Month: January 2013

Ruth

Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, was born in Bethlehem.

…Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king…Matthew 2: 1

The Messiah was foretold to be born in Bethlehem, by the prophet Micah. 

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet…”  Matthew 2: 3 – 5

In order for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, his parents needed to travel from their residence in Nazareth to Bethlehem.  But why would they travel while pregnant?  To partake in the census decreed by Caesar Augustus.

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.  Luke 2: 1

The reason Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem to partake in the census was because they were descendants of David, and Bethlehem was the city of David.

And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.  Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.  While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.  Luke 2: 3 – 6

The reason Bethlehem was known as David’s city was because he was born there and because of his role in the history of Israel, as king and as ancestor of the Messiah to come.  The events leading up to how David came to be born in Bethlehem are detailed in the book of Ruth.

So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab.  And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.  Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.  Ruth 1: 22 – 2: 1

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her.  And the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.  Ruth 4: 13

Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse.  The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi!”  So they named him Obed.  He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.  Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron, and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.  Ruth 4: 16 – 21

Many may be inclined to read the book of Ruth and marvel at the morality of Ruth and of Boaz or at the beauty of their love story.  But the story behind the story – the greater story – is how the events detailed in Ruth prepared the way for the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, a birth and a birthplace that fulfilled prophecy.

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Judges

There are those who think that if there was an increase in signs and wonders performed by the church for the general population, that many unbelievers’ hearts would change and they would believe in God and be endeared to Him.  The simple church focused on preaching the gospel and making disciples of the nations by teaching the full counsel of God, and focused on performing what could be called ordinary good deeds, is not enough to convert the lost soul.  More is needed from the church to impress contemporary pagans and idolaters.  The church must do audacious things like give sight to the blind and prosperity to the poor and health to the sick and purpose to the confused and dreams to the despondent.  Through these things the godless believes in Christ and becomes godly.

This type of ecclesiological speculation ignores the naturally sinful hearts of men and gives man undue credit to ultimately make the correct choice when presented with unbelievable things like signs or wonders.  The Scriptures paint a different picture of the hearts of men.  If signs and wonders were enough to endear men’s hearts to the only living God, how are the Israelites from the days of Moses to the era of the judges to be explained? 

Who was it that asked for the molten calf idol to be made?  The Israelites who saw the signs and wonders of God via the plagues on Egypt and the plundering during Passover and the parting of the Red Sea and the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.

Who was it that grumbled for better food while in the wilderness?  The Israelites who were given manna by God and who drank water that miraculously flowed from a rock.

It was those same people whom Moses spoke to when he said:

For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the LORD; how much more, then, after my death?  Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them.  For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands.  Deuteronomy 31: 27 – 29

The Scriptures that record the days of Israel in the wilderness do not seem to teach that if people are given a grand display of God’s power that they will choose Him over false gods and sin.  Not only did those who directly walked in the wilderness disbelieve, but the generations of the judges disbelieved; those people did not have the benefit of witnessing the same signs and wonders as their fathers in the wilderness but they were undoubtedly told of what God did for their fathers.

…there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.  Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger.  Judges 2: 10 – 12

Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.  Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them.  Judges 2: 16 – 17

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.  Judges 21: 25

So the point is this – despite the Old Covenant God made with Israel, it was not enough to induce men to change their hearts.  By contemplating the pervasive wickedness of men and Israel’s consistent inability to abide by the Old Covenant of God, we as Gentiles should be even more grateful for the New Covenant of God which comes through Christ.

But now He (Jesus) has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.  For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts.  And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘know the Lord’, for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them.  For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”  When He said, “A new covenant”, He has made the first obsolete.  But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.  Hebrews 8: 6 – 13

The beauty of the New Covenant is that God Himself changes the hearts of those He chooses to save; they are no longer required to fulfill the covenant by their own power, but rather God has done it all, in the giving of His Son on the cross to propitiate the Father’s wrath, and in the giving of His Spirit to all believers to help them and cleanse them daily.

Are the promises of the New Covenant and the knowledge of Christ enough for you, or do you need signs and wonders from God to feel His love and power?  The Pharisees in the days of Christ wanted more proof as to His divine claims.  The miracles He was performing were not enough for them.  Jesus said:

An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Matthew 16: 4

What possible sign or wonder is there that can be performed by the church that exceeds the glory of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? 

And what greater power could be displayed by the church that exceeds Jesus being raised from the dead on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures?