Friday, May 5, 2017

May 5: Judges 21 – Ruth 1; Psalm 105:1-15; Proverbs 14:25; John 4:5-4:42



Overview

            Judges: After killing all of Benjamin except 600 men, Israel mourned for the loss of a tribe among them. So, they prayed to the Lord then offered sacrifices. They inquired as to who in Israel hadn’t come to the camp in Mizpah. At Mizpah, they had all agreed not to let any Benjamite marry any of their daughters. They had also agreed to put to death anyone who didn’t come to the camp. The town of Jabesh-gilead had not sent anyone so they went and killed everyone except 400 young women who were virgins. They brought the women back and gave them to the 600 men as wives. They told the remaining 200 men to go to Shiloh and capture for a wife a young woman who comes out to dance in their annual festival. When the fathers and brothers complain to the elders of Israel, they will be told to be kind to the Benjamites and the people of Shiloh won’t be any trouble because they didn’t give their daughters; they were taken.
            Ruth: Elimelech, his wife, Naomi, and their sons, Mahlon and Kilion left Bethlehem and moved to Moab because of famine. Elimelech died and his sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. The two sons died.
            Naomi heard that the famine was over and decided to move back to Bethlehem. Orpah and Ruth went along. Naomi told them to go back as she couldn’t promise them husbands there. Orpah turned back but Ruth clung to Naomi. Ruth said Naomi’s people and her God would become hers.
            When they arrived in Bethlehem, she told the people not to call her Naomi but Mara. She went away full and came back empty. She said the Lord testified against her and brought the calamity on her.
            Psalm: This is Psalm of witnessing. We are to be thankful and make his name known. People who seek him will be joyful. We are to remember all he has done. He is Lord and he judges the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the promises to Israel. When Israel was small and wandered in the desert, he didn’t let anyone oppress them.
            Proverbs: Truth as opposed to lies, saves lives instead of leading elsewhere.
            John: Jesus is traveling to Galilee through Samaria and stops at a well outside of Sychar. His disciples went into town to get something to eat. When a woman comes to the well, he asks her for a drink. She asks how a Jew would ask a Samaritan for a drink because they don’t talk to each other. Jesus says that she would ask him for living water if she really knew who he was. As they talk back and forth, Jesus explains he is talking about eternal life. She wants this living water but Jesus then tells her he knows all about her five husbands and is living with a person who isn’t her husband. She understands Jesus is a prophet and points out that her ancestors worshiped on this mountain but Jews in Jerusalem.
            Jesus explains that Samaritans worship what they don’t know and Jews what they know and salvation is from the Jews. Now, true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth and those are the ones the Father wants. She tells Jesus that the Messiah will explain it all. Jesus replies he is the Messiah.
            The disciples come back and marvel that Jesus is talking to a woman. The woman leaves and tells the townspeople that Jesus must be the Christ.
            The disciples want Jesus to eat but he said he has food that they don’t know about. His food is to the Father’s will. Jesus explains that the harvest is ready if they will look. They are the reapers but other have sowed. The woman then returns with the townspeople as they believed because of the woman’s testimony. They asked Jesus to stay and he stayed two days. Many more believed because of his word and not just the woman’s.

What Stood Out

            Judges: “Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty” (Judg 21:22).
            Ruth: “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
            Psalm: “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples” (Ps 105:1)!
            Proverbs: “A truthful witness saves lives” (Prov 14:25).
            John: “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’” (John 4:7).

Insight

            Judges: It’s interesting that when we want something badly enough we can find a loophole to justify it. This is essentially what Israel did to get around their vows not to give any women to Benjamin as wives. They fulfilled the vow to kill anyone who would not meet with them to fight Benjamin but took the virgin women they spared and gave them to Benjamin. They also let the remaining 200 men kidnap a wife and smoothed it over with their relatives.
            We tend to sin when we perceive our need is more important than obedience to the Lord. When we sleep in on Sunday instead of worshiping the Lord with others is a good example. It is our need to sleep in because it is the only day of the week we have a chance to do it. Going to a football game or staying home to watch it instead of Sunday worship is putting our own desires ahead of pleasing the Lord. You can name your own poison if you really examine your life.
            Ruth: Ruth is an example of a woman who saw loyalty to her mother-in-law as more important than having a comfortable life. This could only stem from her desire to serve the Lord. In her vow to Naomi, which she made before the Lord, she renounced her people. This would also alienate her from their gods. She affirmed this by stating that Naomi’s God would be hers. We need to have the same kind of faith in the Lord to make the tough decisions.
            Naomi had some good theology when she stated that the Lord brought the calamity on her. Her husband and kids all died well before their time. This is something that is completely in God’s hands. Our lives are only as long as he determines. While her theology was correct, her attitude was rather stinky. Sure, she had lost almost everything and many people blame God when they do, but that doesn’t make it right. The name Naomi means pleasant and Mara means bitter (Ruth 1:20 ESV notes). She was bitter and therefore not trusting the Lord. Her attitude was just the opposite of Ruth’s yet God was faithful to her as we’ll find out later.
            We should realize that God works good for us even though we don’t always understand (Rom 8:28-29). We can’t see the future but when we trust in him the journey doesn’t need to be bitter.
            Psalm: The very first verse of this Psalm provides a great outline for being a witness to the Lord. The first thing is to be thankful. It is hard to be a good witness of what God has done in our lives if we are ungrateful. Look at Naomi. Who would want to know about her God when she expressed her bitterness?
The next thing is to call upon the name of the Lord. We can’t be good witnesses if we don’t pray. If we don’t ask for divine encounters or his work in the hearts of those we meet, it is unlikely that we will be effective when we witness. If we don’t call on the Lord to examine our attitudes and behavior, we can be bad witnesses.
Then we must make known God’s deeds among the people. That can be how God is working in our lives or others. It may mean going all the way back to Genesis and talking about creation or the fall. It may mean telling how God saved us through Jesus Christ. Each person comes to the Lord by some kind of witness. We must be open to the Holy Spirit guiding us to share what is needed in each person’s life.
            Proverbs: We’re still talking about witnessing. When we are truthful in our witness, we have the opportunity to be used by the Lord to save a life from eternal hell. If we are not truthful in our witness, then it is deceit and steers a person away from the Lord.
            John: We get another wonderful example of the way the Master witnessed to people. Jesus opened the conversation by making himself vulnerable to the woman at the well. He broke traditions and social protocol by speaking to her and asking her to do something for him. This put the woman in charge of the situation. We can do the same thing. We can ask for help or just be friendly to people rather than asking them right away if they are saved. The person can respond in many ways, but the conversation is already started.
            Jesus then steered the conversation away from his need to her need. When he mentioned living water and eternal life, she knew he was leading toward something spiritual and she countered by bringing up her own theological questions. If we advance to this point in a conversation, these questions are often a smoke screen to keep people away from admitting their sin.
            Since Jesus is omniscient, he easily identified her favorite sin. We can’t do that as easily, but by asking questions we can let the them admit that they’ve done something as simple as telling lies. We can ask what God thinks about those sins and then we can point them to Jesus as the only solution.
            Granted, it isn’t as simple as I’ve outlined, but we can learn a lot about witnessing by seeing how Jesus interacted with people.

Application

            I need to be a better witness. For me, that means calling on the Lord more. It also means being able to steer conversation toward spiritual things.

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