Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. Ecclesiastes 1:2
Ecclesiastes in our Bible is also thought to be written largely by Solomon. It is a backward-looking reflection on a long life. Its world-weary tone recaps little benefit from pleasure, riches, intellect, accumulation of people/things, or diligent work in themselves. It is a view of life from a purely human perspective, where everything seems futile and meaningless.
Purpose and the meaning of life are things that have been searched for from the early human experience. We all get to a point where we wonder, “Is this all there is?” We strive and work and pursue knowledge, pleasure, careers, possessions, people…but while there are moments of temporary enjoyment, they never fully satisfy. We are left empty and searching for the next thing to fill that void.
Ecclesiastes starts off with words like, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) and “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Statements on the monotony and dissatisfaction found in the world’s rat race that falls short of any lasting fulfillment.
Through experimenting with all the world has to offer and coming up empty, Solomon comes full circle, acknowledging everything is from God and for God.
Ecclesiastes closes with this, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
God gives good gifts to His people for our enjoyment. He has prepared good works for us to pursue in this lifetime, but ultimate fulfillment is in Him. Life apart from God will never fully satisfy.
Questions: Where do you go to find purpose and meaning? Are they satisfying or futile and meaningless?
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 1 Kings 11:1-3
Like his father, King David, Solomon starts off strong. He loves the Lord and people come from all over to take in his God-given extraordinary wisdom. Using David’s plans as given by God, Solomon is the one who oversees the construction of the magnificent temple, a beautiful and permanent structure where the Israelites could offer sacrifices and worship God. He is a strong, wise, and powerful king.
Over time, Solomon grows increasingly wealthy and builds an extravagant palace for himself. He collects many things, including wives. His downfall. As God warned, along with the non-Israelite wives came the false idols and gods they worshiped. Solomon looks the other way at his wives’ idol worship, and slowly they creep into his worship as well. Solomon turns his back on God in his old age, losing his fear of the Lord. What started off so well, doesn’t end so well.
Isn’t that how it sometimes is with us? We start off strong but slowly slip into the ways of the world and people around us, allowing them to influence us even if they go against the way God wants us to live. Often it happens slowly over a period of time, so we don’t really notice it happening. Stories like these remind us to always be aware of our actions and influencers, and most of all, to stay near to God. To finish strong.
Challenge: Ask God to show you where you might be getting off track and not even noticing it. Dedicate quiet time to really listen to what God may be telling you and then pray that He help you get back on track, walking in His ways.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel… Proverbs 1:1
As promised and provided by God, Solomon becomes the wisest person in the world. People come from near and far to hear his words.
Solomon is one of the principal authors of the book of Proverbs in our Bible. It is largely a compilation of short instructions for godly living here on earth. Where knowledge is a collection of facts, wisdom is a glimpse into God’s view of people, events, and situations to rightly use knowledge. We can amass much knowledge but still lack wisdom.
Early in Proverbs, Solomon provides a truth that is foundational to knowledge and wisdom, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
While this word fear means what initially comes to mind in a terror sense because God is sovereign, all-powerful, and holy, it also means respect, reverence, awe. This right view of God, in all His majesty and power to create and destroy, is the beginning of wisdom…and fools despise it. It rubs against our human ego and pride. But a wise person, with humility, acknowledges God knows everything, sees everything, controls everything…and we do not. He is worthy of our love and submission.
Solomon also teaches us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
In having the fear of the Lord – the right view of Him – we can fully trust His ways and His plans. The world tells us to go with our gut, do what feels right, lean on our own understanding. But Solomon tells us to do the opposite…to NOT lean on our own understanding, but instead to trust God and acknowledge Him. The Creator of everything, who holds everything in His hands and rules over everything, should be the guide and director of our lives. Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart. HE WILL make straight your paths.
Challenge: There are 31 chapters in Proverbs full of wisdom. Consider deciding to read one chapter a day for a month.
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” 1 Kings 3:10-14
While David earnestly repents and enjoys a restored relationship with the Lord, his sin is not without consequences. The son from his affair with Bathsheba dies.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Bathsheba and David have another son, Solomon. God is about restoration and new life for His people.
As David’s life comes to an end, he tells his beloved son to always walk in the ways of the Lord; to always keep His statutes, commands, and rules as given to Moses. David knows this is the definition of success and wants his son to as well.
Upon David’s death, Solomon becomes the next king. In a dream, God tells Solomon He will grant him anything he asks. Solomon asks for wisdom to discern good from evil and govern the people well. God was pleased with his request. As a result, God not only made Solomon the wisest person on earth, He also made him the richest and most honored.
Solomon was surrounded by people who could give him knowledge, but true wisdom comes from God and will always produce good fruit.
Questions: If God came to you in a dream and asked what you wanted from Him, what would you ask for? Where in your life can you pray for wisdom and discernment to lead well?
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Psalm 51:1-3
The difference between David and the other leaders who sinned against God is that David is genuinely heartbroken before the Lord over his sin and truly repentant.
Where other leaders tried to justify their actions or blame others, David takes ownership of his sin and begs for God’s forgiveness. He craves a restored relationship with God. David and God have been through a lot and he doesn’t want to lose that. God is always the one David looked to for provision and hope.
Psalm 51 is David’s beautiful and heartfelt prayer of confession to God. There is Godly sorrow associated with sin. It is a big deal and separates us from our Creator and Author of life. It shifts us off the path God has for us. It should break our hearts. But we all know, and have likely experienced, many various reactions to our sin. We try to deny it, excuse it, hide it, cover it, fix it. We try to move on, or just as destructive, we let it rot us from the inside out, stuck in depression and despair over our inability to make things right. But God is loving, gracious, and merciful. He doesn’t want us stuck in the sin pit. There is a way out. He wants us to come to him, confess, and decide to move away from it with His help. There is freedom for the soul in sorrowfully acknowledging our sin before God. Later Jesus will come and say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). Mourning for our sins results in the comfort found in forgiveness and reconciliation. We don’t get there without the mourning.
We will mourn over many things in this life that is riddled with pain and suffering. Will we mourn equally for our sins?
Challenge: Think about how do you generally react when you are faced with your sin. Read Psalm 51 and David’s response to his sin. Make this your prayer to God.
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 2 Samuel 12:7-9
David, newly married to Bathsheba who is carrying their child, is steeped in unrepentant sin. He has his bride, but with her, the blood of Bathsheba’s husband leaving its stain. This man after God’s heart has allowed temptation and circumstances to tarnish his relationship with God. He can’t – or won’t – face his sin.
God sends the prophet Nathan (also a trusted friend) to visit David with a little story. There was a rich man with many flocks and herds in a city. Also in the city was a poor man with nothing but a little lamb he bought and raised. The lamb drank from his cup and slept in his arms; it was like a child to him. A visitor came to see the rich man, but he was unwilling to take one of his own vast flock to prepare for the guest. Instead, he takes the beloved lamb from the poor man and prepared it for his visitor. David, outraged by this story, demands the rich man die and restore the poor man’s lamb fourfold for what he had done with no remorse.
Nathan turns to David and declares, “You are that man.” Ouch. God had protected and provided for David. He had all he needed. But he took the wife of another and had him killed with no remorse. Sometimes we can’t see the destruction of sin in our lives. We refuse to listen to the nudges of the Spirit. But hearing the words of Nathan sent by God softened David’s heart and resulted in genuine sorrow and repentance.
Nathan was a trusted friend of David and also a faithful man of God. He spoke truth to David, though difficult to hear. Because of Nathan’s loyalty to God and his friend, David is brought to a place of restoration.
Questions: Do you have a Nathan in your life who will speak truth that is hard but necessary? Are you a Nathan to anyone?
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” 2 Samuel 11:1-5
David ultimately became a mighty king. The most famous and beloved among the many kings of the Israelites. He wins great battles and establishes Jerusalem as the capital. But he isn’t perfect. Only Jesus – the king to come – is perfect. Like all of us, David is flawed.
The devil is always prowling around, desiring to get God’s people – especially those dedicated to His cause – off track. Sadly, even the man after God’s own heart slips and loses the battle against temptation.
Notice the setting at the beginning of the passage. It was the time of year when the kings – that’s David – go out to battle. But David stays home. He is complacent. And this idle time becomes a huge stain on his legacy. He tries to cover it up and eventually has Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle. It is such a low point amid such a beautiful life. We look to the Bible for heroes, but no matter how brave and valiant those who have gone before us are, only Jesus is the true and perfect hero of the Bible. But stick with it, God is still working in David’s life. Unlike other religions, our God’s plans and our salvation is not dependent on our perfection...only our submission and surrender to the perfect One sent to save us.
Questions: What do you typically do with your free time? Has idle time -- when you should have been doing something else -- ever gotten you into trouble?
The Lord Is My Shepherd: A Psalm of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. Psalm 23
This is one of David’s psalms preserved by God for us. A psalm is a sacred song, hymn or poem. The shepherd boy refers to God as HIS shepherd. David knew all too well the job of a shepherd. To gather, steer, and protect the helpless sheep in his care.
And from the family line of David, many generations later will come one who is the ultimate Good Shepherd, Jesus.
Challenge: This may be way out of your comfort zone, but grab a journal (or just a piece of paper) and dedicate some time to sitting quietly and writing your own Psalm to God based on whatever is on your mind. It can be a psalm of praise, or confession, or fear, or request. Whatever your heart wants to speak to God.
And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. 1 Samuel 19:1
Over time, David has much success in battle and the people love him. This makes Saul (still the king) very jealous, so he plots to kill David. Instead of working together and strengthening the kingdom, Saul wants to get rid of his “competition.” He lets his ego and pride cause strife among them.
How many times do we do the same? Instead of seeing someone as an ally, we see them as competition. Instead of supporting someone and cheering for their gifts, we are jealous and secretly root for their failure. And in this scenario, no one wins. Everyone is weaker; the Kingdom is weaker.
As a result of Saul’s jealous rage, David spends much of his waiting time in hiding. He is a gifted musician and writer. He pens many of the poems recorded in Psalms in our Bible.
The Psalms are beautiful words of faithfulness, worship, and also pain. David is brutally honest in his words to God. He pours his heart out.
This is what God wants from us too. God knows everything – our thoughts, fears, passions, pains, sins, hopes, dreams, questions…all of it. But He wants us to bring it to Him. He isn’t afraid of our questions and He doesn’t condemn our confessions. He already knows them all. He loves us and what He wants more than anything is a relationship with us. And He is a God of abundance, not scarcity. There is more than enough to go around.
David’s life and words in Psalms are a beautiful example of a relationship between man and God. I heard someone say once “intimacy = into me, see.” This was David. He poured his heart out to the Lord.
Questions: Do you find your natural reaction to other people’s success to be one of envy or excitement for them? How has jealousy ruined situations and relationships in your life? Ask God to give you a heart to cheer for those you might be tempted to be jealous of. Ask Him to show you His abundance…that He has good plans for all of us…we never have to look at someone else and feel that we are missing out. If you are feeling discouraged, open the Psalms and read David’s words.
And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” 1 Samuel 17:37
On one occasion the military men, including King Saul and all of David’s brothers, were in a battle with the Philistines…one of Israel’s enemies. Still young and still a shepherd for his family, David stayed behind to tend to the sheep. His father tells him to go to the battle place to deliver food to his brothers.
When David arrives, he sees the panic all around. The Israelites are terrified of the mighty Philistines and their giant soldier, Goliath. The soldiers all around him are shaking and hiding, but David steps up and offers to fight Goliath. He has full confidence that God is on his side. His days of fighting mighty predators going after his sheep have prepared him to face this giant. He is not afraid. We may not see it at the time, but the roles God puts us in often prepare us for the plans He has for us!
They try to put armor on David, but it is too heavy for his small frame. Decked out in only his shepherd gear, he grabs five small smooth stones and steps up to face the giant.
Fastening the stone to the sling, David lets it go and Goliath goes down. The Philistines retreat in defeat.
David was the underdog by all accounts. The youngest and smallest of his family. A shepherd, poet, and musician. Not the warrior Israel had in mind for their king. Overlooked by even his father. But God sees everything differently than we do. When we are walking in God’s plans and trusting in Him, the impossible can happen. In fact, God loves it when a situation looks impossible on the outside because then we will know that it could only be Him who made a way.
Challenge: Think about a situation that feels impossible in your life. Give it to God today. Step into the ways God has prepared you in the trials and the waiting. Ask God to show up and show off in a mighty way.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:6-7
Onward to find a new king! While Saul was still king, God tells Samuel to go to the little town of Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse to find Saul’s replacement.
One by one Samuel looks at each of Jesse’s sons, starting with the one that looked most “kingly” …the oldest, tallest, strongest. But God says, nope! Not that one. Keep looking. God doesn’t look at outward appearances like we tend to. The Lord is seeking a man after His own heart.
One by one, seven of Jesse’s sons come before Samuel, but none is to be the new king. Samuel asks if there are any more. Jesse reluctantly mentions there is one more…the youngest one who attends the sheep…David.
Yes! This is the one, the Lord declares. David is anointed king. The Spirit of the Lord rushes over him. Though he is anointed, his reign doesn’t start immediately. Actually, it will be a while. Saul is still king for now.
God often puts us in a period of waiting before we step into our calling. It is a time to learn, prepare, grow, and trust God. Soon David will be king, but not yet. For now, it’s back to tending the sheep.
Many years later, God will send shepherds and wise men to Bethlehem again. This time to see the Good Shepherd; the One True King…Jesus.
Questions: Do you have a passion for something and a calling from God, but it doesn’t seem to be happening yet? Do you sometimes worry you don’t look the way the world says you should to do the things you are called to do? Remember that God looks at the heart. He will equip you for everything He has called you to do. Ask God to show you what to do and learn during this important waiting period.
Saul answered, “Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?” 1 Samuel 9:21
Israel has asked for a king, and God lets them have their way. But this king will be selected by God, not by man.
The first king of Israel is Saul and he is not at all what people expected. He wasn’t from a powerful tribe or bold clan, but he was God’s choice. Saul started off humble and strong; a good king. He won battles, and he won the hearts of the people.
However, as often comes with power and success, Saul became impatient and prideful. Though ordained by God, he started to believe the victories and success were all from him.
Commentator George Whitfield summarizes that Saul “followed God just so far as suited his convenience; when it interfered in any way with his own interests, he cast him off.” As a result of Saul’s unrepentant disobedience, Samuel (the last judge, also a priest and the first prophet after Moses) informed Saul his kingdom would be no more.
Sometimes when we are weak and vulnerable, we easily cling to God, but when things start to go our way, we begin to think we can handle things on our own and don’t seek God as quickly, or at all if it is inconvenient. This is a recipe for disaster. God wants us to seek Him in all things. He is for us and wants us to succeed, but He wants us to do it with full knowledge that all things are FROM Him and FOR Him.
Saul learned his lesson the hard way. This first king, who started off strong, goes down in disgrace.
Questions: When do you seek God most passionately (good times, hard times, scary times, etc.)? Do you tend to forget to go to God when things are going well? What can you do to always remember to put your hope and trust in God?
But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20
Back to the Old Testament period of Judges. Samuel, another judge and prophet, was dedicated to God as an infant and taken to Eli, the priest, to be raised. He heard from God as a child and grew in stature and favor with both God and man. As judge, he ushered in a time of repentance and peace for Israel.
Near the end of his life, Samuel sought to appoint his sons as judges. But they were no Samuel. They sinned against God and looked out more for their interests than that of Israel. The elders push back. They don’t want Samuel’s sons as judges; they want a king. They want to be like all the other nations. The problem is God doesn’t want them to be like the other nations. God wants to be their king. They are in essence rejecting God.
So God warns them what life under a king will be like: their sons will be taken to man the king’s chariots, work his fields, make equipment for war. Their daughters will be taken to be perfumers, cooks, bakers. Their best fields and vineyards will be taken and given to his servants. Their servants and livestock will be taken. They themselves would be slaves.
Guess what? They still insist on having a king.
How often do we look around and think what others have is better than what we have? We think it will satisfy us. From our view, it looks like things would be so much better if we just had what they had. But we miss out on what God has for us when we try to copy what others have.
God has unique plans for all of us. We have to put Him as king over our lives. We have to trust in His plans for us, not try to replicate His plans for someone else. We never see the full picture. Things on the other side are not always what they seem. Israel asked for a king. A king they will get.
Question: On average are you more grateful for what you have, or do you spend more time wishing you had what someone else has?
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife... Matthew 1:5-6
Still in the New Testament, we continue with the family tree that brought in our perfect Savior, Jesus. We see that the mother of Boaz, our hero in the story of Ruth, was RAHAB. Remember Rahab? She lived in a foreign land…Jericho, the first city God calls Joshua and the Israelites to conquer and fully destroy as they begin their entry into the Promised Land. She was the prostitute the spies encountered who hid the men to keep them safe. As a result, the Israelites spared her and her family when they ultimately destroyed Jericho. Like Ruth, Rahab made a decision to turn from the gods of her city and follow the God of the Israelites – our God, the one true God – and live among them.
Let that sink in…Rahab was the mother of Boaz! Think of the lessons she taught him as a child, recounting her redemption story and all that God had done for her, even as a foreigner.
The entire Bible, from the beginning to the end, points to Jesus. The life and story of Ruth is no different. Redemption comes at the hand of the One True God.
Like Rahab and Ruth, we have chosen to follow God, the Creator and orchestrator of all things. Like Naomi, without God and the gift of His Son Jesus, whom He sent, we will live a lonely, bitter, helpless life. We need a redeemer to bring new life.
We don’t need to be born into the “right” family, fully understand all of the laws and customs, or even be “good enough.” We only need to step into the arms, under the wings, of the Redeemer. We are never too far away to be saved if we are willing. All things, even those not condoned by God, can ultimately be used by Him. Even if you don’t have it all figured out or have it all together, choose God…and then watch Him work.
Challenge: Spend time reflecting on God’s power, mercy, and grace.
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was TAMAR, Perez 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, whose mother was RAHAB, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was RUTH, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been URIAH’S WIFE… Matthew 1:1-6 (caps added by me)
We are taking a detour to fast forward to the New Testament account of the genealogy of Jesus. Four women are mentioned in the family line (which was extremely unusual). Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife.
Before we get to Rahab and Ruth, we see Tamar. Her story is recorded in Genesis chapter 38 and it isn’t pretty. Tamar was married to Er, the oldest son of Judah (the son of Jacob and the wife he was tricked into marrying. Leah). Er was extremely wicked, leading to his death at the hands of God. When Er died, the Jewish custom would have been for one of Er’s brothers to redeem her by caring for her, marrying her, and having a child with her to preserve Er’s family name. But the second oldest son was also wicked and died at the hands of God. Judah doesn’t keep his promises to Tamar to provide for her so she takes matters into her own hands. She disguises herself as a prostitute and Judah takes the bait. She gets pregnant and has a child, Perez, who we see in the family line of Jesus. Tamar is both the daughter-in-law of Judah and the mother of his child.
Don’t be afraid to say it or think it…this is a terrible story. None of this sinful behavior is directed or approved of by a holy God. It is evil in His eyes. But despite unholy people, God’s forward-looking plan continues. God is faithful even when we are not. God’s plans will always prevail. We want to be on Team God, even though we will live it out imperfectly. He is sovereign and always in control.
Questions: Why was it important for God to preserve accounts of these people and decisions steeped in sin and messy living? What can we learn about the character of God in these stories?
Then Naomi took the child in her arms 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. Ruth 4:16-17
So just when you think the story couldn’t get any better, it is punctuated with the genealogy a few generations after the son of Ruth and Boaz…Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.
Yes, King David. We will learn more about him as we continue in God’s story to us, but you may have heard of him. The shepherd boy who killed the giant, Goliath, everyone was afraid to fight. The one described as a man after God’s own heart. David, the great-grandson of the once homeless and childless widow, Ruth.
Let that soak in. A redemption story that has impact generations beyond its story.
Interestingly it is Naomi who is mentioned as taking the child into her arms and caring for him. Naomi whom the women say, “Naomi has a son!” He is part of her redemption story too.
And while this is the end of the book of Ruth, it isn’t the end of God’s story. The entire Bible points to Jesus. Naomi, Ruth, Boaz were all part of the story…as are all of us. While there are ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs, the story isn’t about us. It is God’s story and it is all about Jesus, the one who came to save us. To fully satisfy the penalty of our sin by His blood so the story can end with us with Him for all eternity.
Just as Ruth and Naomi needed a redeemer, we too need a redeemer. This life and fallible humans in it will always let us down. Trying to do things in our own power will always let us down. Trying to be good enough will always let us down. And until we recognize our need for a redeemer, we won’t receive the power that comes from being redeemed.
Questions: Where are you growing weary trying to do things on your own? Have you come to a point of realizing your desperate need for a redeemer?
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, 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 guardian-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.” Ruth 4:13-15
The fairytale ending…Ruth and Boaz together at last. A son. An heir.
Naomi, who left Bethlehem blessed and came back bitter, is now full. Oh, how our stories can change. We never know what lies ahead. No matter how bad things seem, nothing is beyond repair. Nothing is outside the loving arms of God.
The women say a blessing over Naomi. The Lord is praised. God’s provision of a guardian-redeemer has come through for Naomi.
From the beginning when sin first entered our lives through Adam and Eve, God had a redeemer in mind. And it is even better than Boaz, this protector and man of honorable character we have grown to love.
God ultimately had in mind His one and only son. The only sinless person to enter the world. The only one worthy to stand up and say, “I will redeem it.”
The women tell Naomi this daughter-in-law who loves her has proven better than any number of sons…the one thing Naomi thought she needed for her future well-being.
God's plans will also prove better than any we could imagine. God, whose creativity made all things, has things in store for our lives and His glory that are beyond our small scale thinking and imagination. He is a good good Father.
Question: Has God’s plans for a situation in your life manifested in a way that far exceeded your hopes and expectations?
Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” Ruth 4:11-12
Not only do the elders and others at the gate declare they are witnesses that Ruth is now with Boaz, they also speak a blessing over this union and their offspring.
But remember the beginning of our story. We learn that Ruth is barren, which is why she and Naomi have no heirs. However, as we well know at this point, all things are possible with God.
The blessing reaches back into stories passed on among Israelite families. Of Rachael & Leah, two wives of Jacob who gave birth to some of the sons that would later make up the Israel nation – the 12 tribes of Israel. And of Perez and Tamar.
Interestingly both of these family examples were not stories of devoted loving relationships and smooth sailing. These historical families referenced as part of the blessing were from broken, deceiving, hurtful relationships. Remember that Jacob was in love with Leah’s sister and Leah lived heartbroken, very aware of Jacob’s devotion to Rachael. It was a messy family, to say the least. And the messy family tree doesn’t end there (more on Tamar’s story to come).
Time and again we see God’s plans prevail despite our sinning, scheming and stepping all over ourselves. Not that God condones sinful behavior – in fact, the opposite is true -- it painfully causes separation from Him. But despite our mess, God can work all things for good and for His Glory.
Ruth and Boaz show that our position in society or sinful baggage from generations past will not thwart God’s good plans.
Question: Do you ever feel like your past mistakes, or maybe even those of your family, keep God from working in your life?
Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.” Ruth 4:5-6
Boaz acknowledges that he is a guardian-redeemer for Ruth’s family, but notes that there is one that is more closely related who must be notified and given the opportunity to redeem first.
Boaz goes immediately to the place of business…the town gate. He sits, waiting for his competition for Ruth. He motions the man to come over and presents the facts about the land of Elimelek to be redeemed.
“I will redeem it,” the man says.
But Boaz had a bit of information he was holding back. With redeeming the land comes Ruth, who Boaz points out is a Moabite. Not only does the man have to take this Moabite woman, but he will also have to share his inheritance.
The man is more concerned with the impact on his own estate than with helping his relatives. He declines.
But that’s okay. As we have seen from the beginning, God has a better plan. Boaz is free to be the guardian redeemer. Free to marry Ruth.
The man (not even named in the book of Ruth) did not have the vision to see what was available to him. Little did he know that he had a chance at becoming an intimate part of God’s bigger redemption story, but turned it down for the treasures he currently esteemed more highly.
How often we cling to things that keep us from having even more of what God has in store for us.
Challenge: Pray that you will not miss out on bigger things of God by holding on to what you think you want and need to make you happy. Think about how you can continually be open to God’s bigger plans instead of clinging to your lesser plans.
When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.” Ruth 3:16-18
Naomi devises a plan for Ruth to essentially let Boaz know she is “interested” and that he is a guardian-redeemer. She is basically asking Boaz to marry her. Like the laws God gave the Jews about gleaning in the fields to provide food for the less fortunate, God also put in place a way for widows to be taken care of and the family name to be preserved where there were no heirs. The guardian-redeemer is a male relative who has the privilege and responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble or in need. The Hebrew term translates to one who delivers, rescues or redeems property or a person. Again, we see God in advance of all things making a way to protect and provide for His children.
In Ruth’s story, we see a foreshadowing of Jesus, our ultimate deliverer, rescuer, redeemer.
Meanwhile, back at the threshing floor, Boaz continues to protect Ruth with dignity and respect. He wants to make sure no one misinterprets her presence to protect her reputation. He ensures she leaves with provisions for her and her mother-in-law, sending her off with more barley…more meals. They won’t be going hungry on his watch. He may not be the official redeemer yet, but he intends to take care of them.
Naomi is encouraged as she eagerly awaits the outcome. Hope emerges. Things just may indeed change for this bitter woman trying to heal from a devastating set of circumstances.
Questions: How hard is it for you to wait for something you really want? How long before you start to scheme up plans to move things along quicker?
Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.” So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law. Ruth 2:22-21
Ruth returns to Naomi with stories of her day and food to eat. She recounts Boaz’s advice and Naomi repeats it…stay close to Boaz and the workers in his field. While gleaning was Jewish law, it could also be dangerous. Not everyone had the best intentions and Ruth was a foreigner in their land. By staying close to those who could be trusted, she had a better chance of being safe.
The same is true in our lives. There are people in our lives we should stay close to and those that we should probably put more distance between us and them.
Motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” And whether or not this is true, one thing is for certain…the people you hang out with influence and impact you.
We need to be careful and intentional about who we “stay close” to. People who lift us up instead of tearing us down. People who will tell us the truth, even when it is HARD, rather than those who just say what we want to hear. People who will draw us close to God, rather than those that will pull us away. People who have our back and will help protect us, rather than those that will do us harm at the drop of a hat if it serves their purposes.
At the same time, we need to be those people to our friends. We need to be the kind of person people seek out to stay close to.
Questions: Are there people in your life that are doing more damage to your character and your walk with God than helping it? If so, how can you create some distance? Are there people you want to seek out or get to know better that you would like to “stay close” to? What steps can you take to have more people like this in your life?
Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Ruth 2:11-12
Ruth’s reputation as loyal is spreading. What a wonderful thing to be known for in your new homeland. She came to town as a foreigner and widow with nothing. And not just any foreigner, a Moabite. The Moabites descended from deep sin and were looked down upon by the Israelites. Despite all of this going against her, it didn’t take long for her to be known for her love of her mother-in-law and strong work ethic. Her character was outshining her background and circumstances.
What we do and how we live matters. As Christians, we are told that people will know the love of God by seeing how we live and love people.
Boaz gives Ruth a blessing…that the Lord repay her for what she has done and for her to be richly rewarded. Boaz recognizes that she has come under the wings of the Lord to take refuge from her circumstances and loss.
With every action, Ruth is proving to be a woman of strong character, and Boaz shows himself as a man of God. “As it turns out” this was not a bad field to work in.
In a small way, Ruth is beginning to see some light in her dark situation. While she didn’t stand by and wait for others to fix things for her, she did crawl into the wings of the Lord – this God she likely heard so much about from her husband and his family -- for refuge. Things are looking up.
Questions: What would you say you are known for? What traits would people list about you if asked? How can we take refuge in the wings of the Lord? What does this look like in our lives?
So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” Ruth 2:8-9
Boaz, the owner of the field Ruth is working in, arrives onsite and asks about the new girl, Ruth.
Gleaning was a part of Jewish law mentioned several places in the Old Testament. It’s a command to leave a portion of crops for foreigners, widows, and orphans to come after and collect. It is a reminder to the Israelites that they were once slaves in Egypt and now that they are free, they should look out for the less fortunate among them.
God made a way for the poor to support themselves and the more fortunate to be generous to those in need. It was an opportunity for dignity and productive work for those who otherwise would have to depend on begging, slavery, or other forms of exploitation. God put laws in place to protect and provide for His people.
All of us have areas in our life with abundance that we can share. Think outside of financial needs too. Have you gotten through a rough experience that you can share with someone in the middle of it now? Have you overcome obstacles in areas you can help others in the midst of them? Are you a good listener and can sit quietly with someone who is hurting? Are you a natural encourager who can provide that extra bit of support someone may be needing? God intended us to share our gifts. And God sends people to come alongside us to share their gifts with us.
Sometimes we will be the ones in need of gleaning, and sometimes we will be the ones with abundance to share. Let’s always have the courage and conviction to step into each of these roles when the opportunities present themselves.
Challenge: Where do you have abundance God may be asking you to share? Create a plan with ways you can share your gifts with others.
And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek. Ruth 2:2-3
Rather than sitting on the sidelines wallowing in self-pity about her horrible and unfair circumstances, Ruth is ready to get to work. She asks Naomi about going into the fields to pick up the leftover grain left behind. The Israelites were commanded by God to leave behind some of the grain during the harvest for the widows and less fortunate.
Ruth doesn’t wait for someone to fix things for her, or even tell her what to do. She looks for opportunities and makes a plan.
At the end of the passage, we see that “as it turned out” she was working in the field of someone from the family of her deceased father-in-law. At first pass, it may seem she lucked out with that one. But as we study the Bible, we learn more and more that God’s hand is on everything.
It is such an encouragement – and relief – to recognize and trust that God is in control. But we must also remember that we need to do our parts. We aren’t supposed to just sit on the sidelines. We are supposed to be in the game; looking for opportunities and taking steps…even if baby steps…to make the changes we need to make in our lives and circumstances where we are able to.
Powerful things can happen when we combine God’s incredible provision…putting people in our path, opening doors, and nudging us toward His purposes…with our stepping out to do our part. God can’t wait to team up with us for things beyond our imagination.
Questions: When you are dealt a bad hand in life how do you typically respond? Do you complain or feel sorry for yourself, or do you get to work, doing what you can to try to make things better? Do you believe God is working in all things at all times?
So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1:19-21
Until this point. it seemed like things may be looking up a bit for Naomi. Her daughter-in-law has shown incredible loyalty and love to follow her back to her homeland. A new fresh start. But we see in this passage the despair is just as deep.
The women arrive home…Bethlehem. The whole town is in a stir. Imagine a life with no tv, cell phones, 24/7 news, social media. The return of Naomi was BIG news. Imagine the whispers and questions and stares.
When we envision a homecoming, we want to come back looking good, with sweet reports of the great life we left and exciting stories of our adventures. Naomi recalls initially leaving Bethlehem full. There may have been a famine they were escaping, but things were good. The last thing we want to do is crawl back home heartbroken with nothing. Worse off than when we left.
Naomi’s reaction quickly reveals her state of mind. Rooting her identity in her present circumstances, she tells them to change her name to Mara…bitter. Names had much meaning in their day. She recounts that she left full and returned empty. She recognizes God’s sovereignty but feels He has afflicted her and brought misfortune upon her. She is basically having a pity party, yet who can really blame her.
But we learn the barley harvest is beginning. Crops are growing again. New life. Perhaps this is a hint of what is to come for Naomi. God is so big, so good, so present… and has so much yet to show Naomi about her true identity in the One who provides and redeems.
Questions: Do you often find you have a narrow view of your life based on your immediate circumstances? Do you have a hard time looking forward or trusting that God has good plans when you are in the thick of a rough patch of life?