I’ve been studying the book of Ruth lately and it’s been speaking to me in huge ways. Here’s one way:
Ruth 2:3 says “it just so happened” that Ruth was in Boaz’s field. What??
“It just so happened” that Ruth decided to go glean in the barley fields.
“It just so happened” that the young single poor foreign girl was in the rich single Godly man’s field.
“It just so happened” that he came to his field that day.
“It just so happened” that he noticed her.
“It just so happened” that he had already heard of her sacrifices and her character.
Hmm. . .”it just so happened?” Really?? It was all accident??? I’m not buying it. I think there was something else going on. The original Hebrew language does too. God was at work. His invisible hand of providence was working overtime.
Here’s another story about the time I got my first full-time youth ministry job in Tomball.
“It just so happened” that I was realizing music education wasn’t my calling and knew I needed to find another path.
“It just so happened” that the choir director at my church signed me up to go to Choir Camp.
“It just so happened” that the choir camp people lost my registration and offered to let me stay if I would work with the elementary kids.
“It just so happened” that I was placed in a cabin with some kids from Tomball.
“It just so happened” that I worked with another adult from Tomball. (Susan Bryant)
“It just so happened” that Tomball needed a youth minister.
“It just so happened” that the pastor called me during my prayer time where I was seeking God’s guidance.
I can look back on the situation and see that God made “it just so happen. . .”
After Miranda and I come through the other end of this crazy insecure “not-sure-where-our-ministry-is” time in our lives, I’m sure we’ll use that same phrase. “It just so happened” that . . . . . I’m just wondering which moments we’ll be referring to when we say it? I’m keeping my eyes focused and my ears attentive – looking for God.
These are scary times. These are moments where we get the opportunity to exercise our faith. These are exciting times. These are times when I’m grateful for a God who works behind the scenes so that it can “just so happen.”
PS – If you’re interested, I’ll upload the commentary that I’ve been putting together on the book of Ruth sometime soon. I’ve got one more chapter to go.
I think writing/blogging is a bit risky. Exposing your thoughts and commenting on the world around you opens yourself up to all kinds of criticism and other ideas. It’s like driving through uncharted territory with your friends/readers as backseat drivers trying to tell you which way to go or what to think or how you should react or. . . whatever. And yet. . .as the driver of your own thoughts and actions, you still get to drive. You’re the one in charge. You’re the one who is breaking new ground and going places – venturing off into new territories. Anyway, it’s a bit adventurous to charge the hill of opinion with nothing but another opinion and a dream that yours will somehow make a difference.
I’ve been reading the book “Meet the Rabbis” by Brad H. Young lately, and I’m learning a lot, but I just had to share one of the thoughts I had today as I read. He quotes Elie Wiesel as saying,
“To comment is to reclaim from exile a word or notion that has been patiently waiting outside the realm of time and inside the gates of memory. When you pray, said the late Louis Finkelstein, you speak to God; when you study, God speaks to you. If study is discovery, commentary is adventure.”
I had to read it a couple of times but I love it! Commentary is adventure!!!! I love the idea that study is discovery and as we comment or respond, we step into adventure! With blogging and the web, there have become more and more commentators – more and more critics – more and more voices – more and more words just to wade through in order to discover the things that move us and call us into deeper ways of living. But I’m one of those people who needs someone to bounce things off of – I need a sounding board. Blogging and writing helps me to work through the things I believe myself. It helps me to understand my own thoughts – to make sense out of life. It’s my way of venturing out into uncharted territory and exploring the ideas before making the mistakes that come to people who act without assessing the situation.
Louis Finkelstein agrees. My blogging/commenting on life is an adventure. Maybe that’s why I love doing it so much. There is a bit of that explorer in me. I really think it’s the adventurer entrepreneurial risk-taking voice inside of me that really enjoys writing. It allows me to stake my claim on an idea – to stand up and say “Here’s where I draw the line and I will defend it.” It also allows me to test the waters of those ideas that I’m a bit sketchy on.
Anyway, I guess these were just some random thoughts today. I probably haven’t organized them very well, but . . .well, I’ve stepped into the adventure.
As you read notice that I have inserted a few of my own comments (in blue). I’m hoping that they will help you to understand what you’re reading a bit more.
1 This is God’s Message to Hosea son of Beeri. It came to him during the royal reigns of Judah’s kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This was also the time that Jeroboam son of Joash was king over Israel. This Whole Country Has Become a Whorehouse
2 The first time God spoke to Hosea he said:
“Find a whore and marry her.
Make this whore the mother of your children.
And here’s why: This whole country
has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God.”
What?? God wants Hosea to marry a prostitute? Yep – you read that right. Hosea is a godly man. He is a prophet. Why would God want him to marry a prostitute? . . . Well, here’s the deal – God wants to show Israel (His chosen people) how much he loves them. God loves them even though they are chasing after false gods and doing things that don’t honor him. Israel is acting like a prostitute. God is gonna use Hosea as an example – He’s asking Hosea to love someone who doesn’t love him back. Kinda like the way God loves us.
3 Hosea did it. He picked Gomer daughter of Diblaim. She got pregnant and gave him a son.
4-5 Then God told him:
“Name him Jezreel. It won’t be long now before
I’ll make the people of Israel pay for the massacre at Jezreel.
I’m calling it quits on the kingdom of Israel.
Payday is coming! I’m going to chop Israel’s bows and arrows
into kindling in the valley of Jezreel.”
6-7 Gomer got pregnant again. This time she had a daughter. God told Hosea:
“Name this one No-Mercy. I’m fed up with Israel.
I’ve run out of mercy. There’s no more forgiveness.
Judah’s another story. I’ll continue having mercy on them.
I’ll save them. It will be their God who saves them,
Not their armaments and armies,
not their horsepower and manpower.”
8-9 After Gomer had weaned No-Mercy, she got pregnant yet again and had a son. God said:
“Name him Nobody. You’ve become nobodies to me,
and I, God, am a nobody to you.
OK – So now Hosea is married to a prostitute and he has 3 kids. Here are their names:
Jezreel (which recalls a sad event in Israel’s history)
Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”)
Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people” – some scholars believe that this was not Hosea’s son but one whose had been fathered by one of Gomer’s customers.)
Whoa – talk about a dysfunctional family!!!
10“But down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches. In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody. 11Everybody in Judah and everybody in Israel will be assembled as one people. They’ll choose a single leader. There’ll be no stopping them—a great day in Jezreel!”
1In that day you will call your brothers Ammi—‘My people.’ And you will call your sisters Ruhamah—‘The ones I love.’ (NLT)
So now it sounds like theirs is gonna be a time when things are gonna be better. Maybe God is hinting that there is gonna be a happy ending to this whole thing.
Now – the next section lists God’s charges against Israel and Hosea’s charges against Gomer (his prostitute wife) I’ll warn you it gets pretty graphic.
2-13 “Haul your mother into court. Accuse her!
She’s no longer my wife.
I’m no longer her husband.
Tell her to quit dressing like a whore,
displaying her breasts for sale. 3If she refuses, I’ll rip off her clothes
and expose her, naked as a newborn.
I’ll turn her skin into dried-out leather,
her body into a badlands landscape,
a rack of bones in the desert. 4I’ll have nothing to do with her children,
born one and all in a whorehouse. 5Face it: Your mother’s been a whore,
bringing bastard children into the world.
She said, ‘I’m off to see my lovers!
They’ll wine and dine me,
Dress and caress me,
perfume and adorn me!’ 6But I’ll fix her: I’ll dump her in a field of thistles,
then lose her in a dead-end alley. 7She’ll go on the hunt for her lovers
but not bring down a single one.
She’ll look high and low
but won’t find a one. Then she’ll say,
‘I’m going back to my husband, the one I started out with.
That was a better life by far than this one.’ 8She didn’t know that it was I all along
who wined and dined and adorned her,
That I was the one who dressed her up
in the big-city fashions and jewelry
that she wasted on wild Baal-orgies. 9I’m about to bring her up short: No more wining and dining!
Silk lingerie and gowns are a thing of the past. 10I’ll expose her genitals to the public.
All her fly-by-night lovers will be helpless to help her. 11Party time is over. I’m calling a halt to the whole business,
her wild weekends and unholy holidays. 12I’ll wreck her sumptuous gardens and ornamental fountains,
of which she bragged, ‘Whoring paid for all this!’
They will soon be dumping grounds for garbage,
feeding grounds for stray dogs and cats. 13I’ll make her pay for her indulgence in promiscuous religion—
all that sensuous Baal worship
And all the promiscuous sex that went with it,
stalking her lovers, dressed to kill,
And not a thought for me.”
She did all this stuff and never even thought about her husband. Remember: Israel was doing this stuff to God too. Have you ever gotten so caught up in what you were doing that you didn’t even think about God? Have you ever decided to do something that you knew you shouldn’t do and ignored God?
Now go back and read verse 8 again. Notice that even when we’re misbehaving, it’s God who is allowing it. Even in our sin, God loves us. (Check Romans 5:8)
This next section describes how much Hosea loves Gomer in spite of how bad she has treated him. (God loves his people in the same way.)
To Start All Over Again
14“And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
I’m going to start all over again.
I’m taking her back out into the wilderness
where we had our first date, and I’ll court her. 15I’ll give her bouquets of roses.
I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,
those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.
Wow!! The day will come when he’s gonna take her back to where they first dated and remind her of how good he has been to her. He will remind her of the life they had together before she ran off and got into the whole mess.
16 When that day comes,” says the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’
instead of ‘my master.’[g] 17 O Israel, I will wipe the many names of Baal from your lips,
and you will never mention them again. 18 On that day I will make a covenant
with all the wild animals and the birds of the sky
and the animals that scurry along the ground
so they will not harm you.
I will remove all weapons of war from the land,
all swords and bows,
so you can live unafraid
in peace and safety. 19 I will make you my wife forever,
showing you righteousness and justice,
unfailing love and compassion. 20 I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
and you will finally know me as the Lord. 21 “In that day, I will answer,”
says the Lord.
“I will answer the sky as it pleads for clouds.
And the sky will answer the earth with rain. 22 Then the earth will answer the thirsty cries
of the grain, the grapevines, and the olive trees.
And they in turn will answer,
‘Jezreel’—‘God plants!’ 23 At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites
and raise them for myself.
I will show love
to those I called ‘Not loved.’
And to those I called ‘Not my people,’
I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’
And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”
When things get better between Hosea and Gomer, everyone else will benefit too. Their kids (Jezreel, “not loved,” and “not my people”) will become blessed again too.
In Time They’ll Come Back
1 Then God ordered me, “Start all over: Love your wife again, your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife.
Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people,
even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy.”
2I did it. I paid good money to get her back.
It cost me the price of a slave. 3Then I told her, “From now on you’re living with me.
No more whoring, no more sleeping around.
You’re living with me and I’m living with you.”
4 The people of Israel are going to live a long time
stripped of security and protection,
without religion and comfort,
godless and prayerless. 5But in time they’ll come back, these Israelites,
come back looking for their God and their David-King.
They’ll come back chastened to reverence
before God and his good gifts, ready for the End of the story of his love.
This last section is my favorite. Check out verse 2, “I did it. I paid good money to get her back. It cost me the price of a slave.”
Whoa! Imagine that scene. He loved her, cherished her, took care of her, and provided for her. She runs off and becomes a prostitute. She get into all kinds of junk. Lives a party lifestyle – lots of different men, lots of hotel rooms, lots of drinking and drugs. She finally hits bottom and is being sold as a slave on an auction block. Probably stripped naked and standing in front of a crowd of people, she is being sold to the highest bidder – and no one is bidding. No one wants her.
Then, from somewhere in the back of the crowd, she hears a voice, “I’ll take her.” She sees the crowd begin to part as the stranger makes his way to the front.
Her eyes meet the face of the man she ignored and treated so badly. It’s Hosea. In her horrible broken condition, he buys his own wife back. He takes her just as she is. He loves her just as she is. We know he’s planning on taking her back to the place they first dated – reminding her of they life together and his amazing love, care, & protection.
The story of Hosea’s love for Gomer is also the story of God’s love for us. We are the prostitute. He is the lover. It doesn’t matter how bad things have gotten or how far you’ve gone away from God. It doesn’t matter what kinds of things you’re into or how bad things have gotten. God loves you just as you are. He has paid the price (His own’ son’s blood) to have you back. He has redeemed you from your old life.
Well, I’ve finally finished this process. We have been through the entire book of John with our students and I have typed up my notes. I have attached them here for anyone who would like to have my thoughts on these verses. I’m sure that over time I could add or change quite a bit of this, but this is where I am for now in it all.
It has been a fun process to study this book (My favorite part of my job.) Our students have grown quite a bit during this time together and I know that the fruit of this time will be incredible. For many of our students/branches, just as John 15 describes, God has lifted them up from the dirt, washed them off, and now they are able to grow and be fruitful for His Kingdom. I pray that’s true for me too. Lord, let me abide in You. Remain in Your hands. Labor for You and be fruitful for Your Kingdom. AMEN.
Here’s the newest commentary that I’ve written on John 13. I started the book of John a long time ago, and now we’re continuing through that book in our Wednesday Bible Studies, so I guess I’ll be adding to the original stuff that I wrote. Here’s what I learned today about John 13:
John 13 Commentary
Who would want to know when they were gonna die? Not me. But Jesus knew. What would that be like? How would you spend your last few days of life?
This story is a “type” or “foreshadow” of what Jesus is about to do on the cross.
Passover – a Jewish festival in which they partook of a celebration meal remembering how God had provided for them during the Exodus. They also remembered how God had saved them from the last Egyptian plague with the Passover lamb. The time of this celebration was the perfect time for the cross, because Jesus would be the new Passover lamb.
Jesus knew what Judas would be doing and yet He still treated Him well. Jesus served Him knowing that he would betray him.
The famous artistic portrayals of the Last Supper are pretty much all wrong. The disciples were not sitting at chairs around a table, but probably laying on low couches around a “U-shaped” low table. This is the way the Roman triclinium was arranged also. Jesus was in the center, with John at his right and Judas at his left. These were both honored positions. It is also probable that they leaned on their left arms so as to keep the right hand (the “clean” hand) free to grab food and partake in the meal. This meant that Jesus would have been facing John’s back and Judas’ would have faced Jesus’ back.
The foot-washing custom was normally given to a slave or even a crippled or mentally handicapped slave who was unable to do anything else. A water pot was kept outside the door for this practice. If there was no slave at the door, one of the group members would wash the others feet out of courtesy. No one volunteered this particular day, so Jesus stepped “up” to the task.
Vs 4 – 11
The Luke account of this story says that the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus answers their question with His own actions as He washes their feet. This is scandalous humility – for someone of Jesus’ standing to step into the lowliest of positions. God scrubs the feet of the creatures that He created.
Vs 4 – Jesus stripped his outer clothes – most likely down to a loincloth which would have been typical attire for a slave.
Vs 5 – Jesus actually washes Judas’ feet. Jesus had spent 3 years caring for this guy – clothing him, feeding him, etc and He knew that Judas was gonna betray him. (By the way, Judas had been stealing money from Jesus’ ministry the whole time.) Jesus washed Judas’ feet because he was re-enacting what was about to come – He was gonna die for the whole world – including Judas. Jesus did it to honor His Father – Remember his words in Mt 26:39 – “Not my will, but yours.”
Vs 8-9 – Peter’s unwillingness to have his feet washed was a normal response for an unbeliever – but Peter was not an unbeliever. On the other hand, by saying “wash all of me” he was missing the point to. He needed cleansing for daily sin, not to be rebathed (reborn).
If you consider this act of service a foreshadow of the cross, you realize that Jesus’ seemingly harsh words here in vs 8 come out of a deep concern for Peter and the other disciple’sacceptance of His later act on the cross.
Vs 15 – Again if you consider this act a foreshadow of the cross, the example to follow is not one simply of humility, but also one of self-sacrifice and laying down our lives for one another.
Vs 23 – “reclining next to him” should literally be translated“reclining in the bosom (or lap) of Jesus.” The Epistles of Pliny (the younger) refer to this as a place of high honor.
Vs 34 – Love as a commandment is an interesting thought. In the OT, their obedience to the commandments symbolized Israel’s relationship with God and marked them as a people who were set apart from the rest of the peoples. Love should be the mark that we carry setting us apart. It also symbolizes our relationship with God.