Friday, June 29, 2012

The Sower and the Seed


The Parable of the Sower and the Seed
Matthew 13:1-23
And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;  And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:  Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:  And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.  And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.  (Matthew 13:3-8)
What is a Parable? A parable, used in Jewish culture, was a common form of teaching a spiritual or moral truth. The purpose for teaching in this style was to show comparison, an example, that could be more easily understood laid alongside that which was not known or understood, in order to explain it. Jesus, being the master teacher, used parables to touch the hearts of the disciples and others making them useful and powerful tools.
The parable of the Sower begins as Jesus leaves the house and sits by the sea side to teach. As the crowd increases and gathers around Him, He stands up, walks to the shore of the sea, gets into a boat, sits down in the boat and begins to speak. The multitude stands on the shore to hear what lessons He would teach them through parables. Jesus opens the parable with these words: “Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” The word, “Behold” is designed to arrest attention and to indicate that our Lord was about to communicate something of unusual importance.
The Sower and the Seed ~ No name or position was given to the sower in this parable indicating, every Christian should be a sower, diligently laboring and devoted entirely to the greatest of all tasks, sowing the precious Word of God. The sower, no matter who he or she may be, should be praying for appropriate seasons and times to spread the gospel, the power of God. The Bible twice describes the gospel as “the power of God.” Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” 1 Corinthians 1:24  “... Christ the power of God...” In all of Scripture, nothing else is ever described in this way, except for the Person of Jesus Christ. What a compelling description that illuminates God’s power and manifests how great is His salvation that regenerates, transforms and rebuilds one’s life.
The Soil ~ Most of the attention given in this parable is given to the soil. The seed sown in all four soils is the same, but what a difference in the heart and reaction to the Gospel is represented in the different soils. The Wayside Soil, the seed is on the surface of the roadside, but not inside the heart. The birds come, which are the agencies of “the wicked one” and snatch away the seed, thus, the truth does not take hold. The Stony Ground, or the one with an emotional mind receives the seed but it does not take root. These dear people do not know what it means to be truly “Born Again” by the incorruptible seed. When temptations and persecution come their way because of the Word, they quickly turn aside. The depth of faith, surrender and character are lacking leaving them with a superficial hope. The Thorny Ground, this person hears the Word of God but makes a superficial commitment without true repentance. The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of this life cause them to miss sitting at the feet of Jesus. The Good Ground, this is one who hears, understands the Word of God and is bearing fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. The Word of God takes root deep in their hearts and the result, they continue to sow seed in the field God has given them. Bearing fruit is the ultimate mark of a true believer and evidence of the Spirit’s work in the lives of His children.
Thought: We as Christians need to cultivate a desire to spread the Gospel and pray God will give to us a burden for those who are without the knowledge of His saving power. There should be a longing in our soul to have others experience His saving grace while devastated by the plight of those outside of Christ. May we continue to give the Gospel to a lost and dying world  pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 23).  How blessed we are that our eyes have been opened to the glorious truth of the Gospel of Christ. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.  Amen (Jude 24,25).

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Bridegroom


The Book of Ruth, A Love Story
The Bridegroom 
Ruth 4:11-22
And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Beth–lehem:And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman.
So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son.  And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him. And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed,  And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.
There is a moment of suspense in the love story of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth waits through the long night with anticipation and excitement as she longs to know if Boaz will be her kinsman-redeemer. Not once in this little book is the nearer kinsman’s name given, but he has definitely made it clear to the city officials in the town square, and to Boaz, he cannot and will not redeem Ruth. 
Ruth would go from poverty to riches in one seemingly endless night. What a strange wedding  ceremony would occur at the gate of Bethlehem, because it was more than a wedding, it was a legal business transaction. The legal matters had to be settled before the marriage could be completed. Boaz had to assume the responsibility of paying the past debts of the family and redeem the lost property of Elimelech. Boaz made two purchases on this wedding day–––a lost inheritance and a bride for himself. Boaz had to purchase Ruth as his bride because she was hopelessly in debt.
What a wonderful story of love and devotion but as all stories, it must come to an end. This touching story that started with tragedy, sorrow and disappointment will end with joy and blessing. It began with a famine in Bethlehem, then death, in the land of Moab. In the end, we see love blooming, redemption prevailing and wedding bells ringing in the little town of Bethlehem. 
A child is born to Ruth and Boaz and amazingly the genealogy following one small child leads to the great king of Israel, King David. The book of Ruth was written to prove the legal genealogy of God’s coming king of Israel, confirming Ruth as King David’s grandmother. The lineage of King David will bring us again to the small town of Bethlehem where the King of Kings, the King of all the ages will be born and His name shall be called, JESUS. 
Thought: What a beautiful picture Ruth gives of our so great salvation. From the moment she left her old life in Moab until the day she entered her new home as Boaz’ wife, she illustrates for us true salvation. We were once pagans, aliens without hope and in need of a redeemer. We could not pay the sin debt we owed–––the price was beyond what we could bare. Nothing less than the precious blood of the Son of God was sufficient to pay the debt we owed for our sins. Man makes light of it, and many refuse to accept it, but the fact remains, without the shedding of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ there is absolutely no remission for sin––there is no salvation. (Hebrews 9:22) 
Thank you, Lord, our Bridegroom, for the extreme sacrifice you paid that we may experience forgiveness of sin and life eternal in our new home in glory. May we so live as to never bring shame upon Your name our Redeemer and Bridegroom. Amen!

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Price of a Bride


The Book of Ruth, A Love Story
The Price of a Bride
Ruth 4:1-10
Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down. And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's: And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it.a  Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.  And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it.  Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel.  Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe. And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, of the hand of Naomi.  Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.
This wonderful story of love is a glorious reminder to us that God’s purposes cannot be foiled. 
God’s plan for Ruth and Boaz is in full bloom picturing for us the challenging relationships marked by love and kindness. A public sale is being held in the market place at the gate of the city of Bethlehem. What is being sold at this public auction? Is the property that belonged to Naomi and Ruth going to the highest bidder?
There is one who is a nearer kinsman than Boaz and he is summonsed to the gate to meet the conditions and furnish the capital for this important business agreement . A poor woman, Naomi, had lost title to her husband’s estate which could only be redeemed by paying all the back debts, taxes and penalties. In addition to this piece of property, there is a servant girl, a widow who also had claim to this property because of her former marriage, but her husband had died and she is left penniless and of course, a widow. What is her name? Ruth, the Moabites.
According to the law, lost property could be redeemed by a near kinsman or relative, providing that he could meet the demands of the debt. The widow too, could be redeemed if the near relative were able and willing to take her as his wife. These two things were on the auction block––Naomi’s property and Ruth’s widowhood––were up for sale and in need of a redeemer. What a long night it must have been for poor Ruth waiting for the one who would redeem her. Imagine the fears, the questions that came to her mind and the overwhelming debt that was upon her. Boaz met Ruth’s nearer kinsman face to face and asked, “Can you redeem Ruth, and will you do so?” The nearer kinsman said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance.” He was not willing or able to redeem her––how Ruth’s heart must have sung out in joy to know that the one she loved, loved her and would redeem her. Boaz called a public meeting and counted out the money to pay the debt, receiving the title to the property and immediately wedding bells were ringing for the poor servant girl, Ruth. (The amount paid for Naomi’s estate is not stated in the Bible but be assured it must have been a great sum and most likely paid in silver.) 
Thought: The love story of Ruth is a picture of the Christian life. As Christians, we have so many fears that grip our hearts and numerous questions about life and death and the future that we become overwhelmed at times. And what about the debt we owe to God for our great sin? Who is our “nearer kinsman?” Who will pay the debt we owe for the countless sins charged to our account? Only Jesus Christ can fulfill all the requirements as our kinsman-redeemer in His redemptive work on the Cross. The debt is paid, all our sin is forgiven. Oh, praise His glorious name!
Nor silver nor gold hath obtained my redemption,
No riches of earth could have saved my poor soul;
The blood of the Cross is my only foundation,
The death of my Saviour now maketh me whole.
I am redeemed, but not with silver;
I am bought, but not with gold;
Bought with a price––The blood of Jesus,
Precious price of love untold.
Amen!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Romance and Redemption


The Book of Ruth, A Love Story
Romance and Redemption
Ruth 3:1-18
Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?  And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor. Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking.  And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do. And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do....And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.... And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman. And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I....And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor. Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city. And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her. And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law. Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
Ruth, chapter three, takes a marvelous but unexpected turn in events as this delightful story filled with love, faithfulness and devotion continues. Ruth was encouraged by her mother-in-law, Naomi, to put on her best appearance and go to the threshing floor to ensure a brighter future for herself. Ruth, having experienced such a positive and cheerful relationship with Boaz while gleaning in his fields, follows the instructions of Naomi and enters the threshing floor as she has been requested to do.
"And she came secretly, and uncovered his feet and lay down." Here we come in contact with the rituals involved in the request for the Levirate Marriage arrangement. This arrangement was implemented into the law by God, and written there by Moses, as a way for the family line, and property, to continue in the case of the death of a husband who is childless.  It is referred to as "The Brother-in-law law" (levirate, brother-in-law) that places an obligation to the brother-in-law of a woman who has lost her husband before having children (or loosing his children by death before his death) to take her as his wife and provide children through her. 
Part of the ritual of the fulfillment of this law as the "presentation" of the woman "spotless," cleansed and properly clothed, asking humbly at the feet of "the redeemer." It is a law about the man's responsibility to do the right thing by the law and by her. Under Jewish tradition the right place for her to do this is at his uncovered feet (symbolic of her willingness to place herself under his authority (under his wing, or garment). She had to uncover his feet as a further way to show her desire to be in this position). 
This ritual was typically done in a more public setting, however both Naomi and Boaz know that he is not the closest male relative, but is the best choice for Ruth and her. He is rich, has much property, and has demonstrated that he cares for Ruth over the last three months of the harvest season. If Ruth goes to Boaz publicly and Boaz has to refuse her for any reason then he will suffer public embarrassment for under the law it is necessary that the refusing kinsman and his family suffer disgrace. This is why we find Ruth secretly approaching Boaz in the night.
Thought: The wonderful kinsman-redeemer theme of Ruth literally begins in the third chapter giving to us a foreshadow of the Lord Jesus Christ, Our Great Redeemer.

I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His wondrous love to me;
On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.
Sing, oh sing, of my Redeemer,
With His blood, He purchased me.
On the cross, He sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt, and made me free.
I want to bring a definite appeal to those of you who are still without the Lord Jesus Christ, and are hoping to attain heaven and salvation by good works, going to church or living a moral life. Without repentance and believing on Him who has died for your sin, it is impossible to claim heaven as your own. The Bible says, “There is none righteous, no not one,” and for this very reason the Lord Jesus had to die on the Cross of Calvary to provide for us what we were unable to achieve on our own. My friend, repent today of your sins and trust Christ as your Redeemer. 2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. Romans 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.


Friday, June 1, 2012

The Kinsman Redeemer


The Book of Ruth, A Love Story
The Kinsman Redeemer
Ruth 2:18-23
And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed.  And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she shewed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought to day is Boaz. And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen. And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.  And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field.  So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.
The History
Elimelech had taken his family to Moab and left his debt behind. Since Ruth was married to one of his sons, she was obligated to pay what was owed as was Naomi. According to Jewish law, only in the year of jubilee, which came every fifty years, could all debt be wiped away. If Naomi waited for this time to come, she probably would be dead, the property sold and Ruth would most likely be a servant to some land owner. But, provision was made for those who needed redemption and could not redeem themselves–––it was written into the law. If a near kinsman of sufficient means could be found, who was willing to pay the redemptive price; he could pay the debt and release the debtor of any bondage or servitude.
The Blessing
Naomi begins to understand what is happening to her and her daughter-in-law and praises God for His loving kindness towards them both. Ruth, without human direction or instruction, went to the field of Boaz, a close relative, to glean and there is shown graciousness and given protection.  Ruth is asked to not go outside the boundaries of the field of Boaz because there are many dangers beyond his field and he, Boaz is wanting to keep her safe from harm. The request or command of Boaz was not out of selfishness or desire to deprive Ruth of happiness but a command of love. 
So it is with the love of God. Christ does not want Christians to stray from God’s commands because He knows the pitfalls and dangers outside the boundaries of His loving care. If Ruth would have persisted in leaving the field of Boaz, she could have gone freely without Boaz stopping her. We as Christians can step outside the loving care of our Lord but the results are painful and unnecessary. How much better it is for us to obey and follow His commands knowing they are the pathway to life and liberty. The only time we are completely free is when we are voluntarily bound by the love of Christ. 
Thought: Look to the field of Boaz and see how pleasant and safe Ruth felt in the midst of hard times. She didn’t have a difficult time deciding to stay in his field, obeying his commands, because she saw and experienced such great love from Boaz. When we know and experience God’s abounding love for us, we too will be willing to stay in His field as obedient followers being transformed into joyful reapers––for the glory of the Gospel of Christ.