January 9, 2024

You Are Not A Footnote...

 Humans like stories.  We have been sharing stories for a very long time… from ancient cave paintings to the present humans have told stories.  Why?  Well, stories are powerful.  Stories have the power to inform, to teach, to entertain and so much more. As a Christian, I know one fact, I know the God who created and is creating history.  As I open a book called the Bible and study I am studying the story of God… of His dealing with mankind and those things which He finds important enough to tell me.  The Bible is God revealing Himself to us.  Here is something you need to hear.  The Bible is complete BUT God's story is not!  He is still interacting with us and the God who we read about in the Bible is continuing to write the story… so, realize this, you are in the middle of an amazing story, God’s incredible story, which continues to be written.  Think about it this way, your life is part of the same story that includes Abraham, Moses, Daniel, David, Mary, and so many others.

When you say someone or something is “a footnote in history” what you are saying is someone or something is remembered or regarded as a minor or unimportant part of an event.  In Genesis 16 we encounter such a person, Hagar.  At the beginning of the chapter, we see that the wife of Abram, knowing of the promise of a son (Genesis 12), seems to have chosen to help God and gave her servant to her husband so that he could have a male heir and this heir could fulfill God promises.  Well, at first, things seem to work out just fine. Everything went according to plan. Hagar conceived just as Sarai wanted. But, then the story takes a turn and not a positive one.  There were unexpected, negative consequences to Sarai's decision for after getting pregnant Hagar began to despise Sarai.  Sarai, seeing this, was now upset with Abram, blaming him for the situation.  And Abram… well, rather than deal with the situation, he tells us that he told Sarai to do whatever she wants with Hagar.  The Bible tells us that Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar… so much so that she ran away.

 So, here is Hagar, a seemly minor character in the story of the history of God's people.  One might even say she was a mistake or that her life was worthless.  As we continue to read the story in Genesis 16, we see Hagar, a servant who has fled her master, likely taking little with her.  She is alone and I am sure is feeling very bitter. She has been mistreated, abused, and dealt with unjustly. She was given, not by her choice, to her master, Abram.  Why? So that she would get pregnant because Abram couldn’t have a child with his own wife.  She is pregnant, a runaway servant, out in the wilderness with no food and no place to go. Maybe she thought of returning home to Egypt or maybe she had no plan at all.  Whatever, she probably felt as if no one cared and no one was listening as she cried.  But not true… for her story was not unimportant to God.

 After she had fled, pregnant and alone an Angel of the Lord appeared to her and he did something that I think is significant, he called her by her name.  She is not a servant, she is not property, she is not some Egyptian girl… she is Hagar, a person whom God sees and who is part of the story He is writing. Not only did the angel know her name, but scripture tells us that the angel says, “the Lord has listened to your affliction.”  She is not a ‘no’ one but a ‘some’ one… Hagar is now a person convinced that she has met God, the God who listens.  She says, “You are a God of seeing… truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”  Hagar realizes that the God of all creation sees her and that she matters.  She is not a footnote in the story God is writing a character of great importance.  Not only this, but God also gives promises to Hagar.  The angel says that God would multiply her offspring so that they cannot be numbered and that she will bear a son.  Now there is more to this story, to the life of Hagar, Ishmael, Abram, and Sarai… but that will be for another time.  

So, what are we to take from this.  Well, it is of utmost importance that you see, Hagar, though she seems insignificant, she discovered that her life had meaning and God was involved in crafting her story.  God knew her and had a plan for her life. The same can be said for each of us.  We have our own personal story and each day another page of the story is written.  Your story continues to unfold.

 I want to leave you with two questions to ponder.  In the story of Hagar, the angel asks, “…Where have you come from and where are you going?”  So, how do you answer these questions?  What is your story?  What part does God play in the story?  Pray that God will reveal to you how he is moving in and around you so you can stick close to the God Hagar encountered… the God who sees me (רֳאִי, אֵל). 

August 19, 2022


 I was preparing for a speaking engagement and spent time studying the character and story of Ruth.  In her story, one can see what it means to have love and faith.  Also, clearly display for all to see is the sovereignty and love of God. 

The story of Ruth takes place during the period of Judges.  It begins in a foreign land.  The central character, Ruth, is a native of Moab, a neighboring country of Israel and one which was disliked.  The Moabites were kin to the people of Israel but the story is shady and obscene, for the tribe descended from Moab, the son of Lot, born of an incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:37).  To escape a famine, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their family had left Bethlehem and moved to Moab. But then tragedy hits when Elimelech dies.  This leaves his wife, Naomi, with her two sons as her support and care for her.  Her sons marry Moabite women and all seems well.  But, as fate would have it, a decade later both sons died, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law to survive on their own.  At this time in history, in this place on the globe, unmarried women faced a life of poverty and ruin unless their family was nearby to care for them.  Naomi did not have family near.  She was in a foreign land and was left with her son’s wives, Orpah and Ruth. 

Because of her desperate situation, Naomi Decides to Return to Bethlehem (1:6-7).  She urges her Daughters-in-law to return to their families and stay in Moab (1:8) for she declares that she no longer has sons to offer and the hand of God is against her (1:11-13).  After a time of distress and discussion Orpah leaves but Ruth refused to depart (1:14).  Ruth states, “…Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Naomi returned to Bethlehem with Ruth as her companion (1:19-22).  Upon her return, one can hear the depth of despair when Naomi states…. “Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara,[bitter] for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”  This reflects the bleakness of their situation.  Words like despair, desolate, and hopelessness all come to mind when one looks at their situation.  However, in these two women, we see a very different responses for Ruth chose love and hope while Naomi bitterness and anger.

Naomi and Ruth had returned to the homeland of Naomi looking for a way to survive.  One such way, which was a custom of the times, was the act of gleaning a field.  This was a practice described in the Bible where one would collect leftover crops from farmers' fields after they had been harvested. Ruth, seeking to find a way to provide for her and Naomi, chose to glean from a nearby field.  In God’s sovereignty, the field she chose to glean from the field of a Jewish man by the name of Boaz.  In the story, we see Boaz to be an honorable man who was kind to Ruth (2:1-23). 

Now, Boaz also happened to be a relative of Naomi’s husband.  Naomi saw hope in this situation, for Ruth through the “kinsman redeemer” custom.  A kinsman redeemer was literally someone who redeems what is lost.  In this tradition, it was the responsibility of male relative to act on behalf of their relative who was in need.  So, Naomi instructs her as to the way present herself to Boaz asking him to be her redeemer (3:1-9).  Boaz accepts her proposal (3:10-18).  Boaz follows the law as to kinsmen redeemer and eventually, willingly takes Ruth as his wife (4:1-13).  Together Boaz and Ruth bear a son named Obed (who had a son named Jesse, whose son was David, whose lineage would produce Jesus).

The book of Ruth is simple yet profound.  In just four chapters, the author paints a picture of God’s redemptive love.  Ruth is a woman of enthusiasm, optimism, gratitude, and humility.  We see in her a deep love and loyalty to her mother-in-law.  We see her follow the traditions of God's people.  We see placing herself in the hand of God, for Ruth chose to follow Him when she follows Naomi, saying, “…your God [will be] my God (1:16).  In a series of divinely appointed circumstances, God moves in the life Ruth, a Moabite, to show his love.  In this story, we clearly see a God who is faithful and loving and a woman who emulates these characteristics.  Ruth is clearly an exemplar, an excellent person whom we can emulate.

So what?  Will we learn from the story of Ruth?  When life comes at us, what will we choose the road that is easy to follow or the hard road?  Now, let us be honest, the Christian life is not all peaches and cream, storms do come and hit hard.  We can choose to get trapped in hopelessness, in anger, or in self-pity.  We can feel distant from God or separated from his love.    We can do all this or we can see it as an opportunity to lean into God.  We can see the positive, we can choose to look for God, we seek to walk through the storms of life with the trust and force of character seen in Ruth.  When others suffer, will we condemn and ignore or will we be like Ruth toward Naomi?  Will we look at the world and see it as choosing sin or as a world filled with sin-sick people?  Many are lost in sin, struggling with feelings of hopelessness, isolation, or despair.  We may be the one dealing with it or the one who is a witness to it.  The question that likes what will we do?  You know, each of us and Ruth are not that different, we both will encounter the difficulties of life but if we call ourselves Christians, we both serve a just, loving God who is involved in our lives.