Ruth 3 & 4
By what authority?
Verses 1-2, “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?”
“That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1.9).
Solomon had it right. Many people say what amounts to the same thing today. The words may be different, but the heart attitude is the same, a refusal to recognize the authority of God and His Word.
“What right do you have to impose your religion on me?”
“What makes you think the Bible is true?”
“By what authority do you have a National Day of Prayer?”
“How can you say that Jesus is the only way to heaven?”
But before we get too self-righteous about the words and attitudes of non-believers, we need to first take the logs out of our own eyes.
“I know what the Bible says, but …”
“This is 2016 …”
“Me … submit to my husband. What if he’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong with living together? A marriage license is just a piece of paper.”
“Sex isn’t wrong if you’re committed to each other.”
I read a book recently and one of the chapters started out like this, “There is a God. I’m not him.” A simple truth, yet we constantly choose to go our own way, believing we can make our own rules as if the Bible is a book of divine suggestions.
Abuse of Authority
But what about the abuse of authority? How should one respond when mistreated, falsely accused or abused?
Mistreatment and abuse of authority happens in a fallen world. It isn’t anything new. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for the better part of 400 years. The Jews were mistreated, beaten, killed and enslaved by the Babylonians, the Romans, and others. They were imprisoned, stripped of rights, property, and even life itself, by Hitler and his henchmen. Today they are hated by various Islamic groups and nations who are determined to see them annihilated.
Nations from every continent in the world have been enslaved and abused by other tribes and nations at various times in history. Ungodly people with power and authority have often abused that power.
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
So what should Christians do?
Well, first we should stand up when others are mistreated, especially those who can’t defend themselves. The Bible specifically mentions widows and orphans. I believe this speaks directly to unborn babies. We can stand up in this area by educating ourselves through organizations like the Life Training Institute and learning how to respond to desperate unwed mothers and their boyfriends in a loving, yet truthful way. We can stand up by supporting our local pro-life organizations. Here in El Paso the Pregnancy Help Center does great work to protect the unborn and minister to their mothers, fathers, and those who have suffered the pain of abortion already.
When we’re mistreated
And how should we respond when we are mistreated or have been in the past? The book of 1 Peter has some things to say on that subject.
In 64 A.D. historians say the Emperor Nero burned a large part of Rome to the ground to make room for palaces and other buildings he hoped would become his legacy. (That begs the questions, “What do our politicians justify today in the name of “legacy”?) When accusations were aimed at him he looked around for a scapegoat to blame and found a convenient target: Christians.
During this time Christians came under intense persecution. They were imprisoned, beaten and persecuted in dozens of ways. Some were dipped in tar and burned as torches, others were thrown to lions, and still others dragged to death through the streets of Rome.
It was during this time and to those people that Peter wrote his epistle. 1 Peter 2:
13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.
This isn’t the only passage that addresses the proper response to evil. Romans 12 says:
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Today we have men who claim to be ministers of God who are spouting things completely opposed to the truths of Scripture. God will deal with them in His timing, but each of us is responsible for our responses and our attitudes. We are also responsible to speak the truth to those in our sphere of influence. As Edmund Burke said so long ago, evil triumphs when good men and women do nothing.
Note: While the same heart attitude is required, if a child or a spouse is being abused, overcoming evil does not mean not reporting it or not removing yourself from the situation. There are other commands of Scripture that also come into play. If that is you, seek help. Go to your pastor or another spiritually mature person. And call 911, if necessary. If you have a question about this subject, please let me know and I’ll be happy to answer you here (or privately, just go to the contact page).
Today’s Other Readings:
Chapter 3 opens with these verses:
1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? 2 Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3 Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”
5 And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.”
Even though the custom seems very strange to us, Ruth was obeying her mother-in-law and doing the morally right thing to appeal to Boaz to marry her under the levirate law. Boaz commended her for her request. After their marriage, the first child born to Boaz and Ruth was Obed, the grandfather of King David and ancestor of Jesus Christ.
Boaz as Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer was a type of Jesus Christ Himself who would later redeem us because we had been sold into sin and had no means to redeem ourselves.
The end of the wicked
The psalmist compares the ultimate destruction of evil doers and God’s care for the righteous. He acknowledges that the wicked may boastfully appear to succeed for a time, but will ultimately be judged and become a laughing stock.
Meditation, the heart, and the lips
Verse 7, “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge, but the heart of the fool does not do so.”
Why does the writer of Proverbs compare the “lips” of the wise and the “heart” of the fool? Because the two are so closely tied together.
The reason the wise woman (or man) is able to disperse knowledge is because she has been putting God’s truth into her heart, choosing to view things from God’s perspective, meditating on it, and seeking to be a doer of it.
The fool, on the other hand, feeds and meditates on all the wrong things. Don’t think you can have a thought life full of whining and complaining, envy and jealousy, and have anything wholesome come out of your mouth. You may be able to fool people for a while, but eventually your words will reveal what is really in your heart.
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