1 Samuel 1 – How to Start a Great Story

The Wizard of Oz is a great story full of heroes and villains, fear and hope, trickery and bravery. Yet, it starts in simple black and white; with a plain and simple Kansas farm girl who has a dream.

Likewise, the book of 1 Samuel is a story of heroes and villains, trickery and bravery, fear and hope. It tells of the beginnings of one of the greatest kings and kingdoms of history, but it starts in chapter one with a simple woman named Hannah from the hill country of Ephraim who longs to have a child.

It might seem that Hannah wants a child to compete with her husband’s other wife, Peninnah. But that’s not the case, since Hannah had only one child and Peninnah had many.

It might also seem as if Hannah wants a child to win her husband’s favor. But that’s not the case, since v.5 tells us that she already had her husband’s favor.

So what was Hannah’s desire for a child all about?

In Hannah’s time, the inability to have children was believed to be a sign of God’s disfavor or abandonment. Hannah’s desire for a child was a longing for God’s favor. That’s why, when God answers Hanna’s longing for a child, Hannah gives the child back to God in gratitude.

All the wonderful stories found in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel…the forming of a mighty kingdom for God and the regal splendor of the golden age of the Children of Israel…are all founded on a simple woman from the hill country of Ephraim who prayed and asked God to be merciful to her and show her that He cared.

This is how you start a great story, a great book, a great movie, or a great life.

Ruth 3-4 – Relationships Should be a Two-Way Street

Note: If you’re not familiar with the story of Ruth, I encourage you to read the book of Ruth before reading further. At least read Ruth 3-4. You’ll be glad you did!

A relationship should be a two-way street.

In Ruth chapter 3, Ruth (at the encouragement of Naomi) pursues Boaz. It was important that she do so, because though Boaz had shown his heart by caring for Ruth and going the extra mile to provide for her, Ruth needed to show that she too was interested in and desirous of him.

Then, in Ruth chapter 4, Boaz aggressively pursues Ruth by masterfully making the proper arrangements to secure Ruth for himself; (even though she was a foreigner and had nothing to contribute to his estate.)

That’s how relationship should work. They should go both ways.

This is a great love story, but it’s more than just a love story between Ruth and Boaz. It’s a picture of the love story Jesus seeks with us! Jesus is our Boaz. The One who desires to secure our future through His provision and protection. Even before we demonstrate interest in Him, He cares for us, provides for us, and has His workers show favor toward us.

But there comes a time when we must actively show our desire and commitment to Him. For a love story is only complete when both partners are responding. A relationship should be a two-way street. (James 4:8)

And just a side note…it was the two-way relationship between Ruth and Boaz that eventually brought King David (the giant slayer) and King Jesus (the sin slayer) into the world. Imagine what your two-way relationship with Christ and with others might do!

Ruth 2 – More Than a Fable

Aesop’s fables are engaging little stories that are both entertaining and instructive. The Book of Ruth is both entertaining and instructive, but it’s more than a fable. There we find the story of Ruth, a destitute foreigner and widow, who makes a commitment to her mother-in-law Naomi.

The story also about Boaz, a man who was not only wealthy, but also kind-hearted and wise. Boaz is referred to as a “kinsman redeemer.” This is a relative who steps in to rescue a wife and a family line from being destitute and extinguished due to the death of the wife’s husband.

Ruth is the story of a person in great need, a person of great benevolence, and the sovereign providential God who brings them together. In chapter 1, you see the great need of Ruth. And in chapter 2, you see God providentially introducing her to the benevolent Boaz.

It’s an entertaining story, but what’s the point? The point is this…every person on this planet is a Ruth. We’ve been separated by death from our first husband (God.) We’re destitute and we don’t fit. We strike out on our own to try to provide for ourselves, but we’re unable to do it on our own. We need help. But God wants to introduce us to a Boaz (Jesus) who will show kindness to us and woo us away from our poverty and into His safety and provision.

The question is, will we recognize the overture of our Boaz and will we respond to His invitation to stay with Him, enjoying His protection and provision.

This is not an Aesop fable, but rather an awesome truth waiting for us to grasp and own!

Ruth 1 – Commitment

These days, absolute and total commitment is more of an ideal than a reality. Employees jump from company to company. Employers lay off workers, then give their jobs to others for less pay. Marriage vows state “till death do us part” but are translated “I hope this works out and we’re lucky enough to stay together.”

The book of Ruth is about commitment. There you see the  commitment of a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law, the commitment of a relative to another relative, the commitment of a man to a woman, and the commitment of God to His people.

Chapter one of Ruth sets the theme of the book by focusing on Ruth herself. After her husband dies, Ruth has every reason to cut ties with her mother-in-law (Naomi). Ruth is a foreigner with no cultural obligation to Naomi, Naomi’s people, or Naomi’s God. As a young widow, it would be perfectly understandable for Ruth to pursue a new marriage and family at home, rather than caring for an old woman to whom she has no further ties, in a foreign land where she knows no one.

Yet, in Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth expresses an unwavering commitment to Naomi, surrendering her life for the good of Naomi. And, as we see later in the book, this commitment changed not only these two women, but the course of history.

This is the type of commitment God wants the readers of Ruth to see. It is the type of commitment he desires from us, because it is the type of commitment He has made to us…though He was under no obligation to do so.

The book of Ruth is our call to be people of commitment…first to God, and then to those around us.

Joshua 23-24 – The Pep Talk

As a kid, I wasn’t very good at sports. When I was in the eighth grade, my parents insisted I play basketball. Two things came out of my short-lived basketball career:
  • I spent most of my time on the bench.
  • I fell and broke my arm the first time I was put into the game!
But there’s another thing I remember…the coach’s pep talks in the locker room at half-time. These talks were always the same…reminding us of what we had learned, challenging us to totally commit to the task before us, and sending us out to prove ourselves.
In Joshua chapters 23 and 24, God is using Joshua to give a similar pep talk to the Israelites. Joshua reminds them of all God has done for them, and how every resource, accomplishment, and victory has come, not from themselves, but from God. Then, he calls them to follow God’s instructions obediently and completely; clearly reminding them of what will happen if they don’t exercise such allegiance and obedience.
And then, the people of Israel declare that they will serve the Lord alone, forever. Three times they affirm this…as if they are all putting their hands in a circle before they break. Then they leave the locker room and go out into the land to prove it. (v. 28.)
In the end, the old leaders pass away, leaving Israel out on the court to prove themselves.
Like Israel, we’ve heard the pep talk. We know the plays. We’ve made the promises. Now we need to prove ourselves by doing everything we’ve been instructed to do. And we need to do this out of complete allegiance to our Coach..our God.

Joshua 22 – It’s Really None of My Business

“It’s really none of my business. “Besides, what right do I have to say anything to them?”

Individualism and personal freedom dominant our world today. They sound like noble ideas, but they actually run counter to what Scripture teaches.

  • God implies that we are our brother’s keeper. (Genesis 4:9)
  • He encourages us to “interfere” in the lives of those involved in sin. (Galatians 6:1-3) (James 5:19-20).

God tells us that we weren’t created for individualistic isolation, but rather for caring community. (Gen. 2:18) (Ecc. 4:9-12).

In Joshua chapter 22, the Israelites on the west side of the Jordan river learn their brothers and sisters on the east side of the river have sinned. They don’t say, “What they do over there is their business. God will deal with them. It doesn’t really effect use anyway.” Instead, the people to the west go to those in the east, and seek their restoration. They even offer to bring their eastern brothers and sisters back home with them and share their land with them. The people of the west cared enough about their eastern brothers and sisters to be assertive and get involved.

This may feel like intruding, but we are our brother’s keeper. We are to get involved when others are drifting into sin, in hopes of restoring them to the community. As God’s people, we are not called to be a collection of individuals, but rather a community of care and concern for one another.

So, in love, gentleness, and humility, get involved in reaching out to your brother and sisters struggling with sin.

Joshua 20-21 – How Binding is a Promise?

How binding is a promise? Some would say, it depends on things like:

  • Who made the promise?
  • What was the promise?
  • When was the promise made?
  • What has changed since the promise was made?

In our day and time, a promise is often considered to be something you can get out of, with the right justification.

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Joshua 12-19 – Is Close Enough Enough?

In Joshua chapters 12-19, you see two different standards on display…

  •  “Close enough for government work.”
  • “A job worth doing is worth doing right.”

In these chapters, you read how the Children of Israel took over and divided the land God had promised to them. Yet, at least four times you read something like: “but they did not drive out the (fill in the blank) from the land.” They almost finished the work, but they left a group of people, who continued to live among them and cause them problems. In other words, the Israelites settled for “close enough for government work.”

But God, through people like Joshua and Caleb, was urging the people toward the other standard: “A job worth doing is worth doing right.”

  • Caleb completely conquered his section of territory, because he followed the Lord completely and wholeheartedly. (Joshua 14:8,9,14.)
  • Joshua cheered on the tribes of Ephriam and Manasseh, telling them they could drive out the Canaanites even though the Canaanites were strong and had iron chariots. (Joshua 17:18.)
  • Joshua asked seven of the tribes how long they were going to wait before taking possession of what God had already given them. (Joshua 18:3.)

In light of all of this, here are some questions we need to ask ourselves…

  • When it comes to the things to which God has called me, do I have an attitude of “close enough for government work,” or an attitude of complete, wholehearted obedience?
  • Do I partially do what God has called me to do, or do I see it as a job worth doing and doing well?
  • Are some of my current problems the result of a lack of complete obedience?
  • How long will I wait before taking full possession of what God has already given me?

If you wonder what God desires from you, check out 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17. Give yourself completely to that which God is calling you. Take every bit of that land!

Joshua 11 – War Takes Time

You have to be careful when you read the Bible, or you could easily be deceived. This statement may sound blasphemous or just plain wrong, so let me explain. I’m not saying the Bible is not true. It is! What I’m saying is that the Bible seeks to communicate truth about God and who He is. Consequently, historical accounts are focused more on that than the details or timelines of the event. If we don’t keep that in mind, we can be deceived into thinking the events we’re reading were accomplished quickly, simply, or easily.

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Joshua 10 – Are You Dependent or Overconfident?

I remember learning to ride a bike as a child. There were times when I had this great boost of confidence. I would think, “I really am doing it! I really am riding this bike all by my self!” Only to look back and find my dad still holding on to the bike and keeping me from falling.

As a teenager, I would often have this burst of over-confidence/cockiness thinking, “I’m in control of my life and can do what I want to!” Only to look back and find my dad supplying the car, the gas, the insurance, the place to live, the food….in short, everything.

Read moreJoshua 10 – Are You Dependent or Overconfident?