Summary of the Book of Ruth

The book of Ruth is one of the greatest ancient narratives known today, and focuses much of the story on one Jewish family during Israel‘s time of the judges. This is after the Joshua’s conquest of God‘s promised land, and before the nation demanded a king. When The nation would begin to fall away from God’s desire for them, He would send a judge to put them back on course. Important themes and events of The Book of Ruth include God’s sovereignty over Israel and the Messiah’s ancestry, application of God’s commands in the Law and how they can positively impact lives and the nation, and that God’s redemptive plan includes the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Harbin 209).

The Book of Ruth begins with the family of Elimelek, Naomi, and their two sons leaving Bethlehem in Judah to live in Moab during a famine. After Elimelek dies in Moab, their two sons marry Moabite women. One of the brides is named Ruth. After they had lived together for about ten years both of the sons die, leaving Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws. Naomi hears the Lord has provided food for her home and plans to leave Moab. She offers for her daughters-in-law to return to their families, but Ruth chooses to stay with Naomi and states she has accepted Naomi’s God as her own. Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem at the time of the harvest and Ruth proposes she will pick through the leftover grains in a nearby field. This was in accordance with the Law given by the Jewish prophet Moses as a means to feed the poor and starving. The field belongs to a relative of Elimelech, Boaz. He notices Ruth and her to dedication to her mother-in-law and makes sure she is able to collect all that she is capable of carrying. When Ruth tells Naomi where she acquired all the grain Naomi realizes Boaz is an eligible kinsman redeemer, and plots a plan for Naomi to ask Boaz to marry her. God’s Law to the Jews included a means to keep family land from changing hands to a new owner. A close relative was allowed to take the land for the deceased. The Law also allowed for a close relative who is not married to take as his wife the widow of his relative in order to provide children for the deceased lineage. There was one redeemer, who was more closely related to Elimelech, but he refused to take Ruth because she was a Moabite, and Boaz redeems both the property and Ruth. Ruth and Boaz have a child named Obed who is the grandfather of Israel’s King David. This means Ruth, a Moabite, is an ancestor to Jesus the Messiah (Harbin 210).

We should not confuse the Book of Ruth to be an allegory of God’s love for Israel or the Church. The events in the Book of Ruth took place, and they are recorded so that we may better understand God’s ability to create an outcome. Make no mistake, God would fulfill his promise of a Messiah and he would orchestrate history to provide a lineage for mankind’s savior. This Old Testament gem has been preserved so that we might marvel at God’s faithfulness through history.

 

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Interpreting the Epistles

The New Testament epistles provide much of our understanding of new covenant living. They were written by early church leaders to believers around the world as Christianity spread. The epistles seem easy to read, but can be difficult to interpret without a good contextual understanding of the writing. It is important to interpret the epistles within their historical context. “The first thing one must try to do with any of the epistles is to form a tentative but informed reconstruction of the situation that the author is speaking to.” (Fee & Stuart p.59) For this, a Bible dictionary or commentary would be beneficial to learn as much of the setting of the epistle as possible. You are not looking to learn every little detail, but you must grasp the big picture to understand what was being said.

The next principle involved in interpreting the epistles is reading the work within its literary context. Where the historical context wanted to know who the writing was from, who it was to, and what was going on; the literary context is concerned with what is said and why it was said (Fee p.65). Literary context allows us to trace the arguments being presented to understand the answer (Fee p. 64). An important technique to remember when looking at the literary context is to read and think about the writings in paragraphs. This will more easily allow you to break down the context and understand the flow of the writing (Fee p.64).

The third principle of our study consists of the hermeneutical principles of the epistles. Hermeneutics is the understanding of what is important to the reader. We all exercise hermeneutic reasoning even though we may not recognize that we are. “Very simply, we bring our enlightened common sense to the text and apply what we can to our own situation. What does not seem to apply is simply left in the first century” (Fee p.72). This principle causes many of or disagreements on scripture, and we must choose to be consistent in our interpretation if we are to properly understand what was being said. There are two rules when it comes to hermeneutics. The first rule, referred to as the basic rule, is that the text can never mean what it could not have meant to its authors or readers (Fee p.74). This rule does not add a great deal of insight into what a passage does mean for us, but it should prevent us from imposing a thought process that was never intended. The Second Rule supports our understanding of scripture that speaks to all believers. “Whenever we share comparable particulars (i.e., similar specific life situations) with the first-century hearers, God’s Word to us is the same as His Word to them.” (Fee p.75) When we properly understand our situation to match the situation written about in the epistle we have clear and definitive instruction from the text.

 

Secular Humanism and Christianity

What is Secular Humanism?

There is something universal about humanity. All across the globe no matter how isolated, we want to believe there is something greater than ourselves. This desire within us represents the natural belief in God, although many choose to deny his existence and instead choose to put their faith in something other than a creator. Secular humanists are not different. Secular humanism is the belief that all life developed by a series of cosmic accidents. Secular humanism is the belief that all matter has existed infinitely and that life was allowed to form over time as combinations of building blocks formed more complex systems (Weider p.55). Secular humanists believe this same evolutionary process eventually led to mankind’s evolution.

In secular humanism our character and consciousness is the product of chemical and biological exchanges and there is no other driving force creating individuality than these combinations and life experience (Secularism: A Religious Profile from International Students p.2). Secular humanist believe mankind to be a more highly evolved animal that holds no greater value than the rest of earth’s inhabitants (Weider  p.57). And so a humanist’s faith must be placed in mankind and their hope is that by becoming more enlightened we can create paradise in this life.

Secular humanists believe that mankind’s existence holds no purpose and that it is left up to the individual to create value in their own life (Weider p.59). From a secular humanist point-of-view it is only by our desire to leave a legacy and lasting impact that our lives are given meaning. They believe we exist simply due to evolutionary chance and other than the desire to survive and leave a legacy we have no purpose.

Secular humanism rejects the idea of God and of an absolute moral standard. To the secular humanist morality is relative to the individual or society and can change based on many factors (Weider p.61). Secular humanists believe mankind is morally good, and would pursue goodness if it is properly taught (Secularism: A Religious Profile from International Students p.3). However by this belief is it difficult to determine how a person should live. Some believe morality is up to the person, and some might argue it is up to the society. Secular humanism’s rejection of absolute morality makes it very difficult to determine right from wrong.

For secular humanist the answers to questions about life after death are simple, when you die life is over. They believe there is no life after death. The humanist belief is that the only thing that comes after death is your legacy (Weider p.63). Secular humanists believe the only judge of a person will be those left behind and how they will remember them. For this very reason many secular humanists put much effort in meaningful activities they can be remembered for.

What does Christianity Teach About Mankind?

Christians believe God existed before anything else. He created our world from nothing (Genesis 1:1). The matter that makes up all physical things did not exist before God began creation (Weider p.56). Life did not evolve over millions of years, but was spoken into existence in the span of six days (Genesis 1:31). Man was created by God on the sixth day after He had created the land animals. The Christian Bible says mankind was made in God’s image, he was formed from the ground, and God breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7).

Christians believe God created mankind different from the animals (Weider p.58). The first man, Adam, was not spoken into existence like the rest of the living creatures. He was shaped after his creator and given life from the Creator’s own breath. Christianity teaches that the earth and all life were created for mankind to enjoy. God instructed Adam to work the ground and gave him responsibility over the animals (Genesis 1:28). Christian’s believe human attributes, that make us different from the animals, are attributed to our Creator making us like Himself. Christians believe we have a God-given responsibility to take care of His creation (Weider p.58).

Christians believe we were created for the sole purpose of relationship; specifically, a relationship with God (2 Corinthians 5:15). Christians reject the notion of life being an accident and instead embrace that God created us for this purpose (Jeremiah 29:11). Christians believe life to be something special created by God and nurtured so that we would pursue our maker and that is why we exist (Weider p.60).

To the Christian God has chosen right from wrong, and the distinction is absolute (Weider p.62). Christians believe man is inherently evil, due to the fall of mankind, and corrupted by a sin nature that separates us from God. Christians believe God has taught the difference between right and wrong by both natural (Romans 2:14-15) and special revelation (Exodus 20:1-17), but we choose to rebel against Him because of our sin nature (Matthew 15:18-19). Christians believe it is impossible for mankind to overcome our sinfulness, and it is only by the redeeming work of Christ Jesus that we are able to be restored to God. After this restoration, our desires begin to change and we want to live more like Jesus. Only after a new birth, we begin to seek living a life that is pleasing to God (Galatians 5:22-25).

Christians believe God has promised an existence after this life. Jesus taught that he would leave his followers to return to God and that he would prepare a place for them to live for eternity (John 14:2-3). Christians believe those who put their trust in the redeeming work of Jesus, will spend eternity living in the presence of God in his heavenly home. However, for those who reject the work of Jesus there will be eternal punishment separated from God. Those who reject God will be sentenced with the fallen angels in the eternal prison known as Hell (Hebrews 9:27-28). Christians believe they will be held to answer for their lives at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is there that all believers will give account of their lives and be rewarded for their faithfulness to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27). However, Christians believe the unbeliever will face condemnation at the Great White Thrown Judgment for their unbelief. The point here is that a Christian believes they have been given a desire by God to live a righteous life and there are rewards for doing so. The desire to please God only comes from salvation (Weider p.64).

References:

Weider, L. and Gutierrez, B. (2011). Consider. Bel Air, MD: Acedemx.

Halverson, D. (2005). Secularism: A Religious Profile from International Students. Colorado Springs, CO: International Students, Inc.

A Summary of the OT Book of Leviticus

The Old Testament book of Leviticus has been a pain in my daily devotions for years. I struggled through its pages many times trying to understand all the rules and why they were important to me to no avail. Leviticus has honestly been the butt to more than one of my sermon jokes about struggling with the Old Testament as a Christian. 

I am very thankful that as my Bible course is wrapping up I took the time to read through Leviticus with a new understanding of the OT book of Law. I was tremendously blessed through its pages as I saw more clearly what God was orchestrating by giving these precepts to His people. I hope you enjoy, and I pray this summary encourages you to take a closer look at some of the more difficult texts of the OT.

Leviticus

The book of Leviticus is one of the five Jewish books known as the Pentateuch and is mostly a book of law. The writer is not named, but most believe the author to be Moses. The instructions contained in Leviticus were given to the writer directly from God with instructions to be given to His people. Since Moses was established as God’s voice to the people at this time, Moses is the most plausible author.

Leviticus begins one month after the instructions for the Tabernacle in Exodus. By now the Hebrew have completed the holy place where God will dwell among them, and they will be required to keep themselves holy for God to remain in their presence.  Leviticus provides the priests with instructions for the five major offerings, it establishes the priesthood, instructs rules of cleanness and uncleanness, details rituals for the Day of Atonement, instructs how Hebrews are to handle blood and why it is important, contains a call to holiness by the people, establishes holy holidays and festivals, explains blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience, and instructs the proper way to offer vows and dedications to God.

Leviticus contains mostly instructions for the Tabernacle priests, but also includes commands for the people. Leviticus begins by explaining God’s requirements for offerings. Then the writer tells of the ordination of Aaron (Moses brother) and his sons as the priests of Israel. A couple of chapters are dedicated to narratives about a pleasing offering to God by Aaron and the time his sons’, Nadab and Abihu, carelessly offered an unauthorized burnt offering and were instantly killed. Next the book establishes the notion of ritual uncleanness, cleanness, and holiness. It is important to note, ritual states are for ritual purposes and do not indict moral holiness. The priests were required to remain ceremonially holy to perform their duties, the people were expected to strive for ritual cleanness, but God provides provisions for uncleanness. No doubt the ritual states served the purpose to guide Israel to moral holiness, but these must not be confused. Next God instructs the priests on how to perform the Day of Atonement Ritual. This is the most important of all offerings and is to be performed once a year for all of Israel’s sins. After instructions for the Atonement Ritual, God explains the necessity and significance of blood in the offerings. There are guidelines for both priests and the people on how to handle sacrifices for offerings. Proceeding God’s instructions on the handling of blood, God calls all of Israel’s camp to pursue holiness. To remind the people, God creates the Hebrew calendar around harvest times. He presents holy celebrations and ceremonies to remind His people of their history and of His presence. As the book is beginning to wrap up, God offers conditions of blessings for compliance to the Law and punishments for disobedience. The book of Leviticus ends instructing the people how they should offer vows and dedications to God and emphasize the significance of funding the tabernacle and priests.

The book of Leviticus is important to the Christian because of its emphasis on God’s demands for wholehearted devotion. The people could not keep the laws found in Leviticus without the desire to keep God in their presence. Leviticus also underscores the fact that spiritual leaders have a greater responsibility to striving for inner holiness than do laypeople. The most important section of Leviticus for the Christian can be found in God’s instructions for the Day of Atonement ritual. The ritual requires the complete cleansing of sins and uncleanness by purifying the innermost part of the tent of meeting. The significance for the Christian is that atonement is impossible without the God’s gracious atonement that cleanses us of our sin.

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