonderful, generous, loving God! There is no man more chivalrous than He! Jesus is our knight in shining armor! Jesus is the hero of our story! Jesus is the romance we always dreamed of! Let's spend our time gleaning in His field and no one else's. Let's follow behind Him and do all we can to harvest His truth and abide in His presence. For when we are with Him, our arms are full. We will always find plenty with our Kinsman-Redeemer who is completely smitten and totally in love with us. In fact, He loved us before we even drew our first breath! So let's partake at His table, ladies. Let's enjoy more and more and more of our blessed Savior and live securely knowing WHOSE we are! This is the day to rejoice and be glad! WOO HOO!

I can't wait to hear more of this love story, can you? Until tomorrow, my lovely DW's. XOXOXOXOXOX!

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Friday, August 23, 2013

ruth: a man of standing (part 7)

Now Naomi had a relative on her husband's side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor." Naomi said to her, "Go ahead, my daughter." So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, "The LORD be with you!" "The LORD bless you!" they called back. (Ruth 2:1-4)

While studying this chapter of Ruth, I found Mr. Boaz very interesting. Notice that Boaz wasn't immediately in the fields that day. Scripture tells us that this "man of standing" arrived later - back from Bethlehem. Perhaps he had to go buy some supplies at the Bethlehem Depot? Perhaps he had monies to deposit at the First National Bank of Bethlehem? We don't know. The text doesn't share. But clearly it suggests that this man of standing was detained and likely conducting business in the city.

However, what is interesting is how Boaz enters the scene. I like best how J. Vernon McGee explains Boaz's conduct and character as he arrives for work. Here's what the old-time preacher said...

"Notice what he did when he got out there. He said to the reapers, "The Lord be with you." That's capital speaking. And they responded, "The Lord bless thee," and that's labor answering. Say, that doesn't sound like some of the labor leaders and capitalists of our day, does it? It doesn't sound like the steel workers or the steel owners either. Unfortunately, capital and labor both are very far from God today. Now, frankly, I am a poor preacher, and I'm not a capitalist. My dad was a working man. I remember him in overalls most of the time because he was a hard worker. I just can't sanction godless capitalism today. From listening to them, I get the impression that most of the labor leaders are very godless. I don't take sides today. I just wish that we could get something of real Christianity, the real born-again type, into this area. It would certainly help the relationship. You'd hear language like this. Capital: "The Lord be with you." And then labor answering: "The Lord bless thee." My, what a marvelous capital/labor relationship existed there in the fields of Boaz!" (Quoted from J.Vernon McGee's Radio Program, Thru The Bible)

What a difference our world would be if men of standing, like Boaz, stood up and acknowledged Christ in their day-to-day dealings. What a difference it would be if our politicians, business leaders, marketers, and celebrities took this concept seriously. Wouldn't our governments be different? Wouldn't our economies and business dealings find God's favor and be blessed? What if we, as God's people, only voted for such individuals? And if corruption set-in, what if we were bold enough to stand up and volunteer our own lives in order to set the correct example - humbly taking on the role as God's representative? What if we chose to only give our business and funds exclusively to those people and companies who were interested in serving God faithfully? If we actually did this, wouldn't our infrastructures resemble Heaven's economy a little more? If we all took the necessary time to acknowledge God first and obediently promote and follow His commandments in all areas of industry - what do you think that would do? Wouldn't it make all the difference in our world if we insisted and expected those in leadership to joyfully and ethically work with eternity in mind?

Why don't Christians insist on this? Why don't we expect men of standing to behave this way?

Ladies, there is nothing more attractive than a godly man - a man that follows God in every way. Men who obey our King's commands with joy. Men who do not live for the things of this life but rather for God's kingdom. I love seeing a godly man who willingly gives freely of all his resources and gladly suffers as a consequence of their faith. Such men always try to act justly and love mercy. They walk humbly with Jesus. These men do not swindle or defraud... they do not gossip or slander. They make the effort to keep their mind and heart pure - guarding their eyes and ears from filth and sin. Yes, such a man is sooo handsome! Why? Because WHO they represent (Jesus) is irresistible!!!

I love when a man embraces his role as the spiritual leader of his family. I love when such men strive to please God in all their actions. These are patient men who listen to others without judging. They offer scriptural guidance and counsel when necessary. They make a point to do all things through Christ who gives them their strength. These are the men we should be absolutely gaga over, ladies. These are the men we should spend all our energy promoting and lifting up.

Considering how many people acknowledge being "Christian" today, I am shocked that we, as devoted women - as helpmates, don't encourage more of our men to step up to the plate and openly share their faith in how they live and work. I'm astounded that we aren't doing all we can to inspire them to be more vocal and speak up publicly about living biblically. I am saddened that the idea of living to please God in ALL areas remains low on our priority list. Instead, we remain distracted by the lust of our own eyes, the pride of our own lives. But what has our selfishness cost us? What will our world look like when our children become men of standing?

Ladies, we can have awareness of biblical doctrines, we can know all the theological terms, we may be able to translate the Bible from the original Greek and so on, but the principle of Micah 6:8 stands true... we must live as Jesus' example and, as godly helpmates, encourage our men to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God - ALWAYS! Even in business. Even in politics. Even at home, in church, while watching television, while working on the computer, while doing anything! We, as women, were created to benefit and help man succeed. So, are you living a life that helps or hurts this effort?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

The Lord be with you, ladies! The Lord bless you!

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Thursday, August 22, 2013

ruth: gleaning in the fields of divine providence (part 6)

Now Naomi had a relative on her husband's side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor." Naomi said to her, "Go ahead, my daughter."

So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters.

As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech. Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, "The LORD be with you!"

"The LORD bless you!" they called back. Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, "Whose young woman is that?"

The foreman replied, "She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, 'Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.' She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter."

So Boaz said to Ruth, "My daughter, listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled." At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?" Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

"May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord," she said. "You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls."

At mealtime Boaz said to her, "Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar." When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, "Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don't embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don't rebuke her."

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough. Her mother-in-law asked her, "Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!" Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. "The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz," she said.

"The LORD bless him!" Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. "He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead." She added, "That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers." Then Ruth the Moabitess said, "He even said to me, 'Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.' "

Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, "It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else's field you might be harmed." So Ruth stayed close to the servant girls of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2)

Well, here we are in Ruth chapter 2!!! Yea! If you recall, when we last studied the activities of Ruth and Naomi, they had just arrived in Bethlehem where the barley harvest was beginning. The two widows had traveled from Moab with nothing to claim except each other. They had returned seeking to find God's favor in His land of promise... in the place where He vowed to provide for His people.

So, as we begin reading Ruth chapter 2, let's be sure to look at the parallels of Ruth and Naomi moving from their old Moabite life filled with famine and death into a new life of promise and redemption. Such a transition sounds familiar, doesn't it? It should if you have also been redeemed.

You see, this parallel is no coincidence. For hidden throughout the Old Testament is the introduction to Jesus the Savior. Throughout the Bible, His message of hope is promised and displayed. Here in the pages of Ruth, God makes no exception... Here, we will be shown the love of our eternal Kinsman-Redeemer. We will witness Christ's love between Boaz and Ruth... a heartwarming romance filled with kindness, selflessness, and hope. But before we are introduced to the heart and character of our Heavenly Husband, let's first stop and take note of God's blessed barley harvest.

Let's notice the condition, the abundance, that awaits Ruth's arrival in God's promised land. It is key to consider her helpless, hopeless situation and then realize the significance of her choosing to glean in Boaz's field. For no other field would produce the same abundance (lineage to the Lord Jesus Christ). No other crop would introduce Ruth to Boaz or offer her a secure, blessed future and the love of a lifetime.

Don't you find that interesting? Can't you picture Ruth going out that day... walking down the road - seeking a fertile place to find food to feed her and Naomi. So, how in the world did Ruth end up in Boaz's field?

Did God put up a billboard with a big, neon arrow pointing to Boaz's place?


Did Ruth wake up and hear God's voice like Jonah did when God told him to go to Nineveh?

No again.

"As it turned out..." Here in scripture, we find Ruth in the exact place and before the exact person she needed to meet in order to be nourished and blessed beyond measure. Here, we watch Boaz as he notices Ruth and inquires about her security and future. Could this happenstance be attributed only to chance... or something - someone more?

Ladies, many of us claim Almighty God as our own. Many of us believe that He is the only Way, Truth, Life. But in our average, hum-drum, human life, we don't necessarily feel "led" to walk in one direction or another. Sure, if we love Him, we make every effort to know and obey His Word. We memorize and claim His promises while seeking and trusting the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and strength to stay true to God's commandments. But, let's face it, do we regularly receive personal texts from Jesus informing us which specific grocery store we should shop at? No, not likely... at least not in our usual day-to-day.

That said, we can rest assured that God will guide His people to the right field to glean in. God will direct our steps to the places we are supposed to walk. God will put us before the people He wants us to meet. How do I know this? Because He tells us so in His Word.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. (Psalms 37:23, King James Version)

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

All that said, let's not miss that Ruth never stops walking in faith. She lives her life trusting that her God will automatically lead her to the right field and provide for her (and Naomi's) needs. She is secure because she is walking in His Way. She has chosen to live close to her Master in His promised land. Because of this, Ruth believes that somehow, someway, God will indeed restore and renew her from her grief, famine, loss, sorrow, loneliness, heartbreak, barrenness, emptiness. Why? Because Ruth trusts God's character. She has taken the time to familiarize herself with Who He is and What He has promised to His own. Despite where she walks... irrespective of who she meets... no matter what happens... Ruth believes God will provide for ALL her needs... so she gleans. And rather than worry over another's favor, Ruth chooses to jump right in - spending her energy towards finding nourishment to share with others.
Such a lovely, devoted, Christian woman is this! One who is willing to get her hands dirty in order to replenish and strengthen not only herself, but others. One who is wise to listen and generous to care for her elders, her friends, her loved ones. One who is respectful of the boundaries and laws of men, yet still capable of displaying her testimony graciously, silently, prayerfully as she allows the Holy Spirit to direct her walk and use her works to capture the attention of those who may need to see Jesus in her life.

We have so much to learn from this wonderful book of the Bible, ladies. Today, let's pause and consider God's sovereignty in our own lives. Let's abide in His promises and trust that He will direct our steps... every step. He is in complete control and will continue to show us what is good for us in His eternal, unchanging Word.

Yes, as we live out our daily lives, let's do so with complete devotion to Jesus - always displaying His grace, reflecting His humility and, sharing His love to everyone we encounter. His favor is all we need seek. He will provide His harvest and redeem and nourish those who love and trust Him. So, love and trust Him, ladies. Glean! This is the day.

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

ruth: from grief to grace (part 5)

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?"

"Don't call me Naomi, "she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. (Ruth 1:19-22)

As we wrap up chapter one, let's take a look at it's final lesson. In my opinion, it is one of the most important lessons. Let's recall where we left off. We are re-entering Bethlehem with these two women. A very heartbroken Naomi returns and the whole town is stirred. As people begin to inquire, she says in her despair, "Don't call me Naomi... call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty."

Wait. Did I miss something? Wasn't Ruth with Naomi? Hadn't she pledged herself to always be a part of Naomi's family? Yes, it was Ruth who vowed, "for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God...where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me." (Ruth 1:16-17, King James Verson) So why on earth would Naomi say the Lord brought her back empty? Why claim bitterness as your new name and disregard those who love you?

I think it is very easy to hurt those closest to us. I think when times become very rocky - when stress, trials, and earth shattering hardships occur, we quickly forget God's big picture and give into the bitterness and despair of the moment. In turn, we thoughtlessly lash out, mistreat, and even ignore those who love us most. We turn into drama monsters and act selfishly and like spoiled children.

Naomi did not return empty. She returned with a daughter-in-law who adored and loved her. A true friend who wished to see Naomi blessed and happy. A beloved confidant who could sympathize with the same grief of losing a husband and home. In fact, Naomi returned with much - she had Ruth. Yet she could only focus on her own bitterness.

Interestingly enough, Ruth reacted differently. Ruth could have joined Naomi in her pity party and complained as well. But notice, she says nothing. She simply accompanies Naomi... faithfully walking by her side as they enter the town. Ruth silently endured gossip and Naomi's harsh words and embarrassing disregard. She chose to love and remain positive while proceding forward from famine and walking directly toward God's harvest.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

Ladies, when we speak thoughtlessly and lash out in frustration to those who love us, it hurts. Rather than respond to Naomi's words with a retort she may later regret, Ruth knew that it was best to remain silent and display grace. Rather than add fuel to the fire, Ruth understood that is always right to be humble, sympathetic, and compassionate rather than to be recognized or defensive.

So, what is grace? Well, there is only one kind of grace... God's grace. And God's grace offers unconditional love. It is freely given in spite of one's bank account, popularity, or education. God's grace is for everyone and offers unmerited favor and acceptance, giving worth and credibility to it's recipient. God's grace lifts up, restores, supports. It encourages His holiness and exposes His love in all circumstances.

So how do you get God's grace? And how do you extend God's grace to others? There is only one answer... Jesus. For without Jesus there can be no grace. Grace is a gift from God... and Jesus is the gift!!!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14)

Did you read that last verse? Sin cannot master us if we embrace the grace of Jesus in our lives! Sometimes, we forget this and give into our own bitterness and frustration, don't we? Sometimes we stumble and lash out at those around us, just like Naomi. Sure, it's an easy path to take... a wide path that so many can stumble down. Like anyone else, I have faced my fair share of earthly trouble and discouragement. I have fallen in this area time and again, and have given those I love an earful of nastiness and trouble. Fortunately, my God is always gracious. My God is always ready to lead me back to His narrow but righteous path. With Christ, I am learning to see His bigger picture... His eternal hope is right there to rejoice over... even through the trials - ESPECIALLY through the trials!

Ladies, in overwhelming and disappointing times, I encourage you to remember Ruth's example. Plan ahead for such situations and seek the Holy Spirit in prayer while meditating on God's Word. Come to know every verse that talks about His grace. Then, when trials come (and they will indeed come) follow these steps: (1) Take a deep, refreshing breath. (2) In Jesus' name, choose to hold your tongue. (3) Pray for God's Words on grace to consume your heart and mind. (4) Look at others the same way Jesus does. (5) In Jesus' name, choose to love love love love LOVE!

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15)

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)

This is the day to lay aside our bitterness and disappointment. This is the day to give God all our grief and despair, trusting Him for solutions in His perfect timing. This is the day to rejoice and see the big picture... the eternal hope of our King, Jesus. His harvest is plenty and awaits us. His kingdom comes. So, today let's choose to love others with grace... God's wonderful, blessed, undeserving, holy grace. Amen.


Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

ruth: breaking news can break (part 4)

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?"

"Don't call me Naomi, "she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. (Ruth 1:19-22)

Notice how the whole town of Bethlehem (especially the women) responded to Naomi's return. Isn't it just like us "holier than thou's" to be stirred with chatter when the Naomi's of our day return from living in Moabite corruption? Don't we just love to murmur and gossip over the shameful details of another's life? Oh, how we love to point out how broken, messed up, ruined, unhappy each returning Naomi appears? And can't you hear the rumors flying about Bethlehem once their cliques caught a glimpse of Ruth accompanying backslidden Naomi? Can't you imagine the two-faced tattlers running to Naomi with arms extended - ready only to receive her in order to discover the latest scoop for circulation? I can almost hear as they sing their hypocritical welcome, "Can this be Naomi?"

How tempting it is to gossip and chatter over the scandalous behavior of others. We soooo enjoy watching others return with tale between their legs and reputation tarnished. Sure, ultimately we'll move past the gasp of today's scandal, for we are Christians after all. But first, let's relish in the chit chat, shall we? Let's stir up the pot a bit and enjoy the breaking news of someone's sinful choices. Let's expose and shame on the public's ever-so-hungry radar. Never mind that our breaking news can break the heart of someone even more. Never mind that we are living representatives of Jesus in all we say and do.


Ya know, Paul cautions against entertaining the habits of gossip and idle chatter. He warns against saying things we ought not to. (See 1 Timothy 5:12-13). Perhaps we too easily forget that scandal is not sport...? Perhaps.

“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man (or woman) who talks too much.” (Proverbs 20:19)

"You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue." (Psalm 52:4)

“A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:12-13)

"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." (Proverbs 10:19)

"A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)

Clearly, those who engage in gossip and idle talk do nothing but stir up trouble and cause anger, bitterness, and pain among others. It is unfortunate that many "Christians" thrive on this behavior and look for opportunities to tear down, destroy, and judge rather than pray, build up and encourage others to live God's healthy way. I find that usually when such slanderers are confronted, they deny the allegations and answer with excuses and rationalizations. Ahhhh, rationalizations. Satan's favorite response. Rather than admit wrongdoing, we rationalize... we blame someone else or attempt to minimize the seriousness of our sin by justifying and making excuses. But are we righteous because we think so... or because God says so?

Hmm again.

“A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.” (Proverbs 18:7-8)

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools... Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:21-22a; 28-32)

"Those who guard their tongues keep themselves from calamity." (Proverbs 21:23)

"The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly." (Proverbs 15:2)

Ladies, we must guard our hearts and hold our tongues - refraining from sinful gossip. I'm quite certain that when Naomi returned to Bethlehem, her old acquaintances were, yes, shocked to see her. And I'm sure there were many things different about her life to observe. (She left wealthy and returned poor. She left married and returned a widow.) However, notice that we see no details of the Israelites (God's people) offering to alleviate her pain or minister to her in any way. Instead, they chattered and wagged their tongues. They stirred the proverbial pot and hurt Naomi even more. "Call me Mara," she bitterly cries. "I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty." Don't you hear the hopeless tone in her voice? Don't you feel her despair? Yet all her community did was feed on the chatter. All they could focus on was the scandal. I'm sure her posture slumped as she heard the whispers behind her back. Perhaps she recalls how easy it was to leave this so-called Christian crowd and move to Moab before. Is this how God wants us to behave toward each other?

Oh ladies, what about love? What about lightening Naomi's load by helping, caring, ministering, listening? What about sharing Jesus in how we respond to each other's trials and stumbles? What about promoting His way rather than feeding our curious and corrupt egos?

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)

"LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman." (Psalm 15:1-3)

I encourage every DW to pray over this lesson for we all are guilty of gossip. We all relish in hearing, consuming and spreading scandalous news. Deep down, we enjoy watching others fail, lose, trip up. Why? Because with gossip, we feel justified to enjoy all the gritty details of another's sinfulness yet egotistically save face by maintaining a so-called form of justified "righteousness". But gossip in any form is sin, ladies. Let's each consider our involvement in this matter and pray for God to give us a humble heart - the heart of Christ.

Ask yourself... are you speaking, acting, loving in alignment with Jesus? Do you live as His faithful ambassador and nourish every person you encounter - even with your silence? Consider how you represent the King who never, ever shames... who ALWAYS builds up and restores.

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." (2 Corinthians 5:20a)

"My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long." (Psalm 35:28)

"She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue." (Proverbs 31:26)

I hope you are enjoying this study as much as I am. There are so many lessons... so many truths to absorb. Let's take our time and savor every section - allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us, convict us, and change us to live a life that honors Jesus every day.

A careless word may kindle strife.
A cruel word may wreck a life.
A bitter word may hate instill.
A brutal word may smite and kill.
A gracious word may smooth the way.
A joyous word may light the day.
A timely word may lessen stress.
A loving word may heal and bless.

I love you all. Have a wonderful day in Jesus Name! XOXOX! ~Victoria

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Monday, August 19, 2013

ruth: menuchah (part 3)

When she (Naomi) heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband." Then she kissed them and they wept aloud and said to her, "We will go back with you to your people." But Naomi said, "Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me - even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons - would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD's hand has gone out against me!" At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her. "Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her." But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. (Ruth 1:6-19a)

While studying this section of Ruth, the Lord kept grabbing my attention around one key word. It is the word "rest" in verse 9. In Hebrew, this word is "menuchah" and it is a very big deal kind of blessing. So, what is the blessing? Well, Naomi is praying for these two ladies to not only find another husband, but to be at peace in a home filled with love, comfort, security, calm, refreshment, and yes... rest. She is not just shaking their hand, wishing them well with a thank-you very much, and sending them on their merry way. No, Naomi deeply loves these girls as her own daughters. (Notice how many times she refers to them as "my daughters".) She wants the very best for them and is praying for Orpah and Ruth to be blessed abundantly - to receive true peace and love in their lives. Clearly this is not the stereotypical mother-in-law (or should I say monster-in-law) arrangement so common of today. No, clearly Naomi loves Orpah. Undoubtedly, Naomi loves Ruth.

To better understand the love behind Naomi's blessing, let's look at the negative side (or absence) of this particular kind of "menuchah" rest. In Deuteronomy we read, "Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting (menuchah) place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, 'If only it were evening!' and in the evening, 'If only it were morning!' - because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see." (Deuteronomy 28:65-67) Here we see the lack of "menuchah" rest and what it's absence can produce: uncomfortableness, anxiousness, weariness, longing, despair, suspense, dread, uncertainty, and terror. YUCK!

Think about earlier days, when both of Naomi's sons were still alive and planning to marry these two Moabite women. Do you think Naomi was thrilled to watch her boys break Mosaic law? Of course not! Do you think that she hesitated to welcome in these idol-worshipping pagan women? Of course she hesitated! Undoubtedly, Orpah and Ruth were NOT Naomi's dream brides for her two sons. But if she was going to be honest about it - she knew her family was already living outside of God's promised land. She knew she had followed her husband in making many mistakes in upbringing their children... children who were now adults and capable of making their own decisions. Sure, Naomi tried to warn her grown-up boys against the dangers of marrying an unbeliever. But it felt hypocritical... for she moved to live amongst these unbelievers, didn't she? So, her own life choices did not match her precautions. That said, I'm certain when the final "I do's" were spoken, Naomi's heart sank as she watched her only children become unequally yoked with two unbelievers.

But a lot has changed since those days. Now we see three women in tears over the thought of parting ways. We see two daughters-in-law begging to stay with their mother-in-law rather than running directly home to their own biological parents. But why? The answer is this... Naomi chose to show REAL LOVE to Orpah and Ruth. Once married to her sons, Naomi chose to adopt these two girls as her own children and selflessly welcome them into her "menuchah" home. Yes, we can assume that Naomi tried to persuade her sons from marrying Orpah and Ruth before their wedding day. But once the deed was done, Naomi didn't rub their face in it. She didn't say, "You made your bed and now must sleep in it." She did not sever all ties, change the locks, and walk away from her family. Nor did she scheme for everything to fail and fall apart. No, Naomi chose simply to love. She made a holy decision to love her new daughters and wisely bless both couples with welcoming arms and a positive, restorative "menuchah" home.

What happens when we make our home a "menuchah" home? What happens when we live a "menuchah" life? What happens when we stop worrying about all the trophies and belongings we've acquired and instead start sharing, blessing, building, and offering a godly place of peace, comfort, rest? ...where people matter more than things? ...where love dictates our words, thoughts, actions, heart? What happens when we sacrificially give our time and resources to benefit others around us - all the while encouraging "peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." (See 1 Timothy 2:2.) Can such a life expose the heart of Christ to others? Indeed. Can such a testimony introduce someone to the throne... the home of the Most High? Absolutely.

No matter how you slice it, it is clear that Naomi's love made a huge impact on both Orpah and Ruth. Look at their commitment/affection when they state, "We will go back with you to your people." Their initial plan was to remain with their beloved mother-in-law always. Only until Naomi explains how difficult it will be for them to stay with her, does Orpah leave. And in a way, can you blame her? In that day, single women could not own their own property. They had no rights except under the household that claimed them and offered them security. And even though there were laws to protect widows in their distress (Deuteronomy 24:17, 19, 21; 27:19), it is clear that those laws were often overlooked and disregarded (Jeremiah 7:6; Malachi 3:5). Surely it would be easier for Orpah and Ruth to return home to their father's house and try again. For no man in Bethlehem would marry a Moabite woman, would they? No, it was evident that where Naomi was headed was too challenging and difficult. Better to fondly remember her and head back to what is familiar and "safe"... right?

After reasoning all her options, comfort won out for Orpah and she walked away toward the greener grass of Moab, exiting the pages of Scripture and falling out of our story forever. Wish her well, ladies. She sure was nice, wasn't she? A real sweetie. A lovely girl with so much promise. But unfortunately, Orpah's seed never took root. Her life, in terms of eternity, proved unfruitful. For she didn't choose to follow God. Instead, she ran back to the easy path at the first sign of trouble. Her idols and old worldly life were happily waiting for her to return. Goodbye Orpah. Go enjoy your "best life" now.

Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown." (Mark 4:13-20)

Ah, but not Ruth. Green grass or not... Ruth could not bear to be separated from Naomi - a women so incredibly dear to her heart. Not only was Naomi Ruth's deceased husband's mother... but she proved herself a real friend, a mentor, a role-model. Naomi was the true heart of their home. So much so, that Ruth couldn't bear the thought of parting ways with Naomi. For she knew no other women like her. She never experienced such love from anyone else. You see, Ruth came to understand that Naomi knew God. Naomi was positive and accepting and had a REAL hope of an eternal future. She didn't pose a fake spiritualness intent to make you always numbly "feel" good and in control. No, no matter how complex, uncomfortable, or out of control life got, Naomi was still different. The love she shared was REAL and worth it. Sure, she wasn't perfect, but Naomi represented a bigger, better God than Ruth had ever known. This was the One true God... the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! And for Ruth, this God was enough! He was a God that she was willing to embrace and hang on to tightly. He was a God that Ruth was willing to follow to Bethlehem and the ends of the earth, if necessary. Yes, God used Naomi's living testimony and selfless love to lead a pagan Moabite girl directly into the Master's "menuchah" kingdom and open arms. And He didn't stop there with Ruth. Later, God grants this seemingly hopeless woman a full life along with honorable lineage to our Holy Savior! Hallelujah! Our God is soooo generous to those who seek and trust Him! Yes, Ruth's determination and faithfulness to Naomi and her loving God produced a lasting abundance than she could never have imagined! Wow - what a story awaits us in these pages, huh? (... and we haven't even settled ourselves in Bethlehem yet!)

As we wrap up today's lesson, I encourage each DW to consider if you have made the same commitment as Ruth? Have you forsaken this world and all it's idolatry and corruption? Have you truly left Moab and identified yourself exclusively to God? Are His people, His family, His kingdom really yours? Let me be clear on this - you may be a really nice and sweet person, but you cannot be identified "with" God until you actually claim His Name and follow His Only Son home. And trust me when I tell you, Jesus is the only Way home to the Almighty Father. I hope and pray that you know Him. For indeed, He is enough!

Lastly, let us each live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Let us embrace our roles as devoted women of God and share His "menuchah" life. As the heart of our home and family, let's display a Proverbs 31 life by loving graciously, sacrificially, restoratively, intelligently, honorably. Let's uplift the King of kings by encouraging, embracing, and enjoying the blessing of others whom God has brought before us to minister His love with our very lives. Ladies, let's follow Jesus and live with His peaceful presence standing beside us, working in us, and loving through us. This is the day.

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Sunday, August 18, 2013

ruth: migration, misfortune, and mourning in Moab (part 2)

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man's name was Elimelech, his wife's name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Now Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. (Ruth 1:1-5)

In this brief introduction to the family of Elimelech, we see a few key things that must be pointed out before getting into the full story of Ruth. First, we start with an Israelite family of four... a father, mother, and two sons. (Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon and Kilion) A family who initially lived in God's Promised Land in the town of Bethlehem during a very dark time in Israel's history (the days when judges ruled). But why these times were considered dark is not because God turned from His people. Rather, the children of Israel began to turn from God. They began adopting pagan ways and bowing down to varying idols while practicing all forms of corruption. Of course, such blatant sin brings consequences. For a perfect God cannot tolerate sin.

Scripture tells us that Elimelech's family lived in a time where Israel was faced with famine. So, what did they decide to do? They left. They were frightened and dissatisfied by their circumstances and fled to the greener grasses of Moab. Moab - a place that God referred to in Psalm 108:9 as His "washbasin." Why a washbasin? To answer this question, we must go back to the birth of Moab in Genesis 19. Moab is the son of Lot (Abraham's nephew). You remember Lot, right? He's the guy we who ended up living in the wicked city of Sodom... the guy who thought so little of his two daughters that he offered them up for gang rape to distract the evil men of Sodom from defiling God's messengers. Read about Lot in Genesis 19, and you will see how God mercifully saves him from annihilation before destroying Sodom. You will see His disobedient wife turn to a pillar of salt. You will see his two scheming daughters later get Lot intoxicatingly drunk so that they could sleep with Him in order to conceive children of their own. Yuck! All that said, Moab is the resulted child from Lot's oldest daughter. In fact, the Hebrew meaning of Moab means "from father." Pretty disturbing family, huh?

Anyway, the Moabites grew to be an arrogant people who did not follow God. Yet, they were linked to Abraham through his nephew, Lot. So, God allowed them to survive but basically speaks of them as an outcast people with a very sordid and sorry beginning. To paraphrase, God viewed Moab as His place to wash, launder, and dispose of dirt and grime... a garbage can or toilet, if you will. So, clearly Moab was no place for this Israelite family to be running to, despite a famine or anything else.

And let's talk about that famine. Every time famine is brought up in God's Word, it is during a time of judgement and teaching from God. Rather than trusting God through the trial and allowing Him the opportunity to bless and provide for his family in "the House of Bread and Praise," Elimelech takes matters into his own hands and runs off with his wife and sons to the land of Moab. The act is similar to the prodigal son running away from his father's house, isn't it?

Elimelech selfishly leaves the place that God intended for him to be and treks fifty miles southeast to a pagan land known for worshipping false gods (enemies of the one true God) - a foolish place for a believer to sojourn, don't you think? And why does Elimelech do this... because the grass appeared greener where God was not. Oh, how easy it is to fall into this trap of the enemy. How simpler it can seem to not trust God through the consequences that result from our own sin. Rather than be still and obey our Master, we are prone to run into more sin. This act is seen today when singles fall prey to premarital sex. Or when we watch marriages fall apart as husbands/wives run away from their spouses into the arms of another lover or another life. We see parents abandon and sometimes even murder their own children in order to avoid responsibility. Or how about people charging up their credit cards and riding the roller coaster of serious debt, rather than readjusting their spending to live modestly and in honor of their King? Where is the trust that He will provide? Where is the faith that He is able to help us overcome our sinfulness and all that entails? Yes, there are so many ways to run away to the greener grasses of Moab rather than to turn from our sin and faithfully abide in God, trusting Him to restore us in our darkest days.

Elimelech chose to run away and led his household away from God's House of Bread and Praise. He abandoned God's promised land and went to live in the land of God's enemies. And what happened? Shortly thereafter we are reading Elimelech's obituary. Survived by his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion.

What happens to children when the ways of the world become more familiar than the ways of the Lord? What happens to children when they are allowed to partake in harmful, evil pleasures? News flash - they sin! Without the presence of God, and without parents nurturing righteousness and leading as godly examples, children are easily enticed by the enemy to follow wrong over right. Their selfishness is fed. Their focus is ungodly. So ultimately, these children grow into adulthood and choose worldly practices over what is biblical. This was the case for Elimelech's boys. Both at marrying age... both surrounded in the customs of paganism... they ended up rejecting God's way and marrying Moabites. They broke Mosaic Law and took wives of the women of Moab.

Then, without explanation, Mahlon and Kilion, the only children of Elimelech and Naomi, also die suddenly in our text. We don't know why. For scripture does not share further details. However, their names may give us a clue. Mahlon means "unhealthy" and Kilion means "puny." Perhaps these boys were sickly from birth? Either way, I do find it ironic that the very reason this prodigal family originally left Bethlehem was to escape the uncomfortableness of God's teaching and judgement? Yet, death had now overtaken 75 percent of their original group - leaving no heir to carry on the family name. I guess the grass outside of God's will is not greener after all, huh?

Ladies, this is an important lesson. For when we choose our own path - the opposite direction of God's plan, there can be only one outcome... death. Clearly, this proved true for Elimelech and his family. Don't let it prove true for you. Let's return to our Father's house, dear prodigal. Let's return and enjoy His many blessings and eternal reward. There is no trial on earth that He cannot see us through. Life can only be found in His healthy presence. So trust and obey, dear believer. There really is no other Way.

So, now we are left with mother Naomi and her two Moabite daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. All widows. All scared. All wondering what to do next. This is where we will stop our study today - with three lost and helpless widows. Three women, surrounded by sinful pagan customs, unprotected, and without a hope or foreseen future. I wonder what God has in store for these women? I wonder what could possibly happen next?

Until tomorrow, ladies! XOXOXOX ~Victoria

Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

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