May the God of peace be with you

Today’s readings are from Philippians 4:8-23 and Ruth 4

It is only the first of November as I write this reflection.  I am sitting at the bedside of my father in palliative care at Port Kembla hospital. He has a short time to remain on this earth and each day becomes more of a struggle as he battles mesothelioma.  I am grieving as I sit here, not just for his suffering, but for the fact that he doesn’t want to know who Jesus is.

What does Dad think about? His mind is still sharp and clear. We chat about the past, his early years in England, the war, his marriage, building our family home, his work and friends, current affairs and politics.  Are these things honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise? Yes of course, so many wonderful memories.  But do these things bring comfort and peace?

While he sleeps, what do I think about? I am thankful and grateful for the care he is receiving at this special place but I also feel a great and heavy sadness as I see his body suffering, and I am fearful for what lies ahead for him if he doesn’t come to know Jesus as his Saviour.  Then, as I re-read the passage, verse 11 reminds me that the author Paul says, I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

How can I be content when I feel so low?  Verse 13 reminds me: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  My faithful Heavenly Father will support and guide me through any possible situation that I might face.  Over many years I have heard and learned about Jesus and have a clear blueprint to follow.  If I can put into that into practice, I know that the peace of God will be with me.  But what to focus on, what to practise?

I focus on Jesus and His love for me, His death for me and feel humbled and in awe.  I focus on prayer as the Holy Spirit guides my thoughts and groanings and know with certainty that I am being heard.  I remember the care and love people have shown me during this sad time and feel grateful and encouraged.

It is now the 8th of November. Today as I sat with Dad I read to him from John’s gospel.  I talked to him about Jesus and His love and sacrifice for all of us.  Dad lay unmoving, with eyes glued closed from medication, but I know he could hear me.  I can say, I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

And my God will supply every need of mine according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory forever and ever.  Amen.

Dad – 16.3.23 – 12.11.13

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True love …

Today’s Readings: Ruth 3 and John 6:5-16

If you have been following FDR daily, like me, I suspect you are grateful that the book of Judges finally came to an end; difficult reading where the temptation was to close the book and not continue reading about the heart wrenching, soul destroying period of a people lost in the depravity of their own behaviour. And so Judges ended with that very sad verse, summing up the hearts and minds of the people.

‘In those days there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes’ Judges 21:25

But O how refreshing, that out of the depths of despair and desperation, we find ourselves in the oasis of Ruth; a love story involving a number of significant characters which is all about ‘character’. Even in great loss, personal tragedy and under extreme hardship, Ruth honours God, and stays true to her commitment; to do what was right …. by God.

‘Wherever you go, I will go …. your people shall be my people and your God, my God.’  Ruth 1:16

Ruth’s character is evident from the start; her faithful commitment to Naomi her mother-in-law; to leave all that is familiar to relocate to a foreign place and amongst a foreign people.

‘So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem ….’   Ruth 1:22

As we read, we are caught up in a culture very foreign to our own way of thinking and way of life. Re-marriage; for Ruth as she embraces Naomi’s faith, a duty to ensure Naomi is cared for; property and a legal system of inheritance and ownership through birth right …. all going to the male ….

And so in Chapter 3 of Ruth, we find ourselves with Naomi guiding Ruth; directing her actions and decisions; setting Ruth on a path in anticipation that it would open up a future for both of them. But it was risky and required great courage and trust on Ruth’s part, as it could end in rejection or compromise. Again, more of Ruth’s character is revealed.

 ‘And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet and lay down.’ Ruth 3:6-7

The cultural interpretation of placing herself at Boaz feet in this way, meant she was putting herself in a position of submission … and the location Boaz had selected to sleep was secluded, so what would happen as Boaz awoke, to find himself in such a situation??

Boaz response, woken out of a deep sleep, could only be described as an automatic and natural reaction to what he had observed and heard reported, about the way this beautiful, vulnerable young woman had conducted herself.

Then he said, ‘Blessed are you of the Lord my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.’ Ruth 3:11

What a significant statement to make to and about someone. What had not been lost on Boaz was not just Ruth’s concern for Naomi’s future, but also her high level of integrity. Surely it would be expected that given her youth, Ruth’s desire would have been to re-marry a man more her own age, rather than a man old enough to be her father.

But at a time in history where inheritance and security was tied to lineage, it was important Ruth not only marry in the line of her dead father-in-law, but whoever it was she married would need to purchase back (or redeem) the family property, in the knowledge that if Ruth produced a son, the son he would inherit the land …. a kinsman-redeemer.

As we hold our breath to see what would unfold, Boaz reply was one of gentle encouragement, for if the closer relative chose not to take up this responsibility, Boaz would fulfil this duty. As the words are read, there is certainly a tenderness which would not have been lost on Ruth and certainly bought much comfort.

‘But if he does not want to perform this duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the Lord lives!’ Ruth 3:13

It is so tempting to continue the story (or even finish reading the story), knowing what is to unfold … but that wouldn’t do justice to tomorrow. Ruth is a special book to stop and reflect, particularly in light of the period it was written; a period in society dominated by men but never lacking in God’s love for his people (created in his image; male and female). But the significance of both Naomi and Ruth is that this is a love story where faith and trust played a part in preparing for the Saviour.

So what is your story? Do you or have you faced heartache that has left you in a place of brokenness and even hopelessness? Take heart. This was certainly Ruth’s story (to start with), but it ends triumphantly; because she didn’t allow herself to become a victim of her circumstances, but rather she committed to making decisions that would reveal God’s plan and purpose for her life.

‘ Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might he increases strengthIsaiah 40:28-29 

Do you know this strength that shapes character?  Have you personally experienced what it means to look back and reflect on God’s hand on your life because you were willing to be obedient to trust a trustworthy God? Are you willing to walk into your future like Ruth simply because … God is God?

KD

Prodigal Love

Today’s readings are Ruth 2:14-20 and Deuteronomy 28

Boaz’ generosity towards Ruth is pretty unbelievable in this chapter. A couple of days ago Ron mentioned the incredible grace Boaz displayed in providing food, water and protection for this otherwise destitute Moabite woman (v9). He was certainly under no obligation to do this – yes he’d heard about all she had done for her mother-in-law (v11), but Ruth was still from Moab (a traditional enemy of Israel cf. Num 22-25) and mixing with these women was strongly discouraged and frowned upon if you were an Israelite man. The author mentions Ruth’s heritage a number of times throughout the book (see 1:4, 22; 2:2, 6, 21; 4:5, 10), clearly emphasising just how crazy and reckless Boaz’ kindness is to Ruth.

In verse 14, we see this generosity continue to overflow. Boaz invites her to share a meal with him and the harvesters (Boaz’ hired servants), a huge privilege in itself, and then he even serves her food at the table! Further, in verse 16, Boaz instructs his servants to leave Ruth some quality sheaves to glean, not just the scraps in the corners of the field that would normally be left for the widows and orphans. This was extravagant generosity, above and beyond anything Boaz was required to do.

We’ll see more and more as this story unfolds that the extravagant or prodigal grace Boaz shows to Ruth echoes in just a small way the prodigal love that God has for his elect. Just as Boaz becomes this impoverished Moabite woman’s kinsman-redeemer (v20 – stay tuned for more on this), so God pours out his extravagant love in the person of Jesus Christ, redeeming us, wicked, rebellious enemies of his, purchasing our salvation through Christ’s death on the cross. This is unbelievable love, unfathomable generosity!!

I hope you see the echoes this morning of your redemption in Ruth’s redemption story. For while Ruth’s story is a beautiful one, it points to something far more beautiful – Christ is the true and better Boaz, who redeems us despite our utter unworthiness. Praise God for his mercy!

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Daniel Budd

Seeking Refuge?

Todays Readings are from Deuteronomy 26 and Ruth 2:1-13

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of nowhere as a storm has developed.  Looking around you find the crevice of a rock to hide under, taking refuge from the storm.

Or in the midst or tensions at work, you find yourself downstairs, upstairs, outdoors or on an extended lunchbreak as you seek refuge from the chaos of the tension.

In chapter 2 of Ruth we are introduced to Boaz. We know that he is related to Naomi, is a man of standing with influence, power and responsibility.  That he notices Ruth is impressive in itself. That he provides the means for her to be cared for is incredibly gracious. But his understanding of what has happened, is happening and will happen in Ruth’s story is both insightful and wise.

Boaz has heard of Ruth (v11) and what she has done for Naomi. He has insight beyond this act of human kindness. What Boaz wisely sees Ruth to be doing is seeking refuge under the wings of the Lord, the God of Israel (v12). Her decision is more than a nice, kind human act of support. It is also an act of giving allegiance to the God of Israel. Ruth’s way of expressing this was seen in chapter 1:16, where Ruth declared “Your people will be my people and your God my God”. Boaz wants such a righteous act to be repaid (interesting?) and rewarded by the Lord (v12).

I wonder if Boaz sees himself as part of God’s answer to the desire of his heart. As Boaz provides for Ruth, does he see himself as God’s provision for Ruth, as the embodiment of God’s kindness for her.  Does he see that the Lord’s wings of refuge enfolding Ruth are visible in his own hands?

I guess he doesn’t, at least not in the fullness of what is happening. As the story unfolds we will see the wings of refuge God provides both for Ruth and for us.  For today, though, never underestimate how God might be working in and through you, his person, to provide refuge for others.  It’s not always obvious in the moment how God is working through you by his Spirit in the lives of others.

We don’t always see, but he is always working with loving kindness. Perhaps you are the one through whom God is bringing refuge today to people at work, or in family, or next door, as you seek to be kind to those around you.