Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Ruth vs Job

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The book of Ruth and the book of Job both deal with God’s faithful people during times of great struggle.

Let’s look at the contrasts.

Job is male; Ruth is female.

Job is a Jew; Ruth is a foreigner (and a hated one at that!)

In the ancient world the roles of men and women are vastly different. Job has the ability to be autonomous and pull himself up by his boot straps, while Ruth, as a female and a foreigner, has less opportunity to provide for herself and her mother-in-law.

Job is wealthy and loses everything quickly. Ruth marries into a starving immigrant family and loses the little she has over time.

Job loses his children, but his wife survives. Ruth loses her husband and has no children.

Job’s wife is not an encourager; neither are his friends. Boaz and Naomi work in Ruth’s best interests.

Job has friends who come to help him (which is a mixed blessing). Ruth has a mother-in-law, whom she helps.

Job is wrongly blamed for his situation. Ruth is praised for her godly actions.

Job’s losses are evident. Ruth and Naomi live in a cave and it is not until Ruth begins to glean that the extended family seems truly aware of how bad off they are.

Job loses his health. Ruth is strong and able.

God speaks to Job. For Ruth, God works through Boaz, a godly man.

So, Job has some advantages. He is male, self-sufficient, married and has friends. Ruth too has some advantages. She is in good health and has her mother-in-law, who owns land.

Both have disadvantages as well…

In addition to the devastating losses both suffer, Job has ill-health, and psychological ‘torture’ from his wife and friends. Ruth has racism and sexism to combat as well as a history of being barren, which makes her a poor marriage choice.

Both Ruth and Job are restored and extremely blessed. What the two accounts show us is that no matter how you end up in difficult situations, and no matter what is stacked against you, God is able to bless you beyond your wildest imagination. Nothing is impossible. Both accounts encourage us to be godly, and to remain godly, despite our circumstances.

 

Side note: What is interesting to me, at this time, is that Naomi has land. It is likely that the cave Ruth and Naomi are staying in is on her husband’s land, indicating that the house she thought to return to is not in livable condition. It is likely that Ruth and Naomi thought to farm the land, but were unable to produce enough to support them. Naomi may have stayed on the property to tend to their crops while Ruth gleaned. It is also likely that Boaz did not help prior to this time as it may have appeared that Ruth and Naomi were getting along okay. Ruth showing up to glean may have been the first indication the community had that things were not going well for the two women. Just something to think about. When scripture tells us to look out for the widow and the orphan it is implied that we are to know their situation and help as is appropriate. Too often in our society we find people saying, ‘If I had known, I would have….’ As Christians it is our job to keep our eyes open so that those who are in need do not suffer unnecessarily.

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In reading Romans I realized there was a similarity between what the church in Romans was experiencing, and our ‘mega-church’ problems.

In Romans we see Jewish believers who have grown up in the ‘church.’ They have been raised with rules and expectations regarding what it means to be ‘good.’ Some are saved, and others believe that they are believers even though they are merely rule followers. Both groups tend to believe the ‘rules’ are very important and their words and actions imply that the rules may even be more important than belief, even though they may deny this to be so.

We also see, in Romans, that there are a lot of Gentile believers. They did not grow up with the ‘rules’ and many of them have not bothered to study scripture. They have faith, but only a few know how to live as a believer. There are more ‘true Christians’ in this group, but their lives are often messier than those who have no faith, but live according to God’s law.

How to balance these groups is difficult. Those who grew up with the ‘rules’ and whose lives are a lot less messy will of course believe their ways are better, except the truth is that some of them are not saved- which is worse than having a messy life. Many with messy lives believe, but see the rule followers as judgmental. The lack of faith of some of the rule followers likely draws those who believe away from discovering the blessings associated with knowing and following God’s laws. It was a mess then, and is still a mess now. Combine that with the fact that those who really like the rules expect new believers to be completely perfect in actions upon salvation. These ‘old believers’ (who may not actually believe, but think faith is about works- like the Jews in Romans) will then criticize those who are actually trying to disciple people, which is a slow process (think about how resistant you are to change and conviction even though you are saved and then imagine if you had bigger hang ups such as addiction or family and/or close friends who were loved by you but not good influences). Paul was likely pulling his hair out when he wrote Romans (and every other letter…).

Mega-churches are getting people saved. They may not be doing it the way other churches are doing it, and not everyone may be truly ‘saved’ within the church, but the people are there worshipping God and praying. Mature believers need to figure out how to come along side to help these new believers with their messy lives and lack of Biblical knowledge rather than tearing down what their leaders are doing. They are introducing people to God. Small churches with few converts often resemble the Pharisees more than the early church, making them lovers of the ‘rules’ more than lovers of God. The early church was messy in many, many ways (hence the many different letters, all addressing different problems). Jump in, join the mess and welcome someone to life in Christ!

 

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Notes and Ideas based on my reading of

Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings of Both the New and the Old Testaments, An Argument of Their Veracity by John James Blunt

(published by Robert Carter & Brothers, New York, 1851)

Ideas to Think About Regarding: Veracity and Culture

Biblical Veracity

Leviticus (everyone’s favorite book of the Bible) has an interesting test of veracity. First it claims that there are 603,550 males over the age of twenty, the Levites being excepted. It then claims that, a short time later, there are 603, 550 males, yet some men are unclean due to touching a dead body. If someone died, how then is the number unchanged?

A few possibilities exist.

First, there is an account of Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, who are smote by God for offering strange fire as high priests. Their bodies are taken care of by their cousins, Mishael and Elizaphan, which would make these men unclean for Passover. As Levites, these men would not have been counted in the census, therefore their deaths would not change the number of men over twenty years of age. This is the most likely solution.

Other possibilities include rounding of numbers and/or people turned twenty during this time in equal number to those who died. The birth/ death equivalency is unlikely though since the Jewish culture did not celebrate birthdays and considered any part of a year to be the equivalent of a year, so a Jewish person would never say my child is two and a half. If any part of the year had passed, it was counted as a year so their child was three years old. To further confuse things, the time in the womb was also counted as time alive, so our ‘two’ may be their ‘three’. Jewish people did however keep track of and celebrate loved one’s death days- hence we have Easter being celebrated early, but Christmas was established much later- though rising from the dead is a much bigger accomplishment than being born in the entire scheme of things, so….

Biblical Culture

Joseph: Joseph is second in command in Egypt yet does not have the ability to choose his own wife. He is given Asenath, the daughter of the Priest of On.

(On is a place, likely Heliopolis, which worships Ra, the sun God. Her father is a prophet. Pharaoh is likely marrying a prophet to a prophet in hopes of breeding more prophets. Since Egyptians worship many Gods, the daughter would be expected to shift her main alliance to the god of her husband, so she would be amenable to hearing about Joseph’s God and since her sons become leaders of two tribes of Israel, it is extremely likely she converted.)

Joseph is also unable to visit his father without permission, despite his lofty title and responsibilities. Our culture cannot fathom having that much power, and that little freedom, but it is something to keep in mind when examining Joseph’s decisions during this phase of his life.

 

Leadership

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Notes and Ideas based on my reading of

Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings of Both the New and the Old Testaments, An Argument of Their Veracity by John James Blunt

(published by Robert Carter & Brothers, New York, 1851)

Ideas to Think About Regarding: Leadership

  1. Cain and Abel may have brought their offerings to the East of Eden, near where the angel with the flaming sword guarded the entrance, in order to be as close to God as possible. While scripture only suggests that there was a designated spot for offerings, this spot has been suggested historically and does make sense.
  2. The ‘coat of many colors’ given to Joseph may have been a priestly garment.

Arguments for this theory include:

-The high priests garments were blue, purple and scarlet (many colors).

-The garment of Esau’s that Rebekah places on Jacob is called a ‘goodly rainment.’ The Hebrew word translated as ‘rainment’ is also the word used for the high priests clothing later in scripture, and, when referring to the priests’ regular clothes (when they are told to rend their garments) a different word is used. Further, the word translated here as ‘goodly’ is also used to describe sacred things elsewhere in scripture. Isaac ‘smelled’ Jacob’s clothing, and believed him to be Esau. This may be because the clothes smelled of incense offered to God, and not due to Esau’s natural scent.

If the clothing mentioned in these passages is a priestly garment, then the histories actually make more sense from a human nature stand point.

First, if Cain, as first-born is being raised to be the priest of his future extended family, then his belief that he could vary the offering makes more sense. Cain may believe as priest he is ‘in charge’ of how things are done, and in changing things finds out that, despite some God-given authority, God is still the one ‘in charge’ and that God can remove His priests from their position if they do not obey.

Further, it explains why Cain becomes so upset over Abel’s offering being preferred. Not only is there sibling rivalry, and a dislike of not being the ‘best’ in comparison, there may also be a ‘how dare you question my authority and make me look bad’ reaction. Even though Abel does nothing wrong, many in authority do not like being confronted by their wrong doing, or even seen being less than perfect.

This also explains how Esau profaned his birthright. Esau was a hunter and enjoyed being away from the household, while Jacob stayed close. As priest, Esau would have been expected to learn from his father and be present for sacrifices, judging, counseling etc. Jacob may have been performing these tasks and the soup was just an excuse for the brothers to finalize what was already becoming apparent- that Esau had no desire to behave as the head and priest of the family when his father passed away. Esau may have thought to only be shedding the burden of the priesthood however, and may not have realized that the headship of all his father owned would go with it as well.

Joseph, as Rachael’s oldest son, and the son of the only wife Jacob really wanted, may also have been chosen as the family priest. Jacob may have begun to train Reuben (his oldest) as priest and heir, and then, when Joseph was born, decided to split the first born role between the first born of Leah and the first born of Rachel. Having their actions judged by a much younger brother, and knowing this role was stripped from their other brother, would have caused dissention. It would also explain why Joseph was back home studying. Reuben would later lose his role as head of the clan (first born) to Judah when he slept with his father’s concubine.

Why did Reuben sleep with his father’s concubine?

Likely, after Joseph as sold and Jacob was depressed, Reuben assumed head of house duties. As Jacob did less, and Reuben took on more responsibility, it is possible that Reuben saw himself as truly the head of the clan, even though his father was still alive. In those days concubine were property, and were passed down to the new ruler when a change of leadership occurred. (This is why Absalom slept with David’s ten concubines, who were left to care for the palace, in a public way in a tent on the roof. Absalom was saying, through his actions, that he was the new ‘head’ and demonstrating that David could not protect his women. The irony that David first gazed at Bathsheba from this roof is also not lost to history…) This action, of course, infuriated Jacob. Reuben lost his rights as first-born, and Judah became the future head of the clan.

These accounts teach us much about authority.

  1. We must remember when we are in authority that our word is not law. As leaders God’s Word is law and our actions and decisions better line up with it.
  2. As leaders we must remember that we can, and will, be removed from leadership if our actions merit it.
  3. If we, as leaders, do not fulfill our role, there will be those who are willing, and able (no pun intended) to take our place. We are not indispensible. Leadership requires hard work, time and attention.
  4. We must wait on God’s time to assume leadership. Absalom may have become the next king, Reuben may have inherited as first born, and Jacob may not have had to flee if God’s timing had been respected.
  5. Jealousy will be fueled by a leader’s misbehavior and cause others to seek your position, and perhaps your life. Servant leaders who obey God’s Word are less likely to have this problem.
  6. Sleeping with your father’s concubines is never a good idea. It is a sure way to ruin the relationship.

Song of Songs (Introduction)

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Song Of Songs

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

This translation of Song of Songs was picked because it is more literal, and takes fewer liberties than most. I did not focus on the prophetic nature as much as the relational teachings.

The standard type is Longman’s translation. The italics is my gleanings from his notes. Some points are entirely mine, while others are my interpretation of his comments in the book. For the sake of brevity I did not differentiate.

One of my pet peeves is that we clean up scripture to the point that it is not understood. This translation of the Song of Songs allows us to learn what the Bible teaches about marital relationships.

If married, or planning on marriage, it would be good to discuss the Song of Songs and its teachings. It would also be good to examine Proverbs 31, how Boaz treats Ruth in the book of Ruth and how Esther behaves as a wife.

Contained in the Song of Songs are many wasfs- descriptive poems that the lovers recite to each other. Writing a wasf to your spouse may be a creative way to understand how the other sees you.

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Photo by Matija Barrett

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 23 (Ch 8)

(Let Others Know There is Love)

The Man

v 13 You who dwell in the gardens,

companions are listening,

let me hear your voice!

The Woman

v 14 Sneak away, my lover, and be like the gazelle,

or a young stag on the mountains of spices.

The man addresses the woman and acknowledges that her companions are listening, He wants her to express her wishes publically, to let others know that she loves him. She responds by again asking him to sneak away with her- quickly. Their love has not dulled and it is not to be hidden.

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This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 22 (Ch 8)

(The Rest of the Wives…)

The Woman

v 11 Solomon had a vineyard in Baal-hamon;

he entrusted the vineyard to guards,

each one brings a thousand pieces of silver for his fruit.

v 12 My vineyard is mine alone;

the thousand is for you, Solomon,

and the two hundred for the ones who guard its fruit.

Here is a reference to Solomon’s harem. Obviously the woman is not happy that it exists and makes reference to the fact that she does not wish to share her vineyard. The two hundred are likely ‘wives’ he has not yet slept with. This woman lives apart from the rest of his woman. We know that his Egyptian wife, who was also his first wife, had her own palace so many guess that this is the identity of the woman of the poem. Remember, in this culture, polygamy is the norm. Here it is not portrayed in glowing terms. The woman does not like it. She implies that the someone has paid so that these women would bear Solomon’s offspring.

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