It was the final moment Jesus had with his disciples before he ascended into heaven. These followers had seen the terror of the sin of humanity upon the shoulders of divinity. The lifeless body was wrapped and placed in the tomb. Yet now they have seen the resurrected Lord speaking, teaching, and even eating with them. On the Mount of Olives, Jesus will give them the Great Commission and the confidence they need to accomplish such a feat. However, take notice of a particular phrase in this red-letter day. “When they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).
The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon said, “Ifs, buts, and perhapses are sure murders of peace and comfort.” In Job, we finally arrive at one of the most famous passages: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).
It is powerfully helpful to have read Ruth beforehand because there is much illustrated about the kinsman-redeemer. This kinsman, in the book of Ruth, was obligated to redeem his kin from difficulty or danger. Imagine if Ruth and Naomi’s confidence was in the ignoble nearest relative. He was the one eager to buy the land from Naomi. Since she did not have any sons he would surely absorb the land into his own possession. Then Boaz interjects that Ruth would raise sons. This changes the situation immensely. Now the closest relative says he cannot perform the task of the kinsman because it would “mar” his inheritance. If Ruth and Naomi had their hope anchored in a selfish kinsman such as the closest relative, they would have been severely disappointed.
Naomi and Ruth had confidence in Boaz as their kinsman because of his integrity. The same confidence Job had when he said, “I know!” Throughout the book of Hebrews, we are challenged to hold on to our profession. Disallow the “ifs, buts, and perhapses” from robbing you of your peace. Our hope is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast” (Hebrews 6:19). If Job can have such confidence in his Redeemer without the complete Bible, without the record of Jesus’ sacrificial payment for the sins of the world, then what excuse do we have when we wallow in uncertainty. Your hope is not determined by your strength. It is anchored in the perfect integrity of Jesus Christ our Savior. You too can say, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth!”
In our hustle and bustle world, with all of its distractions, it can be difficult to hear the voice of God. Adam and Eve had no problem hearing the voice of God in the Garden. We, like our fallen parents, must be careful because some voices are evil (Gen. 3:4). We must possess the ability to discern good from evil. Anyone who does not have a relationship with the Creator cannot properly discern. As parents we are charged by God to train our children well; so that, they may discern with Godly wisdom and be able to properly hear His voice (Prov. 22:6).
Some years ago a young couple told me they heard God’s voice and He told them they could worship atop a local mountain and it was as good as going to church. So they swapped Sundays between church and the mountain. God never contradicts His Word. Clearly they did not hear God’s voice. The origin of that voice was none other than Ole Slewfoot himself. He has much to say in this world, he has been at it since time began. God says think on these things, “… whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Phil. 4:8). If a voice does not follow this Scriptural pattern it is not of God.
While a newborn Christian I had an immediate need to hear from God. I searched the Scriptures exhaustively and prayed to God continuously. One day while parked in a quiet spot, a powerful, authoritative voice (whether inward or outward I am not sure), directed me to a particular verse in Scripture. In Ps. 29:3-9 God’s voice is described as thunderous, powerful and above all majestic. I immediately referenced the verse and there was the answer. I cannot adequately describe the feeling. It was the first time God had spoken to me (that I was aware of).
But how can we hear God on a more consistent basis? The fault lies with us. I suggest we destroy our televisions, rip the radios out of our cars and throw our computers in a wood chipper. Moreover we should turn the ringers off of our cellphones, because God will not be calling us on them.
Seriously speaking, we need to spend more time in God’s presence and actively listen. We need to remain quiet in His presence. Sometimes our voices only add to the din. These times are unprecedented in history with all the modern-day distractions. Let us savor our time with the Saviour. We should go somewhere peaceful by ourselves and listen for God. God is the only voice that matters. As Christ got alone with the Father, so too we must (Mt. 14:23). I am reminded of the line in a song by Larnelle Harris where God says, “I miss my time with you.” As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God (Ps. 42:1).
I was startled. I never had this response. As a young man, my dad was working to teach me proper gentlemanly behavior. One of the first lessons you learn is to open the door for a lady. I was holding the door open, when a woman approached and chided me, “I don’t need anyone to open a door for me!” She said other things and I was stunned! I believe one of my parents interceded and explained, “we’ve been teaching him to be a gentleman.” However, the woman was not impressed. It was disconcerting to me.
In the book of Judges, you may have noticed the disintegration of the respect given to women. The book begins with Deborah the prophetess. She is highly respected, but throughout the following stories women are mistreated and objectified until the final story of the priest’s concubine who was so mistreated, she died! The priest was inhumane when he hewed her in pieces as a message to all of Israel. Could society get any darker and perverted? Along the same line of degenerative treatment of women, you will notice the nation of Israel increases in its godlessness.
In the ashes of this society, Ruth stands as a jeweled monument of the order and delicacy of God’s design. Ruth is elegant and meek. Boaz is chivalrous and heroic. All of the qualities you expect to find in a sweet romance are present. Someone once said, “The way you get them is the way you keep them.” Our present culture teaches women to assert themselves, demand equal treatment, even to the extent of vitriol in the feminist movement. All the ground they gain must be maintained the same way—assertion, demands, vitriol. At the same pace, our society is increasingly godless.
The story of Ruth reminds all of us when men are respectful of women and women are gracious in deportment, they have found their God-given roles. Once within the parameters of God’s wise directives for men and women, they flourish! Boaz is the supreme Old Testament example of a gentleman, and it is fitting that his sacrificial act of redeeming the lost lineage of Elimelech is the background for Christ’s redemption of the church. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
The key which unlocks chivalry in the book of Ruth would transform modern-day society. You see this key in Boaz and in Ruth. This same principle will improve marriages and families today. The key to God’s intended design is this: Have a genuine, consuming, and selfless concern for the welfare of another.
Walk to the nearest prison, wait as the officer unlocks one of the cells, step in and ask the inmate, “Why are you looking so sadly today?”
How well do you think that will go? Not very well, yet this is Joseph’s expectation. Even in prison, while serving the prison warden, Joseph walks into the cell of the recently demoted baker and butler and inquires, “Why do you look so sad today?”
Does that question not strike you as pleasantly unusual? At first, it would seem natural for them to look sad because, after all, they are in prison. However, the atmosphere Joseph created wherever he was naturally lifted spirits even in the darkest dungeons of disappointment. Joseph was clearly an eternal optimist. Whether serving in a palace or a prison, he was whistling a happy tune.
How could this young man rise to prominence in Potiphar’s house? How could he expect smiles upon the faces of his fellow prisoners? “For in thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God…Forsake me not, O Lord: O my God, be not far from me. Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation” (Psalm 38:15, 21-22).
Hands are mentioned more times in Genesis 39 than any other chapter in Genesis, and in this, I think you will find Joseph’s key to optimism. Joseph saw beyond the hands of his kindred exchanging silver for his life, beyond the hands of the traders bartering for him like an animal, beyond the hands of Potiphar’s wife grasping his garment in accusation, beyond the hands of the guard thrusting him in prison. Joseph saw beyond these hands and had the discernment to see the hand of God that was always with him. You will see this become evident in the final chapter when he says to his brothers, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” (Genesis 50:20).
How did Joseph have the perception to see through the hands of flesh to see the hands of his Father? I suspect those dreams early in his life were the greatest gift. Yes, greater than the coat of many colors was the hope of a greater plan that God was working in his life. D. L. Moody spoke of three faiths: a struggling faith, a clinging faith, and a resting faith. Joseph lived all three, but mostly he had the resting faith in the hands of God. The optimist drinks daily from the fountain of hope found in the promises of God. In order for you to expect smiles in prison, you must drink from that same faithful fountain of hope.
As an avid college fan, one of the highlights of the sporting year is the NFL draft every Spring. Over the course of 3 days, NFL teams get a chance to draft players from the college ranks who they feel will be a help to their team. In order to help teams determine which player they want, the NFL hosts a “combine” in which players get graded on speed, strength and various skills. I spent some time on Saturday watching some of these drills and it is always amazing to see the abilities of these athletes.
Some no doubt will view their own abilities with humility and thank those who helped them along the way. Others, however, use competition like this as nothing more than a bragging or “showcasing” opportunity and will often tweet or retweet the quotes of the analysts that compliment them. Obviously most of these athletes would not be in that position without a lot of hard work; however, our passage today offers a stark reminder of how we should view our gifts and abilities.
1 Corinthians 4:7 states, “For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”
The context of this verse deals with divisions in this Corinthian church as some were clearly holding men up in the church as their “leader” to the apparent exclusion of listening to other teachers and pastors in the church. They undoubtedly held these men in higher regard then they should have and very likely some of this praise was causing some to think of themselves “more highly than they ought to think”.
Paul uses this situation to remind them that every feature, gift, or skill we have has been ultimately given to us by the Lord. Whether it be physical beauty, the ability to excel in sports, a teaching or preaching talent, an eye for business or a positive personality trait, each of these have been given to us by God. When we remind ourselves of this fact, we keep ourselves in check and don’t allow pride to take its deadly root. Instead, all praise and glory needs to be reflected back to the One who gave us that ability!