When God distributed land to each of the 12 tribes of Israel it was His intent that an allotment become a permanent inheritance for each tribe. Thus, He made provision for the redemption of the land and for the care of widows within a family. This is played out for us in the Book of Ruth. Naomi lost not only her husband, Elimelech, but also both of her sons. Out of love and concern for Naomi, her daughter-in-law, Ruth, a Moabite, decided to stay with her. She declared, "Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)
The women returned to Bethlehem during the barley harvest, and Ruth went to glean in a field owned by Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech. Naomi realized that Boaz could be a kinsman-redeemer for them. This means that he would be responsible to protect the interests of the family and would pay the price for their deliverance and freedom. He would take care of Naomi and Ruth and any offspring that might result from his marriage to Ruth. Ruth was instructed to lay at the feet of Boaz after he finished winnowing the barley on the threshing floor and to request that he provide a covering for her.
Boaz was ready to become Ruth's kinsman-redeemer but knew that there was a man who was a closer relative to Elimelech's family who could serve as the redeemer. Boaz and 10 witnesses gathered at the City gate to bring to the attention of this man that Naomi was going to sell the land that belonged to Elimelech. He could purchase the land, but Ruth would come along with it. His responsibility would be to marry her and have children with her so that the name of the dead man would be maintained with his property. (Ruth 4:3-6) At hearing this, the man refused to become the kinsman-redeemer because he said, "I would jeopardize my own inheritance." (Ruth 4:6 - NAS) He passed his right of redemption on to Boaz who became the kinsman-redeemer of Elimelech's family. Boaz gladly took on a Gentile wife and redeemed the property, preserving the family name. He is a picture of our Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
We know that Jesus is the Son of God. He was sent to earth for a specific mission--to redeem mankind from sin and the curse of the law, so that "we receive full rights of sons." (Galatians 4:5) Jesus came to restore our inheritance and fellowship with God. As our elder brother in the family line, He was not only qualified but also able and willing to redeem us.
The willingness of Jesus to be our kinsman-redeemer was demonstrated when He, the Son of God, took on a new name, "Son of Man," our name. He calls Himself this multiple times in the Gospels. He came to redeem both Jew and Gentile; we are "The Bride of Christ" for Him. "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So, Jesus is not ashamed to call them (us) brothers." (Hebrews 2:11) Jesus became our Kinsman-Redeemer, gladly taking on our name, the Son of Man, taking us as His bride, and restoring to us everlasting life. The women of Bethlehem said to Naomi: "Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer...He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age..." (Ruth 4:14-15) Should we not also give abundant praise to our Kinsman-Redeemer and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who has redeemed us and taken us on as His Bride?
Righteousness - Shevat
"'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will raise up to David a Righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.'" (Jeremiah 23:5-6) This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus came to earth and restored our relationship or right standing with God through His life, death and resurrection. All of us are in desperate need of righteousness! But how do we get it? Paul tells us in Romans 3:22. "This Righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe..." Also, we should personalize and thank God in prayer for the promise in Matthew 5:6. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled."
We have entered Shevat, the 11th month on the Hebrew calendar. The letter in the Hebrew alphabet for this month is TZADIK, which symbolizes the "Righteous One." So, this becomes the month where it is important for us to make righteousness our foundation, remembering that as we pursue righteousness we are pursuing God whose name is Jehovah Tsidkenu, "The Lord our Righteousness." Our goal is to be like Jesus whose throne sits on a foundation of righteousness and justice (Psalm 89:14), who shows Himself holy by His righteousness (Isaiah 5:16), who fills Zion with justice and righteousness, and is a sure foundation for our times. (Isaiah 33:5-6)
Psalm 33:5 tells us this: "The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love." However, many in our churches and nation have walked away from the love of the Lord and are not willing to live their lives according to His precepts. It has created a problem for the United States. God has already set a standard for us that we need to follow. Jeremiah the prophet warned His people about this issue: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness...They have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel." (Jeremiah 5:20, 24) Likewise, Isaiah pointed out to God's people that they made an agreement with death, but that God had made provision for their peace. "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line...Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will never stand." (Isaiah 28:16-18)
The wisdom of Solomon, as demonstrated in Proverbs 14:34, gives us food for thought. "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." The time is here for the Church to act. We cannot sit back and watch as our country goes more deeply into sin. God designed His people and the Church to be an example of His love and peace and righteousness. We must ask the Lord to guide us on paths of righteousness for His name sake (Psalm 23:3), and we must pray that God will make us and those we are praying for hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Let us ask the Lord, as the Psalmist did, for access: "Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. (Psalm 118:19) We can be assured that the Lord is ready to pour out His righteousness on those who ask. (Matthew 7:7-8)
The Lessons of the Snowflakes
Every person on the earth has been uniquely made for a unique purpose, both individually and corporately. One single person carrying the light of Jesus can dispel the darkness. The light of Christ shines even brighter when many Believers join in unity.
As I drove past fields of bright, white, freshly fallen snow in the morning light, I remembered God made each snowflake to be unique, just like us. The wonder of this does not escape many and speaks of the magnificence of our Creator. Kenneth Libbrecht, author of The Little Book of Snowflakes, says this: "We do not yet understand all the subtle mysteries of snowflakes. Exactly how the simple interactions of water molecules produce such a dramatic diversity of structures remains a puzzle." He continues, “It would seem that nature cannot be content in producing a plain snowflake. Even the simplest hexagon of ice, no larger than the head of a pin, must be decorated with its own unique pattern." Libbrecht knows of what he writes about; he takes pictures of thousands of snowflakes with his photomicroscope.
The human eye can catch a glimpse of one snowflake, but it takes special equipment to see the detail and inner beauty of a flake. For human beings, we must look within a person to see his or her God-given, special qualities. The Lord saw the shepherd boy David differently than His prophet Samuel. "...The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
God placed within each of us inner beauty and gifts; we are made in His image. The Lord's desire is that we shine the light of Christ brightly. Think how bright and beautiful a congregation of us in unity would be! One snow flake looks pretty falling from the sky, but a congregation of flakes is so bright in reflecting the sun that one can hardly look directly at them. As we take in the life of God's Son and gather together, we too will reflect His brightness.
It is the purity of white snow that makes it able to reflect the light of the sun so brightly. Likewise, the purity of our souls allows the light of The Son to reflect off of us. Here is what Solomon says in Proverbs 13:9. “The light of the righteous shines brightly."
Be reminded, as you look at the spectacular scenes of snow, that we are made in His image, to be pure and holy, like Him, so that we can reflect His light and beauty to the world. Here is what Jesus taught, as is written in Matthew 5:16. "...Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise Your Father in heaven."
As we study the appearance of a number in Scripture we can learn the meaning of that number. The number eight is significant for us now as it is the last number in both the Hebrew and Gregorian calendar years (5778 and 2018). The prophets are declaring that this is a year of new beginnings and of the open door. The number eight plays a large part in what they are prophesying. Hebrew, male babies were required to be circumcised when they were eight days old. (Genesis 17:12) On the eighth day of their lives, baby cattle and sheep were given as an offering to the Lord. (Exodus 22:30) Priests Aaron and his sons began their ministry and were dedicated to the Lord on the eighth day by bringing sin and burnt offerings to Him. (Leviticus 9:1-2) The Feast of Tabernacles is celebrated for seven days. But the eighth day is holy. "...On the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to the Lord by fire..." (Leviticus 23:36)
What are our expectations for the new year? Are we excited about the opportunities that will arise? I hope so! Jonathan Cahn, in his New York Times Best Seller, The Book of Mysteries, puts an interesting spin on the potential for a new year by introducing us to the Hebrew word "shannah." As with many Hebrew words, this word has two meanings. It can mean second, duplicate or repeat. Cahn says, "In the natural realm the year is a repetition of what has already been...the revolving of the earth around the sun...the coming of winter, spring, summer and fall...the rebirth of nature and its dying, the same progression, the same replaying of what already was."
The second meaning of shannah is to change. Cahn writes, "The way of the world is to repeat--but the way of God is the way of newness and change. You can't know God and not be changed by knowing Him. And His will is that the year, the shannah ahead of you, be not a time of repetition, but of change, of new beginnings, of new steps, of breaking out of old ways and the old nature...But you must choose to live in the supernatural and walk in the will and power of Him who makes all things new."
Charles Shamp, founder of Destiny Encounters, sought the Lord for a word for 2018: "What I am about to do for my people has no historical reference...I will visit in a new and fresh way...I will open the windows of heaven and showers of blessings will overtake your homes. This is a year of open opportunities, open doors and open heavens!" Glory of Zion's Chuck Pierce declares, "This will be a year of firsts, new beginnings and kingdom demonstrations...No matter how established you are, there will be new beginnings in your life, ministry and spheres of authority. We, the body of Christ, must manifest who we are and whom we represent." Amen!
The prophet Isaiah encourages us in Chapter 43, verses 18 and 19. "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." In the New Testament the apostle Paul describes the life of a Believer in Jesus Christ. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I hope you are as excited about the open doors and opportunities that God will provide for us as I am. He wants to meet us face-to-face to lead us into our Promised Land and destiny. Let's walk in newness of the Spirit, pursue Him wholeheartedly, and press into the new thing He has for us this year.
Joan E. Mathias