Moving On After Loss – Part 2

Have you have ever played the game Jenga? “You take a block from the bottom and you put it on top.” Each of these blocks could represent a day in your life.  Each day you try to live the best you can. Each day you try to get by.  But then there comes a day when life falls apart.

Ruth 1 tells the story of two women whose lives fell apart.  Let’s look at Ruth for a moment.

Her life seems to hold a bright future. She marries a husband with strong family ties. They begin building a life together. But in a few short years her family is demolished by death. Ruth’s husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law all three die. Ruth and two women she has no blood relation with have to start over.

I don’t think it does the Bible any injustice to read between the lines. We who have been through suffering and the death of those close to us know how Ruth felt.

Psychologists have noticed five stages grieving people go through: denial and isolation; anger; bargaining; depression; and acceptance. We don’t know where Ruth was in this process when her mother-in-law announced she was returning to Bethlehem in Judah. But I imagine she hadn’t had enough time yet to feel like she was ready for new beginning.

To Move on from Loss, we see a second principle in this story.

In Loss Cling to Family, They Help Support Us.

In the last post we left off with verse 6 where Naomi gets word that “the Lord has visited his people and given them food.” So she decides to return to Judah. Her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, go with her part way it seems, but then in verses 8–13 she tries to persuade them to go back home. When she needs them the most she is trying to get rid of them.   Haven’t we all done that?  When we need people most we push them away.  We prefer to be alone or suffer in silence.  Thankfully Naomi’s daughter-in-laws cry with her and hug her and kiss her.  This is how we should grieve.  We need to shed tears and cling to each other.  I think there are a couple of reasons why the writer devotes so much space to Naomi’s effort to turn Ruth and Orpah back.

Naomi’s Misery

First, the scene emphasizes Naomi’s misery. For example, verse 11: “Naomi said, ‘Turn back my daughters, why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband.'” In other words, Naomi has nothing to offer them. Her condition is worse than theirs. If they try to be faithful to her and to the name of their husbands, they will find nothing but pain. So she concludes at the end of verse 13, “No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.” Don’t come with me because God is against me. Your life may be as bitter as mine.

When we have decided that God is against us, we usually exaggerate our hopelessness. We become so bitter we can’t see the rays of light peeping out around the clouds. It was God who broke the famine and opened the way home (1:6). It was God who preserved a kinsman to continue Naomi’s line (2:20). And it was God who moves Ruth to stay with Naomi. But Naomi is in grief and can’t see God’s work in her life at this point.

Ruth’s Faithfulness

Another reason for verses 8–13 is to make Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi appear amazing. Verse 14 says that Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye but Ruth clung to her. Not even another entreaty in verse 15 can get Ruth to leave. This is all the more amazing after Naomi’s grim description of their future with her. Ruth stays with her in spite of an apparently hopeless future of widowhood and childlessness. Naomi painted the future black and Ruth took her hand and walked into it with her!  What faithfulness!

It’s amazing how God brings people into our lives that become closer to us than our own blood family! Do you have friend or extended family member that is closer than your own blood?   I see this in the church all the time.  God brings people together that need family.  I see people that have family miles and miles away or family that is gone find new and closer family in God’s house.  This is what God does; he brings us family to cling to in times of loss.  Will you cling to them or like Naomi will you try to go it through life alone?

The amazing words of Ruth are found in 1:16–17,

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely,if even death separates you and me.”

 The more I ponder these words the more amazing they become. Ruth’s commitment to her destitute mother-in-law is simply astonishing. First, it means leaving her own family and land. Second, it means, as far as she knows, a life of widowhood and childlessness, because Naomi has no man to give, and if she married a non-relative, her commitment to Naomi’s family would be lost. Third, it means going to an unknown land with a new people and new customs and new language. Fourth, it was a commitment even more radical than marriage: “Where you die I will die and there be buried” (v. 17). In other words, she will never return home, not even if Naomi dies.

But the most amazing commitment of all is this: “Your God will be my God” (v. 16). Naomi has just said in verse 13, “The hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.” Naomi’s experience of God was bitterness. But in spite of this, Ruth forsakes her religious heritage in Moab and makes the God of Israel her God. Perhaps she had made that commitment years before, when her husband told her of the great love of God for Israel and his power at the Red Sea and his glorious purpose of peace and righteousness. Somehow or other Ruth had come to trust in Naomi’s God in spite of Naomi’s bitter experiences.

This leads us to our last way we can move on after loss…

Cling to God, He will Provide for us.

When loss hits, we wonder, “will we be okay?”  Will we ever feel better? Will we have what we need?  Who cares for me, who can help me?  The answer is yes, God is there.  God provides for his people.

God provided Ruth with a testimony to know Him personally though Naomi and her family.  Ruth was an idol worshipper from Moab who came to know the one true God. God provided friendship and family; Ruth and Naomi had an unbelievable bond to each other.  Each was a gift to the other.  God provided food for his people. As we look into chapters 2-4 we will see God provide them with a place to live and people who cared for them.  In their home there was food on their table each day. God provided a wealthy family member named Boaz to care for them and provide for them. God provided redemption through Boaz; he would purchase the property that once belonged to their family and provide them a home and a future.  God provided Ruth with a husband (and Naomi with a father in law) named Boaz which means “mighty man.”   God provided Ruth with a son named Obed who would have a son named Jesse who would have a son named David who would be Israel’s greatest king and a descendant of Jesus.

God provided these ladies with everything they needed: food, a home, a family, a community, children and a relationship with Him.   God provides us the same things.  When loss hits, cling to God, he will provide.

Will you trust Him?  I have decided to and I hope you will join me.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

 

Sources:
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – History.
John Piper, “Ruth: Sweet and Bitter Providence”
Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee.
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Moving On After Loss – Part 1

Have you experienced a loss lately?  Do you ever wonder where God is when loss hits?  Does God care?  Is God at work in my circumstances when all I see and feel is darkness?   The book of Ruth tackles these difficult questions.  We all deal with loss.  During the Christmas holidays, Niki looked out the window and said,  “I don’t think Kooper (our family dog) is breathing!”  Sure enough we went outside and he was gone.  One minute our bulldog is sleeping and we’re enjoying the Christmas holidays; the next minute our family pet is dead and we’re in grief having to bury him.  Loss is inevitable, but how do we move on?

In our series New Beginnings we will see how Ruth deals with loss, grief and how she started over. Ruth teaches us the importance of clinging to family and faith.  We will see that God was with her and will be with us to bring new life and opportunities. Ruth is the only book in the bible named after a descendant of Jesus Christ and one of only two women with a book named after them.  Ruth lived in Israel during the time of the Judges. The four chapters that tell her life story are sandwiched in between the books of Judges and 1 Samuel.

Ruth’s narrative has been called the most charming short story in the Old Testament. Even people who are not believers have enjoyed reading this tiny book of the Bible. When Benjamin Franklin was United States Ambassador to France, he occasionally attended The Infidels Club, a group that spent most of its time searching for and reading literary masterpieces. On one occasion Franklin read the book of Ruth to the club members, but he changed the names in the text so it would not be recognized as a book of the Bible. When he finished, they were unanimous in their praise. They said it was one of the most beautiful short stories that they had ever heard and demanded that he tell them where he had run across such a remarkable literary work. It was his great delight to tell them that it was from the Bible, which they professed to regard with contempt, and in which they felt there was nothing worth reading! Well, let’s begin our own examination of this story by reading the first verses of the book.

The story of Ruth takes place “when the judges ruled(v. 1). The days of the judges lasted from the death of Joshua to the coronation of Saul as king (approximately from 1380 to 1050 B.C.). If you want to learn more about this period of Israel’s history, read the book of Judges. The ending of the book goes like this: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25 NKJV). Out of the dark days of the judges comes the book of Ruth—a story full of romance, redemption, and hope.  In chapter 1, Ruth and her mother in law Naomi have no idea that their story will have a happy ending.

Before the good news, there’s more bad news: “There here was a famine in the land.” 1100 B. C. was a hard time. The cycle of the Judges meant rebellion by the people and punishment from God. Whether the famine was the result of a particular set of sins on the part of the leaders of Bethlehem, we are not told. Bethlehem, which means, in Hebrew, “house of bread,” was a barren cupboard.

We are introduced to a family; a family that decides to move from their home in Bethlehem for greener pastures in Moab.   It’s an interesting family: let’s get to know them a little better in verse 2.

The name of the man is Elimelech which means “my God is King.”  What a great name for a Jewish man.  But not if you’re running off to Moab, the land of your enemies. He doesn’t act as if God is his King.  We have all been guilty of living like that.

The name of his wife is Naomi, her name means “pleasant.” Elimelech and Naomi have two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. Mahlon means “sickly,” and Chilion means “crybaby.” She had two sickly boys.  And we read that she and her husband were Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah.  “ And they went to Moab and lived there.”

They leave the house of bread and they go over to eat out of a pig pen.  Did you ever hear that story before?  I’m sure it reminded you of the parable that Jesus told about the prodigal son. It’s likely that every parable Jesus gave was a true incident.  Probably there were many sons in that day to whom His parable could have applied. And from that day to the present that story has been repeated in literally millions of lives. Have you ever left God to live your own way?  Have you thought that God’s way is not the best way and that the grass is greener somewhere else? I have.  This family did too.

They arrive in Moab. Like Mexican families risking everything to cross into America, they find themselves alone in a foreign land… where Elimelech dies. Naomi now has only her two sons. Desperate, she negotiates marriages for them. This alliance surely brought stability to Naomi and her sons, so they stayed in Moab for ten years to be close to families of Orpah and Ruth. But the tragedy worsens: “Both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.”   (4-5)

For Naomi and Ruth, these women were in just about as dire a straight as women could be in that male-dominated age for to be women alone without men was to be faced with ruin. There was no social security in those days, no safety net, and no source for any kind of future if a woman didn’t have a man in her life. In those days, as Naomi alluded in verse 12, a woman without a man was a woman without hope.

In verse 6, everything changes.  The Lord is mentioned!  Naomi hears that God has provided food for His people! She packs up to go home, to back to the land that God had given her and her family.

How do we move on after loss? Remember that…

Loss is Part of Life, but God is Still with Us!

Question, is all suffering or loss bad?  In other words, if suffering or loss brings us to God consciousness is it bad?  I would say no. If God uses pain and loss to get us to look to him, it would be good.

The pain of shattered (lower) dreams awakens desire for God and for greater dreams. We dream of good things: happy marriages, healthy kids, comfortable lives, cushy retirements. Those are not bad, but we imagine they are best. And while we hold tightly to the hope of having those as the greatest good, we will not pursue an encounter with God. So God shatters those dreams to give us something better. Naomi would not find joy in a grandson by the son of the Moabite until she went through the bitterness of a loss of her cherished dreams of a happy life.

Ruth’s bad experiences deepened her trust in God. They led her to a new husband (ch. 4)  and together they had a son who was the grandfather of King David.  Often the most valuable lessons of life can only be learned during the unfair, the tough times of loss.

God was at work in these women’s lives during their times of loss. God is at work in our lives during times of loss.  God is still there working behind the scenes.  There may be death now, but God is working to bring new opportunities and new life.

The famine was over back in the Promised Land, and there was bread again in Bethlehem. Now she wants to return home. It’s interesting. The prodigal family and the prodigal son will long for the father’s house. And if they don’t long for the father’s house, they are not children of the father. The prodigal will never be happy in the pigpen. He or she wasn’t made for a pigpen. They don’t have the nature of a pig, they have the nature of the father, and will eventually say, “I will arise and go to my father.”

Can you identify with Naomi and Ruth? Have you experienced a loss? In difficult times God often does His greatest work.  Maybe God wants you to turn to Him. Maybe God is calling you back home.  Loss is part life, but God is still with us!

In the next post we will look at two more ways we can move on after loss.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

 

Sources:
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – History.
John Piper, “Ruth: Sweet and Bitter Providence”
Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee.
“When Life’s Not Fair” Mark Adams
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Winning Life’s Challenges

Have you ever watched the Jerry Springer Show?  The few times I have seen the show in a doctor’s office or hospital room, it has given me a pretty good idea of how that program operates. They bring people onto the show with really messed up lives who have made a lot of mistakes. And then they have a spouse or a family member who is innocent, and they have no idea what their spouse has been doing behind their back. And they get onto Jerry Springer’s show, and this innocent person gets this bomb dropped on them. We are locked in on this poor person asking ourselves, “What are they going to do about this shocking revelation?”

We have the same thing happen right here in our Bible. A man is about to be married. But then he gets the bomb dropped onto him: his fiancée is pregnant. And we are left staring at Joseph as if we are in the audience of the Jerry Springer show asking ourselves, “what is Joseph going to do about this?”

How do we win life’s challenges?

  • When Wronged Leave Revenge to God

 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. Matthew 1:19

 And what happens between him and his pregnant fiancée really gives us the best insight into what Joseph was like. And this is where we can see like the bible says Joseph “was a good man.” I don’t think we could fault Joseph for jumping to the wrong conclusion regarding Mary’s pregnancy. I mean, in every other pregnancy in human history, there is always a man involved. And Joseph knew that it wasn’t him…so the only possible conclusion was that Mary had been unfaithful to him. Put yourself in his shoes for a second, and imagine how hurt, how disappointed he was. Many would have sought some sort of revenge for being wounded so deeply. And by Jewish law, Joseph would have had the right to really run Mary’s name through the mud. Mary could have been branded as a loose woman with no morals. And had Joseph really wanted to push the issue, she could have been put to death for her alleged adultery. You might recall the story of the woman caught in adultery a few years later who was brought to Jesus, and many in the crowd wanted to stone her for his sin. But here we see in Joseph’s heart FORGIVENESS…KINDNESS to someone who really didn’t appear to deserve any. Joseph wanted to make things as easy as possible for the wife he was divorcing. He wasn’t going to make a public example of her. He would swallow his pride and give up the urge to exact revenge. It was going to be a quiet divorce.

How would the Bible describe you? It would be nice to be called a “good” person like Joseph, and yet often we human beings don’t act much like him, do we? It is just our sinful human nature to want to get back at someone who hurts us. We learn that early on at the playground: if Tommy hits me, I’m going to hit him back. On Jerry Springer, when that innocent person is confronted with their spouse’s infidelity, often they are stunned and begin to try to get back at them. The verbal assault begins, profanity spews, hurtful words fly, fists, chairs, and microphones fly too.  When someone at work says nasty things about you behind your back, the natural reaction is to get back at them.  We think that revenge is the natural course for us.

And if the story ended there, that would be an amazing enough lesson for today. But of course God knew something that Joseph didn’t know: that Mary hadn’t cheated on him, and that he was to receive about the greatest honor ever bestowed on a mere mortal. Joseph would be the guardian of the Godchild. Joseph would protect God.

How do we win life’s challenges?

  • Follow God’s Direction

 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. Matthew 1:24

 I like Joseph. Joseph isn’t flashy. He doesn’t have any recorded words. He’s an ordinary guy who’s just doing his best to live a life faithful to his God and his family.

Because most of us are more likely to find ourselves quietly leading a donkey over an uncertain path, wondering what the future might hold, than standing on a ridge, preaching to the multitudes. Most of us spend our lives as peripheral characters in the Gospel narrative. Most of us aren’t flashy. Most of us are just ordinary people doing our best to live lives that honor Christ, faithful to our God and our families.

Here are two truths I have learned about God’s Direction in our lives:

  1. God’s leading and direction in our lives is often unexpected. We have our plans and then God comes and gives us different direction.

Joseph was preparing for a future of settling down with Mary to raise children while continuing his carpentry trade in his hometown. He expected his leisure time to be rearranged. He expected his social calendar to be different. He expected to worry a little more when business was slow. He expected to know new joys when his sons someday read Torah before the congregation and his daughters someday gave him grandchildren.

Joseph did not expect to be having dreams full of messages from God Almighty. He did not expect to raise a boy that he did not father. He did not expect to be traipsing around the countryside on the run from Herod’s soldiers.

Joseph did not expect to be responsible for the religious training and upbringing of the Son of God and Redeemer of creation.

Sometimes the future you think you are preparing for is not what the Lord has in mind for you.

2. God’s direction may be scary and uncertain but when you follow God’s direction it works out.

Before Mary turned up pregnant, Joseph had every reason to be confident about his anticipated future. He was a skilled craftsman, known in his community for his righteousness, which certainly included honesty and respectability. He knew the responsibilities ahead of him. They might not always be easy, but they were well defined, and the community was structured to support him as he carried out his duties as husband and father.

I’m pretty sure that Joseph was scared and very uncertain when he found out that his responsibilities would be a little more complicated. What does a carpenter know about traveling to foreign lands? What does a small-town craftsman know about outwitting the armies of the king and protecting the most precious baby ever born? What does an ordinary Joe know about raising the Messiah?

The first command Joseph received in his dreams was to go ahead and take Mary as his wife. Did he have the personal resources to live down the public disgrace, the shame of his peers, the rebuke of his family? Apparently, he did. But he only found that out after he obeyed the command.

The second command Joseph received in his dreams was to flee to Egypt with Mary and the child. Did he have what it would take to travel such a long journey with a new mother and an infant? Would he be able to provide for them in a foreign land? Apparently, he did and he would. But he only found that out after he obeyed.

The third command Joseph received in his dreams was to return to Israel. He ended up settling in Galilee to avoid the attentions of Herod’s son. That turned out to be a good thing—something that fulfilled prophecy. But he only found that out after he obeyed.

Sometimes it turns out that you are better prepared for what the Lord has in mind for you than you thought you were, and it’s only in the obedience that you find out.

  • Be the Shelter To Those Who Need Me

 Joseph becomes a shelter to Mary. He takes Mary as his wife, providing for her, caring for her, protecting her.  He is a godly man.  He also becomes a shelter to this new baby.  God chose him to shelter, to care for and to provide for Jesus.  Even the Son of God, the creator of the world, the savior came as a helpless baby that needed protection and support! We cannot emphasize enough the importance of this.  Joseph was a man.  He stepped up.  Even after the child is born, the drama continues.

 19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee.
23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Matthew 2:19-23

In Matthew 2:13-23, we see Joseph taking his family to Egypt and then to Nazareth by direction of an angel.   Again he is serving as a protector a shelter for this child. God has set up your family in the same way.  Moms and Dads God has given you the responsibility to care for, to set boundaries and to protect your children.  There are forces of evil that would love to destroy your children.  Are you aware? Are you ready to do what is necessary to shelter them?  Besides protecting them from harm we are to guide and teach them in the ways they should go.  Joseph was a great father.  God is calling and leading men to be godly fathers today.

I do not have to tell you that Fatherhood is not doing well in our society.  Consider these facts from David Blackenhorn, a man who wrote a book in 1995 entitled Fatherless America. Here is some of what he said:

  • Tonight, 40% of all American children will sleep in a house in which their fathers do not live.
  • Before the age of eighteen, more than 50% of our children will spend a significant portion of their childhood living apart from their fathers.
  • A generation ago, an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with a dad. Today, an American child can reasonably expect to grow up without one.
  • Fatherless-ness is the most harmful demographic trend in this generation.

Time Magazine recently reported that today we are seeing the “Disappearing Dad.” They said, “Studies of young criminals have found that more than 70% of juveniles in state reform institutions come from fatherless homes.
Children from broken families are nearly twice as likely as those in two-parent families to drop out of high school” (Dr. Harold White, “Fatherhood”)

Now, more than ever men especially need to a shelter to our children.  To be the father our children need, the husbands our wives need.

We do not know how long Joseph lived his role as Jesus’ earthly father — he is last mentioned when Jesus was 12 years old. But Joseph trained his son in the trade of carpentry, made sure he had good spiritual training in Nazareth, and took the whole family on the yearly trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, which Jesus continued to observe during his adult years.

And God used the obedience of this quiet, godly carpenter and not only to protect and nurture the young Messiah but to provide principles that Jesus would employ in His ministry. I say this because it seems to me that many of the illustrations Jesus used in His teaching came out of Joseph’s shop. Remember when Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you?” As a carpenter he would have learned from Joseph how to make yokes easy for the oxen to wear. He knew how to shape them to fit just right. You can almost see the tools of the trade in Jesus’ words as He spoke.  You can see the trueness of a plumb line as He called for moral standards. You can hear the whistle of the plane as He pled for religion to shave away the unnecessary traditions. God did use Joseph’s quiet, dependable obedience in so many ways.

How do we win life’s challenges?

What is God directing you to do?  Are you open to his direction?  Is there someone who has wronged you that you need to forgive?  Is there someone that you need to be a shelter to?

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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Am I Challenged Like Joseph? Part 2

Have you decided that you will live a life that honors God?  Have you decided that you would like to follow God’s word and His direction for your life?  The moment you make the decision to follow God, people will not understand.  They will say that you are taking your faith too seriously.  They will question your use of time and money.   When Joseph did as God directed and took Mary as his wife, he would have lots of people misunderstand him, falsely accuse him and judge him.

Like Joseph, I may be challenged by….

·      People Who Misunderstand Me

24 Joseph… took Mary as his wife. Matthew 1:24

 After the revelation Joseph immediately takes Mary into his home as his wife. Mary is in a most vulnerable position with respect to the rest of the village. The villagers no doubt considered Joseph the father of Jesus (Matt 13:55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? NIV) by taking Mary into his home Joseph removes the social stigma that would have been associated with Mary and PUTS IT ON HIMSELF. He knew he was not the father and yet he puts himself in the position to look like the guilty party.

Mary and Joseph were living in the little town of Nazareth, with lots of busybodies standing on the street corners, watching them as they walk by. Mary is 7 months pregnant, and they’ve only been married for 2 or 3 months. Think of the embarrassment, the misunderstanding.

Maybe at first Joseph tried to explain, “The baby is of the Holy Spirit. An angel told me.” “Sure, Joseph. We know all about those things. We believe every word of what you’re telling us.”

Maybe after a while Joseph even stops trying to explain. And after they went to Bethlehem, and then Egypt, probably Joseph didn’t even want to go back to Nazareth. But God led him back to that town of innuendoes and gossip. “Whose son is this? Who is his father, really?”  Gossip, embarrassment and misunderstanding that was a part of the price that he paid for his service to God.

There must have been times when he realized that this Son was extraordinary in the plan of God, and yet wished for him to be just a normal boy. Certainly, the people of the town did not think that Jesus was anything special. We know that, because when Jesus was a grown man and began his ministry, he returned to his hometown, and the people did not exactly welcome him with excitement. They said, “Isn’t this just Joseph and Mary’s son? (Matthew 13:55 NIV) The Bible has this to say about his limited ministry in Nazareth: “Jesus… went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:1-6 NIV). Luke tells of another time in the synagogue of Nazareth when Jesus read from the prophets and claimed that their words were fulfilled in him: “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff” (Luke 4:28,29 NIV).

The pressure from neighbors must have been tremendous for Joseph and Mary.  It seems that in time even Mary begins to bend. The Bible tells us that she comes with her other children and tries to convince her Son to stop what he is doing. In fact, the Bible says Mark 3:21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” NIV   Maybe they began to believe what everyone was saying. Before the resurrection even his own brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5).

What would it be like to live with the criticism, the misunderstanding day in and day out?  I can think of one word, exhausting!

Joseph is clearly a man of faith and strength.

Like Joseph I may be challenged by…

 Rough Circumstances

 Now Joseph’s life is a life full of tough breaks and rough circumstances.  Another rough circumstance must have been a sense of frustration on Joseph’s part, for the Bible says that he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. Here is this beautiful woman who is his wife, and there is no sexual relationship between them. He loves her, and he waits for the son to be born.   It was tough. He took cold showers for six months so the baby could be born to a virgin!

Then like we talked about in the last post, Mary and Joseph had to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for a census and taxation. Mary is nine months pregnant they have to walk 70 miles! Talk about a rough circumstance.

Then the inability to find lodging, after arriving in Bethlehem from the tiresome journey, there was no place to stay, no place to sleep, no room in the inn. Talk about a rough circumstance.  Surely God did not intend this. Did they make the wrong decision? Should they have stayed home until the baby was born? Joseph must have second-guessed himself many times that night.

They were directed to a cave/stable of some sort. And there, in a humble stable not in splendor away from anyone familiar not in the comfort of home God entered the world as a dependent infant. Talk about a rough circumstance!   I told you last week about the Christmas of 1990 watching my grandmother die of colon cancer.  I didn’t tell you about Christmas eve 2000 sitting in an emergency room with Noel who had RSV (a respiratory problem).  It’s easy to think, “what a bummer, what an inconvenience!”  But it is not as rough as Joseph’s Christmas.

If what we have said happened to Joseph is not enough look what happens next!

3 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13

Now they are being hunted like animals.  They are refugees in another country.   How can we face these challenges?  What can we learn from Joseph this godly man that God chose to be the wife of Mary the earthy father for Jesus?    In the next post we will learn from Joseph how to win life’s challenges.

Darrell

http://www.Upwards.Church

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