Yearly Archives: 2010

Orpah in Ruth

I want to share with you all a teaching I gained from the book of Ruth.

I’m sure everyone is familiar with this story and know very well the scene when Orpah makes the decision to leave Naomi and not to go back with her and Ruth to Judah. When I was young I use to think that Orpah was a ‘bad person’ for not wanting to follow Naomi. I labelled her as a ‘bad character’ and that was it.

However, now when I read this  passage I realise that, actually, Orpah really really did love Naomi. I could feel her bitterness as she wept at her decision to stay and could sense her pain when she eventually tore herself away from her mother-in-law.

In fact when we read Ruth chapter 1, we see that she too was willing to go back to Bethlehem with Naomi. She made the first few steps of the journey. It was only when Naomi started talking about the difficult future ahead of them that’s when Orpah made the decision to turn back and return to her home.

So what has this got to do with walking with God? The bible has told us that the path to heaven is going to be a tough one. We have to deny ourselves, we have to carry the cross. We have to  go through trials and tribulations. We have to grind our fleshly desires and weaknesses into powder, we have to put to death the carnal man inside. We cannot chase after the things of the world, we can have no other gods before the one true and living God in our hearts. We have to love our enemies, esteem others better than ourselves. Take part in the building, the battles, the labour in God’s kingdom. The journey will be tough.

How often do we say we love God? How often do we feel the desire to start our walk with God? But we cannot be fooled, this is not enough. It doesn’t get you anywhere. Didn’t Orpah love Naomi? Didn’t she too have the desire to make the journey back to Judah?

If we are serious about our walk with God, then we really do need to do the hard part, we need to follow His words. Not just to know it, but to live it.

I really hope that in 2011 all the brethren in [our church] are able to continue their walk with God. I hope we can all be like Ruth. I hope that we can cling to God and with all our heart say these words to Him the next time we hear that the path to heaven is a hard one: ‘Lord, entreat me never to leave you, or to turn back from following after you. For wherever you go I will go. And I will be with you and walk with you even until death.’

(Shared by a sister in Christ)

Why Do We Do the Right Thing?

Last night, while I was praying about something, I found myself asking why it was that I do or don’t do something. For example, if it is a temptation or a test, what kind of things do we consider before doing it or refraining from it?

Sometimes, I think we stop ourselves because we are afraid of the outcome – maybe it’s something that is not good for us or maybe it’s something that might affect our salvation, so we hesitate because we think the outcome may bring us God’s chastisement. Some people live their whole lives (thus far) being in this subjective fear of not wanting to do something wrong, so this drives them to be obedient in keeping the commandments.

It could even be that we are so used to doing right that entertaining the possibility of doing wrong is so foreign we reject it. Do we dig deep enough as to why we reject it? Or just because we know it’s wrong or sense it’s wrong?

But faced with the same situation, there are some people who hesitate because they cannot imagine betraying the Lord or doing something that would disappoint Him (think Joseph). It’s this idea that we cannot imagine putting a breach in our relationship with Him that measures just how close we really are to Him.

While in both situations, we would have chosen to do the right thing and escaped a snare, I think these two types of responses are still quite different and gives us a glimpse of who is ultimately the most important in our lives: ourselves or the Lord.

When we are afraid to be punished, we are still number one in our lives – we are still doing it for our own benefit. I think if we make the right decision under this circumstance, that temptation or test may likely return another day, because we have not dug deep enough to know our true reaction to it. There might even be some small parts in us that think it’s a pity not to have gone ahead with this thing.

But in the other scenario, it’s about God and how we don’t want to jeopardize our good relationship with Him or worse, to disappoint Him. If we make a decision for the sake of the Lord, we are fully assured that this choice is the only choice for us, and that feeling is crystal clear. In fact, making a decision knowing it is the best decision we could’ve made and that God would be pleased with our decision – that decision then becomes a source of strength for our faith and an opportunity to bring us into a more intimate bond with Him.

This was what ran through my mind yesterday in prayer. I was asking myself when I prayed for strength about this thing, why I was even asking for strength in the first place. There are so many hidden things in our hearts, and only prayer can refine and clarify them for us. Only the Spirit can search our thoughts and help us put things in the right perspectives.

The Old Prophet

The story in the book of 1st Kings illustrates how susceptible human mind is to deception. The main character in the story is a man of God, who mightily used by God to pronounce judgment against Jeroboam. His judgment was accompanied by a miraculous sign of breaking up the altar, with which Jeroboam prophesied. Jeroboam stretched out his hand against him. In his aggression, however, Jeroboam’s hand began to wither away at the command of the prophet. God restored his hand when the man of God entreated the Lord (1 Kgs 13:1-6).

However, the young prophet had been given a firm instruction from the Lord: ‘You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you come’ (1 Kgs 13:9). When first asked to go to Jeroboam’s home, he refused with great faith, with the command of the Lord clearly imprinted in his mind. However, when he was tempted by an old prophet to go home with him to eat, he refused his initial invitation. His refusal was based on the divine instruction given. However, after much persuasion, eventually, he gave in to the old prophet’s request. The man of God went home with him.

Why did the young man fail? The old prophet invoked a divine involvement ‘God and His instruction’ and used it as a trick intended to calm his mind (1 Kgs 13:18). This is a bait to catch the young prophet. The old prophet’s claim of being a prophet too has added credential to his word. The claim served to bypass the command of the Lord, providing assurance to him impliedly that it was God who had changed His mind. The young prophet believed in his words. This is human frailty. Instead of looking at what God has said man tends to pay attention to words from man of high status or with great charisma, forgetting the fact that God does not change.

The chain of event here was build upon the foundation that a rapport had first been established. Being a much more advanced in age, the old prophet craftily extended his invitation to the young prophet to his home. He cunningly mentioned the position of the young man: ‘Are you the man of God who came from Judah’ (I Kgs 13:14)? This is very soothing to the ears, and made the old prophet appear to be very cordial, approachable and sincere. This removed any suspicion he might have held against the old prophet. It caused him to drop his guard, and unknowingly he fell into the fatal deceptive trap of the old prophet.

For His Mercy Endures Forever

If you’ve ever read the entire Psalm 136 aloud, you might have giggled at least once. In the latter portion of all 26 verses, there is this phrase: For His mercy endures forever.

At first glance, it appears that the author is just using the literary technique of repetition. After all, when you single out some verses such as 5, “To Him who by wisdom made the heavens, for His mercy endures forever,” or 17, “To Him who struck down great kings, for His mercy endures forever,” the connection isn’t very clear.  We might see the connection with God’s almighty wisdom and power from those two verses, respectively, but how is His mercy related?

Upon a closer look, this chapter is actually very well structured and has a beautiful flow. The first three verses as well as the concluding verse emphasize on giving thanks to God because of His mercy which endures forever. Consequently, we move into a more detailed account of what God has done out of His mercy that we ought to give thanks for.

From verses 4-9, the author talks about God’s creation of the heavens and the earth (Gen 1.1). Everything God made was good in His sight (1.31). The earth was laid out above the waters (Ps 136.6) that man may not drown. The sun and the moon and stars are to rule in their time (136.8-9) that man may not dwell in darkness. God did all this out of His everlasting mercy on us.

From verses 10-22, the author talks about the Exodus –God leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the promised land, also prefiguring our path to salvation today. Everything He did, from dividing the Red Sea in two to slaying famous kings, was done out of His enduring mercy on us –that we should not die but be saved (cf. Ezek 33.11).

Lastly, verses 23-25 are the most easily understood verses as they can be directly applied to us today: He remembered us in our lowly state, rescued us from our enemies, and gives food to all flesh. Undoubtedly, all of this comes from none other than God’s mercy which endures forever.

From creation to salvation to our daily living, God’s mercy is written all over. When we can grasp that, then Psalm 136 is no longer literary piece of work but a testimony that His mercy is written in between every line of our lives. Therefore, let us not cease to continually give thanks to God for His great mercy!

Failing Eyes

My eyes fail from seeking Your salvation
And Your righteous word
. (Ps 119:123)

This is one of the many verses which has always caught my attention. Instead of saying “my eyes will seek Your salvation” or “how I love to seek Your righteous word” –which we might anticipate as we read through the famous Psalm 119– this author admits defeat; he writes that his eyes fail from seeking God’s salvation and righteous word. What happened here? More than halfway through the chapter of meditating on the excellencies of God’s word, the author says his eyes fail.

The reason why this verse has always caught my attention is because I can very much relate to it. After countless rich and edifying seminars of all sorts, sometimes my eyes simply fail from seeking God’s salvation and His righteous word –even though I have tasted its sweetness (Ps 119:103). I lose motivation to meditate on the words of God and needless to say, have no inspiration to even edify myself.

Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy,
And teach me Your statutes.
I am Your servant;
Give me understanding,
That I may know Your testimonies
. (v.124-125)

The author, however, turns around and asks God for mercy after he has admitted his weakness, his defeat. He also realizes that he needs God to personally teach him and give him understanding that he may know God’s testimonies. It is very clear that we cannot know God’s word without understanding, which comes from God Himself. We also need to acknowledge that we are merely His servants, useless without His help.

Therefore I love Your commandments
More than gold, yes, than fine gold!
(v.126)

The author’s final realization is perhaps the most important one: he loves God’s commandments more than fine gold. Fine gold equates to wealth and money for us today. Money is something we all need to sustain our daily lives as well as to save for the future. Do we even view God’s commandments at least the same way we do about money? Do we see how God’s word sustains our daily lives as well as stores up our heavenly treasures in the future?

Therefore, the author’s conclusion is that we must perceive God’s commandments as being more precious than anything this world can afford today. It follows naturally that if we love God’s word more than anything, our eyes would not fail to seek His salvation and His righteous word.