A BRIGHT LIGHT IN THE MIDST OF A DARK NIGHT

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MAY 5: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READING

 

JUDGES 21:1-25 | RUTH 1:1-22 | JOHN 4:4-42 | PSALM 105:1-15 | PROVERBS 14:25

 

The last chapters of the Book of Judges remind us of some of the worst aspects of the human nature and the unthinkable crimes against humanity that take place every day. Israel had broken its covenant relationship with God. No longer would they submit to their King. No longer would they heed their Shepherd. This reflects the current state of humanity as stated by the prophet Isaiah:

 

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;" (Isaiah 53:6)

 

Not only do we turn aside from the government of God, but by our poor examples we turn others aside.

 

The last words of the Book of Judges are:

 

"In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes." (Judges 21:25)

 

This is the fourth repetition of the phrase, "There was no king in Israel" (17:6; 18:1;19:1;21:25).

 

It is important to have this background information if we are to understand God's plan of redemption. The human heart has been turned aside from its intended function of fully loving the Lord our God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. It cannot find its way back. It cannot heal itself.

 

You see the consequences of apostasy in the final dark chapters of the Book of Judges- Self-seeking, self-justification, self-indulgence, leading to constructing gods in our own image. We subscribe to our own preferred therapeutic priesthoods, mediators, healers, and new age practitioners, instead of coming to the Tabernacle (which represents God's plan of salvation centered in the person and work of His Son). Micah's idolatry is passed on the tribe of Dan. The Danites follow their heart's desire for their preferred future. They slaughter all the inhabitants and burned to the ground, the town of Laish, whose dwellings and lifestyles they had once coveted (18:27). They set up a graven image there and hired a descendant of Moses as their priest, forsaking the worship of the true God that was available at the Tabernacle at Shiloh (18:31).

 

The most abhorrent crimes of Chapters 19 and 20 show the moral degeneracy: sexual immorality, fornication, prostitution, adultery, drunkenness, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, sloth, gluttony, prejudice, lack of hospitality, lust, rape, homosexuality, callousness, murder and dismemberment.

 

The revenge taken in chapter 20 leads to war and genocide (the near extermination of the tribe of Benjamin). In Chapter 21 the Israelites compound their sin with the further slaughter of the people of Jabesh Gilead and by encouraging the abduction of their virgins by the Benjamites.

 

Against the dark background of what was occurring nationally during the period of Judges comes the bright light of a love story, A ROMANCE OF REDEMPTION that took place in Bethlehem Judah during this time.

 

THE BOOK OF RUTH

Like the Book of Judges, the Book of Ruth was written after the monarchy had been established in Israel. The Book provides the details concerning the link in the dark period of the Judges for the genealogy of the Messiah.

 

The prostitute, Rahab who hid the spies in Joshua chapter 2, marries Salmon and becomes the mother of Boaz, who will be the kinsman-redeemer for the household of Elimelech by marrying Ruth, the Moabitess. Their son, Obed, becomes the father of Jesse, who is father of David, a man after God's heart who is one day anointed king. God makes a covenant with David promising that the Messiah would be one of His descendants and His kingdom would last forever. In the Gospel of Matthew we see how this fits into the big story of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, who becomes our kinsman redeemer.

 

Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. [6] Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. (Matthew 1:5-6)

 

Both the genealogy of Mary, the mother of Jesus and Joseph, her husband, are linked to David. It is generally concluded that the genealogy recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 1:1-25) follows the line from David to Joseph and the one in the Gospel of Luke records the genealogical line that leads to Mary (Luke 3:23-38).

 

While the Book of Judges highlights the lawlessness of the age, the Book of Ruth records how the provisions of the mercy in the law of God, and the mercy in the heart of Boaz, were being applied in the redemption of the lost inheritance of the household of Elimelech, Boaz's next of kin, through his marriage to Ruth, a Gentile bride.

 

The Book of Ruth is more than history; it is a prophetic picture of the gospel. The Book of Exodus records the story of God bringing the Jews out of their bondage in Egypt and into a covenant relationship with Himself. The Book of Ruth records another 'exodus' in which God brings a Gentile bride out from her bondage in Moab to be grafted into a covenant relationship with both the God and people of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 

THE REDEMPTION OF A LOST INHERITANCE

 

The Holy Spirit inspired the writer of this book to give us much instruction about the gospel and its fruit in producing redemptive relationships.

 

The Holy Spirit employed the writer to record the history in such a way that we can get a good look at God's redeeming grace that is offered to us according to the mercy of God's law – a greater Boaz, a greater Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

 

The story opens with the record of a Fall. The household of Elimelech (literally. "My God is King') had been positioned as an Ephrathite (lit. to be 'fruitful' 'fruitbearing') in Bethlehem-Judah ('house of bread' and 'praise'). He and his wife are tested. There is a famine. There appears to be little bread in "the house of bread", little fruit in "the place of fruitfulness". For those who walk by sight and not by faith, there is little praise in the place of "praise".

 

Instead of living in the light of their covenant relationship with God, Elimelech ('My God is King') moves from his first estate to Moab where Chemosh is worshiped. He takes with him his wife Naomi ('pleasant') and their two sons (Mahlon-lit. 'sickness' and Chilion, meaning 'pining away').

 

The emigrants are in Moab for ten years. The number ten is an expositional constant in Scripture connoting judicial completion. The net result of their forsaking the covenant and the land of their inheritance is death. Elimelech (My God is King), Mahlon (Sickness) and Chilion (pining away) die. "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

 

Before Mahlon and Chilion die, they take Moabites for brides, Ruth ('friendship' or 'association') and Orpah ('neck', also translated 'became stubborn'). Neither couple produce an heir to claim the lost inheritance of Elimelech's household. Naomi, now a childless widow, refuses to answer to her former name, 'Naomi' (pleasant) but insists on being called 'Marah' ('bitter')

 

While Naomi is in the far country of Moab she receives the good news from home. God has provided bread in the 'house of bread' (Bethlehem), and fruit in the' land of fruitfulness' (Ephratah)(Ruth 1:6). So she decides to return to Bethlehem Judah with her two daughters in law. As Naomi considers the difficulty her daughters-in-law might face as Moabitesses in Judah (Deut. 23:3), she advises them to stay in Moab where they can marry among their own people and raise their families there. Orpah (stiff necked) returns to Moab while Ruth ('friendship' or 'association') identifies with Naomi.

Naomi at first seeks to discourage Ruth from following her.

 

But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; 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. [17] "Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me." (Ruth 1:16-17)

 

When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go and identify by faith with her people and her God, she said no more to her.

 

When they return to Bethlehem Judah, "all the city is stirred because of them."

 

The townspeople were filled with questions: Is this Naomi? What happened to her? Where is her husband and where are her sons? And who is this foreign woman with her? How will Naomi be fed? Where will they stay? What future will she have as a widow? What will happen to the lost inheritance of Elimelech? How are we to treat our sister and this foreigner who have nothing to live upon but the charity of others?

 

We will read more tomorrow and see how God's provision in the law and the willing heart of Boaz will make a way when there was no way! What a great picture of the gospel we have in the work of the Kinsman Redeemer!

 

 

 

PRAYER FOR THE NATIONS: CUBA

(from the Prayer Guide "OPERATION WORLD")

www.operationworld.org

 

Republic of Cuba

Caribbean

 

See Prayer Information

 

Geography

Area: 110,861 sq km

The largest island in the Caribbean.

 

Population: 11,204,351

Annual Growth: 0.02%

Capital: Havana

Urbanites: 76%

HDI Rank: 51 of 182 (UN Human Development Reports 2009)

 

Answer to Prayer

The Church has continued to multiply at impressive rates. Growth from the 1990s continues and, while slowing, remains strong. Praise God for a dynamic and expanding Church.

 

Challenge for Prayer

Cuba faces a difficult future. Pray for the following needs:

 

a) Political. This last bastion of Communism in the West defies fundamental change through the continued influence of Fidel Castro, his President brother, Raúl Castro, and "old guard" Party leadership. Pray for their salvation and for wise leadership that governs in the best interests of its people.

 

b) Economic. The current model is simply unsustainable in the long term, despite substantive assistance from Venezuela, China and Bolivia. While the Castro family sits on a personal fortune, endemic poverty has led to a thriving black market where crime, drugs and prostitution (including sex tourism) are widespread. Black and mulatto Cubans suffer greater deprivation with fewer opportunities than whites. Only Haiti and the Dominican Republic are poorer in the Caribbean region. Pray for sensible reforms and economic freedom, and that structural sins might be overcome by good.

 

c) Demographic. Cuba has a top-heavy population, with large and increasing numbers of aged dependent on too few in the younger generation for support. This demographic time bomb will place further stress on an already fragile economy.

 

d) Ideological. The wounds inflicted by Marxism need healing. More than 500,000 have been imprisoned for ideological reasons and over one million have become ideological or economic refugees, many in Florida, USA. Both the USA and Cuba have used refugees as a weapon of war. Pray that forgiveness might abound among all Cubans, and that relations might improve between Cuba and the wider world.

 

- PASTOR DAVID

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