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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Romans Bible Study # 41 Romans 12:16-20

(This is a little long, only because I thought it necessary to "wrestle with the text" of verse 20.)
Romans Bible Study # 41
Romans 12:16-20

16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” NASB

14-16Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.

17-19Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."

20-21Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. The Message

Verse 16 - All that stuff you are doing for your enemies, do it for each other in the church too. You are not too good to do any job that needs done. Look for the ‘lowly job’ and do it. Be the one who feels driven inside to take care of the small, unseen stuff, serve out of love. Realize that you can learn from anyone at anytime, and you will.
Verse 17 - Evil for evil is not the way of the Master. He hung on a cross for you, are you better than He is? The things that your conscience says to do, the things common to all men, by the ‘spark of the Divine’ that God put in them, be one who is known for doing ‘life’ that way.
Verse 18 - Paul who was stoned, imprisoned and passionately hated by many, realizes first hand that you cannot be at peace with everyone, but you can ensure that you are not the cause of the battle. You can be bending over backwards to keep peace. You can pick and choose the times when you are ‘completely truthful’ and watch the tone of your voice that often pushes people over the edge.
Verse 19 - “Never,” strong word; there goes the plot of most of the, guy movies, out there. The thing is because we are not sovereign or omniscient, there is always something about a person or a situation that we do not know. God, perfectly just, and all-knowing will determine the time and the amount of vengeance that is needed.
Verse 20 - We are going to go in to depth on this verse because it is worth wrestling with.

Barth thoughts:
This section speaks of things that the mercy of God leads us ‘not’ to do. What we don’t do in choosing not to be like the world, can reveal God to the world. What Barth calls negative ethics. But he is very aware that we could then become a religion defined by what we don’t do, and he says that can not be, because what we don’t do, only has value in God’s eyes if it was led by His Spirit. The action itself is not the revealing of God, it is when that action is inspired by God that it can lead to a revealing of Him.
Verse 16 - High things in the world are open to grave suspicion in God. Power, riches, wealth, in this life are given many cautions and warnings. Weakness, littleness, deprivation and lowliness are more attractive to God, because they leave more room for Him to work and for Him to receive glory. When I am weak then I am strong, when the flesh dies true life comes, when our power gives out, His power comes in. All the high things of this world eventually come down and Christianity sees that clearly. Christianity does not put its ultimate confidence in art, science, religion or state. In the Old Testament there was frequent mention of ‘high places’ that were not torn down even when a King or prophet would lead a revival. I have often thought what is the New Testament equivalent of these high places. and this is it. Christianity does not have a ‘pollyanna’ view of the world. It sees men moving but toward greater deprivation and rebellion against God. Christianity, like Christ, is attracted to those who ‘need a physician’ to the insoluble problem, to sadness. Thus after 9/11 there was a noticeable change in the culture, but as soon as we started to regain our balance and become confident and strident again, the ‘need’ for God disappeared as we turned back to our ‘high places.' God needs to be our motive in helping the poor, or even that can become twisted. Just like God needs to be the motive for peace, because in the end times, the desire for peace will fuel the rise of the anti-Christ who will promise, and deliver temporary peace. We are all patients in one hospital in need of one Doctor. This knowledge allows us to be of the same mind one toward another.
“By breaking down all individualism, Christianity establishes the Individual.”
Verse 17 - “evil for evil" Good is not a second possibility contrasted with evil. Good is the dissolution of evil, its judgment. God is the justification of men by God. We render evil for evil in our thoughts long before it becomes an action when we “hold him liable for being what he is. Abiding by our neighbor’s visible aspect, and content with observing him directly, we judge him to be utterly lost to the good.” Only when we see ourselves as equally evil and equally as in need of God’s grace to blow the ‘spark of the divine’ into a flame, can be ‘love.' In overlooking evil there is “demonstrated in this world what is in fact invisible, namely the One in the other and the overlooking of sin by God.
Verse 18 - Our conflict with others whether one-on-one or in war, tends to drown out the struggle within ourselves. “It is not for us to impose as it were an additional burden upon this or that man. It is not for us to make known to him that he too is --a man!"
Verse 19 - When we ‘take up arms’ to act, in answer to the pressing question, “What shall I do?" The haste of the moment is taking us to a place we should not go. When men angrily propose to occupy the field which is already occupied by the wrath of God, they are taking the scepter from His hand. If I come to a place of understanding that the wrath of God is against all men, which includes me, then, I have no rational for acting in the ‘normal way.'
Verse 20 - I must surely do the irrational, impossible, and altogether unpractical thing. We truly see his suffering as our suffering. This action announces a coming world and announces that we are living in it, more than we are living in this world, and in announcing that world brings the receiver to a crossroads.

Time to wrestle with ‘heaping burning coals on his head.'
A good principle when seeking a deeper understanding is to let scripture interpret scripture.
Find another passage with the same words or thought and see what it is saying in context.

The burning coal of Isaiah 6 is for cleansing, our actions of totally overlooking the behavior of the enemy and serving the ONE in him, could definitely lead him to a moment of cleansing.

"May burning coals fall upon them; May they be cast into the fire, Into *deep pits from which they cannot rise. Psalm 140:10 The burning coals are definitely judgment here.

It is a quote from Proverbs and it pretty much stands alone Prov. 25:21,22, but there is one interesting thought that I had. How would you know your enemy was hungry unless you cared about and were concerned for him. So love is at the foundation of your action.
Very long quote from a sermon by John Piper
So what does Paul mean when he says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”? In the context, coming right after saying be good to your enemy, I think he means “Don’t let your enemy’s hostility produce hostility in you. But let your love triumph over his hostility.” Don’t be overcome by evil means. Don’t be overcome by his evil. Don’t let another person’s evil make you evil. Oh, how crucial that is.

When you let your adversary make you evil he is the victor. If you let a person’s sin govern your emotions so that your sinful anger or your misery or your depression is owing to their evil, then you are being overcome by evil. And Paul says, You don’t have to be overcome that way. Paul is addressing here the whole victim mentality of our day—people who feel or do evil things and then blame it on someone else’s evil. They let themselves be overcome by someone else’s evil so that they now do evil also. And then they blame the other person.

But Paul says, Don’t be overcome by evil. Don’t let another person’s evil provoke you to evil thoughts or evil attitudes or evil deeds. Don’t give them that kind of power. You don’t have to. Christ is your king. Christ is your leader, your champion, your treasure. Christ governs your life, not those who do evil. When someone does evil to you, you should say, “You are not my Lord. I will not be controlled by you. I will not have my attitudes and thoughts and actions dictated by your evil. Christ is my Lord. Christ dictates my attitudes and thoughts and actions.

Oh how different this is than the way most people react. We let our emotions and our thoughts and our actions be reflexes to what people say and do to us. And the corollary is that we can then blame them for our evil—our anger, our bitterness, our discouragement, our depression, our vengeance. But Paul says, No. When Christians encounter evil, they don’t merely respond to evil, they respond to Christ who deals with the evil. He died for it, or he will punish it in hell. Christ is the dominant reality in our lives, not other people’s evil. Therefore, do not be overcome by evil. Do not be governed by it. Do not let your enemy’s hostility make you hostile.

Rather overcome evil with good. Which, in the context means “let your love triumph over your enemy’s hostility.” But what does that mean? Does it mean that, if you give him water when he is thirsty and food when he is hungry, he will always repent and become your friend? No. We know Paul doesn’t think that. Jesus’s enemies do not all respond positively to his love for them. One thief on the cross repented and the other cursed. Peter repented. Judas hanged himself. The centurion said, “This was the Son of God.” The Pharisees said good riddance. The love of Christ does not produce repentance in everyone. And your love won’t either.

Paul says in verse 18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” In other words, you will do everything you should, and still some will not make peace.

“Overcome Evil With Good”

So what does “overcome evil with good” mean? It means either you triumph through the repentance of your enemy or you triumph through the judgment of your enemy. In other words, if you will love your enemy, and bless those who curse you (v. 14), and not return evil for evil (v. 17), and not avenge yourselves (v. 19), you will be the overcomer, the conqueror, the victor no matter how your enemy responds.

We saw this in verse 19 (“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’”), and we see it again in verse 20 in the words, “coals of fire.” “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

“You Will Heap Burning Coals on His Head”

What does this mean, “you will heap burning coals on his head”? There is no evidence that I am aware of that would suggest burning coals heaped on the head is a symbol of blessing or repentance (which is the way most people take it). I have heard people talk about a custom in Bible times of going to your neighbor when your fire goes out and borrowing glowing coals and carrying them in a basket on your head back to start your fire. I can find no evidence of such a practice in Bible times at all. It seems to me that someone probably made that up to solve this problem. Nor is there any use of the phrase to refer to remorse or repentance.

On the contrary, every use of terms like “coals of fire” in the Old Testament and outside the Old Testament is a symbol of divine anger or punishment or evil passion. The only reason that so many interpreters give it the meaning of repentance or remorse is because they believe it fits the context better. So the question is—and you can answer it as well as a scholar can—is that true?

Verse 14 is clear. Yes, our aim in loving our enemy is to bless him not curse him. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Our first and most urgent longing for our enemies is that they be blessed—that they repent and that they trust Christ and that his ransom pay all their debts and give them salvation. Yes, that is the goal. It’s the goal of this whole chapter. Live so as to lead people into an enjoyment of the mercy of God.

But that’s not the whole picture. Because we saw in verse 19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” This means that when you love your enemy and they don’t repent and receive the blessing of your love, evil does not triumph. God’s justice triumphs. “I will repay says the Lord.” You don’t need to be the judge. God will. You don’t need to win on earth. God will win for you in the last day.

So when we get to verse 20 and we hear that loving our enemies will bring “burning coals on their head,” there are two realities in this context, not just one. One is mercy and blessing if they repent. And the other is justice and wrath if they don’t. I am saying that “you will heap burning coals on his head” refers more naturally to the justice reality, not the mercy reality.

Here is a passage that helps us see the way love works with judgment, Romans 2:4-5. Watch the effect of God’s love for his enemies when it is rejected. The result is very much like coals of fire.

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

This is the way God’s love works for his enemies, and it is the way our love works for our enemies. Our desire is that they would repent and come to a knowledge of the truth. But if they don’t, the very love that we are showing increases the weight of wrath on their head. The more of God’s mercy that people reject, the more wrath they heap up upon themselves.

And so it is with you and the enemies you love: the more mercy they reject, the more coals of fire will be heaped on their head. This is not our desire or our aim. Our aim is in verse 14: Bless and do not curse. Pray for your enemies. Be like Paul in Romans 10:1, “My heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”

For this we are willing to lay down our lives—that our enemies will be saved. Thousands of missionaries have done it. But what verse 20 is saying is this: If it looks like your love has failed, and instead of converting your enemy, your enemy kills you, be assured, you have overcome evil. It has not overcome you. God will have the last word. Not your enemy. You will be vindicated in the resurrection of the just. For this Christ died and rose again. For this there was Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and especially Easter Sunday.

Be strong, Christians. Don’t be overcome by evil. Overcome evil with good.

David Guzik
Is the heaping coals of fire on his head something good in the eyes of our enemy or is it something bad? It most likely refers to a “burning conviction” that our kindness places on our enemy. Or, some think it refers to the practice of lending coals from a fire to help a neighbor start their own - an act of kindness that would be appreciated.
Nevertheless, we see that we can destroy our enemy by making him our friend.

Chuck Smith
Now, it isn't always possible. There are some people there is just no way you can live in peace with them. But let it be their fault not yours, as much as lies in you live peaceably with all men.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; and I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head (Rom 12:19-20).

This is a quotation actually out of the Proverbs, and just exactly what it may mean has been a matter of conjecture, but it probably means that you would bring him to burning shame. In other words, your good treatment, your kind and loving treatment would bring him to a burning shame.

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).

David Brown
20. if thine enemy hunger, &c.--This is taken from Pro 25:21, 22 , which without doubt supplied the basis of those lofty precepts on that subject which form the culminating point of the Sermon on the Mount.
in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head--As the heaping of "coals of fire" is in the Old Testament the figurative expression of divine vengeance ( Psa 140:10 11:6 , &c.), the true sense of these words seems to be, "That will be the most effectual vengeance--a vengeance under which he will be fain (willing) to bend" (So ALFORD, HODGE, &c.). Rom 12:21 confirms this.

So I guess I can see the point that is being made, that it is showing love toward your enemy, when your kindness puts him under the judgment of God, and that is the place where he is likely to be changed, to turn to God. My biggest disagreement with that interpretation is that it seemed like I was the one pushing God’s vengeance on the person. But that is not the “last word” I am putting them into a place where they can be saved. The temporary ‘bad place’ is actually a ultimate good place.

That is how we “wrestle with the text.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Romans Bible Study # 40 Romans 12:9-15

Romans Bible Study # 40
Romans 12:9-15

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. NASB

9-10Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. The Message

Verse 9 Like all commands this is impossible. Like all commands, it will only be done by the grace of God, and only He will receive glory when it is done. Only those who are secure in the love of God, can truly love others. Free from selfish motivation and a need to ‘gain’ something, they love freely as they have known themselves to be freely loved. Part of love is to abhor what is evil, in Ephesians Paul says our battle is against spiritual powers. They are evil. We see what cancer does, what addiction does they are evil. ”Be angry and sin not” implies there is a ‘righteous anger‘ against some things that a passionate lover of God will feel and express. Through their prayer, through their life they will 'rage against the machine’ of evil spirits and powers of this world system. “Cling to what is good.” ‘Only God is good,’ Jesus said. Only the fruit of His life flowing through us is good. Lots of people are out there doing good things, but if God is not at the root, they are not truly and ultimately good.
Verse 10 Brotherly love, is so anti-cultural, that it is listed as one of the things that allowed the church to grow in the midst of terrible persecution. Giving preference to one another is definitely flowing up stream in a society where ‘looking out for number 1,’ is the underlying theme. The Holy Spirit produces fruit by working from the inside with power and from the outside with the word of God. God works love and honoring in us by these two ways. Again everything goes back to the mercy that we were shown and our awareness of it. Giving preference is simply trusting in God that I am taken care of and forgiven and now I am free to go and give that to others.
Verse 11 Christian workers are good workers, reliable, honest, doing their best. “Fervent in Spirit" we are not to go about our days like robots doing our duty with no joy. That is impossible for someone who truly knows their own filthiness and the wonderful grace that pulled them out of the pit. “Serving the Lord", a life-changing thought, what are you doing right now, whatever it is, you can be doing it as, ‘serving the Lord.'
Verse 12 Hope that is so real, that it causes joy to spring forth, when there is no visible reason for rejoicing. Trusting in the sovereignty of God so much that tribulation is not as real as His presence. How are we going to get out of this, how is this going to work out...prayer. Moment by moment, our trial, is a call to prayer.
Verse 13 ‘Contributing to the needs of the saints" Saints have needs, how can we be aware of them, we must be in fellowship and in each others lives in such a way that we know what those needs are and are drawn to help in any way that we can. Hospitality could be a very risky, dangerous thing in a society where Christians were being persecuted. Opening your home to a Jew in the Nazi time was hospitality that could cost you your life.
Verse 14 God is ultimately in control, so your persecutor is ‘off the hook.’ The one who is truly in control will work it all out for the good. I have been shown great mercy, and all I have to give to you in return for persecution is... mercy. Piper says that 'not punching someone’ does not require the love of God, but blessing them from your heart when they have wronged you that requires God’s love. ‘Do not curse’ is repeated elsewhere in scripture, directly from Jesus when He says “call no man fool." We as Christians are to realize the power of our tongue to bless and to curse and we are not permitted to curse, period.
Verse 15 Let the heart of others touch your heart. The context is our ‘enemy’, that makes this an impossible verse also. We need the supernatural mercy of God flowing out of us. It is one thing not to hit someone, it is quite another to bless them from our hearts. To be saddened by what saddens their heart. To rejoice when things go well with them, no matter what they did to us in the past. This is the cure for ‘taking offense’ that then lets the root of bitterness grow and defile many. We are free from the weight , the yoke of anger that we now choose not to carry around, because, there is nothing in us that wants to see their destruction. We are so overwhelmed by the mercy that has been shown to us that we have no “left over” anger to pour out on anyone, EVEN the one who offended us greatly! This is Christian love, no other religion offers it, has it, or can enliven it in one of their followers, and so, “you will be known by your love” becomes something that we live out and God is glorified, and people are drawn to Him, the only God who can make this big of a change in a human being!!

Barth -- The key is the source of love, the Primal Origin. Love may not be what God is calling for in every situation. Genuine, unfeigned, without hypocrisy, love, only God can be the source of such a thing. Our love is going to have our interests in it somehow, or it will be expecting some sort of a response that builds us up. Our love toward men shows up as a parable of our love toward God. True agape love demonstrates the existence of the invisible God. Eros deceives. It is now hot and now cold. Agape reminds us that in our whole conduct towards men it is God who must be honored; the the purity of our relation to them can never consist in our observable intercourse with them, but only in that renewing of the mind by which human intercourse is perpetually transformed and reconstituted. Agape reminds us that the purity of human intercourse cannot be measured by possible ‘success’, for the endeavor to bring about positive ‘results’ is a motion of eros. Agape consists rather in the offering of a pure sacrifice. Love is without dissimulation when its source is God. This means to seek and to serve the One in the others, which is the meaning of 1 Cor. 13.
Only the love which is strong enough to abhor that which is evil can cleave to that which is good. Love forgets --and knows; forgives--and punishes; freely receives--and utterly rejects.
verse 10 Men can be brothers only in God. Only when it is defined with God as the glue and the goal can brotherliness withstand the rebound of failure and disappointment, which is inevitable in all brotherliness with which we are familiar.
“in honor preferring one another” This action must be an unconditional, genuine preference, which expects nothing in return. Only by this can it represent the honor which we owe to God.
verse 11 “not lagging behind in diligence” This call is from God, His authority, His life are available to us to accomplish these things, (It just seems like we should pause here, selah, and be amazed, HIS LIFE is available to us, wow!) so we should not 'fall behind’ others but set the pace in love. “Fervent in spirit” Call upon Him to enliven and empower you to ‘do.’ Seek the best, the highest. “Serving the Lord” Time is given equally to every man, what you do with it, is your decision, choose God.
Verse 12 “rejoicing in hope” knowing God in hope without seeing Him, and to be satisfied that it should be so. “persevering in tribulation” Only when it is borne patiently, however, is it a protest against the course of the world. Patience means to love those who oppress us. It means to know God in tribulation without seeing Him, and to be satisfied that it should be so. This patience it is which makes of tribulation an ethical action, and gives it its significance of an advance from “Here” to “There” Patience means faith in God--here and now.
‘devoted to prayer’ God is sought and intended in prayer, it is God’s will that we should pray. This directed, prayer is the groaning within us of the Spirit which is not our spirit.
Verse 13 ‘contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.’ To do this demonstrates that we are aware of the unity of the community in Christ. Aware of the community that is around us and aware of the community of those who are Christs’ who are passing through.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. The persecutor threatens personal suffering to those who are under grace, he is not the enemy of God but His messenger; and as such he must be welcomed. This blessing means that in the midst of the human struggle for existence honor is paid to God, and in the most impressive manner we recognize the ‘One’ in the ‘other’.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. There is laughter representing life, and weeping representing death. Michal tried to stop David’s rejoicing before the ark. Job’s friends tried to check his cry of pain. We demonstrate against the form of this world, in this case, by allowing the ‘other ‘ to forget his ‘otherness’.

I am reminded of Steve’s testimony about the ‘most important person in the room’ for a NA gathering. These practical verses will be our ultimate ‘attraction not compulsion’ weapon, in the evangelism of the world. Living these verses will make us stand out as a people set apart, with a God like no other. People who see us doing this kind of living will not be able to explain it by writing us off as ‘nice guys.’ This goes way beyond that, pick an enemy to bless today and watch as the ice melts.

John 13:35
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

hand over My sword

"Altar time" at the end of a church service often gives God the opportunity He has been patiently waiting for to speak to us. Yesterday He directed me to hand over the "sword of judgment" that I had been using on my wife and kids. I knew at that time, that it was His sword, and only He could use it rightly. I handed it over and I hope never to pick it up again.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ruth, shelter of your wings, David

Join me on this journey. Months ago I fell in love with Jason Upton's song. Under the Shadow, which borrowed heavily from David's imagery in the Psalms about being under the shadow of God's wings. From there I pondered how this shepherd who used plenty of, sheep analogy's, came to use a bird to describe His God. Thanks to an assignment from our Youth Pastor to read the book of Ruth, and a Netflix video about Ruth I came to an amazing conclusion today, by the grace of God. In the video David's grandfather, Obed is telling him the story of Ruth, his great-great grandmother. In the story of Ruth we read how Boaz answered Ruth when she asked why she was being shown such favor. "May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge." This is the first usage in scripture of the concept of being under Gods' wings. Later in the book, when Ruth takes a huge chance and presents herself at Boaz's feet, she uses the same imagery in a plea for his mercy and love, and this time I am grateful for the foot note in the ESV, He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings* over your servant, for you are a redeemer."
* Compare 2:12; the word for wings can also mean corners of a garment.
So here is the lovely continuum of the people of God. Ruth and Boaz told the story of their love to Obed who passed down that story with its wonderful imagery of being under the shadow of God's wings to David who used it at least 6 times in his Psalms (and one in particular may reveal where Boaz got the idea from. Psalm 61:4 "Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah" The wings in the tent would have been the angels wings covering the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant.) And now we Christians who run to God for mercy and get great comfort from the Psalms, benefit from these insights into the nature and character of our God.
There is conjecture that David was illegitimate, his great-great grandmother was a Moabite, it was against the Law for an Israelite to marry a Moabite, but God was working beyond the Law. Also the incest of Judah and Tamar is in the line of David, but God worked beyond that. His grace keeps on working as we keep on failing. This blessing from the people around Boaz and Ruth on the day he officially became her kinsman-redeemer is both amazing and intriguing. Ruth 4:11 All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, "We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem.
Rth 4:12 "Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the LORD will give you by this young woman." Giving a blessing to be like Rachel and Leah is 'typical' because through them the 12 tribes were birthed, but to give a blessing to be like Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, makes one think they were willing to bless this "unlawful" union because they remembered how God had shown mercy before, right in the lineage of Boaz to allow an unlawful situation to be in His plan for a coming king. And of course there is another scripture that uses both Bethlehem and Ephrathah in the same sentence..." But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days." Micah 5:2 the verse that the scholars in Herod's court knew pointed to the birth place of the Messiah. So I am just in awe today of the God who uses the weakest, lowest, smallest, most unlawful people to bring the Messiah to the world, yep He is still doing that today!
(And I have to add, it is my opinion that as the church goes through the tribulation as salt and light we will be persecuted yes, but we will be experiencing the "now" blessing of Revelation 12:10,11 "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." We who have benefited greatly by the truth of the Old Testament will be given the privilege of being a martyr witness to the Jews, much like Stephen was to Paul.) Rom 11:17 "But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree," It is all one tree, we are all one body, we will go through the tribulation together in love.)