Banking Blessings Ministry welcomes you to 2018. Thank you for participating in our programs as we seek and share understanding of God’s purpose for human interactions and relationships. We thank God for the opportunity to understand his message more and better this year and steer closer to his purpose for each of us individually and as member of a community.
The year 2017 ended while we were in the middle of a series on Responding to Adversity, focused on studying events and personalities in the bible to gain insight into the nature and meaning of adversity and what a Christian should do when facing adversity. The series has taken us through examinations of the experience of Job, Mordecai, Shunammite woman, and midway through Paul’s ordeal in Jerusalem and Caesarea.
The experience of Job indicates that recognizing adversity as an attack from the devil is an important step in seeking God’s guidance and direction and ultimately defeating the adversity and the temptation that it represents. If a person lives in the image of God, representing God among other people and fulfilling his/her responsibilities as God’s provider assistant, then an adversity in the person’s life is more likely a temptation instead of punishment for wrongdoing. We learn from Job’s experience that the appropriate response is to declare war against the devil by renewing your commitment to worship and serve God.
We begin a bible study series on Responding to Adversity, with intention to study events and personalities described in the bible to gain insight into what a Christian should do when facing adversity. The current study examines the temptation of Job to expand understanding of the nature of adversity. Job was an upright, blameless, and successful man: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” [Job 1:1]. Yet, he suddenly came under a storm of adversity that included losing his children and every earthly possession.
Job’s experience indicates adversity may befall anyone, even a person that has done nothing wrong. His adversity was a temptation whereby the devil attempted to pull him away from God by destroying his earthly comfort and happiness: “But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face” [Job 1:11]. God permitted the devil to tempt Job within a wide but limited scope: “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person” [Job 1:12]. Therefore, we learn from this account that God protects us from temptation but may permit the devil to tempt a person. The devil may in that case choose how to tempt the person. He chose to rain adversity on Job in the study example.
Recognizing adversity as temptation will affect how a person responds. Because Job was upright and blameless, he most likely recognized the adversity as temptation and, thus responded by focusing on his relationship with God and leaving it all with him in prayer [Job 1:21]: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Also, we have encountered previous studies that showed adversity as a springboard to launch a person onto another phase of life with opportunities of great significance. Notable examples include the experience of Joseph in Joseph Called to Mission and Ruth in Ruth Joins Naomi, among several others. There also are cases of adversity befalling a person as punishment for wrongdoing: a possible example being the revolt in David’s family during his reign as king of Israel in Absalom Rises Against His Father David.
This study focuses on the experience of Job to learn that adversity may befall a person as temptation at pulling the person away from God. Recognizing the adversity as such will help fortify the person to respond by relying more on his/her relationship with God. A person that lives in the image of God (e.g., Job’s reputation as upright and blameless) will more likely recognize an adversity as temptation, instead of punishment for some wrongdoing. Thus, he/she will be better prepared to respond positively.
LIVING TO RECEIVE GOD’S INTERVENTION We learn through the life of Ruth that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention. She inherited an opportunity to receive a grand blessing because of being a descendant of Lot. However, the opportunity alone would not have been enough. She positioned herself to receive fulfillment of the promise by living in the image of God; which manifested through her compassion, humility, sensitivity to needs around her, and persistent diligence in doing what she could to provide for the needs. Ruth married Abraham’s descendant Boaz; they had a son Obed, grandfather of David; and, thus established a family to link the lineage of Abraham and the lineage of Lot to David, a great grandfather in the lineage of the Messiah. Therefore, we learn through her life that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention, even fulfillment of inherited blessing.
We conclude the study series on Ruth by looking back at her life as an illustration that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention. Ruth inherited an opportunity to become a channel for fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, because her ancestral father Lot was co-beneficiary of the promise by following and assisting Abraham on a mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah. However, the opportunity alone would not have been enough to ensure fulfillment of the promise through Ruth. Her life includes several events in which she took specific action that brought her closer to fulfillment of the promise but could have diverted her away from it if she had behaved differently. Understanding the Godliness of her choice in each case helps us learn that living in the image of God prepares and positions a person to receive God’s intervention.
As we discussed in a previous bible study under Keeping Watch, living in the image of God implies representing God in every human interaction such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and provide opportunities for other people to feel God. Living in the image of God implies a person fulfills responsibilities as God’s provider assistant, willingly and diligently providing service to benefit others when God places a need in his/her path, or accepting service provided by others with heart-felt appreciation and happiness.
The life of Ruth provides specific examples of living in the image of God. First, she chose to live as a widow in order to comfort and assist her mother-in-law to cope with severe adversity. The choice brought her to Bethlehem from her home country of Moab. Second, her humility and sensitivity to the needs of her family led her to seek opportunity to glean for leftover grains. The search brought her to Boaz’s farm. Third, Boaz granted her preferential gleaning access in his field because of her humility, politeness, diligence and persistent effort; and his prior knowledge of her positive interactions with Naomi. In each of these events, she did something positive that advanced her toward ultimately meeting and marrying Boaz, with whom she established an ancestral link in the lineage of the Messiah.
OPPORTUNITY THROUGH RESPONSIBILITY Boaz presented himself to receive God’s intervention when he accepted responsibility as guardian-redeemer. Guided by mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth proposed marriage to Boaz by virtue of the Israeli guardian-redeemer law. Boaz welcomed the proposal but offered the opportunity first to another relative next in line before him as guardian-redeemer for Naomi’s family. The closer relative declined and, thus cleared the way for Boaz, in the presence of an assembly of relatives convened to referee the interaction. Therefore, by virtue of an Israeli law that God sanctioned through Moses to preserve family inheritance, Ruth re-married to Boaz; gave birth to Obed, grandfather of David; thus joined with Boaz to become grandparents in the lineage of Christ.
We continue our study series on Ruth with a discussion of her transition from widowed daughter-in-law to legitimate wife of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s husband. The marriage positioned her to become great grandmother of David and, thus, a link in the lineage of the Messiah. Ruth married Boaz under an Israeli law that God sanctioned through Moses to preserve family inheritance. Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi guided her to propose marriage to Boaz based on the guardian-redeemer law.
Boaz welcomed the proposal but understood that another relative was next in line before him based on hierarchy defined under the law. In his respect for the law and due process, he offered the opportunity first to the closer relative. The relative declined and thus cleared the way for Boaz, in the presence of an assembly of relatives convened to referee and witness the interaction. Therefore, Boaz married Ruth, who subsequently gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David. Thus, Boaz presented himself to receive God’s intervention when he accepted responsibility as guardian-redeemer. The interactions highlight the potential to step into opportunities by accepting responsibilities; in addition to respect for law, customs, and due process.
KINDRED RESPONSIBILITIES Also, the proceedings reinforce our understanding that kindred responsibilities could hold the key to opportunities. The relative that declined his kinsman-redeemer responsibility would likely have decided differently if he knew the offer was indeed an opportunity to become a grandfather in the lineage of the Messiah. Therefore, a person could position himself or herself to receive God’s intervention by fulfilling kindred responsibilities: such as participating in marriages, child dedication, dispute settlement, or providing other kinds of assistance toward the well being of kindred. People that decline such responsibilities could be rejecting opportunities that God placed in their path.
GODLINESS OPENS OPPORTUNITIES Ruth’s interactions with the community during her first season in Bethlehem highlight humility, politeness, respect for authority, sensitivity to needs around her, and persistent effort at contributing what she could to alleviate the needs. The interactions opened opportunities for her to step into the life for which she is known today. As we discuss in a subsequent bible study, the events that happened during this time led to Ruth marrying Boaz, becoming the grandmother of David, therefore, a grandparent in the lineage of Christ. Ruth’s Godliness opened opportunities for fulfillment of a grand blessing in her life.
This installment of our study series on Ruth focuses on events that occurred during the first season after her arrival in Bethlehem. Her interactions with mother-in-law Naomi and with family relative Boaz highlight the value of humility, politeness, respect for authority, sensitivity to needs around her, commitment to doing what she could to alleviate the needs, and persistent diligence at accomplishing her task.
Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem during barley harvest. Having been away for a long time, they likely faced economic hardship because they did not have any farm to harvest. Ruth recognized their hardship and determined to do what she could to alleviate the condition. With the approval of her mother-in-law, she decided to go gleaning (i.e., picking grains leftover from regular harvesting) in any farm that would accept her. She was accepted at the first farm she applied, which happened to belong to Boaz, a close relative of Naomi’s husband. Boaz did not only welcome her in his farm but also offered her protection and preferential gleaning access, because of her humility, politeness, positive work habbit (diligence and persistent effort), and his prior knowledge of her positive interactions with Naomi.
ENDURING BLESSING Interactions between Israelites and Moabites illustrate that earned blessing will endure and be fulfilled at God’s choosing irrespective of other events that may occur in its path. Moabites incurred God’s anger by showing themselves to be a source of temptation to alternative worship and presenting enmity when prior relationships called on them to be friendly. God frowned on their behavior and prohibited Israelites from intermingling with them. Yet he granted them protected territory and selected Moabite daughter Ruth to become a grandmother along the lineage of the Messiah, which fulfills blessing that the ancestral father of the Moabites earned by following Abraham on a mission to establish homeland for Christ’s ancestry.
We continue our study series on Ruth by looking back at interactions between Moabites and Israelites prior to her time. The interactions illustrate that earned blessing will endure and be fulfilled at God’s choosing irrespective of other events that may occur in its path. Moabites incurred God’s anger at various times. They were a source of temptation because they worshiped other gods and lured their friends into their form of worship. Furthermore, they failed to honor friendship that they owed to Israelites on account of relationships between their ancestors. Instead, they sought war against Israelites: invoking a diviner to weaken them with a curse or taking up arms against them when they could. Despite all these, God granted Moabites a protected territory and, several generations later, chose a Moabite daughter Ruth to become grandmother along the lineage of Christ.
These interactions help our understanding that earned blessing and incurred punishment are parallel promises from God that may coexist for a person and be fulfilled separately at God’s choosing. Furthermore, they do not off-set or trade off against each other.
FAITHFUL FOLLOWER AND COMPASSIONATE HOST Lot assisted Abraham on a mission to establish homeland for Christ’s ancestry and earned a stake in God’s promise that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Several generation’s later, his descendant Ruth married Abraham’s descendant Boaz and both became grandparents in the lineage of Christ. Lot performed an act of righteousness by providing food, shelter, and protection in Sodom to angels that he thought were ordinary strangers. His compassion to the “strangers” positioned him to benefit from Abraham’s intercession, whereby God promised to not sweep the righteous away with other inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. God saved Lot on account of Abraham as he destroyed the twin city.
We continue our study series on Ruth by looking back in her ancestry to understand interactions between Lot and Abraham in relation to God calling Abraham (then Abram) to a special mission and Lot’s interactions with his community prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We are interested in Lot because he was father of the Moabites and therefore progenitor of Ruth’s lineage.
FAITHFUL FOLLOWER Lot assisted Abraham on his mission to Canaan and worked with him until their peaceful separation: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” [Genesis 12:1]. As we discuss in a previous bible study (Leading or Following: Right Heart for Strategic Alliance), Christ taught several generations later that God rewards faithful followers: people that assist in his mission and contribute to its fulfillment. Therefore, by following and working with Abraham on a mission to establish a home for Christ’s ancestry, Lot placed himself in position to partake in God’s promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” [Genesis 12:3].
INTERCESSION God revealed himself in human form to Abraham, told him about his judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, and promised to offer the people one more opportunity to repent: “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know” [Genesis 18:21]. Abraham interceded on behalf of the people and God promised to save the city if enough people showed themselves righteous. Lot was saved on account of Abraham’s intercession because he showed compassion to angels that he thought were ordinary strangers. However, other inhabitants of Sodom did not take advantage as they confirmed themselves wicked by seeking to attack and molest the “strangers.”
COMPASSION Lot’s compassion to the two strangers endeared him to God and contributed to he and his daughters being saved as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. God offered a final opportunity for repentance to the people through two angels that visited them in human form. Lot saw the two strangers in the evening, offered them shelter and food, and stood his ground to protect them as Sodomites descended on his house from every direction to attack and molest the strangers: “But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof” [Genesis 19:8]. God saved Lot and his family when he destroyed the city with all inhabitants.