Promises – Take Two

And the Word became flesh…

As we look back to the beginning of God’s relationship with His people, there is an unbroken chain of promises which were given to faithful men and women in the Old Testament. These are signposts which point forward to the culmination of God’s redemptive plan. Redemption is woven into the very fabric of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. The Incarnation wasn’t a “chance-event“, rather it was part of God’s plan from the beginning of time.

God would have been entirely-justified had He chosen to strike Adam and Eve dead after their disobedience, but He didn’t. He could have chosen to restart humanity, perhaps without “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, but He didn’t. Instead, He chose to redeem humanity, at great cost to Himself, His only Son.

The first promise…
14  The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)

Cursed”, “on your belly” and “eat dust” are all symbols of how Satan will be humiliated. Satan seemed to have won the first skirmish, and he did, but God put him on notice that the war was far from over. Oh, Satan would continue “drawing-blood”, but God will be the ultimate-victor and Satan will be crushed like a cockroach.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed.” God was already promising that their would be two different “seed”, the righteous “seed of the woman”, and the unrighteous “seed of Satan”. The prophesied hostility between the ungodly “seed” of Satan, Cain, and the godly “seed”, Abel, took shape immediately, and resulted in Cain killing Abel (Genesis 4:5). The rest of Genesis 4 shows the rapidly-increasing godlessness of Cain and his progeny, until God stepped in…

Godly line of Seth…
25 Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:25-26)

Eve recognized that Seth was God’s appointed “heir” of that godly “seed”. The name “Seth” means “appointed”, and expresses Eve’s confidence that God would continue the covenant family in spite of Abel’s death. We then see glory given to God for His intervention in this conflict.

Enoch
21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. 22 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:21-24)

Of all the recorded Old Testament saints, only Enoch and Elijah did not experience physical death. (2 Kings 2:1-12; Hebrews 11:5)

Line of Noah…
9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. 10 Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Genesis 6:9-10)

The beginning of Genesis 6 describes how corrupt mankind had become, and yet, there was still a faithful-representative of that godly “seed”, Noah. After the flood, mankind must be rebuilt, and that responsibility falls to Noah’s three sons and their wives.

God’s covenant with creation…
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

22 “While the earth remains, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:20-22)

The sanctity of human life…
“Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man.

As God’s representatives on earth, we have been given the responsibility to protect human life and to avenge murder. Why? For in the image of God He made man. Yes, God’s image is marred and distorted by sin, but it is still there, regardless of what some people would like to believe.

7  “As for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.” (Genesis 9:6-7)

Where have we seen this command before? The original Creation Ordinance was given in Genesis 1:28.

God’s covenant with creation – continued
8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11 I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, 15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

18 Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. (Genesis 9:8-19)

Noah, in thanks to God for sparing his family during the flood, made an offering to the Lord. In response to Noah’s faith and offering, God made a covenant, not only with Noah, but also with all creation, that He would never-again destroy the earth and its inhabitants with a flood. Notice that, unlike previous and subsequent covenants, this was a uni-lateral covenant, and God gave us a perpetual-sign of His covenant with creation – a rainbow. Do you remember God’s covenant with creation when you see a rainbow?

Well, it didn’t take long before the conflict between the two “seeds” heated up again.

In the line of Shem…
18  Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan. 19  These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.

20  Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21  He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22  Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23  But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness. (Genesis 9:18-23)

Much to-do has been made about Noah getting “drunk” and “uncovered in his tent”, but I believe it has more to do with the commentator’s cultural norms and expectations than about what Noah actually did…

We do know that Ham “dishonored” his father (Genesis 9:22), and his offspring was cursed (Genesis 9:25). Maybe God didn’t kill-off all the ungodly “seed” in the flood after all…

24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25 So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.”

26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. (Genesis 9:24-26)

Whose land did the children of Israel conquer when they entered the Promised Land?

10 These are the records of the generations of Shem. Shem was one hundred years old, and became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; 11 and Shem lived five hundred years after he became the father of Arpachshad, and he had other sons and daughters. (Genesis 11:10-11)

24 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and became the father of Terah; 25 and Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after he became the father of Terah, and he had other sons and daughters.

26 Terah lived seventy years, and became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. (Genesis 11:24-26)

Promises to Abram…
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

What does this promise remind us of?

Abram and Melchizedek…
17 Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all. (Genesis 14:18-20)

“The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalms 110:4)

Melchizedek appeared almost as a “vapor” on the time-line of human-history, but he left a lasting-mark on redemption-history. He is only mentioned three times in the Bible, Genesis 14:18-20, Psalms 110:4, and Hebrews 7:1-22. He was a “type” of Christ.

At this point, you may be thinking “Why mention Melchizedek?” Aside from the fact that the Bible mentions him, there are no “insignificant” parts of the Bible, including the lists of names, the “begat’s” and “begot’s“, and the genealogies. Unlike us in the 21st century, the children of Israel, the Jews, didn’t build their “resume” on their “degrees, jobs and accomplishments” as we do, their genealogy WAS their “resume“. Take a peek at Matthew 1:1-16 for Jesus’ genealogy. It is full of surprises. While Melchizedek wasn’t a part of Jesus’ physical genealogy or “resume“, he WAS a part of Jesus’ “spiritual-resume“.

Melchizedek was a Priest and a King, and Jesus is our ETERNAL Prophet, Priest and King.

God’s covenant with Abram…
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.”

2 Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” 4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” 5 And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6)

We find an interesting promise in verse 5: “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” This promise goes far-beyond Abram’s physical-descendants – it speaks of Abraham’s spiritual-descendants, us, and harkens back to God’s previous promise to Abram; “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

The Sign of the covenant…
17 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. 2 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.”

3 Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. 7 I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 8 I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

9 God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. 13 A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

15 Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” 19 But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.” 22 When He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. (Genesis 17:1-22)

As we saw with the importance of the name “John”, names had meaning. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and Sarai’s name to Sarah, which mean respectively “father of nations” and “mother of kings”.

We know from Genesis 16 that Sarah tried to short-circuit God’s promise by giving Hagar to Abraham as his wife. Ishmael was the result of that union, and in the end, that arrangement only brought strife and discord to the family. Ishmael would father a great family, but with a disastrous outcome. Was there something “wrong” with Abraham fathering a child by Hagar? No, there wasn’t, in and of itself, because that was a common-custom of that day. The problem resulted from the intentions of that act – short-circuiting God’s promise. As we will see later on, Jacob fathered twelve sons by his two wives, Rachel and Leah, and by their handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah. They were his legitimate sons, and they became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Genesis 30:1-22) Judah, from whose tribe David and Jesus came, was borne to Jacob’s “unloved” wife, Leah. The priestly-line of Aaron came from the tribe of Levi, who was also borne to Leah. (Genesis 29:34-35)

Circumcision, as a “rite-of-passage” for a young Jewish boy, would continue to be seen as the mark of a “true-Jew”, and would become a point-of-conflict during the Apostalic era following Christ’s resurrection and ascension. That conflict would not be finally-resolved for non-Jewish believers until the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15.

God reiterated His promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah in verse 21; “But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.

Birth of Isaac Promised
18 Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 4 Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5 and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do, as you have said.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” 7 Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. 8 He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.

9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” 13 And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ 14 Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (Genesis 17:1-22, 18:1-15)

How long did it take for “bread and water” to morph into a feast? Observing the Near Eastern custom of hospitality, Abraham typifies the gracious host and is completely at the service of his guests.

We see the same kind of incredulous questioning from Sarah that we noted from Zachariah when Gabriel told him that they would become the parents to John; “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” How was that possible, them having a child in their old-age? “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” This phrase mirrors and prefigures what the angel told Mary in Luke 1:27.

God, in His providence, always maintained a line of Godly men and women down through the annals of time, men and women who were destined to be part of the lineage of the coming Savior. God hadn’t given up on His human image-bearers, and He was willing to do what it took to restore fallen humanity to a right relationship with Himself. We are privileged to be able to look back in time at these important events.

In Christ,
Steve

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Why I Celebrate The Birth Of Christ

Around this time of year, the anti-Christmas folks come out in full-force to try to shame and demean fellow-Christians into not celebrating the birth of Christ, and while their “reasons” may seem plausible on the surface, they are built on a false-pretext. Part of their pretext is that “it isn’t commanded in the Bible“, so if we are going to celebrate anything, we should still celebrate the Jewish feasts and festivals. I won’t go into why we no longer celebrate the Jewish feast and festivals, but only a handful of cults do.

I believe the real question comes down to; “Do we have good reason to celebrate the birth of Christ?“, to which I believe that the answer is a resounding “YES“. So, I am going to present my reasons for celebrating the birth of Christ. They are; its importance to our redemption, and the precedent for celebrating it.

Its importance to our redemption…

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…

The birth of Jesus Christ was THE most important event in human history, because, without His birth, there would have been no crucifixion or resurrection, thus no redemption. The birth of Jesus Christ was also the hinge-pin of redemption-history, tying the Old Testament to the New Testament and the Promises to their fulfillment.

The first promise of a Redeemer was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and it is recorded in Genesis 3:15. They had disobeyed God by eating the forbidden-fruit, and thus they had broken their relationship with God. Sin entered the world by their disobedience to God’s command, and we have inherited that sinful-nature. God did NOT accept this broken-relationship as the “new-normal“; rather He instituted a plan of redemption, whereby a “seed of the woman” would come someday to “crush the serpent’s head“. God wanted us to be restored to a right-relationship with Him, and in His love and grace, He was willing to do what it took to accomplish His goal.

Down through the annals of time, God gave many promises to select-people who would carry-on that special lineage from which this Redeemer would come. God also spoke through His prophets to remind His people that the Redeemer, the Messiah was yet to come.

This Redeemer would be no “ordinary man” because an “ordinary-man” could not live up to the righteous standards God demands. Adam had failed, and he only had ONE command to obey. This Redeemer had to be fully-human, yet perfect in all respects. He would be the “second-Adam“, the one who would perfectly fulfill all of God’s just requirements. He came to bring a “new-humanity” to mankind.

John the Baptist, in John 1:29-34, called Jesus “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Our deepest, most-urgent need is for a Savior, someone who will save us from our sins, because it is our sins which separate and exile us from God. Jesus came to be our Savior, to reconcile us to God by paying the just-price for our sins and imputing His perfect-righteousness on us. We gain, through Christ, the sinless-record we could never produce on our own.

That is why the Birth of Christ is SO important.

The precedent for celebrating….
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back; glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20)

Even though Jesus was born into humble-circumstances, God orchestrated a celebration of His birth. Angels serenaded a bewildered group of shepherds who were camped nearby for the night. I wonder if anyone else saw the heavenly-show. The shepherds didn’t waste any time checking out the marvelous news, and with the shepherds, we should glorify and praise our wonderful God.

Why did God orchestrate that celebration? “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” A Savior had been born, and not just any savior, He was Christ the Lord. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, had entered our time and our space as a human-being. God, who’s very Presence was so awesome and holy that He was unapproachable by any human, was lying in a manger, and He was here to become THE solution to man’s deepest-need, the need for salvation.

Not celebrating would be unthinkable to me because it would covey a “ho-hum” attitude towards God’s most marvelous gift. THAT is why I celebrate the birth of Christ.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Sola Deo Gloria!

According To The Order Of Melchizedec

Melchizedec is one of the least know and most mysterious people in the Bible, only mentioned in Genesis 14, Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews 7, but that doesn’t undercut his significance. He was a contemporary of Abraham, so he could not be descended from Levi and part of the Aaronic priesthood, and yet he was the priest of God Most High. His significance is explained in Hebrews 7.

Who was Melchizedek?
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”And he gave him a tithe of all. (Genesis 14:18-20)

7 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. (Hebrews 7:1-3)

As with many of the people in the Old Testament, his name has great meaning. The Hebrew word melech means “king“, and the Hebrew word zedek means “rightousness“. Thus, his name means “King of righteousness“, which means that he was a Priest.

He was also King of Salem, which means “peace“, however, Salem, which we know as Jerusalem, was one of the many city-states, each ruled by its own king, in the land of Canaan. This made Melchizidek both and King and a Priest. The only other person in the Bible who is described as both a King and a Priest is Jesus Christ. Melchizekek is seen as a type of Christ, our eternal Prophet, Priest and King.

From Hebrews 7:3, we learn that he was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life…“. Lineage and genealogy were very important in the Old Testament, particularly in the Aaronic priesthood, however, lineage had no bearing on Melchizedek’s priesthood, particularly since he predated the Jewish priesthood. Were there simply no records of his family-heritage, or was it just immaterial? Some Bible scholars believe that Melchizedek was a manifestation of the pre-incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, but the Bible doesn’t really support that interpretation. He is also compared to the Son of God, “but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.” Jesus Christ wouldn’t be compared to Himself.

Abraham and Melchizedek
Abraham wasn’t a king and he didn’t rule a city, but God had given him the land of Canaan in Genesis 13:14-17. He was still a nomadic-herdsman, but he did have many trained servants. Having his servants trained and armed was necessary to protect both his herds and his camp. When he heard that Lot, his nephew, had been captured, he armed his servants and went to retake what was rightfully his and to liberate Lot. (Genesis 14:13-16)

On his way back home, he encountered Melchizedek, who brought a feast out to him. Melchizedek pronounced a blessing on Abraham, 19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;”. Melchizedec also praised God for Abraham’s victory, 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then, Abraham did something interesting, And he gave him a tithe of all. 4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. He recognized that Melchizedek was greater than him, and someone who represented God. Mind you, this was long before God gave the Law, which means that Abraham gave this offering freely and without obligation.

The prophesy…
The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
2 The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of Your enemies!
3 Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth.
4 The Lord has sworn And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:1-4)

David, the Psalmist, is looking forward to the time when his greater-son, Jesus Christ, is given all power and authority and is enthroned to reign forever. God had promised that one of his heirs would have an eternal kingdom and would reign forever. (2 Samuel 7:16) We also see the promise of an eternal priesthood.

The King of Righteousness
4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. 5 And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; 6 but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. 8 Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. 9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

Need for a New Priesthood
11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.

14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

Greatness of the New Priest
20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath 21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
“The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek’”),

22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.

23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (Hebrews 7)

Jesus Christ has become our great High Priest, not by earthly-lineage, but by Divine-Appointment. Earthly High Priests lived to die. Jesus Christ lived to die and be raised from the dead, to live eternally. Thus, while an earthly High Priest only served for a limited time, Jesus Christ is living and serving, and will continue to serve for all eternity.

As New Testament believers, we rightly-understand that the Old Testament sacrificial-system has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and that the Temple, with its Aaronic-Priests, has also been eliminated, but even as Jesus Christ fulfilled and eliminated the old-order, He has also established a new-order of Priests with a new, perfect and eternal High Priest. The new Priesthood isn’t based on physical-lineage, as the old one was, but on spiritual-lineage. Those of us who have been “born-again” by faith in Christ have been appointed as Priests to God under our great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
“The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the very corner stone,”
8 and,
“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”;
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10)

If you thought that being a Christian was “boring“, think again…

Sola Deo Gloria!

Studies in Ruth – Ruth Goes To Work

We have come to one of the most amazing stories in the Old Testament. Ruth, who was from Moab, is not only accepted into the community, she is also welcomed by one of the prominent men in the community. Far from being lazy and hoping that someone is willing to help them out, she actively-pursued an opportunity to work for her keep and help feed them.

God had commanded the children of Israel to care for the poor, the stranger and the alien by giving them the opportunity to glean in their fields. They had been commanded to not harvest the corners of their fields, nor were they allowed to go back and get anything they missed, but they were to leave it untouched so that those less-fortunate than them could have a place to get food. (Leviticus 19:9-10, 23:22, and Deuteronomy 24:19-22)

19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.

21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. (Deuteronomy 24:19-22)

Another interesting command goes along with this one: 17 “You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge. 18 But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)

Not only were they to provide for the needs of those who were poor and needy, they were also to make sure that the alien and orphan got the justice they deserved. They weren’t to be treated as “second-class citizens” in the courts of law. Did you notice the reason why God gave these commands?

We saw last time that Naomi and Ruth had arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. Barley was the first grain to be harvested, and it was usually ready in about April. Thus, they had come home during a time when an abundant-harvest was a time of celebration and giving thanks to God. We will catch a glimpse of this celebration later on.

Ruth Gleans in Boaz’ Field
Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.

This verse seems to come out of left field; it interrupts the narrative, yet it is used to set up what will shortly come into the story. His name means in him is strength, and he is a man of standing, meaning that he was mighty in wealth and in godliness, a rare combination.

2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. 7 And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.”

God’s providence is very-evident in this story. Not only did Naomi and Ruth get to Bethlehem at the right time, they were near to a prominent man in the community who was not only quite-wealthy, but was related to Naomi. Was it just “coincidental” that she picked a field belonging to Boaz? It looks more like a “divine-appointment” to me.

We see more of Ruth’s character coming out in the section, she was not only ambitious, she was also hard-working. She asked Naomi if it was okay for her to go glean in someone’s field, thus honoring Naomi’s place in their family. She also didn’t presume that it was okay to glean in that field; she asked the head-reaper first. By the time Boaz came along, she had already been in the field for several hours.

When Boaz came from Bethlehem back to his farm, the first thing we need to notice is how he greets his reapers. We don’t see him acting and talking like a “head-honcho” even though he is talking to his servants. He said; “May the Lord be with you.” This sounds more like a benediction or doxology than a mere-greeting. He is calling on God to be with his laborers as they do their work. They are not just “hired-hands” or “servants“… He is the kind of godly-boss everyone should delight to work for.

Notice their response; “May the Lord bless you.” Again, we see a benediction or doxology. Was this their “customary-greeting“? If they had worked for Boaz for many years, this may have become their “customary-greeting“. Among the Finnish-Lutherans, their “customary-greeting” is “God’s peace“.

While Ruth is toiling, Boaz returns from town and greets his workers, and then asks the boss if he knows who this woman was who was gleaning. Some commentators suggest that Boaz was curious about her because of her great beauty, but if our text has mentioned her being beautiful, I missed it; probably he just didn’t recognize her. The overseer tells him who she was, and from there forward, our text records the kindness Boaz affords Ruth. Boaz, it seems, views Ruth as a part of his extended family and recognizes that he has a responsibility here to care for her in some way. Now let’s be clear about that; Boaz has no legal responsibility for Ruth because her husband was dead, and she is free to marry anyone who will have her. In addition, she is a Moabite, and in that case, he would have no responsibility for her at all, yet because of the loyalty that she has shown to Naomi, Boaz goes out of his way to help her.

We don’t know whether the head-reaper was plugged-in to the community-grapevine, but he already knew who Ruth was. As we will see in the next few verses, Ruth’s reputation had already made the rounds in that community. Is our reputation so “good” that it goes-before us, or is our reputation so “bad” that we wish that no-one knew about us?

Have you ever treated someone like “family” even though they are not “related” to you?

8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids. 9 Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11 Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. 12 May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.”

Boaz offered Ruth a “safe-place” to work, something that might not be guaranteed otherwise. Even though the Law required land-owners to allow the poor and needy to glean in their fields, some of them might not have been very “happy” about it. In addition, he also provided the means for her to get refreshed and to relax when she needed to.
Ruth didn’t take these extra “perks” for-granted, she asked why Boaz even noticed her, and she is thankful that he had noticed her.

It seems like Ruth must have been “the talk of the town” because Boaz already knew her whole history. As Boaz speaks of Ruth coming to seek “refuge under the wings of the God of Israel“, “refuge” became a recurring-theme for their future great-grandson, David, in the Psalms that he wrote. Psalm 36:7 is only one of many.

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

Boaz pronounced a blessing on Ruth; 12 “May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel,”

Even though Boaz “knows-of” or “knows-about” Ruth, he still doesn’t really “know” her yet. Thus it is in all of our relationships. Most of our relationships are superficial, at best. Even in marriage, our “most-intimate” relationship, we each have a long “voyage-of-discovery” as we travel life together, and we may not really know what makes our spouse “tick” until we go through some kind of traumatic life-event, such as loss of a job, or a major-move. That kind of event may bring out the “worst” in one or both spouses.

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers; and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. 16 Also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”

Notice that Boaz orders his men to leave her alone, that he gives her a seat at the table with the rest of the household (a household in the OT would include the servants) and that he arranges for her to receive considerably more grain than she would have received just from gleaning. Also, please take note of Ruth’s attitude of humility; even now she assumes no rights or entitlements.

Even though Boaz was “duty-bound” to allow Ruth to glean in his field, we see him “going above and beyond the call of duty” in how he treats Ruth. We call people who “go above and beyond the call of duty” Heroes.

These are two very unusual people!

17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 She took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied. 19 Her mother-in-law then said to her, “Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.” 21 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “Furthermore, he said to me, ‘You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.’” 22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field.” 23 So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2)

Even though reapers didn’t usually “thresh” or “beat-out” what they had harvested until the harvest was done, what Ruth had gleaned was useless unless she did “thresh” or “beat-out” her harvest. “Threshing” separated the grain from the stalk and chaff.

How much grain did she get? An “ephah” was about half a bushel, or about thirty-pounds of grain. Once that barley was ground into meal or flour, it was going to make a LOT of bread, or whatever else barley was used for.

Naomi was probably blown-away by how much barley Ruth brought home because it is unlikely that gleaning-alone would have netted her that much. It certainly got her attention. It also aroused her curiosity; “Where did you glean today and where did you work?“, and also garnered a blessing; “May he who took notice of you be blessed.” From blaming God for her misfortunes to asking God to bless the man who was blessing them…

Ruth’s answer will set the stage for the rest of this story; “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.” Why is this important? 20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.” Was Naomi already starting to “connect the dots“?, because in that culture, family-legacy was so important that God had given them a means for preserving family-lines (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). We will look at that in more detail later in our study, along with what it means for us today.

Naomi knows that Boaz is a kinsman-redeemer, which comes from the Hebrew word ga’al which means “kinsman-redeemer”. A kinsman-redeemer is a relative who is obligated to “redeem” the property, and sometimes the life or marriage, of a relation who has fallen into severe distress. For example, if there is real property that is owned by a widow, the kinsman-redeemer might buy that property so that the widow, who couldn’t farm it herself, has an income to live off of. They might also pay off a mortgage, take the person into their household, or marry a brother’s wife if they have no children so that the brother can live on through the children. In the case of Boaz, he was a kinsman-redeemer for Naomi, since he is related to her husband. In the case of Ruth, he is a relative of her husband as well, but the fact that Ruth is a Moabite would give Boaz an “out” if he wished to avoid his responsibilities to the family. Finally, we must remind ourselves that there had been a famine in the land 10 years earlier, and we do not know how long it lasted. A famine in the Promised Land would tell us that God’s Law was not being obeyed in that generation, thus Boaz may or may not be the kind of man who would honor this obligation. Naomi seems to think that he will do his duty, based upon Ruth’s report.

I am sure that Naomi is “all-ears” as Ruth recounts her day at work. 21 Then Ruth the Moabitess said, “Furthermore, he said to me, ‘You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.’” Naomi immediately-recognizes that Ruth will be safe as long as she doesn’t go somewhere else. “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, so that others do not fall upon you in another field.

23 So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

We see Ruth revealed as our first “type“. She was a “type“, or “forerunner” of everyone who will ever become a member of the “family of God” through faith. Up to that time, people were “born-into” the “family of God” by physical-descent, but not anymore. The Jews, in Jesus’ time, claimed Abraham as their “father“, however, in Ruth, we see that “door” opened-up to people who were NOT descended from Abraham, such as us. We become members of the “family of God” through faith, much as Ruth did. In the New Testament, we are called “the spiritual children of Abraham” (Romans 4:11-25), and yes, we still have a “blood-connection“, but it is not our own blood. Our connection is through the shed-blood of Christ, who was descended from Abraham.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Studies In Ruth – Introduction

The book of Ruth, sandwiched between Judges and 1st Samuel, is far more than just a nice story. It encapsulates God’s dealings with His people down through history and to this day. It is a story of faith, faith in a God who loves and cares for His people, who isn’t content with merely calling out one group of people as His own. The imagery is rich and its historical and theological significance is timeless.

Ruth has been understood to celebrate the following: (a) that a proselyte, even from Moab, can be faithful to the Lord and gain full-membership in Israel; (b) that qualities of loyalty and covenant faithfulness in a foreigner can be a model for Israel’s response to the Lord; (c) that the Lord as Redeemer will restore the exiled family of Israel to its land. In light of the epilogue (4:18-22), however, and assuming a date close to the time of David, the major purpose seems to include showing that David’s kingship is legitimate. The primacy of the tribe of Judah (the father of Perez; 4:12, 18) had already been established in Israel, in spite of Tamar’s strange act of desperation (Genesis 38). Now the primacy of David must be established, even though there is a Moabite in the line. Boaz is the model for a relative who redeems, while Ruth beautifully reflects God’s faithful covenant-love, claiming refuge under the Lord’s wings, and clinging to Naomi. If God has drawn together all of these disparate-strands so carefully to bless the line of David, is that not more reason to affirm David’s initially-fragile claim to the throne?

The Old Testament book of Ruth is often used as a women’s Bible study, and I can see why when it shows the amazing faith of a young widow named Ruth. Yet, I think it is even better as a study for men, since the male lead is a real man’s man; Boaz. Both characters show what faith looks like in action, both main characters demonstrate godly humility, devotion and service, and as I see it, the take away from the story is one that each one of us can learn from. What does a godly woman look like? Take a look at Ruth. What does a godly man look like? Take a look at Boaz… and guess what guys; Boaz didn’t have to turn in his “man card” to faithfully follow God.

Setting…
Ruth is set during the time of the Judges before the monarchy. Israel has fallen away from God and has been punished with a famine. Naomi, one of the principal characters, and her family had gone to live in Moab where there was food. While we are not told specifically which judge was over Israel, these events took place shortly after Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land.

It is important for us to bear in mind that famines were not supposed to happen, and that if one did occur, there were more problems in the land than just a famine. In the Law, God linked His statues with blessings and curses; there would be blessings when the people obeyed the Law, curses when they did not, and one of those curses was famine. (Lev. 26:19) That there was a famine in the land is indicative of disobedience afoot. It would seem that the situation became so bad that people were leaving Bethlehem, headed for more favorable areas where they could find food. Understand that for a Jew to leave the Promised Land to live among the Gentile Moabites was a very big deal, and this family must have been very desperate to do this

Why study Ruth?
The “simple-answer” would be, “because it is in the Bible“, but there is more to it than that. As we have seen in prior-studies, God has preserved a line of faithful “God-followers” since right after the Fall because they were necessary in order for God to be able to send that promised “seed of the woman(Genesis 3:15), who would accomplish His plan of redemption. As we will see, these events, and the people in them, were to become important in the coming of King David, and thus his “Greater-Son“, the Messiah, Jesus our Savior.

Elimelech’s Family Goes to Moab
1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 4 They took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband. (Ruth 1:1-5)

The family lived in Moab for 10 years. During this time, Elimelech died, and then the two sons married local Moabite women, and in turn each of the sons died leaving Naomi alone with her two daughters in law. No reasons are given for the deaths of the men, but one thing is very clear: These events were disastrous. For a woman, or three women, to be left alone in the world without a man or an extended family in those days meant that one of three things would very shortly happen: The woman would find a man to marry, she would become a prostitute, or she would starve. Thus Naomi, Orpah and Ruth were in very deep trouble as our passage draws to a close. What will they do?

Characters…
There are three principal characters, Naomi, Ruth and Boaz:
Naomi, Elimelech’s wife, was Ruth’s mother-in-law.

Ruth, a Moabite, was the widow of one of Naomi’s sons. She may have still been in her teens, so she was definitely a young-widow.

Boaz was a wealthy land-owner and farmer in Naomi’s hometown, Bethlehem.

“Types”
Types” are used throughout the Old Testament to point to something yet to be revealed in its fullness. There are two very-important “types” in Ruth, which we will look at in detail as they come up. Ruth and Boaz are those two “types“.

Themes…
Though clearly an important historical document of its period, the narrative of Ruth is told with dramatic intensity and movement. The story moves quickly through its various stages, each part marked with irony and suspense, all contributing to a symphony of divine providential fulfillment. God inspires Naomi’s return, Ruth’s covenant faithful, and Boaz’s righteous adherence to the law. The book closes with a genealogy of King David, the descendent of Boaz the Israelite and Ruth the Moabite, a young woman who took refuge under the Lord’s wings (2:12) and was rewarded by God who “gave her conception(4:13)

Ruth and Boaz are part of a longer line that often shows God’s grace combined with human-frailty. One of David’s ancestors was Perez, son of an irregular-union between Judah and his own daughter-in-law, Tamar, who was more “righteous” than the patriarch himself (Genesis 38:26). The final few verses of Ruth comprise a genealogy which may have been added later, however it wasn’t unusual for historical-accounts to end with a genealogy. Also, this genealogy highlights the value of Ruth, and reveals the mixed-ancestry of King David, and through him, of Jesus Christ. Even though she isn’t mentioned in this genealogy, Rahab was also in the line of David and of Jesus Christ. (Joshua 6:22-25, Matthew 1:5-6) Rahab was also Boaz’s mother.

Looking beyond this witness to the legitimacy of David’s kingship, we should note the significance of this book in the light of the Gospel. Ruth follows the faith of Abraham, as she leaves home and family to go to a foreign land under God’s care. The universal scope of the Gospel comes to light as Ruth, a Moabite, finds the blessings promised to all the nations in Abraham’s descendants. Finally, Ruth becomes an ancestor of Christ, who in Himself will reconcile to God such different nations as Moab and Israel, and indeed, all nations.

Outline:
I. The death of Elimelech and his sons (1:1-5)

II. Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem in Judah (1:6-22)
A. Naomi and her daughters-in-law leave Moab (1:6-7)
B. Naomi urges Orpah to go back home (1:8-14)
C. Ruth’s solemn promise (1:15-18)
D. Naomi’s bitter homecoming (1:19-22)

III. Ruth gleans in Boaz’s fields (Ch. 2)
A. Ruth goes out to glean (2:1-3)
B. Boaz meets Ruth (2:4-16)
C. Naomi’s assessment of Boaz (2:17-23)

IV. Ruth visits Boaz at the threshing-floor (Ch. 3)
A. Naomi’s plan (3:1-5)
B. Boaz discovers Ruth (3:6-13)
C. Ruth returns to Naomi (3:14-18)

V. Boaz redeems Ruth (Ch. 4)
A. The close relative excuses himself (4:1-6)
B. Ruth and Boaz are married before witnesses (4:7-12)
C. Their first child is welcomed and blessed (4:13-17)
D. Genealogy from Perez to David (4:18-22)

Historical note on place-names:
When the people of Israel conquered and settled the Promised Land, God divvied-up the territory among the twelve tribes, and each tribe’s territory was known by the name of its patriarch. Bethlehem was in Judah because it belongs to the tribe of Judah. Bethlehem was only about five-miles from Jerusalem.

By the time of Christ, Israel had been conquered and re-divided many times, and each conquering-empire redrew boundaries to suit them. The Romans had divided the territory into three parts, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Samaria was ruled from Jerusalem by the Governor of Judea.

We will join Naomi and Ruth next time as they leave Moab and journey to Bethlehem.

Sola Deo Gloria!

God Uses “Insignificant” People

As we read and study the Bible, we are tempted to look for the “heroes“, those people whom we would expect to see in God’s “Hall of Fame“, and yet those great “heroes” are outnumbered by “insignificant” people God has used down through the ages to accomplish His purposes. God called some people out of relative-obscurity to become great heroes of the faith, however, there were many people who passed their lives in relative-obscurity, whose names we only know because God saw-fit to include them in the Canon of Scripture. We are going to look at a few from each “category“, beginning back in Genesis.

Who is THAT?
She was the unloved-wife of a scheming, conniving man who was trying to get what he wanted by hook or by crook, the girl who her father had pawned-off on a man who wanted to marry her younger sister. He had gotten the shock of his life when he woke up next to her on the morning after their wedding-night. Who was she?

She was the daughter-in-law her father-in-law grew to be afraid of. She had buried two of his sons, so he was afraid to give her his third son to be her husband. Her grandmother-in-law was the unloved-wife. Who was she?

She was a prostitute in a city God planned on destroying so that His people could enter the Promised Land. Who was she?

She was a foreign-born widow. Who was she?

There is a common-thread which ties these women together. What is it? Some of them are also mentioned in the New Testament. Any ideas?

She was a captive in a foreign land. Who was she?

She was a young peasant-girl from an obscure village. She was also an unwed-mother. Who was she?

Two of these women have Old Testament books named after them. Which two?

Do you recognize these men?
He was a nomadic sheep-herder. Who was he?

He was a shepherd-boy. Who was he?

He was the son of a slave? Who was he?

He prophesied naked. Who was he?

He married a prostitute. Who was he?

He had to take cold-showers for over nine months. Who was he?

He was a tax-collector? Who was he?

He fled the scene naked. Who was he?

He was a physician. Who was he?

They were fishermen. Who were they?

Who were they?

The unloved-wife…
Leah was the unloved-wife, the girl nobody wanted, including by her husband, Jacob. She was also the mother of Judah, from whom the Messiah was descended, and Levi, from whom the Aaronic priesthood was descended.

The “scary” daughter-in-law…
Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law, and after she buried Er and Onan, Judah didn’t want anything to do with her. She conned Judah into having sex with her by pretending to be a prostitute. Their son, Perez, was an ancestor of the Messiah.

The prostitute…
Rahab is described as being a “harlot“, a woman of “ill-repute“, who lived in Jericho. When Moses sent spies to check the land out before they began their conquest of the Promised Land, the spies who checked out Jericho found refuge from capture in Rahab’s home. When the children of Israel captured Jericho, she and her family were spared death, and she ultimately became an ancestor of the Messiah.

The foreign-born widow…
Ruth was the foreign-born widow, who, after she married Boaz, became the great-grandmother of David, whose “greater-son” was Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. That story is recounted in the book of Ruth.

The captive in a foreign-land…
Esther was a teenage-girl, and a captive in a foreign-land. After she became the Queen of her adopted country, she was instrumental in saving her people, the children of Israel, from annihilation. That story is recounted in the book of Esther. The Jewish festival, Purim, celebrates this event.

The unwed-mother…
Mary was the unwed-mother, and her first-born son was Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. Without her, our redemption, and the entire New Testament, would not have been possible.

The nomadic sheep-herder…
Abram (Abraham) was an idol-worshiping, nomadic sheep-herder before God called him to become the father of a nation. God told him that He would bless all nations through his seed. That ultimate-blessing came through the shed-blood and finished-work of Jesus Christ.

The shepherd-boy…
David was a young shepherd-boy, the “runt” of the family, before God chose him to be the next King of Israel. God promised David that one of his “sons” would rule and reign forever. Jesus Christ is that “greater-son“.

The son of a slave…
Moses was the son of a slave in Egypt, and even though he was raised in the palace by Pharaoh’s daughter, he was an exile in a foreign-land tending sheep when God called him to go back to Egypt and liberate His people. He is credited with giving us the first five books of the Bible.

He prophesied naked…
Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, but few people realize that he prophesied naked and bare-foot against Egypt and Ethiopia for three years. That event is recounted in Isaiah 20.

He married a prostitute…
God called Hosea to marry a prostitute and to have children with her, as symbolic of how the children of Israel had whored after false-gods.

He “took cold showers”…
Joseph, Mary’s husband, kept her a virgin until she had given-birth to her first-born son, Jesus of Nazareth. He took full responsibility for raising Jesus, along with their other children, into adult-hood.

He was a tax-collector…
Matthew was a tax-collector before Jesus Christ called him to be His disciple. He gave us the Gospel of Matthew.

He fled the scene naked…
Mark came to the Garden of Gethsemane clad only in a linen sheet, and when one of the guards tried to nab him, he left his sheet behind and fled the scene naked. Mark became a ministry-companion with Birnbaums. He gave us the Gospel of Mark.

The physician…
The Apostle Paul called him “the beloved physician“, and we are indebted to Luke for the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. He was a close companion of Paul during several of Paul’s travels.

They were fishermen…
Fishing was nasty, tiring work, but someone had to do, and that is what Peter, Andrew, James and John were doing before Jesus Christ called them to be “fishers of men“. It would have been difficult for four men to get a more “obscure” start than by fishing. Peter, who had the habit of getting his foot caught in his mouth-trap, became the spokesman and leader of the church after Pentecost. He gave us 1st and 2nd Peter. John, the “beloved-disciple“, gave us the Gospel of John and the Book of the Revelation. Andrew didn’t write a book, but he introduced Peter to Jesus. James also served in the background.

From obscurity…
As should be obvious from this brief survey of characters from the Bible, God doesn’t always pick the “most-likely” candidates to do His work. He picked many “losers“, people we would have never known of if they didn’t appear in the pages of Scripture, but they all had significant roles in God’s plan of redemption. Some of them continued on in obscurity, while some of them became well-known, but they were all important.

God STILL calls people from obscurity to labor in His kingdom, and even though they may labor in obscurity, their labors are NOTinsignificant“. They are NOinsignificant” people in God’s kingdom. We ALL matter to Him, regardless of what He has called us to do.

Blessings,
Steve

Bible Study – Bread Of Life

We come to one of the most difficult to understand of the many discourses Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry. I will try to unpack it as best I can, but like Jesus’s hearers, I am also a mere man. Taken literally, this discourse is gory to the extreme, eating flesh (cannibalism) and drinking blood were repulsive and forbidden by God, however, Jesus was speaking using types and symbols which had many Old Testament parallels and pointed-forward to a soon-to-be New Testament reality.

We must remember that this was the season of Passover, so Jesus used “Passover-symbols” which His audience should have been familiar with, and as He spoke, He was pointing-forward to when He would be the final Passover-Lamb, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world“, whom John the Baptist announced in John 1:29. His audience, however, couldn’t get past the physical to see the spiritual. So, let’s see if we can unpack this passage and understand what Jesus was really saying. We are going to take this passage one little chunk at a time.

Words to the People
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” (John 6:26-34)

26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. As you may remember, after the feeding of the five-thousand, the crowd wanted to make Jesus their earthly-king. They just knew that He could solve ALL of their problems, and make sure that they never went hungry. Jesus is acknowledging this; however it wasn’t His true mission.

Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Jesus never said that eating “real” food was “wrong“, rather He was pointing them to the real reason He was among them, to bring them eternal-life. He is also validating who He is based on His relationship with God the Father.

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” They had a very “works-centered” religion, which was based on keeping the Law. They believed that they could be right with God by keeping the Law and performing the required-rituals, not realizing that the entire Old Testament pointed-forward to the coming Messiah.

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Was that “work” “too-easy” or “out-of-reach“? It should have been simple, but they asked instead for another “sign“. What was it going to take to get their attention?

30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” When they were hungry during their wilderness-trek, God provided food for them. When they were thirsty, God provided water for them. Who else was “thirsty“?

When Jesus offered “living-water” to the woman at the well, she thought that He meant “indoor-plumbing“.

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” First, Jesus corrects their notion that Moses was responsible for feeding them in the wilderness, but they STILL don’t “get-it“. They still want God to feed them – FREE

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:26-40)

The simple take-away from this section is that salvation is from God, and ONLY from God, and ONLY from believing in Jesus Christ. His shed-blood and finished-work are all-sufficient for our salvation, and if we are trusting in Him alone, we need not fear for our eternal-destiny.

Words to the Jews
41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” Jesus was a “localboy” whom they assumed was the son of Joseph and Mary. They knew His “parents“, so there was no way He could have come from Heaven. NOT

43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Jesus is reiterating that nobody can come to Him unless God opens their “eyes” to see and understand who He is. They were “spiritually-blind” and wrapped up in their own agendas, so no matter what Jesus did, they would never own Him as their Lord and Savior.

46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Even though they had, and were familiar with the Old Testament, which was God’s revelation about Himself, they were blind to the fact that God had woven His redemptive-plan into the very fabric of it, and it all pointed forward to Jesus Christ. Jesus, as the incarnate God-Man, was the visual-representation of the Father.

47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. Jesus again reiterates that salvation is ONLY of God, and ONLY through faith in Him.

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Jesus now compares “physical-bread” to “spiritual-bread“. Physical-bread only sustains physical-life for a short time, and must be eaten regularly. Those who ate the manna in the wilderness all died, including Moses, who was not permitted to enter the Promised Land and died in the wilderness. However, those who partake, through faith, of that spiritual-bread, will live forever. Jesus IS that spiritual-bread.

“and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Jesus was forecasting His crucifixion, when His broken-body and shed-blood would pay the final price of redemption for all who believe in Him.

43-52: Jesus tells them to stop grumbling amongst themselves, always a command we need to keep in mind, for while we grumble we neglect what He is teaching. He goes on to give a memorable passage in which He tells them that those who believe in Him will have eternal life, and that we must eat of Him to have life. We must eat of His flesh which He will give for the life of the world. Physical bread will not give eternal life. The people, who are always stuck on the mere physicality of life, are horrified! Yuk!

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:41-58)

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” The Jewish religious-leaders were still stuck on the implications and the horror of physically-eating Jesus’s flesh and blood. They should have known the Old Testament prophesies concerning the coming Messiah, but they were blind to the fact that the Messiah was in their midst.

53-59: Since the people are determined to be stuck on the physical, Jesus gives them physical. He talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood as though He were going to offer Himself to a bunch of cannibals. Of course the traditional Sunday school lesson will teach here that Jesus was only speaking of Communion: Laughable! Again, we only see physical things. Jesus was talking about what Communion represents; the reality of Communion. Communion has little to do with its physical aspects; it is all about redemption and what sustains a new life. When we eat of the bread and drink from the cup are we nourishing our bodies? Hardly…

We do this in remembrance of what He did for us; this is important. We go through an act that symbolizes taking Jesus into ourselves to sustain our lives spiritually. When you eat a meal, that food enters your body, and in due course provides energy and nourishment to your body; the elements that make up the food become one with your body on a molecular level. Thus in a sense the food becomes a part of you. When we take the Spirit within us (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) the Spirit becomes a part of who and what we are spiritually, and grows within us when we allow it. This gives us eternal life. This gives us fellowship with God, which was God’s purpose for creating Man in the first place; and completes the cycle of redeeming and reclaiming Mankind for God.

Words to the Disciples
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (John 6:59-65)

Even some of His disciples had trouble “digesting” what Jesus just said, because they were still stumbling over “eating” and “drinking” Christ himself. Then He told them “You ain’t seen nothing yet“, because those who stuck-around were going to be eye-witnesses of His ascension into Heaven.

Peter’s Confession of Faith
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. (John 6:66-71)

Upon hearing all of this, the people following Jesus largely abandoned Him. Of course we now know that this is typical of people who cannot allow themselves to discern spiritual truth. People will often follow Jesus for a time, but when they realize that this involves more than a “get out of jail free” card, and that it will result in growing far beyond the merely physical they bail. Jesus spoke one more great line here, one that we should commit to memory: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” This is truly something we must always keep in mind, for they are the key to unlocking the things of God.

Conclusion
It is important to note that Jesus in this discourse used typology in His treatment of manna and bread. The manna is the type; Jesus is the antitype or the reality that the type represents. God gave provision to the Israelites in the Wilderness with the manna; it sustained them. However this was not God’s ultimate purpose. His ultimate purpose was to redeem Mankind to Himself through Christ, thus the manna as sustenance was the type of Jesus the Redeemer and sustenance unto eternal life. A related type would be the Communion elements: they are not what redeemed us; they are the representation of the body and blood of Christ: Christ is the redeemer. Of course, the Old Testament in particular is full of typology. Moses as the leader and redeemer of the people was a type of Christ; the Promised Land is a type of Heaven, and so on…

I gratefully acknowledge the contributions from Dr. Don Merritt, my beloved friend and mentor, who offered his Reflections on John, without which, I would STILL be stuck.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Four-Fold Witness

As we saw last week, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, and the Jewish leaders, who already hated Jesus, started turning up the heat. In this passage, Jesus not only claimed His Deity, He also claimed that He is equal with God the Father. He also presented a four-fold witness to back up His claims. Note that a four-fold witness was admissible in any court of law.

16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”

18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. (John 5:18-20)

NOBODY was equal with God in the Jewish leaders minds, because they still believed in a monotheistic God. God had not explicitly-revealed Himself as a three-part Godhead in the Old Testament, so since Jesus was claiming to be equal to God, He was, in their minds, blaspheming against God, which was a capitol-crime.

19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (John 5:19-23)

Jesus was not acting alone. He acted in concert with His Father because they were intimately-connected. In another passage of Scripture, Jesus stated that “I and the Father are one“. While the Father’s home was in Heaven, they were so intimately-connected that it could be said that the Father also resided in Jesus’s total person-hood. While all believers are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we do not have the conscious-level of connection to God the Father which Jesus had.

The theme, “the love of God and love for God” permeates John’s gospel, and we can see why in this segment. Because the Father loves the Son, and has given Him a mission to fulfill, the Father has equipped the Son to do mighty works in accomplishing His mission. Raising the dead is solely a divine-ability, so as the Father is able to raise the dead, the Son is able to raise the dead also.

God the Father is the ultimate judge, but He has passed that authority to His Son, Jesus Christ, so that all men will give honor and glory to Jesus, which ultimately gives honor and glory to the Father. Dishonoring Jesus also is dishonoring God the Father.

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24)

Here, Jesus states what is required to have eternal life, which is to hear and believe His message, and to believe the testimony of the Father concerning Jesus. Belief is necessary, not just an intellectual-ascent, because even the demons “believe” that Jesus is God but it has not resulted in saving faith. The Jewish religious leaders totally rejected Jesus and His claims.

Two Resurrections
25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. (John 5:25-29)

Yes, there WILL be a resurrection, and those who are in Christ will receive a glorified body like Jesus’s own resurrection-body, and those who are NOT in Christ will be resurrected to eternal-judgement. There is NOuniversal-salvation” in the end, because there is only ONE way into heaven and the presence of God, and that is through Jesus Christ, His shed-blood and finished-work. Those who have rejected Christ in this life won’t get a second-chance. God cannot and will not allow anything that is evil or anyone who is evil into His heaven because God is holy.

30 “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 5:30)

Again we see the singularity of purpose between the Father and the Son. Jesus the Son was doing the work of His Father, and His judgement is based on the judgement of His Father.

31 “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true. (John 5:31-32)

Jesus is using the metaphor of a court of law in which one person’s testimony is dismissed unless that testimony is corroborated by two or more witnesses. In the next four segments, He describes who is witnessing for Him and the other corroborating-evidence – the Old Testament.

Witness of John
33 You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. (John 5:33-34)

John the Baptist’s witness concerning Jesus was authentic and authoritative, however Jesus was not relying solely on John’s testimony.

Witness of Works
36 But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me. (John 5:36)

As we have seen before, Jesus performed signs and miracles both to help someone in their time of need and to provide evidence of His divine origin and authority. Mere-men couldn’t do what He did.

Witness of the Father
37 And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38 You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. (John 5:37-38)

God the Father spoke from Heaven when Jesus was baptized, and placed His seal of approval on Him by sending the Holy Spirit down to Him in the form of a dove.

You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. This is an interesting statement, because it thoroughly-debunks people’s notion that we couldn’t have been created-bodily in God’s image. Some commentators gloss-over this phrase by ignoring “seen His form” and take “voice” to mean the Scriptures because they believe that a “Spirit” can’t have a “form“, however that is denying God His right to do as He chooses, including having a “form” if He so chooses.

Witness of the Scripture
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:39-47)

God’s plan of redemption is woven throughout the Old Testament, beginning at Genesis 3:15, and continuing through the last verse of Malachi. There were prophesies concerning the tribe the Messiah would come from, Judah, and even the family He would be descended from, David. Where He would be born, Bethlehem, and His hometown, Nazareth, were also prophesied. That He would be the “suffering-servant” was prophesied four times in Isaiah. There were even prophesies regarding the fore-runner who would prepare the way for Him. How did the Jewish leaders miss all of these prophesies, and not recognize that they all pointed to Christ?

Even though the religious-leaders were the “Bible-scholars” of the day and thought that they “knew” the Old Testament, they were looking for a different “kind” of Messiah and Jesus didn’t cut-it for them. While they were looking for a “conquering-king“, the Suffering-Servant was already in their midst. How could they have been so blind?

They also thought that their religious-legalism and rituals were enough to gain God’s favor, but they weren’t. The very Law of Moses, which they claimed to keep so meticulously, would be what condemned them in the end, because they failed to keep the two Great Commandments, to love God above all else, and to love their neighbor as themselves. The only people they cared about were their fellow “elites“. They also failed miserably at doing what God commanded in Micah 6:8. He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you, But to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? They were self-serving glory-seekers, and the glory they sought was man’s glory, not God’s.

How well are we doing at keeping the two Great Commandments? How well are we doing at doing what God requires in Micah 6:8?

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – You Must Be Born Again

Not all Pharisees rejected Jesus, as we see in this week’s passage. Nicodemus was a Jewish religious-leader who didn’t quite know what to make of Jesus, so he came to Him to have a wee chat. He was not just any “rank-and-file” Pharisee, rather he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the most-powerful religious-body of the day. He recognized that God was with Jesus because of the signs and miracle which He had performed. While other religious leaders were demanding more signs, Nicodemus wanted to know more about the Man behind the signs.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:1-21)

Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night? Was he afraid of being discovered and losing-face with his fellow religious-leaders? Did he come to Jesus at night because He was too busy during the day? Was he walking in spiritual-darkness, as symbolized by his night-visit to Jesus, hoping to get some spiritual-illumination? Was Nicodemus trying to flatter Jesus with his opening-statement? We may never know, but Jesus changed the subject immediately.

Nicodemus didn’t understand that Jesus wasn’t there just to teach and perform miracles, even though He did both. He was there to seek and save the lost, people who were spiritually-dead even though they were “religious“, like Nicodemus. Jesus also knew that His ultimate mission was to die on the cross and rise again on the third day. That salvation was what Jesus called being “born-again“. Nicodemus may have been looking for the kind of Messiah who would establish an earthly-kingdom, and not understanding that His kingdom was NOT of this world. Jesus quickly popped that bubble by saying “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus couldn’t relate to being “born-again” because he KNEW that a person couldn’t re-enter the womb and be physically re-born. Even though he was highly-educated in the Old Testament, and a teacher, he didn’t understand that the whole Old Testament pointed forward to Christ. All the rituals, all the sacrifices, while they had meaning, couldn’t cleanse a person from or atone for their sin. Animal-sacrifices covered-over sin, but they didn’t atone for it. To atone for sin required a more-perfect sacrifice, a human-sacrifice, the spotless Lamb of God. Only a human-sacrifice could atone for human’s sin.

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

This answer reflects and emphasizes the fact that salvation, seeing the kingdom of God, is completely and solely the work of God. As we can’t be “reborn” physically, we also can’t become “born-again” by our own efforts. Nicodemus was a “good” man, a law-abiding Pharisee, but his own “goodness” could never gain him entrance into God’s kingdom. Only God, through Jesus Christ, was able to do that miraculous work.

9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

Jesus, and His mission, were badly-misunderstood by even the most highly-educated Jews, because they disregarded the “suffering-servant” prophesies in favor of the “victorious-Lord” prophesies, not realizing that the “victorious-Lord” prophesies were for the far-distant future. They imagined the Messiah coming on a mighty-steed, leading a conquering-army, rather than on a lowly donkey.

Jesus then turns Nicodemus’s attention to an event during the Jews wilderness-wanderings. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;

4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.”

The Bronze Serpent
6 The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)

The Jews had grumbled against God – again, so God sent judgement in the form of poisonous-snakes. Once they repented, God ordered Moses to make a bronze-likeness of the snake and raise it up for all to see. Anyone who had been bitten could look at the snake and live. Jesus said that this event was a foreshadowing of His crucifixion.

What symbol do medical-people use today? The Caduceus, which features two entwined snakes around a pole, topped with wings, has been adopted by many in the medical community. Do they see themselves as “saviors“?

This brings us to the best-known and most-loved verse in the Bible, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” If we have any doubt about how much God loves mankind and His creation, this should put any of those doubts to rest. We know, from reading “the rest of the story“, that God will, in due-time, renew and restore ALL of His creation, including us.

17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:17-21)

Jesus came to save, not judge, but as we see here, those who fail to believe in Jesus have been judged already because they have rejected their only hope of salvation. I am sure that we all know people who range from simple-unbelief to outright-antagonism towards the Gospel. I have friends who are Pagans, Atheists, and even Luciferians, and the only way I can show the Gospel to them is by living it and loving them. The are proud of their ungodly-ways. Any attempts to evangelize them would be rebuffed, but they don’t reject love. We live in the light because Jesdus has set us free from the darkess of our sin. They live in the darkness, hoping that God, if there is a God, isn’t watching their evil-deeds.

In Christ,
Steve

Would John the Baptist Be Welcome?

God had been silent for about 400 years when He sent the last Old Testament prophet to Israel to proclaim the eminent arrival of the long-awaited Messiah. That prophet was the man we know as John the Baptist. John, who was born to quite elderly parents, was empowered by the Holy Spirit while he was still in his mother’s womb. If John the Baptist were to reappear today, would he be welcome in your church? Would he be welcome in your pulpit?

John didn’t appear in a three-piece-suit with shiny shoes and slicked-back hair. He lived off the land in the wilderness, had long hair and a beard, and looked like what many would call a “bum“. He didn’t “look good” and he probably didn’t smell much better. Would he be welcome in your church? Would he be welcome in your pulpit?

John didn’t come proclaiming a “gospel” of prosperity or “name-it-and-claim-it” religion. He came proclaiming repentance from old ways of living and self-righteous ways of thinking, and that the kingdom of God was at hand. Would he be welcome in your church? Would he be welcome in your pulpit? Would you welcome and heed his message? What was his message?
7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?”
11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”

12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”  13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.”

14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”

15 Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, 16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:7-17)

Does this message seem vaguely-familiar? John the Baptist was giving applications to the “Tall Orders” God gave through Micah the prophet almost eight-hundred years earlier:
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you,
But to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Jesus Christ would later sum up these “orders” when some Pharisees confronted Him:
34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

The Jews staked their claim on being children of Abraham, but that wasn’t good enough. Injustice was rampant in Israel, and even though God had condemned it almost eight-hundred years earlier, things still hadn’t changed. John’s message of repentance required more than just mere words, it required concrete actions.

We can show our love for God by loving our neighbor, not just in word-only, but by tangible actions. When my neighbor-gal came home at 11:30 one night and couldn’t walk into her home by herself because of the pain in her broken foot, she needed REAL help. She also needed to borrow my walker again, so real help was both helping her get into her home and putting my walker into the trunk of her car. Mere words of consolation would not have done for her what she needed done. Help required action. I am no “shining-star” in this, but I do try to do what I can, when I can.

John baptized people in the Jordan River in the same way new converts to Judaism had been baptized for hundreds of years, naked, and all the way under. Would you allow him to baptize you?

If John the Baptist wouldn’t be welcome in your church, you are in “good company“, because the religious-establishment of his day didn’t like him or his message either. They were particularly incensed that he was baptizing people. He hadn’t graduated from “Jerusalem Theological Seminary” and hadn’t gone through all the steps to become a “recognized” preacher. He didn’t have the right “credentials“, even though he was a prophet, and he was operating outside of their “system“. Of course Jesus Christ didn’t have the right “credentials” either, even though He was the Incarnate Son of God.

Even if we wouldn’t welcome John the Baptist into our church and pulpit, we should welcome his message. We can learn a lot from John’s simple message of repentance:
Abandon our self-righteous attitudes and admit that we can’t fix ourselves.
Love God with all of our being.
Truly love our neighbor as ourselves.

In Christ,
Steve