Ruth 4

Ever hear of an actress named Riley Keough?

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She’s acted in 20 or so movies, the most popular being Mad Max!

How about an actress named Oona Chaplin?

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Again, she has 20 or more movies to her credit, with the James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace being one of the more main-stream and popular!

So, why am I bringing up these two women as we reflect on Ruth 4?

Well, to my surprise, Riley Keough’s grandfather was Elvis!

Oona Chaplin’s grandfather was none other than Charlie Chaplin!

Ruth’s place in Biblical history may be a bit of a mystery until you read chapter 4 verses 16-17…

16 Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. 17 The neighbour women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.

It turns out that Ruth became the great grandmother of King David and from David, we can draw a straight genealogical line to Jesus!  (Who knew! 🙂

 Now, is this more than just intriguing trivia?  Actually, it is!  It shows God’s hand of care and providence working behind the scenes!  It is also a great reminder that, even if we don’t know it right now, God may very well be using our lives to effect great impact and change one, two or even three generations from now!

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Ruth 3

I’m pretty sure what stood out to me in today’s reading will be unique to me and very different than what stood out to you!  So, let’s see if I can explain this!

My father was born in 1915!  Yup!  That means, if he was still alive, he would be 105 years old! 

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This is a picture of him and his first wife and my aunt and one of my half-brothers somewhere on the prairies of Saskatchewan! (My dad and his first wife had 4 kids. She passed away from a brain tumour. My dad remarried my mom when she was 40. She was living in Winnipeg at the time. They lived in Swift Current for a year, which is where I was born, then moved to Lethbridge for 12 years and eventually to Regina!…in case you were curious!)

Anyway, having grown up and lived through the ‘dirty 30’s’ and having eked a living as a real horse-riding-cowboy and a farmhand, my father had plenty of ‘good ‘ole days’ stories when I was growing up!

Occasionally, the stories would turn into object lessons with a field trip!…and one of the places it was hard to keep my dad away from was a rodeo or a ‘old-timer’s farm show’!

That’s how we ended up at the Austin Manitoba Thresherman’s Reunion!

My dad would walk me around the various demonstrations and explain how the machinery worked!  (You can imagine, as a 13 year old boy, how very interested I was in 80 year old technology! 🙂

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However, I did learn a thing or two from those field trips!  For instance, I learnt that threshing is the process of loosening the part of the grain you want and can eat from the husk or straw or disposable part of the grain!  

Threshing used to take place on a threshingfloor where people would beat the grain to separate the ‘good grain’ from the ‘useless shell’.

Mlat.

In our chapter today, the action takes place at the threshingfloor!  However, aside from being a location for the story, the threshingfloor is used often as an analogy in the Bible:

“See, I will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff.”  (Isaiah 41:15)

“Therefore they will be like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears, like chaff swirling from a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window”. (Hosea 13:3)

…and most significantly, the words of Jesus…

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshingfloor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  (Matthew 3:12)

Obviously not referred to in this Ruth passage, but the idea of the threshingfloor developed into a warning that God would separate the ‘good grain’ from the ‘chaff’, the ‘useless and superficial husks’!

(OK!…i admit that was a long meandering trail…but that’s how my mind works! 🙂

So, that was my experience with this passage this morning!

In terms of application, it does beg the question…

Q: If God took my life to the threshingfloor, what ‘good grain’ would He be wanting to separate from the ‘chaff’…and what is ‘chaff’ in my life?

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Ruth 2

This morning, Boaz’s audible prayer spoken to Ruth as a blessing stirred my heart in this chapter!

12 “May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

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This picture of a mother bird sheltering its young is powerful…but not unique to the Book of Ruth!

Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Thy wings (Ps 17:8)

How precious is Thy lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Thy wings. (Ps 36:7)

Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in Thee; And in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge, Until destruction passes by. (Ps 57:1)

Let me dwell in Thy tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings. Selah. (Ps 61:4)

For Thou hast been my help, And in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy. (Ps 63:7)

He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.(Ps 91:4)

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Of this verse, Scotland-born New York city pastor, William Mackergo Taylor (1829-1895) said, 

“I had intended to add a word on the beautiful prayer of Boaz for Ruth–“The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou hast come to trust “–but I must forbear. Let me only commend to you all the protection of these outspread wings. You must go to trust somewhere. You are now trusting in something. Whither have you gone? In what are you trusting? No wings but God’s can cover you in the time of trial and in the day of judgment. Therefore, get beneath them now. This is your opportunity. Get beneath them now, lest a day should come when He shall say, “How often would I have gathered thee as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not? Behold, now, your house is left unto you desolate.”  (Matt 23:37)

Charles Spurgeon, (1834-1892) says this prayer would border on blasphemy, speaking of the Divine Jehovah as a feathered bird, if it weren’t for the fact that God Himself breathed these words and this is how He refers to Himself!  What a picture of tender care, selfless love!  So close to God…that you can feel His warm and His heartbeat for His children!

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Ruth 1

Welcome to day 484 and our 35th book of the Bible, the Book of Ruth! To gain a better understanding of the Book of Ruth, check out this great 7 minute video…

First, I think it’s helpful to get a bit of a sense of where this story takes place!

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Last year a group of Riverwooders actually went to Moab (Jordan)!

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It’s a very barren, dry, desert-rocky land!

But in this chapter we find one of my all time favourite verses:

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.

I love the passion and conviction Ruth speaks with!  I also like what pastor and Bible teacher, Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) said about this passage:

“Naomi was trying to cover up; Orpah had given up, but Ruth was prepared to stand up! She refused to listen to her mother-in-law’s pleas or follow her sister-in-law’s bad example. Why? Because she had come to trust in the God of Israel (Ruth 2:12). She had experienced trials and disappointments, but instead of blaming God, she had trusted Him and was not ashamed to confess her faith. In spite of the bad example of her disobedient in-laws Ruth had come to know the true and living God; and she wanted to be with His people and dwell in His land.”

Ruth showed an inspiring amount of conviction!

Ruth was prepared to take a principled stand!

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She wasn’t about to be intimidated, swayed or deterred!

She knew what she must do…flexed her character-muscle…and did it!


Q: What stands out to you from this chapter?

Q: In what ways are you like Ruth?  In what ways are you not like Ruth?

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Psalm 88

Good morning! Welcome to the last of our psalms for this session! From here, we move on to the tiny Book of Ruth! However, before we do, we’ll spend one last day in the psalms!

Sometimes these 3000 year old psalms need a bit of modern context to help us understand the gravity and horror that is being written about!

It’s been 26 years since the Rwandan genocide!  One woman, identified at a war crimes trail being held in Canada in 2007 only as ‘Witness C-15’ described her ordeal.

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She tells of how people were attacking schools, turning on neighbours and targeting women for rape before murdering them!  On the day she was attacked, she had been ordered to go to school.  When she got there, the rampage began.  Her sister was killed and she was slashed across the forehead with a machete.  She woke up on top of her dead sister.  Realizing that the killers were still nearby, she smeared some of her sisters blood on herself and played dead…for three days until they left!  In all, it is estimated that 800,000 people were killed in the Rwandan genocide!

In this psalm, the writer captures something of this same kind of horror:

Now hear my prayer;
    listen to my cry.
For my life is full of troubles,
    and death draws near.
I am as good as dead,
    like a strong man with no strength left.
They have left me among the dead,
    and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
I am forgotten,
    cut off from your care.

As I read this psalm and a few stories of Rwandan genocide survivors…I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and a little bit of survivor’s guilt!  Our lives in Canada…my life!…has been so violence free!  Our world is reeling with so much vicious hate…and yet we have been spared most of it!

Like walking through the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, I walk through this psalm in reverent silence and feeling the horrific price so many have had to pay…and I’m grateful!

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Psalm 87

This is a very specific psalm about a very specific city:  Jerusalem!

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Here are a few facts about this city you may not know:

1. Jerusalem is a high-tech hub.

Though Jerusalem is of course ancient in nature, in recent years, Jerusalem has emerged as a high-tech hub with 367 hi-tech startups in Jerusalem!  In 2015, Time magazine named Jerusalem one of the world’s top emerging technical centers. 

2. Jerusalem’s home to the world’s oldest continually used cemetery.

Dating from the period of the First Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem is 3,000 years old. Nobody is sure just how many people are buried there, but many estimate it contains 250,000 graves. 

3. The operating rooms at Jerusalem’s Shaarei Tzedek Hospital are built underground — to withstand bomb attacks.

The public, non-profit hospital in western Jerusalem, is no stranger to terror attacks: it treats both victims and terrorists. Founded in in 1902 by Orthodox Jews, the hospital today treats more 600,000 people each year, including Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others. In 1979, it moved to its current location near Mt. Herzl in western Jerusalem; its state-of-the-art 10-story facility includes three levels that were built underground in order to withstand terrorist or military assaults. 

4. (Almost) All Buildings Are Made With Jerusalem Stone

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The unique look of this city is thanks to a British Civil Servant, Sir William McLean, and a Governor of British Mandate Palestine by the name of Sir Ronald Storrs. The British mandated that all buildings be faced with Jerusalem stone. Although Jerusalemites had been using this stone for thousands of years, this was the first time it was established as law. 

5. “Jerusalem Syndrome,” which sees healthy people go mad in the Holy City, is real.

The disorder is marked by otherwise healthy people who visit Jerusalem and suddenly believe they are prophets. Between 1980 and 1993, 42 otherwise healthy people were diagnosed with Jerusalem Syndrome, according to Israeli psychiatrist Yair Bar-El, and expert in the disease. 

Of course, our Psalm this morning lists an even more interesting fact about Jerusalem:  this city is special to God!  On my first trip to Jerusalem I saw someone wearing a t-shirt that said, “Welcome to Jerusalem!  The centre of the world!”  This psalm seems to reflect that sentiment as it speaks of how all people will be citizens of Jerusalem and welcomed there!

However, today, Jerusalem has something of another vibe!  It is divided with religious and social tensions that spill over constantly!  For all it’s spirituality and religiosity, it almost feels like people are living very far from God in Jerusalem!  That’s why, this morning, we may actually want to follow the advise of another psalm, 122:6…

Pray for peace in Jerusalem.
    May all who love this city prosper.

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Psalm 86

Hold it!  Can I actually ask God for that?

Psychology Today has an article that talks about the secret to happiness!

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  1. Friendliness First

2. Make Cheerfulness Your Default Demeanour

3. When You’re Feeling Lonely, Do This …(imagine someone smiling at you!)

4. Be compassionate

5. Offer gratitude!

Now, admittedly, that’s a pretty good list!…but I was a bit shocked to read verse 4 of our chapter today:

(NLT) Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you.

(TPT) Restore joy to your loving servant once again, for all I am is yours, O God.

(NIV) Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.

The first part that shocked me was that David is straight up asking God to give him happiness or joy!  The second part that surprised me is David’s rationale:  “I worship You!  I follow You!  I have given my life to You!  I put my trust in You!…so, here I am…asking for some happiness!”

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Maybe we over-think this happiness thing!  Maybe it’s as simple as asking God to bring us some joy…gladness and happiness!

I’m thinking if David can do it…maybe we can too!

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