Reading #1 – Ruth 2
Reading #2 – Psalms 22
Reading #3 – Proverbs 29
Reading #4 – Acts 25
Reading #5 – 2 King 1
Ruth 2 – Ruth Works in Boaz’s Field. In Proverbs, it says “he that does not work does not eat” (Proverbs 4:7). Ruth went into the fields to get food for Naomi and herself. Word had spread across the small community of Judah that this Moabitess had come back with Naomi and had abandoned her citizenship with Moab. It is providential that she found herself in the field belonging to Boaz kin to Naomi. Ruth asked for nothing more than to work for food. Ruth had not been formally introduced to Boaz and didn’t know he existed. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter (7).” Boaz then gave specific instructions to Ruth. Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well (8-9).” Ruth honored Boaz’s instructions and at days end came home with more than enough wheat to make bread. Ruth had beaten the wheat so that it could be used.
2 Kings 2– Elijah Taken Into Heaven. Elisha had become Elijah’s servant and his successor by the Lord’s command (1 Kings 18:16). Elisha was faithful to Elijah during the few years in Elijah’s servitude. Eventually, Elijah’s ministry would end and he would be taken home. When Elijah asked Elisha “what is it you want of me”, Elisha responded, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor (9b).” Elisha had no idea that it was G_d’s plan all along. G_d does this because if he told us everything that would happen from start to finish of our life we would never seek him or do anything other than “go with the flow”. After we had received the gift, we would treat it sort of like “a piece of candy from the dollar store”. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t (10).” So Elijah was taken up into heaven, his robe fell to the ground, and Elisha witnessed the event and so he succeeded Elijah as Israel’s prophet of the Lord. Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across. When the group of prophets from Jericho saw from a distance what happened, they exclaimed, “Elijah’s spirit rests upon Elisha!” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him (13-15).
Psalms 22 – A Psalm of David sung to “Doe of the Dawn”. This Psalm is also the “Passion play”. As with all of the Psalms that David and other penned, there is an impetus behind it and we are not told what it is. Biblical scholars date the 1st half of the psalm to 586BC and the other half to post-exilic times. Jesus quoted the first verse while on the cross My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Throughout the psalm we hear the heart of Jesus yet, in parts, I hear the heart of Jeremiah. But I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all! Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, “Is this the one who relies on the LORD? Then let the LORD save him! If the LORD loves him so much, let the LORD rescue him (6-8)!” The writer is recounting the torment he is facing but is doing it respectfully and honoring G_d above all of the torment. Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast. I was thrust into your arms at my birth. You have been my God from the moment I was born (9-10). This statement emphasizes a point and that is, in all of our suffering G_d is still in control, he still cares for us and believes in us. Hopefully, we will never go through the torment at the level our Lord did; yet, that does not mean we will feel like it is. In the time of Jeremiah, he received inhumane treatment in return for his kindness and attempting to turn the people back to the G_d of Jacob so he complained to G_d about it. Notice G_d’s reply, “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan (Jeremiah 12:4-5)? In the days before Judah was taken into captivity, Jeremiah was thrown into an abandoned cistern (water storage) and left for dead (Jeremiah 38:6). When we go through the trouble, we never understand why unless we created the source of trouble. Yet, when we come through it and testify to G_d’s abiding faithfulness, the message resonates in the heart of our family and the community. The whole earth will acknowledge the LORD and return to him. All the families of the nations will bow down before him. For royal power belongs to the LORD.
He rules all the nations (27-28).
Proverbs 29 – Wisdom For Our Time. When we read scripture, the part of the picture that is most often missed is that these were not “High Ideals” nor “lofty expectations”. These words were written, “after the fact”. In the backdrop of the writing, you can hear the cry of the heart “If only I had _____”. If a king judges the poor fairly, his throne will last forever (14). Solomon, like David, would find out why G_d was so adamant about living for him all of their lives. Some of what the writer says sound ludicrous like, “The man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father (3) and, The poor and the oppressor have this in common— the LORD gives sight to the eyes of both (13). Yet, when you consider that G_d says these things not to get us “Super spiritual” but to keep us from the pits that await the children of G_d.
Acts 25 – Paul Appears Before Festus. Paul had been in prison for over 2 years without a formal trial. Festus took over as prefect from Felix. Festus knew that Paul was innocent and could have released him yet, it was pressure from Jews that upended it. Then Festus, wanting to please the Jews, asked him, “Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there?”But Paul replied, “No! This is the official Roman court, so I ought to be tried right here. You know very well I am not guilty of harming the Jews. If I have done something worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die. But if I am innocent, no one has a right to turn me over to these men to kill me. I appeal to Caesar (9-11)!” This put Festus in a precarious place because it meant having to write a formal charge against him. Even with the help of King Agrippa, no charges could be made so it was determined to send Paul with no documentation. It was “push the problem over on to another individual and sweep the matter under the rug”. As with all things having to do with the Kingdom of G_d, the problem does not go away” which is a story for another time.