Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tears and Trust

“Put not your trust in princes, in the son of man, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs he returns to the earth on that very day his plans perish.  Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, an all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.  The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.  The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations.  Praise the Lord!” Psalm 146:2-10.
This is the Lord.  These are His ways.  Despite the schemes of fallen humanity, this is what the Lord has done, is doing and will do.  His eye is open to the works of the righteous oppressed, His ears are attentive to their prayers and He is actively working on there behalf - both now and eternally… .just Trust.
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.  Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’  The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.  Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!  Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!  He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him,” Psalm 126.
This is the Lord.  These are His ways.  Those who sow seed in sorrow; those who serve and are bowed low; those who are afflicted, oppressed and receive no earthly empathy while offering mercy and giving comfort to others, will reap abundantly - a hundred fold.  The Lord rewards the righteous who give and give with no hope of earthly return…. .just Trust.
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine… .he will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited fro him, that he might save us.  This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation,” Isaiah 25:6-9.
This is the Lord. These are His ways.  He has honored, is honoring and will honor those who wait for Him with abundant salvation.  He takes account of our losses and restores the righteous abundantly.  They have feasted, they are feasting, they will feast forever.  It has been known, it is known, and it will be known that God richly saves those who wait… .just Trust.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’,” Revelations 21:3-5.
This is the Lord.  These are His ways.  He is the enthroned Lord of Life and Eternity who comes close to humanity. He has lived, is living and will live in the midst of our bowing low…. .but only for a moment.  He has come low that He might know us and raise us up.  He will raise us.  He will make all things new…. .just Trust.
Keep hope.  Stir faith.  Sow righteousness.  Naomi, Ruth, you will be rewarded for your waiting and your trust.  You have come to the God of Israel for refuge.  He will not disappoint.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Our Comfort and Our Hope

“But Boaz answered her, ‘All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.  The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!’  Then she said, ‘I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants’,”Ruth 2:11-13.
“Remember you word to your servant, I which you have made me hope.  This is my comfort in my afflictions, that your promise gives me life.  The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.  When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord,” Psalm 119:49-52.
From of old, Yahweh set a measuring line for justice.  In a stroke of wisdom He declared that human flesh must encounter a restoration.  All losses should be restored by our next of kin; our own brethren.  The risen Lord, who has once become our incarnate brother, has been empowered to restore all of humanities losses since He has also taken their punishment and wiped their sins away. 
 My hope rests on this measuring line, this law, of justice.  My hope is vitally attached to its execution.   Jesus Christ has become my closest kin that He might restore the losses I incurred at the hand of another, perhaps even my own foolish hand.   There is no sinful reason for me to be excluded from receiving the fullness of just and righteous restoration.  I am no long a Moabite pursing personal rights in my homeland.  I an a foreigner seeking refuge in Israel while humbly serving the cause of others.  It is all my hope that the risen Lord will notice.  It is all my hope that the Son of God will grant me Israelite rights… .that He will fulfill His promise to consider me His next of kin.  Selah: He is all my hope.
Boaz caught sight of a Moabite, a foreigner, who relinquished her rights.  She laid down her powers by which she could regain control of her life in her native homeland.  She lowered her heart and body to servitude.  She faithfully served Naomi’s need… .and her service became known.  
“Keep righteousness and do justice, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed,” Isaiah 56:1.
Keep gleaning wheat for Naomi.  For soon you will see that Yahweh does not let your service pass by.
This is the Eternal Hope of the Cross-Bearer: our service gathers in His eyes.  He sees us.  He promises to reward us.  We lose nothing in our service.  The Great Goel has guaranteed the full restoration of our earthly lives.  In eternal history, all things are renewed.
The Cross-Bearers hope is in this eternal renewal and reward that, for now, bears full witness within our spirits.  As we glean for Naomi we know that for every thread of barley offered to another, a hundred-fold will be poured into our bellies.  There are no losses in the New Israel; this homeland to which we have run.  Our comfort is in His spoken judgement that for every lose, stolen or sacrificial, He will restore… .He will reward.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word,” 2 Thessalonians 2:16.
Keep gleaning…
“Blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God, For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort,” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
Keep gleaning.  Keep pursing restoration for others….

Friday, September 24, 2010

Like a Brother

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.  For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers…” Hebrews 2:10-11.
Under the provision of Hebrew law, the next of kin was expected to restore the loss of a family member.  Boaz was kin to Ruth’s husband Chilion, however, he was not the next of kin“Naomi also said to her, ‘The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers’,” Ruth 2:20.  There was another individual, a closer relation, obligated to take up Ruth’s cause; specifically her cause to bear children in her deceased husband’s name.  Boaz said to Ruth, “Yet there is another redeemer nearer than I” Ruth 3:12.  For the sake of the story and its restorative fullness, also keep in mind, that Naomi is now childless as well and must lean heavily upon the kindness of her “adopted daughter” - she has no natural sons or daughters….
Brotherhood, sisterhood, adoption… .all of these words call to mind a choice; a choice to be unto someone else what one is not naturally obligated to be.  Purpose burned in the heart of Boaz.  He was not naturally obligated to take up Ruth’s cause.  And yet he will take it up with enthusiasm.
Christ was not naturally obligated to us.  We were alienated from His Life, His nurture, His wisdom, His ways, His peace… .we resembled him not the least.  “And you who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death…” Colossians 1:21-22.  Not only was He a foreigner to us, but we were incredibly foreign to Him.  Christ had no obligation to serve us in our alienation… .to reconcile us as sisters and brothers… .to bestow on us the spirit of adoption.
Neither was Boaz obligated to a Moabite, a foreigner, a stranger.  Yet Christ and Boaz purposefully sought the hand of foreigners that they might be redeemed from their alienation and losses.  Jesus Christ has become our closest kin so that He might serve as our redeemer and restore the pieces and places ravaged by sins work in a foreign land. “…The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Matthew 20:28.  Selah.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Moabitess Among Us

“Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’” Ruth 2:10.
Unexpected acknowledgment.  She was one with no anticipated rights - a Moabitess in an Israelite land, a foreigner.  Her forehead rested tightly upon the sawdust floor; she closed her eyes as her heart reeled with reverence, awe and wonderful emotion.  She was tense and weary.  Miniscule balls of sweat congregated across her brow, along the ridge of her nose and in the clammy palm of her hands.  Why, her sanity breathed, why would he care at all about my welfare?  She felt her heart flutter beneath the possibility of his kindness.  She needed this man’s kindness and mercy… .but dare she hope!?
“But Boaz answered her, ‘All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me…’,” Ruth 2:11.
Worlds apart.  You here on the broken Earth, He there in the distant Heavens… .and you thought your gleaning for Naomi, your labor of love, would go entirely unnoticed.  As a matter of fact, you weren’t pining away to be noticed, you were just praying for salvation - a little rest.
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,” 1 Peter 3:12.  The same eyes and ears upon the same face evoke disparate responses.  The righteous bows low to the ground, ever grateful that his or her work has caught the eye of Divinity; that his or her prayer has entered His ear.  Sighs of relief!  My labor is noticed!  I will be rewarded!  I will enter some rest!  However, no such consolation for the wicked who have caught their Creators gaze. Their works have been discovered and the scramble to hide from His frightening face.  “…calling to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne…’,” Revelation 6:16.  The same set of discerning eyes set within the same beautiful Face awakens both a long suffering hope and a violent fear…
The hope of the righteous, of those laboring in love with no expectation of kindness, is that the Divine Heart will, in the course of their history, take notice… .be stirred… .be attentive to their need for reward and rest.  Ruth was pleased to do her service - it was not compulsive or complaining, yet, she, like any human, needed the basics of generous compassion as well.  The heart of kindness that lingered over her bowed low countenance sincerely took her by surprise.  She had not expected it, but, she would gratefully receive it.
She would receive it a hundred fold, actively laying hold of all its possible blessing…
O Lord your kindness is unexpected, but I will take it - I will take it all!  “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all of his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagles,” Psalm 103:1-5.  I don’t know why you have taken notice of me, but I am reverently gratified with the interception of Your gaze!  I will find reward and rest in You!
The Goel has come…

Monday, September 20, 2010

Like a Foreigner

And He, the Christ, was like a foreigner among us…
To the Gentile, he was Jew, “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a bring from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans),” John 4:9.
But to the Jew, he was too Gentile, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’…” Matthew 11:19.
As the Son of Man we couldn’t accept His divinity, “…and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?  Is not this the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary?  And are not his brothers James and Joseph an simon and Judas?  And are not all his sisters with us?  Where then did this man get all these things?  And they took offense at him,” Matthew 13:54-47.
As the Son of God we couldn’t accept His humanity, “Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him…. .Then all the disciples left him and fled,” Matthew 26:50-56.
Jesus, He who had come to reconcile all things in Himself, was completely foreign to us.  We did not understand Him.  Like a foreigner, He had no real or lasting rights in the midst of us unless we chose to give Him rights… .and we did not.  “…And as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?  And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death..” Isaiah 53:8-9.  He was given the respect of a cut off foreigner, a desperately wicked soul, a greedy rich man at His death.
And yet, He has become the hope of foreigners! The Redeemer of all their estrangement… “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minster to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servant… .these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house…” Isaiah 56:6-7.  He who has been a foreigner among us has become the Goel of foreigners.  He will restore the rights and heritage of the foreigner.
In Him are our Redemptive Streets of Gold…

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Servant Who Suffers

The story is not really about a Sufferer who does service.  It is about a Servant who experiences suffering…
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that bought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed…” Isaiah 53:3-6.
The eyes of the Sufferer are on his or her hands, cracked and calloused… .they are on the bowed back that lifts and the life that fades.  Their eyes are on the years of service and how much they are due.  The Servant’s eyes, though he or she is truly tired, are only on Redemptive Streets of Gold leading their way into the hungry stomach and embittered soul of Naomi… .bringing revival and life.  They look forward to Restoration and All Things New… .Selah.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might dies to sin and live in righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed,” 1 Peter 2:21-24.
He saw Your healing… .Your Redemptive Streets of Gold…

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who Are You Working For?

“And he said to them. ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 
This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.’ Then he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!  
For Moses said: Honor your father and your mother and Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.
But you say: If a man tells his father or his mother, ‘Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God).
Then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.  And many such things you do.’” Mark 7:6-12.
And thus making void an opportunity for Naomi’s restoration…
Which came first… .the chicken or the egg… .the tradition or the truth?  Sometimes it is hard to say.  Who was this unindoctrinated creature bowing before Boaz like a humble servant?  This Moabite without heritage or promise, doctrine or Israelite rights had born the burden of Naomi like a faithful friend of justice. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor…” Zechariah 7:9-10.  
Cross bearers are often found in the most unexpected places, among the most unexpected people, doing what they know they ought to do because it is right - rendering justice, showing kindness and mercy to their fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers… .whether or not anyone ever knows.
 Cross Bearers lose much.  They lose the praise of those who honor traditional “Corban”.  They lose some sleep and their backs get tired from “picking up barley”.   They lose homeland, family ties… .the promise of earthly security.  They are those “…of whom the world is not worthy…” Hebrews 11:38, because they work not for praise, but for the love of justice, kindness, mercy and Naomi.  They carry the shame of a foreigner in a foreign land where their cross bearing is not rewarded.  They are often strangers to conventional custom and creed as they put food in the mouth of Naomi - as they honor a life needing saved.
Ruth had everything to give and nothing to gain… .nothing particularly earthly to hope for… .unless her cross bearing was noticed.  But it hadn’t even entered her mind.  It was not the least expected.  Ruth was a foreigner in a foreign land and she was just gathering sheaves for Naomi….
Who are you working for?  Are you still harboring an earthly expectation?  Or have you let it go to serve Naomi?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Redemption in His Hands


The dirty dark hands fingered the short stalk of wheat and plucked it from the earth.  She laid it in her sling and felt her joints threaten to quit for the day.  Ruth was very, very tired.  Her sling was heavy and dangled laboriously against her side.  She straightened, bending a bit backward and sinking her hands into her rear hip bone for support.  Enough!, her mind sighed.
The hired help, earning his pay in front of her, continued to do as he had been told to do.  Golden rods of redemption filtered to the harvest floor like a prophetic street of divine wealth.  All she had to do was follow its lighted way and pick up her redemption.  But no more - not today.  Ruth’s body ached for a redemption unearned; a redemption she did not have to bend over and pick up.  She chuckled at the thought.  Only when Chilion’s Messiah comes!  And then the foreboding chill of reality simpered up her spine: she could be an impoverished widow until that distant “someday”.  She shook her head to despair the thought, hefted her load and headed to the threshing floor.  Nearing it’s place, her left eye caught the distant stare of a man named Boaz… .a man staring directly her way….
Naomi would want all the details of this harvested day…
“‘Where did you glean today?  And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.’ So she told her mother-in-law…” Ruth 2:19.
…She told her mother-in-law everything: of a man, by the name of Boaz who had enquired of her among his hired men.  Who was this attractive young woman gleaning within his fields?  She had not the bend or strain of a servant girl.  She is the foreigner, he was told, who has left family and homeland to provide for Naomi, her mother-in-law.  Eyebrows raised.  Such an oddity!  The beautiful Moabitess, with soft hands and round limbs had most likely forsaken matrimonial opportunity and rest for a bowed low service to an embittered Naomi.  The servant shrugged, “She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.  So she came and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest’,” Ruth 2:7.
Boaz twirled a freshly cooled roasted oat in his hand as he listened to his servant… .so the story goes… .the story that Ruth unfolded to Naomi over a freshly baked loaf of bread.  Naomi’s eye widened and gleamed with a Jewish conspiracy.  The young man Boaz had expanded the gathering territory of this young Moabitess.  He had fed her stomach with bread and wine and roasted grain; more than enough with some leftover.  He had instructed all adversaries to lay not a hand on her and all friends to be generous.  He had provided food and field, friendship and praise… .What was he up to? Naomi twirled her thoughts on a string and envisioned a goel with redemption in his hands….

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cross Bearer

“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word,” Isaiah 66:2.
The Roman soldier threw his belongings carelessly over the unsuspecting well-dressed Jewish businessmen and sauntered past him with an obvious expectation.  With a little consideration he yelled back, “Jericho!”  Oy, woe to me!  thought the first-century Jewish man as he hefted the load a bit higher.  His plans were certainly on hold for today.  Seventeen mile by “The Way of Blood”, he sighed hoping to return with his life. He was trembling, but not at Yahweh’s word….
Ruth’s hands also trembled.  She had been welcomed by a Jewish man in a Moabite land, but would she be welcome here?  
“Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.  And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose eyes I shall find favor’,” Ruth 2:1-2.  Ruth, a woman on whom Naomi’s aged livelihood would depend - a Moabitess by blood, not a Jew - would enter the arena of lawful Jewish expectation.  She was now a spiritual orphan, denouncing the gods of her homeland. She was now a familial widow having buried her Jewish husband in that personally rejected homeland.  And she was certainly a foreigner who would never have a homeland, unless this Jewish people chose to heed the words of Yahweh and bring her home. 
“Thus says the Lord: do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed.  And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless and the widow…” Jeremiah 22:3.  “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor…” Zechariah 7:9-10.  The just restoration of Ruth and Naomi, their very physical, emotional and generational life, lay in the contrite heart of a possible Goel.  Would it be so?
In this story, like any other, everyone has the opportunity to bear crosses…
Blessed in Naomi who, even in bitter spirit, receives her daughter-in-law as family and waits patiently for restoration rather than striking out in her pain.
Blessed is Ruth as she bears a cross for Naomi.  She, a foreigner, will bravely seek favor from a Jew.  With trembling hands, she will gather barley and any fragments of Yahweh’s grace that a foreigner is welcomed to receive.  She will humbly receive Jewish charity so that she might know the ways of Yahweh’s grace rather than abiding under the inherited rights, familiar ways and common gods of the Moabites.  She will risk a lower status of poverty, widowhood and barrenness in a foreign land… .to love Yahweh and feed Naomi.
Blessed is the Jewish businessman.  Congratulations!  He has also been given the opportunity to bear a cross.  “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you,” Matthew 5:38-42.  The Jewish man has the opportunity to graciously serve a Gentile enemy with eyes wide open that this Roman soldier is a fellow image-bearer.  
Jesus, the Great Goel, obligated Himself to Gentiles and enemies.  Blessed is Boaz for he will foreshadow the cross-bearing of the Great Goel…
Tell me, how far would You travel with a foreign enemies load?


Monday, September 13, 2010

Congratulations!




“Blessed are…” Congratulations! “…the poor in spirit…”
“Blessed are…” Congratulations! “…those who mourn…”
“Blessed are…” Congratulations! “…the meek…”
“Blessed are…” Congratulations! “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”
“Blessed are…” Congratulations! “…the merciful…”
“Blessed are…” Congratulations! “…the pure in heart…”
“Blessed are…” Congratulations! “the peacemakers…”
“Blessed are…” Congratulations! “…those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…”
“Blessed are you…” Congratulations! “when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account…”
Matthew 5:3-11
Blessed are you in your humility and mourning, in your gentleness that gets walked on and your deep hunger for doing what’s right.  Blessed are you when they laugh at that odd desire!  Blessed are you as you give mercy to the one who keeps offending you - purposely!  Blessed are you with your purity of heart… .that gets easily taken advantage of.  Blessed are you who stands between angry cries of injustice and attempts, somewhat sloppily, to reconcile brothers.  Ouch!  You are in the middle of the thrown punches!  Blessed are you when you do the right thing and get the wrong response.  Blessed are you!  Congratulations!  Your opportunities are incredible!!!
The subtle put downs and sly remarks, the constant hope that you will trip and fall so someone can point it out… .the enjoyment of your failures… .they are buying for you some great rewards.  Yes, at the heart of this Hebraic message is “Congratulations!”.  The disciple of a Cross-Bearer has a wonderful opportunity to bear a cross.  
You, yes you, the one hurt but biting your tongue… .the one in pain and getting no comfort, yet, still offering comfort to others who mourn.  You, over there, the one going the extra mile to negotiate a reconciliation between brothers.  I bet your shoes are worn and your feet hurt.  And you, yes you, kneeling with your face burrowed into the floor saying, “God, I need more grace to forgive.  God help me!”… . I would assume that the sting from the last assault has not totally healed and yet you are pursuing forgiveness and choosing to love that sister once again.  To all of you who keep on giving and forgiving… .to every Naomi, who in her anguish does not reject Ruth and to every Ruth who through her tearful shaking still gives young hands to provide bread for a bitter Naomi… .Congratulations.  You have been given the Divine opportunity to bear a cross.. .to bow low and do what you ought to for the human race amidst little or no earthly reward… .Blessed are you!
Don’t pass up this opportunity…

Friday, September 10, 2010

Calamity

On the heels of capricious calamity come the questions of cause and effect.  A fire ignites and renders ashes.  A whirlwind sweeps homeland away.  Disease creeps into the bloodstream.  The innocent are crushed by wicked might.  The womb becomes a grave, the hands are emptied, the heart is broken… .a tower falls in Siloam…
Two widows enter Bethlehem and there are questions.
The human mind is interested, “What are all the reasons for this?”  We need to know why.  There must be an origin.  There must be a fault yet buried.  Who, might I ask, is to blame?
O, most certainly I am adding to the story.  We don’t know what questions traveled those Bethlehem streets, however, I am borrowing my thoughts from human nature and from a short encounter in Luke 13:1-5: “There were some present at that very time who told about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And he answered them. ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  The Savior, the Coming Goel, did not answer the questions buzzing through their minds and blurring their hearts.  Cause and effect was a human game He did not play.  Had the judgment already come?  No, it would come at the end of the age.  The oppression of the wicked, the tower of Siloam, the barren wombs, impoverished hands and their lonely widows were not wrecked by the heartless power of a whimsical, capricious deity…. .they were stinging reminders of a broken and brawling universe weighted down with the presence of sin in its relentless adversity against Divinity and humanity.
What was the question again?  Ah, yes… .the question is somewhere in here: “And the leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, ‘If you will, you can make me clean.’  Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean,” Mark 1:40-42.  The question was not, “Why does the leper have leprosy?”  The question is, “Will you, Jesus, heal?” and the answer is, “I will”.
He does not answer our concern for judgment; for blame or cause and effect.  He did not give His ear to our whispers.  He did not play our foolish games.  His nose was not sniffing out sin….
 He answers only our imploring and kneeling.  He answers only our plea to be healed…. .and He now answers our plea for the leper, the widow, our brother and sister, the oppressed and destitute, the broken and insane, and even our enemies, to be healed.  The Goel has come!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Impoverished Hands

“I am a well dried up!”
Work can feel like a burden.  Taken to an excess, polluted with deadlines and extra hours, occupations become an enemy to human relations; however, without occupation the human being lives with empty hands.  It is not the promise of a pay check or the call of prosperity that makes the human heart glad, rather, it is the fullness of our occupational womb.  In other words, the human wants to be recognized as a vibrant member of a community that acknowledges their particular gift and contribution.  We were made to uniquely reproduce the artistry of God through various helpful and beautiful occupations.
Somewhere I have read, and I cannot remember where, that it was decided, at some point in Jewish history, by a group of rabbis that the highest fulfillment of “Love… .your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27) was to get your neighbor a job.  Yes, to “love your neighbor” at its best meant to provide your neighbor with the sense of dignity that comes with being a vibrant member of a community where their particular gift and contribution is welcomed as a necessary resource.  This is about more than paychecks….
Deep physical and emotional hunger is about more than paychecks as well.  It strikes at the heart of human dignity.  Poverty empties more than the stomach… .it also empties the industrious hands.  The human is called into question as such.  Are they useful and needed?  Are they a vibrant member with a unique gift?  Have they anything to offer?  No.  Poverty has emptied their hands.  They are an orphan, a widow, a beggar… .they are not needed, they are only a need.  They represent our great losses and remind us of our striped down condition….  
Imagine yourself a destitute widow.  Naomi entered Bethlehem with a young Moabitess; a Jewish widow and a Gentile widow.  They were barren through and through.  There was much to whisper about.  Israelite women had not been exempted from human nature.  Their widowed thoughts were heavy: What would happen next?  Where would they go for food and comfort?  The hope of these widows waited upon Yahweh’s Law that preserved justice for impoverished hands; however, that Law was placed in the power of humanity.  Would humanity be generous in its part?  Would humanity love kindness?  And who would restore their dignity?  Who would go beyond justice and do justice These destitute women were not vibrant members, they were impoverished lives offering barrenness.  They had suffered many losses.  
…And in wisdom they would not make demands for justice, they would shrewdly and lawfully seek out redemption of their dignity from a Goel.  
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Whimsical Deity?

On a whim “take this, destroy that, enslave, aggress, pollute, ravage”… .the commands of a capricious Moabite deity, Chemosh.  For more than a decade, it was the atmosphere of Naomi’s world; a world where she and her family had retreated to feed a physical hunger in time of famine.  Ruth, also, lived in this world of a masculine god inciting war and requiring blood.  As a Moabite, there was no wooing, no kindness, no gentleness or sweetness, no mercy or covering the wounded.  Ruth was drawn away into the husbanding arms of an Israelite raised on the milk of Yahweh’s teaching.  Yahweh had warred but He did not rush into it.  Yahweh required blood, but as a measure of human justice and never, never ever, from a human life. In all His doings, Yahweh pursued shalom and taught His people to pursue shalom as well.  In the arms of an Israelite, for less than one wedded year to Naomi’s youngest son, Ruth had come to know shalom….
Oprah brushed her mother-in-laws cheek with a kiss and remounted her donkey to follow the road home.  She waited.  Ruth stared long at the embittered elderly widow before her.  Naomi had become hardened, sometimes relationally unbearable.  Ruth stiffened her very slender muscular frame and pointed her steely grey eyes right through Naomi’s countenance.  Quite and undetectable as single grain of sand, Ruth was still not one to be reckoned with at this moment in Israelite history.  “I will not go,” she stated stolidly.  Naomi threw her arms out and waved her hands about like a flustered ostrich, “Child!” she scolded, “Your sister-in-law is returning to her people and her gods!  I have nothing for you!  No sons!  No husbands in my womb!  No affections!  I am a well dried up!  Go!  Go!  Go!  Return to your family who may have a heart and material goods to give you!”  And Naomi covered her face with her hands in a motion of immense stresses, praying that when she removed them, her daughters-in-law would be gone and with them all her memories and worries.  Naomi would die alone in Bethlehem when her broken heart gave up it’s grief.
“Ya! Ya!” Naomi heard the lumbering clap of donkey’s feet, let out a deep sigh and uncovered her eyes.  “Ohhhh,” her mind ached and surrendered as her old, blurred vision beheld, not a child, but a strong matron empowered by an ancient love.  Oprah’s donkey made the only sound for a lengthy moment in a slow fade behind them.  “Do not urge me to leave you or return from following you,” Ruth broke the silence with steady words.  Wisdom and fervor poured from her instructed thoughts.  This old woman before her had been drained by grief and knew not her own heart, but, Ruth knew it.  She clung graciously and steadfastly to the memory of a God not moved by whim, but by mercy, and the memory of a mother-in-law celebrating Yahweh like a liberated Jewess.  Ruth carried the words of an Israelite husband in her Moabite blood and, through suffering or a stinging elderly tongue, she would not depart from this heritage, nor this broken woman.  Her cool eyes danced with a compassionate fire, “Naomi, where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.  You people will be MY people, and your God MY God.”  Naomi closed up her tongue.  She had nothing to give, but nothing to say as well to this proclamation.  Ruth 1:6-18.
Capricious gods behind, the unknown before, two women mounted their donkeys toward Bethlehem.  There is a lot of story here… .stories of the heart.  The heart of Naomi has lost it’s Yahweh and it’s shalom.  The heart of Ruth, despite her loss, will not relinquish it’s Yahweh or the shalom it has come to know.  In the land of whim, Naomi had suffered perceptually.  Was Yahweh also a whimsical deity?  Through Ruth, Naomi will meet her Goel….
For Yahweh is not a whimsical diety…

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Call Me Mara

“Call me Mara,” she said, as thin tears made salty tributaries in her aged, cracked skin.   She was speaking to no one in particular.  Her bittersweet heartache flitted away upon the warm desert breeze.  A caravan of sand whipped up very near her and rushed against her long black linen gown, harshly stinging her strong calf muscle.  Naomi, while living in Moab had, all at once, with no warning, became a childless widow.  A widow she had already been for nearly ten years while raising her sons to manhood… .watching them mature and marry in the land of the Moabites.  Then, upon the heels of the second marriage celebration, her two sons had died together in weakness of health and sickliness.  
Naomi, an Israelite, had lived beneath the breath of the Almighty her whole life.  In a land of foreign gods and pagan superstitions, she kept a constant vigil in His care… .and yet, the idolatrous ways of Moab, the ideologies and arbitrary practices of whimsical deities and demons toyed with her perceptions day in and day out.  Here, in a deserted wasteland of heart and sand, on her sojourn back to Israel, she declares her name to be “bitter”, dispossessing “Naomi” which means “pleasant”; for she laments, “the hand of the Lord has gone out against me,” Ruth 1:13.   The foundation of trust in the Lord God Almighty of Israel lay badly damaged under the heap that buried her beloved sons.  Womb, arms and heavy sobs opened aggressively, crying out, seeking their fullness… .catching their breath.  All the life in her went in and out with the insanity of famished grief.  She was hungry for the love and familiar embraces of her husband and sons…
Her testimony lingered on dry lips that had quivered and poured out their sorrow.  Wailing covered the territory from Moab to Bethlehem of Israel.  The old woman that rode upon the steady donkey through narrow streets was not the young blushing bride with a full womb that had passed out of them many, many years before.  Her raven curled tresses were split and grey.  Her bright olive eyes had dulled and ached with a bloodshot pain, rimmed with deep blue circles of sleeplessness.  Her figure slumped with the heaviness of great loss.  Naomi was not Naomi anymore.  “Is this Naomi?” the town’s women asked among themselves.  “No, the woman is known as Mara.”  The testimony of bitterness walked upon chatty tongues into eager ears.  “It is said of her that the Almighty has dealt bitterly with her.”  “Yes” said another, “but this is Naomi.  For it is said like this, ‘Naomi, the Israelite, left David’s land full as a wineskin.  She was poured out and emptied in a foreign land with no kin’.”  Another replied, “From her own lips she has spoken that the Lord has testified against her and brought calamity to her delightful tent.  Why do you suppose the Lord has disagreed with Naomi?”  
And Naomi, the bitter Israelite, lived with her daughter-in-law Ruth of the Moabites, in the fertile valleys and groves of the small, newly prospering, Bethlehem.  

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Goel

His descent into our atmosphere was purposeful.   The human race was tangled in the cords of Death.  We were bound by its Laws.  We were subject to its oppression of the heart.  The forces of angry injustice continually aroused and enslaved us to a need for personal satisfaction.  All of us, amiss the deadly pursuits of others, have lost territory, relationships, investments, integrity, honor, dreams, goals, abilities, affirmation, faith. ….whether they be emotional, mental or physical.  And we have stolen these things as well.  
God has also lost.  Creator God, the Righteous, Holy and Beautiful, did not demand His own losses to be returned.  He forgave.  And. ….drum role please. …..He offered Himself. …His own body, His own blood, His own Spirit. ….as a means of restoring our losses.  Revel.  Gaze.  Be filled with Wonder….  
And He has come to us, not for His own restoration, but for ours.  He has come as a Restorer.  He has come armed with an ancient justice and a stubborn love.  He will do unto us what we ought to have done to Him.  He is armed with a Law set into motion long ago… .a Law we have not known.  All those who trust in the Son for justice will meet this long ago establishment of restoration.  They will meet it Eternally.  Let us consider this lawful act of restoration…
There is a character of the ancient Jewish landscape that best describes the deliverance that Jesus Christ armed Himself with when He descended upon the human race.  It is a family position known as the “Goel” or kinsman redeemer.  The Jewish Law describes the responsibility of the family member most closely related to a victimized individual.  If able, he was to redeem the losses of the victim.  
The Goel was expected to buy a fellow Israelite out of slavery, as described in Leviticus 25:48.  He was expected to be the “avenger of blood”, meaning that he was to hold accountable the murderer of a family member, as described in Numbers 35:19.  He was expected to buy back any family land that has been forfeited if it was within his means, as described in Leviticus 25:25.  And he was expected to carry on the family name of a deceased husband my marrying his childless widow, as described in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.  The administration of the Goel was a safeguard against personal, material and generational losses.
Let me tell you the story of Naomi, Ruth and the Goel…

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Everything Stops

Humanity has often lost sight of a possible Savior.  They see no opportunity to be released from their personal anger.  They perceive no option to be delivered from the Laws of Death that were set into motion by every unjust assault.  They feel no desire to discontinue the momentum of their own vengeance against others.  Hurt people really do hurt people.  We not only brandish swords, but we have stored up arrows and daggers and armor and shields.  They are kept available in our thoughts and emotions to be displayed in our words and actions when we are convinced that anyone is threatening our survival.  If you bruise me, you also will bleed.  The atmospheric message of the world is “kill or be killed”.  
But the message of the cross is “save and be saved”.  A broken man let us vent on His body all of our anger against God and Man.  “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” Matthew 16:24-25.
Everything stops here.  Justice has been served.  The human race didn’t know how to get it.  So Jesus did.  He laid aside all of His personal quests for justice to bring it about for God and man.  All of our lives were demanded of someone, and certainly of God, so He gave His own to meet the demand.  Our debt was paid.  And so was the debt of your abuser, your accuser, your human adversary.  Their debt was paid too.  
The Written Law was brought to completion in Christ.  Fingers were not needed anymore.  No one stood accused.  All were acquitted.  There was no need to point out how deadly we are, we proved it at the cross.  From now on, Christ would work internally.  From the inside a seed of Divine Life would grow.  The Law of Life would be replanted in the human conscience.  Its perfect boundaries would be congruent with its growth.  We would inwardly experience the work of justice and be brought back to Eternal Life and glory.  This was for all men, everywhere.  No exceptions.  
The work has been completed.  All quests for justice stop.  We lay down our sword, make a full turn in the opposite direction, and pick up a cross.  Reborn, spiritual, new creation believers will no longer fight to survive and secure personal justice… .they will follow Christ in fighting for the survival and security of God’s justice and the justice of their neighbors on planet earth.  They will aid God in His cause of reconciliation.  They will help others lay down their sword.  They will absorb the angry words and cries for justice.  They will be afflicted by humanities dissatisfaction with God.  But they will also embrace a vision of humanity seeing, hearing an knowing the Father again.  Out of their affliction, they will witness the seeds of new Life.  These Image-Bearers will be Cross-Bearers in a war-torn world.  “…whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” Mark 16:25.

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