Posts Tagged ‘Messiah’

Gospel of John: The Forerunner

December 25, 2014

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:6-8 NIV)

It’s interesting (to me) how John the Writer felt the need to clarify John the Baptist’s role in the story. Why he addressed JB’s (John the Baptist) status as the forerunner is not stated but I do think inferred. JB developed a following–of which John the Writer became a part before switching to Jesus at JB’s suggestion–who were nothing if not loyal to a fault. John the Writer seems to be targeting these disciples of JB in order to point them to Jesus.

In ancient and fairly modern times all rulers used heralds to announce their approach to a town, city or area. The person would wear the colors or bear the mark of a herald on his garments to give instant recognition as to the validity of his words.

John the Baptist’s livery defied the logic of kings, eschewing pomp and royal crest in favor of the humble camel’s hair and leather. This is vital to our understanding of the nature of Jesus, whom we call King of Kings. Every nuance held significance whether large or small. Jesus came humbly therefore his herald should take on the same demeanor. It also follows that those men He chose as His disciples would also come from humble backgrounds.

I don’t think God despises the rich and powerful it’s just these people tend towards a mentality which preserves their wealth and power. A person fully formed by education, shaped by being born into wealth and authority, will struggle to submit to a teacher who doesn’t present himself/herself within the familiar paradigm. JB’s humility must have been chosen since his father was a priest of some influence, one who performed in the temple, therefore probably not extremely poor. Meaning JB wouldn’t have needed to live in the desert eating locusts and honey but could have followed in his father’s footsteps and become a political influence in Jerusalem if he had so chosen.

So JB’s humility was chosen to a purpose.

Just to be clear: Jesus and JB were cousins, had to have known each other, and at one time or another connected. Anyone who suggests they didn’t can’t read between the lines. Mary, Jesus’ mother, went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, JB’s mother, when she started to show she was pregnant. Elizabeth knew her cousin was pregnant after first laying eyes on her. These two women were close enough that an apparently “immoral” Mary went to Elizabeth to escape local social problems.

Nowhere does the Bible connect JB and Jesus socially. Yet the fact that Jesus and JB were related cannot be ignored. Did they have some sort of pact because of their mothers’ visions for them? I doubt it. Our modern travel abilities blunt our understanding of the past and how easily distances of even ten miles or less were accomplished. When one is poor, walking provides the only means of transporting oneself between destinations, therefore anything not within the needs of providing for the home become vital only out of necessity. So any collusion between the two women would have been exceedingly ambitious and probably not really possible. However, if they were in cahoots, why would Elizabeth take a backseat role as far as her baby being the forerunner instead of the Messiah? Selfish people tend to be ambitious, ambitious people don’t take to coming in second.

JB chose the path of the ascetic which in his culture gave him a certain credibility right from the start. Anyone, be they poor or wealthy, gained respect by rejecting the trappings of normal life in favor of seeking God or their gods. When JB came preaching people came to hear him in droves because he was a force to be reckoned with in their culture.

The difference between what JB and Jesus presented and the rest of the world’s self-proclaimed messiahs came down to message: our heroes proclaimed life change through attitude adjustment; the latter proclaim their own self-interest in the guise of religious or power-mongering stump speeches. What JB began through his preaching and baptism ritual about changing one’s life and attitude Jesus expanded on.

Whether through studied understanding or Spirit-driven insight JB’s message set people up for Jesus’ life and teachings. His entire goal was to point people to the Messiah–so that through him people might believe.

A Petty Rebellion

December 1, 2010

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross.  It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.  Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.  The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate,  “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

Pilate answered,  “What I have written, I have written.”  John 19:19-22.

It might seem like a moot point to rebel about, but Pilate probably felt he had lost the war and decided to be tweak the noses of the Jews by winning a small skirmish through the sign.  He couldn’t win the battle over Jesus living or dying but he could show his own conviction they were doing so unjustly—and to their own king no less.  At this point I believe he was pretty well convinced of Jesus’ identity, though why he continued to move forward with the death sentence is, as I’ve said, something of a mystery or a subject for speculation.

Still, Pilate was willing to burn it into the minds of the Jews they might be able to bring enough pressure to bear to push through an unjust death, but they couldn’t stop the truth from getting out. Another thing that should be mentioned is:  How big was that sign?  He had it written in 3 languages, so for it to be visible from the road it had to be larger than just a 5×8 placard.  On the other hand, most people in that era (and for nearly 1900+ years following) didn’t read, meaning the ones who saw it were educated and the dig at the Jews went unnoticed by the general public.  Many Jews were taught to read, though, in the synagogues and schools for the purpose of helping the men bar mitzvah.  As usual, the ability to read depended on one’s station in life and the wealth acquired from either inheritance or business.

Coming, as he did, from a pagan POV Pilate’s outsider status left him a little control over the matter in one way, though with less understanding of what was at stake.  Knowing the general form of something from the outside doesn’t always give us a good sense what its purpose is until we go inside.  Pilate could see from the outside of the Jewish community what they stood for through contact and observation, but it’s doubtful his understanding got anywhere near a real grasp of who God is or the purpose of Jesus.

And this brings up an issue close to my heart.  Too often we judge those outside the community of believers (and new converts as well) by a standard we grew into through teaching and osmosis.  I find it frustrating in the extreme when established believers hold the world to a standard of Scripture it cannot comprehend much less know about.  Those outside the faith have no point of reference except our example, and if that is tainted with bad judgment or condemnation, what can they know about Jesus except what we show them?  Plus, the gospels and all other Scripture cannot be understood by the light of human reasoning alone, for Jesus said the truth is only revealed when we submit to the Holy Spirit.  In other words, we won’t grasp the purpose of the Word unless we are taught the meaning by the Holy Spirit.  Still, we don’t practice what we preach in a lot of ways.

For example:  We preach the Golden Rule yet practice the exact opposite.  Jesus commanded us to “Do to others as you would have them do to you” yet we don’t take this into consideration when we push for public laws nor do we think past our own wants as Christians.  In an attempt to create a Christian utopia many have pushed for laws that rule the conscience of other religions or ethics not reflected in Christ’s teachings.  In other words, we require of those who don’t believe in Jesus or acknowledge Him as Lord to adhere to His teachings as though they do anyway through legislation.  This method tells the world we don’t care about them or the rights God gave them starting at the two trees in the Garden, just so long as they don’t practice their views where we can see them.  Jesus never commanded us to conquer the world by either military might or legislative power, rather we were to go into the world and make disciples.  A disciple is one who is educated in the disciplines of the teaching, therefore to make someone a “disciple” they would have to be willingly submissive to the disciplines of the faith.

If the rule of do to others as you would have them do to you upholds forcing those who oppose us to capitulate, then I don’t understand it very well.  If the Gay community passed laws forbidding Christians calling them “sinners,” what would the Christian community do?  O, wait, Canada already has such laws and there are ministers in prison right now who spoke out against homosexuality.  Right.  If we preach freedom of religion, practice of lifestyle and thought, we have to allow for those who disagree with our ethics.  Sure we might do our best to contain the abortion rate by putting contingencies into the law which forbid the medical community from performing them willy nilly and demand counseling for those who are considering it but it won’t stop abortion.  In the end, no one can’t stop either a belief system or moral “deviance” (meaning a practice which goes against the cultural majority) through legislation because eventually that legislation will overwhelm us.

If we limit the freedom of another, eventually they might grow strong enough to return the favor in kind.  And it is slowly, inexorably, steadily going against the Christian mores and will eventually make those who differ from the mainstream of society criminals for doing so.  In my grasp of the situation this comes as a direct result of not standing firm for the freedom of religion.  Most people want freedom to be what they want to be and usually resent anyone outside that said ethic.  I don’t mind being on the outside of the popular mores of the day because I see no reason to conform to anyone’s preferences besides the ones I choose to believe.  That said, I can’t understand how religions in general within the American constitution can ever think true freedom is only for some and not for others.  What adults do in the privacy of their own community is none of my business nor do I desire for them to interfere in mine.  But if I interfere in theirs in an attempt to rule them by my own ethic, will they not have the same right to try by force to rule me?

There are, of course, some rules which just have the ring of truth to them, like children should not be required or forced into slave labor or sexual situations.  But, see, the average person agrees with this ethic.  There might be pockets of dissent but in America they are the minority, so using those on the fringe as a means of legislation is foolish.  A law that states,  “No person shall be forced into sexual contact against their will.  Neither shall one be required to labor for another against their will unless they have been deemed criminal and must make restitution to society, a business or an individual they have wronged.”  Oddly enough these two concepts are reflected in most religions including our own, as well as the constitution of the USA.  So those general rules cover enough territory to make it illegal for a child to be molested, a woman to be raped or anyone to be forced to work without pay.

All this to say, Pilate judged the Jews from his cynical perspective and may even hated them for their Aryan tendencies.  Yet, his own nation held some of those same views about themselves—they considered themselves favored by the gods and anyone who was not Roman was treated with either contempt or condescension.  The Jews judged Pilate as heathen, therefore outside the mercies, blessings and favor of God.  Which, if you consider the popular teaching of the day, didn’t make much sense because Pilate was powerful, rich and successful at the time.  Yet incongruities are a part of being human as we know—as much as anyone with a brain will complain about them (the incongruities).

Pilate realized he couldn’t save Jesus, though I think he really wanted to, so he did what was left for him to do…put his mind on paper.  He stood up to the objections of the Jews in way that said,  “You get to kill Him; I get to speak what I believe.”

A Point of View

November 25, 2010

Finally Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).  Here they crucified Him, and with Him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.  John 19:16-18

John isn’t trying to write the complete account of Jesus in his gospel.  He has a definite purpose and point to his version of these things.  One of them is testifying to what he’s seen and heard personally.  The other, of course, is to emphasize certain aspects of Jesus’ character, teaching and mission.

Pilate finally gave into the pressure, though he doesn’t exit the story just yet.  John makes a point of telling us Jesus carried His own cross, which means it’s significant in some way.  I don’t know whether or not other condemned criminals carried theirs or not or if John was simply giving us details of the abuse.  In the other accounts we learn why this was an important point of information:  Jesus was so weakened after the various beatings He’d received He collapsed and someone else ended up carrying it for Him.

The plan of salvation called for Jesus to be abused and die at the hands of sinful men.  The plan, which He and the Father made before the foundations of the earth were even laid, predicted this outcome.

Why?

For two main reasons (probably more), I believe:

1)  Save humanity.  A point everyone knows.

2)  To show how far sin will drive people into insane behavior.

Make no mistake about it, killing God is insanity, for to destroy the source of all life is to destroy all life itself.

Pilate handed over a man he believed was innocent to maintain political peace.  For the sake of preserving their traditions the Jewish leaders first attempted to discredit Jesus, when that didn’t work they plotted to kill not only Him but any evidence of His power.  Lazarus didn’t die a martyr’s death, as far as we know, but the Jewish leaders sure wanted to include him.  Even the soldiers’ abuse went outside the boundaries of sane punishment to sadistic pleasure in the helplessness of another—or did you forget the crown of thorns, purple robe and reed as a scepter?

Their behavior steps outside the bounds of sanity.  Yet we shouldn’t be so surprised by this since the world is full of illustrations which depict man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.  Jesus’ presence on earth “unearthed” another truth which should come clear in the telling His story:  without God present in both the physical and at the center of human thought humanity will go insane.  Killing another person for a piece of bread is sometimes a byproduct of the circumstances humans find themselves in, but the need to do so grows out of the insanity of either wasting God’s creation or a few hording the resources to the exclusion of the many.  Coveting, murder, lust (not just sexual but the overwhelming desire for something not ours) and theft come as direct results of subtracting God from the center of our thoughts and company.

Jesus lived among us to demonstrate what the kingdom of God would look like even in a sinful world.  He showed us through His daily routine and ministry what the sum of life should equal.

And we murdered Him for it.

I don’t know about you, but I hate to be confronted with my failures or the wrongs I do.  My sense of self is already teetering on the brink of disaster—not due to a lack of self-preservation, mind you—from the knowledge of my lack of righteousness.  Even if I’m not an abnormally evil person (which I’m not to my best reckoning), I still know I don’t measure up.  Some people don’t have as much trouble with this as I do, I’m sure, for they look at their pleasures and gray areas of behavior as either par for course or rewards for being good 98% of the time.  I can’t excuse my sin, though I still want to, which usually means defensiveness in the form of denial, belligerence or outright smoke screening/throwing someone’s faults in their face.  Some even ask,  “If God doesn’t want me to be like this, why did He make me this way?” forgetting the degradation of sin and the law of entropy in the process.

Jesus’ example of purity and teaching God’s demand for us to be so as well flies in the face of our self-justification and side stepping reality.  We all know failure to the point of searching for a reason for it.  Mom used to say,  “If you could find a good reason for sin, you could excuse it.”  meaning, of course, she didn’t think there was one.

Pilate gave in to the mob for whatever reasons he had but none of them were good enough and a direct result of a broken down mentality caused by sin’s influence.  The priests and rulers despised Jesus not for His purity but because that purity exposed their own selfish ambition and lust.  They wanted Him dead so no one would see beneath their facade of righteousness—and because they hated the competition for the hearts and minds of the populace.  They did these things because of sin.

Quick definition:  Sin is denying God His rightful place in our lives and thoughts.

The result of sin is the evil deeds we do.  The piece of fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil wasn’t poisonous but a symbol of the broken relationship between God and humanity.  We chose to manage our own destiny; the world we know is the result.  Jesus’ betrayal, trial, treatment at the hands of sinful man and subsequent death displayed what sin will do to a heart not regenerated by the Spirit of God.

John knew his audience which is why he included the two thieves on either side of Christ.  He included the political wisdom of the day as killing his Master.  He showed what religion with God to interpret or direct it will do.  In the end humans without Jesus are lost to their own devices and the end of these is death.

What to Believe?

October 14, 2009

On hearing His words, some of the people said,  “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

Others said,  “He is the Christ.”

Still others asked,  “How can the Christ come from Galilee?  Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?”  Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.  Some wanted to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him.  John 7:40-44.

It’s important to notice details in Scripture because the details many times reveal things that flavors our understanding of what we’re reading.  For instance, John tells us the people were divided because of Jesus not just for the story to be accurate but to remind us He came to bring a sword that would divide those who sought God with all their hearts from those who merely acknowledged Him.  Where Jesus enters the picture for anyone, division rules the day—not because their growth in righteousness causes this but because of those who stand against what Jesus taught.

Why?  Why do we see such a polarization around Christ?

I believe it’s in part due to His demand for holiness, yes, but it grows more whacked than that into our reluctance to give over our whole being to God.  We desperately want “all this and heaven too” to quote my brother.

Again, some set out to take Him by force and arrest Him, but the timing wasn’t right so no one could lay a hand on Him.

Which brings us the fact the temple guards gave for not arresting Him once they returned to the rulers and Pharisees:  “No one ever spoke the way this man does.”  Jesus’ words held them spellbound, captivated and they lost all motivation to take Him in by force.  I know it sounds ludicrous they would arrest a man just for teaching in the temple, but such was the day when those in power could incarcerate anyone they chose for sneezing the wrong way in their presence.  Many rulers killed those who annoyed them on just a whim without forethought or any regret.

The rulers sneered at the temple guards for believing or even being affected by Jesus.  Yet notice they didnt’ go hear the man themselves because I think they were afraid of His power.  Enough of them had been brought down in debates with Jesus they were a little afraid to either confront Him or listen.  Were they worried He could convince them or just keep them at bay?  I don’t know.  What I do see in this example of their sneering denial is false bravado and distance.  These men kept themselves at a distance, insulated so they wouldn’t be tainted.  Many of them hadn’t even met Jesus much less heard Him speak, so their analysis was based on remote calculations rather than first hand experience.

This type of person doesn’t scare me half so much as those who hear the words of God on a regular basis but still harden themselves to its message.

Nicodemus rebuked their condemnation of Jesus by pointing out the law forbade them to do so without a hearing.  They weren’t allowed to condemn anyone without hearing the pros and cons of the case in person.  But look at their response,  “Are you from Galilee, too?  Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”  This argument didn’t hold water at all and they knew it because Jesus didn’t come from Galilee but Nazareth in the hill country.  Plus, the rumors of His birth were already circulated, I’m sure by this time, so His origins would have been pretty well established.  If nothing else, these men should have asked Him to come to a confab in order to explore both His origins and message to discover the truth.  Then, if they were impressed by the personal evidence, all they would have had to do is get witnesses to His birthplace, story and education.

Instead they denied Him any right to the name messiah.  Why?  Because He came out of nowhere in their estimation?  Was it due to His poor background?  Was it because He didn’t belong to any of their sects or religious schools?

No, I think these things were just excuses for keeping the Christ at bay.  They wanted a messiah to conquer the oppressors of Israel and put them in power not change their hearts, which was a mistake.  The problem with sin is the craving for it after a while.  We get so used to our present reality we forget that it’s temporary and transient.  We actually begin to believe God wants us to remain here and in this condition—albeit glorified and somewhat righteous—without a cataclysmic change, and nothing could be further from the truth.

God’s work of salvation has nothing to do with earthly power in the sense of conquering nations or establishing kings, though He does this regularly, rather His purpose for us is to give us dominion over the heart of us.  The greatest power on earth is not the one which rules others but that which rules the inner being.  Our inability to be self-controlled should warn us about our mistaken goals when it comes to developing the “perfect” church or picture of God on earth, for this is impossible in our present condition—dual natures at war.

Another thing these men refused to explore or acknowledge was Jesus’ connections.  First, both His parents were descendants of David.  Second, He was related by marriage or heritage to the priestly line of Aaron because Zechariah was John the Baptist’s dad, a priest who served in the holy of holies, which means he was of the line of Aaron.  Since Elizabeth, John’s mother, was Mary’s, Jesus’ mother, cousin, we see both the prophecies for the messiah fulfilled.  He is the king in the line of David but a priest as well, which means Hebrews 7 calling Him a type of Melchizedek is spot on.

If these men, so eager to dismiss Jesus, had investigated the evidence, they might have taken a step back and been a bit more careful throwing condemnation around.  But they didn’t because they had no desire to understand truth.

And this is a warning, I believe, to us.

Two Miracles in One

June 15, 2009

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to Him,  “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?”  Jesus replied.  “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants,  “Do whatever He tells you.”  John 2:1-5

I remember the first time I read this story.  I loved it immediately. Jesus partied, I thought, and that means parties must be okay.

Then I took a quarter of Greek, which opened the subject even more.  Jesus made wine, an undetermined type of wine, very good on the palette and of the best grade.  I asked around and found out the best wine at Jewish weddings is always fermented and carefully crafted for taste and texture.  I didn’t know much about wine but I did know a snow job when found one.

My church had colored this text to fit their bias.  It couldn’t be fermented wine, went their argument, because Jesus couldn’t do anything sinful or harmful to your health.  But Jesus made the best wine.  Either that meant Jesus needed to buck up and get His health teaching up to date with the conditions set out for Christian life in the conservative church manual or the church had it wrong.  Well, as you might guess, I sided with Jesus.  There are a host of issues like this that I won’t go into but it started me on a path to trying to understand the truth of Word rather than my preference, tradition or inherent bias.

Jesus partied in the NT on more than one occasion.  Hmmmm.  Wow, that has ramifications!

Another thing that stands out to me is His unwillingness to be miraculous.  It’s like you want to say to Him,  “You’re the Messiah just get on with it already!”  It took a little pushy Jewish mother to get Him to act.  It’s also significant that Jesus performed the miracle without waving His hand or making any big incantations.  Instead He used a quiet method of faith to work one of the most celebrated and oft used stories in Scriptures besides walking on water.  Popular songs use it as a metaphor for their points, people use it as political jabs or praise.

Instead of trying to gain from it politically, socially, ministerially, Jesus used it to validate a marriage, His mother, His new disciple’s fledgling faith and to just plain party.  It’s not hard to picture Him dancing in the wedding dance, talking and laughing with the other guests, not drawing attention to Himself by sitting on the sidelines but participating in a way which didn’t make Him holier than thou–even though He actually was (holier than anyone at the feast).  This story made me like Him all the more.  He took time for the little things–little by human theological standards anyway–some believe love and marriage to not be as high on the priority list as understanding the sanctuary doctrine or the rapture time table.  Jesus shows us this attitude is nonsense and doesn’t fit into His way of living.  He validates marriage by merely being at a wedding; He doubly validates it by making the best wine in the country for wedding already winding down to a close; then He goes above and beyond all that stuff by making this small, seemingly insignificant little miracle His very first of many.

Here’s another thought:  There was no fan-fair, trumpeted pronouncements, preamble act or announcement of the miracle itself.  When the servants poured the water into the cups it was wine.  He didn’t go into the main room and act humbly embarrassed, while secretly wishing for acknowledgement for John says only the servants were aware of the origins of the best wine at the wedding and the befuddled groom took all the credit.  No, it was with quiet simplicity and love for those present as well as the couple the day celebrated that He created something incredibly special.

Jesus showed love in this act.  He loved His mother and, though He sounded like every other kid objecting to doing something at His mother’s insistence, I think He wasn’t being whiny or petulant about it. The time for His miraculous ministry hadn’t arrived yet for Him but He went ahead to support His mother’s faith–I’m sure He thought she was just being cute and loved her all the more for her faith in Him, that would be just like Jesus–and, may be, to help His new disciples get a perspective on the true nature of the Messiah’s mission.

I just love the fact that His momma ignored His protests and just circumnavigated all objections by putting Him on the spot.  Do you get the poignancy of this fact?  The God of heaven was “manipulated” by His mother’s pushy motherly ways.  I bet He laughs about this story still, I know I would.  It demonstrated not only her faith in Him but His love and respect for her that He went ahead and obeyed her wish—though His authority to say “no” outweighed her motherly command by a long shot.  And what character!  She knew without any doubt He could take care of the situation.  Whatever possessed her to push for wine, is something I guess we’ll have to ask her when we meet her.  I just find it funny she chose wine at a party to be persistent about rather than some politically beneficial miracle.

God chose a lowly wedding to demonstrate His power and control over the natural order of things.  This tells us nothing is too small for Him to concern Himself with and we should be as careful of our world as He is and demonstrated while He walked earth.

Whatever His reasons for objecting, He performed His first miracle, according to John A, at a wedding for relatives or friends in a show of support and love for all involved. What do you think the servants’ reaction was after this clearly miraculous wedding gift?

I know what mine would be.

In Line for Greatness

July 2, 2008

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.  Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.

And they named him Obed.  He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.  Ruth 4: 13, 17b.

First off, I would like to point out what the above text says about Ruth’s ability to bear children.  For one thing, how was she married for even a short time to one of Naomi’s sons without getting pregnant?  As far as I can tell from the text Ruth was married about ten years or within the span of ten years to her first husband, who finally died leaving her childless?

It seems God had other plans for her at the time.  I know this would have been hard on her–probably more so than the women of today because in that era women didn’t have any standing much except to get married and bear children, though they could in Israel.  So we have a woman who isn’t able to bear children until she marries Boaz, who just happens to the great grandfather of Israel’s greatest king, David.

In the law, a foreigner could not enter into the sanctuary and neither could their children until the third generation (see Deuteronomy 23: 8).  Notice where David comes into the lineage:  he’s fourth.  This enables him to enter the sanctuary and be guiltless.  But Ruth could not because she was a Moabitess.  This is important to understand because her nationality is specifically mentioned in the lineage of not only David, but since David is the forefather of Jesus, she is the great grandmother of the messiah.

Do you see the significance of this?  Jesus comes from several other nationalities not just Jewish.  His lineage includes gentiles so therefore He is the Savior of all.  In all there were four women besides Mary mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy:  Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheeba.  All of them were gentiles.  Tamar was Canaanite, Rahab, if it’s the same one mentioned in Joshua, would be also and of Jericho, Ruth was Moabite, Bathsheeba must have been Hittite because Uriah was specifically noted as one.

God honored those who honored Him and each of these women did so in their own way.  Bathsheeba being the only one who carried blatant sin with her name.  The fact that she’s mentioned as Uriah’s wife specifically declares that Jesus was the decendant of sinners though without sin.  The mercy of God amazes me, especially when we think about how many times people complain about His judgments.  There are more stories of God’s forgiveness in the Bible than there are of His destruction.  If you look at some of the examples of sin surrounding these people, they did some heinous things but were forgiven because they were repentant.  God used them in great ways because they were willing to turn around and obey, not because they were perfect.

Ruth was a Gentile exception, however, because her character showed itself to be even above the local Israelites, who might have harmed her (remember Boaz’s warning to stick with his servant girls?).  Her character came from an acceptance of the God Naomi served.  I’m not saying she couldn’t have developed this character as a Moabite woman, but knowing the culture through the Bible’s stories, it wasn’t as likely.  They were idolators and enemies of Israel, so Ruth’s character had to be the antithesis of her own national trait.

What can we learn from God’s rewards to Ruth?  First of all, God is no respecter of person’s.  He will honor those who show goodness and faithfulness as their backbone.  Next He doesn’t care which nation we come from for we are all His children.  In fact God makes a point of using outsiders constantly throughout the Scriptures, like those mentioned here and a host of others.  In truth God is more open-minded than those who claim it today, for His servants served under pagan kings and were still declared righteous.

Daniel was prime minister under Babylon’s kings, which means in the course of his duties he had to dispense justice and write laws in the king’s name that went against his own ethics.  But it was a job for him and we can clearly see examples where he drew the line.

I guess what I’m saying is that if we are so closed down that we cannot live in and with the world around us, it’s no wonder they think of us as a exclusive club.  On the other hand, we also must grow to be like Naomi who accepted and cultivated Ruth’s faith through her own quiet example.  Ruth and Boaz left a legacy of faith after them, so much so that David was called a man who pursued God’s heart.

All this good, however, grew out of tragedy, though not because of it.  We are all thrown to time and chance, evil days come and take even the innocent but this is just the nature of a world given over to rebellion against their Creator.  Yet God can and will bring good out of the worst this world can throw at us, if we remain faithful to Him.

Ruth and Boaz are shining examples of God’s blessing following tragedy.