Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sit Still


So much of the Word of God spurs us to action!  We know, for example, that faith unaccompanied by good works is dead faith (James 2:26).  Similarly, the apostle Paul instructs us to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).  We also know that it is not our good deeds that achieve our salvation, but rather prove it to be genuine and real.

We are studying Ruth these days.  Certainly, if she had "believed" Naomi but not taken any faith-fueled action, we would not have a book of Ruth to study together!

At the end of Ruth 3, our heroine is asked to trust someone else, in addition to her Jehovah God and her mother-in-law:  her potential kinsman-redeemer, Boaz.

As women, we are accustomed to keeping 11 plates spinning in the air simultaneously.  Scientists testify to the fact that women's left and right brain lobes interact much more than men's do, giving women this ability.  We can feed the baby, while talking on the phone, and planning dinner - - all at the same time.  We are "multi-taskers extraordinaire"!  Therefore, it is not surprising that Naomi felt the need, after Ruth's audacious overnight adventure, to tell her the following;

18Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
Ruth 3:18 (KJV)

For that matter, this verse also describes most men "to a T".  They have the ability to be single-mindedly focused on a task, pursuing it to completion. 

In either case, with either sex, the ability to "sit still" in the face of a task, challenge or problem is tough.  In the name of the LORD, we want to "pray, go, slay!"

Just as the Bible has a lot to say about "doing", it also shows us that there are times when we need to sit and wait on God.

One of my favorite verses with this message is Psalm 46:10 (ESV):

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

As Christians, according to the Winchester Shorter Catechism, our chief aim is to enjoy God and glorify Him forever.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9, commonly called The Shema, puts it like this:

4Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.  6These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, 7and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. 8You should tie them as a reminder on your forearm and fasten them as symbols on your forehead. 9Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and gates.

We usually interpret either of these to mean "glorify Him by obediently doing stuff".  But, Psalm 46:10  seems to say that when we make ourselves still in the presence of our God, He is lifted up and exalted.  Not only that, but we are promised in Isaiah 40:31 He will strengthen us as we are still and as we wait.

Then, there's this:

13Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord that he will provide for you today; for the Egyptians that you see today you will never, ever see again. 14The Lord will fight for you, and you can be still.”
Exodus 14:13-14 (NET)

The context of these verses is that the Hebrews were "between a rock and a hard place".  (Ever been there?) . They were getting squeezed.  On one side was the Red Sea.  On the other was 600 chariots of Pharaoh's army, driven by his best captains.  Their response in verse 11 is classic:  "is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you took out here to die in the wilderness?"  LOL, gotta love it.  I'll tell you, my own personal responses to getting squeezed have been about as bad....

Anyway, the point is that God told the Hebrews to camp in the desert, to sit still, and that He would fight the battle for them.  When He pulled back the waters of the Red Sea, allowing them to safely cross it, He did just that.

Ladies, if you have ever had a man advocate for you or rescue you from a serious situation, you know what a thrill it is to have him fight that battle for you.  How much more wonderful to allow our Bridegroom (pictured by Boaz in this story) fight our battles for us.

If you have not had a rock/hardplace situation in your Christian walk, well...then you just have not been walking with God long enough.  Those situations will come.  In some of them, there will be things you can do in obedience to untie the knot, to escape from the trap, to avoid a horrible collision....and when possible, you are to do them. 
But....there are other times when you know that the mountain is unscalable, the river unfordable, the giant too big.  In those situations, we are to: 
SIT, PRAY, WATCH, WAIT, (repeat)

In our story, Boaz had to go contend with another kinsman, who had a closer claim on Ruth and her late husband's assets.  That man represents the evil one, our adversary, Satan, who has his hooks into us because of our sin nature.  We cannot save ourselves from eternal damnation, just as Ruth could not redeem herself.  When Boaz approached this man, he wanted Ruth's assets.  Oh yes!  But... he did not want Ruth (Ruth 4:6-8). Similarly, while the devil wants our worship, it is solely for his own satisfaction; our welfare (spiritual or otherwise) is of no importance to him at all.  He does not love us. 
Get this now:  Boaz did not redeem Ruth and her lands because he wanted her property.  He wanted to glorify his HaShem, his God Jehovah, by following Torah, which demanded that a close kinsman redeem a godly widow.  And, he loved Ruth.  He wanted to redeem her for her own welfare.
Boaz was an older man.  He could have already married, but chose not to.  He did not stand a chance when he met Ruth, though.  He loved her.

I do not know why my Lord loves me.  It is certainly not because I deserve it.  It is certainly not because we are "well-matched equals" (what a laughable thought!).  Still, He loved me enough to be incarnated, to put on flesh, be born a helpless babe, live a sinless life, die an ignominious death, and then defeat satan in the pits of Hell before rising from the dead in triumph.   He went through all of that...for me.  And, for you.  That is why He is my Kinsman-Redeemer.

And, there is NOTHING He can't do.  There's no such thing as "impossible".

https://youtu.be/zegqjuz4Cro

I love this quote from the book War Room, by Chris Fabry.  The character, Miss Clara, a godly woman of fervent prayer says this to Elizabeth, a younger Christian woman she is mentoring:

"Then I started really studying what the Scriptures say, and God showed me that it wasn’t my job to do the heavy lifting. No. That was something that only He could do. It was my job to seek Him to trust Him, and to stand on His Word.  Elizabeth, you got to plead with God so that He can do what only He can do, and then you got to get out of the way and let Him do it.”

Amen to that!
Sit Still.



 

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Most Faithful Prep and Unorthodox Proposal


It is a common human ritual: getting ready each morning.  We arise from our beds, contemplate our day's activities, and then groom ourselves accordingly.  If you don't plan to leave the house, you may put on your jogging shorts, sweat pants or yoga pants.  You may not spend a lot of time styling your hair.  You will dress for comfort, rather than for appearances, right?

In Ruth 3, we see this taking place in Ruth's preparations to go make an unusual proposal to Boaz.  Grab your bible and read this chapter if you can, before proceeding.

Naomi, realizing in those days that marriages were arranged, was well within her rights to "engineer" this next step, based on her perceptions of how Boaz had treated Ruth in the preceding days.  Naomi was also trusting in the promises of God, given in His Law, as to how kinsmen should "redeem" widows from their extended family.  Boaz, Naomi's near kinsman, was both wealthy and influential.  Furthermore, we saw in the last post that he was kind, took a personal interest in Ruth, and was exceedingly generous, none of which he was required by the Law to be.  Boaz had gone beyond the Law to show grace.

Now then...the next step was a huge step of faith for Ruth.  I'm sure these Jewish customs were quite strange to her.  Still, she trusted Naomi's judgment and did exactly as she was told to do in order for the relationship with her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz, to progress.

The first step was to make herself ready.  Unlike many of us today, the Jewish people of Ruth's day did not bathe every day.  But, given the importance of this move, it was necessary for Ruth to present herself at her best.  Therefore, she not only bathed; she went a step further to anoint herself with oil.  This was a common custom in that day, to use pure oils to soothe and enhance the skin.  People of wealth used very expensive oil.  It is likely Ruth used a more common, less expensive oil for this purpose.  Still, she used the best she had available.  Finally, she changed her clothes.  Some have speculated she had been to this point wearing the clothes of a mourning widow and that at this time she put on more festive clothes.

Wiersbe1 tells us that clothes, in scripture, carry a special significance.  In particular, salvation is represented as a change of clothes (in Luke 15:22 and Isaiah 61:10).  Similarly, living for Christ after the initial salvation decision involves taking off the "grave clothes" of the dead life and putting on the "grace clothes" of the new life in Christ (Colossians 3 and John 11:44).

The threshing floor referred to in this chapter was a large, flat expanse on the top of a hill which got "good wind".  The heads of grain were placed on the surface, after which they were beaten by servants or trodden on by oxen, so as to separate the good grain from the chaff.  Once this was done, large threshing forks were used to toss the grain and chaff into the air.  The breezes would carry the chaff away, while the grain fell to the ground to be gathered later.  The breezes were best in the latter part of the day, which is why the men did this work in the late afternoon and evening.

The threshing floor event was a festive one, taking place at the end of the harvest. God intended the people enjoy and rejoice over their harvest, as evidenced by Deuteronomy 16:15 (NIV):
For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.
The landowner, in this case Boaz, would often be present on the threshing floor to oversee the process, as it was "high-stakes".  This important threshing determined the amount and quality of the grain collected and stored for nourishment in the coming months.   After a full day of hard work, those involved would have a big meal, a party of sorts, and then "camp out" there under the stars until morning.

In what seems to our culture to be a most bizarre marriage proposal/request, Ruth comes incognito into the camp, notes where Boaz makes his bed, sneaks over there after he is asleep, uncovers his feet/legs, lies down and spreads his coverings over her, prefiguring the covering of salvation Jesus Christ spreads over His own.

6So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law had instructed her to do. 7When Boaz had finished his meal and was feeling satisfied, he lay down to sleep at the far end of the grain heap. Then Ruth crept up quietly, uncovered his legs, and lay down beside him. 8In the middle of the night he was startled and turned over. Now he saw a woman lying beside him! 9He said, “Who are you?” She replied, “I am Ruth, your servant. Marry your servant, for you are a guardian of the family interests.” 10He said, “May you be rewarded by the Lord, my dear! This act of devotion is greater than what you did before. For you have not sought to marry one of the young men, whether rich or poor. 11Now, my dear, don’t worry! I intend to do for you everything you propose, for everyone in the village knows that you are a worthy woman. 12Now yes, it is true that I am a guardian, but there is another guardian who is a closer relative than I am. 13Remain here tonight. Then in the morning, if he agrees to marry you, fine, let him do so. But if he does not want to do so, I promise, as surely as the Lord lives, to marry you. Sleep here until morning.” 14So she slept beside him until morning. She woke up while it was still dark. Boaz thought, “No one must know that a woman visited the threshing floor.”15Then he said, “Hold out the shawl you are wearing and grip it tightly.” As she held it tightly, he measured out about sixty pounds of barley into the shawl and put it on her shoulders. Then he went into town, 16and she returned to her mother-in-law.  
Ruth 3:6-16 (NET)

Why was it important for Ruth to make these moves, which must have seemed to her to be at the very least risky but which were, in reality, acts of faith?  Her obedience demonstrated her trust, not only in her mother-in-law, but more importantly, in her God.  These acts were important so that Boaz would know clearly where he stood with her.  By his own admission, he did not appear to be on the surface the most reasonable match.  Despite her widowhood and her pagan background, she must have still been a highly-desirable woman, because Boaz stated in verse 10 that she could have sought a younger, wealthy man.

Ruth obediently followed the Jewish Law because she wanted the best for herself and for her family line.  By only one path could she be fully restored to all she had lost.  Only a near kinsman could redeem both the lands her father-in-law had mortgaged when he left Bethlehem over 10 years earlier AND could at the same time redeem Ruth's widowhood and childlessness.  She could have sought to marry another Jewish man; however, had she done so, she would have been acting in disobedience, outside the place where God could richly bless her.

Again, Ruth prefigures those who choose Jesus Christ as Savior.
We, the Believers, the Beloved, the Church, the Bride of Christ, in order to become His must obediently follow God's way of salvation.
1.  We are to throw off our filthy garments, leaving our past behind and renouncing our sin as we come to Christ.  We must then allow the oil of the Holy Spirit to anoint us, drawing us to our Bridegroom.  That is mere preparation for salvation, however.
2.  It is the act of the Kinsman-Redeemer which achieves our salvation.  Had Boaz refused to redeem Ruth, all of her preparations would have been meaningless.   To spread one's mantle over another person meant to claim that person for yourself, particularly in marriage.  The word translated "skirt" in verse 9, when Ruth asked Boaz to "spread your skirt over your handmaiden" (KJV), also means "wing".  Ruth had previously put herself under the "wing" of Jehovah God, and now she would be under the wings of her earthly kinsman-redeemer as well.

Jesus Christ echoed this kinsman-redeemer language as He began His descent from the Mt. of Olives into Jerusalem on the Day of Lambs (Palm Sunday), when He gazed with grief over the beloved, holy city and cried,
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it!"
Matthew 23:37 (NET)
His invitation to lost people everywhere is still the same today.  He longs to, even through His Holy Spirit diligently seeks to, save those who are separated from God.  So many reply "no", as did the Jews of Jesus' day, as do so many people of all races and cultures today.  If you do not know Jesus, if you have not accepted His finished sacrifice for you, will you accept Him as your Bridegroom, your Lord and Savior today?

Sources:

1 Wiersbe, Warren W. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: the complete Old Testament in one volume.  David C. Cook, 2007, pp. 486-487

2    http://calvaryoxnard.org/studies/ot/Ruth/Ruth%2003.htm

Friday, February 23, 2018

Falling in Love


With the last post I passed a milestone here at the RDM blog - - - the 801st post.  All the glory goes to the only One who is worthy of it, my God - - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Accordingly, though, I searched my blog database to see if I had ever blogged on the topic I'm wading into today - - when you've written that many posts, you tend to forget and blog about the same themes over and over, I've discovered.  To my surprise and delight, I have not!

Currently, in my personal study (which, it bears repeating, these blog posts are generated from) I am in this phase of learning how the Old Testament prefigures and illuminates the New.  Have you ever wondered why the story of Ruth was given to the Israelites at all?  "Oh, sigh!  It is a beautiful love story!"  Well, yes, it most certainly is that.  But, don't you think that there have been many of those?  Why THIS one?

The story of Ruth contains many important prophetic themes, some of which we have already explored.  We have explored the theme of Loss and seeming abandonment, in chapter one. Today, we are going to move to the overarching theme of Love, of how our God is the ultimate Restorer.

Let's begin by looking at Ruth in chapter 2.  She is a "type" of the Bride, whose name in Hebrew means "friend" or "companion".  She was certainly a companion to Naomi, wasn't she?  A loyal, devoted daughter-in-law.  Boaz' name means "strength", and he is a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Messiah.  Now, let's delve into this story by learning about the Levitical law's provision of a Kinsman-Redeemer.

In my societal culture, there is an unspoken desire for a man to have at least one son to "carry on the family name".  If that does not occur, though, 99.9% of my contemporaries will just chalk it up to "God's will" or whatever (if they are not Christian) and life will roll on.  However, it was not like this in ancient Jewish society.  The passing along of the family name and the inheritance within a tribe were critically important.  God established a system, whereby a man's family name would continue and endure, even if he died without a son, or, if his sons died.  It was part of the larger, over-arching concept of Hebrew relatives helping one another when in dire need.

The Hebrew term for a Kinsman-Redeemer is "goel", which means "rescuer" or "deliverer".

5If brothers live together and one of them dies without having a son, the dead man’s wife must not remarry someone outside the family. Instead, her late husband’s brother must go to her, marry her, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law. 6Then the first son she bears will continue the name of the dead brother, thus preventing his name from being blotted out of Israel.
Deuteronomy 25:5-6

Now, obviously, in the case of Ruth, there was no brother of Mahlon (Ruth's deceased husband) for her to marry, as Chilion had died also.  However, the underlying principle was still in play in that day.  Naomi knew this, which is why she gave Ruth permission (at Ruth's request - - she was a hard-working, industrious woman - - verse 7) to glean grains of barley and wheat in fields belonging to Elimelech's family.  Ruth was not familiar with levirate marriage (which was instituted in Deuteronomy 25), although Naomi was.  Ruth was just hungry and trying to help herself and Naomi not starve to death.

1Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side of the family named Boaz. He was a wealthy, prominent man from the clan of Elimelech. 2One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields so I can gather grain behind whoever permits me to do so.” Naomi replied, “You may go, my daughter.” 3So Ruth went and gathered grain in the fields behind the harvesters. Now she just happened to end up in the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.
Ruth 2:1-3

As it happened ... of course, nothing "just happens" with God.  He is in charge of all things and uses all things for His glory.

Enter Boaz, to oversee what is happening in his fields.  He is a wealthy man, yet benevolent.  We notice in verse 4 that he speaks kindly to his workers and that they respond back similarly.  He also rewards Ruth for her faithful choices, those being ... the choice to follow the Hebrew God, to travel to a strange land, to care for her mother-in-law.
(vs. 5) To whom does this young woman belong? (NET) or in other translations, Who is this one?

Those of us women who have known great human love with a man can think back to that moment, or those early moments, when "he noticed me".  It is a beautiful thing, isn't it?  Moments the heart treasures forever...

When Boaz recognizes who she is, both her outward AND her inward beauty, that she is by marriage a kinswoman, he does his duty to her to provide her with food to eat and the opportunity to gather more.  In this way, he begins to redeem her life for her, as the Levitical law commanded.
He asks that she stay in his fields, not to get distracted by others, but to flourish in his own lands.  In this way, he gave her his protection, because an unmarried woman in a foreign land could be vulnerable to various types of attack.
Isn't that just like our Savior?  Overseer, Benevolent, Kind, Attentive, Kinsman (through His humanity), Provider, Protector, Redeemer.....


Boaz had a mother who knew all about how God redeems the lowly (that would be us all).  Boaz' mother was Rahab, the harlot of Jericho (Ruth 4:21, Joshua 6:25, Matthew 1:15, Hebrews 11:31).  Similarly, our God has a long history of His redemptive work with mankind, starting with Adam and Eve.
This is a story of covenant love, not just falling in love, not just the human marriage covenant, but on a higher level the ongoing covenant between God and the people He has forever loved.

Ruth is a foreshadowing and type of both the nation of Israel and the Church, in other words, those whom God will ultimately redeem.  Ruth is a picture of you and me, if you have accepted your own Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  While it is true that most of Judaism today is far from Jesus, the scriptures make it plain that, in the last days, God will draw His covenant people to Himself.  What a wonderful thing that would be to witness!

Here are Ruth's characteristics that represent or correspond to the Bride of Christ.

1.  She was a hopeless outsider, yet a seeker of truth.
God opened her eyes to Him - - His supremacy, His glory.  And, she said "yes".

2.  She was humble.
Ruth 2:13 ... 13She said, “You really are being kind to me, sir, for you have reassured and encouraged me, your servant, even though I am not one of your servants!”
And, she bowed down to him.  Humility in the face of his grace....so beautiful!

3.  She was teachable and obedient.
Had she been rebellious, refusing to listen to Naomi and to Boaz, she would have missed out on both restoration and the accompanying blessings.  Christians, I know about rebellion and disobedience.  I have lived through periods of that in my own life, as have many of you.  Not a place I longed to dwell, because the Holy Spirit drew me back into a place of blessing and holy fellowship with Him.  Oh, how I praise Him for that!

4.  She produced much through gleaning.
At the end of that first day, she had gleaned approximately 30 pounds of barley (vs. 17)!  (Note, though, that she could not have gleaned it if he had not at first given it....it's all about grace, Y'all.)
As members of Christ's Bride, we glean from the bountiful fields of His holy Word through diligent, careful study, and then produce much "fruit" for Christ's kingdom.  Verse 14 says,
She ate until she was full and saved the rest.
The grace and mercy of God fill up our spirits and overflow our hearts.  We then share with a hungry world, as Ruth went back to share with Naomi (vs. 19), the riches of the gospel of Christ.

5.  She was rewarded.
How imperfect are our earthly love relationships!  Even in the best of times and situations, our humanness outpaces our godliness, leading us to hurt each other eventually.  But, our human love, even when blissful, is a mere shadow of the perfect love our human marriages represent.
The blessings of walking with God our Savior, as His Bride, in this life are unparalleled, matchless.  The apostle Paul calls it "the abundant life"... you might say "a 30-pounds of barley" life.  Yet, the blessings of this earthly life are nothing compared to the joys and pleasures of an eternity with our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

I thank God that He brought Ruth and Boaz together for me and for you, because through them He continued to weave the fascinating genealogy of His Son.  He continued to tell the love story between Himself and fallen mankind.  You just can't make up a love story this wild, this wonderful, so overflowing with divine love and grace.  There is no greater love.


Sources:

http://www.thewayprepared.com/studies/ruth-boaz.html

https://www.levitt.tv/media/watch/1123

https://www.gotquestions.org/levirate-marriage.html








Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Called Into the Unknown


So now they journey together, the rugged 50 or so miles from Moab to Bethlehem.  We don't know what they talked about, but surely Ruth had some trepidations about leaving everything she had ever known to move to a land she had only heard about from her now-dead husband and his family.  She would be a stranger, in a strange land, making a new beginning.

What if God called you into another country, a foreign culture, where you knew neither the language, nor the customs, nor much of the religion, nor the laws.... As a woman it would be particularly intimidating.  You females out there know what I mean.  Our tribe can be particularly condescending, cruel and unaccepting of "outsiders".  It would be a fearsome calling, would it not?  Some of you, like Helen, Judy, and others of my friends have experienced this.  Others have are experiencing it on other planes, like my friend whose husband recently abandoned her, leaving her to raise her children essentially on her own, or the friend whose spouse died suddenly with no warning....new land, new laws.

I have never had the physical experience of being asked to go live in a foreign land.  Given my personality, I would tend to look at it as an adventure.  But, not everyone is built that way.  At least Ruth had a woman of some standing and reputation with her.   We see this by the fact that Naomi was recognized when the pair arrived back in Bethlehem.  And the fact that she had brought home a Moabite daughter-in-law, a widow?  Well, that stirred up the whole town...

19So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20“Don’t call me Naomi,b ” she told them. “Call me Mara,c because the Almightyd has made my life very bitter. 21I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lordhas afflictede me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
22So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
Ruth 1:19-22 (NIV)

The women's question was not one of ignorance, but of incredulity!  They certainly knew this was Naomi, but they were "extremely surprised to near disbelief" (incredulous) the Lord had brought her back home.

To properly understand the deep symbolism of this story, it is important to learn about the barley harvest referenced in verse 22.  This harvest was a time when the town gave praise and honor to God because of His goodness.  This goodness was manifested in the abundant crop which He gave each year.

The timing of Ruth's story was important because of the role these women played in the foreshadowing of Jesus Mashiach (Messiah) and His redemptive first work during His last few weeks on Earth. 
Ruth and Naomi arrived in the spring, most likely in or near the first month of the Jewish year.  The barley ripened in March-April.  This usually occurred at the same time as Pesach (Passover). 

Some of you will wonder that I referred to Nisan as the first month of the Jewish calendar.  The ancient Jewish biblical calendar began with Nisan 1, the month of redemption (Chodesh HaGeulah).  The civil Jewish calendar celebrates the new year in the fall, on Rosh Hashanah.  This year, 5778 on the Jewish calendar, Nisan 1 falls on March 17th.  For more info about the Jewish calendar, you can click this link: 
http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Spring_Holidays/Rosh_Chodashim/rosh_chodashim.html

So, back to the barley harvest.  In Judaism and Messianic Judaism there are three "harvest feasts".  The first occurs with Passover (Pesach), the second is Pentecost (Shavuot) and the third is Tabernacles (Sukkot).  Coincidentally(?), at each of these three times of year Jewish males were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to keep the feasts there, if at all possible.  Bringing in the harvest, you see...

9The Lord said to Moses, 10“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest.11He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.
Leviticus 23:9-11 (NIV)

The barley harvest is the first grain of Israel to ripen.  It begins in southern Israel in conjunction with Pesach and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  (Passover is at the beginning of that Feast, basically "kicking it off".)

"As the firstfruit crop of the Harvest, Barley speaks loudly throughout Scripture as prophetic of not only Yahushua, but of the Bride {of Christ - - i.e. The Church}. In many of the prophetic pictures of the Bride, Barley is either present or is associated in some way. Many of the Bride examples, as well as Bride characteristics, include mention of the word Barley in some way."1

The first sheaves of barley harvested were offered as a "wave offering" to God.  Basically, in the religious ceremony the priest would literally wave the sheaves through the air in worship.  These sheaves of barley were the first-fruits of the first harvest.  They were offered on the Sunday following the Sabbath that began the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Now, watch this:

20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 (NIV)

Yes, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead the Sunday after Passover.  This is why Paul referred to Him as "the firstfruits of them that slept".   But, I am getting very far afield here.  I need to get back to Ruth.

Re-read Lev. 23:9-11.  Like the Israelites many generations before her, Ruth entered into the Promised Land at the barley harvest.  She entered a stranger to that land, but she became accepted because of her devotion to the one, true God and to her mother-in-law, Naomi.  Ruth, who becomes the bride of Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer (more on that later), represents and pre-figures the Bride of Jesus Christ, that is, the Church, that universal group of believers who trust Him as Lord and Savior. 

Jesus calls us, His Bride, out from a land of sin, from our own Moab, if you will, into a land of promise.  It is an unfamiliar land. 

Have you recently been called by Him into The Unknown?  Even if you have worshipped and followed Him for years, He will at times take you to unfamiliar places - - places that seem intimidating or ... even horrifying to contemplate.  Please remember during those times that He is your Bridegroom.  He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6).  He did not abandon Ruth.  He won't abandon you either.  He is in the business of "making paths straight".

I just love these verses, Proverbs 3:5-6 (NET).  Let's close this post with these:

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding.
6Acknowledge him in all your ways,
and he will make your paths straight.

Source:

1      http://www.thewayprepared.com/studies/3-foldharvest.html

Monday, February 19, 2018

Being Blessable

Hallelujah for the mercies of God, for they endure forever!  (Psalm 136)

I am so grateful that God does not reward me entirely according to my love for Him, because it is so grossly inadequate and imperfect.  There are many, many times, (most of the time, I'm sure) that He deals with me in mercy, in spite of my errant heart.

Given that truth, there is still a scriptural principle that God does bless us in part according to our faith and trust in Him.  Conversely, He does not bless unbelief nor direct disobedience.  And, that is what we see having happened in the life of Naomi, now that she is headed back to Judea.

Ruth 1:6-13 reveals Naomi's heart-status as she began to return.  Her "heart was not in it", not fully.  Verse 6 states that she was going back because she had heard there was once again "bread" in the Promised Land.  She was returning because she had scant support system in Moab, and she knew that, according to The Law, she would find care and sustenance within the family obligations of the Israelites in her home country.
The latter verses of this passage reveal that her heart is still bitter, however.  She even considers changing her name, we see later on (1:20-21), to Mara, which means "bitter".  She blamed God for her excruciating losses, as opposed to acknowledging the human choices that brought them about (her husband's and {or not?} hers as well).

As Christians we have no immunity from pain.  We have a Savior who helps us bear it, because He carries us through it.  But, He does not always keep us from it.  Sometimes, horrific pain comes, not from our sinful choices; rather, it comes for reasons we cannot possibly understand, either at that time or even years later.

Naomi's response to pain was very different from Ruth's.

I have had times when I felt I was living in a parallel universe, one being the world of personal pain in my soul and the other being the everyday world in which I lived and moved.  Fortunately, over time, my Savior dealt with my broken heart, which gives me hope that, when such brokenness again comes, He will again help me.  It seems incompatible with the Christian life.  If we believe that, though, we are not looking squarely at scriptures which testify to the contrary.

"Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows...."
Isaiah 53:4 (KJV)

And, all of 1 Peter, actually, but this especially - - - 

"And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."
1 Peter 5:10 (NET)

By her bitter attitude, Naomi had removed herself from a place of blessing by God.  She had essentially, deliberately made herself "unblessable".  How did she do this?
1.  She began her return with a broken heart, but not with the brokenness that leads to repentance.
2.  In an attempt to hide her family's sin and failures, she attempted to send two family members back to paganism.
3.  She placed the blame for her circumstances on God.

If we want to receive His blessing on our lives we must place ourselves in obedience, whether we like it or not.  Many times, I do not like being obedient, I'll just confess. Yesterday, I read a translation of Isaiah 53:5, where the word "transgressions" was translated "rebellion".  It hit me right between the eyes.  "Transgressions" paints a picture of "making honest mistakes", like running off the road a little bit.  Rebellion is all about purposefully driving off the road at 100 mph.  Rebellion is the opposite of obedience.  Rebellion is bound up in our hearts from the moment we are conceived, and only the pure gospel salvation of Jesus Christ and His sanctifying Holy Spirit can drive it from us.

Obedience is a Holy Spirit-enabled choice we make.  When we choose to trust and obey, we then put ourselves in a place of blessing.

Now then, look at Ruth's response to her horrendous circumstances.
Deuteronomy 23:3 (ESV) says this:

“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever,"

What?!?!
Yes, this was The Law.  So, yeah, I know you are smart...and so you are wondering...what happened?  How was it that Ruth was accepted?

Grace and mercy happened.

This is a misconception of the Old Testament.  God has always made provision for "pagans" who turn from their worship of false gods to worship the Lord God Jehovah (Yahweh).  In the genealogy of Jesus we find two such women (Rahab, the Gentile harlot from Jericho, and Ruth, the Moabitess, from the people group that worshipped Chemosh).  There are others from scripture as well, although for the sake of brevity I'll stop with those two examples.

Ruth was accepted by God because she embraced Him as her God.  In His mercy and grace, He accepted her...and so did the Israelites.  Mercy and Grace trumped The Law.  In this, Ruth foreshadows the beautiful grafting in of the Gentiles to the Kingdom of God, wholesale, through the beautiful, finished work of Jesus Christ.

Ruth yielded her heart, turned her back on her rebellion and obediently worshipped the God of Israel.  She put herself in a place not only of earthly blessing, not only a place of honor (the family tree of Jesus Christ), but also in a place of eternal salvation.

And, we are going to see in the next chapter that Ruth did what she did without seeing a bright future.
She trusted God pre-emptively, not because she could be assured her future would be bright.  In fact, on the way back to Bethlehem, I imagine she really had no idea what was going to become of her.

Oh, dear God, please give me such faith!


Friday, February 16, 2018

Mental Illness as Scapegoat


You'd have to be a pretty hard-hearted person to not be heartbroken over what happened in Parkland, FL earlier this week.  A very troubled young man, age 19, walked into his former high school (he was currently attending an alternative high school in his district) and opened fire, killing 17 people and wounding many more.  Then, he sauntered over to the 7-11 for a cold drink.  I guess mass murder really works up a thirst.

In the aftermath, the American public is searching for answers as to how this could have happened ... again.  One of the more popular explanations, given as an alternative to blaming the gun itself, is "mental illness".  In fact, mental illness is becoming a scapegoat here.

I am not a mental health professional, by any stretch, although I do know this:
Mental illness, a certain degree of it, is present in any human population.  Our bodies begin to die from the moment we are conceived in the womb.  That presents as either physical illness or mental illness.  Both are signs of the decay which, ultimately, leads to physical death.  Such is part of the legacy of The Fall of Man.  Our bodies are no longer eternal.

When an individual commits a heinous act, such as the one perpetrated by Nicolas Cruz or Dylan Roop or others, there is almost certainly some degree of mental illness present.  We do have a problem in how we deal with the mentally ill in our country.  Some reforms are most certainly needed.

However...

Mental illness is not the root cause of these murderous incidents we are witnessing.  The more foundational cause is not talked about on the news.  Why?  Because it is vastly unpopular.
That does not mean we should not acknowledge it, because until we do, we are destined to receive more of the same types of violence we are witnessing this week.  I, for one, am exceedingly weary of it.  Aren't you?

The root cause of the murder and mayhem in our nation is spiritual.

In America, both individually and corporately, we have told God He is no longer welcome.  We don't want His interference.  His rules for holy living are repugnant and restrictive, old-fashioned, foolish and "unfair".  We have collectively bought the lie that life can be successfully lived in a "religious void".

There is no such thing.  Religious faith undergirds the tenets of morality a person or a nation follows.  When we unmoor ourselves from our faith in God, our morals begin to crumble.  As our morals crumble, our civility disintegrates next.  This is what we are witnessing today.

The solution is not to ban guns.
The solution is not to arm teachers.
The solution is not to help the mentally ill, and let it stop there.

The solution is to get on our knees before the One, True God and repent of our individual and national sins. 
And then, to pray with all our might for revival. 
When as people of faith we get up off our knees to live holy, consecrated lives for His glory, such holy living should manifest as sharing with others what Jesus means to us, how He gets us through the trials and tribulations of life, how He is our everything and how He makes all the difference.

His love is transformational.  It is His salvation America needs.  There is salvation in none other.
Only He can heal our breaches.

You have made the land quake, You have split it open; Heal its breaches, for it totters.
Psalm 60:2

Church, dear, precious Body of Christ!  If we don't do implement "the solution" we have been given, we will be explaining to our Savior one of these days why we did not do so, why we sat silent in the name of "political correctness" while the beautiful country He gave us continues to "go to Hell in a handbasket".


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Not Forsaken: A Valentine's Day Promise


Good morning!

If you have not realized it yet, today is the first day of the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday.  In some Christian churches, this marks a day of consecration in which the Christ follower devotes him- or herself to some type of fasting for the period from Ash Wednesday until Easter.  This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine's Day, and Easter falls on April 1st, April Fool's Day!  Cray....

Ok, back to our study of Ruth.  I've been working double shifts at the pie shop (where I work part-time) this week and last.  My time to study and blog has been limited, and I have missed it!

Today we are examining Ruth 1:6-18, and I am using the Orthodox Jewish Old Testament version this morning:

6 Then she arose with her kallot, that she might make teshuvah (return) from the sadei Moav: for in the sadeh of Moav she had heard how that Hashem had visited His people in giving them lechem (bread). 7 Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two kallot with her; and they set on the derech (way, road) to make teshuvah (return) unto Eretz Yehudah. 8 And Naomi said unto her two kallot, Go, go back each to her beis em www.afii.org/ruth.WMA (mother's house): may Hashem show chesed (lovingkindness) to you, as ye have dealt with hamesim (the dead ones), and with me. 9 Hashem grant you that ye may find menuchah (resting place), each of you in the bais of her ish. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. 10 And they said unto her, Surely we will make teshuvah (return) with thee unto thy people.11 And Naomi said, Turn back, my banot; why will ye go with me? Are there yet any more banim in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Turn back, my banot, go your way; for I am too old to have an ish. If I should say, I have tikvah, if I should have an ish halailah (tonight), and should also bear banim, 13 Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? Would ye stay from having ba'alim (husbands) for them? Nay, my banot; for it is more mar (bitter) for me than you, for the Yad Hashem has gone out against me.

Naomi was stating, whether true or not, that the hand of God had gone out against her.  She felt forsaken by God.

Can I as a woman even begin to imagine her despair?  I have a loving husband and two fine sons.  What if God required all three of them of me, to snatch them from this earthly life and leave me as a poor, sad remnant of a once-vibrant, living, loving family?  No, I cannot begin to imagine such sorrow.
Let's briefly review....

In the last post, we made conjecture about Naomi's part in the decision to go sojourn for 10 years in a pagan culture.  Was she "on board" or not?  Impossible to tell.  Still, her personal losses, her "collateral damages", were great.
1.  She was immersed in, surrounded by paganism.
2.  Her sons, her heirs, married women who worshipped pagan gods.  (The unbelief of the father produced the faithless actions of the sons.)
3.   Her husband died.
4.   Each of her sons also died.
One famine, three funerals, limitless heartbreak, a bottomless pit of despair.

What do you do when you are staring into a pit like that? 
I have running through my mind this morning that old song from 1976, "Get right back to where we started from"1.  Naomi decided to "make teshuvah", a good decision indeed.  That is, she decided to return to the land of Judah (Eretz Yehudah), the land of the One, true God, Hashem, and in so doing, to return her allegiance to her God Himself.

My husband has a favorite saying that he has spoken to our sons on many occasions:  "When you find yourself in a hole....stop digging!"  Naomi recognized that a series of ungodly decisions had resulted in her being in a pit.  Accordingly, she resolved to return to the place where she had once enjoyed God's favor.

It is a sound principle for all of us who know and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.  Despite our best intentions, we all will at some point make some screwy decisions or our heart will betray us and lead us astray, at which point we will feel that God's hand of blessing has left us.  God cannot bless our sin.  Don't be deceived....He won't do that because it would be in violation of His character, His holiness. 

Still, He stands at an open door, inviting us to "make teshuvah", to return to Him.  He longs to redeem, to restore, to bless us ... with Himself.  He and His love are life's greatest blessings.

Valentine's Day is a hard day for many people.  In my own life, I have had several tough ones to soldier through.  Let me encourage you, whether you are dwelling in the land of Moab or whether you are faithfully living in the land of Judah, spiritually speaking, today.  Knit your heart, hitch your wagon to the greatest love of all.  Draw near to The Lover of Your Soul.  For some of you, that will mean a "return".  For some, it will be the first time you have ever drawn near.

God gives us His valentine in John 3:16 (version - - Aramaic Bible in Plain English):

For God loved the world in this way: so much that he would give up his Son, The Only One, so that everyone who trusts in him shall not be lost, but he shall have eternal life.

Now, I want you to notice a remarkable thing.  Ruth did this very thing I mentioned above.

These verses follow right after Naomi stating that she was outside the blessing of God and that her daughters-in-law should return to their people and to their gods.

14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again; and Orpah kissed [cf Mt 26:49] her chamot; but Ruth clung unto her.
15 And she said, Hinei, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her g-ds; return thou after thy sister-in- law. 16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy G-d shall be Elohai; 17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. Hashem do so to me, and more also, if anything but HaMavet part thee and me. 18 When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left urging her.

"And thy God shall be my God", it says in other translations.  Ok, notice what happened here.  Ruth did not have to add this last part in her statement of devotion.  It seems to me that, somewhere along the way, in her interactions with this Judean family, she met the Lord God Jehovah.  She drew near to Him and "hitched her wagon to the greatest love of all".  Much is made of Ruth's devotion to Naomi, which is admirable.  But, was that the driving force behind her leaving Moab with her mother-in-law?  It seems obvious that what drove her decision was fundamentally, primarily, a devotion to the One, true God.  She had met Him, embraced Him, and although it appeared His hand of blessing had departed from her life and the life of her family, she steadfastly refused to forsake Him (and by extension, her mother-in-law).

Whoa.

When I was married, Ruth 1:16 was part of my marriage ceremony.  So beautiful!
But, even more beautiful is the Truth of which our earthly marriage ceremonies are only a mere shadow.
Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom, and those who believe on His name, who have betrothed themselves to Him, whom He has betrothed to Himself, are His Bride.
You may have wondered about the picture at the top of this blog.  It is of my right hand.  On my right, index finger, I wear a Pandora ring, a circlet of tiny hearts.  I wear it as a bethrothal ring. 

When Jewish women became "betrothed", engaged, promised to their Bridegroom, it was much, much more than our American engagements.  A betrothal was as binding as a marriage; there was even the signing of a betrothal document. (I got to see some ancient ones in the Israeli museum on my recent trip to Israel.  They were beautifully adorned with all sorts of gorgeous artwork.)  Although the physical union did not begin with betrothal, in actuality, it was the starting point of the marriage vow, equally permanent.
As part of the Bride of Christ, I am betrothed to Him for this earthly life.  My "marriage" will not be complete until I am united with Him in eternity in Heaven.  For now, though, I wear that symbol with my other rings, to remind me to Whom my soul belongs.

Though we may at times in this life feel forsaken by our Bridegroom, He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  He is our Never-Forsaking God.  He promised this to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 31:6 (New Heart English Bible)

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, nor be scared of them: for the LORD your God is he who is going with you; he will not leave you nor forsake you."

and also to Christian believers in Hebrews 13:5b (New Heart English Bible):

...for he has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you."

The Aramaic Bible in Plain English puts the last part of that verse like this:
"He will never let go of your hand."

Oh hallelujah!
Make Teshuva today.  His hand is extended and His arms are open wide!


Sources:

1    https://youtu.be/ckCwBAhz4oc

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Oh-oh, it's a problem.



Problems, big and small.
We all encounter them.

If we are surprised, we should not be, as they are a facet of life, whether you are an unbeliever in Jesus Savior or a believer.  While at The Cove last Thursday, I met a wonderful woman of God named Tina.  She commented at lunch that most Christians think that when they make the decision to follow Jesus as Savior they think they are climbing on board a cruise ship, that all will be "smooth seas ahead".  In reality, the apostle Paul tells us we are climbing on board a battleship.  Tina said that most Christians are dressed like Barbie while sitting at the prow of the battleship, when they ought to be properly equipped to do battle.  Because, battle will find you.

How does this relate to the story of Naomi and Elimelech in the book of Ruth?

Elimelech, as the God-appointed head of his household, faced a big problem: a serious famine in the land.  His response to the situation was what?  To run.  He made the decision to leave the Land God had blessed him with and flee to a place that, while only 50 miles away, was "a world away" in terms of culture, religion, blessing.  He left the place God had ordained to bless him, because his faith in his God was insufficient to cover his current circumstances.  Ironically, the name Elimelech means "my God is king".  In this most critical situation, it appears Elimelech did not "live up to his name".

I have often wondered if Naomi was on board (pardon the pun) with this decision.  You know, right, that she had little choice but to follow her husband there?  They may have discussed the "pros and cons", but in the end, society dictated that she follow her husband's lead, abide by his decision.  As a wife of nearly 25 years myself you can bet there have been times my husband and I have disagreed on matters.  Yet, still, because he is a man of God and because I am commanded to let him lead, I almost always do so.  (Those who know me know that my spirit is intense; so, this submission is an act of God I'm describing.)  And, you know what?  I have been so very, very blessed by obeying God in those situations.  My husband is not "always right", but he usually is.  I am so very grateful for a godly husband.  Ok, so, Naomi....we are not told whether she thought this move to Moab was a good idea or not.  Turns out....it wasn't.  Not at all.

Have you wondered why there was a famine in "the land flowing with milk and honey"?  My gracious!  The name of the town where Elimelech and Ruth lived was Bethlehem, which in Hebrew is Beit-Lechem. "Lechem" means "bread" and "Beit" means "house".  House of Bread....Bethlehem.  Almost always in scripture, famine follows national sin of the Israelites.  I mentioned in the last Ruth post that we read in Judges 21 that, during this era, everyone was doing what they thought was right, divorced from the principles God had laid out for them in his Torah.  God was using this famine to discipline his people, with the end-goal of drawing them back to Himself.  As is often the case of national discipline, the godly end up suffering along with the ungodly.  (Judges 2:10-19).

When we encounter a big problem, there are only three options available to us - - - endure it, flee from it, or embrace it.  To quote Warren Wiersbe here:1

If we only endure our trials, then trials become our master, and we have a tendency to become hard and bitter.  If we try to escape our trials, then we will probably miss the purposes God wants to achieve in our lives.  But if we learn to enlist our trials, they will become our servants instead of our masters and work for us, and God will work all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

When we attempt to escape our problems through less-than-godly methods (alcohol, drugs, food addiction, unsanctioned pleasures, etc.) we are then no longer "walking by faith", as God commanded us to do.  An escape hatch seems oh-so-right!  It is incredibly beguiling, isn't it?  I know, my readers, that you have all "been there" at some point in your life, as have I.  To escape seems the answer.  But, when we make that choice, to embrace the wisdom of the world instead of the wisdom of God, as with Elimelech, we end up jumping from the frying pan into the fire, a worse place than staying put and engaging in the fight.

Have you ever received a beating?  I haven't, truly, although my younger brother and I used to physically fight when we were kids.  Yes, we'd go out into the front yard and just "have at it" until we were worn out.  We mainly did it to get rid of excess energy, not out of any animosity toward each other.  I can remember curling up into a human "ball" to protect myself from his kicking or hitting or whatever, which was a reasonably effective strategy.  This method did not, however, stop the onslaught of blows.  I was merely enduring the attack, which pretty much ensured it would continue.  I could choose to remain under attack, and get angrier and angrier about it.  Or, I could go on the offensive.

The apostle Paul shows us how to engage and to win over life's problems.  The answer is in Ephesians 6.  I wrote 3 posts about the process of getting dressed appropriately for life's inevitable battles.  If you want to review them, you can find them listed under Sources, below.

God calls us to "play offense" and walk with Him by faith, through our problems.  The other night I traveled to North Carolina for a one-day seminar on blogging.  At one point, while crossing over the mountain, the fog was so thick I could hardly see.  I slowed down, kept my eye on the center line and drove carefully as far as I could see, which was not very far.  It's often this same way when we are beset by problems.  We certainly can't see "the end of the matter".  We may not be able to see far at all, as it relates to solving the problem.  Still, the answer is to trust God's promises to His own (believers), obey His commands as revealed in the Bible, and rely on Him to get you through to the other side.

Sources:

1   Wiersbe, Warren W. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: the complete Old Testament in one volume.  David C. Cook, 2007, p. 478. 

2       http://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2016/06/getting-dressed.html

3       http://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2016/06/armored-up.html

4       http://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2016/06/smoke-em.html

Saturday, February 10, 2018

He's Holding On



Good morning,


Before continuing on in the book of Ruth, I wanted to reprise a post I wrote back in 2015.  It is centered around Psalm 73, which I sought out this morning, needing to hear its beautiful promises again.  Needing badly to hear ....

As my blog is an outpouring of my personal devotions, I again present this post to you.  I hope it will bless you again if you are one of the 30 who read it 3 years ago as well as those of you who are reading it for the first time. We will return to Ruth in a couple of days, Lord willing.

Having studied 2 Thessalonians over the past few days, we are going to move on to 1 Corinthians soon.  But first, let's take a brief dip back into the Old Testament songs for just one day.  The psalms were songs, you know, although they appear as poetry to us.  I've always wondered what the original music sounded like.

Today's text is Psalm 73, a psalm of Asaph.  Most of the psalms were written by David, but not this one.  In fact, there were a total of 12 psalms ascribed to Asaph, who was not only a composer, but also a singer and a "seer" according to 2 Chronicles 29:30.  Some have thought that these 12 psalms were not written by Asaph, but were merely allocated to him for the purposes of singing them.  In reverse, though, no one says that about the psalms of David.  So, I tend to believe that Asaph truly wrote all 12 of these psalms which bear his name.

Well, the theme of Psalm 73 is that age-old lament, "why do the wicked prosper and seem to get away with their dastardly deeds?"  (vs. 4-12) The psalmist admits that he has fallen into the trap of envying these people (vs. 4), which led to his heart becoming grieved and his spirit bitter (vs. 21). He seems to have written this psalm to affirm his allegiance to Jehovah God, which he does in verses 23-28.  These are some of my favorite verses!


23 
Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.


"Yet" is a pivotal word, in verse 23.  In spite of the battle of his double-nature (human nature warring with his regenerated spirit, verses 21-22), "YET, I am always with you because you hold me by my right hand." (vs. 23)  Isn't that a beautiful image?  God holds on to us.  It is because of His steadfastness that He holds on to us when we stumble into sin; it is not because of our goodness that we remain connected to Him.  "My heart and my flesh may fail...."

Listen to what Charles Spurgeon1
had to say about these verses:


His God would not fail him, either as protection or a joy. His heart would be kept up by divine love, and filled eternally with divine glory. After having been driven far out to sea, Asaph casts anchor in the old port. We shall do well to follow his example. There is nothing desirable save God; let us, then, desire only him. All other things must pass away; let our hearts abide in him, who alone abideth for ever.

As we walk with Him, our hand in His, He guides and counsels us for the rest of our lives.  And then? Glory!  Eternal life with Him forever, in Heaven.

Father, I thank you that You are my "portion" forever.  At those times when my heart fails, You rescue my soul with Your boundless forgiveness and restoration. When my sin and longing for it overwhelm me, You are there to re-align my focus and give me Your supernatural power and peace.  Earth has nothing to offer that even begins to compare with  You.  In Jesus' name, amen. 

Source:
http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps073.htm