WOMEN IN SCRIPTURE: RUTH

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s been a little too long since I’ve taken the time to dive further into my ‘Women in Scripture’ series. With that being said, I found that the story of Ruth ultimately paints a beautiful picture of fierce loyalty, how God orchestrates provincial meetings and the beauty of rejoicing in everyday life. God is working behind the scenes in this story and shows us the meaning of trusting his timing. Ultimately, we can see how the lineage of King David and ultimately that of the Messiah, Jesus Christ is also woven throughout the pages of Ruth.

‘But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.’

Ruth 1:16

BACKGROUND STORY

Ruth story has both captivated and significantly challenged me over the years in many ways. Her bravery, faith and obedience have encouraged me to be a better follower of Christ. Her name is Ruth, and for someone so new to the faith in the book of her namesake, she shows us a map for our own journey that is uniquely remarkable.

One of the things I adore most about her story is that it is subtle, much like our own. She doesn’t have a great position or come from a famous, godly family. She’s a widow from an enemy nation with no prospects. Yet, God moves so mightily in her story and uses it to encourage millions.

If you read the book, and I hope you do, you’ll be able to see the fingerprints of God all over her life. You won’t see God’s voice thunder down like in other stories, or see miraculous happenings that change everything. What you do see is her life being gradually led by a God who she believed in, and at the end, you can look back and see how He orchestrated natural events for His divine glory.

There are many things we could learn from her story but five, in particular, are worth mentioning.

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. DON’T LET YOUR PAST HOLD YOU BACK

At the beginning of the book Ruth is living in her home nation of Moab; a place and people that the Israelites frowned down upon. On top of that, she has lost her husband and is now living with her widowed mother-in-law. She also lost her husband without a child, some believing she may have barren.

The pain Ruth must have been in was immense. As she embarked on her first journey to Israel, she must have been nervous. Ruth had so many reasons to shrink into a shell and live in obscurity. But she didn’t. Ruth didn’t allow her past to hold her back but believed there was life still to be lived and move forward in that confidence.

You have a purpose regardless of what lies behind you. Although your confidence might be wavering, your calling does not.

2. BE FULL OF FAITH

Ruth showed remarkable faith for such a young believer. Faith that there was still a purpose for her ahead. Faith to believe that God was who He said He was. And faith to believe that God would provide for her and Naomi.

If you’re in an unsure place, start with faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

You might not be able to see what God is doing, but trust that He is moving.

3. VALUE GREAT CHARACHTER

Character is who you are when nobody’s watching. Ruth had no idea her story would be showcased for millions to read and yet showed incredible character in the obscurity.

She went above and beyond in showing respect and honor to her bitter mother-in-law. She worked hard in the field to provide food for her and Naomi. Ruth proved to be a woman of integrity with Boaz. Everything she did represented a woman of great character and God honored her.

Be a woman of character. Cut the gossip in the name of a prayer request. Share with your husband the shopping addiction you find yourself in. Stop relying on food to make you feel better. Be the woman you know God created you to be and Jesus died so you could embrace.

4. BELIEVE REDEMPTION IS POSSIBLE

Against all odds, redemption is always possible. Ruth had no reason to believe she had earned anything but believed God was everything she needed. Ruth believed God would provide and in that place of faith God did a miraculous work to redeem Ruth.

He took a poor, hurting outcast and healed her, provided for her, and brought her a great love with Boaz.

Redemption is possible in your life. No matter where you come from or what you’ve been through, God has a plan for you that far surpasses all of that.

5. LEAVE A LEGACY

Perhaps one of the best parts of Ruth’s story is the legacy God established through her. God brought her and Boaz together and they conceived a child. That child would be in the lineage of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Ruth, a Moabite, was made part of the lineage of Christ.

If you commit your life to God and your calling is firm in Him, there is no limit to what God can do through you. Leave a legacy to your family and those all around you–a legacy of faith.

It wasn’t an easy life for Ruth. She grew up in a wicked nation. She suffered the loss of her husband. She followed Naomi to a foreign land and lived in poverty. All very difficult circumstances to say the least. However, as I pointed out at the beginning of this article, we can see God’s fingerprints all over Ruth’s story and there is no doubt He was at work the entire time. It was a long and difficult journey, but it ended with redemption. Ruth started out empty, but she ended full!

No matter what your season may be, remember that God is at work in your life. He is weaving a beautiful tapestry; it’s not finished, but it is in progress. Know that God is gracious, good, and that He loves you. If you find yourself discouraged on this journey, take another look at the life of Ruth and remember that God works for the good of His people.

XO,

What is one of your favorite women in scripture and why? Let’s chat in the comments!

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HE WILL HOLD ME FAST

Coming off of a tumultuous 2020, it came more apparent to me that the Lord is truly the ONLY sustaining thing in our lives. No parent, spouse, sibling or friend can fill a void that is only meant for the Lord is fill.

With that being said, my journey with the Lord hasn’t been perfect. It has been far from what I wanted it to be if I’m being completely transparent. Between COVID shutting down most church services two months after we moved to Asheville and not being the most diligent in my personal time with the Lord, my faith has taken a hit.

Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in his holy sight, He will hold me fast.
He’ll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.

Sitting in a local coffee shop on my day off not too long ago, however, ‘He Will Hold Me Fast’ happened to scroll through the Shane and Shane hymns playlist I was listening to at the time.

Hymns have always been my speed of worship and I have loved the amount of truth packed into each song. The minute I stopped to listen to this particular song, however, I stopped what I was doing and just listened, simply in awe of how much the Lord’s nurturing nature.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain. – Hebrews 6:19

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.

JUDE 24-25

‘He Will Hold Me Fast’ reflects on the wonderful truth that God continuously watches over and sustains our faith. Scripture is clear about this saving grace:

‘He Will Hold Me Fast’ proclaims a hope that surpasses our weakness. 

With our weaknesses continually before us, it’s easy to believe that one day they will certainly nullify our faith. We need to drill it into our hearts and minds that God is the one who sustains our faith. Habershon repeats the phrase “Christ/He will hold me fast” over 18 times to emphasize this truth and lodge it into the deepest chambers of our hearts.  

When we settle our souls on the truth that Christ alone keeps us, we can believe the doctrine of justification by faith alone more fully. It’s one thing to agree with Paul that God saves us, not our works (Eph. 2:6). It’s another thing to believe it’s also God who keeps us. If we don’t do the saving in the first place, why would we think we do the keeping? 

Verse one fixates on Christ keeping us through our fears, the turns of life, our temptations, and the weakness of our desires for God:

I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast

Verse two tackles the question of the security of our souls:

He’ll not let my soul be lost
His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost
He will hold me fast

The bedrock of our eternal safety is Christ’s sacrifice. As the logic goes in Romans 8:32, how will God let us go if he paid for us with his own blood?  

Verse three moves further still into the realm of Christ’s return and His safekeeping of our souls until that day. It also features the hope of the finished work of Christ and the closed case of our righteousness through the One who bore our guilt and paid our penalty.

For my life He bled and died

Justice has been satisfied
Raised with Him to endless life
Till our faith is turned to sight
When he comes at last

Take a moment today to truly listen to the lyrics if you haven’t before. It is a powerful hymn that has reminded me more times than not that the Lord is constantly fighting for us. Let it resonate with you as you go about your day today and rejoice in His goodness.

‘He Will Hold Me Fast’ is a reminder that God is in control, is trustworthy and will keep His children in His arms into endless life.

For anyone who is struggling with navigating their faith or have endurance through trials, this song can be used today as it was originally: to encourage the believer with full assurance that what God starts, He finishes.

Not only will God keep his people, but he delights in doing so. Not only does he hold us fast, but he does so with great joy. There is no safer place to be in the universe than hidden with Jesus in the heart of God’s delight.

He began a work in you and is looking to complete that work. Our sins may be many but His mercy is more. He is persistent in pursing His children and keeping us accountable. Rest in the fact that He is fighting for you, always. Taste and see that the Lord is good, y’all, because He is the ultimate sustainer. Happy Sunday!

Do you have a favorite hymn? If so, let me know in the comments below! ♡

XO,

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WOMEN IN SCRIPTURE: The Woman at the Well

As my second segment in my Women in Scripture series, I chose to highlight on the woman at the well. As one of the most most read passages in the Bible, the woman at the well teaches is about us about how Jesus meets us where we are in our lives.

We are first introduced to the Samaritan woman at the well when she is mentioned in John 4. As Jesus travels through Samaria on the way to Galilee, he stops to rest. Most Jews avoided this route at all costs, but Jesus chose to walk this road to specifically seek this woman out. Tired from his journey, Jesus commands the woman to draw some water for Him to drink. The Samaritan woman quickly responds with, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” As a preface for those who are unsure of the context, Jews do not often share things in common with Samaritans. The response this woman gives Jesus is very fitting in that she is unsure of why he is approaching her.

Jesus broke three major cultural Jewish customs right off the bat. First off, he spoke to her despite the fact that she was a woman. Secondly, she was a Samaritan woman and the Jews traditionally despised Samaritans. For centuries, Jews and Samaritans rejected each other simply on the basis of race. Lastly, he asked her to fetch him a drink of water, although using her cup or jar would have made him ceremonially unclean.

Historically and culturally speaking, woman during this time period tended to draw water from the well during the early morning hours. Because she was drawing water at midday alone is more than likely because she was wanting to keep the shunning to a minimum. She has been been married five times previously and was living with a man that was not her husband. In addition to her being an “outsider,” we also see in scripture that she was an openly curious person. She felt comfortable enough to not only talk with Jesus but also ask Him particularly pointed questions.

After Jesus asked for a drink of water, He quickly reveals himself to this woman as the living water, which is something that is mentioned many times in Scripture. The woman craved this type of water He was speaking of, but was unsure of how to achieve it. In the flesh, she was only hoping for a water to quench her thirst to make her trips to the well lesser. In that moment, Jesus talks to this woman about her immorality and infidelity. He understands that she is shameful and afraid to admit full responsibility, but takes time to explain the importance of the true meaning of eternal life through Him. Jesus uses living water as a metaphor for the Spirit that meets people’s thirst for life in relationship with God (John 7:37-39). Jesus says that the spiritual water that he provides brings people eternal life (4:14).

The story of the woman at the well is a rich example of hard truth, redemption and acceptance. Jesus accepted her as He accepts us, too. He knows our past in its fullest and loves us despite our failures, flaws and very sinful nature. We, too, can be like the woman at the well. We can be too ashamed to admit to our wrongdoings before the Lord. However, the Lord uses ordinary people for extraordinary causes.

Be obedient and don’t be afraid the approach the Lord boldly, just like this woman did. Our sin is the very reason that the Lord went to the cross and died a gruesome death. Jesus’ mission on this earth was to reach all people. He came for the blacks, whites, Latinos, outcasts, unfaithful and poor. He came to live for us to experience an abundant joy and grace.

WOMEN IN SCRIPTURE: Esther

More so than ever, women in scripture have fascinated me and captivated my time in scripture reading. Like all things in the Bible, these women all served a great purpose and do an amazing job of portraying a story to us modern-day women (and men).

With each woman, I will dive into their role as it plays out in scripture and how it can better relate to our lives today.

For my first powerhouse woman of the Bible, I chose Esther. Esther is the seventeenth book of the Bible and means “secret” or “hidden.” We know , however, that Esther’s story is quite the opposite.

Esther was born during a time of Israel’s exile and their disobedience to the Lord.

As a part of Esther’s story, she:

1. She lived in exile.

Esther and a significant number of the Jewish people lived scattered throughout Persia after the Babylonian exile. Although they had been granted freedom to return to their homeland, many of the Jewish people stayed in exile rather than go back to a war-torn Jerusalem.

2. She was an orphan.

According to Scripture, Esther had no parents. She had lost both her mother and father and was raised by her older cousin, Mordecai. (Esther 2:7)

3. She was taken captive.

The Persian King, Xerxes was displeased with his wife and sought her replacement. Naturally, he made a decree in order to gather to himself all suitable virgins in the region.

So when the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. (Esther 2:8)

We read in Scripture that Esther was young and exceptionally beautiful. We can also see that, from the language used here, Esther didn’t have much say in the matters that unfolded. She most likely didn’t submit a résumé or raise her hand excitedly to volunteer for the harem. She was young, she was pretty, and she was taken.

4. She was raped.

This part comes as a shocker to people, even to those who have read the whole Megillah as part of their yearly Purim celebration. But the Scriptures are pretty clear about what happened.

Now, when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women – when the young woman went in to the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.” (Esther 2:12–14)

The virgins, who were all quite young, were escorted to the king, who is said to have been approximately 40 years old at the time. They were taken one by one, for him to sleep with. They didn’t return to the other virgins, but instead were added to the number of the king’s other concubines (sex slaves without wife status). No other man could ever be their husband, and they never saw the king again unless he was “pleased with them.” In short, the king test-drove all the models before making his purchase, and he did so with Esther to replace his former queen.

5. She risked execution.

When Mordecai learns of Haman’s (the king’s advisor) plot to annihilate all of the Jewish people, Esther is pushed to center stage. Mordecai sends the queen a message, telling her to throw herself before the king and beg for mercy on behalf of her people. This wasn’t as easy as it may have sounded. Esther knew that anyone who approached the king without first being summoned was killed – unless the king was in the mood to extend his scepter and spare their life. What Mordecai was asking her to do could have easily been the last thing she ever did.

But Mordecai said: “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13–14). Hello, Jewish guilt.

Esther, Mordecai, and the Jewish people fasted and prayed. Then, Esther went before the king.

Thankfully, the king held out his scepter. He heard her case and granted her requests.

God used both Mordecai and Esther in a powerful way to deliver the Jewish people from obliteration.

Esther wasn’t a cheerleader. She wasn’t Mordecai’s sidekick. By spending a moment focusing on Esther as an individual and addressing the very real and horrible things this woman of God endured, we are able to more clearly see her character and courage and God’s redemptive love at work in spite of the sins of man.

He chose a woman who had everything taken from her – her parents, her freedom, her virginity – and He gave her everything. He used someone who, due to gender, culture, and circumstance, was powerless and invisible and made her the pivotal, formidable heroine. Let that sink in.

Esther’s story is a powerful reminder that God can bring about new life, redemption and freedom, even when it seems an impossible feat. We can also rest assure that especially in a time in major turmoil over the upcoming 2020 election, God is ultimately sovereign over the heart of King. He knows who will be named President, but rest assured in knowing that God appoints leaders and uses them to accomplish His plan––whether they are Godly leaders or not. 

“Behold, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

Let us be more like Esther today. Let us remember that God uses ordinary people in major ways and to not allow difficult circumstances make us bitter. Let us be bold in all aspects of our lives and to go forth to make disciples of many.

Remember that God is working behind the scenes, even when we can’t see it or feel that He is close. He is fighting for His children, always. Lean into the promises of God today. He is fighting for you.


Alex in Asheville