Our Forever-Faithful God

9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. – Deuteronomy 7:9 ESV

13 If we are unfaithful,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot deny who he is.
2 Timothy 3:13 NLT

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning. – Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT

Reliable, steadfast, dependable, and trustworthy. Those are just a few of the many words that come to mind when we think of faithfulness. And yet, for many of us, we find it difficult to think of an individual who models faithfulness – faithfully. We all have our moments of faithfulness, but they can tend to be shortlived or interspersed with displays of unexpected and even unintended actions that portray us as untrustworthy and unreliable.

Human beings are flawed creatures who must battle daily with the very real effects of sin. We want to be faithful, but too often we find ourselves lacking the inner resolve to stay true to our word, devoted to our relationships, and consistent in our character.

But then there’s God. He is forever faithful. It is not an optional outcome or outward display of character that God has chosen to manifest. It is the essence of who He is. He is faithful, and he cannot choose to be otherwise. Faithfulness is not an option for God. It exudes from every pore of His being. The psalmist understood the all-encompassing, non-negotiable nature of God’s faithfulness.

O Lord God of hosts,
    who is mighty as you are, O Lord,
    with your faithfulness all around you? – Psalm 89:8 ESV

A. W. Pink described God’s faithfulness as “one of the glorious perfections of His being. He is as it were clothed with it” (A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God). Like all His other attributes, God’s faithfulness is an inner quality that manifests itself in visible, tangible ways. Displays of His faithfulness are all around us.

For the Lord is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also. – Psalm 95:3-4 ESV

Here, the psalmist is emphasizing God’s power, His ability to create and control the universe. But this passage also speaks of God’s faithfulness. Should he ever stop holding the depths of the earth and the heights of the mountains in His hands, the world would cease to exist. God boldly proclaims, “It was my hand that laid the foundations of the earth, my right hand that spread out the heavens above. When I call out the stars, they all appear in order” (Isaiah 48:13 NLT). And He faithfully maintains all that He has made. After God had brought devastation upon the earth through the flood, He promised Noah: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22 ESV).

Then what do we do with a passage like 2 Peter 3:10? In it, Peter seems to paint a different picture of God’s faithfulness, describing a future day when God will destroy the heavens and the earth with fire.

But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

This raises another aspect of God’s faithfulness. He is true to His word. What always does what He says He will do. When God makes a promise, He keeps it. He never fails to follow through with His commitments. His faithfulness extends to the very words that come from His lips.

God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through? – Numbers 23:19 NLT

According to the author of Hebrews, “God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you’’” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT). And he didn’t dream up this reassuring aspect of God’s faithfulness. Centuries earlier, Moses had told the people of Israel: “the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT). Years later, God would assure Joshua, “I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you” (Joshua 1:5 NLT). And God was good for His word. He did what He said He would do.

But God’s faithfulness to keep His word also includes His warnings of judgment for sin and discipline for disobedience.

“I, the LORD, will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sin. I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty.” – Isaiah 48:13 NLT

“I correct and discipline everyone I love.” – Revelation 3:19 NLT

God is faithful, even when it comes to fulfilling His promises and following through with His warnings. He does not make idle threats. To do so would make Him a liar. To fail to keep His promises would make Him unreliable and unworthy of adoration and praise. Unfaithfulness would render God unholy. An unreliable, untrustworthy God would be no God at all. But our God is fully and completely faithful – all the time.

Everything about God is great, vast, incomparable. He never forgets, never fails, never falters, never forfeits His word. To every declaration of promise or prophecy the Lord has exactly adhered, every engagement of covenant or threatening He will make good… – A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God

Faithfulness requires consistency and constancy. To be truly faithful requires an absence of fickleness or capriciousness. Humans have difficulty remaining faithful because they are easily distracted and find their commitments blown about like leaves in the wind. Lack of follow-through, unreliability, and broken promises plague mankind. Trust is in short supply because trustworthy people seem to be few and far between.

But God can always be relied upon. He is constantly consistent in every way. He is always loving, always just, always righteous, always holy, and always faithful. No one who has ever placed their trust in God has been let down or disappointed with the results. That doesn’t mean to say they always liked the results they got. David trusted God’s promise that he would be the next king of Israel, but then he spent the next years of his life living like a fugitive, trying to escape King Saul’s relentless pursuit. When God commanded Moses to lead the people of Israel out of captivity in Egypt and into the land of promise, he believed and obeyed. And yet, Moses never set foot in the land of Canaan.

God’s faithfulness is not intended to be a warm and fuzzy, feel-good attribute that assures us that life will be problem-free and happiness-filled. The doctrine of God’s faithfulness is meant to preserve us in those moments when all looks lost and He seems distant. There will be times when the presence of God is difficult to comprehend. It will appear as if He has vacated the premises. It will feel as if He has abandoned us.

There are seasons in the lives of all when it is not easy, no not even for Christians, to believe that God is faithful. Our faith is sorely tried, our eyes be dimmed with tears, and we can no longer trace the outworkings of His love. Our ears are distracted with the noises of the world, harassed by the atheistic whisperings of Satan, and we can no longer hear the sweet accents of His still small voice. Cherished plans have been thwarted, friends on whom we relied have failed us, a professed brother or sister in Christ has betrayed us. We are staggered. We sought to be faithful to God, and now a dark cloud hides Him from us. We find it difficult, yea, impossible, for carnal reason to harmonize His frowning providence with His gracious promises. – A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God

But the truth of God’s faithfulness should bolster us during those moments of doubt and fear. He has not left us. He has not forsaken us. His love for us is not diminished. His strength to save has not decreased. His capacity to care for and comfort us in our time of need remains unchanged. And Isaiah would have us keep God’s faithfulness in mind when the darkness surrounds us and doubt begins to overwhelm us.

If you are walking in darkness,
    without a ray of light,
trust in the Lord
    and rely on your God. – Isaiah 50:10 NLT

And God would remind us we are never to judge Him based on our circumstances. It should always be the other way around. The presence of problems is not proof of the absence of God. Our feelings of having been abandoned by God may be real, but they are never true. In those moments, we are operating at a disadvantage. We cannot see what God sees. We do not know what He knows.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV

The apostle Paul reiterates the amazing nature of God’s unsurpassed wisdom so that we might find comfort even in the darkest, most difficult to understand moments of life.

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! – Romans 11:33 NLT

God is faithful. He is forever faithful. And while we might not understand His ways or like His means, we can trust that God will prove trustworthy and faithful in all His interactions with us.

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. – 1 Peter 4:19 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Our All-Powerful-All-the-Time God

1 Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do anything,
    and no one can stop you. ” – Job 42:1-2 NLT

The Lord merely spoke,
    and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
    and all the stars were born.
He assigned the sea its boundaries
    and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
Let the whole world fear the Lord,
    and let everyone stand in awe of him.
For when he spoke, the world began!
    It appeared at his command. Psalm 33:6-9 NLT

36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” – Luke 1:36-37 ESV

When we, as humans, attempt to discuss the power of God, we are at a distinct disadvantage. We are finite creatures who are well acquainted with personal limitations. It is impossible for us to consider something being all-anything. That little three-letter word “all” conveys the idea of wholeness or completeness. And while we might say that a glass or bowl is all full, we know that it will not remain full permanently. Upon completion of a task, we might proclaim, “All done.” But we will do so knowing that the finished task will likely need to be repeated at some point.

Someone who claims to be all-in regarding a project or endeavor will likely have his commitment tested somewhere along the way. His assurance of whole-hearted engagement will likely waver, given enough time or the lack of his expectations being met.

We live in a world full of limitations. No one is truly all-knowing. They may know a lot, but there will always be more to know. Someone may appear to have “all the money in the world,” but logic precludes the veracity of that statement. No one can literally have all the money. And while someone might wield a great deal of power, there is no one who is truly all-powerful. Even the world’s most powerful people experience limitations to that power. And the sad reality of life is that no one can ever seem to get enough power. And the same can be said of fame, money, or time.

Which brings us back to our all-powerful-all-the-time God. Theologians refer to this as God’s omnipotence. The word omnipotent comes from omni- meaning “all” and potent meaning “power.” And when used of God’s power, that word “all” is meant to convey the complete and wholly undiminished nature of that power. His power is without limits. It never diminishes in intensity. God does not grow tired. In fact, the psalmist states, “he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps” (Psalm 121:4 NLT).

God isn’t just more powerful, extremely powerful, or simply powerful. He is all-powerful.

The power of God is that ability and strength whereby He can bring to pass whatsoever He pleases, whatsoever His infinite wisdom may direct, and whatsoever the infinite purity of His will may resolve…  – Stephen Charnock, Discourses Upon the Existence and Attributes of God, Volumes 1-2

Notice what Charnock says. God can bring to pass whatever He pleases. God’s power is directly tied to His will. Unlike man, God’s will is never a case of wishful thinking. There is never a case when God desires something, but finds Himself lacking the power to make it happen. God has never had to say, “If I only I could….” He has never had to sit back and watch His will go unfulfilled because of a lack of strength.

A. W. Pink states, “He who cannot do what he will and perform all his pleasure cannot be God. As God hath a will to resolve what He deems good, so has He power to execute His will” (A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God). This is essential if we are to understand and fully appreciate the transcendent nature of God. He is not a slightly improved version of man. He is not a human on steroids, but He is the infinite Almighty God who spoke the universe into existence.

And God’s power was not acquired, developed over time, and is not running out. C. H. Spurgeon put it this way: “God’s power is like Himself, self-existent, self-sustained. The mightiest of men cannot add so much as a shadow of increased power to the Omnipotent One.” The greatest earthly examples of power we can think of are all limited. Niagara Falls, while impressive, is not self-existent or self-sustaining. It has a source, or it would not exist. And it will one day cease to exist. Simply divert the headwater that provides the source of its power, and the falls will become nothing more than exposed rocks and a dry river bed.

But because God’s power is self-existent, it cannot be diminished or diverted in any way. His power is unmatched in its intensity and irrepressible in its intent.

All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, “What do you mean by doing these things?” – Daniel 4:35 NLT

The LORD does whatever pleases him throughout all heaven and earth… – Psalm 135:5 NLT

It was Job who confessed to God, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you” (Job 42:2 NLT). And Job argued with his well-meaning, but misinformed friends, “who can turn him back? Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’” (Job 9:12 ESV).

It was Lord Acton who wrote the oft-quoted line, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” But that truism does not apply to God. Because He is holy, just, and righteous in all He does, God’s power cannot be corrupted – even though it is absolute. God is deity, not humanity. He is nothing like us, and cannot be measured according to our standards or evaluated based on our limited and sin-influenced perspective.

God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
 – Numbers 23:19 NLT

God’s undiminished and non-constrainable power always accomplishes what He intends. God, Himself stated, “My word that proceeds from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper where I send it” (Isaiah 55:11 BSB).

While we may not fully comprehend or appreciate the extent of God’s power, we all relish the idea that it might be at our disposal when needed. We love the thought of the all-powerful God putting all that power at our beck and call. But God’s power, while accessible by us, is not answerable to us. He is not our cosmic Genie-in-a-bottle or personal valet. God’s power exists to accomplish God’s will, not ours. And A. W. Pink would have us maintain a delicate balance when it comes to our reaction to and relationship with God’s power.

Well may all tremble before such a God! To treat with impudence One who can crush us more easily than we can a moth, is a suicidal policy. To openly defy Him who is clothed with omnipotence, who can rend us in pieces or cast us into Hell any moment He pleases, is the very height of insanity.

Well may the enlightened soul adore such a God! The wondrous and infinite perfections of such a Being call for fervent worship. If men of might and renown claim the admiration of the world, how much more should the power of the Almighty fill us with wonderment and homage. – A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Our Wholly Holy God

4 Who will not fear, O Lord,
    and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
– Revelation 15:4 ESV

11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11 ESV

13 You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
    and cannot look at wrong… – Habakuk 1:13 ESV

God is holy. In fact, the seraphim who surround God’s throne describe Him as holy, holy, holy. The prophet Isaiah was given a glimpse of that heavenly scene and he provides us with a vivid description of what he saw.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” – Isaiah 6:1-3 ESV

The apostle John was also given an opportunity to peek behind the heavenly curtain and see the throne room of God. And his description is very similar to that of Isaiah.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come!” – Revelation 4:8 ESV

These heavenly creatures weren’t content using one “holy” to describe God. They made sure to use the word three times and to do so without ceasing, day and night. This three-fold repetition is called a trihagion, and it was a common literary and linguistic tool used by the Hebrews to provide emphasis and force to a statement. It was like saying, “God is super holy.” Or “He is holier than holy.”

But what does it mean to say that God is holy? We’re familiar with the word, but do we fully understand the significance of what it says about God? In some ways, the word holy has become overly familiar to us. And yet, biblically, holiness is considered one of the primary and self-defining attributes of God. Tony Evans defines God’s holiness as “His intrinsic and transcendent purity; His standard of righteousness to which the whole universe must conform” (Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On).

The Hebrew word that is used most often to describe God’s holy nature is qodesh. It means “set-apartness” or “separateness.” God is unique and without equal. But it’s not just that God is one-of-a-kind. As Tony Evans points out, God’s holiness is tied to His purity. So, it’s not enough to say that God is different. What makes Him different is that He is holy – thoroughly righteous, without sin, and intrinsically pure in every way. He is The Holy One. As A. W. Pink puts it, “He is so because the sum of all moral excellency is found in Him. He is absolute Purity, unsullied even by the shadow of sin” (A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God).

But there is more to God’s holiness than His moral perfection. When the seraphim shout “holy, holy, holy” they are declaring far more than just His sinlessness. And they are not simply stating His separateness. There is no doubt that God stands alone, having no equal and being incapable of duplication or emulation. Man may have been created in God’s image, but that doesn’t make man a god. God remains set-apart and distinctly different from all that He has made. Which means He is transcendent.

When we speak of the transcendence of God, we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. Transcendence describes His supreme and absolute greatness. The word is used to describe God’s relationship to the world. He is higher than the world. He has absolute power over the world. The world has no power over Him. Transcendence describes God in His consuming majesty, His exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates Him from every creature. He is an infinite cut above everything else. – R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God

To consider and treat God as holy is to revere Him for who He is. It is to acknowledge His infinite greatness and incomparable otherness. “God’s holiness unlocks the door to understanding and making sense out of everything else about Him. This attribute infiltrates all the other attributes” (Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On).

To treat God as holy is to recognize and revere His otherness – His set-apartness. It is to lift up and celebrate His extraordinariness. But if, in our attitudes and actions towards Him, we give the impression that He is ordinary in any way, we profane His character and defame His holy name.

When God consecrated Aaron and his sons to serve as priests before Him, He commanded them “to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean” (Leviticus 10:10 ESV). Later on, God would give a similar command to the Levitical priests: “They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean” (Ezekiel 44:23 ESV). They were to teach the people about what God meant by holiness or set-apartness. The tabernacle was to be considered holy. The sabbath was to treated as holy. They were to be a holy nation. God had set them apart for His service. They belonged to Him. And their lives were to reflect their unique status as His chosen people.

But back to God and His holiness. Unlike the tabernacle or the sabbath, God has not been set apart by someone else. He simply is set apart. He didn’t have to be consecrated, He always has been. God stands completely apart from the rest of the created order. Whether we are talking about angels or atoms, planets or people, there is nothing and no one who compares with God.

That is why it is why considering God as common or ordinary is one of the greatest sins a human can commit. Even worse yet is the audacity to treat God as non-existent. The great King David described the idiocy of discounting the existence of God.

Only fools say in their hearts,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
    not one of them does good!

The Lord looks down from heaven
    on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
    if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
    not a single one! – Psalm 14:1-3 NLT

How stupid can you be? And yet, we all have moments in our lives when we act as if God does not exist. We fail to acknowledge Him. We refuse to turn to Him. Rather than go to Him for strength, help, and hope, we ignore Him, relying on our own power, or placing our trust in someone or something else. God becomes a second- or third-tier option on our list of saviors, just another common and pedestrian source of potential rescue.

During the period of the judges, God got fed up with Israel’s propensity to treat Him as ordinary rather than extraordinary. They had treated Him with disdain, acting as if He was no more set-apart and holy as all the gods of the Canaanites. So, when they found themselves in trouble and called out to Him, He decided to refuse their cries for help.

“Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!” – Judges 10;13-14 NLT

If they weren’t willing to treat God as extraordinary and holy, they could seek help from one of their many false gods. Yahweh was not willing to play second fiddle to some pagan deity. And He wasn’t going to allow His people to treat Him as some ordinary, run-of-the-mill God. He was God Almighty, the Holy One.

When Isaiah was given the privilege of seeing the throne room of heaven and catching a glimpse of the seraphim pronouncing the holiness of God, he was awestruck and filled with fear. He was seeing the unimaginable and incomprehensible.  He describes the impact this vision had on him.

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” – Isaiah 6:4-5 ESV

Witnessing the holiness of God was too much for him. In the presence of the all-powerful, perfectly pure God of the universe, Isaiah was immediately struck with his own sin and insignificance. He was nothing when compared to God, the Holy One. In the presence of unblemished purity, Isaiah recognized his own sinful state and his unworthiness to stand before the throne of God. But, amazingly, the Holy God did a wholly unexpected thing.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” – Isaiah 6:5-7 ESV

The holy and wholly righteous God of the universe graciously atoned for Isaiah ’s sins, setting him apart for His own use. And when God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”, Isaiah responded, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV). And the Holy One simply said, “Go!”

Understanding God’s holiness is essential to our own usefulness. Until we fall on our knees before Him in awe of His holiness and in recognition of our own sinfulness, we will never be awed by His amazing grace. That the set-apart One would set us apart for His use should leave us stunned and yet stammering the words of Isaiah, “Here I am! Send me.”

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Our Constantly Consistent God

6 “…I the Lord do not change…” – Micah 3:6 ESV

14 God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.

This is my eternal name,
    my name to remember for all generations.

16 “Now go and call together all the elders of Israel. Tell them, ‘Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—has appeared to me.” – Exodus 3:14-16 NLT

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 ESV

Our God is unchanging. He is consistently constant and constantly consistent in every way. He does not grow older. He cannot increase in intelligence. There is never a time when He is weak or tired. According to the psalmist, “he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps” (Psalm 121:4 NLT).

This is all tied to His eternality, a one-of-a-kind attribute that He alone possesses. His eternality declares that He has always existed and is uncreated. Which means there He has no beginning or end. God has no birth date and, contrary to the opinion of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, God has no death date. James refers to Him as “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17 NLT).

When God spoke to Moses from the midst of the burning bush, He identified Himself as “I am who I am.” That sounds like an odd way for anyone to introduce Himself, let alone God. But in Hebrew, the statement is ehyeh asher ehyeh and it has a rich and expansive meaning. The word ehyeh is the verb to be, but it appears in this verse in the first person common singular. If God has simply answered Moses by saying, “I am God,” that would have been perfectly normal and acceptable. But He said, “I am who I am.” He repeated the same word twice, declaring His self-sufficiency, self-existence, and immediate presence. God was letting Moses know that he was talking to the eternally constant God, the ever-present and unchangeable creator of the universe.

In the book of Revelation, God refers to Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8 ESV). Later on in the same book, Jesus declares Himself to be “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13 ESV). Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, respectively. They start and finish it. Just as God is the start and finish of all things. But unlike the Greek alphabet, God is without beginning and without end.

When we speak of God’s unchanging nature, we are dealing with what theologians call His immutability. That’s a high-sounding word that simply means that God is changeless and unchangeable. In other words, He does not change Himself and He cannot be changed by others. He is impervious to change. The very idea of change suggests either improvement or diminishment. For something to change, it must get better or become worse. It must move from one state to another. And to do so requires time. But God exists outside of time. Again, the psalmist points out God’s timelessness which makes possible His changelessness.

Lord, through all the generations
    you have been our home!
Before the mountains were born,
    before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
    from beginning to end, you are God. – Psalm 90:1-2 NLT

A. W. Pink expresses God changelessness this way:

God is immutable in His essence. His nature and being are infinite, and so, subject to no mutations. There never was a time when He was not; there never will come a time when He shall cease to be. God has neither evolved, grown, nor improved. All that He is today, He has ever been, and ever will be. – A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God

God can’t change for the better, because to do so would mean He was somehow insufficient or imperfect to begin with. God has no deficiencies or defects. He has no lacks in His personality or weaknesses in His attributes that need improvement. A. W. Pink puts it this way: “His power is unabated, His wisdom undiminished, His holiness unsullied.”

This particular attribute of God is difficult for us to understand because we are creatures who exist within and are governed by time. We are born and then we begin the process of growth. We grow up. We gradually become stronger. But our strength is often accompanied by weakness. Eventually, we may find ourselves growing smarter. But our intelligence is never perfect or complete. We will even experience the frustration of forgetting what we once knew. And in time, we will grow old and experience the ultimate and unavoidable change called death.

So, it is almost impossible for us to comprehend the immutability of God. And it doesn’t help that when we read the Scriptures, they seem to portray a God who exhibits all kinds of changing characteristics. When we read the Old Testament, we seem to find a God who is harsh, unforgiving, and legalistic in His relationship with mankind. But the God of the New Testament appears more living, gentle, and kind. But the doctrine of God’s immutability reminds us that our God is the same yesterday and today and forever. What the Bible reveals to us is our unchanging God relating to humanity at various times throughout history. It is the circumstances that are changing, not God. More often than not, it is the particular people group with whom God is interacting and the cultural context within which they lived that is creating the sense of mutability or change in God.

But He is and always has been the same. He has always been loving, righteous, just, holy, set apart, and transcendent. He has always hated sin. He has always shown grace. He has always extended mercy. But He has also been consistent in His hatred of pride, His punishment of the wicked, His desire for mankind’s redemption, and His plan to bring it about through the death of His Son on the cross.

God’s immutability should bring us comfort. What A. W. Pink refers to as “solid comfort.”

Human nature cannot be relied upon; but God can! However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God changes not. If He varied as we do; if He willed one thing today and another tomorrow; if He were controlled by caprice, who could confide in Him? But, all praise to His glorious name, He is ever the same. His purpose is fixed; His will is stable; His word is sure. Here then is a Rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty torrent is sweeping away everything around us. The permanence of God’s character guarantees the fulfillment of His promises… – A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God

In a world where inconsistency, unreliability, and constant change are the new normal, it is comforting to know that we worship a God who is consistently constant and constantly consistent. He is totally reliable because He is completely unchangeable. His love never fades. His plans never fail. His power never diminishes. His patience never runs out. His promises never disappoint. And according to the prophet Isaiah, “His government and its peace will never end.”  This comforting fact will be made possible through the eventual return of His Son to earth, when “He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
(Isaiah 9:7 NLT).

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Our Supremely Sovereign God

10 “Only I can tell you the future
    before it even happens.
Everything I plan will come to pass,
    for I do whatever I wish.”
Isaiah 46:10 NLT

34 His rule is everlasting,
    and his kingdom is eternal.
35 All the people of the earth
    are nothing compared to him.
He does as he pleases
    among the angels of heaven
    and among the people of the earth.
No one can stop him or say to him,
    “What do you mean by doing these things?” – Daniel 4:34-35 NLT

According to Dictionary.com, sovereignty is “the quality or state of being sovereign, or of having supreme power or authority.” And a “sovereign” is “a person who has supreme power or authority.” So, when we talk about the sovereignty of God, we’re referring to His absolute rule, control, and authority over everything He has created, including the affairs of men. A. W. Pink describes it as “the exercise of His supremacy.”

He is the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth. Subject to none, influence by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him. – A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God

The word “sovereignty” is not commonly used today. But when we hear it, we tend to think of kings and queens, those royal personages from ancient history who wielded great power and influence over nation-states and the citizens who comprised them. These privileged potentates enjoyed tremendous influence, reigning over vast kingdoms. Unlike Britain’s modern-day royal family, these ancient heads of state were much more than mere figureheads. They were the supreme rulers over their domains, with the authority to demand unwavering allegiance from their subjects. And it didn’t matter whether they were a good king or a bad one. Even an evil queen fully expected the citizens of her kingdom to submit to her will and obey her decrees. To fail to do so would be considered a display of insubordination at best or, at worst, an act of outright insurrection.

One of the things we must understand when considering the character of God is His sovereignty. The Scriptures often refer to Him as “God Almighty” or El Shaddai in Hebrew. It most likely means “God, the All-powerful One,” and refers to His ultimate power over anything and everything. In other words, He is all-powerful. And yet, that power is not limited to His physical capacity to accomplish great feats of strength. Yes, He is able to perform acts of unparalleled might, but His sovereignty includes the authority by which He does what He does.

As the sovereign King of the universe, God is in complete control of all things. And that authority has not been granted to Him by some outside or greater force. There is nothing greater than God. In the book of Isaiah, He declares His unchallenged authority in no uncertain terms.

“I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God…” – Isaiah 45:5 ESV

God answers to no one. He has no board of directors or parliament to whom He must report or from whom He must seek permission or approval. “Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things ‘after the counsel of His own will’ (Ephesians 1:11)” (A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God).

…we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter; then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons Vol. 2, 1856

God does what He pleases. That phrase can either encourage or enrage us. It can create in us a sense of peace and calm as we consider the unstoppable nature of His divine will. Yet, for some, the thought of God’s will going unchallenged creates a sense of fear or infuriation as we consider what we believe to be the loss of our own rights. As Tony Evans puts it: “The sovereignty of God means that He exercises His prerogative to do whatever He pleases with His creation. Why? Because, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it’ (Psalm 24:1)” (Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On).

For some of us, that last line by Tony Evans paints a picture of God that we find to be disturbing rather than comforting. And it’s most likely because we want to be the master of our own fate and the captain of our soul. We don’t mind God getting His way as long as it doesn’t interfere with our own. We like the idea of God being all-powerful, but only as long as that power is at our disposal to do as we see fit. But that’s not how it works. The apostle Paul wrote the believers in Corinth, reminding them that we exist for God’s glory, not the other way around. Contrary to popular opinion, God isn’t our personal valet or servant. He made us. But sometimes we act as if we made Him.

…yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. – 1 Corinthians 8:6 ESV

We exist because God chose it to be so. And we exist for Him. All of creation was intended to bring glory to God as it evidenced “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20 ESV). Even fallen humanity brings glory to God as He exercises His sovereign will over their lives. There is nothing that happens outside His purview or without His permission. And that should bring His children a sense of peace, confidence, and security.

…when you have a sovereign God, it means that the negative and the positive do not come by chance. The flat tire that made you miss the interview you were banking on to get that job was part of God’s sovereign plan. The situation you thought was going to work out a certain way, the job you were sure was yours which was given to someone else, was all a part of God’ sovereign plan. – Tony Evans, Theology You Can Count On

The sovereignty of God is a very deep subject. But its application is quite simple. We have a God who is all-powerful and in full control, no matter how things may appear. Circumstances may give the appearance that all is lost, the future is bleak, there is no hope, and there is nothing you can do. But the apostle Paul would beg to differ. He once wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV). And right before Paul wrote these words, he prefaced them with the very real nature of his life on this planet.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. – Philippians 4:11-12 ESV

It didn’t matter what Paul faced, he was content because he knew his God was sovereign over all. And Paul encouraged the believers in Rome to hang onto the sovereignty of God, no matter what they encountered in this life.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 ESV

The sovereignty of God is meant to encourage us. And the fact that our God is holy, just, righteous, and true in all that He does is what makes His sovereign will not only acceptable but preferable.

There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their Master over all creation—the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons Vol. 2, 1856

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Our Know-It-All God

22 He reveals deep and mysterious things
    and knows what lies hidden in darkness,
    though he is surrounded by light.
Daniel 2:22 NLT

13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. – Hebrews 4:13 NLT

3for the Lord is a God of knowledge… – 1 Samuel 2:3 ESV

God knows everything. This attribute of God is what the theologians refer to as His omniscience, which simply means “all knowing” (omni = all; science = knowledge). To be omniscient is to have “complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; to perceive all things” (Dictionary.com).

So, as we begin our task of getting to know God, we will begin with the mind-blowing concept that God knows everything. He never requires instruction because He has no gaps in His knowledge. There is nothing He does not know. He has perfect and complete knowledge of the past, the present and, amazingly, the future. God knows what is going to take place long before it happens. Something the theologians refer to as His foreknowledge. But more about that later.

God’s knowledge is so great that He knows the thoughts of every single human being. King David was understandably blown away by this idea. He confessed to God, “you have examined my heart and know everything about me” (Psalm 139:1 NLT). He knew that God knew. There was nothing about his life that was hidden from God’s all-knowing gaze. In fact, David went on to acknowledge the full extent of God’s knowledge of him.

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. – Psalm 139:4 NLT

But God’s intimate and somewhat invasive knowledge of him was not unsettling to David. It was comforting.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me! – Psalm 139:17-18 NLT

God’s knowledge is all-pervasive, penetrating the thoughts of men and the darkness of night. David went to admit, “I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you” (Psalm 139:11-12 NLT).

There is nothing you can hide from God. There is nowhere you can go where His divine gaze cannot find you. And, according to Jesus, God’s knowledge of you is so complete that “the very hairs on your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30 NLT). He knows each and every detail about you. From the number of the hairs on your head to the thoughts of your heart. You can’t fool God.

One of the amazing things to consider about God’s omniscience is that He can never be surprised or caught off guard. There is never an occasion when God has to say, “How did that happen?” Because He knew in advance that it was going to happen. This is that aspect of His omniscience known as foreknowledge. In Greek, the term for “foreknowledge” is prognōsis. It comes from the Greek word pro, which means “before” and the Greek word ginōskō, which means “know.” The idea is that God has prior knowledge about all events. He “knows before.”  It expresses the idea of knowing reality before it is real and events before they occur.

Because God is divine, He is not bound by time and space. Past, present, and future are all the same to Him. He exists outside of time, so He is able to look into and perceive the future just as easily as He does the past. That is why we find so much prophetic content in the Bible. God’s foreknowledge allows Him to see and know all that will happen as if it has already taken place. That is why He told the prophet Isaiah, “I will tell you the future before it happens” (Isaiah 42:9 NLT).

God doesn’t predict the future, He pronounces it beforehand. He isn’t forced to respond to events as they happen. No, He has already predetermined His response to any and every circumstance because He knew in advance. Again, God assured the prophet Isaiah of His unparalleled foreknowledge.

“I am the First and the Last;
    there is no other God.
Who is like me?
    Let him step forward and prove to you his power.
Let him do as I have done since ancient times
    when I established a people and explained its future.” – Isaiah 44:6-7 NLT

“For I alone am God!
    I am God, and there is none like me.
Only I can tell you the future
    before it even happens.
Everything I plan will come to pass,
    for I do whatever I wish.” – Isaiah 46:9-10 NLT

But God’s foreknowledge is far more than an ability to see into the future and perceive what is going to happen. If this superpower allows God to see future events in advance, it would make sense that He would prevent some of them from happening. If God could have seen the rise of Nazi Germany, He could have kept it from taking place. But it did. So, we must conclude that God either ordained or allowed the events of WWII to come about for a reason. God’s foreknowledge is a true “knowing” of what will come to pass, based on His free choice. He actually decrees what will come to pass. That means that His foreknowledge is far more than an intellectual awareness of future events. It conveys the idea of His sovereign control over all things. Foreknowledge is equivalent to foreordination in that God ordains, or orders, all that will be.

There is an intimacy to God’s foreknowledge that should bring comfort to His children. Because, according to the New Testament, God’s foreknowledge is always directed at people, not events.

The fact is that “foreknowledge” is never used in Scripture in connection with events or actions; instead, it always has reference to persons. It is persons God is said to “foreknow,” not the actions of those persons. – A. W. Pink, Attributes of God

The apostle Paul puts it this way: “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29 NLT). And Peter adds: “God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy” (1 Peter 1:2 NLT).

Paul went on to remind the believers in Ephesus, “we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance” (Ephesians 1:11 NLT). There is a deliberateness about God’s actions in these passages. He is not responding to things as they happen but is ordaining their occurrence from eternity past. His foreknowledge is tied to His foreordination. He foreknows because He has foreordained. God is not looking through His magic mirror and seeing future events before they take place. He is describing what He already knows because He has already declared it to be so.

There is much about this aspect of God’s nature that makes us uncomfortable. It raises all kinds of issues concerning the sovereignty of God and the free will of men. If misunderstood, it can leave us viewing mankind as helpless marionettes on strings, being manipulated by the divine puppetmaster. But if we relegate the knowledge of God as some kind of passive cognition of future events, He becomes all-knowing, but not all-powerful. He has intelligence but lacks influence. But “God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be” (A. W. Pink, Attributes of God).

As difficult as this doctrine is to understand, it is meant to reveal the power and preeminence of God. He is like no other. He is not some distant, disconnected deity, looking down from the lofty heights of heaven and watching as His creation winds down like some kind of cosmic clock. God is not a spectator, viewing the events of our lives as they transpire and forced to respond in time. He is intellectually informed of every aspect of our lives because He has ordained them. And He is intimately involved in every area of our lives because He has had a plan for us that was in place long before we even existed.

And this knowledge of God’s knowledge of us should leave us echoing the words of David:

You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed. – Psalm 139:16 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Getting to Know God

18 To whom then will you liken God,
    or what likeness compare with him? Isaiah 40:18 ESV

5 “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?” – Isaiah 46:5 ESV

11 Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? – Exodus 15:11 ESV

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? – Micah 7:18 ESV

For those of us who claim to know God, there is a great deal of information concerning Him about which we are ignorant and even indifferent. Some of us have known Him for decades but, if put to the test, there would be little we could share that could give evidence that we knew Him intimately. So much of what we know about God is academic, a compilation of disconnected bits of information that bear little resemblance to the one true God.

If I asked you if you knew the president of the United States, you would probably respond by telling me his name. If pressed, you could probably tell me the year he was elected, his political party affiliation, the name of his wife, and your personal assessment of his administration’s policies and programs. But the truth would be that you do not know him at all. Your knowledge of him would have been gleaned from news reports, the op-ed section of the local paper, and from the opinions of others.

Sadly, the average Christian probably has more familiarity with the president of the United States than they do with God. Some of us spend far more time keeping up with the Kardashians than we do with the Creator God. We live in the information age, a time when access to knowledge about virtually any topic or individual is at our fingertips. And yet, we suffer from a lack of intimacy with and intelligence about God.

The goal of this series of blog posts is to help us get to know our God better. To do so, we will be exploring the attributes that God alone possesses. As the verses above so clearly state, our God is without equal. He is incomparable. He is not one among many, but He stands as the solitary and sovereign God of the universe whose power, knowledge, and all-pervading presence is unparalleled and non-reproducible. God can be mimicked, but never matched. He is, to put it mildly, one of a kind. And yet, how easy it is to treat Him with a familiarity that borders on contempt.

To know God. That was the divinely-ordained objective when God created Adam and Eve. They were made so that they might enjoy unbroken fellowship and undiminished intimacy with Him. But sin changed all that. Because the first man and woman chose to disobey God, they were banned from His presence. They found themselves cast from the garden and operating in isolation from the one who had made them. And with each succeeding generation, humanity moved further and further away from the garden and, at the same time, far from the presence of God.

But God still desires for men to know Him, and not just cognitively. He longs that mankind might know Him intimately and personally. And, as the apostle Paul points out, God has revealed Himself in the universe He created. He has placed signs of His presence and proofs of His character all around us. And yet, most of humanity has remained blind to the evidence and oblivious concerning the God to whom it points.

They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. – Romans 1:19-23 NLT

Yet, as the prophet Jeremiah points out, God still longs for mankind to know Him. And He intimates that it is not only possible but preferable.

This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 9:23-24 NLT

God is knowable. But He is also irreplicable. There is nothing in all creation that remotely resembles God Almighty. Even in His thought processes, God remains distinctly different from humanity.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT

Yet, we tend to view God as little more than a more powerful version of ourselves. The psalmist alludes to this common misconception when he quotes God as saying, “you thought that I was one like yourself” (Psalm 50:21 ESV). The French agnostic Voltaire said, “God created man in His own image, and man returned the favor.”

Psalm 97:9 describes God as “most high over all the earth” and as “exalted far above all gods.” He is transcendent. That simply means that He is totally distinct from all that He has made. He cannot be reproduced and there is nothing that remotely mirrors His likeness. Psalm 99:2 adds that God “is exalted over all the peoples.” Men are not mini-gods. Being made in His image does not infer that we resemble God. That is why Isaiah 40:18 asks the rhetorical question: “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” The answer is “No one and nothing!” God alone is God.

And God is in need of nothing. He has no lack or insufficiencies. He requires no complement or counterpart to complete Himself. He did not create humanity because He was lonely or in need of fellowship. There is nothing missing in God’s character. His being is whole and holy. The apostle John would have us remember that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 ESV). Timothy adds, “He alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16 BSB).

And yet, God has made Himself known to men. He has displayed His divine attributes through the universe He has made. All around us, we have evidence of His power, glory, wisdom, creativity, grace, mercy, and love. Our very existence is proof that He exists. Despite man’s wisdom, no one has been able to come up with an explanation for the existence of the universe. Our most educated and well-reasoned theories are little more than shots in the dark.

In the book of Job, we have recorded the words of God as He confronts the arrogance and audacity of mere humans who question His will and His work.

“Who is this that questions my wisdom
    with such ignorant words?
Brace yourself like a man,
    because I have some questions for you,
    and you must answer them.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions
    and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations,
    and who laid its cornerstone
as the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
    as it burst from the womb,
and as I clothed it with clouds
    and wrapped it in thick darkness?
For I locked it behind barred gates,
    limiting its shores.
I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
    Here your proud waves must stop!’” – Job 38:2-11 NLT

Man has no business questioning God or trying to explain the existence of the universe apart from God. All that exists, does so by the expressed will of God. He spoke and it came into being. And within all that He made God has revealed Himself. But that is the most important point regarding the solitary nature of God. He must reveal Himself to man in order to be known by man. Man cannot find God on His own. In fact, according to the apostle Paul, “no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11 ESV). And Paul was simply echoing the sentiments of David.

God looks down from heaven
    on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
    if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
    all have become corrupt. – Psalm 53:2-3 NLT

Amazingly enough, this transcendent, invisible, and unfathomable God has chosen to reveal Himself to man. And we will see more of His divine attributes on display as we continue our quest to know God better.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Son Has Been Born

13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David. Ruth 4:13-21 ESV

When reading the closing verses of Ruth’s story, it is essential that we not miss the statement, “and the Lord gave her conception” (Ruth 4:13 ESV). First of all, those six simple words reinforce the underlying theme of God’s redemption that runs throughout the entire book. Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi are nothing more than actors in the divine drama, written by the hand of God and directed according to His sovereign will. Nothing in this story has been the result of luck, fate, kismet, karma, or blind chance.

It all began with Elimelech’s decision to escape the famine in Judah by moving his family to Moab. But his plan had not included any thought of his unexpected death. He never dreamed he would leave his wife a widow living in a foreign land. But that’s exactly what happened. And Naomi’s two sons, unsure of when they might be able to return to Bethlehem, decided to find wives among the Moabites and begin their families. But little did they know that, ten years later, they too would suffer unexpected deaths, leaving two more widows in the land of Moab.

But eventually, the famine subsided in Judah, and Naomi was able to return home, accompanied by her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Now, through a series of divinely-ordained encounters, Ruth is married to a wealthy relative of Naomi’s, a man named Boaz, who rescued these two widows by faithfully executing his obligations as their kinsman-redeemer.

All the way back in chapter 1, the author recorded Naomi’s words to her two daughters-in-law, as she prepared to return to Judah. She fully expected that they would choose to stay in Moab, remarry, and begin their lives anew.

“The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” – Ruth 1:9 ESV

But Ruth had chosen to remain with Naomi, and now that blessing had come to pass. Ruth had found a husband, but not just any husband. By God’s gracious will, she had found Boaz, who proved to be Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer and a man of integrity, honor, and compassion.

Back in Moab, when Ruth had expressed her intentions to remain with Naomi and follow her back to the land of Judah, she had no idea what the future held. But she was willing to accept whatever came her way.

“…where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God…” – Ruth 1:16 ESV

And Ruth had proved true to her word. Now, God had rewarded her faithfulness with a loving husband, a home of her own, and a son. In buying Elimelech’s land, then marrying Ruth, Boaz had done far more than fulfill his responsibility as the kinsman-redeemer. Yes, he had redeemed Naomi and Ruth out of their helpless and seemingly hopeless predicament. But, unbeknownst to him, he had played a major role in God’s redemptive plan for the world.

The women in the city, upon hearing of Ruth’s delivery of her new son, pronounced a blessing that had far greater implications than they could have ever imagined.

“Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” – Ruth 4:14-15 ESV

They gave God glory. But little did they know just how much glory their God deserved. This birth was going to have life-changing ramifications, and not just for Ruth and Boaz. Their words were directed at Naomi and were meant to remind her just how blessed she was. She had found a redeemer, who had restored her life and given her hope in her old age. But more than that, she had found a daughter-in-law who loved her deeply. And now, she had a new son-in-law, who had given her a grandson and the assurance that Elimelech’s line would be continued.

But, in the midst of all the joy and celebration, we have to stop and ask a difficult question: How could God approve of and bless a union between an Israelite and a Moabite when the law seems to have prohibited it?

“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.” – Deuteronomy 23:3-4 ESV

The answer can be found in the pledge that Ruth made to Naomi back in the land of Moab: “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16 ESV). Ruth was stating her intentions to become an Israelite, giving up her Moabite citizenship along with her allegiance to her god. With her words, Ruth was expressing her intentions to become a proselyte to Judaism.

The ancient Hebrews had no concept of “conversion”, although they did practice assimilation of non-Israelites into the Israelite community, either through marriage or acceptance of the beliefs and practices of the community. Having agreed to make Yahweh her God and the Israelites her people, Ruth would have been accepted into the faith community as one of their own. She would have been considered a gerim (Hebrew for “strangers”). And with her marriage to Boaz, a Hebrew in good standing, she would have become a permanent resident and given equal rights and responsibilities as a member of the community. The Israelites were commanded by God to love the gerim, for, at one time, they had been gerim in Egypt.

This inclusion of Ruth into the family of God is critical. And the author reveals its true significance by recording the following words: “A son has been born to Naomi.” Notice that it does not say, “A son has been born to Ruth.” The emphasis is on the lineage of Elimelech, the husband of Naomi. This son was going to carry on the family name. And the author goes on to state that “They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:17 ESV).

Obed means “redeemer,” which fits in with the whole kinsman-redeemer motif found throughout the story. The goʾel or kinsman-redeemer was, in essence, “a guardian of the family interests.” And Obed, this brand new baby was named “Redeemer” because his birth had redeemed Naomi’s life and restored her husband’s lineage. But he would prove to be an even greater “Redeemer,” as the closing verses of the chapter make clear.

Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David. – Ruth 4:18-21 ESV

It seems a bit odd that the author chose to end his narrative with a genealogical record. But there is a divine method to his madness. It reveals God’s sovereign plan and makes clear that God does not operate according to man’s ways or in accordance to expected protocols. Dr. Thomas L. Constable points out the relevance of this genealogical record.

Why does the genealogy start with Perez? He was the founder of the branch of Judah’s family that took his name, to which Elimelech and Boaz belonged. Perez was the illegitimate son of Judah who, like Jacob, seized the initiative to stand in the line of messianic promise from his twin brother. This genealogy emphasizes how God circumvented custom and tradition in providing Israel’s great redeemer, David. Like Perez, Boaz was the descendant of an Israelite father, Salmon, and a Canaanite harlot, Rahab. Both Tamar and Rahab entered Israel because they believed and valued God’s promises to Israel, as Ruth did. David himself was the youngest rather than the eldest son of Jesse. (NET Bible study notes).

And if we fast-forward to the gospel of Matthew, we find within his genealogy of Jesus the same list of names.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. – Matthew 1:2-6 ESV

And Matthew goes on to point out that Jesus would be born a descendant of Abraham, through the line of David the king of Israel. The birth of Obed, “the redeemer,” would result in the birth of Jesus, the ultimate Redeemer of mankind. When the angel appeared to Joseph with news of Mary’s conception, he announced, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21 ESV). Jesus would be the ultimate kinsman-redeemer. He would serve as the Savior, the one who takes away the sins of the world. His redemption would provide far more than release from widowhood, poverty, despair, or rejection. He would provide the means by which sinful men and women could be restored to a right relationship with God Almighty.

The story of Ruth is the story of redemption. But it’s true significance reaches far beyond the borders of Bethlehem and the period of the Judges. The redemption of God spans borders, boundaries, time, and space. His plan for mankind is not limited to a single nation and is not limited by the passing of years or centuries. The pages of the book of Ruth are filled with the presence of God and the reminder of His unwavering promise to send His Son as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
    whose origins are in the distant past,
    will come from you on my behalf. – Micah 5:2 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Invisible Hand of God

1 Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. 10 Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” 11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 12 and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.” Ruth 4:1-12 ESV

While Ruth had been busy bringing Naomi up to speed on her latest encounter with Boaz, he had made his way to the city gate of Bethlehem. In an Israelite city, the city gate functioned like a city hall or town square. This narrow opening through the city’s walls was where all official business took place. Men would gather there to conduct legal transactions, land sales, and any other commercial or personal transactions. Normally, the elders of the city could be found at the gate, which was essential because they played an official role in witnessing and approving all business transactions.

So, in an attempt to settle the matter regarding who would serve as Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer, Boaz headed to the gate to meet the only other man who could serve in that capacity.

The situation concerning Naomi and Ruth was complicated. Naomi was an Israelite widow and, as such, there were certain legal issues involved. Because her two sons had died, there was no legal heir to Elimelech’s land. And in the ancient economy and legal environment of Israel, a woman was not allowed to be a landholder. So, it was necessary that a kinsman of Elimelech purchase the land so that it could remain within the inheritance of that family and tribe. God had made this requirement perfectly clear when He gave His law to the people of Israel during their exodus from Egypt.

“The inheritance of the people of Israel shall not be transferred from one tribe to another, for every one of the people of Israel shall hold on to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the people of Israel shall be wife to one of the clan of the tribe of her father, so that every one of the people of Israel may possess the inheritance of his fathers. So no inheritance shall be transferred from one tribe to another, for each of the tribes of the people of Israel shall hold on to its own inheritance.” – Numbers 36:7-9 ESV

The kinsman-redeemer was obligated to purchase his deceased relative’s land so it might remain in the family. But in the case of Naomi, there was another aspect to the circumstance that complicated matters. Naomi was a widow without any male heirs to carry on the family name, and she was likely well past child-bearing age. But Naomi had a daughter-in-law, the widow of one of her deceased sons. According to the Mosaic law concerning levirate marriage, a kinsman was obligated to marry Ruth and ensure that she bore a male child so that Elimelech’s line could be continued.

The book of Deuteronomy provides detailed instructions concerning this matter.

“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’” – Deuteronomy 25:5-10 ESV

In the book of Ruth, we are going to see Boaz acting as Ruth’s advocate and representative. As one of the two possible kinsman-redeemers, he feels a strong sense of responsibility for the well-being of Ruth and Naomi. And it seems quite clear from the previous three chapters that Boaz has strong feelings for Ruth.

In this story, the matter of the land and the marriage of Ruth are linked together. This was not a legally binding issue, but it seems that Boaz, as Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer, felt that both matters needed to be taken care of together. He felt a moral and legal obligation to see to it that Naomi and Ruth were cared for. In his mind, whoever agreed to buy the land should feel a moral obligation to take Ruth as his wife and ensure that she bear a male heir to carry on the line of Elimelech.

Once at the gate, Boaz spied the second kinsman-redeemer and called him over. He also invited some of the elders of the city. Boaz explained the nature of the situation.

“You know Naomi, who came back from Moab. She is selling the land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. I thought I should speak to you about it so that you can redeem it if you wish. If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don’t want it, let me know right away, because I am next in line to redeem it after you.” – Ruth 4:3-4 NLT

Notice that Boaz withheld an important detail from the story: Ruth. He simply states that the land is available for purchase and the other relative agrees to purchase it. Then Boaz drops the bombshell.

“Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family.” – Ruth 4:5 NLT

That small bit of information proved to be a deal-breaker for the second kinsman-redeemer. So, he turned down the offer, stating, “this might endanger my own estate” (Ruth 4:6 NLT). The added obligation of marrying Ruth was more than he was willing to take on. So, he passed on his kinsman-redeemer responsibility to Boaz. Following the protocol outlined in the Deuteronomy passage above, “the other family redeemer drew off his sandal as he said to Boaz, ‘You buy the land’” (Ruth 4:8 NLT).

Having legally purchased the land, Boaz states his intention to take Ruth as his wife.

“You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today.” – Ruth 4:9-10 NLT

The elders of the city of Bethlehem seal the deal by giving their blessing to the transaction.

“We are witnesses! May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.” – Ruth 4:11-12 NLT

Little did they know how prophetic their words would prove to be. The prophet Micah would later write: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf” (Micah 5:6 ESV). Hundreds of years later, the wise men who arrived in Jerusalem in search of the newly born king of the Jews would quote the Hebrew prophets:

And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel. – Matthew 2:6 NLT

Little did those elders know how accurate their pronouncement of blessing on Boaz’s marriage to Ruth would be. Ruth would prove to be fruitful, eventually bearing a son named Obed. And Matthew records in his genealogy of Jesus how Obed would play a role in the lineage of Jesus.

…Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king… – Matthew 1:5-6 ESV

That Matthew goes on to list Jesus as the crowning fruit of that long genealogical line.

…and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. – Matthew 1:16 ESV

But Boaz knew none of this at the time. He was simply doing what he believed to be the right and honorable thing to do. But God was orchestrating his actions and directing every detail of his story in order to bring about His divine will and to set the stage for the arrival of His Son, the Messiah.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Wait and See

14 So she lay at his feet until the morning, but arose before one could recognize another. And he said, “Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.” 15 And he said, “Bring the garment you are wearing and hold it out.” So she held it, and he measured out six measures of barley and put it on her. Then she went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “How did you fare, my daughter?” Then she told her all that the man had done for her, 17 saying, “These six measures of barley he gave to me, for he said to me, ‘You must not go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law.’” 18 She replied, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.” Ruth 3:14-18 ESV

The next scene in this slowly unveiling drama takes place in the darkness of the early morning hours. Boaz has been startled from a deep sleep only to find Ruth, the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi, sleeping at his feet. And while Boaz fully understood Ruth’s motives and knew her to be “a worthy woman” (vs 12), he was well aware that their totally innocent encounter could be completely misconstrued. Boaz realized that, if anyone should see the two of them together, the rumors would fly and their reputations could be ruined.

Boaz thought, “No one must know that a woman visited the threshing floor.” – Ruth 3:14 NET

Idle gossip was the last thing either one of them needed. If Boaz was going to be of any help to Ruth, they would need to keep everything between them above board and according to the Mosaic Law. Any affection he felt for her and any desire she had for a quick resolution to her problem had to take a back seat to proper protocol.

Boaz was fully cognizant of just how difficult it had been for Ruth to throw herself at his feet – literally. She had placed herself at his mercy, virtually begging him to take her as his wife. And she was not acting from purely selfish motives. Ruth was looking out for her mother-in-law Naomi. The odds of Naomi, a much-older widow, of finding anyone to marry her were slim. It was likely that Naomi was no longer of child-bearing age. Therefore, it was unlikely that any man would take her as his wife because she could not provide with children, let alone an heir. But Ruth, though a widow, was young and in the prime of her life, and she had that sixth sense that told her that Boaz was attracted to her. And since he was also Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer, marriage to him would solve all their problems.

But as Boaz had pointed out, there was another potential kinsman-redeemer who was a closer relative of Elimelech’s. He would need to be given the opportunity to purchase the land belonging to Elimelech and to take Ruth as his wife. The rules needed to be followed. The proper procedures needed to be carried out. And that would take time.

Yet Boaz was not going to send away Ruth empty-handed. He realized that she needed assurances and that any delay in the disposition of the kinsman-redeemer decision would only aggravate her circumstances. She and Noami still had to eat. They still required a roof over their heads. So, before she left, Boaz gave her a gift, intended to meet their physical need and to provide Ruth with assurances of his intention to care for her and Naomi.

Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he returned to the town. – Ruth 3:15 NLT

Ruth would return to Naomi, but Boaz would make his way into town where he would set up a meeting between the other kinsman-redeemer and the town elders. He was a man on a mission.

When Naomi saw Ruth, she greeted her by asking, “How did you fare, my daughter?” (Ruth 3:16 ESV). But in the original Hebrew, Naomi’s question is much more direct. She wasn’t asking about Ruth’s mood or emotional state. She literally asked her daughter-in-law “Who are you?” Was she unaware of her identity? Certainly not. She was wanting to know if Boaz had popped the question. In a real sense, Naomi was asking Ruth, “Are you his wife?” (R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth (NICOT), 223-24, and F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 184-85). You can sense her anxiousness to know what had happened. She had sent Ruth to see Boaz, fully expecting him to fulfill his role as the kinsman-redeemer by offering her his hand in marriage.

When Ruth had brought her up to speed, sharing the news about the second kinsman-redeemer, Naomi was not disappointed. She simply encouraged Ruth to be patient, trusting that Boaz would do the right thing. All would work out.

“Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.” – Ruth 3:18 NLT

There is so much happening behind the scenes in this story. While God may appear to be absent, His presence can be felt as each scene unfolds. He is orchestrating His divine plan in ways that none of the characters can see, but each of them will eventually look back and recognize the imprint of His all-powerful hand in every area of their lives.

At no time do Ruth, Naomi, or Boaz display a sense of panic. There is no wringing of hands or displays of impatience. There is little doubt that Naomi and Ruth would like things to happen quickly. They both desire that their helpless condition be remedied sooner rather than later. But they do not express frustration with Boaz or with God.

And while it is clear that Boaz wants to do his part, he refrains from forcing his will on the matter. He doesn’t take matters into his own hands or place his agenda ahead of God’s. One can almost sense an underlying dependency upon God pervading this entire narrative. There is no reason to panic. There is no call for worry or fear.

Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz could not see the future. They had no way of knowing what was going to happen. But they seem content to wait and watch, expecting God to do something great. And their display of eager, yet patient expectation is something the apostle Paul would later recommend to all those who place their hope and trust in God.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson