Ruth- The Book for 2018

But Ruth replied:

Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you.
For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.

-Ruth 1:16
Is Ruth the book of the Bible for 2018?  Let’s see.  What is the book of Ruth about?  What’s the message?

Ruth is about salvation history. 

We have the book of Judges, that is a wild west, tumultuous time.  In the midst of that time, Ruth traces the family line of king David.

It is the backstory to the story of david.  We see in Ruth, God working among people to save them, individually and collectively.  God works in lives for lives.  Our stories of salvation are connected, in and by God.

Mother, grandmother, widow, field, gate, harvest, inheritance, covenant, promotion, and new beginnings; are some of the topics in Ruth.

The key lesson of Ruth is that God blesses faithfulness. 

Ruth means friendship, comfort, and refreshment.

Kindness, honor, safekeeping, and redemption are also themes of Ruth.

Ruth demonstrates that during the darkest times, we can make the choice to live in God’s story.

A remarkable and unexpected lesson from Ruth is God’s guidance: God working ‘behind the scenes’, to bless covenant keepers for His ultimate glory.  The characters in the story make choices, based on covenant, and kindness; which God orchestrates into a plan for His purpose, blessing, and glory.
Ruth illustrates redemption and reveals God’s providence. 

Ruth is a story of God’s faithfulness of people who were themselves faithful in an unfaithful culture.

Ruth is a book of ‘full circles’:
  • Leadership vacuum to David’s grandpa.
  • Childless to child.
  • Famine to harvest.
  • Bitter to pleasant.
  • Leaving to arriving.
  • Exiting one gate and entering a new gate.
  • Loss in motherhood to new life in grandmotherhood.
  • Blessing given and blessing received.
  • Redemption requested and redemption received.
Ruth is a story of hope and a way out, for dark times.  Ruth teaches that there is always hope and a way out.

Redemption is always possible, because of God.

Ruth is a story about transformed or renewed identity. 

Two widows become a bride and a grandmother.  The grief stricken person becomes joyful through new life, new friends and new family. 

Ruth happens during the time of the Judges.  Some scholars think that it was around the time of Gideon.  Famine is the backdrop and the characters begin in Moab.  The husbands are dead and the ladies are left destitute.

Ruth, chapter 1.

During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land. A man left Bethlehem in Judah with his wife and two sons to stay in the territory of Moab for a while. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife’s name was Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They entered the fields of Moab and settled there. Naomi’s husband Elimelech died, and she was left with her two sons. Her sons took Moabite women as their wives: one was named Orpah and the second was named Ruth. After they lived in Moab about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two children and without her husband.

Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, may have been unfaithful to God, moving from Bethlehem to Moab.  But he may also have thought there was no other choice, seeing life there; because of the famine in Israel.

She and her daughters-in-law set out to return from the territory of Moab, because she had heard in Moab that the Lord had paid attention to his people’s need by providing them food. She left the place where she had been living, accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, and traveled along the road leading back to the land of Judah.

Whatever the case, he died and his two sons died as well, leaving three women.  Naomi had losses and was far from home.  She decided to go home and Ruth decided to follow her.


Naomi said to them, “Each of you go back to your mother’s home. May the Lord show kindness to you as you have shown to the dead and to me. May the Lord grant each of you rest in the house of a new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly.

They said to her, “We insist on returning with you to your people.”

Naomi tried to talk Ruth out of following her, but Ruth decided her destiny was with her mother-in-law.

Her tie to her was more important to her than her homeland.  Her home was with Naomi, wherever she was.

But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands?Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.” Again they wept loudly, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Follow your sister-in-law.”

Ruth is faithful.  She committed her future onto and into life with Naomi. 


But Ruth replied:

Don’t plead with me to abandon you
or to return and not follow you.
For wherever you go, I will go,
and wherever you live, I will live;
your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God.

Where you die, I will die,
and there I will be buried.
May the Lord punish me,
and do so severely,
if anything but death separates you and me.

When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped talking to her.

Everything began to change for both ladies, when they got back to Israel.  They changed locations and then their lives began to change.  They were encouraged and became inspired with plans.


The two of them traveled until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole town was excited about their arrival and the local women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

So Naomi came back from the territory of Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabitess. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

With everything that the two ladies went through, the author tells us that “they arrived at Bethlehem, at the beginning of the barley harvest.”  Bethlehem, means ‘house of bread’ and became David’s city.  You can see the timing is right and that the macro theme of the whole story is David, then Jesus.

They decided to try certain things and exercise faith in honest risk taking.  These two widows found Boaz, who took Ruth as his wife after the first in line guy passed, and Ruth had a baby, who finished the renewal of joy for Naomi.  And that baby, with faithful Moabites Ruth as his mom, became the exponential great grandfather of Jesus.

This lady who was not of Israel by birth, through life’s circumstances that no one could predict, became an Israelite.  Why and how?  Because of her faithfulness to a person and to the God of that person who became her God.
What kind of evangelism would you call Naomi’s towards Ruth?  Did Ruth find out about God through her first husband or her first father-in-law?  We don’t know.  What we do know is that Ruth expressed covenant faithfulness and kindness, mercy towards a widow who was her mom-in-law.
Ruth’s conversion was when she left her homeland to follow Naomi to hers.  Due to Ruth’s faithfulness and covenant love, gracious blessings came into her life.  Naomi was inspired to be kind and helpful back to Ruth, by guiding her to Boaz.
In turn, Boaz was kind to Ruth and the end result was blessing flowing back to Naomi of a new and renewed family life.  And this all happened during the ‘wild west’, dark period in Israel, between Joshua and Samuel.

Ruth is a book about new beginnings.

 This is 2018.  Eight is the number of new beginnings and Ruth is the eighth book of the Bible.

Ruth is a story of salvation. 

It illustrates how God saves us in our story.  Our story becomes God’s story as we become saved.

Ruth is a story about immigration.

 Some preachers might say that it was a big mistake for Elimelech to take his family to live in an enemy country.  They might reason that only bad can happen there, pointing to the man’s death, the death of his two sons, and the lack of grandchildren.

But Ruth, born a Moabitess, decides to immigrate to Israel with her mother-in-law.  What do we have here?  Tender loving care.  Ruth says in a sense, “My story is with your story now.  I will go where you go.  Your people are my people.  And your God will be my God.”

This is the foundation of everything that happens.  The lesson might be something like this:  Good things happen when we decide to follow with the one we love.

Ruth was a good person, kind and faithful, caring and unselfish.  But, her story only takes off when she completely hitches her destiny to Naomi’s.  In other words, her faith was fully acted upon.

It would have been nice if she hugged Naomi goodbye and wept.  It would have been caring if she tried to talk her out of leaving and permanently kept Naomi with her in Moab.

But, when Naomi became convicted that it was time now to go back to her homeland, and reconnect with her roots, and by faith, look for a place to live and finish her life that she was filled with sorrow about; Ruth let her caring of and love for this lady, take her into uncharted territory of faith.

Blessings were released into Ruth’s life because she hitched her destiny to Naomi and her God.  And this is how life has been for many of us.  We love someone and we step into their story, including their walk with God.

I have been like Ruth and had several Naomi’s in my life.  I loved them and they loved me and I made a decision to follow them and their faith in God, together.  And very good things happened, from God.  An adventure I would never have had, if I did not commit myself to each one of those persons, in seasons of my life.

The normal approach was the one taken by Ruth’s sister-in-law, Orpah.  She stayed in Moab and sought her own destiny there.  The normal method of life is that we go it alone and hitch ourselves to others (join them and work with them) only out of self-interest.

Ruth lived her life for the sake of someone else.  She took who she was, a kind person, and offered it to the most important person in her life.  This took her on a path of redemption, new identity, and profound destiny.

____________________________________
Bibliography and for further study:

Winn Griffin, God’s Epic Adventure; pp. 103-104
John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Volume One: Israel’s Gospel; p. 601
LaSor, et al.; Old Testament Survey; p. 820
Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Ruth, NET Bible on-line

Jodi Hooper, Ruth, Bible.org on-line
Younger and Philips (cited), Book of Ruth Bible Survey (article, notes) at gotquestions.org
Thomas B. Clarke, What is a Chiasm?
Robert L. Hubbard, The Book of Ruth (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament)
Tim Hughes, For whom the Baby Ruth candy bar was named

Come Dancing

My love calls to me:

Arise, my darling.
Come away, my beautiful one.
For now the winter is past;
the rain has ended and gone away.
The blossoms appear in the countryside.
The time of singing has come,
and the turtledove’s cooing is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs;
the blossoming vines give off their fragrance.
Arise, my darling.
Come away, my beautiful one.

-Song of Songs 2:10-13

Come dancing.  Have you heard God say that?

What would that mean?  I think that when we dance, we have stopped being passive and instead activated.  Dancing is moving.

When I am moving, I can be guided or ‘course corrected’.  The motion of dancing gives me the ability to be guided.  ‘Come dancing’ is similar to, ‘let’s take a walk”, ‘get up and go’, ‘now, run’.

If someone invites you to dance, they are asking you to join the dance, with them or with others.  The invitation implies the plurality of dancing.  People dance solo or privately all the time, but that is not what this is about.

In God’s story, shared in the Bible, His people are His wife and His bride.  God has always been like a husband who loves and shares with his bride.  This includes going away with God and letting God love us.

God would naturally say to us, ‘let me share with you’, ‘let us eat together’, and ‘come dance with me’.

The life that God has always wanted for His people is a close relationship, like in the old hymn, “He lives”, where it has the words, “He walks with me and talks with me”.  Our God is a relational person who walks with us and talks with us.

That is the backdrop of God saying, “Come dancing”.  And “Come dancing” is different than “Let’s dance”.  God is perhaps saying that there is a dance already in progress,  and He is inviting us to join in.

Did you know that the Bible views dancing as wholesome and is commended?

Did you know that God invented dancing?  Dancing is actually a godly thing to do.
You may not be a natural dancer.  One of the most awkward things I ever did was take part in an audition for West Side Story.  I soon discovered that this was not my thing.  
I remember a very popular Christian teacher, who opined about dancing  He said that since it would be awkward to lead someone to Christ, while dancing, we should not dance.  But he was giving an opinion about youth dancing to secular music: it it ok or not ok?  “Not ok”, he said.

From just listening to this one man, I never knew that there was legitimate, wholesome God-endorsed dancing, in the Bible.  Later, I did discover dancing in the Bible, and I thought that while we read of Jewish people dancing, from time to time, that it must just be cultural; because I never saw dancing in church or in any Christian context.

Dancing in the Bible is not liturgical.  Liturgy is the high church word that means ‘service’, and that is where we get the descriptive title for formal church gatherings called ‘church services’.  We say, “Are you holding services?”, to people starting a new church; and the idea is commonly held that ‘church’ means ‘services’ at a ‘building’, with people.  So, people + building + service = church, is what is commonly held to be the definition of ‘church’.  Only one third of that equation is correct or New Testament.

The NT teaches that the people are the church and the the gathering of the church is not about buildings, small or large, nor is it about service or liturgy.  The gathering is about people gathering in Jesus name, for Jesus mission and cause, in his love that we express towards other followers of Jesus, who have also left everything behind for him, to invite people who do not know him to also follow him.

On the other hand, churches, like synagogues, do have liturgies; ‘things we do when we gather’.

Liturgy equals ‘what we do’.  “What’s your liturgy, man?”

An easy example of liturgy or what we say makes a (real) church service, is singing.  It is hard to recall a church meeting without singing.

Many people, by far the majority in my experience, equate church with singing.  We also equate ‘church’ as being something we go to.  But the NT teaches that the church is something we are.

Today, many people think that church is something you go to, to sing.

But, singing is neither what defines or makes a church.  Singing is a liturgical thing we like to do.  And it feels good too.

Same thing with sanctified dancing.  But some Christians who love to sing, don’t see dancing as appropriate.  Yet, they are both things people like to do to both celebrate and worship.

If church is not a building or services, then what is church?  Church is intimate fellowship with Jesus and each other, around Jesus.  The communion with Him and his people involves sharing.  Sharing stories, sharing food, sharing life and sharing our stuff and money.

Church life may include dancing, but it is not part of the liturgy or service, because the duty, liturgy or service of the church that marks or defines the church is loving one another from Jesus love.

The only liturgy or service direction that we were given is to love one another and serve one another and to go out and tell others about Jesus.

Dancing has a place in church life, when if is spontaneous or celebratory.  The people danced in Jesus story of the two sons and their father, in Luke chapter 15.

And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
-Luke 15:23-5

If Jesus had dancing in a story he made up, that was an expression of celebration and spontaneous jubilation; we can take that as an example of when dancing is a good thing.

In Bible times and today, there has been pagan, cultic and erotic dancing that is not the kind of dancing that believers take part in.  When we suggest that believers can dance in life, or in church, some of us are chagrined, because we think of dancing as worldly.  But the job of the god of the world has always been to corrupt and twist what started off as wholesome.  And redemption means to take those back and put them back to their original function.

Have you ever thought about angels and dancing?  In the same chapter in Luke where Jesus includes the scene of the people dancing, he also says that when sinners repent, that angels experience joy in God’s presence.  The thread, in Luke 15, that ties the reality of angels experiencing joy, with Jesus story of the returned prodigal, is the joy in heaven and celebration on earth.

“What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.

“Or what woman who has 10 silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls her women friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”
-Luke 15:4-10

Jesus has music and dancing in his story.  Many Christians are uncomfortable with dancing and especially dancing in church.  Why would people dance in church, they ask.  The answer is Luke 15 and the admonitions to dance in worship in the OT:

Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and lyre.
Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with flute and strings.
-Psalm 149:3, 150:4

 Music with instruments and dancing, for worship, praise and celebration is from the Bible.  Anyone who would say that instrumental music or dance do not belong in the church, has either not read Luke 15, or they do not see Father God and his family there, of which every church is a part of today.  
In the Bible, there is wholesome dancing, that is commendable.  Dancing is also a metaphor.
If God is saying, “Come dancing”, to you; He might be saying, “Let’s go live”.  When we dance, we draw attention to ourselves, because of all the movements.  God might be saying, “Get up and shine”, like the word in Isaiah.
When you come out to dance, you may be dancing before God, with God or with others.  There is a ‘self-esteem’ lift to dancing, because you are out there and visible and vulnerable.  Others might laugh at you or commend you as you dance.  And when we dance, most of us must let go of our pride, because dancing is humbling.
Dancing, in its putting us out there, in humility, makes us recipients of grace.
There has been a time to sit and watch life go by.  But now is the time to get up and dance.
The voice of the bridegroom summoning you to come, is what empowers you to arise and go.
Jesus never planned to have us live passive lives.  Jesus never planned to have us be a holy people who are enclaved from the world.  And He never intended for us to be experts but not practitioners.

Hear God say, “Come dancing”.

Complaining

All the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron,and the whole community told them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness!

-Numbers 14:2
We live in a complaining culture and most Christians complain constantly.  Have you ever wondered why complaining is a constant thing for many people?  I think it is one of the easiest ways for us to be taken off-track, off-point, fouled-out, de-commissioned or sidelined.
Many years ago, I went to a conference.  And between sessions, we heard people in the halls complaining that the bathrooms were not well stocked.  Many times, in later years I noticed that we could complain that the music was too loud, too soft; or that the a/c was too cold or too stuffy and a hundred other things.
And that is just complaining in church, where all sorts of good things are happening.  We complained a lot more during the other six days of the week.
There are many Bible verses that say that we must have faith.  God does many things, the biggest of which was sending Jesus.  And our little job is to have faith or believe.  We had a saying when I was a boy, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!”
Complaining kills or puts a wet blanket on faith or ‘faith-ing’.  Two people are encountering the same difficulty.  One has faith, holding God in their heart; while the other complains, and turns away from God.
When we complain, we are not having faith, and we are making a choice that is turning away from God.  To pray to God about the difficulty is a whole different matter and is completely endorsed by God, because when we pray, we are exercising faith and turning towards God.
It is wise to turn your complaint into a prayer.  In the story cited in Numbers 14, all of the people complained about Moses and Aaron.  The ‘about’ is the problem.  The better way that would have been if they cried out to the Lord.
They could have said, “God, this looks impossible; what are we going to do!”, or anything along those lines.  And it is the same thing today, with us and our difficulties.  I always think of this line from the song, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”:

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

We are so accustomed to constantly complaining.  Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, podcasts, and ‘news’ articles; are often:

  • Complaints
  • Criticisms
  • Grievances
  • Taking umbrage
  • Seething discontent: murmuring or grumbling
So, as Christians, when we do life, we complain.  And then we wonder why our lives do not work, why we have no power and little authority.
When Christians gather, whether in a tiny group of two or three, or in a small group at a house, or with a larger group in a building; we come with our complaints and grievances, oftentimes against leaders or authority people.
The story told in Numbers 13 and 14 explores the themes of God offering a great gift, that to some seems too good to be true.  And unfortunately, some people take a gift from God a despise it.  They do not accept it and ridicule it as being a cruel joke.
A man or a woman hears about and is given the gospel of Jesus, including what He did on the cross and what that means about God and for us.  And that man or woman rejects the gospel and despises the gift of God.  We might say, “they don’t get it”, “they aren’t ready”, or even, “they aren’t chosen”; and we know that there is this issue of Satan blinding the hearts of people, so they can not see the truth of the gospel.
But what about people who are already saved and delivered from the spiritual blindness that Satan inflicts on non-believers?  What about people who cannot or will not grow up and move on to maturity in their Christian lives?  
What about the figurative mountain of maturity that people refuse to scale, that has gifts for them waiting on each higher level; and many believers choose to live their whole lives in the valley, looking at the mountain before them as being ‘too hard’?
All of Exodus and the first 13 chapters of Numbers, looks forward to the people of God getting into the promised land.  After all that build up and expectation, as a people, they say, “no”.  They turn God down and don’t believe.
They don’t trust God.  A foundation of the life is trusting God.  The Israelites had all those signs and wonders in their history, but when the final exam came or at the moment of truth, their trust was not there.
How does the story of the rejection of God and the promises of God that go all the way back to Abraham and Sarah, apply to Christians today who complain?  Maybe the common denominator is covenant.  They were in a covenant with God that they broke that day and we also are in a covenant with God.
In a covenant, each side promises to do certain things.  It boils down to God saving us and us saying, “yes”, or “yes, I will let you save me, which entails my surrendering my whole life to you”.
When they said, “It’s too hard!”, and when we say the same, we are forgetting the covenant where God says that He does the saving and we do the obeying.  When we begin to talk ‘about’ God and ‘about’ how what God is asking of us is ‘too hard’, we are in trouble.  Another way we do it, is that we talk ‘about’ all our problems and leave God out of the equation.  
We become ‘unbelieving believers’ (oxymoronic).  We do a whole variety of Christian activities, but we constantly express unbelief and covenant breaking through complaining.  We seethe with grievances.  We have little of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
We belong to the community of believers, but we don’t believe.  The story of the Israelites refusing to go into their land of promise is a very tragic and sad story.  And why is it in the Bible, both for the pre-Jesus people and for us?
It is a lesson on faith and obedience.  It is a lesson called “Trust God”.  Back then, under the Old Covenant, and now, under the New Covenant; God brings us to Himself, for His glory; and we must in turn, reciprocally give over our lives to Him, in trust and obedience, by His grace and through faith.
Instead of complaining, pray.  If you are a ‘cry baby’, at least cry to God and let God love you.  If you are fearful, turn to God for comfort and strength.
When someone complains, love them and say, “let’s pray”.  If they have a story and praying with them just is not going to happen, then be like Jesus was with the woman at the well (John 4): listen to her and listen to what the Spirit of God is saying and gives you to say to her that will bring her closer to God.

Valiant: Courage With Determination

“Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”
-2 Samuel 2:7 (ESV)
There is a crossroads that we come to in our lives, when we have to choose to be courageous or not.  One way or another, we are given the discernment of what the right thing is to do.  But to do the right thing will require courage.
There is a word, that we do not use much, that describes this very thing.  And that word is ‘Valiant’.  To be valiant is to show or possess courage, with a determination to do the right thing.
In the story that 2 Samuel 2:7 is a part of, to a group of men, David sends this word: “Let your hands be strong, and be valiant”.  The surrounding context of the story tells us that for these men to turn their allegiance to David, it will be difficult and dangerous.  And that is why David says, “Be strong and be valiant”.
To be valiant is to show or possess courage with determination.  Valiant to a word that is not in most of our vocabularies. To be valiant is to be brave and not cowardly.
Valiant people are the ones you want on your side.  And you call people that you are encouraging to stand with you to be valiant.
Valiant, valiance or valor are words that the writer of Samuel and the writer of Judges use to describe formidable warriors, who exercise the power of their personal strength.  Through Judges and Samuel there is war and there are warriors, and some people are described as valiant or men of valour: brave and courageous.
Valiance is also something you want in someone who is going to lead others.  For leadership, it is not enough to just possess godly wisdom and character.  A leader is a person who also has courage: “Having the courage of their convictions”.  This same Hebrew word, ‘ḥa-yil‘, translated ‘valiant’, in 2 Samuel, is translated, ‘able’, in Exodus 18:

But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They should judge the people at all times. Then they can bring you every important case but judge every minor case themselves. In this way you will lighten your load, and they will bear it with you. If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.” 

Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. So Moses chose able men from all Israel and made them leaders over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.

-Exodus 18:21-5 

Here we have an illustration of the delegation of authority or leadership.  The people that should be selected to lead will fear God, be truthful, not corrupted by bribes, and bravely courageous.  This is an Old Testament, rough draft of the qualifiers for an elder in the people of God.

Back to the story in 2 Samuel:  While it is clear to us that David was meant to be king and that God had rejected Saul, many people, ‘on the ground’ and ‘at the time’, did not get this.  The people had to come around or come to the realization, that David was meant to be their next king and was indeed ‘God’s chosen’.

It is ironic or perplexing for us today to read these stories and see people who are part of the twelve tribes, reject and oppose what we know to be God’s plan or God’s man.  These ideas go along with the saying today that, “God has no grandchildren”, or Paul’s words in Romans 9:6, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”

In other words, we are not born into faith.  We must choose and decide what we believe and who or what we will follow.  My son and your son or daughter must decide for themselves if they will follow Jesus.

David, plainly said or told his messengers to say, to the men of Jabesh-gilead, that he had been anointed king over Judah, after Saul’s death.   He blessed them and said thanks for what you did for Saul, that was kind, and he said that he planned to be kind to them as well.  In that context, David encourages them to be valiant, which means to show or possess courage with determination.

The context of this statement and David’s words, are that there was danger and uncertainty about how things were going to shake out.  Saul’s army or those who had fought for and were allied with the house of Saul and particularly against David, were still unsubmissive, insubordinate and at odds with David and what we, the readers today, see and read as God’s plan.

David is doing diplomacy with the men of Jabesh-gilead.  He said, “God bless you and thank you for showing kindness to Saul.  I am now becoming king and I will show kindness to you.  Be strong and valiant.”  They needed to be strong and valiant because they were in danger from the Philistines, and the Saul faction that was not behind David, would soon be knocking on their doors, asking or demanding their backing.

More of the story that helps us understand how difficult a situation that Jabesh-gilead was in, is the fact, told later, that it would be about seven years before other tribes would get behind David.  This snapshot, part of the larger story, takes place in a seven year, tumultuous window of time, where David is almost, but not yet fully, king of all Israel.

We know David is God’s choice, but in the story, David and our eyes with David, looks for, seeks and invites people to join him as ‘early adopters’.  And it is not simple or easy.  For seven more years, there would continue the last chapter of the civil war between the Saul loyalists and David.

What we learn is that David does not force himself on the rest of Israel, after Judah, but patiently waits for things to shake out.  David, who has already done a lot of waiting, has to wait some more.  David specifically waits on God to fully promote him.

In this context, David sent that message, contained in 2 Samuel 2, asking for support, and he encourages them to be courageous, and to do the right thing.

The word of wisdom in this story is applicable and relevant for us today.  To be shown or to realize what the right thing is to do, but not to do it, is cowardice.  But to have the courage of your convictions, and to do the right thing, in the face of opposition and unpopularity, is valiant.

To be valiant is to show or possess courage, with a determination to do the right thing.

We are called to be a valiant people.  And our war is not against flesh and blood.  We are a warrior people, doing battle against the devil’s schemes.

Valiance is to have courage to do the right thing in the face of adversity and opposition.

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