“…thy people shall be my people….”
Ruth 1: 16
King James Version
“Part of the Flock”
“Friendship between friends of Jesus of Nazareth is unlike any other friendship.”
What does it mean to me as I live my daily life to have the fellowship of friends and family who encourage me in my walk with Jesus?
What compassionate support do I provide to those around me?
“There is no house like the house of belonging.”
“I have other sheep beside these that are not of this fold. I must bring those also; and they will listen to My voice and heed My call, and so there will be one flock under one Shepherd.”
John 10: 16
She didn’t belong. She was an outsider. A foreigner. She wasn’t one of the elect. Not one of the crowd.
Ruth was a Moabite. Naomi an Israelite. Ruth was part of a lineage breed of incest. Naomi was of a lineage selected by God.
And now, in words of intercession, Ruth pleaded with Naomi, “I want to be one with you. Your people are my people. I long to belong.”
This Moabite woman, who was on the outside, like Rahab the harlot before her, cried out to be on the inside. She was praying she could be one of the “folk or flock” as the Hebrew word “people” is translated.
As we began our study on the intercessory prayer of Ruth and looked at how it applies to our own lives, we found that each of us has the unlimited opportunity to intercede on our own behalf for those things in our lives we long for.
Yesterday, our study looked at the ability and need we have to intercede with our heavenly Father regarding the purpose He has for our lives, as well as our request to Him that we stay on the pathway He clears before us.
Once, however, we begin to walk down God’s pathway, I ask myself, what I should intercede or entreat my Father for. We find the answer in the very next phrase spoken by Ruth in Ruth 1: 16. She told Naomi, “Your people will now be my people.” You may be wondering why I need to intercede with my Father regarding Ruth’s request, when as Christians, we believe we are already “part of the flock.”
Well, as many times happens in our studies here in the garden, I‘d like to offer a thought for your consideration that has been something which has been impressed upon my heart lately. Especially as I’ve listened to some of the vitriol that has escaped the lips of those, who call themselves Christians, directed against individuals they disagree with.
Somewhere we lost our ability to disagree without being disagreeable. And I ask you, “If you were not a Christian, would name-calling and nastiness, hate and criticism, draw you to the God of heaven and earth?”
Having clearly identified the fact that Naomi’s love and acceptance drew the “unacceptable” Ruth in the first place, what would and should be the reaction of an “insider” like Naomi, to the intercession of an “outsider” like Ruth?
If you remember our study, when God saved Rahab the harlot and all that were within her house, God’s children didn’t show the same generous spirit of acceptance. Instead, they informed Rahab that she, along with her foreign family, had to stay “outside the camp!” That’s certainly one way to make someone feel like they don’t belong to your group. That they aren’t one of the folk. To paraphrase the thoughts expressed by Peter Selby in his book, “Belonging,” God’s children, in creating their own sense of belonging sometimes did it at the expense of others who too often they excluded even when God, as in the case of Rahab, not only included her within the “flock” of His children, but within the family lineage of His Son Jesus. And I ask, “How much more inclusive could God get?”
As I think about Ruth’s longing to be part of God’s family, I consider in my own life, the constraints I have, in my own small-mindedness, put upon others whom I may have been way too quick to pass off as outsiders because of my false judgments.
William Countryman in his book, The Truth About Love, penned these instructional words that struck a chord in my heart.
“Too often, Christians have spoken as if God’s love were available only to those who respond to it in the ‘right’ way – by believing the doctrines of this creed or that confession, by following this or that rule of life, by having just the right kind of conversion experience, by being ‘born again,’ by belonging to the right denomination (taken by its members to be the only true church) or to some group of especially pious people, by reading the Bible in a certain way and drawing only the ‘right’ conclusions from it.
“Such teaching is a betrayal of the good news. Not because creeds or rules lie or conversions or theologies or pious associations are necessarily wrong. Some of them, in fact, may be admirable. They may help us think about what the good news really means for us. They may give us guidance in shaping lives that reflect the good news. They may support us on our human journey of growth and change. But God’s love for us does not depend on our ‘getting it right.’
‘This is what love consists of, not that we have loved God, but that God loved us’ (1 John 4: 10). God’s love is not conditional on anything. It is expressed in forgiveness.”
My intercessory prayer today is that not only will I follow God’s purpose for my own life, but that my vision will be expanded to see the ALL that God saw when He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to draw ALL to Him.
I love this passage written by George MacDonald who penned these beautiful and truly inclusive words: “(It) has been the Father’s work from the beginning – to bring us into the home of His heart.” It is my personal prayer that my work will be the same – to bring all those I meet into the heart of my Father’s Love.
“See what an incredible love the Father bestowed on us, that we are counted the children of God.”
1 John 3: 1
“All whom my Father entrusts to Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out. I will never, no never, reject one of them, who comes to Me.”
John 6: 37
“O God, enlarge my heart
that it may be big enough to receive the greatness of your love.
Stretch my heart
that it may take into it all those who with me
around the world believe in Jesus Christ.
that it may take into it all those who do not know him,
but who are my responsibility because I know him.
And stretch it
that it may take in all those who are not lovely in my eyes,
and whose hands I do not want to touch;
through Jesus Christ, my Saviour.”
Prayer of an African Christian
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