2 Chronicles 17 and Psalms 140-143

Read 2 Chronicles 17 and Psalms 140-143.

This devotional is about Psalm 143.

Few men in world history have faced the number of immanent dangers to life that David faced. In addition to fighting in several traditional battles, he also was hunted by his father-in-law the king and, later in life, by his own son as well. Many of the songs we read in the Psalms were written by David while he was on the run. His musical gifts provided comfort to him when he was afraid and gave God’s people a gift that enhanced their worship.

The Psalms we’ve read today are part of David’s “songs in the key of fear.” What impresses me so often in these songs is David’s concern for his walk with God even while he pleads with the Lord to spare his life. In verse 8 of Psalm 143, David sang, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.” I take that phrase, “let the morning bring me word” to be a poetic and spiritual way of saying, “Please give me deliverance by tomorrow morning.” I think this because verse 9 echoes with, “Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you.” But, concerned though he is with his physical deliverance, he also sang, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God….” That line shows that David wanted to walk with God in his moral life just as much as he wanted to save his neck. 

Think about how we and Christians in general pray. Many of us are completely prayerless until we or someone we love gets a serious diagnosis or is in financial distress, or has a wayward child, or faces some other kind of distress. There is nothing wrong, of course, with praying for God’s help and deliverance in these situations. David did, after all, pray for God’s deliverance.

But how often do our prayers cry out for God’s help in the immediate problems and circumstances of life but say nothing about learning holiness? Yet God is far more concerned to “teach [us] to do [his] will” (v. 10a) than he is with solving our immediate problems. In fact, the Bible teaches us that the problems of life are allowed into our lives by God because he wants to root our pride and self-dependence out of us, as well as loosening our love of this world. 

Of course we should pray for God’s help and deliverance from the difficult circumstances we face in life. But we should also, like David, learn to ask God to train us and others we pray for to live for his will.

1 Chronicles 3-4, Zechariah 2, John 17

Read 1 Chronicles 3-4, Zechariah 2, and John 17.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 4.

In 2000 Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book titled The Prayer of Jabez based on our passage for today, specifically 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. That book was a monster best seller with over 9 million copies sold. Many people—Christians and non-Christians—following the teaching in Wilkinson’s book have prayed the prayer of Jabez, asking God’s blessing on their lives. They treat this passage, again because of Wilkinson’s book, like it is a secret formula, almost a magic incantation for bringing God’s blessing on your life anywhere you want it.

But 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 is not an incantation or a secret formula to unleash God’s blessings in your life.

To understand Jabez’s prayer, we need to understand that God had promised material prosperity to the Jewish people if they walked in obedience to his laws. This goes all the way back to God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12. There, and in later passages, God promised land to Abram’s descendants.

What made Jabez “more honorable than his brothers” was that he believed God’s promise and asked God to fulfill it in his life. Jabez’s prayer was consistent with the covenant God made with Israel. The other descendants of Judah after David turned to idols as the source of their prosperity. They worshipped other gods in disobedience to God’s law and hoped to obtain more land and more prosperity from these gods. They also abused others to get what they wanted.

Jabez was different and “more honorable” because he had faith in God and prayed consistently with God’s promises for his people.

What Jabez’s prayer teaches us is that God is honored when we pray according to his revealed will—that is, according to what the Bible says.

When we pray in faith asking God to honor his promises to us in the word, God is pleased and will answer us according to his will. No Christian is promised the kind of material prosperity that Jabez prayed for. What God promises to us is to provide for our needs, to give us spiritual power to overcome sin and to become like Jesus, and to be with us as we go spreading the gospel to all the nations.

What if we prayed for those things instead of asking God to heal our chronic problems?

How would that transform our prayer life?

How would it change our church?

What might God do in this world if we prayed like Jabez—not aping his requests but applying the spirit of them to pray according to God’s promises and God’s will as revealed to us in scripture?

2 Kings 24, Haggai 1, John 14

Read 2 Kings 24, Haggai 1, and John 14.

This devotional is about Haggai 1.

Most of the prophets we’ve read prophesied that judgment was coming for Israel or Judah or both. Haggai was one of the prophets who spoke the Lord’s word after his people were returned from exile.

Here in chapter 1, the Lord challenged the people through Haggai for returning to the land and building their own houses (v. 4) but doing nothing to rebuild the temple (v. 2, 4). Their reasoning for this was, “’The time has not yet come…’” (v. 2).

Undoubtedly there was still a lot of work to be done in Jerusalem. A city that has been destroyed by the Babylonians would take a long time to rebuild. Their plan to leave the temple until “the time comes,” however, suggested wrong priorities. Instead of understanding that their security and prosperity were consequences of faith in and obedience to God, they believed that taking care of business was most important and then, “we’ll get to the Lord’s work when things are humming along nicely again.”

Verses 5-11 explained the outcome of their misplaced priorities. Though they had worked hard (“planted much”) they were struggling to make ends meet (“harvest little… earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it” (v. 6)). This was all the Lord’s doing as he explained in verses 9-10: “‘What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.’” Through Haggai, then, the Lord taught his people to change their priorities and see worship as far more important by rebuilding the temple (v. 8).

Unlike the past, God’s people at this time received the message of the Lord’s prophet (v. 12). Their resolve to rebuild the temple and their obedience to that intention (v. 14) was met with the Lord’s favor: “I am with you” (v. 13b).

  • What struggles are you facing now?
  • Work problems or business struggles?
  • Rebellious children?
  • Strained friendships?
  • A too-tight budget at home?

Maybe you are struggling as part of the Lord’s will for you now to teach you patience and strengthen your faith.

But, have you considered that maybe the Lord is holding too low a priority in your life?

You’re working harder than ever but that leaves less time for prayer and Bible reading. You’re trying to spend more time with your kids but that means you’re choosing recreation over church attendance frequently.

Consider the possibility that the frustrations you face in your life might be the Lord’s discipline in your life and that this passage is calling you to reassess your priorities and put more attention into your walk with God.

Then, do what it takes to give the Lord his proper place. It may seem tough to find time to rebuild your walk with God but remember the Lord’s encouraging promise: “‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord.”

2 Kings 3, Jonah 1, Jude

Read 2 Kings 3, Jonah 1, and Jude.

This devotional is about Jonah 1.

Some of the Lord’s prophets drew difficult assignments. Hosea, for instance, was told to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him. Jeremiah did time in prison and in a pit for his prophecies. Ezekiel lost his wife in death so that the Lord could prove a point. Elijah was targeted for death by Jezebel, a stone-cold killer.

But none of them ran away from the Lord’s will like Jonah did.

Why? Was he rebellious or weaker spiritually than these other men or is there more going on?

The answer lies in the second verse of our passage: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it” but it takes some historical knowledge to understand the significance of the Lord’s command here. Ninevah was the capital city of Assyria, the nation that would conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel and cause a lot of problems for Judah as well. The Assyrians were known for their extreme cruelty to their enemies. They didn’t just conquer a kingdom, killing that kingdom’s soldiers as part of the battle; they tortured some of the people that they captured with cold-hearted brutality.

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh because he hated the Assyrians. There was almost certainly an element of fear in his heart toward them as well but, as we’ll see in the chapters ahead, it was hatred primarily that motivated Jonah to run away from God’s will.

Jonah’s story calls us to reflect on our own attitudes toward others. Do we hate atheists? Liberals? Muslims? Immigrants?

Are some of our political positions motivated by a desire to punish people we perceive as enemies or exclude them from any blessings at all? If you love the Lord, you know that love exists in you only by his grace. It was not your wisdom, your morality, or your innate spirituality that brought you to Christ; it was his love, his grace and mercy that changed your cold heart (and mine) to embrace his lordship and receive his salvation.

Do you love the Lord enough to pray and seek for others–even those who might be your enemy–to find that love and mercy too?

1 Kings 14, Joel 3, 1 Peter 2

Read 1 Kings 14, Joel 3, and 1 Peter 2.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 14.

Isn’t it surprising how utilitarian Jeroboam was about matters of faith and worship?

When he was anointed king, Jeroboam was willing to to believe the Lord (11:26-39, 12:2-3, 12-15). But after the Lord’s word was completely fulfilled and he was made king, he made two golden calves and said, “‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan” (12:28b-29).

Now that his son—his heir—was sick here in chapter 14, Jeroboam wanted to know the Lord’s will again. When he wanted to know if his son would be okay, Jeroboam sent his wife to the very prophet who anointed him, whose word was fulfilled completely (vv. 2-5). Comically, he even told his wife to disguise herself (v. 2b), as if the Lord would not reveal who she was but would reveal what would happen to his son.

Jeroboam was all about knowing God’s will when it had to do with his life and prosperity. When the Lord’s word was against him, however, he wanted to seize the Lord’s prophet (13:4), presumably to harm him. God’s word, his truth, was important in key moments of his life; the rest of the time, however, his golden calves were more than good enough.

The true God was like a spare tire to this ancient king of Israel. You never think about your spare tire until one of your regular tires goes flat. Then you hope the spare tire has enough air in it to bail you out of being stuck and stranded. That was how Jeroboam treated the God of his people Israel.

What was fact for Jeroboam can easily be a temptation for us. We all tend to treat God this way ourselves.

When our future is at stake, we want to know what God’s word says. But, when everything is good for us, we are tempted to give God as much consideration as we give our spare tires in normal driving conditions.

Do your prayer habits shrivel and dry up until the next crisis hits? Do you neglect God’s word until you are afraid, then you crave knowing what God’s will is? Because we are fallen, the spare tire theology that Jeroboam had is easy for us to slouch into. May God give us a heart like David who, though sinful himself, longed to know and love God.

2 Samuel 19, Daniel 9, 1 Timothy 1

Read 2 Samuel 19, Daniel 9, and 1 Timothy 1.

This devotional is about Daniel 9.

Daniel’s prayer here in chapter 9 is model for how we should pray in concert with the will of God.

First, what prompted Daniel’s prayer was God’s word. Verse 2 says, “I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.” It was his reading and understanding of Jeremiah’s prophecy that caused him to pray as he did. The lesson for us here is that the truths of scripture can lead us to pray. Daniel saw a promise in God’s word that had a time-deadline of 70 years so he prayed that the Lord would fulfill that promise. Likewise, when we see God’s promises in scripture that are as of yet unfulfilled, they can motivate us to ask God to make them happen.

Next, Daniel began his prayer with praise. Even though his people were in exile in Babylon, he believed that God was “the great and awesome God” (v. 4), that he was “righteous” (v. 7a), and that he was “merciful and forgiving” 9v. 9). God loves to hear us wrap our requests in worship; when it is our faith in God’s attributes—specific attributes—that compel us to pray, God is glorified and worship in our prayers.

The kernel of Daniel’s prayer, of course, was repentance. He arranged his physical appearance to express repentance (v. 3) and he acknowledged the sins of his nations (vv. 5-7) as well as his personal sins (v. 20: “confessing my sin…”). This focus on repentance was because he was praying for restoration. God’s purpose in exiling Israel was to turn their hearts back to him, so repentance was the proper response to their situation. While the purpose of our prayers is not always repentance, it is always appropriate to confess our sins to the Lord in our prayers. This aligns our hearts morally with his will and causes us to remember that our trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and his atonement for us.

My final observation about this prayer is that the reason for his request was the glory of God. Verse 19 says, “For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” He wanted the restoration God promised because he wanted God to be glorified. When we ask God for things in our prayers, are we thinking about how the answer to our prayers will bring him glory or are we focused merely on improving our situation for the better? While God is loving and compassionate toward us, his love and compassion will ultimately be experienced in eternity; until then, he allows problems and pain and tragedy and other issues because this world has not yet been redeemed. He is more concerned about the growth of his church and the coming of his kingdom than he is about our comfort, so our prayers should be about the things he cares about far more than they are about the things we care about. Too often we have that order inverted.

So, what are you praying about right now? Do the scriptures inform and stimulate your prayers? Are your prayers layered with worship and praise for who God is? Are you confessing your sins and claiming the sacrifice of Christ as the basis for your forgiveness and even your praying? Are you praying for the glory of God?

2 Samuel 17, Daniel 7, Proverbs 22:17-29

Read 2 Samuel 17, Daniel 7, and Proverbs 22:17-29.

This devotional is about 2 Samuel 17.

Over the past few chapters in 2 Samuel, David has been reaping the bad harvest of the sin seeds he sowed in his adultery with Bathsheba. Nathan prophesied in 2 Samuel 12:10: “the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.” The “sword,” a metaphor for violence, showed up when David’s son Amnon raped David’s son Tamar and when Absolom retaliated by killing Amnon in chapter 13. In chapters 14-15a Absolom began positioning himself to challenge David as king. Then he did attempt to overthrow David as king in 2 Samuel 15b-16.

Here in chapter 17, David is running for his life and Absolom is seeking wisdom for how to defeat his father and solidify his hold on the kingdom of Israel. Absolom consulted two men for advice. Both had been advisors to David and were known to be men who gave wise advice. We do not know why Ahithophel began to advise Absolom instead of David but the advice Ahithophel gave was shrewd and accurate and would have benefited Absolom if Absolom had chosen to follow it.

The other advisor, Hushai the Arkite, was secretly loyal to David and, consequently, gave different advice to Absolom than Ahithophel gave. God was working in all of this, both through the presence of Hushai and the inclination of Absolom to listen to him. Verse 14 says, “For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.”

The book of Proverbs advises us to seek and follow the advice of wise counselors and Ahithophel certainly qualified. But it is better to be on the Lord’s side than to have the best advisors in the world. Absolom could not win because his cause was unjust, selfish, and opposed to the will of God. God had made an everlasting covenant with David and the Lord would not fail to keep his side of the bargain. The best tactics, strategy, advice, and execution will be ineffective if it is not aligned with what God has chosen to do.

When you make decisions and seek advice, do you filter that advice according to scripture? Are you thinking about the commands of God and the moral truths his word teaches first before you follow the advice you are given? As Proverbs 21:30 says, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.” So seek and follow wise counsel, by all means, but remember to consult God’s word as your first and primary counselor.

2 Samuel 12, Daniel 2, Mark 12

Read 2 Samuel 12, Daniel 2, and Mark 12.

This devotional is about Daniel 2.

What would you do if you were a powerful leader but suspected that your spiritual advisors were making stuff up?

You might do what Nebuchadnezzar did here in Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar had a weird dream (v. 1) and he apparently believed that something was being communicated to him in it. Instead of describing it for his spiritual advisors, he tested them: could they tell him what he had dreamed and THEN interpret what it meant (vv. 2-9)? The key phrase in that passage is in verse 9: “You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” If they could tell him what he had dreamed that would be proof that they had genuine access to the spiritual realm. That would give him greater confidence in their interpretation of this dream and in their spiritual guidance in every other matter.

Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual advisors did not like the new terms of service he was imposing on them. They protested that what he wanted was impossible (vv. 10-11) which confirmed to the king that they were dealers of nonsense. Nebuchadnezzar therefore ordered them to be put to death (vv. 12-13). Daniel and his friends were apparently junior officers in the spirituality cabinet of Babylon at this point. They were subject to the same death penalty but had not been given the opportunity to advise Nebuchadnezzar about his dream (v. 14). Daniel asked for some time and urged his three friends to pray (vv. 15-18), and God answered their prayers, revealing the vision and its meaning to Daniel (vv. 19-45).

The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is important because it predicted world events that would happen after his reign and would culminate with the kingdom of Christ (vv. 36-45). But for this devotional, I want to focus on how Daniel responded when God answered his prayers. Daniel was given a gift that, according to Nebuchadnezzar’s astrologers, was impossible: “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks!” they said in verse 10. Daniel recognized that what they said was right. His ability to interpret dreams was a supernatural gift from God, not a natural skill he developed himself (v. 23).

Daniel also recognized in this dream that God was at work in world events (v. 21). While we think that kings and leaders are chosen by natural events, political processes, and/or human manipulation, God’s providence–God’s will–stands behind it all. The rulers of this world think they are in control but their control is an illusion. God is using their ambitions to advance his will.

While we should do what we can to influence world events toward righteousness, we need to recognize that the nations and political structures of this world belong to this world; they will be replaced by the kingdom Jesus came to establish (vv. 44-45). What seems so powerful, so permanent, so impenetrable to us now will be supernaturally (“not by human hands” (v. 34)) “broken to pieces and… swept away without leaving a trace” (v. 35).

Anytime we have an election, there are winners and losers. Some people feel hopeful, even victorious, after an election and a nearly equal number of people feel hopeless and defeated.

If you care about politics at all, then you’ve been on the hill and in the valley of that roller coaster already in your life. And, you will likely experience that again. If our only hope was to reforming this world and its rulers, we would have plenty to worry about, but our hope is in Christ.

His kingdom may be right on the verge of appearing or it may be another thousand years away. Only God knows the timeline, but he has revealed to us the outcome. Look in faith to these promises and trust God to watch over us and use us in the meantime, just like he did with Daniel and his friends.

1 Samuel 9, Ezekiel 20, Proverbs 20:1-15

Read 1 Samuel 9, Ezekiel 20, and Proverbs 20:1-15.

This devotional is about Proverbs 20:4: “Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.”

A sluggard is someone who is sluggish. It is a word that describes a person’s work habits, or, to be precise, his lack of work habits. A sluggard is lazy. He avoids work as much as possible and, when he does work, he moves at the slowest possible pace. When I was in college, I worked landscaping for two summers. We called one of the guys I worked with “two speed.” He never asked why we called him that, but we called him that because he had two speeds–slow and slower. He dragged his feet at everything, so working with him was a drag for the rest of us.

The book of Proverbs contains many sayings about sluggards. This one tells us that sluggards “do not plow in season.” Plowing was hard work. If you didn’t have a donkey to pull the plow, it was really hard work. But it had to be done so that you could plant and, later, reap. This proverb says that sluggards won’t “plow in season.” They avoid doing the hard work of breaking up the ground “in season,” meaning at the time when it should be done. Instead of starting early in the semester on a term paper, the sluggard does nothing. He waits until the night before the paper is due to get started. Or, if he’s in the workforce, the sluggard doesn’t follow up on customer calls or sales leads quickly. He doesn’t get to work when the work shows up. Instead, he shuffles papers, talks to colleagues, gets more coffee, writes another to do list, or does anything he can to appear working without actually doing the productive thing.

What is the consequence of being sluggish about one’s work? The last part of Proverbs 20:4 says, “…so at harvest time they look but find nothing.” For the lazy student, it is failing a class or not getting nearly as good a grade as the student could. For the lazy worker, it means missing promotions and raises or being the first to get laid off when the company needs to cut costs. The point is that the lazy person fails to get results. The lack of results are not because the sluggard lacked ability; instead, it is because he did not work when he could have worked. He avoided the hard work, so the results avoided him.

Are you a sluggard anywhere in your life? Are you dragging your feet, procrastinating on tasks that really need to be started or completed soon? A sluggard must live on the kindness of others, such as a boss who is too compassionate to fire him or a relative who can’t bear to let his family member get evicted, or become homeless, or accumulate debt to have food to eat and clothing to wear.

There is a type of sluggard that we Christians sometimes meet. That sluggard says, “The Lord will provide” or “I’m waiting on God” instead of working or seeking work or just putting basic effort into life. It sounds spiritual, but it is just a covering for laziness. There are times when we do have to wait on God because we’ve done everything we can. But, too often “waiting on God” is justification for doing nothing.

We do need God to provide. The anti-sluggard may plow diligently, plant and cultivate carefully, and still miss the harvest because of drought. Hard work usually pays off, but not always. There are circumstances that only God can control.

But from the very sixth day of creation, when God created man, his will was for humanity to work. God provides for us most often by us putting effort into our work. So, don’t procrastinate today. Don’t make excuses or avoid doing hard things.

In fact, if there is something you’ve been avoiding–a phone call you need to make, a problem you need to address, a client who has been waiting too long–do that first today and stick with it until it is done. That’s the way to become an anti-sluggard, a believer who lives a work-life that is pleasing to God.

1 Samuel 1, Ezekiel 14, Psalms 96-98

Read 1 Samuel 1, Ezekiel 14, and Psalms 96-98.

This devotional is about 1 Samuel 1.

Hannah found herself in an unhappy situation here in the opening chapter of 1 Samuel. Her society greatly valued children, especially boys, yet she was unable to get pregnant.

If that weren’t bad enough, her husband had a “rival” (v. 6) wife named Peninnah. Elkanah may have married Peninnah specifically because of Hannah’s infertility (similar to Abraham and Hagar). Regardless of his motives, Peninnah delivered (pun intended) where Hannah could not; verse 2 tells us “Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.” So Hannah felt judged by her society, may have felt like she let her husband down, and felt inferior to his second wife.

Even worse, Peninnah mocked Hannah for her infertility (v. 6). Although Hannah was loved by her husband who did his best (verse 8 notwithstanding) to demonstrate his love and make her feel secure (vv. 4-5), she suffered emotionally due to all of these things.

Whatever faults he may have had, Elkanah was devoted to the Lord. We see this in his consistency to worship at the tabernacle “year after year” (v. 3). We also see it in how urged Hannah to keep her vow to the Lord (v. 23). When the sorrow of her situation became too much to bear, Hannah did what a believer should do; she poured out her heart to God in prayer (vv. 10-11).

Yet even her heartfelt prayer was became a source of pain because it was misinterpreted. As if she didn’t feel low enough, the High Priest of Israel rebuked her for being a drunk when he saw her praying (vv. 12-14). Fortunately, when she explained the situation, Eli gave her the reassurance she needed (v. 17). Note that Eli did not promise her an answer to her prayer; rather, he acknowledged the sincerity of her prayers and added his own prayer wish that the Lord would answer her favorably (v. 17). But Hannah took this blessing from the priest by faith and received the peace of God for her situation (v. 18).

And, God did answer her prayer, giving her the son she so deeply desired.

If only deep sorrow and total sincerity were enough to get answers to any prayer! Yet God does not always give us the answer we seek. That is why Jesus encouraged us to pray according to God’s will. God’s will is frequently different than our will is; therefore, God sometimes answers our prayers with “no.”

What made Hannah’s prayer effective was not her deep emotions and sincerity. It was, instead, her faith in God and her willingness to align her request with God’s will.

By promising to give her son to the Lord and to raise him under a Nazirite vow for life (v. 11), she was asking God to answer her prayer in a way that would bring glory to him.

Samuel would grow up to serve the Lord in a unique way, both as a priest and as the last of the judges of Israel. In contrast to the spiritual scoundrels who served as Israel’s judges in the book of Judges, Samuel would be a man who led Israel spiritually as well as politically. Hannah’s prayer was answered in a way that was more profound than she probably could have imagined. Though she did not have the joy of raising her son throughout his childhood, she did have the joy of knowing that he was serving the Lord.

James 4:3 tells us that God is not in the habit of answering prayers that come from self-centered motives. When Hannah connected her desire for a son with God’s desire for a godly leader for Israel, her prayer aligned with God’s will and he answered her. When we ask God for things in our lives, are our requests selfish or are they connected to the things that God cares about? This is the kind of praying that is pleasing to God and, therefore, the kind of praying that God is most likely to answer with “yes.”

Ruth 3-4, Ezekiel 13, Ephesians 2

Read Ruth 3-4, Ezekiel 13, and Ephesians 2.

This devotional is about Ruth 3-4.

Once again we see the godly character of Boaz on display in today’s two chapters from Ruth. His actions protecting and providing for Ruth in chapter 2 may indicate his personal attraction to her, but he was aware of the age difference (v. 10) as well as the existence of another man who was a closer relative to Ruth than Boaz. This other relative, then, had the first right to marry her (vv. 12-13).

According to Old Testament law, the other man was supposed to marry Ruth and, with her, produce a son who would be heir to Elimelek’s estate. This nearer relative (plus the age thing) may have been why Boaz did not make a move for Ruth himself. Regardless, Ruth came to him secretly, at night, and requested his protection for her and Naomi through marriage. Although some have suggested that Ruth’s actions of “uncovering Boaz’s feet” was a sexual act, the text indicates the opposite. The wording in the passage was “uncovered his feet and lay down” (3:7) so this would have to be some kind of Hebrew idiom/euphemism for sex, such as when we say two people “slept together” in modern English. But the fact that Boaz slept through Ruth’s actions and, later something “startled him” (v. 8), indicates that the plain reading of the text is the correct one. Ruth pulled the covers off Boaz’s feet, laid down on the ground by his feet and waited for him to wake up. Her reason for doing this was to create an opportunity where she could speak privately to Boaz without anyone else knowing.

Although the passage does not say so, it seems clear that Boaz was an unmarried man. Singleness was highly unusual in Israel, so perhaps Boaz was a widower whose original wife died before giving him any heirs, but we do not know. What we do know is that his blessing on Ruth (3:10) indicated his desire to be married to Ruth. Given that life during the period of the Judges resembled the wild west, Boaz might have been able to get away with undercutting the nearer relative of Ruth by marrying her before the other guy was aware of her existence. However, Boaz wanted to do the right thing. And, in chapter 4, he did. He gave the closer relative the opportunity to do right, then got what he wanted when the other man refused to do his duty. 

You have to admire Boaz and give him some style points for how he approached Ruth’s nearer relative. Boaz mentioned the benefit of doing the right thing first when he asked the man if he would redeem the land that Elimelek owned (4:3). Only after the man stated his intention to buy the land from Naomi did Boaz mention the string that was attached, namely the responsibility to marry Ruth, too (4:5). Notice how, at the end of Ruth 4, when Obed was born, the women said, “Naomi has a son!” (v. 17). The reason they said this is that Obed was the legal heir to Elimelek’s land. That legal entanglement was the reason the closer relative to Ruth did not want to buy the land if it required marrying Ruth, too. If Ruth were to have a son before the other man’s original wife had a son, there would be “firstborn issues” and Obed might get everything. That is what the other man meant in verse 6 when he said, “…I might endanger my own estate.”

Boaz had thought about this before he invited the man to buy Naomi’s property. In other words, although Boaz was determined to do the right thing, even if that meant losing Ruth, he still presented the situation in the best possible way to get what he wanted, namely the legal right to marry Ruth.

The lesson from this, for us, is this: As you pursue what you want in life, will you do that within obedience to the moral will of God?

It is so easy for us to see situations like this in clear black and white terms when we are looking at the responsibilities and actions of others. But, when we ourselves want something that maybe outside of God’s will for us, we can easily make excuses that justify doing what we want to do. Couples who are considering marriage can do this kind of justifying when it comes to crossing lines of sexual activity. “We’re planning on getting married,” they might reason, “so it’s not wrong for us as long as we do get married anyway.” It is so easy to justify what we want to do and so hard, when our desires are engaged, to do what God commands us to do. But a man of moral character like Boaz and a woman of godly character like Ruth will seek to do right, then wait to see what God has decided to do.

Judges 11:12-40, Lamentations 5, Psalms 90-92

Read Judges 11:12-40, Lamentations 5, Psalms 90-92.

This devotional is about Psalm 91.

This beautiful song begins with a universal claim: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” The “shelter of the Most High” refers to the tabernacle. This phrase is a poetic way of expressing a person’s deep desire for God. When someone wanted to know God so much that he spent every possible moment in the place where God’s presence was promised, that person, according to verse 1, would be protected by God (“shadow of the Almighty”).

Verse 2 moves from the universal to the specific: “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” In other words, verse 1 promised God’s protecting shadow over anyone who delights in God so the author (probably David) stated his intention in verse 2 to look to God for the refuge offered in verse 1.

And what kind of refuge did God offer? Refuge:

  • from someone trying to capture the author according to verse 3a (“the fowler’s snare”) and
  • from fatal disease according to v 3b (“pestilence”).

God gave refuge like a mother bird gives to her young (v. 4), refuge from fear of being captured or killed overnight (v. 5a) or from military attacks by day (v. 5b:).

God gave refuge from disease whether at night (v. 6a) or at noon (v. 6b). In the heat of battle, when men were dying all around, the Psalmist believed that God would protect the one who trusts him (v. 7) and would punish those who deserve it (v. 8).

The Psalmist had two reasons for his confidence in God’s protection. The first reason was God’s angelic protection for those who trust in the Lord (vv. 9-13). The second reason for his confidence was that God would answer the prayers for help of those who love him (vv. 14-15).

The result of all this protection will be a long life on this earth (v. 16a) and salvation when this life is over (v. 16b).

What a comforting song; yet, the author of this Psalm died eventually and we know that bad things do happen to godly people. So what do we make of the author’s confidence?

First, the promises of this Psalm are for David and the kings that follow in his line. This fact is indicated in verses 11-12 which Satan quoted to Jesus as he was tempted. Unlike what we are often told, Satan did not quote this passage out of context. He understood that it was God’s promise to David that insured a king in David’s line would receive God’s special protection because of the covenant God made to David.

Secondly, based on God’s covenant with David, the king could be certain that nothing would happen to him until he had fulfilled the mission God gave him to do. Although he may fight in many battles, even losing some (v. 7), God promised to watch over the leader’s life until that leader’s work in this life was completed. Verse 16 promised “long life,” not the absolute avoidance of death. The promise, then, is that the Davidic king who loved God and put his hope in God did not need to fear premature death either by war or disease. God’s protection would be on his life until he finished what God gave him to do.

While the promise in this passage applied first to David and to the heirs of the covenant God made with David, I believe this Psalm also comforts us with a principle we can count on: we are invincible on this earth until we have completed God’s work if we trust in the Lord and seek him habitually. While some godly people die younger than we would expect, that does not happen due to some random event outside of God’s will. Instead, those who fear the Lord and seek to live for him generally live a long life on this earth (v. 16a). When someone dies “prematurely,” it is because God had another plan for them.

Finally, when the time comes to die, God’s promises to “show him my salvation” when we trust in him (v. 16b). This is a reference to the deliverance believers receive after death.

In our moments of night time fear (v 5a, 6a) and daytime threats (v. 3, 7), the only hope we have is in the promises and mercy of God. Though Christ fulfilled God’s promise in this passage as the Messiah, the final Davidic king, the invitation is still universal: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High…” (v. 1). This applies to us: When we make the Lord our love (v. 1a, 14a) and look to him for protection from all the threats around us, we are indestructible until God says it is time for us to go.

Whatever you fear today, remember that the Lord is watching over you and that, even if the worst happens, you still have the promise of God that God will “show him my salvation.” That means you will be rescued from these dangers, ultimately, in eternity.