Refresh & Restore – September 16, 2021

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.[1]

Ephesians 2:1-10

We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

Greetings, Sojourner!

Over the past week, I have been contemplating our last discussion regarding the good news of the gospel (and the reality of sin and the bad news it brings). Honestly, I cannot imagine life without that “but God” moment – the moment where He crashed into our lives and changed everything.

We have seen this change the life of a man who had never walked until he met Peter and John on their way to the temple. We saw that the greatest change was not his walking away freed from his burdens but running to worship and proclaim what Jesus had done through His followers. Then, we saw the beauty of Jesus’ demonstration of love in His sacrifice on the cross. There is no more beautiful picture of sacrificial love than one who would be willing to die to reconcile – to change the status – of His enemies.

Today, we get the opportunity to look at the same truths from a different angle. It is an awesome thing to see how we were once enemies, but God reconciled and adopted us. It is an amazing miracle for a man to say that He had never walked but God healed him. Now, we are going to look at the amazing miracle that takes place in the lives of every sinner who is saved: we were dead, but God gave us life!

This passage is life and death serious, so I do not want us to miss anything. We are going to dive in sentence by sentence, sometimes phrase by phrase.

Dead in Our Sins

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…. (vv. 1-2a)

This is an extremely tough reality. It is tempting to excuse Paul’s talking about death here as merely a metaphor to talk about just how bad sin is or as an illustration that could happen. It is tempting but untrue. Death did not exist until sin was first committed. In fact, the verse that immediately follows last week’s passage states clearly that “just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

When everyone’s ancestors Adam and Eve sinned against God by breaking His commandment, they were exiled from the garden, removing their access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:23). That exile meant death, which was what God promised in Genesis 2:17. Adam and Eve never ate of the tree of life again, and, even though he was 930, “he died” (Genesis 5:5). All of his sons were sinners after him, and so on and so on until you and I lived. All of his sons after him died, and so on and…well, you get the picture. Sin and death continued and will continue until Jesus Christ comes again and restores everything as He said He would (Acts 3:21).

If you are in Christ, this is supposed to be what you “once walked” in, but death is the reality that everyone faces because of the reality of their sin. Paul uses two words here to describe the sin. Understanding them brings the terrible nature of our sin to bear more than simply looking at their English translations. The word for “trespasses” basically means to step off of a path or “fall by the wayside” [2]. It works out of the understanding that God, being holy and righteous and the Creator of all things can prescribe a way that is best. Our “trespasses” occur when we seek our own way instead of His. The word for “sins” was an archery term that meant missing the mark or bullseye. The reality is that, in our sin, we are “missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is God” [3].

…in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…. (v. 2)

Again, it needs to be reiterated that – for those who profess to be saved, to be born again through Jesus – these realities should fall into the “once walked” category. If one’s life is still plagued with unrepentant sin, it is necessary to look at how the current reality may be evidence that the fruit of your life is not of Christ but of “this world” and “the prince of the power of the air”.

The “course of this world” has become more and more fallen since the Fall in Genesis 3. And, more and more with each passing year, people are captivated into following after Satan – whom Paul calls a “prince” here (“ruler of this world” – John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; “god of this world” – 2 Corinthians 4:4). Sin continues as those aligned with Satan’s agenda (and their own selfish agenda of indulging their own sin), and death seems to reign.

…among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind…. (v. 3a)

Here again we see Paul contrast the new life in Christ with what should be our former life when he says “among whom we all once lived”. He illustrates how the lives of the dead and living are in different spheres. Those living “in the passions of [their] flesh” are not concerned with pleasing God but with “carrying out the desires of [their] body and the mind”. In Romans 6:23, which I find myself quoting often describes the end of living for sinful passions – “the wages of sin is death”.

…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (v. 3b)

To be a child of wrath is the opposite of being a child of God, but every child of God was once under God’s wrath (Romans 5:9-10). That is a result of our “nature” – descending from Adam. But that does not mean that it is Adam’s fault. No, to paraphrase Tyler Perry, we can do bad all by ourselves. Our sin occurs when we find ourselves, “like the rest of mankind”, tempted by our “own desire” and falling into the reality that when “desire…has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

Sin and death is clearly our beginning, but, thank God, it does not have to be our end.

Alive in Our Savior

But God, being rich in mercy…. (v. 4a-b)

I cannot read through today’s passage without vv. 4-5 causing my voice to be filled with excitement. Paul sharing the reality of but God here is such a needed contrast to all of the death and bad news of vv. 1-3! Not only that, it is how God changes the reality of death to the hope of eternal life; He is “rich in mercy”!

Church people talk a lot about grace being undeserved favor, but this passage is a particularly good example of the beauty of mercy. Mercy is also undeserved but not because it is favor. No, mercy is the undeserved withholding of punishment that we do deserve. The first three verses of this chapter show how much we deserve death, but that only highlights how rich God is in mercy – He abounds in it. He lavishes it on us.

But God…because of the great love with which He loved us…. (v. 4a, c)

I often find myself wondering why God would spend His mercy – even though He is rich in it – on a sinner like me. He gives mercy because He loves. He gives grace because He loves. And His love is as great as He is rich in mercy and grace! This resounds throughout the Bible, throughout Jesus’ teachings in the gospels. Time and again, passage after passage He tells us He loves us. There is no greater love (John 15:15)!

…even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…. (v. 5)

The most amazing aspects of His love is the timeline. He loved us “when we were dead in our trespasses”. Indeed, God “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)! He meets us where we are, amid sin and death, and offers us salvation. Those who respond to His loving offer in faith are saved from sin and death by His grace alone. More than that, it is eternal life (John 3:16) to be spent with Him – “alive together with Christ” – who can promise life after death because HE IS ALIVE!

…and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (vv. 6-7)

Jesus paid the price for our sins, knowing fully that we “were dead in [our] trespasses” (Colossians 2:13) and fully intending to forgive “us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” by “nailing [them] to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14)! He offers the opportunity to move out of the realm of “this world” and “the prince of the power of the air” to be “seated…with Him in the heavenly places” where He will continually “show [us] the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness”! That’s good news! What’s more is that He paid the price for our sins by bearing our sins “in His body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) – by dying in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21), yet “God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24)!

But there is hope for those who are saved by Him. There is a life on earth for those with the hope of eternal life between the time of salvation and heaven.

Living for & Walking with Christ

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (vv. 8-9)

It is important to note when talking about the good works – the fruit (Galatians 5:22-23, Matthew 7:15-20) – that accompanies being saved. Salvation is clearly the result of what God has done for us in Christ and not His response to how good we are. Just as we cannot clean ourselves up and come to God but come in weakness and sin to be cleansed by Him (1 John 1:9), our boast needs to be in what He alone has done (2 Corinthians 10:17, Galatians 6:14).

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (v. 10)

Our works do not earn our salvation. But “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). When God saves us and we are “born again” (John 3:3), He has more for us than a humdrum life waiting to die and go to heaven. As my favorite octogenarian, L.G. Schmitz says often: “God has a plan for your life!” He does! We get to spend the rest of our lives on earth sharing His Life with others! We are supposed to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14), not to set ourselves apart and put ourselves on a pedestal but to give an example of the love, grace, and mercy that Jesus showed (and still shows) us. Once you are saved, you begin realizing that you “are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This was not a purchase of a slave but the price to be adopted as God’s child (Galatians 4:4-5)! And we have the privilege and responsibility to plead with everyone we can with the Word and the works God gives us to “implore [all God allows us to meet] on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20) – to let them know that there is mercy, love, and life greater than our trespasses and sins!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 2:1–10.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[3] Ibid.

Refresh & Restore – September 9, 2021

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.[1]

Romans 5:6-11

We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

Greetings, Sojourner!

As we continue to look at the idea of “but God” – that God intersects Himself into the lives of people, even our own, we are going to delve more and more into what is known as the gospel. You probably feel very comfortable with the idea of the gospel, but you may not feel as comfortable defining it. At its very simplest it means “good news”, specifically the good news about what God has done for us in Jesus. The specific Greek word that our word gospel comes from (evangelion) is a compound word made up of the words for “good, well” and “proclaim, tell”, giving the meaning that we should be going and telling the good news of Jesus.

In our current world, good news is all too often associated with bad news. Many people (unfortunately, many church people fall into this category) are now bad news people. They (often, we) thrive on bad news. My friend Jamie describes those people as always having their horse in a ditch; no matter their situation, its always the worst. Mainstream media thrives on terrible news, the next always out devastating the earlier. I talk to students every day whose days are consistently worse or the worst. I have to fight within myself to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated” instead of “things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). When asked how I am, I find myself saying phrases like “making it” or “I’m present” even when things are actually going well.

Realistically and biblically speaking, things are going to continue escalating – even for those whose joy is in the Lord – showing us that “in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1). Yet can we not rest in assurance by holding “fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23)? Can we not rejoice that our God remains strong and unaffected by the realities of bad? To a certain extent, we may even have to ask whether the good news of the gospel can be good without news of the reality of evil, wickedness and sin – even and especially in our own hearts.

In today’s passage, the presence and existence of sin and its impact on lost sinners makes the good news sweeter. It is, after all, sin that reveals our need for a Savior. So, today, we are going to look at the reality of sin and God’s wrath toward it to understand how those who are saved can say that they were once sinners, but God redeemed them – once were enemies but God reconciled them, even still.

Give Me the Bad News First

In this section of Romans, Paul uses several words to talk about the existence of what we will call bad news: “weak” and “ungodly” in v. 6, “sinners” in v. 8, “wrath of God” in v. 9, and “enemies” in v. 10. Before we dive into these words and their effects, I would like to remind you of our passage from last week’s devotion where we looked at Peter preaching that repentance and turning from one’s sin is what brings the “times of refreshing…from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20) – that the reality of the bad news move people’s hearts to turn from their sins to the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ! So, we will move through the words listed above and hope that God moves our hearts to repentance, faith, and hope in Him.

The words “weak” and “ungodly” in v. 6 are fair and valid descriptions of the before of anyone who is saved or the reality of all who are not born again, redeemed, or saved by Jesus. To say that we were “weak” is to say that we could do nothing to save ourselves. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), illustrating that all of our work – all we can accomplish – is sin and “sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). In reality, it is our own sinfulness that separates us from God and makes us “ungodly”. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was tempted to sin in “every respect” that we have yet remained “without sin”. Sinners are his opposites. It leaves us “separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

You would think that is about as bad as the news could get. But, then again, we have yet to get to the “wrath of God” in v. 9. This is definitely not a popular or comfortable topic, even for people who crave bad news. Spiros Zodhiates defines the word translated “wrath” here as “the effect of anger or wrath, …  punishment … from God, referring to divine judgment to be inflicted upon the wicked”[2], so it is a reference to the reality of hell (Matthew 3:7, 10:28, 23:33; Luke 16:23; Romans 1:18, 2:8; Colossians 3:6; Revelation 14:10, 20:13-14). God does have wrath toward sin. I am a sinner myself, so that scares me more than I have words or ability to describe. The reality of the bad news is made complete when, in v. 10, we realize that being the focus of God’s wrath classifies us as His “enemies”.

As I said, this bad news frightens me because I know me! I know that what the Bible says about my sin and my heart is true! But I also know that my story does not end as an enemy on whom God has and is going to pour out His wrath. I know that I deserve it, but my story takes a turn with the reality that all of this is true, but God…!

Alright, Give Me the Good News Now

As I have stated several times, bad news makes good news better! Water is never more refreshing than when you have been laboring on the hottest day. One’s health is never more valuable than after facing death or disease. Loved ones are never more cherished than when experiencing great loss. And no one will ever turn from their sin to the Savior without the reality of sin, death, and the wrath of God!

If you looked at our passage for today, you know that this is not a passage of doom, gloom, and terror. No! This is a passage of redemption, salvation, and life! Each of these realities that we have looked at as part of the bad news has a rescue available through faith in Jesus Christ!

Yes, sinners are “weak” and “ungodly”, but at the “right time” Christ gave His own life that they may believe in Him and live! He came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) that they may be “found in Him, not having a righteousness of [their] own [actions and deeds], but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9)!

It is in His willing sacrifice for sinners that He “shows His love for us” (v. 8). In America, we have a long heritage of people willing to serve their country, to give their lives if the need arises, so that the American people can have the freedoms we celebrate. Yet we also have prisons full of wicked men and women for whom no one would dare to die. Our American soldiers have gone up against and fought evils from Nazi fascism to terrorist despots and beyond. Yet Christ’s sacrifice stands apart even from theirs. He – our “blessed hope”, our “great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) – demonstrated “the great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4) by reminding us “that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8).

This is a love that we cannot fathom. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up because we are too weak to do that. He did not wait for us to find goodness in ourselves because we are ungodly. He did not wait for us to come for Him because He came for us! He came for us while we were sinners. He came in righteous and redemptive love while we were still facing the reality of His wrath as His enemies. That’s good news! There is no better.

The Depths of God’s Love for Sinners Like Us

I am afraid that my trying to illustrate just how good this news is will fall short, and, ultimately, it will because He is better and more powerful and more loving than any feeble human words could describe. So, I want to draw your attention to the reality of what that love cost Him. Let His Word move on your heart and clarify this.

  • God’s love cost Him His Son (John 3:16): “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
  • Jesus did not deserve to die in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21): “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  • Jesus bore our sin that we may have life in Him:
    • (1 Peter 2:24) “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.”
    • (Colossians 2:13-14) “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
  • His resurrection means that His love continues forevermore!
    • (vv. 10-11) “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
    • (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures….”
    • (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

No matter the reality of the bad news of your sin, you can look to the Savior. Your reality may seem dire, but God alone determines your eternity.

Will you trust in Him and in His great love today?


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 5:6–11.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

Refresh & Restore — August 19, 2021

We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

This week, instead of a written devotion, John Goldwater and I looked at the blessings and genealogy at the end of the book of Ruth and discussed what they show us about God’s redemptive plan. It is our prayer that this kind of gospel conversation helps you to see how God’s redemptive plan involved ordinary sinners just like us and how God continues to do so today!


Keith Harris: Welcome to this week’s Refresh & Restore [devotion]! We have a special guest today; John Goldwater, say, “Hello”.

John Goldwater: Hello!

Keith: This is going to act as an epilogue to our Ruth series. So, I’m going to read our Scripture passage, and we’re going to have some interesting conversation if nothing else.

11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 12 and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”[1]

Ruth 4:11-12

18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.[2]

Ruth 4:18-22

If you have been listening/reading, you know we say we are affiliated with Christ Community Church – a cool place. So, John, whatever this turns out as is what we will have.

John: Awesome. I’m excited! Thanks for having me.

Keith: You’re welcome! As we look at this, one of the things I wanted to talk about is how at the end of the book of Ruth, you’ve got this fairly weird blessing that ends up pointing to the genealogy of Jesus, specifically David and Ruth. So, I’m going to just read a section, and, then, we’ll just kind of talk about it. You kick off whatever you think, and we’ll pause every so-often.

John: Awesome.

Keith: The first thing, you’ve got these elders, they’ve just seen Boaz pass the sandal with the unnamed not-the-redeemer, and looking at how Boaz is now going to be the redeemer. They say, “May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.” So, talk to me about that picture of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah.

John: Yeah, Jacob, Rachel, and Leah – and their cohorts, their handmaids who also added to the family – were extremely important to the nation of Israel for building up the twelve patriarchs. But it doesn’t happen in a way where we would say it’s traditionally good. It’s not a great model for home life, marriage, domestic stuff; like we would suppose they would. They’re in the Bible – they’re wives, they’re leaders – they have good qualities, but it was a dysfunctional home. Usually we think that makes us disqualified, but it seems like that wasn’t the case for Rachel and Leah. 

Keith: Right. It’s definitely not the thing where if we were talking to our kids today or to someone who is about to get married, we’d say, “Wow! We hope you have a long happy marriage of our great-grandparent!” In this case, it’s not. So, in this genealogy at the end of this time of the Judges, everyone is doing what “was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). You definitely see a picture of a whole situation that amasses on other situations like you say with Jacob, Rachel, Leah, the handmaidens, getting back in with Esau and everything co-mingled. It’s just a huge mess.

John: Yeah. It’s a big mess. When I preached on it, I called it “Putting the Fun in Disfunctional”. And we just don’t think of Bible characters that way. It’s pretty cool that they’re in this blessing like this because it kind of tips God’s hand to where He says, you know, “I know what they’ve done; I know who they are.” And, yet, He chose to work through them – with them. That’s pretty awesome.

Keith: It is. And that’s definitely a theme that we see in the book of Ruth that none of the characters…. And we’re very careful to say characters and not heroes, necessarily. Boaz definitely was a – his name was a literal pillar of the temple (1 Kings 7:21), but he himself was imperfect. His mom, Rahab, was a prostitute, but God redeemed that whole situation. You get that beautiful picture. Which moves on to this blessing that, I have to think probably did not make sense to them at the time. Like, maybe God’s Spirit? What do you think?

John: Well, for sure, God certainly inspires His Word, and I think that’s still true for us today in the sense that we may say things and are not quite sure of the whole significance of it. And the significance of the genealogy that you read, they would have no clue. They were just living life. The fact that God was shaping them and their family, as imperfect as they were, to bring out the perfect and only Messiah for mankind. That’s pretty mind-boggling.

Keith: Absolutely. So, you look as God’s Spirit moves on them – at the time, again, they didn’t know that what they were saying was even going to be a part of God’s Word, but they move from there with Rachel and Leah to “may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to [her father-in-law] Judah”.  Ummm….

John: Yeah, we’re calling DHS on them. You know what I’m saying? You’re calling child protective services on them. This is…something went horribly wrong in the Judah-Tamar story. And, because God is our redeemer, He takes our mess makes it a masterpiece, and it’s incredible….

Keith: …and chooses that to be the entire tribe, the entire basis, for that lineage. The entire family tree literally hinges on Israel to Judah. And there were other things that we might be tempted to say, we don’t know that it’s worse, per se, from a human perspective, what Judah did, but God knows what He’s doing. And it’s probably best we don’t get to pick in these situations.

So, you’ve got Rachel and Leah, and Tamar – talking about redeemers, the whole Boaz situation, Judah never should have been in the position to be in that. RIght, he had promised the third son after the first son had died, and then the “issue” with the second one. {John laughs.} Yeah, you can look that one up in Genesis. 

John: That’s right. Look up the word “issue” in Genesis.

Keith: Yes. {Both laugh.} We’re not going….

John: We’re not going to tell you that. You have to look that one up yourself. 

Keith: Yes, we’re not going to go into that. But there wasn’t a redeemer. He says he’s going to promise [Tamar] his son, and, then, Tamar has her people watching Judah while Judah’s people are watching Tamar. They both try to catch each other at the same time, and they, well, they caught each other. And had twins.

John: Wow. Tamar was in a desperate situation, and, you know, she felt like her back was against the wall. Her father-in-law was not – and he wasn’t keeping his word. He was at least very delayed in it. And, nonetheless, this is who God chose. This is the shaping of the genealogy. It doesn’t look perfect to us, but it was perfect because that’s the way God wanted it. It’s pretty wild.

Keith: It is. Like I said, we probably have more to identify with Jacob, more to identify with Judah, with Tamar – our backs against the wall, making the best decisions we think we know how. But we keep running back to that same problem as the end of the book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his eyes” (Judges 21:25). Ultimately, that wraps us up. We’ll take a break, and come back and talk about the branch of the genealogy from David’s side.

Alright, so when we look at this next part, we’ve already read the genealogy at the end of Ruth 4. I want to shift now and just, kind of, hit it from a different direction.


The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah….[3]

Matthew 1:1-6

You see a lot of familiar names that we’ve already talked about. You have Jacob father of Judah. We know the whole situation: Jacob, Rachel, Leah, Judah, Tamar; it even mentions all of that. I think it’s cool. I think you said when we were talking [earlier] that we, being on the other side of this get to see the full story. Why don’t you talk to that just a little bit, the full side knowing that this leads to Jesus.

John: It’s really awesome. It really shows, in my opinion, that God is in control, and it gives us a reason to trust. Whether our family history is messed up, you know, in the day-to-day life, we see the mess, we feel the pain, we smell the stink of what’s going on in this world. But there’s a bigger Story. God has a plan. God is weaving together a beautiful tapestry of lives and purpose, and we can’t see it all. 

So, we look at the genealogy, and it has a sense of being clean – being sanitized – if you just look at it and read through it. But when you stop, like we have and you tap on certain areas, you go: oh, man. It got even worse when we got in the New Testament because we bring in David who father’s Solomon by the “wife of Uriah”. And it doesn’t go into, well, who’s the wife of Uriah? And the sinful mess that brought that about. But we see that God used it. God used it all. Now, we don’t – I always have to caution myself when I think of other folks. We don’t have to make any excuse for sin. We don’t need to go out making our own mess. We live in a pretty messy place, and it just happens. But we don’t need to be fatalistic because a lot of folks get that way too now. You know: well, I can’t do it, my parents, upbringing, I just don’t know what I could be good for….

Keith: Or, what’s the use…? I’m going to mess up again.

John: That’s right – just throw in the towel. A genealogy like this, rightly understood, really can make a big difference in this. The first two names: {this is the book…}. These are like our big hero names, and we know the dirt on them. We know the fear and the lying that Abraham, the father of faith, got caught up in. We know the sin of David, the immorality, the cover-up, betrayal, and murder that he got involved in….

Keith: …with the “wife of Uriah”….

John: …OF Uriah, who is in the genealogy of Jesus.

Keith: With that epithet.

John: Yeah. It’s right there. It’s like the both/and. We’re living in our own time, like these people were. Again, we see the mess, we feel the pain, we go through the struggle, but when you see it in the genealogy, it’s like you see it from God’s perspective. God says, yeah, I still used all that for my glory. 

Keith: Right. And I think that is a good example. One of the things you said was sometimes when we read through the genealogies we get this sanitized view. I think part of it is that we don’t…read through the genealogies. We know the parts. Sometimes we have a very Precious Moments, children’s bible view of these things when God has an accurate view of us. 

We’ve been coming back to this verse a lot at Jesus Saves Bro and at Christ Community, I guess over the last month, 1 John 2:1-2: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin…”  – that’s our ideal, sanitized view – “but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

John: That’s good news!

Keith: It is. You should make that a catch-phrase.

John: That could be a catch-phrase. Hey, that’s good news. That’s something worth telling the whole world about. When we say for folks, just leave me alone or I’ve tried Jesus – tried church – I’ve tried all these things…. It’s like, maybe you just need to let God do what God [does]. He saves. He redeems. Whatever mess you’re in, I daresay, I know I’ve had my share of mess. Then, I read David’s mess, and I feel like I’m just a baby-messer. I’ve just got baby mess in comparison. 

Keith: And I think that’s a good view of it because multiple times in the Scripture – in the Old Testament it was prophesies of David that when basically…Samuel’s talking to Saul saying, hey, your kingship is over; God’s going to send me to get a man who’s after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Then, we see David – he kills Goliath – all these things that give him that hero status – but all the while there’s no perfection. There’s humanity. And it’s in that promise that God made [to] David that one day somebody would be on your throne. I mean, just looking at that, you follow the history of Israel…after Solomon, the kingdom splits, and then, ultimately, after they end up in the exile because of more humanity – more sin – you have people in the lineage of David [like] Zerrubabel who comes back and is just a governor. Like, they’re rebuilding Jerusalem but they don’t….

John: There’s no king.

Keith: There’s no king, there’s no throne.

John: There’s no wall for a minute. No temple. I mean, they’ve got to rebuild from scratch.

Keith: But one thing they don’t have to rebuild is the promise of God – the redemption of God. They didn’t need Zerrubabel sitting on a throne. They’ve had all of David’s grandsons and all of that mess. Now, they’re looking for that Messiah-King.

John: Yeah, who’s going to endure forever. He’s going to be the King over God’s Kingdom forever.

And God used imperfect people – very imperfect – to bring that about, to bring His plan, to bring His promise to fruition. That’s awesome. That’s just the awesome thing about God [being] worthy, He’s brag-worthy. You don’t boast except for in the Lord. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17). We can say, Lord, you didn’t let our weakness spoil Your plan. You didn’t let our sinfulness – our mess – ruin Your promise. And that’s stout. That’s frank and awesome.

Keith: He is willing to let us participate. He redeems us. There’s the verse that L.G. quotes all the time, Ephesians 2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

That He chose us when we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2), knowing full well the gamut when we were enemies – when we weren’t even on the same team. And He died for us, and knew what He alone could do with us. It’s cool.

John: It is cool. In going over these genealogies and looking at the people, to me, it’s always been a cool thing. You know, I guess I’m interested – maybe you, have you ever thought, God shows us these things about some of the people – I wonder what’s the dirt on the other people? You know, we don’t know all these other guys. We assume that maybe there wasn’t dirt, but no…. We know they had dirt, too; it’s just not listed.

Keith: I think that goes back to the unnamed redeemer. It’s tempting to look at it as cut-and-dry; like, oh, you’re the closer redeemer. Obviously, there was some play there. Elimilech didn’t have a brother sitting in the wings. He didn’t have a brother who was supposed to redeem. You go back and look at Deuteronomy 25, past the brother, there ain’t a list. There ain’t a genealogy. Someone could redeem, but none of them had to. And so it’s tempting to want to judge the unnamed guy harshly because he didn’t want to be a redeemer.

John: Strangely enough, he could have already had a wife that he loved and didn’t want to take on another. Imagine that, right?!

Keith: Or some unknown situation….

John: …not enough money, not wealthy enough….

Keith: What makes the lack of the name there is that he didn’t participate in the redemption. Ultimately, that’s going to be the difference. Not us participating in redeeming but us partaking in the redemption Jesus Christ offers.

John: A door was open to him, and he didn’t take it. We don’t know why.

Keith: We know they didn’t give his name. And they make a huge point to not say his name.

John: Hey, you could have been used to be a part of the genealogy. That’s like life though. We don’t always know. We don’t know what God’s doing. For this guy, he just missed – he was so close…. Again, he might have had very legit reasons.

Keith: And, obviously, God had a very specific plan for all of this. You go back and you look…Rahab….

John: He wanted Rahab’s boy in there!

Keith: And that’s another cool thing – we looked at it early on in the [series] where we realize that Naomi’s prayer for Ruth is that God “deal kindly” with her. Go back and look in Joshua, and Rahab’s deal with the spies was, hey, deal kindly with me. That hesed….

John: There’s plenty of hesed in Ephrathah.

Keith: That symmetry that God agreed – deal kindly; God agreed [again] – deal kindly. And then you get that whole cool picture.

John: One of the things we’re studying in the book of 2 Kings right now – that we notice is that God tells these guys things. Like He told Jehu, you’re going to have four generations to reign on the throne and when that was accomplished, the writer tells us that was the fourth one so God’s Word is fulfilled. And so much of Scripture is like that. God says it, and we see the fulfillment of it. God’s never going to forget anything. You know, if He promised to be kind to a prostitute in Jericho, you know, He’s going to keep His Word all the way down the line. That’s just God.

Keith: And, I think it was W.A. Criswell who kind of did a little play on the scarlet cord that was tied to signify, here’s where we are…. It’s really easy to see that scarlet cord of Christ work through God’s redemption.

John: It is, all the way through the Scripture.

Keith: And it’s cool that we get to participate.

John: Thank You, God.

Keith: Amen.

We’ll do one more little, short section after…break.

For our little wrap-up section, John and I have been chatting, talking about this next section. And one of the things that kind of comes just from our separate, yet shared, experiences is that it’s easy to convince ourselves that our failures are catastrophic. So, we want to kind of bring this back in because we’ve been dancing around the idea – and just haven’t said it yet – we are regular people. And you who are listening/reading are regular people; you have sin and failures, but, if you trust in Christ, He is the same God who dealt kindly with all of these that we’ve talked about. So, we’ve got some verses to kind of wrap it up and bring it together.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.[4]

Titus 2:11-14

You look at that first part, and we mess that up quick – self-controlled, upright, godly lives. Well, no checks there. But “waiting for our blessed hope”…. So, talk to us about this, John, and kind of bring it together so we can understand.

John:                    This is the lynchpin. We look at our sins; we look at our failures, our mess, and we do think we’ve blown it. And we have blown it for ourselves. We’ve blown it in our performance. We’ve blown it in our morality. We’ve blown it, maybe, physically. Maybe you’re in a place where you’ve hurt yourself through stupid acts. But nothing that we can do is greater than what God has done. We can’t undo God’s plan for us – God’s redemptive plan. That’s what we got from the genealogies – the “glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”. Well, His first appearing came through really regular people like us – sinful, messy folks. And His second appearing is coming to save folks like us – to rescue us. He died on the cross and rose from the grave in the gospel to save us. He’s coming. It’s a rescue mission. He’s coming to save us, not because we’re worthy or because we have everything in a row, our ducks in a row.

I’ve got a sign in my office at The Foundry that says, “I don’t have ducks. I don’t have a row. I have squirrels, and they’re everywhere.”

Keith:                    The good news is, so is Jesus. {Both laugh}

John:                    Jesus, He’s the one! So, when we look at ourselves, and we get trapped catastrophizing…we make everything so dramatic. It’s as if we’re discounting what God has come to do and what God can do and what He’s going to do.

Keith:                   And has done. And is doing!

John:                    That’s right. And, if anything, we can take courage and say, “Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Keep trusting the Lord.”

Hope is a valid strategy going forward. I hope that my God and Savior – and I don’t say hope as in I’m doubting, I’m saying my hope of any kind of redemption and eternal life all is firmly set on how Christ is good enough. And how He’s big enough, not me, not on my love, not even on my faith. A lot of people say, well, you put your faith in God; well, God gave me faith. That’s a gracious gift from God in the beginning. Everything comes down to God is our Savior – the Savior of real people, messy people, sinners who have blown it bad. And He is the One. That’s good news!

Keith:                    Man, it’s good news! And again, to bring this together, remember we’ve talked about this multiple times today and throughout this series: a Jerichoan prostitute asked for them to deal kindly with her; an Israelite widow prayed over her Moabite daughters-in-law, and said may God deal kindly with you and give you a husband.

You get this beautiful picture of Orpah who did nothing wrong, she went back home just as her mother-in-law bid her to do. She was obedient. But Ruth who was obedient to a higher thing, God was working in her life and says where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge, your people will be my people, your God will be my God. You get that picture from Revelation 21 when Jesus comes back, when our “blessed hope” is not distant but realized and we’re in His presence. All of the things that we struggle with, they’re not going to just magically come untrue; that last tear is going to be wiped away by His hand. Now, it’s not, okay, I’m going to be your people. It’ll be like I’m here with you as my people. I’m here with you as your God.

John:                    That, especially that Revelation picture, that reveals what God’s heart has been the whole time. You know, He created people in the garden for fellowship. We fell. We rebelled. We betrayed. We sinned. But God said, I’m not giving up on what my original plan is; I’m going to dwell with you. I’m going to be your God. You’re going to be my people. And  we see in the book of Revelation that happens. He makes it happen.

Keith:                    And Jesus was part of that original plan. And none of this surprises Him.

John:                    We who are looking at the Word and trusting God can afford, like Ruth, to go forward – to go forward in faith, forward in love, forward in hope. Again, you mentioned Orpah, did she do wrong? No, but just think about it superficially…she went backwards, and Ruth went forwards. We make those decisions. I would encourage all of us – I try to do the same for myself – go forward with God. Walk forward with God even if its scary and you don’t think you’re worthy, remembering that God ultimately has a plan for us to be with Him forever through Christ.

Keith:                    I think this is a good time – and we do this often in the devotions, all the time at Jesus Saves Bro, all the time at Christ Community, where we let people know how to receive that redemption.

Romans 10:9 –

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.[5]

                              It’s just that simple. If you’re listening/reading today, that’s not an accident, but, if you’re placing your hope in what you can do, think about some of the not-heroes that we’ve talked about and the One hero, Jesus Christ, that we’ve pointed to. As always, if you want to talk or have questions, you can contact us through the website. We’d love to talk to you. Or come check us out Grenada, MS – 2950 Carrollton Road – Christ Community Church, and you can talk to John Goldwater in person. Or any number of people who will be absolutely glad to tell you how Jesus is their blessed hope.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ru 4:11–12.

[2] Ibid., Ru 4:18–22.

[3] Ibid., Mt 1:1–6.

[4] Ibid., Tt 2:11–14.

[5] Ibid., Ro 10:9.

Refresh & Restore — July 22, 2021

We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.”

So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had commanded her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” 10 And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. 13 Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”[1]

Ruth 3:1-18

Greetings, Sojourner!

Perhaps it is the fact that my day job is an English teacher or maybe I am just a romantic at heart, but I am loving studying the book of Ruth. I have enjoyed getting to write and help others study the Bible, but looking at this narrative – this story – in God’s Word checks all the boxes for me to thoroughly enjoy (what I already enjoy immensely) even more!

Getting to look at how God moved in the lives of these ordinary people is romantic in and of itself. There is something touching about seeing the way that the King of kings – the almighty God of the universe – stoops from the lofty heights of His heaven and intervenes in the mundane. There is a romance to His redemption: a King leaving His throne to rescue His beloved Bride. And if He cared to do such things so many years ago, we can rest assured that our God, Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and is still redeeming and rescuing.

As I said, this reads like a story and flows like a film. It is engaging. The narrator draws our attention to certain things. The focus has already been on Naomi and Ruth’s close relative – and “worthy man” (ch 2:1) – Boaz. He had heard of Ruth’s devotion to Naomi and engaged himself in their story by protecting Ruth and ensuring that she was able to gather more than enough to support her little family. Because of these events surrounding Boaz, those two ladies who viewed themselves as empty began to be filled with hesed – the loving-kindness of God through the actions of His people, namely Boaz.

I love the way that Tony Merida lays out Ruth 3:

“We read these events like a movie in which time slows down in view of the risk and the possible consequences of Ruth’s actions…the plan, proposal, promise, and provision….”[2]

We will use the way he framed this chapter to launch our look at Naomi’s plan for Ruth and Boaz, Ruth’s proposal in the threshing floor, and how God had a plan for redeeming Ruth and Naomi – and has a plan to redeem people even today.

Naomi’s Plan

Before we dive too far into Naomi’s plan, I want to say as the father of a daughter that I would not recommend such a course of action. This is a good time to mention that just because we find events in the Bible does not mean that we should live them out in our own lives. There are parts of the Bible that are prescriptive – that tell us what to do and how to live (or how not to do or live). This ain’t that. The book of Ruth is descriptive. It describes. And what a description it gives of Naomi’s plan for redemption – thank God He knows what is best when it comes to redemption and does not rely on the plans of hurried humans!

In the beginning of chapter 3, Naomi assesses the way that Boaz has come into their lives and recognizes the potential that such a “worthy man” could have in giving Ruth the “rest” that she had prayed for. I think we see a bit of the “when the Judges ruled” mentality from chapter 1 because Naomi seems to be taking things into her own hands again. Remember during this time Israel “did what was right in [their] own eyes” (Judges 21:25), which led to the deaths of Naomi’s husband and sons in the land of Moab. Here again, she hatches a very risky plan, and the risk falls on Ruth and could have very well outweighed the reward of redemption.

She told Ruth to go out under the cover of night to the threshing floor where Boaz would be working late (v. 2). Before she left, she was to take a bath and put on perfume (“anoint yourself” – v. 3). However, she was not supposed to approach Boaz until he had finished his supper, drank his wine, and laid down to sleep. Once he had fallen asleep, she told Ruth to “go and uncover his feet and lie down”; after that, she said that Boaz would tell her what to do (v. 4).

What a risk! She told her beautiful daughter to go lay down by a sleeping man and that said man would then tell her what to do next…. My dad-heart shudders. We have already seen in chapter 2 that there was risk of Ruth being assaulted as a single foreigner, even in the fields owned by Boaz!

Now, I want to lay things out as honestly as I possibly can here. There are those who try to take this whole “uncover his feet” business and chalk it up to some obscure cultural custom. If it is, it does not appear anywhere else in Scripture or in Jewish history/customs. So, that seems to be a cop out. Also, there are those who would like to sensualize it. The Bible does not shy away from showing people in their true light. If they sin sexually (like Boaz’s great-grandson David and great-great-grandson Solomon or the head of the Moabite tribe Lot), they are portrayed as such without making obscure remarks like “uncover his feet” (even though the word translated “feet” here is translated as “legs” in Daniel 10:6 and threshing floors were known to harbor prostitution from time to time as in Hosea 9:1).

While this situation had a risk of turning into sex outside of marriage – fornication (which would never be God’s plan), God had greater plans than Naomi and had already done a work in Boaz. We should also note the danger in making our own plans that flirt with dangerous territory since we are more likely to walk with God in integrity when we “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV) and reserve threshing floor situations for the “marriage bed” (Hebrews 13:4).

Ruth’s Proposal

Ruth trusted Naomi and promised her: “All that you say I will do” (v. 5). What faith and trust she had for Naomi! She bathed, perfumed, and left for the threshing floor. She waited until Boaz’s “heart was merry” (v. 7) after eating a hearty meal and drinking wine following his long day and evening. Then, when he had fallen asleep, she crept forward undetected, and – sure enough – she “uncovered his feet and lay down” (v. 7).

The scene is not too hard to imagine. We have all woken from sleep with a shiver and sought to re-cover ourselves in bed. But, imagine the shock that Boaz must have felt when he realized he was not alone – that “a woman lay at his feet” (v. 8)! Rather than things taking the most likely path – the path of least resistance when a man and a woman find themselves alone together in the cover of darkness where they should not be, Ruth does not proposition him but proposes. She tells him who she was (because it was that dark). She identifies herself as his servant (as opposed to how foreign she was to him in chapter 2). Then she deviates from the plan and makes an odd request: “Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (v. 9).

Boaz’s Promise

A man outside the providence of the Lord could have taken a different path in this situation. The Hebrew words that Ruth spoke meant both “spread your wings” and “spread your garment”. There was nuance and history that gave context, but there was also the context of an obviously beautiful woman wearing alluring perfume laying down near him (and no one in the world knew they were there alone together…). Yet the nuance of a comment that Boaz made about Ruth’s relationship with God in the previous chapter won out: “The Lord repay you for what you have done [all she did for Naomi and her coming to faith in God], and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (ch 2:12). She reminded Boaz of his prayer for her and let him know that she sought him as an answer to that prayer for her redemption – that God’s protective wings would cover her via Boaz!

It would have been easy to respond as the world would by Boaz wrapping her in his blanket, especially in a time so similar to our own when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. Yet his prayers for her redemption overcame, and God spread His wings of protection on both of them that night.

Boaz went on to let her know how flattered he was that she would seek to marry him. He calls her a “worthy woman” (v. 11) which is translated “excellent wife” in Proverbs 12:4 and 31:10[3], showing how pleased he would be to get to redeem her. He was honorable to the customs of his people and let her know that there was “a redeemer nearer than” him (v. 12). But, then, he does something odd. He makes a redemptive promise whether or not he is the one to redeem them.

He tells her that he will talk with the redeemer for them and make sure both Ruth and Naomi were redeemed and cared for (if this other redeemer would not, then he would himself). He gives her enough grain to let Naomi know that he is caring for them and not taking advantage of Ruth. And he sends Ruth away to ensure that her reputation – and his – was left intact. He even tagged on a message to let Naomi know that he knew who had orchestrated the whole thing (v. 17).

God’s Provision Then & Now

Naomi recognized that they were on their way to being redeemed, but she had no idea how good God’s plan of redemption was for them – and for us! Boaz’s integrity in an extremely dangerous and tempting situation shows us how serious our God takes redemption. Now, there are those who would argue and question Boaz’s integrity, but I think that 2 Chronicles 3:17 and 1 Kings 7:21 speak for themselves. When Boaz’s great-great-grandson Solomon was building God’s temple in Jerusalem, he named one of two giant bronze pillars “Boaz”. The son of a Jerichoan prostitute and husband of a Moabitess was viewed as a pillar. Why? Because the Lord was a pillar in the life of Boaz!

We can see today that God still takes redemption seriously. When we find ourselves far from Him in lands where people (even us) do what is right in their own eyes, He still seeks to redeem people – to save people. We can look at Boaz and Ruth and think of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Jesus seeks us out “while we [are] still sinners” (Romans 5:8) and sacrifices Himself on our behalf because He loves us (Galatians 2:20). He sees that we are alone, without hope, without Him (Ephesians 2:12), and shows that there is indeed a redeemer closer than Boaz – God Himself. He redeems us by His own blood and does something that no other romantic hero could ever do – He lives after He dies for His beloved! And in that Him – in His resurrection life – there is hope.

To find Him, you do not have to clean yourself up like Ruth did. She had been mourning her late-husband and needed bathing and anointing to pursue Boaz (2 Samuel 14:2). We do not need to clean ourselves up to come to Christ because, in fact, we cannot clean ourselves (Romans 3:10-23). No, we come to Him for redemption and find cleansing and grace and mercy and love in such abundance that there are not words adequate to describe. We need only come to Him in belief and faith. He calls us to “confess with [our] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in [our] hearts that God raised Him from the dead” to be saved (Romans 10:9). And, as sure as Ruth and Naomi found redemption – as sure as they found their emptiness filled with joy, we too can find a redeemer – “our blessed hope…our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify [to cleanse] for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14).

Once that happens, we can look toward eternity with Him, forsake our worldly home, and lift up a cry similar to Ruth’s to our beloved Redeemer: “Your people shall be my people, and you, God, are my God!”

Hallelujah, and Amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ru 3:1–18.

[2] Tony Merida, Ruth for You, ed. Carl Laferton, God’s Word for You (The Good Book Company, 2020), 94. ***Special Note: These four P’s are borrowed from Tony Merida’s layout of this “scene” in the Biblical narrative. This is not meant to replicate his study but to pay homage to the gifting God has given him in laying out a Bible study schema while making it my own.

[3] Here’s an interesting tidbit for you. In the order that Jewish people put the Old Testament, the book of Ruth immediately follows the book of Proverbs. So, Proverbs ends with chapter 31, talking about the “worthy woman”/ “excellent wife”, and the very next page would be Ruth 1:1!

Refresh & Restore — July 15, 2021

We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she set out 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 clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” 10 Then she fell on her face, bowing 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?” 11 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” 13 Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”

14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man 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.” 20 And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.” 21 And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, he said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ” 22 And Naomi said to Ruth, her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, lest in another field you be assaulted.” 23 So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.[1]

Ruth 2:1-23

Greetings, Sojourner!

I am thoroughly enjoying studying and writing through the book of Ruth. One of the things that I find the most engaging is how easy it is to see God moving in the lives of Ruth and Naomi – two ordinary people. I love how we get to see God work through ordinary (even unlikely) people because, at our core, people typically think it is unlikely they will see God move and work in their lives because they are ordinary, insignificant, or unworthy or whatever other labels we attach to ourselves. Thinking about this brings to my mind another unlikely person that God worked through a generation or so before the book of Ruth: a prostitute named Rahab.

You can find Rahab’s story in Joshua 2 and 6. What comes to mind when I think of Rahab is how God used this unlikely person to fulfill His promise to His people. Before the promised land was taken – before God’s people could receive the promises of God, spies were sent out to help make plans for the conquest of the land. They found themselves in Jericho and in danger. The only person to help them was Rahab. She rescued them, hid them from her own people, and asked only that the Lord – whom she had heard of and now showed faith in (Joshua 2:9, Hebrews 11:31) – would “deal kindly” with her family as she had “dealt kindly” with the spies by hiding them (Joshua 2:12, James 2:25). And that is exactly what God did for Rahab: He dealt kindly with her.

That phrase “dealt kindly” is the Hebrew word hesed which is often translated as loving-kindness and refers to the type of unfailing, loyal love that we know is characteristic of God. The word hesed is prominent in the book of Ruth, showing God’s fingerprints in the lives of the ordinary and the unlikely.

Hesed in the Field of Boaz

Ruth and Naomi find themselves in Bethlehem, the house of bread, during the barley harvest. Their husbands are dead, and they have no one to provide for them. So, what do they do? Naomi is already bitter; does Ruth join her and just sit together and starve in angry sadness? No, Ruth looks at the harvest taking place around them and asks Naomi to “Let [her] go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight [she] shall find favor” (v. 2).

Now, Ruth would not have known that God had already provided for the hungry and the sojourner in the time of harvest (Deuteronomy 24:19), but, surely, Naomi knew because she told Ruth (calling her “daughter”) to go ahead. What faith Ruth showed here to go out into her new home (called “Ruth the Moabite” throughout the chapter) and seek to find favor with a random local so she would be able to feed herself and Naomi. And that faith was rewarded; notice how it says in v. 3 that the field she “happened to come to” belonged to Boaz who turned out to be “a close relative…one of [their] redeemers” (v. 20)! What appeared to her as “happenstance”[2] was actually God’s plan of redemption playing out in their lives! In the same way that Rahab’s house happened to be the one the Israelite spies stumbled into and found safety, Ruth stumbled into the field of the very man she needed to meet – the very man God intended for her to meet.

Boaz had already heard about Ruth, her conversion, and all she had done for Naomi after the death of their loved ones (v. 11). Not only that, he also got a good report about how hard she was willing to work to take care of Naomi from the man in charge of his harvest (vv. 6-7). Hearing these things prompted him to give an opportunity for Ruth to be safe while she worked for her family and be a blessing beyond what she could provide or work for herself.

As far as Ruth knew, she was being the literally breadwinner for her little family. She hoped to be able to help Naomi (who viewed herself as having been “brought…back empty” (1:21) from the land of Moab) by at least filling her belly. She went out to a local field and asked the foreman if she could go behind his reapers and harvest the barley that fell on the ground. She wanted permission to harvest leftovers – scraps off the ground! But, praise be to God, she “happened” upon a field from the “clan of Elimelech” – the clan whose God was their King – and God was more gracious and loving than she knew. She sought to gather leftovers, but she reaped hesed!

Remember the blessing that Naomi prayed over Ruth and Orpah, “May the Lord deal kindly with you” (1:8)? That phrase deal kindly is hesed. When Naomi heard of all that happened in the fields, she recognized the kindness that Boaz showed to them was a blessing of “the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead” (v. 20); the word kindness there is also hesed.

Boaz’s hesed showed up in the way that he made sure that Ruth was protected from the assault she may have suffered in another field at the hands of unrighteous men (vv. 9, 22) it showed up in the way that he allowed her to move along with his reapers for protection and support (v. 8); it showed up in the way that he told his reapers to leave more than scraps behind so she could reap a bigger harvest through her faithful work (v. 16). Most importantly, Boaz showed hesed by blessing her: “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (v. 12). You see, Boaz showed hesed because of the Lord. He was the conduit for the hesed of God – the very same God in whom Ruth had put her trust and taken refuge!

A God of Never-Ending Hesed

Just as Boaz had noticed, Ruth had come to the God of Israel for refuge. She had forsaken the false gods that were part of her heritage in worship of the one, true God. She had left her people and become a part of His people. She had come to the house of bread and sought to harvest bread for her and Naomi. What she did not know was that her God was more than simply a refuge for her but “Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Naomi asked that Ruth receive hesed from the Lord, but Ruth was just beginning to see that her God is “abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6)! He has a surplus of hesed – in fact He is rich in it (Ephesians 2:4) – and had an unexpected harvest for Ruth and Naomi that was more abundant than they could “ask or think”!

This can be seen in how Boaz allows her to have some of his workers’ food at lunch (dipping the morsel seems a bit Lord’s Supper-ish, don’t you think?), enough to eat “until she was satisfied” and take the leftovers to Naomi (vv. 14, 18). She gathered “about an ephah” (about 3/5 of a bushel or thirty pounds) of barley (v. 17)! Naomi felt like she left Israel full and came back from Moab empty, but Ruth left for the field empty-handed and came back with a thirty pound sack full of barley ready to be made into bread.

Even in her bitterness, Naomi recognized the hesed. In that way, she like Ruth was beginning to learn the beauty of God’s hesed. But neither of them knew hesed like Boaz.

You see, Boaz would have learned a lot about hesed from his mother. Many years before, she was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. She had two Israelite spies stumble into her house and asked that they give hesed to her family if she gave them safety. Through faith in the Lord and His mercy and hesed, she (in addition to her family, just as she asked) “did not perish” with the rest of Jericho. Matthew 1:5 tells us her name –  “Salmon [was] the father of Boaz by Rahab”! What hesed for God to redeem one like Rahab and include her in the family lineage of Jesus!

Naomi had no idea that God would so specifically answer her prayer of blessing in how God would choose to “deal kindly” with Ruth. There is no way she could have known, but He did! When Boaz recognized what God had done in Ruth’s life, there is no way for him to know how God intended to use him in the lineage of Jesus, but God did!

Maybe today you think there is no way that anyone could love you, but know this: God is still abounding in hesed today. His loving-kindness is so great that “He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We have seen how a young prostitute named Rahab placed her faith in Him and did not perish. We have seen how a young Moabitess placed her faith in Him by seeking refuge under His wings and found redemption. That same faith and belief produces the same results today (Romans 10:9-10, 13). So, put your faith in Jesus and find life and redemption in Him.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ru 2:1–23.

[2] Sinclair Ferguson, Faithful God: An Exposition of the Book of Ruth (Bryntirion Press, 2013), 49.

The Mighty Hand of God

Twice this week, I have been taken aback by something my son has done.

He has always wanted to seem bigger and older than he is, which is typical of little boys. He has never liked having to hold someone’s hand whether it be to cross the road or to help him walk when he was first learning. He places a high value on being independent – on showing he can do [whatever] all by himself. Yet twice this week, he has reached up and wanted to hold my hand.

Both times were identical in circumstances. Both times were in Buccees (once going on vacation and the second on the return trip). Now, if you have ever been in Buccees – at least all of the times I have been – it is crowded and busy and loud and boisterous. Picture a gas station with the energy and chaos of a toddler. It is almost too much for me, and, apparently, it was too much for him because he reached up to hold my hand.

Don’t get me wrong here: I was glad to be needed, glad to be a comfort to him. But it threw me nonetheless because my little, independent-not-scared-of-things-he-should-be son was unnerved and a bit frightened. I tried to ask him if he was okay, but he didn’t want to talk. I tried to tell him it was okay to be nervous – that I myself was nervous, too. Both times, his response was the same: “I just want you to hold my hand”. Both times my response was merely quiet contemplation.

Today, we just walked around Buccees hand-in-hand. He slowly came out of his shell and was pointing to this and that as we navigated the crowd to walk where he wanted to walk and look at what he wanted to look. While we were walking, I saw something that filled my eyes with tears then and does now even as I type. I saw the same event between father and son taking place in a different perspective.

The dad was likely in his late fifties or early sixties, dressed as dads of that era do all Americana on vacation. That was not different as I was sporting my generation’s dad travel gear. What was different was that he was holding the hand of his grown son – every bit my age with special needs. They were talking about how Buccees was too much for the son but how everything was okay because daddy was there. And, sure enough, as long as he was holding his daddy’s hand, all was right and all of the frightening and alarming and anxious events taking place around droned out because he had his daddy’s hand in his.

What a beautiful picture. What a sobering and humbling reality.

See, the other dad surely knew what I did – that there was nothing magical about our hands, that there were dangers that we are not enough to battle against as much as we would try. That’s why I tried to talk to my son both times, to help him more that I felt my hand could accomplish on its own. But there is a hand that is stronger than ours.

I have been thinking of 1 Peter 5:6-7 ever since we left Buccees:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

The “mighty hand of God” is a symbol of His strength and His power. That strength and power protects His children, but it also disciplines. It chides against enemies but also chastens His children. It is a hand of unimaginable strength, but it is also gentle and loving.

The same hands that formed Adam from dust and Eve from a rib are the same hands that can strike down mountains and nations.

They are the same hands that became small when He came as an infant. They are the same hands that did hard labor as a carpenter.

They are the same hands that were strong enough to carry our cross and bold enough to take the nails in crucifixion.

They are the same hands that eternally bear scars from those nails.

And they are the same hands that will one day wipe away the last tears from our eyes.

Things are often overwhelming, and life is hard. Some things are more than we can bear. Our Father knows that. He does not seek to beat us down but that we would humble ourselves, repent and cry out to Him to be lifted up.

The picture of 1 Peter 5:6-7 is the same that I saw in Buccees, a Father reaching down to His children to lift them up when the world is too much. And, thankfully, I can share with my son about the “mighty hand of God” to carry Him through when my own hands are too weak for the task.

Maybe things are too much for you right now. Maybe you feel like there is nowhere to turn or no one to turn to, but let me assure you there is a hand that will reach down and can pull you out of death and give you life. If you would humble yourself and come to Him, He will lift you up because “He cares for you”. And His hands are strong enough to care for “all your anxieties”.

That’s good news.

Refresh & Restore — July 1, 2021

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.[1]

Ruth 1:1-5

If you prefer to listen to this devotion rather than reading, you can find it in podcast form here or listen in the player below. The text will follow the podcast.

We are continuing in our But GOD series by looking at life and death in Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the written devotion here: https://justkeithharris.com/2021/09/15/refresh-restore-september-16-2021/
  1. But GOD — Episode 3
  2. But GOD — Episode 2
  3. But GOD — Episode 1
  4. Sabbath Rest & Teacher Tired
  5. Redeeming Love: A R&R Bible Study of Ruth — FINALE/Epilogue

Greetings, Sojourner!

It has been a few weeks since we have joined each other for Bible Study, and I am excited to begin a new study together today and embark on a journey through the book of Ruth, looking at a beautiful story of God’s redeeming love!

Welcome to Ruth

Today’s devotion will serve as an introduction for our study and help us to get our heads around this book.

First, we need to understand that the book of Ruth is different from 1 John (which we previously studied). It is different because it is a book of the Old Testament which occurred before the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus. It is also a narrative, meaning it is told like a story. This is different than the epistles (letters) of the New Testament which were intended to relay information clearly to a certain audience in specific ways.

The beautiful thing about these differences is that we get to see how God intersects Himself into the life stories of regular, everyday people – how He brought His redeeming love to bear in their lives. This helps us see His fingerprints in our own lives! We will see people who experience the same sorts of troubles and joys that we experience. And we get to see the way that God works in these times – the bad as well as the good – to carry out His redemptive plan.

Second, we need to understand the time in which this book took place. While it simply says, “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land” and sets up its narrative, there is more than meets the eye – more is meant to give us context.

The time of the judges was a crazy era in Jewish history. There are two verses from the book of Judges that give a clearer picture of the world in which they lived. The first is Judges 2:16: “Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of those who plundered them.” The nation of Israel during this era repeated a nasty cycle of 1) being warned by God about the consequences of their sin (really, He is describing the blessings of following Him), 2) willfully committing the sins they were warned against (therefore willingly forfeiting the blessings), 3) finding themselves experiencing the consequences God promised would occur, and 4) repenting of their sin, crying out to God to rescue them – which He faithfully did every, single time they repented (it happened 1, 2, 3, 4 over and over throughout their history – and honestly, ours, too).

The second verse is found in both Judges 17:6 and 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” And somewhere in between Judges 2:16 and 17:6 is exactly where we start the beginning of the book of Ruth. God’s people doing what is right in their own eyes, fully experiencing step 3 and too hardhearted to reach 4.

Setting the Stage for a Big Move of the Lord

What a context – everyone doing what they wanted to do and treating it as if it were right. Sound familiar? Yet that is exactly where we find our family at the beginning of Ruth’s narrative. You see, before God’s people ever set foot in the Promised Land (the place they left when the famine hit them), He laid out all the blessings He would give them if they followed Him (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) as well as the consequences of their sin, two of which being infertility and famine (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; cf. v. 18) which Elimilech and Naomi’s family experienced!

Since I laid out the cycle for you above, what needs to happen to get out of their predicament? Step 4 – repenting of their sin and crying out to God to rescue them! It seems simple enough, yet they chose another path – one that led them out of the Promised Land, away of their home in Bethlehem (Heb. “house of bread”), and beyond the land of God’s promise. Elimelech and Naomi dug in their heels and decided to take an alternate path out of God’s punishment of sin. The only problem is that there is no alternate path, and the Bible is clear on this. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And death is what they found in Moab.

Elimelech and Naomi thought they were leaving famine to save their lives, but they only found death. They missed the fact that God had sent them a great warning sign of repentance by striking the “house of bread” with hunger. The shelves were empty, and so were their hearts. The message was clear, and not just because of the name of their town; Elimelech is Hebrew for “My God is King”, and Naomi is Hebrew for “pleasant”[2]. Yet Elimelech sought to be the king of his own heart and strike out to leave the Promised Land to take care of himself despite the warnings of the King.

“My God is King” and “Pleasant” had two children, boys named Mahlon (Heb. “sick”) and Chilion (Heb. “frail/mortal”). And, during the decade they were in Moab, “My God is King” died. It turns out that Moab was not beyond the reach of the wages of Israel’s sin. “Sick” and “Frail” grew up, married Moabite wives, Orpah and Ruth, and continued living in Moab – that was until they lived up to their names and died.

Can you imagine the heartbreak that these women felt – especially Naomi? When “My God is King” died, “Pleasant” became a widow, but there is no term for a parent who loses a child because it is a reality too unimaginably heartbreaking to be labeled.

And it is in this heartbreak that our story of Redeeming Love is set – in death and sorrow and loss, in a foreign land filled with foreign gods and strangers. One could argue that “Pleasant” was not alone, that she had her two daughters-in-law with her. But when one experiences grief, loneliness generally accompanies it.

Hope in the Midst of Sorrow

As we look at the beginning of the narrative Ruth, I find that I have a few things in common with the people we meet here. I often try to live as if I am king and can decide that what I want is right. That is called sin. I am a sinner. I often decide to delay repenting because I am angry that I am not God. That, too, is called sin (and idolatry, too). I also find myself identifying with Naomi and the pain that comes with grief.

What she did not know – and really what none of them could know, since they lived in OT times, was the hope that comes only from Jesus. I do not think I need to declare a “spoiler alert” here since the Bible allows us to know Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords has already won, but He is the ultimate hero of the book of Ruth (in fact, He is the only hero of the Bible!). The beauty of the way that this book points to Jesus shares in the same beauty as when Jesus arrived on earth, with a birth.

Ruth 4:18-22 give us a genealogy bridging the gap between Judah, father of Perez (whose mother was Tamar – Genesis 38), father of Hezron, father of Ram, father of Amminadab, father of Nahshon, father of Salmon, father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab – Joshua 2), father of Obed (by Ruth), father of Jesse, father of David, who is the great-great-many-times-over earthly ancestor of “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

God struck the “house of bread” with a famine and events of incredible sadness occurred when His people decided not to repent. But God, in His sovereign and redemptive plan used those sad things to highlight the good news of Jesus, “the Bread of Life” (John 6:48). Although Naomi and Ruth, in their grief and mourning, do not realize it, “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5); joy in their case would come later when their hearts become as full as their bellies, when God does what He does in redeeming sinners. The cry of a baby will bring joy into their lives just as that baby’s many-times descendant would do for all who put their hope in Him throughout the ages:

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

So, as we walk through the lives of Naomi and Ruth in the coming weeks, let us fix our eyes on what is to be while we are seeing the redemptive plan of God work out in their lives. And maybe – just maybe, we will begin to see how God is working through the sad and unfortunate things in our own lives.

It is my prayer that we, because we can see more than Naomi and Ruth by having the finished Story, can rejoice that our “light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17) if we put our hope and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-10). Then, and only then, can we realize the beauty that comes with rejoicing “in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Hallelujah, and Amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ru 1:1–5.

[2] The specific English translations for the names came from:
Tony Merida, Ruth for You, ed. Carl Laferton, God’s Word for You (The Good Book Company, 2020), 20.

Songs for Sunday, June 20 – Father’s Day 2021

I have been blessed to be a father for a little over eleven years now and to be around the church my entire life. You would think the two would go hand-in-hand, but often the church clashes with fathers.

This Sunday around the country, churches will be trying to exhort and encourage fathers, but it will come across as more of a rebuke and a bashing of fatherhood. That’s not what we’re going for this Sunday at Christ Community Church. We are going to worship our heavenly Father for the work of His Son in the power of His Spirit – and, hopefully, encourage some earthly dads to learn from Him as we do.

One of the things that has changed my perspective from rebuking/bashing in the name of statistics/warnings to encouraging/exhorting in the name of discipleship is my own experience as a father. You see, I do not need statistics to tell me of fatherly failures – I have been one many times and, unfortunately, will fail again. I want to look briefly at two passages today that show me that there is hope in the Father to make me (and anyone who knows and follow Him) a godly father.

Galatians 4:4-7 tells us,

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

No matter how much of a failure I am as a father, I am a child of the King and He is not a failure. The fact that His Fatherly love sent His Son to redeem me is a gift sufficient enough to account for my continued failings. After all, if He can bring me from life to death, if He is willing – in love – to adopt His enemy as His Son, is redeeming my care, parenting, and discipleship of my children too big for Him to accomplish? No! He has not just redeemed me but given me His Spirit to know when to cry out to Him like a child to a Father. And that same Spirit works in my heart toward my own children.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says,

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Being a godly father begins when, because we have been adopted/born again/saved, we worship God and love Him. This is not a Sunday-only deal. When we look at Moses’ declaration to fathers in Deuteronomy 6, he illustrates that one loves “the LORD [their] God” while they are talking to their children, while they are going about their day-to-day, while they are laying down to bed, and when they get up in the mornings. Worship is a lifestyle, and the lifestyle of a dad is a classroom for our kids. God is calling us to love Him in such a way that even our failures (and necessary repentance) point to Him!

That’s good news because I have plenty of failures but the Father has plenty of grace! And the more time I spend with my Father the better my kids’ father will be because the time spent with one’s father forms their future – for good or for bad.

So, that’s what we’ll be singing about and to this Sunday morning. We’ll lift high the name of our King Jesus by looking at the glorious love of the Father. Amen.

Here are our Scriptures & Songs:

  • Praying Scripture | Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV for familiarity) —

Our Father which art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:

For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
Amen.

  • Scripture Reading | John 14:1-6

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

  • Scripture Reading | 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

  • Scripture Reading | Galatians 4:4-7

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.


We invite you to join us this Sunday at Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

We have two services Sunday morning!

  • 8:00a for those who prefer greater social distancing and masks worn by all
  • 11:00a for everyone else

Refresh & Restore — June 3, 2021

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.[1]       

1 John 5:6-13

Greetings, Sojourner!

As I sit and write to you today, I find my mind fixated on this past weekend spent at the Beautiful Feet ministry in Ft. Worth, TX. I could write to you about how jarring it is to see people living in such poverty-stricken conditions. I could write to you of the desperate situations that led many of the people that we met, talked to, and prayed for onto the streets, but, instead, I find myself thinking about John’s words in v. 13 of today’s passage: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” – and that is what stands out in my mind about Beautiful Feet – the eternal life offered and the example of those who are now believers.

This was my second time to go and witness the work that God is doing through Beautiful Feet (the Feet), but there were two things that grabbed my attention this time: 1) the impact that being saved (truly brought from death in sin to eternal life in Christ) has on people, and 2) the beauty of the testimony that God Himself bears about His Son. I believe both fit hand-in-hand (or in-foot, as seems appropriate here) with this week’s passage.

As John continues bringing his letter to a close, he focuses in on the testimony concerning Jesus. We focused last week on how God molds the beliefs of those who are “born of God” (5:1) to share in His love (5:2) and exhibit that love in keeping His commandments (5:3). This week’s passage shows the three-part testimony of the Son (water, blood, and Spirit) through the Father and what it is like for Him to be the object of our faith!

The Testimony of Water – He Was Born

When it talks of water here, it is referencing Christ’s birth (think of a mother’s water breaking when it is time for a baby to be born). The birth of Christ is important, and more than a mere holiday, because it shows His humanity. Part of that testimony is that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). We see in these verses that Jesus’ birth was one of extremely specific timing and circumstances – at just the right time in human history, “foreknown before the foundation of the world but…made manifest in the last times for” our sake (1 Peter 1:20, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Because “sin came into the world through one man” (Romans 5:12), Adam, all men would inherit a sin nature and the struggles that come with it. None of the sacrifices of the Old Testament system could take away sin, they could only point to the One who could, Jesus. Sin produces death (Genesis 3, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:1-2), and, as we have seen earlier in 1 John 1:9, we need God “to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – to cancel “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (Colossians 2:14). Our debt from sin needs to be paid, but everyone on earth is in debt just the same, unable to pay their own way much less anyone else’s.

The only acceptable payment would be via propitiation (2:1-2, 4:10), but no one on earth is worthy to make the sacrifice for us (Romans 3:10, 3:23). So, God Himself stepped down to sacrifice Himself (John 1:14) meaning that the eternal God willingly became mortal. He lived the life that no other human on earth was capable of living (1 John 1:8, 10) – sinless perfection (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15) as the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). And He, in the Person of God the Son – fully God and fully man – “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant…[and] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-7), which is the second testimony.

The Testimony of Blood – He Died (Yet Lives!)

Blood was an important part of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament. Just as we saw our need for salvation through our forefather Adam in the first section, we see that the first physical deaths (God taking the lives of animals in the garden for their skins) were to cover the shame of Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 3:21). In the same way, our sin – and its shame – can be covered and cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1:7).

Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners shows love like nothing else (John 15:13). As I write this, it is Memorial Day, and I cannot help but think of those who gave their lives for the United States where I live. The way of life that is celebrated in America is bound up in the sacrifice of those brave men and women who died for their country and the ideals it represents. Their sacrifice points to the greater sacrifice of Christ, and we should be moved by and appreciate what He has done for us.

Think of the magnitude of His dying in our place: the God of the universe, “who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it” (Isaiah 42:5), “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Just as it was important that He was born “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), we see that “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). He died the death that would provide cleansing of sins for all who trust (believe, have faith) in Him! Through His death, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, [makes] us alive together with Christ”, saving sinners by His grace (Ephesians 2:4-5). On the cross, He took the “record of debt that stood against us” because of our sin and “set it aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). The old hymn “It is Well” sums it up beautifully[2]:

“My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious thought – my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more; praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul!”

We do not have to mourn His death – thanks be to God! Jesus did not stay dead, and we can rejoice with the angels who said, “He is not here, for He has risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:6)! The “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) was different than other sacrificial lambs – He is risen forevermore as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David”, the “Lamb standing as though it had been slain” on the throne (Revelation 5:5-6)! And through His death, and especially His resurrection, we see the victory that overcomes the world (5:4-5) and can echo Paul when He praises God for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” who is alive and well!

The Testimony of the Spirit
(and the Evidence of Eternal Life Where He Abides)

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are irrefutable evidence from heaven, but He shows Himself to be true here on earth because His “Spirit is truth” (v. 6). This is important because His Spirit dwelling in those who are born again is how God abides in His children (4:16). If we claim to have Christ, we have His Spirit. Now, this is difficult because many people treat the Spirit awkwardly by either keeping Him at a distance and calling it reverence or treating Him like parlor tricks and calling it charisma. This is where last weekend at Beautiful Feet challenged what we far too often are willing to accept regarding being filled with God’s Spirit.

Beautiful Feet is more than a ministry that feeds hungry and clothes the poor. If you read the history of their ministry, you see their motto “Sharing the Gospel, Serving the Poor”, which is the entire scope of their ministry – the heart that God Himself has given them for the least-of-these in Ft. Worth. They want to share Christ with people in equal portion to the physical needs that they meet. They want to bless those who cannot bless them in return by giving them everything that Christ has to offer (and food, clothing, medical care – which pale in comparison to the gift of His grace). The thing that was most striking to me is the number of people who 1) are born again because they found faith in Christ through His grace and mercy and 2) those who are saved, after being discipled in the Word and finding employment and housing (which they desperately needed), are seen returning to the Feet to share the gospel (and meet physical needs) with others who were like them.

The Spirit is evident in their lives because they live out the gospel. The Spirit is not a parlor trick for them because tricks do not save (2 Corinthians 4:2); fake does not fool those who have been turned out on the streets; and only the love of Christ transcends “word or talk” to live in “deed and in truth” when sharing His love with others (3:18). God blessed these disciples through the Feet and servants of God who had “the world’s goods”, saw their brother and sister in need and opened their hearts because of the love of God poured forth in their hearts by His Spirit. These servants shared that love by laying their own lives down as worship – in response to the Life God gave them (3:16-17). How sad it is that this seems so foreign among church-people today!

Paul quotes Isaiah 52:7 in Romans 10:15: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” This is more than a theme verse for this ministry – or evangelism in general; they literally seek to be God’s feet as part of the His body – the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12). And, in serving with them this weekend, I realized that my feet do not carry the gospel as readily as they should. Forgive the crude parallel here, but I need a bit of a spiritual pedicure – for Jesus to cleanse my gospel feet that I may have share with Him (John 13:8).

John says that “the Spirit and the water and the blood” testify to who Jesus is and agree (v. 8), but he tells us that the “testimony of God is greater” than that of men because “whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in Himself” (vv. 9-10). I have had to look at my life and ask whether it agrees with the testimony of God, and I am asking that He arrange my life so that it testifies more to Him than about me, that my feet can be about His business rather than shod in Sunday shoes in the comfort of a church building or propped up serving my own laziness. I ask that He help you to do the same in your own life and grant the repentance and cleansing to walk His gospel out in the community He has planted you.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 5:6–13.

[2] Horatio Spafford, “It is Well

Refresh & Restore — May 20, 2021

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.[1]


Greetings Sojourner,

The older I get, the clearer I see that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16). How else could words written so far in the past ring so true today? There is no literature that holds truth like the Word of God because the “sum of [God’s] Word is truth” (Psalm 119:160), specifically because God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6). That elevates the words on the pages of the Bible to more than mere literature, surpassing sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and books. We can read it and recognize the truth and beauty in the cry of the psalmist, “give me life according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:25), because that is exactly where we find Life – where we find Christ Himself!

In thinking about the way that today’s passage intersects with our present-day world, a call from the Lord to Israel comes to mind. Jeremiah 6:16 shows us how God called to Israel in the midst of their sin before disaster struck Jerusalem: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” He was calling them to repent – to change their ways – to turn away from their sin and back to Him. Yet their response to Him was simple: “We will not walk in it”.

As we have walked through 1 John verse-by-verse, we have seen how the Holy Spirit through John has pleaded with God’s people down through the ages to examine our lives and know whether or not we walk in the light (1:5, 7; 2:10; 3:10, 14), whether the truth is in us or the Truth shows us to be liars (1:6, 8, 10; 2:4, 9, 11, 22; 3:6, 10), and if we are God’s children with His Spirit abiding in us and us in Him (2:20, 24, 27-28; 3:6, 10, 24). The past two weeks (part 1 and part 2) looking at 1 John 4:7-21 feel like a Jeremiah 6:16 sort of crossroads. We see the ancient paths where the good way is (love), yet it is so easy to turn and follow sinful desires (hate, unforgiveness) in the wrong direction.

Our journey through this particular passage began as we looked at how the command to love one another flowed from Jesus’ original teaching (John 13:14), continued through the apostles into the early church (1:5, 2:24, 3:11), and suggested that it was intended to be lived out in the Church today (3:16-18). We then looked specifically at how the love that Christ showed the Church, His Bride, as “the propitiation for our sins” (v. 10), “and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (2:2). We continue today into the end of the passage, and it is tempting to pass over it, calling it merely repetitive because of similarities to other parts of 1 John. But the consequences could be eternally significant should we pass over these truths.

In today’s section, we see John revisiting the theme of assurance – the idea that we can truly know whether we or not we belong to God. We see v. 13 talk about it similarly to earlier in 1 John: “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” We can know we belong to Him because His Spirit is in us, and we know that His Spirit is in us because He bears fruit in those within whom He abides, specifically “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)[2]. Those who do not bear this fruit – well, they bear fruit of their own sinful flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).

The difference between how John talks about assurance here than earlier in 1 John is how specifically he ties how we can know that we belong to God (are saved, born again, redeemed) to whether or not we love. In fact, one of the toughest and most alarming verses is the end of v. 20 where it clearly says “he who does not love His brother whom He has seen cannot love God whom He has not seen.” Cannot….

It seems here that he is revisiting v. 8 that showed us a lack of love shows a lack of God “because God is love” and v. 11 that shows “if God so loved us (specifically calling back to John 3:16), we also ought to love one another”. Guess what: he is revisiting it because we need to hear it again and again – because we are foolish and, in our selfishness, we forget (sometimes willingly). We do not want to hear again and again that hatred is evidence of not loving God, nor do we want to hear that a chronic lack of forgiveness and, let us call it what it is, blatant hatred of others is evidence of a spiritual problem. At its most severe, it can be evidence of lostness.

For a religion whose foundation is supposed to be love, there are people – individuals as well as groups – who have done great damage using the name of Christ while spreading and feeding their own hatred. I remember being shocked and dismayed when a coworker showed me a picture of Ku Klux Klansmen standing on the “altar” of a “church” (their sponsor, nonetheless), asking me how I could participate in a religion that condoned hatred and was actively evil. In fact, there are too many examples throughout “church” history of more of the same. But neither tradition nor history change the Word of God. The words of the Holy Spirit through John answer plainly: one cannot love God and participate in such things.

The most startling example perhaps is found in our own hearts – yes, mine as well as yours. Now, we would say that our hatred is different, but, then again, that is what we always say when the sin is our own. We have thought it out, rationalized and justified it. But the words of the Holy Spirit through John answer plainly: one cannot love God and participate in such things.

The word “cannot” sounds so final. That is because it is! What we see as a compound word in English is actually two separate words in the original language (not + a word describing ability or power through any means possible). This is significant because it carries much more weight than our simple “cannot”. The original context describes a situation in which there is absolutely no mindset, no set of circumstances, no ability, no power at all. Jesus uses this very same set of words in Matthew 7:18 to say “a healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit”, Mark 3:24 to say “if a kingdom is divided against itself [it] cannot stand”, Luke 14:26-27 to say that one whose ultimate love is not Christ “cannot be [His] disciple”, and John 3:3 to say that “unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God”. If Jesus is truly “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and “[n]o one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6), how can His cannot be wrong? Can cannot be as final as it sounds? Dear, Sojourner, when God’s Word says it, the answer can only be yes. He gets the final say-so because He is God.

We see here that we have reason to examine our lives, but this should lead us to repentance, not fear. This is why John tells us in this same passage that “perfect love casts out fear” (v. 18). He hails back to ch 2:4 when we see that in keeping and following the Word “truly the love of God is perfected”. If we genuinely believe that ALL “Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), we must not hold only to the teaching and training; we need to submit our beliefs to reproof (God’s Word realigning our beliefs to itself) and correction (of sinful actions or behaviors). If God’s Word is indeed His Word, it must change our lives or else we simply do not believe it. How can one believe that it contains Truth that gives Life if it is impotent to change behaviors in those who claim to follow its teachings?

We know our hearts and our sinful imperfections (Romans 3:10, 23). Sometimes, when confronted with our sinfulness, we find ourselves falling into fear. This is why He gave us v. 18. It is easy to say that “perfect love casts out fear” but another thing entirely to practice it. He goes on to explain that “fear has to do with punishment”. When we are confronted in the Word with sinfulness – specifically hatred in today’s passage, it is good for us to examine our lives. Furthermore, it is good for us to know that hatred is a spiritual problem! But, rather than it driving us to fear – if we say we belong to Christ, it should drive us to repentance. You see, it is when we learned the reality of our sin that we first came to the Savior! Being confronted with sin (again and again) as we spend time in God’s Word, we should be driven to Him more and more.

We do not have to fear punishment because Christ – as propitiation – has “bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Repentance – specifically turning from our hatred to His love and seeking to exhibit the forgiveness He shows His people – shows evidence of His Spirit (just as a lack of it shows the opposite). When confronted with hatred in my own heart recently, I realized that I first had to confess that sin to the Lord (1:9, Psalm 51:1), then confess the sin to brothers I trust to pray for me and hold me accountable (James 5:16), and genuinely seek the Lord for Him to soften my heart and grant repentance (2 Timothy 2:25).

What should we take from this?

First, we are sinners, and our sin is not to be taken lightly. The reality of Jesus being the propitiation for sin (v. 10) is heavy because that means He bore our sin because He had none of His own (2 Corinthians 5:21)! If you are His, that means His death was in the place of yours. And your Life is because of Him. In Him there is hope for us. We need to be thankful for mighty examples of repentance like we find in Psalm 51 so we can learn to seek after God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy and ask that He “create in [us] a clean heart…, and renew a right spirit with [us]” (Psalm 51:10). We need to be reminded that if “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and “if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10), we can love because He first loved us (v. 19) – that we can love others because “God is love” and He is in us and we are in Him (vv. 8, 13, 16, 21).

Second, there are those who have misused the name of Jesus. They have claimed His name and committed all sorts of evil, devastating the lives of people in the fall out. We do not need to ignore those sins nor should we believe that atrocities done in His name will be easily corrected or wounds quickly healed. The words of the Holy Spirit through John answer plainly: one cannot love God and participate in such things. And the true Jesus – as found in His Word, does not need us to defend Him or seek to fix errors that others have made. He has spoken for Himself through John and offers the same hope to all that we have found in His Word ourselves. Christ could have hated us and left us in our sin – and been justified in doing it! But, praise God, He chose grace and mercy “because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

If you are reading this and find yourself standing and the crossroads of love and hate and are offered the ancient paths, the good way of the love of Christ, may you respond in faith and repentance, not foolishly saying as those before us have: “We will not walk in it”.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 4:7–21.

[2] The English teacher in me would like to note that the lack of “and” at the end of what appears to be items in a series is not a typo. This list is known as the fruit (singular – not fruits) of the Spirit – one Spirit, these collectively are one fruit grown by Him in the lives of those who are born again.