Saturday, February 10, 2024

February 10, 2024

If you were poor in biblical days, you could go into the fields after the harvest and pick what the harvesters had left. Ruth had some idea where Naomi’s husband, Elimelech’s wealthy relative, Boaz, had a field. So she went out to find his field and glean after the harvesters. Side note: Boaz was the son of Salmon, the son of Rahab, a great-grandmother of Jesus, which also made Boaz a relative of Jesus. Knowing this helps you see how the Bible is carefully knit together, showing that it all leads to Jesus. 

When Boaz came to the field from Bethlehem, he saw her and enquired about who she was. When he found out that she was the daughter-in-law of Elimelech and Naomi, he told his servants to treat her well, let her pick from some of the rows they hadn’t harvested, and leave some behind in the rows they were harvesting. He told her not to glean in any other field and, when she was thirsty, to drink from what his servants had drawn and to sit down and eat with them when it was time. Boaz is pictured in the likeness of Jesus, making sure even the poorest of the poor are taken care of. The timeline in my mind from reading this scripture in the past was relatively quick; however, she first gleaned behind the harvesters in the barley fields, and then on into the wheat harvest, so there was plenty of time for her to get to know Boaz. 

Like Ruth and Naomi, we may go through some hard times, even losing loved ones, but God never plans for us to stay sorrowful and sets us on the path that will eventually lead to our redemption.

And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. Ruth 2:11-12

Friday, February 9, 2024

February 9, 2024

Oh, how sweet the next book of the Bible is, but it didn’t start that way. Poor and desperate Naomi loses hope after first her husband dies, then ten years later, her two sons. Elimelech had taken his family, left Bethlehem, and ventured to Moab because of famine in the land, never to return. Why did he leave? The rest of Israel seemed to manage through the famine. Elimelech had mortgaged his land before he left, leaving his family destitute if they ever needed to return. It was with bitterness that Naomi had to leave Moab, but much like with Naomi, God will sometimes direct our path by hardships, causing us to make the decisions he wants us to make and put us back on the path he desires us to go. Naomi was heartbroken. She had no family in Moab except her two daughters-in-law, who loved her dearly but felt she needed to return to her people who believed in the one true God and maybe find help in her desperation. She expected both daughters-in-law to return to their people, but Ruth insisted that she go with her, never wanting to leave her side. 

I would love to tell this entire story in one day and rush to the romantic ending, but because it is four chapters, I will take my time and examine the details that led Ruth and Naomi down this path and compare it to the struggles and happiness we experience from time to time. Stay with me; this is a good one! 

I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth 1:21-22

Thursday, February 8, 2024

February 8, 2024

When Israel went to war with the tribe of Benjamin, they wiped out all the men, women, and children except for the 600 that escaped into the mountains. Israel began to feel sorry for the Benjamites that were left, though they still thought it was necessary to avenge the death of the Levite’s wife/concubine. Every tribe had vowed not to provide wives for the 600 who were left, but now they felt remorseful for that vow and tried to find a way around it. They met with all the tribes and decided that any city that didn’t show up would be punished. It just so happened that no inhabitants from Jabeshgilead came to the meeting. So they took 12,000 warriors to Jabeshgilead and killed all the people except the women who had never been with a man and gave them to the Benjamites; there were 400. But that wasn’t enough to provide every man with one wife, so they devised another plan. There was a big party in Shiloh every year where the maiden girls would dance in the field praising God, so they told the remaining men of Benjamin to hide in the vineyard near where they were to dance, and when they came out to grab one and take them. It was one of those times when they did what they had to do and asked for forgiveness later. Doing it this way kept the other tribes from breaking their vow of not giving their daughters to the Benjamites. 

One lesson I learned in this scripture portion is that the story often goes on into the next chapter, so to get the whole picture, you must check the next chapter to see if there is a continuation. The next thing I learned is that the Israelites knew how to get around a vow and would do anything necessary, good or bad, to get what they wanted without technically breaking it. They didn’t even feel bad for killing one portion of the family to accomplish it! Brutal. Thank you, Jesus, for providing us with a more compassionate way of life where our brains and hearts work together rather than always leaning on harsh human rules that lack love.

And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty. Judges 21:22

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

February 7, 2024

After such a heinous end to the concubine wife of the Levite man, the other tribes gathered to seek a resolution to this grotesque problem with the Benjamites and the perversion of the men who harmed the woman and sought to kill the man. They decided to go to war with them because they wouldn’t give up the individual culprits. They engaged in two battles with them but were unsuccessful and lost 40,000 men. They were dismayed because of their righteous cause and expected God to back them up. However, since they didn’t seek him with all their heart, he allowed them to lose their first two battles. Before they went against the Benjamites the third time, they prayed, fasted, and offered sacrifices to God. That’s when God promised success. This time, they sent out regiments to surround the Benjamite city of Gibeah and succeeded. They killed all but 600 men who escaped into the mountains and burned down the towns after killing all the inhabitants. 

This same outcome happens to us when we engage in our personal battles because sometimes we go to war thinking we have a righteous cause, expecting God to side with us. However, when we don’t seek him with all our hearts, giving him all the honor he deserves, he may let us fail until we learn that the battles belong to him and that we have no part in the success. Pay attention to your actions and don’t automatically assume success because you are a Christian and the cause is righteous; confess your sin, like the sacrifices they made for cleansing, pray with all your heart, fast so you can hear God clearly, and he will be with you in your battles. 

Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. Judges 20:26

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

February 6, 2024

Of all the stories in the Old Testament, the most disturbing is Judges 19. It was so disturbing that I’ve never forgotten it. I’m only summarizing chapter 19; the story continues for the next couple of chapters. 

This Levite man, his concubine wife, and his servant set out from the concubine’s father’s home. She was there because she ran away from her husband and was whoring around with other men. He was trying to bring her back home to him. It was late in the evening, so they were looking for a place to stay. The man only wanted to stay in a city of Israel, so they passed a couple before coming to Gilbeah, a Benjamite city. They were settling in when some men surrounded the home, demanding that the homeowner send the Levite out so they could have sexual relations with him. They wouldn’t agree to their demands but offered the homeowner’s daughter and the man’s concubine to them. The man took his concubine wife out to them, and the men took her and abused her all night long and left her at the doorstep of the home. When the man came out the following morning, she was dead. He cut her body into twelve pieces and sent them to every tribe in Israel as a message against the tribe of Benjamin. 

The only lesson I could find is to always be prepared for the worst; have your weapons ready to defend your home and guests if such an occasion should arise. You definitely shouldn’t give up without a fight, sending the weakest person out for abuse. To me, this Levite man is as guilty as the Benjamites.

But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light. Judges 19:25-26

Monday, February 5, 2024

February 5, 2024

The following story continues my post from yesterday. Have you ever known the right thing to do but because you saw your friends in sinful behavior, decided to engage in such? I have! When I was much younger and more easily persuaded and not as strong in the Lord, I followed my friend in destructive behavior. I knew it was wrong, but I still participated. That is the jest of this next chapter in Judges. A faction from the tribe of Dan needed more land and decided to overtake a small city in an area of plenty. They sent spies to see if they could stamp them out. On their way there, they passed Micah’s home and recognized the Levite, who was Micah’s priest. They wanted him to ask God whether they would successfully overtake the city. He told them to go in peace that the Lord was with them. The spies told the rest of the family about Micah, his idols, and his priest. Knowing it was wrong to have idols, they decided to steal them and persuade the Levite priest to go with them to become priests for a community of people rather than one man. He happily agreed. They were too strong for Micah; he could do nothing about it. They came to the city, killed all the people, and burned it down. Jonathan, a grandson of Manasseh, and his sons were priests for the new city of Dan until it was taken captive. It doesn’t say how long before their captivity, but you can bet God allowed it because they were thieves and had set up idols in their town. Sin never pays off.

And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh. Judges 18:30-31

Sunday, February 4, 2024

February 4, 2024

Most parents try to do what’s best for their children and wouldn’t even think of cursing them. There was a woman whose son Micah had taken her bag of silver, which had 1100 pieces in it. She cursed whoever took it. What’s interesting about this is that Matthew Henry thinks or had information beyond the scriptures that she knew her son was the one who took it. Micah was a grown man, why would he steal from his mother? Why would she curse her son? After he returned it to her, she said she had dedicated it to the Lord and planned to have an idol made with it. She set a bad example because Micah had a shrine and household gods in his home, but he also had a room where he invited a Levite passing through from Bethlehem to stay and become his priest. He offered this priest money, clothing, and a place to live. This priest never admonished Micah for having the shrine and fake gods in his house. 

This chapter was challenging to understand, even after reading the commentary. However, to compare it to today, you might look at it as a new preacher coming into town looking for a job and taking the one he finds that offers the most money, neglecting to call out the parishioners for worshipping other gods. Micah’s mother had a hand in his mixed-up ideas of worship and was never entirely dedicated to the one true God. This story shows how important it is to teach our children by our example. Live your life for God, and your children will follow your good example.

And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Bethlehemjudah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place. And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in. Judges 17:9-10