God’s chosen bride

Ezekiel 16:8-14

There are many people in life who enjoy the benefits of living in prosperity, some of which were born into wealth, whereas others started from nothing, but gained great increase by the works of their hands. It’s not a crime, nor sin to enjoy the finer things in life, but problems arise when we allow those things to cause us to shift our focus from the God who provided our increase, to entertaining ungodly influences. Even certain marriages encounter problems when one partner takes advantage of the other’s wealth and notoriety, while forgetting that they were once abused, misused, and struggling before God sent someone to make their lives better. Every now and then, a healthy reminder of where we came from, to where we are now is necessary to keep us humble, and free from falling into temptation.

God took Jerusalem as His bride, when they were cast away, naked, destitute, and dirty, then treated them as the best thing since sliced bread, by adorning them with endless love. God gave them life, caused them to grow up and become well-developed, washed away their blood and anointed them with perfumes and oil, decked them with precious jewels, and the list goes on. The extent of God’s love for His bride was endless, and He proved that love by providing for Jerusalem unlimited provision and protection, and only required faithfulness, trust, and devotion in return.

How would you conduct yourself, if you were approached by someone who was willing to be a loving, faithful, and devoted partner to you, who would cherish you to no end, but only asked that you treat them with the same love and respect in return? Well, Jesus is coming to take the church as His bride, and He expects us to be our best when He arrives. Christ offers everything we need, and will give it willingly, but we must prove that our love for Him is real. We prove this love through our daily living: How we treat our fellow man, whether we obey His commandments, or not, and fulfilling all the things He asked us to do until He returns. Just as a wife prepares mentally, emotionally, and physically to be the best for her husband, we too should ready ourselves to be received by Christ, when He returns.

Walk in love,

Ell

A mother-daughter covenant

Ruth 1:6-11, 14-18

The importance of good examples is necessary to ensure that those who follow behind us will have a better chance of avoiding unnecessary problems and situations in their own lives. Parents strive to raise their children in ways that will set them up to be respected, as they grow and mature in life. Fathers teach their sons how to be men, and develop the necessary work ethics required to be effective in their future roles. Mothers show their daughters what it takes to maintain the home, as well as groom them to one day be a good wife to their husband, and mother to their children. We are all products of what we gleaned from the examples of those who came before us, and whether we gravitated toward the good, or the bad, the way our lives are set today is based on who’s example we elected to follow after.

The life of Ruth was greatly increased, because she decided that following after Naomi, and her God, was better than returning to the pagan life she was once associated with. I’m certain the way Ruth and her sister-in-law lived prior to being found and married by the sons of Naomi seemed senseless and unprofitable up to this point in their lives, because when they were advised to return home to their past, they both wept and refused, because they found that following Naomi’s example was far better than what they had left. After refusing to leave Naomi’s side, Ruth cemented her covenant with those famous words she spoke in verses 16 and 17.

Who’s example did you follow, that caused your life to turn out the way it did? We’re your parents or grandparents an influential part of your development as a man or woman, or were you heavily influenced by others who either encouraged you to grow in the grace of God, or exposed you to things contrary to holiness at an early age. No matter what she faced in life, Naomi made certain to stay true to God, and protect those under her care. We should do the same in our lives as well, and make certain that those who are under our wings are properly cared for, respected, and encouraged to do their best in this life, so that they’ll store up great rewards in the next.

Walk in love,

Ell

Boaz welcomes Ruth to his fields

Ruth 2:5-13

Have you ever heard the phrase, favor isn’t fair? If you haven’t, I heard it for you…many times. Some people believe in luck, and that in life you either have it represented in a good way, or a bad one. Luck is usually accompanied by coincidence, and many live by these two beliefs, but in my most honest opinion, I shun luck and coincidence, and have more of an affinity to favor and consequence. Nothing happens by chance, but all things are the direct result of the decisions we choose to make, or not make in our daily living.

An example of the latter of the two beliefs I mentioned takes place in our lesson’s text. After returning to her hometown of Bethlehem from Moab, Naomi remembered she had a relative who was a mighty man of wealth. Her arrival came around the time of the beginning of the barley harvest. This was perfect timing, as she and Ruth had an opportunity to glean from the fields, before the harvest was depleted. Naomi had returned home, claiming that the Lord had afflicted her, causing her to be empty, so she needed a means to gain access to food and other provisions. Usually, her husband and sons would make sure their women were properly cared for (that’s rare these days, as men have become soft and lazy), but they were forced to fend for themselves for survival.

Surprisingly, Ruth devised a plan to glean in the fields that belonged to Naomi’s wealthy relative, Boaz, in hopes that he would notice her, and find favor with her. Long story short, her plan worked! While gleaning in the fields, Boaz noticed Ruth, and took a liking to her, so he inquired of the reapers who she was. After hearing the whole story of her time with Naomi, Boaz extended unprecedented favor toward Ruth, and made it known to her that his actions toward her were the result of her hard work, dedication, and commitment to Naomi, even after losing her husband and abandoning her faith for theirs. Boaz would continue to bestow blessings upon Ruth, so much until the two would eventually become an item. Ruth’s temporary suffering turned into a lifetime of favor and blessings.

I know first-hand the struggle is real, and life can throw some pitches that are extremely tough to hit, but if we remain committed to God through the storms and the rain, He’ll provide a rainbow of blessings after those storms pass that will change our lives from bitter, to better. Favor is fair, but only if you follow the right path to attain it.

Walk in love,

Ell

Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem

Ruth 1:19-22

Have you ever been in a committed relationship? At first thought, did you assume my question was only in relation to marriage, or courting? Well, commitment should be at the helm of all relationships, whether it be between those who are interested in each other, family ties, or solid friendships. Finding someone you can put all your trust in these days is rare, and if by chance you meet someone who seems to be trustworthy, it always comes with a bit of hesitation. Trust is earned, and is established based on faithfulness and consistent acts of love.

In our lesson, we continue where Naomi was still mourning the loss of her husband and two sons. While grieving, she heard that the Lord had lifted the famine from the land she and her family had left, and provided crops again, so she took her daughters-in-law, gathered her belongings, and set off to return home. As they began the journey back to Bethlehem, Naomi gave opportunity for her daughters-in-law to return to their former pagan lives. While Orpah wept and returned to her own family, Ruth was committed to her mother-in-law, and chose to stay with her. I often hear people say that words mean little without actions, but the words Ruth used to solidify the covenant she had with Naomi should be mentioned in the vows of everyone who has plans to be married, or those who are filling out friendship applications. Ruth’s exact words to Naomi were, “…Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (vs. 16-17). Imagine if your boyfriend, girlfriend, or a potential friend approached you in this way. Those are some heavy and intense words to follow up with actions, but if you know the whole story, you also know that Ruth stayed true to her words, and God blessed her beyond measure.

In a world full of evil, deception, and wickedness, it’s really hard to commit to people who say all the right things initially, because they later reveal who they really are when the heat intensifies. In your prayers, ask God to connect you to people who are first wise in His eyes, so that they can cover you from evil you can’t see, keep you on the path that leads to life, and connect you to others who can change your life in ways you never imagined!

Walk in love,

Ell

Naomi loses her husband and sons

Ruth 1:1-5

Throughout life, there will always be certain things that are beyond our control. The serenity prayer helps us understand this truth also, as it’s words mention, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right, if I surrender to His Will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever and ever in the next. Amen.” When life feels out of control, it’s easy to try to control everything and everyone around us, but some of us do the opposite, and just throw our hands up while giving up on the situation altogether. Accepting and submitting to God’s plan for your life is the only sure way to find peace in situations you’re unable to change or control. We may not always understand God’s plan, but we can let go of trying to manipulate events and people, and let God work through us.

In our lesson text, Naomi was faced with a situation that could either cause her to break down and give up, or push her to be better. During a famine that was taking place in their land, Elimelech (Naomi’s husband) took his wife and two sons on a journey to look for more sustainable lands in the country of Moab. For reasons not mentioned in Scripture, Elimelech died. This was very significant, as the husband was the sole provider of the family during these days, and losing a husband could cause major problems for a widow trying to provide for two sons on her own. To make matters worse on the heartbroken widow, during their time in Moab, Naomi’s two sons died as well. Some speculate that their deaths were the result of transgressing the law in marrying foreign women, but this is unlikely, unless they were convinced to follow idolatry with the Moabites as well. In any case, within the span of ten years, this faithful woman lost all her means of support, including her husband and two sons.

Let’s further examine this situation, because as you read a bit deeper into the text, we find where Naomi, like many today, thought God was punishing her for something she probably had done, but if you look at the bigger picture, famines, wars, and the like are not personal curses, or they would only affect the person involved. These types of judgments show no respect of persons at all, affecting the wicked, as well as the righteous. When God finds it necessary to punish the wicked, sometimes the righteous suffer along with them as well. We live in a time where judgment is coming down on the wicked, yet the good hearted and kind people are struggling as well. It almost seems unfair that the good must suffer at the expense of evil men’s deeds, but we were graced to have faith and power through God’s Spirit to help us endure, until our change comes.

Naomi seemingly lost everything, but her faith in God kept her standing, and provided the opportunity for her to be blessed abundantly in the end. The end of a matter with God is ALWAYS good, and if it’s not good, then it’s not the end of the matter. Keep living, and watch God work! “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10).

Walk in love,

Ell

Ruth, mother of David and Jesus

Matthew 1:2-6, 16

I’ve never really been keen on history, nor am I fully aware of my own family’s history, so for the sake of not screwing up Biblical history in reference to genealogy, I’ll use the time for this lesson to expound upon the importance of family.

The original family was instituted by God Himself, when He brought together Adam and Eve, then instructed them to be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth. Some believe that there were people who existed before Adam, based on the term “replenish”, and were wiped out prior to his creation, but Genesis 3:20 reads, “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.” If Eve is the mother of all living humans, then how could anyone exist before she was pulled from Adam’s rib, and delicately crafted into the world’s first top model? That’s a topic for another discussion.

The family structure consists of a father, mother, and children who all reside in a house, of which mom makes into a home. While fathers have a role to be the provider, protector, instructor, and disciplinarian in the home, mothers add the extra flavor that keeps the family together. Our text reveals one particular mother, who was responsible for the birthing of two of the most prominent men who ever existed. Down the family line of Ruth, came forth king David, and the Son of God, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Isn’t it amazing how God created one man and woman, then from their union came all of us, with different purposes, personalities, and character traits? Imagine if Ruth had aborted her children, or chose to never get pregnant. King David, and all his great accomplishments, including the book of Psalms, would be nonexistent. Christ would have still been sent to the earth, but the family line He came through couldn’t have been put together any better than it had been.

Ruth was a pure woman, with a generous heart, and was included in the generations from Abraham to David, from David until the carrying away into Babylon, and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ. In total, Jesus came through 42 generations of great and mighty men and women, whom God used to establish His name, until His Son was born to reveal the true power in that same name. This lesson provided another plate of food for thought. Stay blessed!

Walk in love,

Ell

Continuing the family line

Deuteronomy 25:5-10

The children of Israel were required to follow some very interesting laws and ordinances back in Bible days. The obvious laws that kept men in right standing with God were the ten commandments, and those that separated the evil from the good, but some laws that applied to them back then would be shunned upon in 2019. Our text presents one such law concerning remarriage, and succeeding a man’s family name. In Christian culture today, marriage is to be between one man, and one woman, then the two are joined as one, and are to be fruitful and multiply. If the husband dies, this releases the wife from her bond of matrimony, and she’s free to remarry at her will. The next potential candidate she chooses is expected to be of no relation to her, nor her husband, and the name of the deceased husband would soon die, if they didn’t bare a male child.

In our lesson text, if the husband of the wife passes, and he has a brother, then she has the option of marrying him, in order to keep her husband’s name relevant. I’m certain I would roll over ten times in my grave if my wife married my brother, but hey, that’s how it was back then. To add more drama to this issue, if the brother refuses to take the widow as his wife, then she’s to report him to the elders of his city, where they’ll give him a chance to explain his reasoning. If he stands true to his refusal, then he’s to be publicly humiliated, as wife is to loose his shoe from his foot, and spit in his face. To be barefoot was a sign of distress and humiliation. Doing this to the man signified that he had sold everything and was bankrupt. In other words, the man in Israel who refused to preserve the name of his brother was considered worthless, and without value. This lesson was just a little food for thought. Stay blessed!

Walk in love,

Ell