Isaiah Study: Are We Ever Abandoned By God?

The answer to this title’s question might seem obvious. Some people will read, “Are we ever abandoned by God?” and immediately say, “Of course not!” And yet for others, the opposite answer might seem equally obvious. Many people feel like God abandons them, at least part of the time, and others feel like He’s never really been there at all. We know intellectually that God sees all and says He never leaves us, but sometimes it might still feel like we’ve been abandoned.

The good Christians answer to this conundrum is summed up in the famous footprints poem. We might feel like God has left us alone during the worst times of our lives. However, if we imagine the record of our lives as footprints in sand and see only one set during trying times, then we shouldn’t think God left us to walk alone. As the poem’s final line says, “When you saw only one set of footprints, / It was then that I carried you.”

I love this poem and I think there’s a lot of truth in it. However, it’s not the only answer to why some people feel like God is far away. There are times when He is right alongside us but we have trouble seeing Him because our trials are so bad. Others times, though, He seems distant because we’ve pushed Him away. He hasn’t abandoned us in that sort of situation, but we might not be walking near Him anymore. It’s this second scenario that we’re going to focus on today as we continue our study of Isaiah.

Over the last couple months, we’ve been studying themes in Isaiah 40-66. These are the last 27 chapters of the book, and they’re a record of an extended dialog where God speaks candidly about His feelings, desires, and plans. If you go back and read the very first post, you’ll see I made a list of key themes for further study. That list included “Covenant faithfulness; God never abandons His people” and “Sins push God away from us and we need to own-up to that.” These two points might seem contradictory, but studying Isaiah helps us see how both are accurate.

Image of a woman studying her Bible overlaid with text from Isaiah 60:10, 15, NET version: “Even though I struck you down in my anger, I will restore my favor and have compassion on you. ...
You were once abandoned and despised, with no one passing through, but I will make you a permanent source of pride and joy to coming generations.”
Image by MarrCreative from Lightstock

Sins that Lead To Separation

In Isaiah’s time, Israel was in the midst of a “stormy period marking the expansion of the Assyrian empire and the decline of Israel” that eventually led to “captivity at the hands of Babylon” (“Intro to Isaiah” from the NIV Study Bible). The people of Israel probably thought they had good reason to accuse God of abandoning them. How could He let this happen? Where did He go? God answers this question here in Isaiah 40-66.

Look, the Lord’s hand is not too weak to deliver you;
his ear is not too deaf to hear you.
But your sinful acts have alienated you from your God;
your sins have caused him to reject you and not listen to your prayers.
For your hands are stained with blood
and your fingers with sin;
your lips speak lies,
your tongue utters malicious words.
No one is concerned about justice;
no one sets forth his case truthfully.
They depend on false words and tell lies;
they conceive of oppression
and give birth to sin.

Isaiah 59:1-4, NET

The problem isn’t God. It’s with the people who stopped aligning themselves with His just character. They feel rejected and abandoned by God because they first rejected and abandoned Him. They alienated Him by embracing sins, injustice, lies, and oppression. They left Him like an unfaithful wife running off and having sex with other men. Finally, God had enough. He wanted a divorce–an end to this particular covenant He had with Israel.

This is what the Lord says:
“Where is your mother’s divorce certificate
by which I divorced her?
Or to which of my creditors did I sell you?
Look, you were sold because of your sins;
because of your rebellious acts I divorced your mother.
Why does no one challenge me when I come?
Why does no one respond when I call?
Is my hand too weak to deliver you?
Do I lack the power to rescue you?
Look, with a mere shout I can dry up the sea;
I can turn streams into a desert,
so the fish rot away and die
from lack of water.
I can clothe the sky in darkness;
I can cover it with sackcloth.”

Isaiah 50: 1-3, NET

From God’s perspective, Israel was the one who wasn’t responding. They’re the ones who left Him. In another part of Isaiah 40-66, God says, “you burdened me with your sins; you made me weary with your evil deeds” (Is 43:24, NET). Their evils were so terrible that God says He could not relent from His judgement on them (Is. 57). That did not, however, mean there was no hope. As we learn here in Isaiah as well as other prophecies, God already had plans to set up a new covenant. The author of Hebrews says that God found fault with the people He’d made the first covenant with and so He decided to set up a better covenant based on better promises (Heb. 8:7-13). We’ve seen the fulfilment of this prophecy already, when Jesus Christ came to earth.

Image of a man reading a Bible overlaid with text from Isaiah 59:1-2, 20 WEB: "Behold, Yahweh’s hand is not shortened, that it can’t save; nor his ear dull, that it can’t hear. But your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. ... 
A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from disobedience in Jacob.”
Image by Anggie from Lightstock

Reconciliation and Remarriage

In Isaiah, God’s promise of a new covenant is closely connected to the Servant Song prophecies pointing ahead to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Two of these describe Him as “a covenant for the people” (Is. 42:6; 49:8). The Messiah ushers in a New Covenant, and the promise of His coming reinforces the promise that God will not abandon His people permanently. The punishment and separation were only temporary. There’s a way to fix it, and God promised to do just that.

“Don’t be afraid, for you will not be put to shame.
Don’t be intimidated, for you will not be humiliated.
You will forget about the shame you experienced in your youth;
you will no longer remember the disgrace of your abandonment.
For your husband is the one who made you—
the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name.
He is your Protector, the Holy One of Israel.
He is called ‘God of the entire earth.’
Indeed, the Lord will call you back
like a wife who has been abandoned and suffers from depression,
like a young wife when she has been rejected,” says your God.
“For a short time I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.”

Isaiah 54:4-7, NET

Notice the marriage imagery here that’s undoing the divorce we saw earlier. The one who created us, our Husband, is the one redeeming us from the death penalty of sin and welcoming us into a new marriage covenant. Along with that, He gives us a new name that we talked about in more detail a few weeks ago in the article on the “new thing” God is doing.

You will be called by a new name
that the Lord himself will give you.
You will be a majestic crown in the hand of the Lord,
a royal turban in the hand of your God.
You will no longer be called, “Abandoned,”
and your land will no longer be called “Desolate.”
Indeed, you will be called “My Delight is in Her,”
and your land “Married.”
For the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married to him. …

They will be called, “The Holy People,
the Ones Protected by the Lord.”
You will be called, “Sought After,
City Not Abandoned.”

Isaiah 62:2-4, 12

As we read through this story of divorce and marriage; of separation and reconciliation, we see that for a short time God did “abandon” His people. That abandonment wasn’t a real/permanent situation, though, and it was prompted by them abandoning Him first. He was so committed to fixing this breach between Himself and His people that Jesus came and died for us. That’s how even in the midst of discussing the truth that sin separates us from Him, God can also say, “I will not forsake them,” ” my covenant of peace will not be removed,” and “I will make an everlasting covenant with you” (Is. 41:17; 42:16; 54:10; 55:1-3). In the same section of scripture where He describes where the separation came from (our sins), God also shows where the reconciliation comes from.

Image of a smiling woman with her hand raised in worship overlaid with text from Isaiah 54:10, WEB: “’For the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed;
but my loving kindness will not depart from you, and my covenant of peace will not be removed,’ says Yahweh who has mercy on you.”
Image by Pearl from Lightstock

Never Abandoned

You might be wondering what this dramatic story laid out in Isaiah has to do with us today. We’re living about 2,000 years past the start of the New Covenant. We were never literally part of this first covenant marriage, divorce, and new covenant reconciliation that ancient Israel went through; we started out as part of the New Covenant. This is still the history of our faith, though. We’re part of the whole grand love story that God is writing, even though we come in near the end.

We can see the grand metanarratives outlined through the Bible play out on a smaller scale in our individual lives as well. If we push God away and reject His covenant, we can read the words written to ancient Israel in Isaiah’s time and realize that we’re the ones who cause our disconnect from God. Then we can also read the encouraging reconciliation passages, and realize that God wants us to come back to Him. He has not abandoned us and He will not leave us alone–He wants us in a relationship with Him even if we’ve messed up and need to ask His forgiveness when we come back.

Image of a man sitting on a beach with the blog's title text and the words "When God talks about abandoning His people, it’s always temporary and He’s not the one who walks away first. He wants us in a relationship with Him even if we've messed up and need to ask His forgiveness when we come back."
Image by Aaron Kitzo from Lightstock

“Turn your ear, and come to me.
    Hear, and your soul will live.
    I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” …

Seek Yahweh while he may be found.
    Call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts.
Let him return to Yahweh, and he will have mercy on him,
    to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Isaiah 55:3, 6-7, WEB

God values law, righteousness, and judgement, yet connected with all of that comes His love of justice, mercy, and reconciliation. He’s grieved when we sin, which causes separation, and He’s overjoyed when we repent and come back. Like the compassionate father in Jesus’s parable who ran to meet his prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), God is eager to welcome us back into a relationship with Him. He intends for the covenant we’ve entered with Him to be an everlasting one.

Near the beginning of this post, I quoted the start of Isaiah 59: “Behold, Yahweh’s hand is not shortened, that it can’t save; nor his ear dull, that it can’t hear. But your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Is. 59:1-2, WEB). If you keep reading through to the end of that chapter, you come to this statement about a redeemer:

“A Redeemer will come to Zion,
    and to those who turn from disobedience in Jacob,” says Yahweh.

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says Yahweh. “My Spirit who is on you, and my words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart out of your mouth, nor out of the mouth of your offspring, nor out of the mouth of your offspring’s offspring,” says Yahweh, “from now on and forever.”

Isaiah 59:20-21, WEB

God wants us to be in such a close relationship with Him that we’ll never feel abandoned. As Jesus said when He told His disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit, “I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you” (John 14:18, WEB). When we’re keeping covenant with God, there’s such a close relationship that His spirit dwells inside us. And if we have drifted away, we can repent and come back to the close relationship that God offers His beloved people.

I also want to mention that there are times we may feel abandoned by God even when we haven’t done anything wrong. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life and when He hung on the cross He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34). God the Father did not abandon Jesus, but Jesus was in so much agony that it felt as if He were alone and He raised His voice in an anguished lament. Sometimes that’s how we feel, too. In those times, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus empathizes with this feeling and that God has not truly abandoned us (Heb. 4:14-16; 13:5-6). His promises of help and redemption still apply, and He will make good things happen for us in the end.

Featured image by Inbetween from Lightstock

Song Recommendation: “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe

The Purpose of Your Redemption

Often when we bring up redemption, we talk about how Jesus redeemed us and why He needed to. We’re sinners–people who’ve broken God’s laws and in doing so earned a death penalty. Jesus shifted that penalty onto Himself. When we accept His sacrifice for our sins, the burden of that sin and the associated death penalty is lifted away so we can live forever with Him.

As incredible as all that is, there’s more to redemption than simply saving us from our sins. God has a purpose for us after we’re redeemed. There’s something He wants us to do and someone He intends for us to become. I find this an exciting thought. God doesn’t start a wonderful work in our lives and then just let us sit there wondering, “Now what?” He gives us a purpose and a goal as well as a dynamic relationship with Him.

Leaving Egypt To Serve God

The way that God delivered ancient Israel from Egypt is a type of how He delivers us from sin. There are so many parallels between the Passover story and the crucifixion story that we don’t have time to go into them all now. In summary, they’re both stories of God’s incredible redemption of a chosen people for a specific purpose. In Exodus, the Lord gives Moses a purpose that he’s supposed to share with Pharaoh for why God wants to take Israel out of Egypt.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has said, “Release my people that they may serve me!

Exodus 9:13, NET

God sets up a contrast here. “The Egyptians ruthlessly made the children of Israel serve” as slaves (Ex. 1:13, WEB), and now God commands them to free His people so they may serve Him instead. This command is repeated over and over early in Exodus as Moses and Pharaoh go back and forth on whether Egypt will obey God’s demand to let Israel go.

The Hebrew word translated “serve” is abad (H5647). It’s used 290 times in the Old Testament. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament connects it with two root words that mean “to do or make” and “to worship, obey” (entry 1553). It’s used both of forced labor for an oppressive master and for joyful service given to God. Abad is also the word used for the type of service the Levites performed in God’s tabernacle and temple. As such, when used of serving God, it involves worship and obedience in our actions. We might say, then, that the reason God redeemed His people is so that they could serve Him as joyful worshipers doing actions that glorified Him.

Image of a woman with her hands raised in worship, with text from Exodus 1-0: 3 and 9, WEB version: "Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and said to him, “This is what Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. ... “We will go with our young and with our old. We will go with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds; for we must hold a feast to Yahweh.”
Image by Ruby-Rose from Lightstock

“So That”

There’s a simple phrase that Paul uses in Romans and 2 Corinthians to indicate God redeemed us for a purpose. Jesus died for us and we are crucified alongside him “so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” and “so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter” ((Rom. 6:6, NET and Rom. 7:6, WEB; emphasis added).

Now that we’ve been redeemed, we’re to serve God and be reconciled to Him because “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:20-21, NET, emphasis added). In these passages, Paul draws our attention to the purpose for redemption. God accomplishes our salvation so that something can happen next. Peter uses this type of language as well.

you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:5, 9-10, NET

Like ancient Israel (whom Peter references by quoting Hosea), we are called and chosen for a specific purpose. It is “so that” we can proclaim God’s virtues and “offer spiritual sacrifices.” In other words, we’re redeemed so we can serve God, just as the children of Israel were in Exodus.

Next Steps in Light

Image of a man walking in the woods reading a Bible with the blog's title text and the words "God didn't start a wonderful work in our lives just to leave us wondering, "Now what?" He gives us a purpose and a goal."
Image by HarveyMade from Lightstock

So far, we’ve seen the purpose God has for us after redemption described a few different ways. We’re to serve God in the spirit. We’re to become righteous like God. We’re to proclaim His virtues and goodness. Putting it all together, we could sum up our purpose as sincere, obedient worship that results in righteous action.

The book of Hebrews dives deep into this idea. It lays out Jesus’s relationship to the Old Testament sacrifices for sin, explaining how He fulfills them all by offering Himself once as a final, perfectly effective sacrifice. It also describes what we should do next after receiving redemption.

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Hebrews 9:13-14, NET

So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe.

Hebrews 12:28, NET

Look at the wording here. Jesus died for us and purified us so we can “worship the living God.” Then, because we realize that God is offering us incredible gifts, including a place in His kingdom, we should “offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe.” These verses also echo other passages that talk about the importance of worshiping God in the spirit (John 4:23-24; Phil. 3:2-3).

As redeemed people, we walk with God in a new, spiritual life. His goal in redeeming us is to make us fully part of His family. Along with that position as family members in covenant with God comes a purpose for us to accomplish. We have a role now; a way that we’re supposed to live. We ought to serve God in the spirit of the law, modeling His righteousness and worshiping Him joyfully. After all, when we consider the gift of redemption, it’s clear that we have much to be joyful about.

Featured image by Pearl from Lightstock

Song Recommendation: “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave

Titles of Jesus Christ: Firstborn and Heir

Who is Jesus Christ? Some consider Him a prophet, some a teacher who had some good things to say about peace and love, others say He was a madman. As Christians, we know Him as the Son of God who died to save us from our sins, rose again, and continues to be actively involved in our lives. But what does it really mean that He’s God’s Son, and why does that particular title matter to us?

God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. (Heb. 1:1-2, all scriptures from WEB translation unless otherwise noted)

Firstborn’s Birthright

In Old Testament times, being a firstborn son was a big deal. You were the bekor (H1060), eldest son  and therefore the bekorah (H1062, birthright) was yours. You received a double portion when the father divided his inheritance (Deut. 21:15-17). There was a special blessing involved (Gen. 27). It was so important that any disruption to this birthright was cause for Biblical writers to take special note (Gen. 25:31-34; 48:9-19; 1 Chr. 5:1-2).

According to a message I recently watched on YouTube titled “Hebrews: Yeshua’s Amazing Qualifications,” the rights of the firstborn traditionally included a few other things as well. The eldest son acted as the family’s spiritual leader, acquired spiritual favor and honor, and inherited the blessings of Abraham. Heirship involved authority over the father’s possessions. Before there was a Levitical priesthood (which Yahweh accepted in place of the firstborns, as noted in Num. 3:12-13, 41; 8:16-18), the firstborn would even act as priest for the family.

Many parallels between Jesus and the Hebrew firstborns are easy to spot. He is the family’s spiritual leader, acting as “head of all things to the church” under the Father’s authority (Eph. 1:15-23). He is also High Priest of an order that supersedes the Levitical order as the Levites superseded what came before (Heb. 7:11-28). And that’s not where the parallels end. Read more

No Life for the Wicked: Looking at Redemption in The Rise of Skywalker

As many of you know, I’m an avid Star Wars fan. As such, you can imagine my excitement going to see The Rise of Skywalker last month wearing my ’50s style Anakin-inspired dress. I’ve seen the film twice now, and both times left the theater in tears. I hated the ending, for reasons I’ll discuss in a moment, and found it a heartbreaking, hopeless conclusion to the Skywalker story that I’ve been following my whole life.

Many people love this film and I don’t want to take away from their enjoyment of it or criticize them for disagreeing with me. I’m glad for those who could enjoy it, and saddened that I cannot since it’s the first Star Wars film that I haven’t loved despite whatever flaws it might have. I do, however, want to talk about a choice made regarding one character’s fate. And since I’m a Christian blogger, I want to talk about how much it relates to some Bible scriptures I happened to read the night I saw The Rise of Skywalker for the first time.

Warning: major spoilers follow for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Read more

The Bridegroom’s Pledge

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know my favorite way of looking at the Lord’s relationship with His people is as a love story. This seems to be one of God’s favorite analogies as well, since He weaves betrothal and marriage imagery throughout His word.

Pentecost, which takes place tomorrow, isn’t often talked about in the context of God’s love story. It’s best known among Christians as the day when the disciples received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and as a harvest festival from the Old Testament. But just a little digging into this day’s context within a Hebrew mindset and Jewish tradition reveals how strongly it’s connected with the love story God is writing between Him and His people.

A Promise To Come Back

The Bridegroom's Pledge |
Photo by Brooke Cagle on StockSnap

The Jewish name for Pentecost is Shavuot, which means “sevens” in reference to counting seven weeks of seven days from the Sabbath after Passover. Pentecost is then kept on the Sunday after the seventh Sabbath (hence the name “Pentecost,” which means count fifty). The root word for Shavuot is shaba, which means the number seven as well as an oath or pledge (TWOT entry 2318 and 2319).

In Jewish wedding traditions, brides are chosen by the groom’s father just as God the Father chooses whom to call into relationship with His Son. The groom pays a bride price for her, just as Jesus (or Yeshua, to use His Hebrew name) bought us with His own blood (1 Cor. 6:15-20). The betrothal agreement was a covenant, the same type of relationship that God has made with His people at least as far back as Noah. Once the bride consents to this arrangement the marriage covenant was sealed with a cup of wine, as Yeshua sealed His covenant with us at Passover (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).

Then the bridegroom went away to prepare a home for His bride, which is what Yeshua told His disciples He’d be doing while He was gone (John 14:1-3). A Jewish bridegroom would be gone for about one to two years before returning to claim his bride. He didn’t just drop off the face of the earth, though. He left a gift with her and made an oath or pledge to come back.

A Gift For The Bride

When Abraham’s servant found a wife for Isaac, he “brought out jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rebekah” (Gen. 24:53, WEB). Similarly, Yahweh talks about the lavish gifts of clothing and jewelry He gave Israel when He entered into covenant with them (Ezk. 16:8-14). Our bridegroom, Yeshua, did something similar for us on the day of Pentecost. Read more

Gleaning Firstfruits

Before getting to today’s topic, I just wanted to mention how much I’ve enjoyed doing an actual count-down this year instead of just putting Pentecost on the calendar. It’s helped me focus my Bible study and kept me in mind of the timing for God’s calender rather than feeling like Pentecost sneaked up on me. Today is the 7th Sabbath in our count, which means Pentecost is tomorrow!

And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. (Lev. 23:15-16)

Though this is one of the easiest Holy Days to see evidence of in the New Testament (largely due to the giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts), I think we’ll spend most of our time today in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Ruth.

Lawns of Gleaning

Pentecost, also called the Feast of the Firstfruits/Harvest/Ingathering, is a harvest-time festival. The count to this day begins with a wave-sheaf “of the firstfruits of your harvest,” and the offerings on the day of Pentecost include “two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah” of “fine flour” “baked with leaven” that are described as “the firstfruits to the Lord” (Lev. 23:10, 17). After a lengthy passage of instructions for Pentecost, there is a verse that does not quite seem to fit.

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 23:22)

This is a repetition of a command also recorded in Leviticus 19:9-10, a command so important to God that He not only gave it twice, but He put one of those commands in the passage describing His most Holy Days. We can get some idea of how this practice works, and perhaps why it is so important, by looking at the book of Ruth.

‘Ruth Gleaning’ watercolor by James Tissot (1896)

There’s a note in my study Bible that says, “by New Testament times” the book of Ruth was being “read at the Feast of Harvest (Pentecost) because much of the story is set in the harvest fields.” It was one of five books “read publicly at the Feasts of Israel.”

I dare say we all know the story. Naomi and her family moved to Moab during a famine in Israel. There, her two sons married. About 10 years later, Naomi’s husband and sons were dead and she returned home to Israel accompanied by her daughter in law, Ruth. We jump into the story as Ruth and Naomi arrive in “Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest” (Ruth 1:22).

So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. (Ruth 2:2-3)

As we read further, we see Boaz went above and beyond what God’s law strictly required a landowner to leave for the poor. He offers Ruth protection and water, and asks her not to glean in any other field where he could not guarantee her safety (Ruth 2:8-9). Behind-the-scenes, he told his reapers to let grain fall for her on purpose and not to stop her if she wanted to glean even among the sheaves of grain (Ruth 2:15-16).

Unmerited Favor

There is much of Christ’s character visible in how Boaz treats Ruth when she first arrives in his field. Like Boaz did for Ruth, Jesus offers us His personal protection. He asks us not to stray from His laws because they are designed to keep us safe from the consequences of sin. He says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). Our response to this unearned favor ought to be much the same as Ruth’s.

So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10)

This is much the same question David asked God in Psalms 8:4 and 144:3 — “What is man that You are mindful of him?” Every human is small and insignificant compared to God, and those of us who God has chosen for His particular attention are unimportant even by human standards.

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:27-31)

"Gleaning Firstfruits" marissabaker.wordpress.comGod is gleaning His firstfruits from the world’s rejects. He is taking people who are nothing and turning us into something glorious. He is taking strangers — like the Moabite Ruth — and adopting them into His family through Christ’s sacrifice.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. …Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:13, 19)

Our Redeemer

The adoption process by which we become God’s children is, as we discussed last week, linked inseprably to Christ’s redeeming work (Eph. 1:5-7; Rom. 8:23; Gal. 4:3-7). There is a parallel for this as well in the story of Ruth, in the role Boaz plays as a kinsman redeemer.

And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.” (Ruth 2:19-20)

My study Bible says this last phrase could be translated “one that hath right to redeem.” We find the basis for the practice of a kinsman redeeming land in Leviticus 25: 25, 48-49. To prevent an inheritance from leaving the family, someone who was closely related, financially able, and willing to fill this role could redeem land that was sold. In some cases, as here in Ruth, when the man who the land originally belonged to had left a childless widow, the redeemer was expected to marry her per the command in Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

We see all this played out in Ruth 4:4-10 where Boaz must offer a more closely related kinsman the opportunity to redeem Naomi’s family’s land and marry Ruth.  This man refuses (which, being the hopeless romantic I am, I suspect was Boaz’s plan all along).

Stepping back a chapter and looking at Ruth’s request that Boaz play the part of a redeemer, we read about a practice that seems rather unusual. Since Naomi counsels this action and Boaz knew how to respond, I assume Ruth asking him to be her family’s redeemer (perhaps even this method of asking) was not considered unusual in their culture. Per Naomi’s instructions, Ruth lies down at Boaz’s feet when he is asleep and waits for him to notice her.

And he said, “Who are you?” So she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.” (Ruth 3:9)

Looking at the Hebrew for “wing”, The Complete WordStudy Dictionary for the Old Testament says “the idiom to spread (one’s) wings over means to take to wife.” This same word is used in Ruth 2:12 when Boaz tells Ruth, “The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” Ruth is asking Boaz for a type of protection that mirrors the relationship between God and Israel. The comparison is drawn even more strongly reading God’s words to Israel in Ezekiel 16.

“When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord God. (Ezk. 16:8)

In the same way, we who are part of the church have been “betrothed you to one husband” — Jesus Christ — and will be married “to Him who was raised from the dead” after He died in order to redeem us (2 Cor. 11:2; Rom. 7:4).

Taken together, the book of Ruth and the Feast of Pentecost teach us about the glorious unmerited favor that God pours out on us. We were strangers like Ruth and were not only invited to partake in what God provides, but cared for deeply and betrothed to His own Son, who gave His life to redeem His firstfruit Bride.