Grace – Ruth 2

“Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. ‘What have I done to deserve such kindness?’ she asked. ‘I am only a foreigner.’” (Ruth 2:10)

In this chapter, Ruth asks permission from her mother-in-law, Naomi, if she could go to work, to help gather in the harvest. So off to work she goes, asking workers if she could follow along the other harvesters, picking up the stalks of grain they left behind. She just so happens to come to the field of a wealthy and influential man named Boaz, but not only that, she discovers he is one of her dead husbands closest relatives, a family redeemer. Boaz is exceptionally kind to her and tells her to stay in his field, not to go to other fields, lest she be harassed. He makes sure she is treated properly, ordering the young men to not give her a hard time, feeds her and even tells his workers to leave grain on the ground on purpose for her. So after her first day of work, she brings home a good amount of grain for her and Naomi, who was very blessed by it and by the news that she was working with Boaz.

Ruth was overwhelmed at the kindness of Boaz, that she asked him what she had done to deserve such kindness, since she was only a foreigner. Boaz goes onto tell her how he had heard of all her kindness to Naomi, and that was the reason why. But you know, many people experience the kindness and goodness of God and ask why. We haven’t deserved any of it. Have you heard people say, “I am only…” this and that, putting themselves down, knowing they don’t deserve God’s forgiveness and kindness? There is one word to describe this situation- GRACE. Grace means undeserved favour. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but by grace through faith, we are forgiven and saved! It is by grace we are saved, and we receive it through faith- believing that God will and does forgive us, doing what He has promised to do! Believe and receive His GRACE that none of us deserve, amen!

“Father, thank You that it is by grace through faith that I am saved and forgiven! Thank You for Your marvellous grace toward us who believe in You, and I will praise You for it for the rest of my life, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

*Rom 3:10-12, 21-24; Eph 2:8-10

Who’s following you? – Ruth 1

“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!’” (Ruth 1:16-17)

The book of Ruth is a wonderful account of how a Moabitess is accepted into the Israelite community and ends up being in the lineage of the Messiah! It starts off in this chapter telling of a woman named Naomi. Her and her husband Elimelech were from Bethlehem in Judea, and they had two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. Because there was a severe famine in the land, they moved to the land of Moab where their two sons ended up marrying Orpah and Ruth- the focus of the story. In Moab, Elimelech dies, and ten years later, Mahlon and Kilion also dies. So Naomi is left with her two daughters-in-law. When she hears that the Lord has blessed the land of Judah again, she decides to go back to her homeland with her daughters-in-law, but on the way tells them both they should go home and find security with new husbands. Orpah, though sad, goes home. But Ruth is determined to stay with Naomi and makes a covenant with her, making the God of Naomi her God as well as everything else, and commits to even die where she dies.

The love that Ruth must have had for her mother-in-law, to make her commit her whole life to her, that she even changed who she worshipped! She left the old ways and customs and gods of the Moabites, to serve the living God of Naomi. My question today is, who’s following you? Has anyone lately decided to give up all they have, all their old ways and customs and even gods, just to follow the God who lives in you? I know that no one has with me yet! Maybe it’s because we are not really shining the light of Christ, allowing the love of God to shine through us. It’s a powerful thought, and very challenging- oh to influence others so much so, that they would change their whole lifestyle and outlook on life- their deepest values to follow the God you serve! Paul said be imitators of me, as I am of Christ! We need to walk as Jesus walked, an example for others to really follow. Amen.

“Father, I pray You would cause me to be an influence on others, that they would turn and follow You with all their heart, giving up all the old ways they used to live. Let me be an example in the world around me and the people You place in my path of relationship, that I may win some for Christ- in Jesus’ name, amen.”

Pray for our leaders – Judges 21

“In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

Israel has now lost a tribe- the tribe of Benjamin. There are only 600 men left and Israel now feels sorry for their brother. So they work out an idea to get wives for their brother.They made two vows: that none of them were to give their daughters in marriage to any man from Benjamin, and that anyone who did not show up to Mizpah with all Israel to fight Benjamin, would be put to death. So they discovered Jabesh-Gilead did not assemble with them at Mizpah, so they ordered that all the men and women who were not virgins be killed, and all the virgin daughters be taken and given to the remaining Benjamites. They found 400 virgins, so they were short by 200! Their next plan for the remaining was to snatch the women at the annual festival at Shiloh- that worked! And when their fathers and brothers would protest, the elders of Israel would tell them to be sympathetic, for they never found wives for the remaining, and they wouldn’t be guilty of breaking their vow, because they didn’t actually give them away!

There’s a theme that has run through this book to suggest that without good leadership, the people go astray. When the Shephard is gone, the sheep scatter- or, when the cat’s asleep, the mice come out to play! All throughout, when one Judge died, the people did evil in the sight of the Lord, and from chapter 18, it begins to say and ends the book with, “in those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” This just confirms what this whole book is about: the need for good, strong leadership. The sins in this book grew worse from idolatry to full on rape and murder, leading to a whole tribe being massacred and almost being wiped out- all because the people had no king! Without a vision, the people cast off restraint. If there are no laws, the land becomes lawless. Man needs restraint, therefore, man needs a leader to cast vision and lead them in the right direction. The Bible says to pray for our leaders, and we need to do that more than ever. If we don’t, we will see our towns and communities and our nation cast off restraint- and that means chaos.

“Father, I pray for our leaders, in our nations, towns, communities and churches- that You would strengthen them and lead them into Your purposes in these last days. I pray for faithfulness in our leaders, that Your church would remain strong and rise up, fulfilling its mandate on the earth. I pray for the sheep, that they would be safe in Your fold, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

*Prov 29:18;

United we stand, divided we fall – Judges 20

“So all the Israelites were completely united, and they gathered together to attack the town.”

In this chapter, after hearing from the Levite whose concubine was murdered, all the Israelites came in complete unity to attack Gibeah. Since the tribe of Benjamin wouldn’t hand over the evildoers from Gibeah, but instead all of Benjamin came to defend them, Israel had no choice but to attack the whole tribe. They asked the Lord which tribe should go first, and He responded with Judah. So they went to attack, but were defeated the first two days of the battle, losing 40,000 men. After each day they wept before the Lord, seeking direction from God as to whether they should continue to attack them, because they were losing. But God told them after the second day that He would hand them over to them the third day. So this time, Benjamin was ambushed and defeated, and almost a whole tribe was wiped out, leaving only 600 men who escaped to the rock of Rimmon.

The Israelites faced a situation they had never faced before, dealing with a rebellious brother, who had done the worst sin Israel had ever faced since coming out of Egypt. The only way they were going to defeat them is if all of Israel were completely united as one man. The Levite challenged them to make their decision here and now, and the response was remarkable. Despite losing 40,000 men, they still decided to seek God about what to do and went on with the battle in unity- no one gave up the fight even though they were losing it. So because of this, God gave Benjamin to them and defeated them, purging Israel from the sin. Just as Israel was united and won the victory, the church today needs to be united if we are going to see victory after victory. The early church was united the same way and saw souls added daily, then multiplied- remember, united we stand, divided we fall. So stay in unity and don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together.

“Father, thank You for the church and the power You have made available to us in Christ. I pray as Jesus prayed- that we would be one as You and the Son are One. May we abide in You and You in us, that we may walk in the victory You have ordained for us, seeing souls added and multiplied to Your church, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

*John 17; Acts 2:1-4,42-47; Heb 10:24-25

Influence your world – Judges 19

“Everyone who saw it said, ‘such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt. Think about it! What are we going to do? Who’s going to speak up?” (Judges 19:30)

In this chapter begins the account of how the tribe of Benjamin almost came to extinction. It started out with a Levite travelling from Ephraim to Bethlehem to get his concubine back, and on the way back, they stopped at an old man’s place in Gibeah, in the land of Benjamin. That night, leading citizens of the town surrounded the house, wanting to rape the Levite. But the Levite pushes his concubine out instead, who gets raped all night and ends up dying. So when morning came, he took her body back to his home in Ephraim, cuts her in twelve pieces and sends them to all the twelve tribes of Israel. At this, Israel now faced the worst crime ever committed since Israel left Egypt- what were they going to do about it, and who was going to speak up?

Just as Israel was faced with a decision about what to do with sin, at some point, we will all face that decision- in our own lives, in our communities, in our nation and our world. We need to be a church that rises up, being a voice in our communities. Something has to be done about the sins ravaging our communities everywhere. If we don’t speak up, who will?
So whatever is happening in your life and around you, stand up as a believer in Christ and do something to bring about change- you can influence your world, for greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world!

“Father, thank You that You have filled me with Your Spirit to influence this world and bring about Your purposes in the earth. Help us to stand up for justice for the poor and oppressed and make a difference in their lives- in Jesus’ name, amen.”

Watch and pray! – Judges 18

“So they went on to the town of Laish, where they noticed the people living carefree lives, like the Sidonians; they were peaceful and secure. The people were also wealthy because their land was very fertile. And they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby.” (Judges 18:7)

In this chapter, the tribe of Dan still hadn’t conquered the land assigned to them. So on the way to Laish, they took Micah’s household idols and his Levite priest, which he could do nothing about, and went to explore Laish. When they scouted that land, they found the people there were living carefree lives, were peaceful and secure, so they ended up taking the town and renaming it Dan, after their ancestor. But the tribe of Dan was in idolatry, and it says that they worshipped this idol right up to the Exile- which makes me think that Judges was written after the exile, not by Samuel, according to Jewish tradition.

The people of Laish had no chance. They were not only peaceful and secure, living carefree lives- but they had no allies nearby to help them. They probably didn’t even have any warriors ready to fight. They were taken totally by surprise, so were soundly defeated.
Jesus commanded His disciples to watch and pray, lest they fall into temptation. The Apostle Peter tells us to be sober and vigilant, for the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Do you notice that drunk people aren’t ready for anything? They live carefree, and for the moment. If we are living carefree lives and have no one nearby to help us- no fellow christians around us to encourage us, nor are praying- we won’t be ready when they enemy comes, and will fall prey to his attacks. We must be on our guard! We need to keep praying and reading, we need to keep in fellowship with eachother, not living carefree lives. Watch and pray!

“Lord, help me not to be slack, but to watch and pray, not living a carefree life, but being ready for any attack the enemy would bring against me. Thank You that in Christ I am an overcomer and more than a conqueror- in Jesus’ name, amen,”

*Luke 22:45-46; 1 Peter 5:8

The importance of leadership – Judges 17

“In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (Judges 17:6)

In this chapter, there was a man named Micah who had stolen 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother. When he heard that his mother had placed a curse on the thief, he came to her and admitted his wrong, and returned the money. So she forgave him and in honour of her son for returning the money, she had an idol made for 200 silver coins, and gave it to him. So Micah set up the idol, made an ephod and made his own priesthood. He even found a Levite to serve him as priest, and thought that God would surely bless him for his sake.

The key to this chapter is in verse 6, where all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes, because they had no king to lead them. In Proverbs, it says that people may be pure or right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their hearts and truly knows ones state. People do what is right in their own eyes for two reasons: either they have no leader available to tell them the truth, or they won’t submit to authority and choose to do what they think is right. But the truth is, we all like sheep, have gone astray, each one to his own way…and we desperately need a shepherd. Jesus, ultimately is our Good Shepherd we receive our guidance from, but He raises up shepherds to lead His sheep. Also in Proverbs, it says where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint, or they perish. Leaders cast vision and help the people stay focussed. So obey and respect your leaders, submit to their God given authority, and you won’t do what seems right in your own eyes, and die- you will obey the truth and live. And if you are a leader, a stricter judgement is on you, so make sure you lead in truth. Study to show yourself approved, a workman that doesn’t need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth- amen.

“Lord, I thank You for the importance of leadership in the church, for without godly leadership, the people will cast off restraint and perish. Without the truth of the Word of God, people will easily be deceived into going their own way, not Yours. Help me to be the leader You’ve called me to be, to study hard, seek You diligently, so I may lead Your people in the ways of truth that is only found in Your Word- in Jesus’ name, amen.”

*Prov 3:7; 12:15; 16:2; 21:2; 29:18; 30:12