THE NEW EWE
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 2, 2008
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Just to recap what has taken place so far; Ruth left her home and family in Moab in order to care for her mother-in-law, Naomi. The two women have returned back to Bethlehem, which is Naomi's home town. Ruth has found favor with Boaz; and following after the reapers who are harvesting his field, is gleaning the leftover grain. Boaz has spoken to Ruth and told her to glean only from his field so that she will be protected.
Now, the meal time arrives, and Boaz tells Ruth to come and eat with him and the reapers. She ate and was satisfied, but held some food back to take home for Naomi to eat. This shows Ruth's true character of unselfishness, and the love she has for her mother-in-law. She held back part of her portion of food to take home with her, so that Naomi would have something to eat also. There are many who would have thought, “I'm the one having to work out in the hot sun gathering grain, and Naomi is just sitting home doing nothing.” They would have had the attitude that they deserved it all, and not even considered holding some out to take home to share.
After eating, she leaves to go back out to glean. Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”
Ruth did not end up in the field belonging to Boaz by accident. But God directed her steps and led her there.
Psalms 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man (or woman) are ordered by the Lord.”
God had a plan for Ruth there in Bethlehem. If Ruth had allowed fear and uncertainty of the unknown to keep her in Moab, then all things could not have worked out for her good, and her purpose would not have been fulfilled. She would have missed the destiny that God had prepared for her.
God has a plan and purpose for each and every one of us. But we are a people of choice, and He will not force us to obey and follow His will for our lives. Sometimes we do go through times of testing. But other times, the difficulties we are facing are due to our own stubbornness and rebellion. And when that happens, God sometimes has to do something drastic to get our attention and focus back onto Him.
Jonah was called to go to Nineveh and preach a message of repentance to the people. But he rebelled and was determined to travel as far away from there as he possibly could. There was no reason why those sailors should have had to endure the storm out in the middle of the sea, and have to throw Jonah overboard. There was no reason why Jonah should have been in the belly of that big fish for 3 days. But due to his rebellious heart and attempt to run from God, God allowed those things to happen in order to get Jonah's attention, so that His purpose could be accomplished through Jonah's message to the sinful, heathen nation of Nineveh. None of those bad things would have happened if Jonah would have obeyed God in the first place, and not try to run from God's purpose.
After her day of gleaning in the fields, Ruth returned back home to Naomi. Naomi asked where she had worked that day. When Ruth told her, Naomi's response was, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead! This man is one of our close relatives.”
I believe that when Naomi heard how God had directed Ruth to the field of Boaz, hope filled her once again. Upon her arrival back to Bethlehem from Moab, she had told the people to call her Mara, because the Almighty had dealt bitterly with her. She felt that the Lord had brought her home empty and had afflicted her. Now she could begin to see how God was protecting them and providing for their needs.
At the end of the harvest, Naomi instructed Ruth to go down to the threshing floor where Boaz was, and present herself to him. Ruth was to wait until Boaz had finished eating. Then when he laid down, Ruth was to go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and then Boaz would tell her what to do. So Ruth obeyed Naomi.
It was custom, if there was not another son to marry the widowed one, then a close relative was to do so.
When Boaz awoke, he noticed Ruth and asked who she was. She reminded him that he was a close relative (he was related to Naomi's deceased husband), and asked him to take her under his wing.
He replied that she was blessed of the Lord, for she had shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that she did not go after young men. He told her not to fear, that he would do all that she had requested, for all the people of the town knew that she was a virtuous woman. But even though he was a close relative, there was another man who was even closer related than he. If that man was willing to marry her, then that was good; but if not, then he would marry her.
When Ruth arrives back home, she relates what had taken place to Naomi.
Boaz meets with the other relative, with ten city elders as witnesses. He offers him the chance to buy all that belonged to Naomi's husband and two sons, and redeem it. The man replies that he cannot redeem it, or he would ruin his own inheritance. Boaz then buys it all from the hand of Naomi and redeems it for himself.
He then takes Ruth as his wife. Shortly afterward, she conceived and bore a son.
The women said to Naomi, “Blessed by the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”
The baby's name was Obed. He then fathered Jesse, who was the father to David. This is the same David who killed the giant with the sling and stone. The same David who was king of Israel. The same David who was in the lineage of Jesus.
So many of the events that happened to Naomi and Ruth, if just looked at by themselves, would look like a bad situation. But when you see the whole picture, and see how God's hand was upon them, and His purpose was fulfilled; we can truly see that, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
This doesn't mean that all things that happen are good, but that all things WORK TOGETHER for good.
I've heard it said that the only difference between the word bitter and better is the letter “i”. When I face hardships and difficulties, only I can control my reaction and response. When my faith is tested, I can either let it make me a bitter woman and destroy me; or I can choose to let it strengthen me, learn from the experience, and make me a better person.
Upon her arrival back in Bethlehem, Naomi may have felt that God had deserted her and treated her bitterly; but she didn't let it destroy her faith. Despite all the hardships that she endured in her life, God brought restoration and blessing back to her life.
There may be times in our lives when we become discouraged and feel that God has let us down or left us. But it's during those times that we cannot rely on our feelings and emotions to carry us through. That's when we have to rely on faith. We have to choose to believe that God is Who He says He is; that His Word is true; and that He is there with us, regardless of how we feel or how things look. And we can be assured that He will once again bring restoration and blessing back to our life.
God took this young foreign girl who left home and family, became widowed at an early age, had to work gleaning the fields so she and her mother-in-law could live; and fulfilled His purpose through her. She was the great-grandmother to King David, who was in the lineage of Jesus.
When Ruth left her homeland of Moab, she had no idea what lay ahead of her. God didn't give her a preview of what was going to happen upon her settling in Bethlehem. She had no inkling that she was going to be led to the field belonging to Boaz, and that he would become her husband. In fact, she very likely had no idea who Boaz even was. But out of her love for her mother-in-law, she was willing to step out in faith and follow Naomi to Bethlehem. She was willing to trust God to provide for their needs. Only as the plan unfolded, did Ruth see what God was up to.
There is a song that refers to David, and it says, “While others see a shepherd boy, God may see a king.” In David's young life, his family and the people from the town in which he resided, probably only saw him as a shepherd. There may have even been those who commented, “That boy won't ever amount to anything! He'll spend his entire life watching sheep.” Yet God had a different purpose for David to fulfill. Don't believe the statement, “Once a shepherd (or any other occupation or label), always a shepherd.”
Just as Ruth, David, Jonah, and all those other “heroes” in the Bible had a calling and purpose to fulfill, so do each of us. God created each of us with a purpose in mind. Perhaps it seems like you've spent a lot of time enduring hardships and adversities. But you can have the assurance that if you love God, and are willing to obey and serve Him, and fulfill the purpose He has for you; then regardless of how things may look right now, all thing WILL work together for good. Don't lose hope, don't change your name to Mara (bitter), don't think that God has forsaken and forgotten you! But know that God is up to something and is working on your behalf, even though you cannot see it at this time.
(This is the end of Ruth's story, but I will be continuing along this same theme again next week. Hmm, wonder who it will be about?! Guess you'll have to wait and read the devotional to see!)
I'm sure that over the course of four thousand years, the status of a shepherd in his community has changed back and forth quite a bit. I've read that at times, shepherds were somewhat respected because they protected the food supply and fought off wolves. But I've also read that they are more often treated as rough, uncouth, smelly, lower-class citizens. Chances are, they did smell as bad as sheep. And many of them would have worked at night and slept all day. David was stuck with the job of shepherd because he was the youngest and too scrawny to fight alongside his brothers.
But, even though he was just a shepherd boy, David was “called according to His purpose”. When he stepped up to fight Goliath, there were probably many soldiers snickering. And there's a good chance many of them moved away and avoided standing down wind of him. But they surely respected him afterward.
Not everything worked out good for the short-term for David. He was hunted by the king, for example. But it all worked for his good in the long-term.
1 lb. Chicken breast
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup milk
2 cups flour
Cut chicken in small chunks. In a bowl, mix together the egg, milk, salt and pepper. Let chicken set in this mixture 10 minutes. Then dip chicken pieces in flour and fry in hot oil.
2 cup water
2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
¾ cup cashews
4 chicken bouillon cubes
Mix cornstarch with ½ cup of the water. In a saucepan put the remaining 1 ½ cups water with the bouillon cubes; bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch mixture; cook and stir until smooth and thickened like a gravy. Remove from heat and add the soy sauce. Pour over the chicken.
Cook 2 cups Minute rice according to directions – put 2 chicken bouillon cubes in the water before adding the rice, if desired. In a skillet melt 1 stick of butter. Saute ¼ cup of diced onion in the butter. Add 1 egg and scramble. Add the rice to this mixture and cook together for a few minutes, stirring often. Last of all, season to taste with soy sauce. You can add green onions, if desired.
My husband usually stays on his side of the bed when he sleeps, and likes it when I stay on mine! I've occasionally rolled over and bumped into him, which wakes him up and causes him to be a little grumpy. It's usually me doing something to wake him up, not the other way around. But that was not the case a few months ago. Jon was kicking at my leg, which woke me up. I'm not very alert (nor am I in a good mood) when I get woke up, so I thought that I must have gotten over on his side or bumped into him with my leg, and he was trying to kick me away. So I moved my leg. When I did, he moved over and just kept kicking at me. So once again I scooted farther away. He kept following me, kicking at me. After doing this three or four time, I finally had had enough. I (very grumpily, I'm sure) asked what he was doing! It woke him up, and he realized that he had been kicking at my feet. Jon had been dreaming that he was camping in a motor home, which was parked in the woods. He was trying to scare off a squirrel under the motor home. He was trying to kick at it, and it was always just out of reach. Jon had no idea that he had been kicking at me (or so he says!).
Too often people described themselves (and have others refer to them) as, “Just a homemaker” or “Just an engineer”, or “Just a machinist”, or “Just a mother”, or “Just a janitor”, etc. But God doesn't put the “Just a...” in front of who we are.
Don't belittle yourself or think of yourself as being of no importance. It doesn't matter if you clean toilets, are a waitress, the owner of a company, retired, make $10,000 or $100,000 a year; you are important and what you do is important. None of us like going into dirty public restrooms, and it takes someone to keep them clean; we all like good service when we go out to eat, and it takes a special person to wait tables without spilling food; some are given business sense and have the know how to run companies, which is of vital importance; and the list could go on and on. So don't be embarrassed to tell others what you do. Don't say you're “just a ....”, but whatever you do in life, do it with all your heart as to God, and not to men.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon