"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Friday, April 8, 2011

Raising The Standard: Gratefulness Is Accepting Difficulties As Part of God's Loving Provision

"... Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." ~ Hebrews 12:5-6
From The Pages Of Scripture:
God led Abraham to the land of Cannan and promised to give it to him and all his descendants. Following this, a famine broke out in the land. Instead of staying in the land and digging deeper wells, Abraham went down to Egypt and sowed the seeds of future destruction. Many years later, one of Abraham's descendants remained in the Promised Land during a time of severe famine. This adversity turned out to be God's means of giving him and his descendants a priceless heritage.
David testified that during all his years he had never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. Which one of David's forefathers demonstrated this truth by remaining in the Promised Land during a famine while many of his relatives fled to a neighboring country? Boaz.
It was time for God's judgment to fall upon the nation. Prosperity had caused people to become sensual and self-sufficient. Every man did what was right in his own eyes. God's hand of discipline affected the crops, resulting in a severe famine. Soon family after family abandoned the homeland, failing to grasp the real meaning of the scorched soil and withered crops. When the relatives of one godly man decided to leave the country, he determined to remain in Israel and trust God for his needs. During the next ten years, he diligently cared for his land. Each fall this hardworking farmer gathered in his precious crop and thanked God for it, whether it was sparse or abundant. He also allowed the poor to share in whatever yield his fields produced. God began to bless his spirit of generosity. With the increased income from the more successful harvests, he was able to purchase surrounding fields. Soon he had become greatly respected and admired as a prosperous, yet generous landowner. One day he greeted the workers in one of his fields. They cheerfully replied, "The Lord bless you." It was then that this godly man noticed a young woman gleaning barley. He was immediately attracted by special character qualities that he saw in her. When he asked his foreman about the young woman, the foreman confirmed his impressions. After briefly talking with her, the wealthy land owner marveled at how she further demonstrated the qualities that had first drawn him to her. He realized that both of them had experienced adversity and had learned how to praise God through it. She had been through deep sorrows. Her husband and several of her relatives had died. She was without financial resources, but had learned to trust God for her daily needs. She responded with deep gratefulness to every kindness that was shown to her. When this generous land owner gave her the freedom to glean among the sheaves and quench her thirst from his water, she humbly knelt and sincerely thanked him. Because they both thanked the Lord for the discipline of adversity, God brought Boaz and Ruth together in marriage, and a son was born named Obed. Obed later had a son name Jesse who grew up to have a son named David. [From Ruth 1-4]
What Was The Cause of Boaz's Prosperity?
Boaz was a beneficiary of the sure promise of God given to the nation of Israel. "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shall make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." (Joshua 1:8) A careful examination of Boaz's dealings with Naomi and Ruth reveals that he was very familiar with God's Law. But Boaz did not obey only the letter of the Law. He went beyond the letter and obeyed from his heart the spirit of the Law. For example, the Law provided for the poor by commanding farmers not to harvest the corners of their fields clean and not to gather up grain dropped by the reapers (see Leviticus 19:9). Boaz went beyond his duty for Ruth and actually ordered his workers to leave whole handfuls of grain for her to find. (see Ruth 2:16) If a man died, the Law provided for the redemption of his property and posterity by urging his brothers to marry the widow. Their firstborn son would then bear the name of the deceased (see Deuteronomy 25:5-6). Boaz could have refused to marry Ruth according to the letter of the Law because he was not Elimelech's brother. But the intention of the Law --- to help a man's widow --- was clear, and he consented to marry her. Boaz knew the Law of God. He meditated on the meaning of the Law and sought to obey it according to its full intent. As a result he prospered according to the promise.
How Did Boaz View Naomi And Ruth's Adversity?
Boaz viewed these pathetically poor women returning from Moab through the eyes of mercy and love. Others viewed them with apathy, contempt, and superstition. For example, Naomi's family was indifferent to her need for food. (see Ruth 2:18) Superstition may have been a factor in the nearer relatives unwillingness to marry Ruth. He explained his refusal, "... Lest I may mar mine own inheritance..." (Ruth 4:6). Because the men in Elimelech's family had died, Ruth and Naomi were considered "bad luck". The nearer kinsman did not want his family to die as they had. Another example of this occurred when Judah did not want his son, Shelah, to marry Tamar (see Genesis 38). Boaz, on the other hand, helped his family members, and treated them with dignity. He saw the hand of God in the lives of these women and sought to cooperate in God's perfect will for them.
In What Ways Did God Reward Boaz For His Kindness?
The Lord rewarded him with a good name. He received the blessing of the city elders (see Ruth 4:11-12). He was blessed by finding, and marrying a virtuous woman "... For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil" (Proverbs 31:10-11). He was also blessed with a godly seed, "... And Boaz betag Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David". (Ruth 4:21-22 and see also Proverbs 17:6)
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
The bald eagle is one of the largest and most handsome members of the raptor family. The term"bald" has nothing to do with any lack of feathers on its head. It is called "bald" because of the sharp pattern of its white head, dark body, and white tail. Its broad, strong wings enable the eagle to carry objects which approach its own weight of approximately twelve pounds. As a symbol of strength and freedom, the bald eagle appears on money, flags, stamps, and buildings; and it was even the ancient hieroglyphic symbol which lead to the modern letter "a".
How Is The Need To Thank God For The Disciplines Of Adversity Illustrated In The World Of Nature?
A magnificent eagle soared to the heights of a rocky crag and calmly turned to witness a spectacular sight in the wilderness below. A vast multitude of men, women, and children had entered his desolate domain. High atop the mountain, a little eaglet cried out for food, and seemingly out of nowhere a nutritious meal appeared. Far below a similar cry went up for food, and out of the heavens God provided delicious manna. When the thirsty people pleaded for water, God fulfilled their need in a miraculous way. A rock was struck and water gushed forth. As if to amplify this spiritual picture, the eagle provided a drink for its young one --- the blood of a slain lamb. After the people grew weary of manna, God provided an abundance of quail. Similarly, the eagle supplied the eaglet with fresh meat. Many times the eaglet's cries seemed to go unheeded. But high above, the alert eyes of the soaring parent carefully watched. Vital skills were being taught through the motivation of hunger. One day the powerful eagle fluttered over its nest. It was time for the eaglet to venture into the desert sky. God gave a comparable signal to His fledgling nation. The cloudy pillar that had hovered over their place of worship moved forward, indicating that it was time to advance. The prospective parent pushed the young bird out of the nest, forcing the eaglet to use its own wings. After a few desperate flaps, the eaglet faltered. Instantly the eagle swooped down alongside the young bird. The updraft, created by the eagle's wings, provided the necessary lift for the fledgling to maintain flight. In the distance, the echos of clashing swords and shouts of war could be heard as God led His nation through their first battle. Just as the eagle's wings aided its young, the uplifted hands of the nation's leader in a gesture of prayer turned the tide of the battle and provided victory. The harsh disciplines of wilderness training were as vital for the young nation of Israel as they were for the survival of the eaglet. Later God used the eagle to illustrate that important wilderness experience. "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead [His people through the wilderness]..." (Deuteronomy 32:11-12).
The Characteristics Of The Bald Eagle In Scripture:
Often God uses the majestic appearance and awesome skills of the eagle to symbolize important truths for His people. God warns that a rebellious youth attracts destructive companions like carrion draws hungry eagles:
"The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it." ~ Proverbs 30:17
God explains that a man who puts his trust in riches will see them "... fly away as an eagle toward heaven" (Proverbs 23:5). The rich man's wealth will be dissipated when trouble comes just as the updrafts of a storm carry the eagle out of sight. God warned His people on numerous occasions that if they persisted in evil,, He would send armies against them that would be "... as swift as the eagle flieth..." (Deuteronomy 28:49). The eagle's ability to overcome the law of gravity by stretching out its wings in flight is an important analogy of the Christian's ability to rise above the law of sin by entering into Christ's victory and by engrafting God's Word into his own soul:
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings of eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." ~ Isaiah 40:31

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