Day 354: Hebrews 11-13; By Faith (Israel's Hall of Fame)

Keeping in mind that the whole of this book was written as an encouragement to those believers who were facing persecution, especially from the Jews, and to those who were believers but may have been backsliding into Judaism.  With that in mind, there isn’t much else to say that isn’t eloquently spoken about in chapters 11 and 12.  So, I encourage you to read them again and remember all that we have covered over the last year.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people of old received their commendation.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.  By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.  Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.  By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.  By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.  By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.  By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.  By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of GideonBarakSamsonJephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,  quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”



Day 76: Ruth 1-4; The Kinsmen Redeemer

The story of Ruth is a beautiful story of the way the people of Israel were supposed to be living according to the Law that was given to Moses.  In our Biblical Cannon, it has a very interesting juxtaposition, following the last words of the book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” and the book of Samuel and the beginning of the story of the kings of Israel.  Amidst the chaos of the time of the judges, an apt description of the cycle of brokenness that Israel finds itself participating in and the time when Israel demands a human king to rule over them instead of God, we find this book of peace, love, and a Shalom like following of the Law and providence of God.  If the book of Judges was an example of the curses that would come when the people didn’t follow the law, the book of Ruth is a prime example of the blessings that come when people did follow the Law and live as God called them to.

The laws about the “Kinsmen Redeemer,” a phrase not specifically used in the ESV as far as I have seen, but one  that summarizes well the duties of family members to each other, come from Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 25 in which God lays out laws for the people of Israel regarding the care of those who are vulnerable.  Generally speaking, it would be common, because of the patriarchal society, for a woman who was widowed to end up poor and destitute because she would not be able to have a (legitimate) job and, if she didn’t have grown children, would end up not being cared for.  Women in this situation would find themselves alone and in need.  Sometimes they would be sold into slavery to pay their debts.  Sometimes they would prostitute themselves to make money.  It was a difficult, especially in a society that didn’t really care about the poor and downtrodden.  Not so for God or for Israel.  The Law says that the next closest kinsmen is to take her as a wife to perpetuate the husbands name through him.  In this way, she would not be left to herself, but would be cared for.

In some cases this would not work out either, which is where things like “gleaning” come into play.  Ruth goes and gleans what the harvesters don’t pick up, or some of the crop on the side of the field.  This comes from Leviticus 19 and Leviticus 23.  The people weren’t supposed to reap right up to the edge of the field, and if they dropped something, they were not allowed to pick it up.  These were left for the poor and the sojourner and in this way the poor would not be left starving but would be provided for.

This is such a beautiful picture of the peace and reconciliation that God is working toward in creation.  It is also a beautiful picture of how God cares for all those that we would consider the “least, last, and lost.”  How often do we just cast these people out, even in our minds, so that we don’t have to think so much about those difficult things.  We find it uncomfortable that there could be suffering in the world, even in our own backyards, so we don’t think about it.  God doesn’t turn a blind eye to them.  In fact, there is a special place for the “least of these” in God’s heart to which Jesus remarks “whatever you did for the least of these my brothers, you did for me.”

The truth is though, that as we are all marred with sin, we are all the “least of these” in the sight of God.  We truly are the Ruth’s of the world, just hoping to get a piece of something that drops from the Harvester and not be turned away.  And yet, like Boaz who is a Christ figure in the Bible (foreshadowing if you will), Jesus Christ spots us gleaning what we can and says “who is that?”  He points out to His harvesters that we will never be sustained doing that, in fact we won’t even get enough to feed ourselves for that day.  He walks across the proverbial field as offers us something we could never get on our own… Himself… the Bread of Life.  Moreover, He doesn’t just give us Spiritual food, He says to each and every one of us, “I want to take you into my house.  I want to redeem you.  I want you to become my bride!  You are mine to claim as my own NO MATTER WHO ELSE would seek to claim you.  All you need to do is accept this free gift of grace, the salvation I offer you, by believing in me.”