Psalm 106:13-23; Ruth 4; Luke 23:32-43

Psalm 106:13-23: Even though God had rescued Israel from the Egyptians,”Quickly they forgot His deeds, / they did not await His counsel.” (13) There are two acts here: not just forgetting what God had done for them, but then, deciding they would do just fine on their own in the wilderness, they did not wait around to hear what God had to say. Of course when we see ourselves as being at the center of the universe, we not only forget, but we arrogantly see ourselves as independent beings, not requiring anyone’s counsel, much less God’s.

But as the psalmist points out, it doesn’t take long for things to go bad: “And they felt a sharp craving in the wilderness, / they put God to the test in the waste land.” (14) So, as soon as trouble comes, we remember, ‘Oh yeah, we need God.’ Then we pray, and God, ever patient, ever generous, satisfies our needs, just as he does for Israel: “And He gave them what they had asked, / sent food down their throats.” (15) This cycle of forgetting–arrogance–get in trouble–praying behavior is what leads so many of us to believe God is a handy thing to have around when we have a need, but then, our needs fulfilled, we can put Him back on the shelf for emergency use.

“They made a calf at Horeb / and bowed to a molten image.” (19) Like Israel, we go off and make our golden calves and worship them. But at what expense? “And they exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating bull.” (20) How much we miss when we forget God; we trade “our glory” for an image of a grass-eating bull. Not even the bull itself, but just its image! How much I have missed by forgetting God except at those times He’s convenient to have around!

Ruth 4: Boaz knows he wishes to marry Ruth, but first the proprieties of inheritance must be followed. (The women went along with the inheritance!) Boaz contacts the official next-of-kin of Naomi’s estate. The next-of-kin thinks that’s a pretty good deal, but then Boaz mentions the rules of inheritance: “The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.” (5). The man reconsiders, saying ““I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” (6) And Boaz is now free to marry Ruth, which he does.

Once again, redemption is the theme: God redeems Israel; Boaz redeems Ruth; Jesus has redeemed us.  It’s fascinating that what is at its heart a dry economic transaction is the means by which God operates on His people. We are lost, but found–and redeemed.

Ruth the Moabite–the quintessential Gentile–is David’s great grandmother. There is Gentile blood in Israel’s greatest hero. And then, there is Gentile blood in Jesus himself, reminding us that while Israel is God’s Chosen People, we are all His chosen people; redeemed into Life.

Luke 23:32-43: What leaps out upon reading Luke’s account of the crucifixion is that with one exception, everyone witnessing Jesus’ death was utterly confused. The confusion seems to rest in just what “king,” “kingdom,” and “Messiah” really meant–and really entailed. The mocking of the leaders, “let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”  The placard that mockingly proclaimed “King of the Jews.” The sour wine offered as a taunt to a pretend king. All these are demonstrations that in the end, disciples included, no one really ever “got it” about what this Kingdom was that Jesus kept talking about.

So sure in their understanding in the precise of “king” and “kingdom,” everyone around Jesus lacks the imagination to perceived that Jesus’ message and actions were about a completely new and completely different Kingdom.  Except one person. The thief on the cross “gets it,” saying,  “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (42) Somehow this man dying alongside Jesus perceived that Jesus’ kingdom was not in Jerusalem, but somewhere else. And Jesus’ promises him he will indeed be remembered.

Luke is making it perfectly clear here that Jesus’ Kingdom is in this world, yet not of this fallen world. It is indeed “paradise.”

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