The Characteristics that Produce Favor 2

The Characteristics that Produce Favor 2
September 29, 2017

Ruth 2:1-3(NKJV) 1There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. 2So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

This week we are looking at the characteristics in Ruth’s life that caused God to release favor and great blessing in her life. Favor comes from God, but we can cultivate a lifestyle that will put us in position to receive favor. Yesterday we saw that Ruth put Naomi’s wellbeing above her own and that she chose the Lord over her own gods and the People of God over her own. If we will cultivate caring for others and place the will of God central in our lives, we will see the blessing of God. Favor will also help us fulfill our destiny in God.

Today I want to look at some other things that Ruth had in her life that contributed to favor coming to her. In the above verse, we see that Ruth did not simply sit and wait for something to happen. She did not expect someone to take care of her or give to her. She got up and went to work. There were many things she could not do, but she found something she could do and got busy.

I believe God brings favor to those who work. We live in what many are calling an entitlement society. I certainly believe that we should help the poor. The bible makes the care of the poor the responsibility of the church not the government. Nevertheless, I do not believe that anyone should simply expect others to be responsible for them.

The process Ruth takes advantage of is very interesting. In the law, it stated that landowners could go through their fields once and get all the grain they could. However, whatever was left after that could not be harvested. It was left for the poor. It was not harvested and delivered to the poor. If those who did not have anything wanted grain to sell or eat, it was left for them but they had to get it themselves. I believe this system is much healthier for the poor person. They have the self-respect born of providing for themselves.

Ruth took advantage of this practice when she went to Boaz’s field to harvest. It was because she got up and went to work that God could bring her to Boaz’s attention. If she had simply said, “We are just poor women. I hope someone comes to help us.” they would have stayed poor and maybe died. They did not sit there and lament about how unfair it was that they were in this condition. They did not blame anyone else for their circumstances. Ruth found something she could do and did it.

If you want to see God’s favor at work in your life, find something you can do and apply yourself there. In the area of ministry for instance, do not wait for someone to ask you to be a preacher or teacher. Find something that needs to be done and then do it. If you need a promotion at work, go in early or stay late. Instead of doing the minimum you can get by with, do something extra. If you have no job, find one. If it does not pay enough expect God to give you favor so that you will find something better. God gives favor to those who do what they can.

We see later in this chapter that Ruth did not just go to the field, work a little and then try to get someone’s attention with how weak and helpless she was. She not only worked, she worked hard. When Boaz returned to the field from a trip, he saw Ruth and asked his workers who she was. Look at their response.

Ruth 2:6-7(NKJV) 6So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.”

Would Boaz have given her such favor if he had found her sitting in the house drinking their water and complaining about her situation? We do not know but I highly doubt he would have.

This leads me to another thing that caused Boaz to give favor to Ruth.

Ruth 2:10-12(NKJV) 10So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. 12The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

Boaz could see for himself that Ruth was applying herself in what she could do but this confirmed something else. Her character had gone before her. He had heard what she had done for Naomi. He knew that she had acted with love and integrity towards her. He knew that she was willing to sacrifice to take care of her mother-in-law and he knew that she had chosen to follow the Lord and his people instead of her gods and her people.

Does your lifestyle put you in a place to receive favor or would God have to cause your reputation to be overlooked in order to bring favor to you? The bible says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” There are times when our Christian character can cause the world to reject and even persecute us. The bible never says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for being obnoxious.” It never says we will be blessed if we are persecuted for having bad integrity or laziness.

Just because you are a Christian, it does not mean that everything negative that comes your way is persecution. I often tell people if every boss you have ever worked for has been a jerk, you might want to look at the one constant in that equation. That constant is you!

As a Christian, if you will live a life of character and integrity even in the midst of persecution, you will find that favor will come to you. The boss may not like your Christianity but if you are his best, most honest worker, when it comes time to promote he will have to consider you. I believe that there is a natural component to this, but I also believe there is a supernatural component.

God will use your character and integrity to work on your bosses bringing pressure on them to give you good things. This principle extends to any area of life. You may need favor in business or school. You may need favor in relationships. If your lifestyle is one of integrity and diligence, God can use that to give you favor with someone, somehow.

Good character and a life of integrity will also help create favor in our ministry life. Those to whom you present the gospel of Jesus will be much more disposed to listen if your lifestyle reflects your words. They will also be inclined to want what you have if they see it reflected in your daily living.

Take some time and ask yourself today, “Does my lifestyle draw favor to me? Can God point to my life as one that deserves favor? Am I applying myself where I can or have I allowed the ‘entitlement’ mentality cripple me into thinking someone owes me?” The choice is yours. You can have God given favor or not.

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The Characteristics that Produce Favor

Ruth 1:16-17(NKJV) 16But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. 17Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”

Yesterday we introduced the story of Ruth. Ruth is a foreigner and a woman, but her story is one of the most famous in the Hebrew bible. The book of Ruth was written between 100 and 200 years after the action took place. Given that that this is not a story of a great battle or some political or religious event, this is an extraordinary amount of time for this story to be remembered.

Ruth ends up married to a wealthy man who is a relative of her mother-in-law. She is part of the lineage of David and of Jesus. She goes from destitute to greatly blessed. All of this occurs because God gives her favor with the man Boaz who happens to be a relative of Naomi, her mother-in-law. What was it about Ruth that caused such great favor to come to her life?

The first thing I want to point out is a scripture that we quoted yesterday. It is quoted again above. This is a very beautiful statement of love and devotion. Sometimes when something is so beautifully stated we can miss the significance of what is actually said. In these verses, Ruth declares that she will not leave Naomi. Nothing can keep her from accompanying Naomi back to Israel. Let us look a little more closely at this.

Was there any disadvantage for her staying in Moab? She was not leaving in disgrace. She is beyond the prime age to remarry, but if she stays in Moab, she is among her own people. It would seem she is not unattractive, so it is certainly possible that she could have found a husband.

Until she did remarry, she would be able to live with her own family. We know little about them, but we do know that the family of Naomi owned land in Israel and was probably fairly well off. It is reasonable to assume that when Naomi’s husband found a bride for his son, the bride would have been of the same class. It is reasonable to assume that Ruth’s family could have taken care of her. Even Naomi told her it was to her advantage to go home to her family.

Was there any advantage to her if she went with Naomi to Israel? I cannot see any. She would be a foreigner. She would be poor because there would be no men to care for her or Naomi. Marriage would be less likely. She is still beyond the prime age and she is not an Israelite. It is possible that the Israelites could have rejected or mistreated her because of who she was. What would become of her when Naomi died?

I can see no advantage to following Naomi to Israel and every advantage to staying in Moab. Why, then, did Ruth insist so strongly on accompanying Naomi to her homeland? The obvious answer is that she loved Naomi, but did she not love her own mother? I believe there is more to her decision.

Naomi was an older widow. It had been a long time since she had been home. She had no husband and no sons. Her parents were probably gone by this time. Neither of them knew if there was anyone to take care of Naomi. An older woman alone was at great risk. Ruth loved Naomi, but more than that, she put Naomi’s wellbeing above her own. This is the first characteristic that put Ruth in a place to obtain favor.

When we live self-centered lives, I do not believe God will bring us favor. However, when we chose to consider others above ourselves, it opens the door for God given favor. I believe this applies within the family. When fathers and mothers lay down their lives for their children God will bring favor into the family. When children care for their parents, favor is released in their lives. Paul reminds us that the commandment to honor father and mother is the first commandment to carry a promise. (Eph 6:1-3)

I believe we need to extend this to the church as well. The bible tells us to consider the good of others more highly than our own. Jesus taught his disciples to walk in love towards each other and toward their neighbor. When we choose this path, we will find that God will honor us with favor.

Finally, we need to love those in the world as well. I believe that when we choose to lay down our lives for those around us, we will receive favor when we speak to them. This is the favor that the first church had and it led to people daily coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

There is a second characteristic in these beautiful words spoken by Ruth. Look at this statement from verse 16. “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Not only did she choose Naomi’s wellbeing instead of her own, but she also chose the Lord above her own gods and God’s people above her own people. When we put the Lord at the center of our desires, we are in a place to receive favor from him.

Last week we looked at the 2 ½ tribes that chose to settle on the east side of Jordan. They chose what was good for their flesh over the center of the will of God. Ruth does just the opposite. She chooses Naomi’s good and the will of God over what seems best for her own flesh. By making this choice, she puts herself right in the path of the favor of God and a blessing that she could never have imagined.

There are many voices crying for our attention today. There are many things we need to do. There are so many things for our flesh to desire and it is often difficult to make the choices that Ruth made. We are very busy and our personal needs are very great. However, what would Ruth’s life have been like if she had not made these hard choices?

She may have married in her homeland or she may have died an old maid. She might have been able to live well enough or she might have fallen on hard times and died of hunger. We do not know. We do know that she would not have been in Boaz’s field for him to see her. We do know that she would not have been his wife and he was a wealthy man. We also know that she would not have been part of the lineage of both David and Jesus.

I believe that was her real destiny. I believe God gave her favor with Boaz because he had called her to be the grandmother of David. Maybe she passed on some of her character to her son and grandson. Favor put her in the place to receive great blessing and to fulfill her destiny in the Lord. Her character put her in the place to receive the favor God wanted to give.

Let us look at our own lives. Do we consistently consider the needs of others over our own? Do we live life just for ourselves or are we willing to lay down our own needs and comforts to touch those who may be in greater need than we are? If we choose to consider others before ourselves, I believe we open ourselves to favor which comes from God.

Do we consider our flesh or the will of God? What choices do we make in the course of our lifestyle when it comes to the Kingdom of God and our own desires? If we choose to make the Kingdom of God the most important thing, we open ourselves to the favor that comes from him.

What will we see if we make these choices? I believe we will see God provide great blessing for us personally. Even though we may face some difficulties because of these choices, in the end we will be blessed just as Ruth was blessed. If we choose the will of God over our own will we will see the destiny God created us for fulfilled in our lifetime. I believe favor is worth making the right choices.

Ruth: A life built on Favor

Ruth 2:10(NKJV) 10So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”

I believe the Lord has been speaking to me about his desire to give great favor for the people of God. We began by looking at favor in the story of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The Lord told the Israelite women to ask the Egyptian women for gold, silver and clothing. God gave the Israelites favor and the Egyptians complied with their request. Because of this favor, the Israelites left Egypt with great wealth.

In Acts chapter 2 we see the beginning of the church age. In verses 46 and 47, we see that one of the first things that happen is that the church gains great favor and people are added daily to the church. This was not favor with the Jewish leaders or with the Roman government. It was favor with people who responded to the message of the gospel by receiving Jesus as Lord.

I believe that God wants to give us both kinds of favor. It takes resources to preach the gospel and favor can release the resources needed by the church and her people. It is even more important that we see the kind of favor the early church had so that whatever ministry we undertake for the Lord will be received and people will hear and believe the message of Jesus Christ.

As I was praying for this week’s message, I felt the Lord say, “Who in the bible had favor?” I thought of Ruth. Ruth is one of the more interesting characters in the Word. The book of Ruth is set in the time of the judges in Israel. However, neither Judges nor Ruth were written during that time. Both were written much later. In Ruth chapter 4, we find the genealogy of King David. Ruth had become part of that lineage. By this, we know that the book of Ruth was written sometime after David became king. This is a long time for a story about a foreign woman to survive.

Ruth’s life was built upon the fact that she found favor with a man named Boaz. The question I wanted to ask myself was what in Ruth’s life put her in the position to have such favor. Favor comes from God. It is a divine force that God gives on behalf of his people that brings blessing into their lives. However, I believe we can do things that will release that favor. I believe that is the real story of Ruth.

Before we talk about favor in Ruth’s life, we need to become familiar with her story. I want to give a synopsis today. Ruth is the daughter-in-law of an Israelite family. A man named Elimelech took his wife Naomi and two sons to the land of Moab because there was a famine in Israel. While there, his sons married Moabite women. After 10 years, Elimelech and both his sons died leaving three widows to fend for themselves.

In that day, women without men to take care of them were at great risk. Naomi decides to return to Israel where she has family and some land that belonged to her husband. She tells her daughters to return to their families, as there would be nothing for them in Israel. Both object but one of them, Orpah, decides to go home. Ruth begs Naomi not to send her away and makes one of the most beautiful statements in the bible.

Ruth 1:16-17(NKJV) 16But Ruth said:    “Entreat me not to leave you,   Or to turn back from following after you;   For wherever you go, I will go;   And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;   Your people shall be my people,   And your God, my God. 17  Where you die, I will die,   And there will I be buried.  The Lord do so to me, and more also,    If anything but death parts you and me.”

Naomi gives in to Ruth’s insistence and together they return to Israel. Once they get there, they are still two women with no man to care for them. Their options as to what they can do to survive are limited. It was the time of harvest so Ruth decides to take advantage of a custom that existed in Israel. After farmers made their initial harvest cuts there was always some grain left in the field. The farmers did not go back and get this grain, but left it for the poor to harvest. Ruth decides to find a field and follow the harvesters to see if she can get enough for her and Naomi to live on.

It just so happens that the field she chooses belongs to Boaz. She does not know who Boaz is. She just picks his field. As it turns out, he is a near relative of Elimelech. He is what is called a kinsman redeemer. This means he is one of the family members who had the responsibility of raising up heirs for Elimelech and his sons.

This was a law in Israel. If a man died without any heirs, his brother was to marry his wife and the first son born to them was the heir of the dead brother. This seems strange to us today, but in that day, it was very important to have an heir and for the family name to continue. If there were no brothers, this responsibility would extend to other family members. Boaz was second in this line.

Boaz sees Ruth and asks who she is. The workers tell him that she is Naomi’s daughter-in-law. He has heard of her so he tells the young men to leave her alone. He gives her lunch and tells her to stay in his field and follow the young women working for him. He makes sure that she has plenty of grain to take to town to sell. He also tells her to keep coming back for the whole harvest season.

When Ruth returns to Naomi, she asks Ruth who has had such favor on her. She says a man named Boaz. Naomi knows who this is and knows that God is doing something to bless them both. She tells Ruth to return to Boaz’s field that evening because they would be threshing the grain. She tells her to bath and put on her best clothes. She tells her to wait until Boaz goes to bed, then lie at his feet, and uncover them. This was a practice for servants in that day.

When Boaz wakes he sees her there and asks, who she is and what is she doing. She tells him she is Ruth and asks him to cover her with the skirt of his garment. She is asking him to fulfill his role as kinsman redeemer. He assures her he will do so, but there is another relative who is closer to her so he must talk with him.

To make a long story short, Boaz talks to the second relative who cannot fulfill this obligation and Boaz marries Ruth. They have children and both Ruth and Naomi are greatly blessed. Ruth, a foreign woman, becomes part of the lineage of David and ultimately of the Messiah. This is a beautiful story of love and blessing. It is even more a story of the favor of God in the life of Ruth.

What was it about Ruth that enabled God to give her such favor? What did God see in her and what did Boaz see in her? Can we cultivate those same things in our lives? I believe we can. This week we are going to find out what caused Ruth to have such favor with Boaz. I believe that if we cultivate these same characteristics, we can have the same kind of favor today.

As we read about the lifestyle and character of Ruth, let us examine our own lives and see if we have the things working in us that led to such favor for Ruth. We need favor in our day. God wants to give favor to his people. However, he cannot do that if we are not the kind of people that deserve it. Ruth was that kind of person. We can follow her example and learn to be as well. We can have favor in our lives.

What Happened to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh

Joshua 22:30-34(NKJV) 30Now when Phinehas the priest and the rulers of the congregation, the heads of the £divisions of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and the children of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them. 31Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and the children of Manasseh, “This day we perceive that the Lord is among us, because you have not committed this treachery against the Lord. Now you have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord.” 32And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the rulers, returned from the children of Reuben and the children of Gad, from the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel, and brought back word to them. 33So the thing pleased the children of Israel, and the children of Israel blessed God; they spoke no more of going against them in battle, to destroy the land where the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt. 34The children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar, Witness, “For it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”

This week we have been looking at the 2 ½ tribes of Israel that chose to settle on the east bank of the Jordan river. We have been looking at this in light of the thought that God wants this to be a year of favor for his people. We have seen that favor given by God can bring great benefit to the people of God. We also know that favor with those to whom we are called to preach will result in more people being saved. The thing we want to see this week is that the place of the greatest favor is the center of the will of God.

The 2 ½ tribes who settled east of Jordan did so because this land was more pleasing to their flesh than the land on the west side of the river. They went across the river with their army and helped the rest of Israel obtain their possession in Canaan, the understood Promised Land, but they did not want to live there. I believe that many Christians today want to see the will of God come to pass in the earth but they do not want to live in the center of God’s will. They do not want to sacrifice comfort or pleasure to see the will of God accomplished. I believe this is a dangerous place to live.

In today’s scripture we see that Reuben, Gad and Manasseh explained the construction of the replica altar to the rest of Israel by saying they just wanted it to be an altar of remembrance. They were afraid that the rest of Israel would forget that they were part of the covenant people. There is no rebuke in this chapter. Their explanation is accepted and they are allowed to keep this altar. However, I believe that what happens to them is a warning to those of us who would rather live on the fringes of the will of God than make the full commitment to be in the center of God’s will.

What role did the 2 ½ tribes play in the subsequent history of Israel? I have tried to find them in the scriptural account and I cannot. They are mentioned in Judges and there are some individuals with those names mentioned in the Old Testament, but I see no mighty deeds by Reuben, Gad or Manasseh. I have found no mighty warriors or prophets from these tribes, although there was a prophet called Gad. There is no mention of great events happening in their territory. It is possible that I may have missed something, but I think it is safe to say that they were not major players in what happens in Israel.

It seems that Reuben, Gad and Manasseh simply fade out of the record. They became a non-factor in the destiny of Israel. I do not want that to be my legacy. I want the devil to know I was here and breathe a sigh of relief when I leave. When I stand before the Lord, I want to hear “Well done.” not, “What did you do again?” When we choose to live on the fringes of the will of God, we become a non-factor in the Kingdom. We may live comfortable lives or we may not, but we will not fulfill the destiny God has for us in the earth.

What was the problem with their choice to stay on the east side of Jordan? They pointed it out themselves in the 25th verse. They say God made the Jordan a border between them and the rest of Israel. The truth is, they are the ones who made the border, not God. The result was the same. There was a division between them, the rest of the people of God and the perfect will of God. This border created some weaknesses that the enemy eventually exploited.

Reuben, Gad and Manasseh gradually lost their identity with the rest of Israel. They were still covenant people, but the separation caused them to develop a somewhat different lifestyle than those in Canaan. I cannot give chapter and verse to support this conclusion, but I can point to human nature. It is always the case that when part of a group is separated from the whole, they will develop differently than the whole. I believe this must have been the case with Reuben, Gad and Manasseh or they would not have faded from the record.

As a pastor, I have seen this pattern over and over again. People who are involved in church and committed to the whole purpose of God are different in their Christian walk than those who simply come on Sunday and try to “live a good life.” Often, they just do not see the necessity to walk in the holiness and commitment that the rest of the church does. The result is usually compromise and further separation. That is the legacy of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh.

The 2 ½ tribes were cut off from the presence of God. In the Old Testament, the presence of God dwelt in the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was first in the Tabernacle and eventually in the Temple in Jerusalem. It was not on the east side of Jordan. The altar that Reuben, Gad and Manasseh built on the east side of Jordan was called a “replica” of the altar of the Lord, but it did not have the presence of God.

We might point out that the presence of God no longer dwells in an earthly temple but in the hearts of men. This is very true. However, the manifestation of God’s presence is strongest in the center of his will. When we choose to live on the fringes of Christianity, we will never experience the manifestation of God’s presence in its fullness. When we are separated from this manifestation, we gradually lose the sense of his presence and the affect that it has in our lives. I believe this is a major problem. Without the manifested presence of God Christianity devolves into nothing more than a religious system. (2 Tim 3:5)

Finally, Israel’s choice left them with no separation between them and the enemy. It was just too easy for the enemy to infiltrate them. There was too much contact with the cultures that were opposed to the destiny of the people of God. Eventually this led to so much compromise that they were no longer a viable factor in fulfilling that destiny.

I believe this is what happens to us when we are not fully committed to the will of God. We find ourselves with no border between the enemy and us. We are too close to the culture of the world and we allow compromise to rob of us of what the Lord has for us. Sin is all around us and it is getting more and more accepted in our culture. We are foolish to think we can straddle the line between the kingdom of God and the world. We need to have a definite border between the world and us. I believe the best way to keep that border in tact is to be sold out for God and for his will and destiny.

Do not be like Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. Do not settle for life on the other side of Jordan. Do not settle for living as close to the world as possible without sin. It is a dangerous place to be. As the saying goes, “If you play around a slippery river bank you will eventually fall in.”

Instead, give all you have for the Lord. Sell out to the fullness of his will and presence. Do not ask how far you can go before you are out of the will of God. Ask instead how to find the center of the will of God. Commit to pleasing him not to just trying not to displease him. The benefits, including favor, are worth the commitment.

Take Heed That You Do all the Commandments

Joshua 22:1-5(NKJV) 1Then Joshua called the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh,  2and said to them: “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you. 3You have not left your brethren these many days, up to this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord your God. 4And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brethren, as He promised them; now therefore, return and go to your tents and to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” 

In yesterday’s post we looked at the 2 ½ tribes of Israel who chose to receive their inheritance on the east bank of the Jordan River. This was part of the inheritance God had given to Abraham, but not the Promised Land proper. It was within the will of God, but not the center of the will of God. It was a land that appealed to this groups flesh because it suited the lifestyle they had chosen. We find that God allowed them to settle there as long as they sent their warriors into Canaan and helped the rest of the Israelites obtain their possession as well.

This was not something God directed them to do. It was something God allowed them to do. They were willing to help others take the land of destiny, but they did not want to live in the land themselves. They were willing to go as far as they had to go in order to stay in God’s good graces but not to dwell in the place of his presence. I am concerned that this is the stance of too much of the church today.

There is no indication that God rebuked Rueben, Gad and Manasseh for their choice. I have talked with some who speak of certain behaviors that are appealing to their flesh and they say, “It does not say in the bible that I cannot do this.” That may be true, but there is another question we need to ask. Does this behavior lead me closer to the center of God’s will or make me more vulnerable to falling into sin. Does this behavior help me grow in God or does it keep me at my current level.

I believe there are some things that we can learn from the 2 ½ tribes that chose not to go into Canaan. In today’s scripture we see that Joshua commends Rueben, Gad and Manasseh for keeping their promise. However, in verse 5 we see that he gives them a warning. He tells them to make sure they keep the commandments of God and follow the covenant with all their heart. He did not feel the need to give this kind of warning to those who stayed in Canaan. I believe this points to a potential problem that Joshua could see in the future of these tribes.

We must remember that we are not without opposition in the world. There is a real devil and he has a real agenda for the world. He hates the people of God and is constantly working to destroy them. The farther you are from the will of God the more vulnerable you become to the enemy. Joshua knew this. Rueben, Gad and Manasseh were not currently in sin. They had done what they said they would do. The problem is that what they said they would do was not the fullness of what God wanted them to do. It was not sin, but it was not full pursuit of God’s purposes either.

As we follow the tribes on the east bank of the river, we see some problems that arise almost immediately. In Joshua 22:10-29 we read about an incident that happens not long after Rueben, Gad and Manasseh return to the east bank. As the rest of Israel looks across the river, they see an altar being built. Altars are very important to Israel. There is only one altar God has authorized for the offering of sacrifices and that is the altar that is part of the tabernacle. To offer sacrifices anywhere else breaks the covenant and brings judgment on all of Israel not just the offending tribes. The Israelites on the west bank of Jordan mobilize for war against Rueben, Gad and Manasseh. They have seen the curse of disobedience to the covenant and they are not going to allow it now.

There are two things I want to point out here. First, the fact that part of Israel chose to live outside of the center of God’s will caused strife. There was a lack of communication between the two groups and this caused misunderstanding. In verse 25, those on the east side say that God has made the Jordan a border between the two groups. This is not true. They made the Jordan a border between themselves and the rest of Israel. It was God’s will for them to be with the tribes in Canaan. They chose to settle on the east side of the river.

Whenever one group wants to go farther with God than another there will be strife. There will be mixed goals, lack of communication and misunderstandings. Eventually there will be a problem. This is what happens between these two groups of Israelites. Neither one was actually in sin, but if they had all been on the west side of the river this would not have been a problem.

Second, it is important to see that compromise affects the whole group. We need to understand that when we choose to live a life that is less than sold out to the total will and destiny of God it will affect more than just our own lives. It will affect our family. If we have children, we will influence them to follow our example. It will affect the church as a whole because we are a body and what touches one member touches all. We need to look beyond ourselves when we think of how much we want to give to the Lord.

We also find in Joshua 22:25 the motivations for building this second altar. They do not intend to offer sacrifices upon it. They are afraid that the rest of Israel will forget them and cut them off from the altar on the west side of Jordan. Their motivation was fear. Any time we are not in the center of the will of God we are more open to fear. Fear and faith cannot occupy the same space. They will cancel each other out.

In verse 19, those who live on the west bank say to Rueben, Gad and Manasseh, “If the land where you are is so unclean that it requires an altar, then move over here where the land is clean. You don’t have to stay on that side of the river.” I would encourage any in the body of Christ who are living outside the center of God’s will to come in! You do not have to live in an unclean land. You may not be in sin, but there is more for you than what you have.

Rueben, Gad and Manasseh did not intend to sin where this altar was concerned. They intended to cross the river and offer sacrifices just as the rest of Israel did. It was only to be an altar of remembrance. The Lord directed Israel to build many such altars. However, what might happen in the future? The altar was there. It was a temptation to the east bank tribes to sin. It was closer and easier to get to than the altar in Canaan. Would they begin to think that their altar was just as good? Would they ever choose to compromise and offer just one sacrifice. There is no record they did, but they put themselves in a place of temptation needlessly.

Finally, they put themselves in a situation where there was no border between themselves and the enemy. The Jordan was not to be a border between Rueben, Gad and Manasseh and the rest of Israel. It was a border between Israel and the enemy. By living on the east bank of the river, they were more vulnerable to attack. Why live in place that makes us more vulnerable to the enemy.

I want to encourage those of us who are children of God in Christ to go all the way into God’s will and destiny. The more we stay on the fringes the more we risk falling into sin and coming under the attack of the enemy. Commit wholly to the Lord’s will for your life. It may seem harder. It may require some sacrifice of the flesh. In the end it will result in a life lived to its fullest capacity. Do not settle for less than God’s best for you.

What happened to Rueben, Gad and Manasseh? We will find out tomorrow.

This Side of the Jordan

Numbers 32:1-5(NKJV) 1Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of livestock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that indeed the region was a place for livestock,  2the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying,  3“Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Shebam, Nebo, and Beon,  4the country which the Lord defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.”  5Therefore they said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.”

In our study of favor, we have found that the Lord gave favor to the Israelite women so that when they asked the Egyptian women for gold, silver and clothing they gave their treasure to the Israelites. There was no reason for them to do this except for a sovereign move of God. By this “force of favor”, they spoiled Egypt by taking their goods.

Taking plunder from an enemy was a way to demonstrate an overwhelming or full victory. In Romans 8 Paul says that he is more than a conqueror through the love of God. This term can mean to win an overwhelming victory. In a sense, this is what Israel did to Egypt. It could be said that we are able to win overwhelming victory over the kingdom of darkness. One factor in winning such a victory is the same favor of God that Israel enjoyed in Egypt.

This has always been available to the church. We read about it in Acts chapter 2.

Acts 2:46-47(NKJV) 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,  47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

I believe God is telling his church that it is time to believe for and expect this favor in our lives and ministries. I believe this favor needs to extend to our personal and financial life so that the things we need to do the work of the ministry will be available to us. I also believe this favor is even more valuable in terms of those to whom we will preach the gospel. God can give favor and receptivity to those who need salvation. We need to expect him to do just that.

A major factor in walking in God’s favor is to be where God is. We cannot expect the favor of God if we refuse to walk in the will of God. There is a story in the bible that I believe reveals some important things about this principle. When the children of Israel were finally ready to enter the Promised Land, there were two and ½ tribes that had a different idea. In today’s scripture, we see what they wanted to do. The tribes of Rueben and Gad, later joined by the half tribe of Manasseh, had already settled on the eastern side of the Jordan River.

This territory was part of the inheritance of Israel, but it was not considered the Promised Land proper. That was on the west side of the Jordan River in the territory known as Canaan. The land on the east side of the river was good land for grazing cattle. The people of these three and ½ tribes happened to be keepers of cattle and they had already begun to settle down in this region. They requested of Moses that they be allowed to claim their inheritance on the east side of Jordan where they had already begun to be established.

Moses tells them that they cannot do so if they will not cross over the river and help the rest of Israel win their inheritance. They say they will send their fighting men over the Jordan with the rest of Israel and fight for their inheritance. Moses agrees to this proposal and gives them this land east of Jordan for their inheritance.

When the time comes for Joshua to lead the people of Israel over Jordan, he reminds the people of Rueben, Gad and Manasseh of their promise. They readily agree to send their army over the Jordan while leaving their herds, their families and their cities on the east bank. They will then return once all Israel has its inheritance.

All of this seems to perfectly fine to all concerned. The 2 ½ tribes are doing their part and they will have their inheritance. The rest of Israel will have their inheritance with the aid of those who inherit on the east side of the river. The land east of the Jordan might be thought of as within the will of God but not in the center of the will of God since it was not really part of Canaan.

In Romans 12 we see something interesting.

Romans 12:2(NKJV) 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Although I believe one way to look at this verse is that the will of God is good, acceptable and perfect for each individual, I think there is also a truth to the fact that we can walk in varying levels of God’s will. I believe all of us know that there have been times in our lives when we have chosen to do what God wants us to do, but not wholly. We are in what might be called the permissive will of God, but not in the center of God’s will for our lives.

In this place, God is able to deal with us. We are not in sin per se. We are living as Christians but we are not striving to fulfill our full destiny in God. We tend to do only what we need to do in order to feel that we are good people and securely on our way to heaven. This is where the 2 ½ tribes decided to settle. They chose to stay on the east side of Jordan even though destiny was on the west side. They were still God’s people. They still loved God. They were willing to help others go into the Promised Land; they just did not have any desire to go in themselves.

I believe this is a real problem in the church today. It seems that more and more people are willing to live right, at least to a degree. They will rejoice when they hear of God moving in other places. They may be willing to support the ministry of God financially. However, they just do not seem to have a drive to go all the way for the Lord. They want to live good lives and enjoy the benefits of being the people of God. They want to do enough to stay saved but not enough to risk their personal comfort of lifestyle.

What was it about the east side of Jordan that was so appealing? We see that it was a land that suited their lifestyle and how they had chosen to make their living. It was appealing to their flesh. Too often today, the church is settling for what is appealing to the flesh and not the center of God’s will. Too often, we are willing to go far enough in our commitment to feel that we have fulfilled our obligation but not go the extra mile to step into the fullness of destiny.

We also see that it was neither God nor Moses that suggested this course of action. It was what the 2 ½ tribes wanted. It was acceptable to God. There is no indication that they were rebuked for settling on the east side of Jordan, but it was not something God had told them to do. It was a “good idea” but not a “God idea.”

I believe we need to take stock of how much we are settling for good ideas that appeal to the flesh and God ideas that will bring us into the fullness of His will. I do not think it is enough to just “miss hell and make heaven.” Not only that, we will find that the favor God wants to give us is found in the center of God’s will not on the fringes.

There were some consequences to Rueben, Gad and Manasseh’s choice. Join me tomorrow for more.

More Than Conquerors

Romans 8:37(NKJV) 37Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

As we begin 2013, I have been looking at the idea of favor. I believe God wants his people to believe for favor during this year. We started by looking at Exodus 3 and Exodus 12, verses in which the Lord told his people to ask their slave masters to give them gold, silver, and clothing. There was no reason for them to do such a thing, but the Egyptians did it anyway. There can only be one explanation. God gave the Israelites favor with the Egyptians. The bible tells us that by this favor the Israelites plundered the Egyptians.

This term “plunder” is very important in the warfare of the day. You might defeat an enemy but the way you proved your victory was complete was by taking from them whatever you might have needed or wanted. I believe there is a New Testament equivalent to the idea of plunder.

In today’s verse, Paul says that we are “more than conquerors” through Jesus who loved us. If we look at the context of the verse, we see that Paul is talking about some very difficult things that he had gone through in the service of the Lord. What does he mean by “more than a conqueror?” One interpretation of this phrase means to win overwhelming victories. That is exactly the idea behind plunder in the Old Testament.

If you won a marginal victory, the enemy you fought was still a threat. His economy was still intact. His army may have been defeated but not destroyed. He could still come against you in the future and the next battle might not go your way. The only way to be sure that the defeated foe would not turn the tables on you was to win an overwhelming victory. This was proven and enhanced by the taking of plunder.

If you took plunder from the enemy, you hurt his economy. You hindered his ability to make war. Depending on the amount of plunder taken, you might destroy the enemy as a nation. In either case, the taking of plunder proved to the enemy that they were at your mercy. If they tried to rise against you again, you would simply come and take the rest of what they had.

This may seem cruel, but there were no civilized rules of engagement. The only protection that you had from a sworn enemy was to be stronger than they were and, if war came, to be sure that you won overwhelming victory. Your enemy would do no less.

This is why God instructed the Israelites to ask for spoil from their neighbors. I want to point out again that the vehicle God used to accomplish this was the women of Israel. The bible says that Israel plundered Egypt and they did it by their women. Could anything have sent a clearer message to Egypt in that day than to be plundered by women? Of course, we know that Pharaoh did not heed the message and paid the price for his mistake.

The other factor in plundering Egypt was the force that I believe God wants to release in the church during 2013. That is the force of favor. The bible says that God gave Israel favor with the Egyptian women and by that favor, they plundered Egypt. By the power of God, they won a victory. By the favor of God, they took plunder or won an overwhelming victory.

I want to tie this to Romans 8. Paul says that in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ. To what things is he referring? He is talking about some major battles he has faced. He is talking about hunger and shipwreck. He is talking about persecution and various kinds of danger. However, in these terrible things Paul says he is winning overwhelming victories. It could be said that Paul is taking plunder from the devil.

How is Paul taking this plunder? I believe we can conclude that one way he is taking this plunder is the same way Israel took plunder from the Egyptians. God has given him favor with certain people and this favor has caused him to be more than a conqueror. If you read the story of Paul’s life you will find this to be true.

We conquer the sin nature by receiving the benefit of victory won by the power of God. Jesus was crucified by the devil. However, that was not the end of the story. The bible tells us that Jesus “cast off” the powers of darkness and “made an open show” of the devil. These terms indicate a battle won by the power of God. We received this victory as our own and were born again. However, there is more to our salvation than simply “missing hell and making heaven.”

God wants us to walk in victory. God wants us to partake of the benefits of our covenant promises. God also wants us to “spoil the enemy” and take plunder from the kingdom of darkness. I believe that one of the things that will enable us to do that is an increase of favor.

What kind of plunder does God want us to have? I believe part of it involves the wealth of this world.

Proverbs 13:22(NKJV) 22    A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,      But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.

Who are the righteous that the wealth of the sinner is laid up for? I believe it is the church. God always wants to provide for the needs of his children, so a certain amount of this wealth can and should go there. The main focus of this idea is for wealth to come into the hands of the church to meet the spiritual emotional and physical needs of people. By giving his people favor in relationships, business and myriad other areas, I believe the Lord wants to release this wealth to his church for the preaching of the Gospel.

There is an even more important way to view this “plunder.”

Matthew 16:18(NKJV) 18And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. What plunder lies behind those gates? Men, women, boys and girls lie behind those gates and God wants them set free. The real plunder God wants to give is a harvest of souls for his Kingdom.

There is more to winning this plunder than just walking in favor. However, I believe God is highlighting favor in my heart. I believe God wants us to believe that he can and will move in such a way that we will have favor where we need it. We need to believe we will have favor to release the resources we need to do the work God has called us to do. I believe he also wants to release favor in the hearts of people so that they will receive the message of the gospel.

Let us win some overwhelming victories in the Lord. Let us take hold by faith of the favor that comes from God and take some plunder from the kingdom of darkness. This evil kingdom has taken enough from us. I believe now is the time to turn the tables and I believe favor is a major key.