God's Word

Coming Full Circle

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The women said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has remembered today to give you someone who will take care of you. The child’s name will be famous in Israel.

He will bring you a new life and support you in your old age. Your daughter-in-law who loves you is better to you than seven sons, because she has given birth.” Ruth 4:14-15 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

We tend to think of completion with the phrase coming full circle. But a circle has no beginning or end. We can determine a start and end point but those would be arbitrary or theoretical.

A circle is the closest we come to a sense or continuation within our infinite world. We can try to imagine eternity and try to grasp the concept of eternity but it is literally beyond us. The symbol we have for infinity is like a sideways figure eight—two circles looped together as a continuous line.

God is eternal in nature. He is the Self-Existent One (Rev 1:8; 22:13) as He told Moses, I AM WHO I AM (Exo 3:14 [also see John 8:58]).

God isn’t restricted within eternity for He is the One who created all there is and sustains all there is within eternity. He is both inside and outside eternity at the same time. He is beyond our capacity to fully understand or He wouldn’t be God.

Full circle and more

The end of the story of Ruth gives us a glimpse into how coming full circle has a beginning and end only as we view it within history. But there’s far more in these last few verses than the culmination of the story of a Moabite woman named Ruth.

Before we look at some insights from these last few verses, let’s consider all that takes place. Boaz follows through on his commitment to marry Ruth. She becomes pregnant as they consummate their marriage and gives birth to a son.

The women of Bethlehem rejoice with Naomi and bless her with encouraging words of how the Lord as shown His care and love with the birth of her grandson and how great a blessing Ruth is to her.

Naomi becomes a nanny to her grandson named Obed who will become the father of Jesse and grandfather of King David. The story ends with a significant genealogy, which looks ahead a few generations and beyond.

Some Redemptive insights

At the beginning of Ruth in Chapter 1, the focus in on emptiness with a sense of futility. Naomi expresses it this way—

I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. (Ruth 1:21)

She, her husband and two sons flee the famine in their homeland in hope of a better life. But Naomi loses her husband and two sons with no hope of a family legacy. And, she’s saddled with the responsibility for two Moabite widowed-daughter-in-laws.

When the story is completed, Naomi is full again not empty. In fact, the women of Bethlehem say she is better of than before. God sent a kinsman-redeemer to preserve the family legacy of property, she has a grandson, and is assured of her family caring for in old age.

Think the Old Testament isn’t relevant for today? Think again! The women encourage Naomi about Ruth, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons.

This is just one of many stories in the Old Testament highlighting the importance and significance of women. In a way, it is somewhat of a redemption for the first woman on earth who ate from the forbidden tree.

The child born to Ruth and Boaz becomes the father of Jesse and grandfather of Israel’s most loved king, David. Consider how inclusive and far reaching this is. This short genealogy of ten generations is repeated almost word for word in the first gospel of the New Testament (Matt 1:3-6).

This genealogy is part of the line of Judah—the family line of David through whom the Messiah would come, as the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer. Judah has incestual relations with his scorned daughter-in-law Tamar, which results in the birth of Perez.

A few generations later, Boaz is born from the union of Salmon and Rahab—the same Rahab who sheltered the two men sent to spy out Jericho for Joshua. The three women mentioned in Matthew’s account of these same generations should not be included according to Mosaic Law but they are. They are a reminder of God’s inclusive grace.

The story of Ruth begins with an interrupted generation (Elimelech and sons), and concludes with a completed generation within ten historically important generations of Israel. This is a reminder how our life stories are not complete yet, and we need to be mindful of God’s redemptive grace in our life and the greater story arc of humanity.

How is your life a reflection of God’s inclusive grace?

Reflection—

Our life stories are not complete yet, and we need to be mindful of God’s redemptive grace in our life and the greater story arc of humanity. Remember, God’s grace is inclusive not exclusive.

Prayer Focus—

Ask the Lord to give you fresh perspective in your life. Ask Him to help you see how He has shown you His inclusive grace, so you may show it to others.


Devo Scripture Text

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. (Ruth 4:13-22 NIV 84)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

I Cannot Assume That Responsibility

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“Take all my rights to buy back the property for yourself, because I cannot assume that responsibility.” Ruth 4:6 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

Have you ever made a commitment you couldn’t keep or made a decision you later regret? I’m sure we’ve all done both at some point in our lives. As I mentioned in an earlier devotional, it’s easy to jump to conclusions or make commitments too quickly.

When you or I make a decision or commitment and later go back on our word, it’s because we didn’t realize the responsibility involved with our decision or commitment.

Some of the decisions we regret are the ones we didn’t make but later wished we had. Some commitments are beyond our scope of understanding, while others are rash and impetuous.

I’ve painted a lot of things in my life but not as an artist. More than a few times, I bid painting jobs too low because I needed the money right away. I underestimated how long a job would take and overestimated my ability to do it.

Each time, when I realized my mistake, I would try to renegotiate the price. But this was rarely successful. Then I was faced with a further decision—to quit or to finish the job. Finishing the job often meant doing a month’s worth of work for a week’s amount of wages.

We might keep a commitment even though it costs us to do so. But there are times when the wise decision is to suffer loss to our pride and admit we can’t fulfill our commitment.

Looking ahead to our redemption

When the nearest kinsman-redeemer realizes buying the property of his relative Elimelech requires marriage to Ruth the Moabite, he reneges on his commitment.

If he married Ruth, he would give up his own legacy of family and property. Marrying Ruth would extend the family lineage of Elimelech but interfere or end his own family line. It’s also probable that the man was already married.

So, he deferred to Boaz—Take all my rights to buy back the property for yourself, because I cannot assume that responsibility (verse 6). And Boaz was willing to accept this responsibility.

At this point in the story, Boaz can become the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and Elimelech’s property and family line. He also becomes a figurative type of Christ—the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer.

To understand this requires some explanation and looking ahead to the New Testament Scriptures. A figurative type is when a person or event or thing is a picture of something or someone greater in the future.

A simple example is when Abraham was willing to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen 22:1-14). The angel of the Lord intervenes and Abraham figuratively receives his son back from the dead, as it says in the book of Hebrews (Heb 11:19).

This is a picture of God the Father sending His Son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for all humanity. Though Jesus died on the cross, He rose from the dead. By doing this, Jesus not only paid for all humanity’s sin, He conquered the power of sin through His resurrection to redeem all those who trust in Him.

The responsibility of redemption

When the first human lived on earth, Adam, he was innocent of sin and lived in the paradise of the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:7-9). But when the man and his wife selfishly chose to eat what was forbidden to them (Gen 3:15-17), they lost their innocence and were sent out of paradise (Gen 3:6-11, 22-24).

When Jesus came—as the perfect God–Man—He came to redeem all humanity, for all time, from all sin and its consequence and power.

Why did Jesus need to come as a Savior for all humanity? Because none of us are able to redeem ourselves from the consequence and power of sin. We are like Adam who is represented in a figurative sense by the unnamed kinsman-redeemer in the story of Ruth.

This man could not accept the responsibility of redemption and neither can you or I. It is beyond our ability. We are powerless to overcome the power and consequence of sin on our own (Rom 3:20-26; 5:18-21).

Boaz was willing and able to accept and assume the responsibility as a kinsman-redeemer of Ruth and the property and legacy of Elimelech. He set aside his own legacy for the sake of Ruth a Moabite—a gentile—just as Jesus set aside His glory for our sake (Phil 2:5-8).

This Moabite woman—an outsider, a foreigner—was included in the Jewish lineage of Elimelech. This is another important event to consider, but we’ll look at it another time.

Do you understand how each of us is unable to redeem ourselves from the consequence and power of sin?

Take some time to review the thoughts I’ve shared in this devotional and the related scripture references—consider and reflect on all this and ask the Lord to give you a more clear understanding of the fullness of His redemptive work—for all or us—on the cross.

Reflection—

None of us are able to redeem ourselves from the power and consequence of sin. This is why Jesus came as the Kinsman-Redeemer of all humanity—for all time and for all sin.

Prayer Focus—

If you’ve already trusted in the Lord’s redemption, praise Him and give thanks as you go through your day. If you haven’t yet, ask the Lord Jesus to give you understanding for why you need to trust Him for His redemption of your life.


Devo Scripture Text

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man's widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”

At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)

So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal. (Ruth 4:4-8 NIV 84)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

Wherever You Go, I Will Go

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Don’t make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Ruth 1:16 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

This is one of my favorite segments of the story of Ruth. It is a pivotal scene in the narrative. This dialog between Naomi and Ruth illustrates a few important and valuable themes in Ruth representative of the Bible’s larger narrative arc.

Four things in particular stand out to me—faith, faithfulness, redemption, and discipleship.

Faith

Ruth demonstrates great faith with her insistence to go with Naomi to Judah. Unlike her sister Orpah, Ruth is not returning to her homeland, her people, or her gods. She trusts in the Living God of Israel—Naomi’s God. She trust Naomi’s confidence in God’s provision (Ruth 1:6) although she has not seen it.

Ruth is willing to commit herself to Naomi and follow her to a land she has not seen and a people who are not hers. Remember, she is a Moabite widow—a foreigner to Naomi’s people. And, Naomi is clear there are no guarantees (Ruth 1:11-13).

Faithfulness

Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi is expressed in an emotional and strong way in verses 16-17—

“Don’t force me to leave you. Don’t make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and I will be buried there with you. May the Lord strike me down if anything but death separates you and me!”

What a dramatic and heartfelt plea! Consider how personal it is. This isn’t about beliefs and theology, it’s based on Ruth’s relationship with Naomi and Naomi’s relationship with her God.

It’s also an astounding commitment of faith and faithfulness to Naomi, her people and customs, her land, and her God—the Living God of Israel.

Redemption

Redemption is seen in Ruth’s confession in two ways. She converts from the gods of her people—the Moabites—to trusting in the Living God of Israel. Ruth is also a prophetic indicator of things to come. She is a prophetic sign of the inclusion of Gentiles—non-Jewish people—in the redemption of all humanity by Jesus.

The Jewish people saw the Kingdom of God as exclusively for them. Unless Gentiles were converted to Judaism, they wouldn’t be included in God’s Kingdom. The early church thought this way as well, as seen by early Jewish church leaders protesting the apostle Peter’s involvement with the conversion of a Roman centurion (Acts 10:45-46; 11:18).

This prophetic sign is also seen in the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel. Typically, women would not be included in a Jewish genealogy but she is one of two Gentiles and five women listed (Matt 1:5).

Discipleship

Ruth’s declaration of faith and commitment to Naomi is a model of true discipleship. Not to another person but to the Lord. Consider Ruth’s statements as if addressed to Jesus. Jesus calls His followers—His disciples—to deny yourself, die to yourself (take up your cross), and follow Me (Matt 16:24.

Let’s look at them line by line—

  • Don’t make me turn back…— this models repentance, a turning away from our former life.

  • Where you go, I will go…stay…— this is a personal commitment to follow as Jesus calls believers to follow Him.

  • Your people…my people…Your God…my God.— this models a confession of commitment and identification with God’s people, the church community, and corporate worship.

  • Where you die I will die…— because Israel’s God is a living God, this expresses a hope in resurrection from the dead—the believer’s living hope (Job 19:25; Matt 22:31-32).

One last thought. Notice how Naomi responds to Ruth’s confession of commitment and faith. At first, Naomi doesn’t see the level of Ruth’s commitment. When she does, she accepts it and Ruth’s faith and allows Ruth to journey with her to Judah.

We need to be wary of limiting God’s power to draw people to Himself through us, even when we don’t see it right away. Don’t look past the people in your life. Engage with those you come in contact with on a daily basis. Listen to their life stories. Build relationships.

All people have value to God because His image is imbedded in each of us. Jesus is the focus of our faith (Heb 12:2) and all humanity is the focus of redemption (John 3:16).

Reflection—

Consider Ruth’s declaration of commitment to Naomi as a declaration of faith, faithfulness, redemption, and discipleship in the Lord. This is what God calls all of us to when we respond to His love and grace.

Prayer Focus—

Regardless of your present circumstances—whether favorable or not—allow Ruth’s confession and declaration to be a guide for your prayer and trust in the Lord.


devo Scripture Text

“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. (Ruth 1:15-18 NIV)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

How to Find a Life Partner

Who can find a wife with a strong character? She is worth far more than jewels.

Her husband trusts her with ⌊all⌋ his heart, and he does not lack anything good.

She helps him and never harms him all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:10-12 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 31:10-31 GW)


The search for a life partner is a universal and enduring one through the ages. It began, I suppose, when God saw Adam’s need for a companion who would complement and fit him for life—

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.” (2:18 GNTD)

Based on this verse you could say, it’s God’s plan and His will for everyone to have a marriage partner in life. You could say this and many people have but it’s not always the case.

Some people are better off or choose to be single—the Bible speaks to this also (1 Cor 7:8-38). You could also be a man looking for a wife in China where there’s about 33 million more men than women.

Not everyone is looking for a life partner, just someone to be with for a while. As they say, “there’s an app—or two or three—for that.” Several online resources exist solely for help to find a companion to share life with—whether for the first time or another hoped for go at it.

Arranged marriages are another option still in play for much of the world though not so much in America. Stories abound of arranged relationships and marriage—some good, some horrible, and some just ok.

What’s a person to do?

What’s the key to seeking the right or best soul mate or life partner for you? What criteria should you go by? Is it just a matter of chance, fate, kismet, or is it a matter of prayer and the right timing?

It’s no secret people choose partners for the wrong reasons or don’t know how to develop a healthy marriage once a choice is made. Too often, what attracts people at first later repels them.

So, what should you look for when seeking a life partner?

The answer isn’t a simple method or process or checklist, but the majority of this last chapter in Proverbs is intended to be a guide. Not just for a man to find a wife but also what a woman should desire and expect for a husband.

Some helpful things to note

Before diving into an answer for the previous question, here are some helpful things to know about Proverbs 31:10-31—

  • There are 22 verses written as an acrostic—each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Sort of an ABC’s for what to look for in a life partner.

  • This portion of text has many subtitles given to it—The Virtuous Wife, The Ideal Wife, The Woman Who Fears the Lord, The Wife of Noble Character, and so on.

  • This is not a checklist of expectations a man should look for or require of a woman as his wife—many a marriage has been rocked or ruined by seeing it as such.

  • This was advice given to a king (Lemuel) by his mother for this reason—

Charm is deceptive, and beauty evaporates, ⌊but⌋ a woman who has the fear of the Lord should be praised. (Prov 31:30 GW)

A simple key

A simple key to finding a marriage partner for life is to know a person’s character. Notice I didn’t make this a one-way focus. A person’s character is essential to consider for a man and a woman when seeking a life partner.

There’s bound to be difficulty and unmet expectations when anyone chooses a partner based on personality or appearance. In fact, idealistic expectations undermine any relationship but especially a lifetime commitment in marriage.

A word to women. If a man doesn’t respect and value you for who you are as a person—you should wait for a better man.

Who would qualify as a better man? A man with similar qualities of character as noted in these verses and a man who wants to be a partner in life with you for life.

God’s design for marriage was always intended to be a partnership. A mutual, beneficial, and fulfilling relationship where each person values the other as their equal, their partner in life.

When other things like appearance or personality—external qualities—become priority over character—a person’s internal nature—unmet expectations and unnecessary problems are bound to come.

An enduring and healthy marriage has its own difficulties because it’s a merger of two persons into one relationship—a unified identity as life partners (Gen 2:24). It requires valuing internal qualities in a person over externals.

Signs of a healthy partnership in marriage are—

Her husband trusts her with ⌊all⌋ his heart… She helps him and never harms him all the days of her life

If you’re seeking to find a life partner, be wise in doing so. These 22 verses can be a helpful guide but make sure it’s a guide for knowing a person’s character rather than a checklist of unrealistic expectations.

Reflection—

God designed marriage as a partnership—a mutual, beneficial, and fulfilling relationship where each person values the other as their equal—their partner in life.

Prayer Focus—

If you’re seeking to find a life partner, ask God for guidance, discernment, and wisdom in doing so. Ask the Lord’s help to guard your heart from making emotional and foolish commitments and for help to see and make a person’s internal qualities your priority.

©Word-Strong_2019

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Next week, I plan to start a new series of devotionals in the Book of Ruth.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

How Concerned Are You About Fairness and the Needy?

Speak out for the one who cannot speak,

for the rights of those who are doomed.

Speak out, judge fairly,

and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people.” (Proverbs 31:8-9 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 31:1-9 GW)


It’s easy to demand fairness and tolerance coming from an ideological stance, a personal view, or even a philosophic approach. But real life isn’t ideal. Ideology and philosophy don’t fit within the harsh lines of reality.

Reality and objective truth will never conform to anyone’s ideological, philosophical, or religious viewpoint. And yes, absolute and objective truth exists no matter how relativistic culture and morality become and the personal challenges of others to the truth.

Relativism meets reality

Personal opinions are just that—personal. They aren’t objective but subjective. They’re captive to emotions and the influence of others. And personal opinions are fickle.

Culture changes. It’s not objective nor absolute. A simple review of modern history reveals how culture doesn’t just waver—it swings from one extreme to another.

Personal opinions, politics, and philosophy—including ideologies and religious views—drive the currents of culture change. This should be self-evident but I realize our present culture is characterized and driven by relativism.

And it isn’t just moral relativism, it seems as if everything can be questioned as to its veracity—even physical and scientific realities. Just because you can think or imagine it doesn’t make it a reality.

Speaking out or speaking for?

As I read and think on what is expressed in these two verses in Proverbs 31 (above), I hear the polarized arguments and opinions of our present American culture in the background.

People are speaking out for those who seem to have no voice and appear defenseless. I’m thinking of those concerned with refugees and illegal immigrants. But is anyone really listening to them? Are these voices speaking on behalf of those they’re concerned about or for them?

There is a difference. We can speak for someone yet not express what they think and feel. I’ve seen this when one spouse answers a question for another in their presence. When we speak on behalf of another, we should speak what’s in their heart and mind not ours.

One segment of our population—worldwide—who are doomed and defenseless and have no voice of their own are pushed aside and ignored for the sake of another large segment of the population. I’m referring to the unborn whose life is cutoff before it begins outside the womb.

Life begins at conception. This is a biological reality. This may not be the existing interpretation of the law in the USA but it’s true.

America’s Declaration of Independence and the 14th Amendment to the constitution speak of equal rights. The 14th Amendment is the basis of civil rights for all humanity and recognized former slaves as humans with equal rights.

Before this, slaves—any gender or age—were considered chattel—they were mere possessions of their “masters.” The Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision (1973) did the opposite for the unborn and some states have already extended this beyond actual birth.

The rights of the unborn are denied by a legal interpretation based on opinion not scientific fact. This was and is a slippery slope as prophetically expressed in the book, Whatever Happened to the Human Race.

Concern or cause?

Causes, whether secular or religious, usually begin with a concern but at some point develop a life of their own. How does this happen? Emotions, opinions, and personal views take over.

My wife and I worked with abandoned and abused children and young women for many years. Prior to developing our ministry in the Philippines for the abandoned and abused, we were foster parents for several years in the US.

We have real-life, firsthand experience as advocates of those in dire need and who need protection and restoration. But we were never protesters. We still aren’t. We’re doers along with thousands of others engaged in similar work throughout the world.

We’ve heard and seen many people show concern, even speak out on behalf of those who are oppressed and at risk. But talk is cheap. Causes and opinions come and go. Real advocacy has no agenda but to do what is needed to help those in need.

If you have a genuine concern for the defenseless, needy, and oppressed, then consider these three specific admonitions—

Speak out, judge fairly, and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people.

Speak out It’s good to speak out for those who have no voice but be sure you do so for their benefit not just your view of them and their situation.

Judge fairly Be objective not subjective. Don’t be driven by emotions and opinions. Ask genuine questions and listen to those you want to defend. Put yourself in their place and see things from their point of view.

Defend the rights… Throughout history and in every nation, there are those who are guilty but get set free and those who are innocent yet are condemned. The Lord knows about this firsthand—He was betrayed and put to death as the only truly innocent Man (Matt 27:19-26).

Ultimately, we will all come before the only One who is able to judge justly—God. Here are some final thoughts from the Scriptures—

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalms 10:14 NIV)

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalms 68:5 NIV)

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you—But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NKJV)

Reflection—

If you have a genuine concern for the defenseless, needy, and oppressed, then consider these three specific admonitions—Speak out, judge fairly, and defend their rights as their advocates, not for your own cause.

Prayer Focus—

If any of what’s written above challenges your own convictions or points of view—be willing to set those aside. Ask the Lord to help you see them first from His point of view.

©Word-Strong_2019


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