Ruth 1:17 "Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me."
There was a great famine in the Promised Land. God had told His people to stay in the land on previous occasions. But Elimelech and Naomi were alarmed at the famine. Without waiting for God’s plain direction, they took their two sons and went into the land of Moab (not the Promised Land). As their sons aged and married, they married non-Jews. Elimelech and Naomi seemed to have agreed to it and, as the years progress, seem to pay the price for it.
Elimelech and his two sons die. Naomi is left a sad widow in a strange land with two widowed daughters. What a sad family this must have been, especially Naomi!
After hearing about the LORD blessed the crops of her homeland, Naomi tells her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to go back to their homeland. They must decide between the God of Israel for their God or the idols of Moab. Let us hear Naomi. Orpah weeps, kisses, and returns to her homeland. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. Ruth name means “filled” and she was full of the blessing of the LORD.
Ruth then says to Naomi:
“Wherever you die, I will die– and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me severely if I do not keep my promise! Only death will be able to separate me from you” (Ruth 1:17)
To assure Naomi beyond all doubt of her determination and loyalty, Ruth adds an oath to her profession, swearing in the name of the LORD that nothing but death would part them. Ruth simply says, “What I have heard of your God has filled me with wonder and filled me with zeal to be numbered with His people. I feel confidence in His promises, reverence for His name, and a desire to know, observe, and enjoy His Law. I have compared what I have heard of your God with what I know of our gods in Moab—and I choose your God over ours!”
Like Ruth, have you taken God as your God? Do you cling to God by a resolved faith in Him as your God (Psalm 73:25-26)? Have you taken God’s people for your people? Do you submit to the same cross of Christ as God’s people?
God makes His children all members of His Body, that is the church (1 Cor. 12:27). This means you cannot have God as your God without obligation to and love for His people—the Body of Christ (1 John 3:14).
When we commit ourselves to Christ and His church by the promises made in becoming a member (talk to your pastor, if you have not already), we openly say and profess that we are who we say we are. We are committed to living before other Christians in whole-hearted devotion and steadfast obedience to God.
Like Ruth, do you know why you’re here, who you’re following, and can you confess the LORD God as your God…truly?
Father, forgive us when we choose resentment over reconciliation, nursing grudges over building bridges, staying mad over extending grace. Father, by your grace, we will live "palms up" today... with an attitude of gratitude and surrender. You are good and you can be trusted. Keep us profoundly aware of how much we need Jesus, how much we have in Jesus, and how much more of Jesus there is to know and adore. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
1 Samuel 1:20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."
It has always been said that "good things comes to those who wait."
Take the case of Hannah. She was a God-fearing woman who wanted nothing more than to have a child of her own. The LORD had shut up her womb and she was taunted by her husband’s other wife as a result.
These were difficult times for Hannah. She was confused and broken about what to do. Even her husband, offering his best sympathy, couldn’t console her feelings.
Still, year after year Hannah came to the tabernacle and sought God’s face in prayer for a child. She asked the LORD to remember her and the misery of her soul. Hannah begged God to look again upon her anguish and to have mercy upon her and answer her prayer. After returning home, the LORD answered her prayer and gave her a child, Samuel, which she gave to the LORD’s service.
The persistent prayer of Hannah teaches us that when we begin with nothing and when we receive any blessing, we can know it is of God and not of ourselves. God took Hannah’s total inability to have a child as the starting point to work a miracle, which came to be a blessing of an entire nation. She didn’t give up when her prayers weren’t answer. She realized that whether God gave her a child or not wouldn’t change the fact that He was her only source of strength and support. What Hannah ultimately learned is that the love of her husband or anyone else couldn’t fill the void of knowing God personally through prayer.
Are you seeking God's voice today? If so, then examine these guidelines given to me a few years ago by my spiritual mentor:
1. Read the Bible Daily: This may seem like an obvious answer to hearing God's voice, but the power of personal Bible reading cannot be matched by anything in the world. So many Christians pray for direct guidance from God, but they neglect their Bibles. The Bible is your most reliable communication from God—He will answer most of your questions there.
2. Be careful: As humans with wide array of emotions, it is tempting to think what we desire is God's will. However, it might not but could be. If we allow our emotions to overtake us, we may just become like a ""spiritual ventriloquist,"" speaking our words into God's mouth. So be careful on this one!
3. Be wise: A key thing to remember when discerning God's voice from the world's is that God will never contradict Himself. This means that any impression you think is from God should line up with perfectly with the Bible.
God speaks to us today through His Word and His Holy Spirit and prayer teaches us to rely on God’s help no matter what the cost or length of time. In times of dryness, joy, and grief, turn to the One who can take the old and make it new (2 Cor. 5:15-18).
Father, what a great reminder from this story that you are faithful! We trust you because you are over us the only Sovereign. Thank you for loving us so, Lord! Thank you for stunning with your grace today to live for and share in this world. Father, make your promises more real to us today than our circumstances; make your presence more defining than our pain. In Jesus' name. Amen.
1 Samuel 4:18 "As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years."
If you are blessed to have grandparents or know someone in their 60s, 70s, 80s, or above, you will hear a lot about how “things need to get back to the way they used to be.” A lot of people say much about how this needs to change, that needs to be altered, and this needs to be fixed because we have strayed from some basic general principles. They say, “Something is wrong. And it needs changed. Something is broken and it needs to be fixed.”
That is exactly what the Israelites did in today’s story. They go to battle and 4,000 men die. Not a good situation, right? So what they said is, “Ok, God, this isn’t good, because in the past when we went into battle this didn’t happen. I mean, Jericho, we marched around it. Boom! The walls fell. We are good.” So Israel said, “Go get the ark. Let’s do it like we used to do it. Let’s go back. We messed up, whatever it may be.”
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Time out! Isn’t the ark a good thing? Didn’t God tell them to build it?”
Yes, you are correct! But you read the first three verses of 1 Samuel 4 and you are going to find absent the same thing we see absent in our culture today, too.
Everybody wants the problem fixed—they just don't want to repent while it is being fixed.
There is no mention of Israel saying, “God, we messed up.” There is no mention of Israel saying, “We shouldn’t have gone into battle without you, God.” There is no mention of Israel saying, “You know, we weren’t supposed to go unless you told us to go and we went without the ark and so you obviously didn’t tell us to go and this was a problem.”
If you want God to restore what is broken, if you want Him to mend what is torn, start with repentance and allow Him to bring the restoration.
That is the problem. When we say, “I want the LORD in my right hand and the world in my left. I want the LORD on the weekend and the world during the week. I want the LORD during this time of day, but not during that time of day.”
And what God says is, “Turn your heart to Me and put away your idols. Don’t trust in your youth pastor, your parents, or anyone more than Me. That is the solution.""
How did we get in our mess? The same way they did. How do we get out? The same way they did. You read the rest of First Samuel seven. Do you know what they do? They turn away from their idols. They turn away to the LORD and all of the sudden, all the ills are eradicated. God goes before them just like he did Jericho.
Father, help us to live this week at the pace of grace: Surveying the cross, savoring the gospel, and serving our neighbors. By your Holy Spirit, make your grace more real to us than our sins and a changed heart more precious to us than relief from our pain. Lord, we cast down our idols. We lay them at your feet. Only you can break them and fill them with your Spirit. Do that today, Lord, I pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.
1 Samuel 7:3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only...
Israel, by the time of First Samuel 7, has spent 300+ years in spiritual darkness. They have been weak in their faith and dishonest in their devotion. They had polluted themselves by embracing the ways of the world around them and had lost heart for the LORD.
But today’s story shows a true turn back to the LORD.
Over the past many years, the people of Israel had gotten sucked into the religious practices of various neighboring peoples whom they failed to remove from the Promised Land. God had told them that, if they allowed these people to remain, they would get sucked into their idolatry and false gods.
And they did!
So, there were high places of worship, altars, and idols of all sorts that had to be removed. Now, removing this stuff doesn’t mean they have returned to the LORD with all their heart. But, if do they return to the LORD with all their heart, then they certainly can’t leave all this in place.
Seriously, what has replaced God needs to be replaced by God.
Later, this re-direction was seen when the people asked Samuel, “Pray for us and cry out to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:8, NASB).
In their time of need and desperation, the Israelites didn’t do as they used to and start calling out to all these other gods as well to make sure they prayed to the right one. No, they put their hope and faith in deliverance from the LORD according to the word of the LORD through Samuel.
You know, even today, we get sucked into things God hates because we believe the lie that these so called “gods” can make us happy and fulfill our hearts. Maybe it is a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Maybe it is a sport or hobby. Maybe it is a television series or movie. Maybe it is the music we listen to or the magazines we read.
But these can’t and won’t ever fulfill us. And if we don’t turn back to seeking our satisfaction and joy in our relationship with God and in Him alone, then we haven’t “come home.”
Notice the emphasis on the heart here, too. It’s the heart that God is paying attention to. The actions, behaviors, and decisions are all indicators of the heart. Exclusive worship and devotion to the LORD is a matter of the heart, and our hearts are lead astray easily.
Feed your heart like you feed your body each day. Spend time each day reading, memorizing, studying, and praying on the Bible. Lead your heart from the truth of God’s Word.
The world is appealing to your heart through your flesh, affections, and eyes. You have to daily speak truth to your heart and redirect it to the One who loves you and who can satisfy you and make your life count for eternity.
Father, may your gospel come today with God-glorifying, heart-palpitating, knee-buckling, life-transforming grace and power. Father, we offload on you our sins, burdens, and worries of this day. Only your heart is big enough & shoulders broad enough to take them. Lord, transform us. Revive us. Make our lives count for your glory. In Jesus' name. Amen.
1 Samuel 8:21 "And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord."
When the prophet and judge Samuel was dealing with the sinful demand of the people of Israel for a king, he went to God constantly in prayer about the situation for an answer. The Scriptures describe him praying and repeating all the words of the people to the LORD, telling Him exactly what had happened and had been said. Why would Samuel have done this if God already knew it all (Isaiah 46:9-11)?
Simply put, Samuel was a man of God who knew the importance of consistency in prayer and communion with the LORD. It is true that God knows our needs before we ask (Matthew 6:8, 32). But He has also ordained that these needs will be met and His power displayed as His people come to Him in prayer and petition.
This was not a matter of heaping up empty phrases (Matthew 6:7). Christ’s words against such prayers were meant to reprove individuals who thought they could somehow manipulate the power of God and ensure the answer they wanted through the use of particular mantras or rhetorical formulas in their words.
Rather, we are to come to God with an attitude of humility and trust in His sovereign hand to meet our needs. We should not misinterpret this condemnation of “empty phrases” to mean that our prayers need to be incredibly concise and the time spent must be minimal. Christ’s priestly prayer at Gethsemane showed no such brevity (John 17).
For example, let’s say that a man has an illness. It weakens him and makes him vomit. So he prays, “God heal me, please, heal me…if through healing me your name will be hallowed in a greater way, your kingdom will come in a greater way, and your will be done in a greater way, then, LORD, heal me! But, LORD, if your name would be hallowed, your kingdom come, and your will be done in a greater way by breaking my body into a million pieces, then let it be so.”
Do you see the difference in those prayers? It is all about the glory of Christ, the kingdom, and the advancement of the kingdom. Whatever God would desire on behalf of the our prayer, the true worshipper must have His glory in mind.
Like Samuel, with that attitude of humility and trust in His sovereignty, we are instructed be constant in unceasing prayer. Prayer is not meant to provide God with information that He was unaware of, but is rather ordained by Him as a means through which to show His power and act in the world and to build communion between the believer and God.
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16 NJKV)
How is your prayer life incorporating this truth?
Father, we are a prayerless people. We desire your hand and gifts, but we don't desire your presence. Father, close the gap between my identity in Christ and my reality in the world. Lord, be glorified in this area in our lives. Just as we sought our spouse to please him or her before marriage, help us to seek with reckless abandon to know and make you known. We pray this all in Jesus' name. Amen.
1 Samuel 11:3 The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days' respite that we may send messengers through all the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves up to you."
Saul’s first major test as king came in a situation he knew little about. Jabeth-gilead was besieged by the neighboring Ammonites and its inhabitants were easily taken. To save their own lives, they asked to make a treaty with the invaders. They had to gouge out their right eyes and their lives would be spared. However, if an army came within a week to save them, they would not have to do this painful action.
You can read the rest of the story to see what eventually happened to Jabeth-gilead. What concerns us today is how quickly the people were willing to give something of themselves to save their whole being.
Given a lifetime, losing a right eye is inconvenient. But being able to live until you die naturally is a much better choice.
You should have picked on the parallel by now in the New Testament. Do you remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:29? “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”
In other words, better for you to part with sin now than pay the eternal consequences for it later.
Carefully and prayerfully examine 1 John 1:6-10 and ask yourself some poignant questions:
*How do you respond when the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin? Do you repent right away humbly, or do you let it slide?
*Are you sensitive to sin even when no one else is around? Does the biblical truth of God’s omnipresence and omniscience remind you that you are not alone?
*Do you hate sin more today than when you were saved?
*How do you respond when a brother or sister in Christ gently points out sin in your life? Do you respond with pride or humility?
You say, “Darin, I am a Christian. How does this apply to me?” First, recognize that your sin has been forgiven in Christ. John wrote, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake” (1 John 2:12). Secondly, recognize that you do have the power to fight sin and say “no” to it. Paul exhorted the Colossians to “put to death” the sins of the flesh (3:5). Depending upon whether it is sin or the Holy Spirit that dominates your life, you will be able to say no to it.
Giving in to sin is no-win situation. Fighting sin starts with determining whether or not your mind is saturated with the Word of God.
Do you want to grow closer to God or closer to sin?
As we face sin around, Father, may this be a day in which we respond with grace, rather than react with irritation, to provoking stuff and people. Help us to hate the sin in us more than the sin in others. Transform my heart first before transforming others. Help me to love those that may seem unlovable. Father, you are so good. We love you and praise you for Jesus and saving us from all of our sin! In His name - Jesus' name - amen.
1 Samuel 13:11 "What have you done?” asked Samuel.
In the 2003 movie Bruce Almighty, we are introduced to Bruce Nolan and his journey through life. Like many people around him, he is having a bad day, and he blames God for not doing His job. God, seeing an object lesson in the making, endows Bruce with His powers to let him try to do better. What he ultimately finds is that no human is capable of playing God to solve the world problems. Bruce quickly releases those powers to live as a human again.
This movie offers a very practical lesson for us. Our efforts to try to ""fix"" problems in our lives or the lives of others may backfire as badly as Bruce Nolan experiences throughout the movie--especially if we are trying to play God.
Remember what happened to King Saul when he took matters into his own hands (1 Samuel 13:1-15)? Instead of waiting for the prophet Samuel as instructed, Saul panicked and offered sacrifices that he must have thought would magically get him and his soldiers out of deep trouble. But his ill-advised attempt to solve one problem only led to a much bigger and irreversible one.
So what about us? The bad news is that we will mess up again. But, through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us, we can deal with it! But we have the same promises David claimed: If I admit my sins in repentance, God will forgive (1 John 1:9). Then I can have the assurance that God has made me pure. Confession keeps us close to God and in right fellowship with Him.
How do we handle those tough situations when we feel trapped and we feel compelled to take actions that we know violate biblical principles? Maybe we need some extra money to pay the bills. Maybe we are at school and decide to copy someone else's work. Or maybe we are caught speeding coming from our home. We may, in panic, feel that the only way out is to steal, ""borrow"" a published report, or lie outright to the officer.
The best solution, as not only Saul but also every other person in the Bible would now tell us, I believe, is to do what is right and trust God. In the end, it is the only way to get out of a tight spot, which Saul did not do.
Don’t take matters that belong to God and His plan for your life into your own hands. It is not your business--just trust Him.
Father, thanks for another day to be rescued from our small thoughts of you, and to be freed to love as Jesus loves us. Lord, I see what Saul did and I know I would do the same thing if I am honest. I pray that as you rescue me from the small thoughts of you in me that you would enlarge my heart to know more of your grace. Father, I love you and praise you. Help me to live for you and only you. You are the only worthy one. In Jesus' name. Amen.