1 Peter Lesson Five

1 Peter 2:18-25 Submission of Slaves

18 Household slaves, submit with all fear to your masters, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel. 19 For it brings favor if, mindful of God’s will, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if you sin and are punished, and you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God.

21 For you were called to this,

because Christ also suffered for you,

leaving you an example,

so that you should follow in His steps.

22 He did not commit sin,

and no deceit was found in His mouth;

23 when He was reviled,

He did not revile in return;

when He was suffering,

He did not threaten

but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.

24 He Himself bore our sins

in His body on the tree,

so that, having died to sins,

we might live for righteousness;

you have been healed by His wounds.

25 For you were like sheep going astray,

but you have now returned

to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (HCSB)

Because of the potentially sensitive nature of the central theme at the beginning of this passage, slaves and slavery, it is essential that we have a correct understanding of slavery in the 1st century, as in many ways it is significantly different from modern slavery, especially the issue of slavery in American history.

Characteristics of slaves/slavery in the ancient Greco-Roman World.

  • Many slaves lived a miserable existence, especially those who worked in mines.
  • However, many slaves served in what would today be considered a professional occupation.
    • Doctors.
    • Teachers.
    • Managers.
    • Musicians.
    • Artisans.
  • It was not unknown for a slave to have a higher education than their master.
  • Many household slaves were loved and trusted by the family they worked for.
  • Some slaves owned their own slaves.
  • Slavery was not based on race.
  • Slaves could suffer brutal treatment from cruel masters.
  • Children born in slavery belonged to the master.
  • They were subject to any form of abuse one could imagine.
  • Manumission – the process of purchasing their freedom.
    • Required help from their master.
    • Usually only available for urban slaves.
    • Most slaves had no hope of this possibility.

Now that we have an understanding of what Greco-Roman slavery looked like, it is important to discuss the New Testament’s position on slavery.

  • It is not commanded to be part of the social structure.
  • It is regulated as part of the social fabric.
  • The argument that the early church should have vigorously fought against slavery ignores the fact that the early church had little power, and slavery was such a normal and accepted practice that the church would have been doomed to failure.
  • Instead, the early church’s focus was on the believer’s relationship to God, and they focused on the sin and rebellion of individuals against their Creator.
  • New Testament writer’s concentrated on a godly response of believers to their mistreatment.

As we move through this study, it will be essential for us to bring the underlying principle from the Greco-Roman world to our modern world. That principle is submitting to our boss, supervisor, or workplace requirements.

Verse 18

  • Believers are called to obey their masters, even if they are wicked.
  • However, there is a fine line implied in this command.
    • Peter is not saying that Christian slaves should participate in or follow a wicked master in the execution of evil.
    • Peter is saying that completing non-evil tasks are commanded even if their master is an evil person.
    • Let’s look at a modern example.
      • A Christian secretary’s evil boss asks them to type a letter that doesn’t contain any evil actions. That is ok to complete.
      • A Christian secretary’s evil boss asks them to type a letter that encourages and promotes abortion and gives details on how to get an abortion. In that case, it is ok for the secretary to refuse the command.

Verse 19

Peter now explains why believers are to submit, even if their master is evil.

  • It brings favor. The literal Greek word here means “grace.”
  • This same term concludes verse 20, indicating that the two verses should be viewed together in context.
  • Although Peter is addressing slaves here, it is also a model for how believers are to respond to social injustice.
  • Slaves who endure unjust suffering because of their relationship/obedience to God will be rewarded by God.
  • In the same way, believers today will receive a reward for unjust suffering because of their relationship and obedience to God.

Verse 20

This verse expands upon the previous, explaining under what circumstances believers can expect a reward.

  • Doing wrong (sin) that results in punishment will not result in a reward from God since they received what they deserved.
  • On the other hand, if the believer does what is good and receives punishment, they will receive favor (grace) from God.

Verses 21-23

These verses show the example of Jesus and how He lived His life. They also tie back into verses 19-20. We are to endure suffering for doing good because Jesus suffered at the hands of the authorities even though He lived a sinless life.

Verse 21

Christ is the example.

  • Jesus’s suffering serves as an example to all believers.
  • We are called to suffer through righteous living because Jesus set the example.
  • At the same time, we will never experience suffering to the level Jesus did.
    • Being crucified.
    • Bearing the sins of the world.
  • Godly living displayed by believers can win the lost to a life of faith.
  • Only Jesus’ suffering and death atone for sin.

Verse 22

Peter directly references Isaiah 53:9 and the suffering servant.

  • He committed no sin involves wrong actions in a general sense.
  • No deceit was found in His mouth involves not sinning with words or speech.

Verse 23

The sinless life that Jesus led was anything but easy.

  • He faced insults and severe suffering.
  • His silence in the face of persecution and suffering is an extraordinary example of His nonretaliatory spirit. This is especially true when we consider the events surrounding His trial and crucifixion.
    • The urge for revenge can be overwhelming when we feel wrongly accused or mistreated.
    • In the ancient world, people would demonstrate their innocence by arguing zealously against those accusing them.
    • Jesus’ silence demonstrated complete confidence in God vindicating Him.
    • Jesus’ lifestyle matched His teaching, love of enemies, and a spirit of nonretaliation found in Matthew 5:38-48.
  • Believers triumph over evil because they trust God will vindicate them and judge their enemies, righting all the wrongs found in Romans 12:19-20.
  • Jesus is proof that a person could be completely in God’s will and suffer unjustly.
  • Churches/pastors that teach believers they will not suffer if they are in God’s will are preaching a false message.

Verse 24

The unmistakable difference in the suffering between Jesus and His followers is now clarified.

  • The suffering and death of Jesus are unique and the foundation for our salvation.
    • He bore the sins of all who would place their faith in Him.
    • His sacrificial blood cleansed us.
  • The purpose of Jesus’ death was not merely to provide forgiveness.
    • It was also to provide His followers the power to live for righteousness.
    • Living for righteousness results in dying to sin.
    • We would experience freedom from the power of sin.
  • The idea of being healed does not refer to physical healing. Peter is talking about healing from the penalty of eternal separation from God because of sin.
  • Believers now live a new life.

Verse 25

We have to be honest and admit that living this way through adversity and persecution is not easy. Unfortunately, there are those who drift away from the faith when life gets hard, and they feel that they can’t cope anymore. However, there is safety and support by staying under the care of the shepherd instead of leaving.

This verse connects back to verse 24, with the idea of being healed in verse 24.

  • Healing involves the forgiveness of sins.
  • Believers are no longer lost sheep, following the ways of the world.
  • Believers have submitted to the care of the Shepherd and Guardian of their souls, Jesus.
  • Peter reminds the reader that their ruler is not the emperor or their master; it is Jesus.
  • There is also an implied reference to the church of Jesus.
    • Peter is illustrating Jesus’ authority here.
    • The word “Guardian” in the original Greek is episkopos. This term is used for those who had authority in the early church and is found in Acts 20:28, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:2, and Titus 1:7.
    • Christ is the ultimate authority in the church.
  • The truth that Peter wants us to understand is the following.
    • As we live godly lives and submit in times of suffering, we follow Jesus’ example and become more like Him.
    • We submit and obey for the following reasons.
      • As an example to the lost around us.
      • To show our love for Jesus.
      • So that we may grow spiritually and become more like Jesus.

Applications.

  • Do we respect and follow the requests of our boss, workplace, and organization as long as it doesn’t go against the commands of Scripture? There may be tasks or requirements that we don’t like, but we must do them. There may be bosses or co-workers we don’t like, but we must still treat them with respect. The only time we can go against the instructions of our boss or organization is when they go against God’s commands.
  • We should expect to suffer as we live our Christian lives. It is never fun, but we still need to persevere through those times by holding fast to Jesus. Suffering for doing good will be rewarded. Suffering for sinful behavior will receive its just punishment.
  • Our one and only loyalty is to Jesus. Anyone or anything that redirects our loyalty needs to be removed or adjusted. We will answer to Jesus on judgment day, not a person.

1 Peter Lesson Four

1 Peter 2:11-17 A Call to Good Works

11 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.

13 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority 14 or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. 15 For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 16 As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor. (HCSB)

In this passage, Peter exhorts the believers in the church in Asia Minor to live godly lives, shine their light to the unbelievers around them, respect authority, and use their freedom for good.

Verses 11-12

In these two verses, Peter characterizes the identity of the recipients of his letter in four ways.

  • Peter has Christian affection for the recipients, addressing them with the term “dear friends.” Peter is invested in their spiritual growth and wellbeing.
  • In the first chapter, Peter had already identified the recipients as sojourners or aliens. By joining the two words, Peter reinforces the fact that as believers in a fallen world, this is not their permanent home, and to the lost around them, their behavior would make them stand out as being different (strangers) in comparison to them.
  • At first, it may appear peculiar that Peter would tell the believers living in Asia Minor to act in a Christ-like manner among the unbelievers around them. To the Jews, anyone who was not a Jew was considered a Gentile. However, Peter is making the point that believers are grafted into Yahweh’s chosen people. They are now different from those around them.
  • The recipients of the letter are facing persecution in the form of slander from non-believers around them. This is the first explicit mention of hostility directed at believers in the letter. Let’s consider several factors here:
    • What qualifies as “evil” is often subjective and depends on the person viewing the action. Because of Christian resistance to Roman traditions/laws, they were viewed as criminal or evil in their behavior.
      • Acts 16:20-21  20 Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews 21 and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.”
      • Acts 17:6-7  When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, and Jason has received them as guests! They are all acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees,  saying that there is another king—Jesus!”
      • Acts 19:24-27  24 For a person named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis,  provided a great deal of business for the craftsmen. 25 When he had assembled them, as well as the workers engaged in this type of business, he said: “Men, you know that our prosperity is derived from this business. 26 You both see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this man Paul has persuaded and misled a considerable number of people by saying that gods made by hand are not gods!  27 So not only do we run a risk that our business may be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be despised and her magnificence come to the verge of ruin—the very one all of Asia and the world adore.”
    • They are to resist the cravings of the world by Christ-like living.
      • The cravings that believers experience can often be strong as the enemy desires us to stumble or fall.
      • Believers are at war with the powers of darkness.
      • We should never underestimate the powers of darkness and do all we can to resist the temptations of the world.
      • Do we desire holiness or pleasure? The one we feed is the one that will take control.
      • Fleshly desires are motivated by a spirit of selfishness.
      • They make us spiritually weak and ineffective.
    • These verses start a section that is a call to missions.
      • They are to live among the Gentiles, engaging them and being a living witness to the power of Jesus.
      • They are not to withdraw and live a life of isolation.
      • Their incarnational living will draw the lost to submit their lives to Jesus.
    • Believers are not to retaliate or engage in self-defense against those persecuting them.
      • They are to pursue virtue and goodness.
      • By doing this, it would contradict the false accusations being placed against them.
    • The day of visitation is the moment of salvation for the Gentiles around them who submit to Jesus because of the witness of the believers.
      • Peter is convinced that some will convert because of their behavior.
      • The unbelievers may persecute the believers, but some will join Yahweh’s spiritual family because of their faithful lives.
      • God is glorified when this happens.

The summary of these two verses is this. Live holy lives in the middle of secular chaos, and let God take care of everything else. Peter is calling the churches in Asia Minor to live radically different from the surrounding culture to please God and cope with their circumstances. Peter’s point is a timeless point. In today’s world, the church also needs a call to holiness as the modern church, especially the Western church, is under heavy influence from the culture around us.

Verses 13-17

This section is challenging, if for no other reason, that in today’s world, there is an overall element of government/leader bashing. As we look at this section, there is an important divergent point in the discussion. Does the government/leader position go against Scripture, or does it go against your personal preference? The answer to that question is important both in how we understand this passage, and how it should affect our behavior. Now, let’s understand what Peter is saying.

  • Believers should submit to governing authorities.
  • It’s God’s will for believers to submit to authority.
  • Believers don’t submit to human authority with a subservient spirit but as one who is free in Christ.
  • Freedom doesn’t give license for evil.
    • Creating political chaos.
    • Moral irresponsibility.
    • Christians should choose to be orderly citizens.

Verse 15

By submitting to authorities, believers demonstrate the following characteristics.

  • They are good citizens.
  • They are not anarchists.
  • Unbelievers can’t criticize them for their disobedience.

Peter is not saying that authorities will always be on the side of believers or even recognize and reward them for good behavior. He is saying that such behavior will reduce the slanderous attacks on believers.

Verse 16

Peter is focusing on what motivates the behavior of submission. He uses three phrases to explain how Christians should live when subordinating them to governing authorities.

  • As free people:
    • The blood of Jesus has redeemed them.
      • Freedom from the power of sin over our lives.
      • Freedom from the guilt of our sins.
      • Freedom from the impossibility of earning God’s favor through obedience.
    • They no longer are subject to the futile lifestyle of the lost.
    • Their submission is not out of a position of weakness but strength.
  • Not engaging in evil.
    • Genuine freedom allows believers to do what is good.
    • Engaging in evil shows they were never free in the first place.
    • Wickedness is the definition of slavery.
  • Submit as slaves of God.
    • Believers are not given unrestricted freedom.
    • Freedom is exercised under the authority of Yahweh.
    • The understanding of New Testament liberty is the freedom to do what is right.
    • Only slaves of God are truly free.

Let’s draw some conclusions to the concepts of subservience and freedom, as is discussed in this passage.

  • Our ultimate submission is to God.
    • Governments don’t get a blank check pass in our submission to them.
    • Peter never intended his words to mean that we blindly follow governments.
    • As believers, we must weigh what governments are telling us against Scripture.
    • When those two sources of authority over us are in conflict, we must choose what is contained in Scripture.
    • Our ultimate loyalty is to God, not Caesar or any of our current leaders.
    • As believers, we are free from fearing our earthly leaders.
  • Under normal circumstances, governments will punish evil and reward good, as understood through Scripture.
    • At these times, believers can follow the dictates of their government with a good conscience. This is important to avoid unnecessary civil unrest.
    • However, Peter is saying that when governments propose what is evil of demand that believers can’t worship God, then we must not obey the dictates of the government.
    • Practical examples.
      • Abortion clinics – it is ok to protest peacefully against them.
      • Civil rights – again, peacefully demonstrate.
    • Tragically, most of the examples we see today of protests are violent and destructive in nature.

Verse 17

Peter concludes with four commands for the believers in Asia Minor.

  • Honor everyone – treat everyone with dignity and respect since we are all created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 26 Then God said, “Let Us  make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.  They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth,  and the creatures that crawl  on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.
  • Love the brotherhood – we should show love to all members of our spiritual family.
  • Fear God – only God is deserving of our fear (respect) in our actions. Matthew 10:28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
  • Honor the Emperor – we are to honor our leaders and show respect to the position they hold.

The famous preacher, Jonathan Edwards, had six points that follow Peter’s teaching on how the church should operate today.

  • Christians have a responsibility to society beyond the walls of the church. We must not engage in isolationism.
  • We shouldn’t hesitate to join hands with non-Christians in working towards common moral grounds. At the same time, we must not compromise our Christian beliefs in cooperative endeavors.
  • Christians should support their government but be ready to criticize when the circumstances dictate that.
  • Politics are not important in the long run. Our first responsibility is to Jesus and only then to our government. No matter how much we do or want to respect our government, we should respect the church of Jesus more.
  • Christians should be aware of nationalistic pride. In the history of the church, there’s never been a truly Christian nation. As a Christian, our identity is in Jesus…period.
  • Christians must display an attitude of mercy for those less fortunate. If our God is a God of compassion and mercy, then we as Christians need to display those same characteristics.

Three main points in summary before I list some applications.

  • As the church, we can’t isolate ourselves from the world. The early church didn’t do that; they engaged the world, often leading to martyrdom.
    • The early church faced mostly physical persecution.
    • In most parts of the world today, the threat isn’t overt physical violence; it’s a slipping away from correct teaching and doctrine, leading to weak or false Christians.
  • Holiness means in all areas of our lives.
    • It isn’t restricted to spiritual disciplines; Bible reading, prayer, attending church, bringing our offering to God.
    • It includes all aspects of our lives.
      • Sexual practices.
      • The words we speak/don’t speak, write/don’t write.
      • How we spend our money.
      • Recreational pursuits.
      • Vocation.
      • Theological decisions.
  • The church needs to call all of its members to holiness. They should collectively fight against the sin in our society.
    • Casual sex.
    • Drugs.
    • Alcohol abuse.
    • Discrimination of any kind.
    • Gambling.
    • Oppression.
    • There’s a multitude more, and they vary in different locations around the world, choose those that fit your context.

Applications

  • First, no matter our circumstances, we must remember that our lives on earth are temporary. When we go through difficult times, face persecution, or just resentment for being a Christian, we must not forget that we weren’t the first, nor will we be the last. Rest in the assurance that Jesus is our strong tower, and He has already overcome the world.
  • We must resist the temptations that the world throws at us and seek holiness in our lives. If we struggle in an area, do we put up safeguards? Do we have an accountability partner?
  • Do we engage the lost world around us with the truth of the Gospel message? Jesus didn’t tell us to avoid the world; He told us to take the Gospel to a lost and dying world.
  • Do we respect our leaders both in action and word (spoken/printed/social media)? Disagreeing with our leaders does not give us the freedom or right to disrespect or slander them. If their words or actions are in conflict with Scripture, we have the freedom and responsibility to disagree with them in a respectful manner and/or peacefully demonstrate against whatever they do contrary to Scripture. Acting in accordance with Scripture goes against everything the world would tell us. However, we must remember application point one above, we are temporary residents here, and our identity is Jesus. If we act like the world, nobody will confuse us with the description of a Christian in the Bible.
  • Do we treat everyone with honor and respect?
  • Do you demonstrate love to your spiritual family?

1 Peter Lesson Three

1 Peter 2:1-10 – Living Stones

2 So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good. Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God— you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it is contained in Scripture:

Look! I lay a stone in Zion,

a chosen and honored  cornerstone,

and the one who believes in Him

will never be put to shame!

So honor will come to you who believe, but for the unbelieving,

The stone that the builders rejected—

this One has become the cornerstone,

and

A stone to stumble over,

and a rock to trip over.

They stumble because they disobey the message; they were destined for this.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people for His possession,

so that you may proclaim the praises 

of the One who called you out of darkness

into His marvelous light.

10 Once you were not a people,

but now you are God’s people;

you had not received mercy,

but now you have received mercy. (HCSB)

The focus of Peter’s message in these verses is on community relationships. The previous passage focused on the need for love among fellow Christians. In chapter two, Peter begins with a call to get rid of actions that disrupt the community of believers.

Verse 1

  • The sins listed in the first verse tear at the social fabric of the church, ripping away the love that binds them together.
    • Malice – an attitude similar to hatred with a desire to inflict pain, harm, or injury to another person. It includes holding and acting on grudges.
    • Deceit – refers to deliberate dishonesty. Anything less than speaking the full and honest truth from the heart is deceit. This is a selfish, two-faced attitude that deceives and hurts others for personal gain.
    • Hypocrisy – a person who is acting out a part and concealing their true motives.
    • Envy – a desire to possess what belongs to someone else and a feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others.
    • Slander – to speak against someone, to run others down verbally, assaults the character of a person, speech that harms another person’s status or reputation.

Verse 2

The central theme of the paragraph is in this verse, “desire the pure spiritual milk.” There are several themes associated with the “spiritual milk” theme.

  • Consuming spiritual milk results in growth.
  • Newborn babies crave milk; believers should have just as strong a craving for spiritual milk.
  • Milk is the very substance of life that enables Christians to grow spiritually.
  • The need for spiritual milk is not an indicator that they are new believers.
  • The milk believers are to long for contain two characteristics.
    • Pure – unadulterated and uncontaminated. Contaminated milk can produce sickness or death.
    • Spiritual – the root of the Greek word used for spiritual is logos, which means word.
  • The spiritual milk here is nothing less than the Word of God. But an underlying warning is contained here.
    • Pure milk leads to healthiness and growth.
    • Contaminated mild would lead to sickness or even death.
    • Correct teaching/preaching leads to spiritual growth. False or heretical teaching leads to sickness or death. False or heretical preachers are sickening or killing their congregation with tainted Scripture interpretation. As believers, we must be careful that those we listen to are not tainting the message.

Verse 3

Those who have truly experienced the love, mercy, and grace of Yahweh should, as a result, actively pursue Him in worship and obedience. The desire to grow spiritually comes from experiencing the Lord’s kindness. The believer is filled with a desire for more, never fully satisfied that they have enough of the Word and Yahweh. This shouldn’t be interpreted as a sense of frustration but rather as desiring more of God.

Verses 4-10 The Living Stones

This next section focuses on the concept of living stones, both Jesus as the living stone and those who make up the church as living stones. This is an amazing and beautiful picture, which I’ll unpack, hopefully giving you a better sense of its full meaning.

Verse 4

This verse is a little tricky as there are connections to the Old Testament from verse 3, Lord, but in this verse called the “living stone” as well as references to the Old Testament in the following verses. The use of the Old Testament term being linked to the living stone is important from a Christological standpoint as it infers that what is true of Yahweh is also true of Jesus.

Jesus is the living stone.

  • Living because of His resurrection.
  • Rejected by man.
    • Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
    • Isaiah 28:16 Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakeable.”
    • Acts 4:11 This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone.
    • Romans 9:33 As it is written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over and a rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.
  • Chosen by Yahweh.
    • This contrasts with the rejection by man.
    • He is exalted through His resurrection.
  • These two ideas follow the situation of the Christians Peter is writing to.
    • They were despised by the unbelievers around them.
    • They were chosen and honored in Yahweh’s eyes.
    • They are destined for vindication after their earthly suffering.

Verse 5

In verse 4, Peter identified Jesus as the living stone. In verse 5, he calls followers of Jesus “living stones.” Why does Peter use the phrase “living stones?”

  • Because of their faith in the resurrected Christ.
    • When we place our faith in Jesus, we are buried and resurrected into the resurrected life of Jesus in the present.
    • We also wait for our new body at the end of the age.
  • This is the only place in the New Testament that believers are called living stones.
    • In other places, believers are called God’s temple or house.
      • 1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
      • Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.
      • Hebrews 3:6 But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.
      • The illustration is of a house in which believers make up the stones of the building.
    • The house (believer) is spiritual because it is animated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
  • Peter is identifying the New Testament church as the new temple, replacing the concept of the Old Testament temple.
    • Believers, as living stones comprising a spiritual house, are being built up through the teaching and discipleship that occurs in the New Testament church.
    • The function of the “building” (believers) is to function as a holy priesthood.
  • The idea of a holy priesthood should not be viewed in an individualistic context. Instead, Peter views this as the corporate church whose members are a holy priesthood.
    • Western society tends to view the concept of priesthood in an individualistic mindset.
    • Under the New Covenant, all believers have a priestly identity.
    • All believers have direct access to God through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.
    • However, we should focus on the corporate body of Christ rather than individual members.
  • Priests offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.
    • Prayer.
    • Thanksgiving.
    • Praise.
    • Repentance.
    • Offering our bodies to God for His service.
    • Offering of financial gifts.
    • Loving service to others.

Verse 6

This verse is taken from Isaiah 28:16 Therefore the Lord God said: Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakeable.

The context of Isaiah 28 is a judgment on Ephraim for disobedience and unbelief. The theme that Isaiah emphasized throughout the book is captured here, those who trust in the Lord will escape judgment, those who don’t will perish.

  • Isaiah 28:16 is fulfilled with the coming of Jesus.
  • A cornerstone establishes the design and structure of a building.
  • Jesus is the fortress, refuge, and stronghold.
  • Those who believe in Jesus will never be put to shame.
  • Just as Jesus is chosen and honored by God, believers will also be vindicated on the last day.
  • Believers will not experience the embarrassment of judgment but the glory of approval.

Verse 7

Depending on the translation you use verse 7 could have the word honor, as in the HCSB, or precious. The correct understanding of the original Greek is honor.

  • Honor for believers on the day of judgment.
  • Eschatological honor for Jesus.
  • The stone (Jesus) rejected by the builders (unbelievers) is the stone that believers rest their faith on.
  • Unbelievers reject the Gospel, which is the cause of their stumbling or tripping. This should be interpreted as judgment and eternity in hell.

Verse 8

The ideas in this verse are the Gospel message, Jesus, and unbelievers.

  • Jesus and His message, the Gospel, is offensive to many.
  • When unbelievers choose not to believe the Gospel and place their faith in Jesus, the very message that could bring them life instead causes them to stumble.
  • Disobedience is the cause, and all disobedience is because they fail to trust in God.
  • The stumbling mentioned in these verses is not accidental tripping; it is a willful rebellion by refusing to submit to the lordship of Yahweh.
  • The same thing led to the crucifixion of Jesus, refusing to submit and fulfilling their own desires.

Verse 9

There’s a lot going on in this verse, which contains three main themes; a royal priesthood, holy nation, and purpose of God’s people.

  • Royal priesthood.
    • God has chosen them.
    • A reminder that we serve royalty.
    • It is predominately corporate in nature.
      • But it doesn’t deny the fact that individuals serve priestly functions.
      • A proper understanding is that believers have priestly functions but always as members of a group who exercise priestly functions.
    • Both Israel as a nation and the church of Jesus are identified as a royal priesthood.
      • Exodus 19:6 “And you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.” These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.
      • Revelation 1:6 And made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father – the glory and dominion are His forever and ever. Amen.
  • Holy nation.
    • Holy means to be set apart.
    • Both Israel and Jesus’ church are to be different than the world around them. They will be set apart by their holiness in obedience to Yahweh.
    • A people for His possession.
    • Individual believers all make a valuable contribution to Jesus’ church.
    • Christians are the true people of God, continuing His purpose that began with Abraham and Moses.
  • Purpose of God’s people.
    • To proclaim the praises of Yahweh.
      • They were called out of darkness (death).
      • They now live in marvelous light (life).
      • 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
      • Conversion is an illustration of moving from darkness to light.
        • Acts 26:18 To open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.
        • Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.
    • Isaiah 43:21 The people I formed for Myself will declare My praise.
    • Isaiah 43:7a Everyone called by My name and created for My glory.
    • Components of praising God.
      • Worship.
      • Evangelism.

Verse 10

The verse presents an amazing picture of God’s grace and mercy. There is also a connection to Hosea 2:23 I will sow her in the land for Myself, and I will have compassion on No Compassion; I will say to Not My People: You are My people, and he will say, “You are my God.”

  • This was a renouncing of Israel as God’s chosen people because of continuous sin. Yet, Yahweh vows to have mercy on them and restore them as His chosen people.
  • It is also the experience of the church of Jesus and Gentiles.
    • Gentiles once lived in darkness but have now been restored by the light.
    • Gentiles are now grafted into God’s chosen people.
  • Gentiles are the recipients of God’s grace and mercy through faith in Jesus.

Applications

  • Take the list of sins that is in verse one and do a self-assessment on whether or not you stumble in any of these areas. Even better, ask your spouse or close friends/co-workers. If you have sinned against anyone, you should apologize and ask for forgiveness. They may or may not give it, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are to ask forgiveness.
  • Do you desire spiritual milk for growth? With our busy lives, it can be challenging, but we should be reading Scripture every day. We should read through the entire Bible each year. The only way to know God, be obedient to His Word, and defeat the spiritual powers of darkness is by being immersed in Scripture. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, He quoted Scripture.
  • Do our lives reflect being a member of a holy priesthood? Are we any different than the world around us? If not, we need to confess our sins and do a course correction.
  • Do we rest in the security of the fortress of Jesus? There is nothing in this world bigger than Jesus. If we really trust Him, we will be secure no matter what the world throws at us.

1 Peter Lesson Two

1 Peter 1:13-25 – Holy Living

13 Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. 15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

17 And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence. 18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold,  19 but with the precious blood of Christ,  like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For

All flesh is like grass,

and all its glory like a flower of the grass.

The grass withers, and the flower falls,

25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.

And this is the word that was preached as the gospel to you. (HCSB)

There are three imperatives in this passage.

  • Unshakable hope in Jesus, verse 13
  • Holiness, verse 15
  • Live in reverent fear, verse 17

Verses 13-16

Verse 13

The word “therefore” reaches back to the first twelve verses in the letter. The readers are encouraged to live a godly life because they have a foundation in God’s saving work explained in verses 1-12. Order is essential here.

  • What God has done for us.
  • How we should live our lives.

If the order is reversed, we have a works-based righteousness instead of holiness being a result of God’s grace and power and our response to the love Jesus displayed by going to the cross.

  • Minds ready for action – means to be ready to undertake serious work.
  • Be serious – some translations have “sober” here. Sober is to be understood as having clear minds not impaired, distracted, or controlled by the things of the world.

Verse 14

There are several ideas flowing beneath the surface of this verse.

  • Even as followers of Jesus, we struggle with the temptation of this world and the danger of falling away from God.
  • However, as God’s children, we are to fight those temptations by living a life of obedience through faith and in God’s power and strength.
  • Just as children often have similarities with their earthly parents, we are to be similar to our heavenly Father.

Verse 15

  • The idea of being “called” should not be viewed as an invitation. Instead, it is a picture of God’s power in drawing people from a life in darkness to a life of light, from death to life.
  • Once again, the order is important. God’s power has pulled us from darkness and now equips us to live in holiness if we are obedient.
    • God’s people are to live differently from the world.
    • God’s people separate themselves from the evil desires of the world.
    • To be holy means to be apart from evil.

Verse 16

  • Why are we to be holy?
  • Because God is holy, and if we are God’s people, we should reflect God’s character.
    • Leviticus 11:44-45 For I am Yahweh your God, so you must consecrate yourselves and be holy because I am holy. You must not defile yourselves by any swarming creature that crawls on the ground. For I am Yahweh, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy.
    • When thinking about Old Testament covenants, before Israel could be a blessing to other nations, they first had to be holy.
    • Holiness is the starting point for God’s covenant people.
  • Holy doesn’t mean sinless perfection. That is impossible in this life. It does mean to be set apart. If we are God’s children, then we should be acting like Him.

Verses 17-21 Theme is to live in reverent fear.

Verse 17

  • Believers are to live in fear of Yahweh.
  • The question is, what type of fear is Peter talking about?
    • Reverent fear – a feeling of utmost respect and honor towards Yahweh.
    • Terror fear – a feeling of trepidation and apprehension.
    • From the context of the passage and the general concept of the Christian life as being a life filled with joy, it seems clear that Peter is talking about reverent fear.
    • At the same time, we need to examine whether our reverent fear is still…reverent or if it has become dull over time.
    • A responsible and confident driver also has a healthy fear for the damage that their vehicle could inflict on others through reckless behavior.
  • Our loving Father will also be our impartial judge on the last day.

Verse 18

The first idea to note is that verses 18-19 together form a negative/positive couplet. First, Peter illustrates what does not redeem someone with what does redeem someone.

  • Redeemed
    • Signifies liberation.
    • In this verse, it signifies leaving the emptiness of life they inherited from their fathers.
    • In the Old Testament emptiness is often associated with the idol worship practiced by pagans.
    • In the New Testament, it illustrates pre-Christian life.
      • Romans 1:21  For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their senseless minds were darkened.
      • Ephesians 4:17  Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts.
    • The life of unbelievers is a life characterized by futility, emptiness, and chasing after false gods.
      • Pursuing money.
      • Pursuing possessions.
      • Both are temporary.

Verse 19

The details of the purchase price are now revealed.

  • In contrast to the temporary things the lost pursue, believers are purchased with the everlasting and infinitely precious blood of Jesus.
  • Jesus poured out His life to redeem sinners.
  • Early Christians believed that Christ’s sacrifice as the sinless lamb fulfilled:
    • The Passover.
    • The prophetic suffering servant.
    • The entire Old Testament sacrificial system.

Verse 20

There are two main thoughts here:

  • Before the foundation of the world.
    • It was not mere chance that brought Jesus into the world at that particular time and place.
    • It was part of God’s plan.
    • Ephesians 1:4  For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.
  • Revealed at the end of the times.
    • Followers of Jesus enjoy the blessing of living at the time God is fulfilling His saving promises.
    • “The end of the times” signifies the time that started with the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
    • This does not mean, and should not be confused with, the eschatological end times.
    • Peter indicates that Jesus’ birth, life, and death ushered in “the end of the times.”

Verse 21

  • We are believers in God through Jesus, not through any other means. John 14:6b  No one comes to the Father except through Me.
  • Believers put their faith in God because of the finished work of Jesus.
  • Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation of the living hope found in 1:3.
  • A holy life is a life that trusts in God’s promises.
  • A holy life is one in which God is prized above all things, in which believers trust and hope in His goodness.

Verses 22-25 The theme is a command to love each other.

Verse 22

  • Purpose of their conversion is to love fellow believers.
  • It is achieved by obedience to the truth – faith in God’s promises of salvation.
  • It rises from a pure heart that has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
  • Peter uses two different Greek words for love in this verse.
    • One is brotherly love.
    • One is divine love, agape.
    • Unbelievers can display brotherly love to each other. However, it takes a Christian controlled by the Holy Spirit to show agape love.

Verse 23

  • Peter explains the origin of their birth.
    • Not of a perishable seed – human birth.
    • But of an imperishable seed – the Word of God.
      • Romans 10:17  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
      • Galatians 3:2  I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?
    • A seed and the Word have similar characteristics.
      • A seed is small but, once planted has the power of life in it and produces fruit.
      • The Word is small and seemingly insignificant. Yet, it has power and life within it. The Word must be planted to do good, but when it is planted in a person’s heart, it produces good fruit.
      • Fruit produced by the Word is lasting, eternal fruit, but things of the flesh don’t last.

Verse 24

  • Peter quotes the text from Isaiah 40:6-8 here.
    • Israel will be restored from their exile in Babylon.
    • Babylon was viewed as invincible at the time that Israel was taken into exile.
    • Those persecuting the recipients of Peter’s letter may have been viewed as invincible.
    • In both cases, Peter is saying that their power is short-lived and that Yahweh and His people endure forever.

Vese 25

  • God’s Word is enduring.
  • It is imperishable.
  • Nothing can overpower God.
  • The promises contained in Isaiah are fulfilled in the proclamation of the Gospel.

Applications.

  • Do you take your faith seriously and prepare yourself for spiritual work? Peter’s words at the beginning of this passage exhort us always to be prepared and to have the proper attitude towards our salvation.
  • Do you take the holiness of God seriously and have a reverent fear of God? We love to read the passages that tell us how loving and merciful God is, which is true. But we often neglect or ignore the passages that tell us that God is also our judge. An infinitely holy God can’t be in the presence of sin. Will our lives allow us to enter into God’s presence or will we be cast out of His presence? We would do well to remember Matthew 7:23 Then I will announce to them, “I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers.”
  • Do we immerse ourselves in the Word? We need to be reading the Bible daily, feeding on the truths contained in it. Those seeds of truth will plant themselves in our hearts and grow, producing fruit in our lives.
  • Do we have agape love for our brothers and sisters? Many countries have large megachurches, which in themselves are not necessarily bad. However, they often feel impersonal, and there is little to no connection with other believers. When we look back at the church in the book of Acts, we see a church that closely connected believers together. Make sure you are connected with a church that promotes connecting in smaller groups, replicating the intimacy that is found in the early church.

Ruth Lesson Two

Return From Moab – Ruth 1:6-13

She and her daughters-in-law prepared to leave the land of Moab, because she had heard in Moab that the Lord had paid attention to His people’s need by providing them food. She left the place where she had been living, accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, and traveled along the road leading back to the land of Judah.

She said to them, “Each of you go back to your mother’s home. May the Lord show faithful love to you as you have shown to the dead and to me. May the Lord enable each of you to find security in the house of your new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly. 10 “No,” they said to her. “We will go with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, 13 would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.” (HCSB)

Looking back at last week’s lesson, Naomi was left with her two daughters-in-law after the passing of her husband and both sons. She was in the very bottom of the valley of despair and grief, left with no viable source of income and no immediate family.

Verses 6-7

But now the grey clouds start to break, and a ray of sunshine touches Naomi’s heart, “because she had heard in Moab that the LORD had paid attention to His people’s need by providing them food.”

There are four features in this sentence that illustrate God’s divine grace.

  • It was a gift from God that, in the depths of Naomi’s despair and grief, she was able to hear good news.
  • Naomi heard that Yahweh intervened for the benefit of His people.
  • The object of the divine intervention is the nation of Israel, God’s people.
  • Yahweh provided bread to His people. This is actually a play on words as the name “Bethlehem”  means “the house of bread.”

Upon hearing the good news, Naomi’s actions were immediate and decisive.

  • She left.
  • She traveled.
  • She headed back to Judah.
  • Moab was never intended to be their home.
    • The Promised Land was their true home.
    • It was a mistake for Elimelech to take the family to Moab.
  • Naomi could expect to receive the treatment that Scripture afforded widows.
    • Deuteronomy 14:29  Then the Levite, who has no portion or inheritance among you, the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow within your gates may come, eat, and be satisfied. And the Lord your God will bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
    • Deuteronomy 16:11  Rejoice before Yahweh your God in the place where He chooses to have His name dwell—you, your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite within your gates, as well as the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow among you.

There is a message here for Christians who have wandered from the faith. The same God who showed kindness to Naomi in bringing home the “wanderer” is the same God who shows mercy and grace to us today.

Verses 8-9

She said to them, “Each of you go back to your mother’s home. May the Lord show faithful love to you as you have shown to the dead and to me. May the Lord enable each of you to find security in the house of your new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly.

Naomi prays for two blessings on Orpah and Ruth.

  • The phrase mother’s home, in Hebrew bêt ʾēm, is found in the Old Testament in only three other places. Twice in Song of Solomon, 3:4 and 8:2, and Genesis 24:28. The context for each occurrence involves love and marriage. What Naomi is doing is releasing Orpah and Ruth to go back to their homeland and find new husbands. They no longer have any obligation to Naomi.
  • It is striking the devotion that the two Moabite women show towards Naomi, an Israelite, in beginning the journey back to Bethlehem together.
  • The firmness of the command to return home is matched by the compassion and gentleness she displays to the two women when she prays for a double blessing over them. The term “faithful” in verse 8 is chesed in Hebrew, a word that is not possible to translate into a one-word definition in English. It is a word that expresses a covenant relationship best understood as a combination of love, covenant faithfulness, mercy, grace, kindness, and loyalty.
  • At the same time, Orpah and Ruth have shown chesed to Naomi, her deceased husband, and two sons. The praise she bestows on the two Moabite women depicts them as models of grace and that acts of human kindness, as displayed by Orpah and Ruth, warrants grace and kindness from Yahweh.
  • Naomi also petitions Yahweh for security in the household of a new husband.
    • Naomi doesn’t want them to experience a life of wandering and restlessness as widows.
    • She desires that they find a new home with a new family.
    • Naomi understands the world in which they live is heavily dependent on a male providing physical and economic security.

Naomi then kisses them farewell, and they vent their emotions with loud weeping. However, the discussion is not over.

Verse 10

“No,” they said to her. “We will go with you to your people.”

Although a short verse, it is packed with meaning.

  • Considering all that they have been through, it would seem logical for Orpah and Ruth to want to start over in their own land.
    • The grief of watching their father-in-law die.
    • Each woman losing their husband.
    • Likely observing Naomi in despair and deep sadness over losing her husband and both sons.
  • Yet Orpah and Ruth have more attachment to Naomi than they do to their own people.

Verses 11-13

11 But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, 13 would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.”

The first thing to note in Naomi’s exchange with Orpah and Ruth is that she acted in an unselfish manner towards them. It would have been easy for her to try and take them along, maybe even to hope that they could take care of her in the future. However, her first thought is towards their future welfare.

Verse 11

The rhetorical question “why do you want to go with me” appears, at first glance, to be a request for Orpah and Ruth to weigh the advantages of continuing the journey to Bethlehem. However, Naomi is actually scolding them. In essence, she is saying it is foolish to come with me; you’d be much better off returning to your home country and finding a husband there.

Verse 12-13a

Here, Naomi answers her own rhetorical question. She is telling Orpah and Ruth to be realistic. She is too old to remarry and have children, and even if she could, it is unrealistic to think they’d wait for the new sons, assuming she had sons if she was even able to get pregnant again, until they were grown enough to marry.

Verse 13b

Again, Naomi answers her question. And in her answer, we see the bitterness that she feels, as well as believing Yahweh is the source. This is an interesting twist on the narrative. Earlier, Naomi had pleaded with Yahweh to be gracious to Orpah and Ruth by providing them new husbands and a secure place to live. Now, Naomi is accusing Yahweh as the source of her bitterness. This feeling is based on an understanding of God’s previous judgments against the nation of Israel.

  • Exodus 9:3  then the Lord’s hand will bring a severe plague against your livestock in the field—the horses, donkeys, camels, herds, and flocks.
  • Deuteronomy 2:15  Indeed, the Lord’s hand was against them, to eliminate them from the camp until they had all perished.
  • Judges 2:15  Whenever the Israelites went out, the Lord was against them and brought disaster on them, just as He had promised and sworn to them. So they suffered greatly.

If we read this narrative casually and without a historical/cultural understanding, it is easy to miss the concepts in the first part of the book of Ruth.

  • The famine in Bethlehem.
  • The family’s self-imposed exile to Moab, not a logical choice for an Israelite.
  • The death of her husband and sons as a form of judgment.
  • The inability of Orpah and Ruth to have children is evidence of God’s disapproval of their marriage.

Applications.

  • The first one I mentioned earlier in this lesson. There is a message here for Christians who have wandered from the faith. The same God who showed kindness to Naomi in bringing home the “wanderer” is the same God who shows mercy and grace to us today.
  • Disobedience has consequences. The first part of Ruth has a litany of mistakes; moving to Moab, allowing the sons to marry local women, and Naomi not speaking out against the poor choices.
    • Do our choices in life reflect obedience to God’s Word and shine the light of Christ?
    • If we see others around us, family or friends, make choices contrary to a Christian lifestyle, do we say anything, or do we keep quiet?
    • If we have wandered down the wrong path, do we repent and return?
  • We should never blame God for our circumstances.
    • If we are disobedient, there are consequences. Repent.
    • If we are faithful followers of Jesus, there will be times of testing and persecution. We should view those experiences as God shaping us for future service. They may not be fun, but God knows what we need better than we do.

Ruth Lesson One

Disobedience Carries Consequences – Ruth 1:1-5

Today’s lesson begins a study on the book of Ruth, a fascinating and unique book in the Old Testament. Before digging into the first passage to discuss, let’s set the stage with some background information.

Title: Although the book is titled “Ruth,” she is not the main character and, when considering her background, it is amazing that the book is named after her. She was a Moabite and not an Israelite. This is the only book in the Old Testament named after a non-Israelite. Of the three main characters, Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth, Ruth speaks the least, and her narratives are the shortest.

Placement: Appearing right after Judges, which is a welcome relief after the continuous downward spiral in Israel’s disobedient behavior. In contrast to such individuals as Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, all of the main characters in Ruth display authentic faith and covenant faithfulness. Ruth is also one of the five scrolls that are regularly read at Jewish festivals.

Author: The author is unknown, as well as the date of writing – scholarly views on the date range from the reign of David to the post-exilic period.

Theme: The book develops the theme of “from emptiness to fullness.” It is also possible that the author had a goal in this book, the exaltation of David by telling the incredible story of his roots.

Theology: The author presents five theological lessons in this book.

  • God will not let His promises to Israel, Judah, and David die.
  • God works in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform, and His goals to achieve.
  • In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
  • Genuine piety is expressed primarily in devotion, sensitivity, grace, and kindness toward others, and openness to the working of God.
  • God’s grace knows no boundaries. Even a despised Moabitess is incorporated into the nation of Israel. In fact, the royal and Messianic line has Moabite blood in its veins.

Now, let’s look at today’s lesson.

1 During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land. A man left Bethlehem in Judah with his wife and two sons to live in the land of Moab for a while. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife’s name was Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They entered the land of Moab and settled there. Naomi’s husband Elimelech died, and she was left with her two sons. Her sons took Moabite women as their wives: one was named Orpah and the second was named Ruth. After they lived in Moab about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two children and without her husband. (HCSB)

First, we’ll concentrate on verses 1-2 as that sets the foundation and contrast for the entire book.

1 During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land. A man left Bethlehem in Judah with his wife and two sons to live in the land of Moab for a while. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife’s name was Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They entered the land of Moab and settled there.

The phrase “during the time of the judges” is understood as the period when the Lord’s people forsook the Lord, rebelled against His rule, suffered the consequences, and needed someone to rescue them.

  • Judges 2:10-13 10 That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. 11 The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. They worshiped the Baals 12 and abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods from the surrounding peoples and bowed down to them. They infuriated the Lord, 13 for they abandoned Him and worshiped Baal and the Ashtoreths.
    • This shows that the faithfulness of one generation can’t secure the faithfulness of the next.
    • This is true for a family, church, or nation. They may “play” the role for a while, but their true nature is revealed sooner or later.
  • Judges 2:14-15  14 The Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and He handed them over to marauders who raided them. He sold them to the enemies around them, and they could no longer resist their enemies. 15 Whenever the Israelites went out, the Lord was against them and brought disaster on them, just as He had promised and sworn to them. So they suffered greatly.
    • The consequences of disobedience are set.
    • God hands them over to their enemies.
    • The role of the judges is set in Judges 2:16.

The opening verses of Ruth illustrate and help to understand three significant truths about living in a world where the Lord and His rule are ignored.

  • The Lord’s warning of punishment is no idle threat. Reflect on verse 1, “there was a famine in the land.”
    • This was the land Yahweh promised to give to Abraham in Genesis 12:7 and 13:14-17.
    • It was the land Yahweh promised to give to His people when He rescued them from slavery in Egypt in Exodus 3:8.
    • It was the land “flowing with milk and honey.”
    • It was the promised land where food was abundant, and Yahweh’s people could enjoy the good life Yahweh had prepared for them.
  • Ignoring the Lord’s rule is something to be taken seriously.
    • Elimelech’s name means “God is my King.”
    • Naomi’s name means “pleasant.”
    • They had two sons.
    • They lived in a prosperous area, Bethlehem.
    • They belonged to the tribe of Judah.
    • Moab was the opposite of Bethlehem.
      • No God-fearing Israelite would choose to take their family there.
      • Moabites were the descendants of Lot.
      • The relationship between Moab and Israel was not good.
      • Balak, king of Moab, hired Balaam to curse Israel in Numbers 22-24.
      • Moabite women seduced Israelite men to sexual immorality and to worship their gods.
      • Before entering the promised land, they were commanded not to make a treaty with the Moabites in Deuteronomy 23:3-6.
    • The names of their children may also be significant.
      • Mahlon means “to be sick.”
      • Kilion means “failing or pining.”
      • Both may have been frail children.
    • Both children would never have married Moabite women unless Elimelech had taken the family there.
      • Decisions by parents can have repercussions for their children.
      • Scripture commanded the Israelites not to marry outside their own people.
  • Tasting the Lord’s bitter pill prepares the way for experiences of His kindness. But how do we understand that concept?
    • Naomi correctly understands that Yahweh was in control.
    • Often tasting the Lord’s bitter pill is the necessary step for an undeserving people to experience His kindness.
      • In the time of Joseph, Yahweh used the famine to bring salvation to the sons of Jacob.
      • In the time of Elijah, Yahweh uses a famine to turn His people back to Himself.
      • In the parable of the prodigal son, a severe famine was the vehicle that drove the son to humble himself and return to his father.
    • The Lord can and does use bitter experiences to drive us back to Him, where we can experience His undeserved kindness.

Verses 3-5

Naomi’s husband Elimelech died, and she was left with her two sons. Her sons took Moabite women as their wives: one was named Orpah and the second was named Ruth. After they lived in Moab about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two children and without her husband.

We don’t know how long they had lived in Moab before Elimelech dies. However, verse two sheds some light on it by using the phrase “for a while.” This left Naomi without her provider, a dangerous situation for a woman at that time. During this time, the two sons marry Moabite women. Let’s look at several factors surrounding these marriages.

  • The Hebrew term used means “to lift/carry a woman” instead of the typical phrase “to take a woman.” This difference creates a negative connotation surrounding the marriages.
    • The term is used only nine times in the Old Testament.
    • In Judges 21:23, it talks about marriage by abduction.
    • Most marriages by abduction were outside the clan and were considered illegitimate.
  • These marriages should be interpreted in light of Mosaic prohibitions against marriage with pagans.
    • Deuteronomy 7:3-4  Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, because they will turn your sons away from Me to worship other gods. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and He will swiftly destroy you.
    • As the head of the household after Elimelech’s passing, Naomi should have prevented these marriages.
  • According to covenant curses, marriages to foreigners in the land of exile was considered the judgment of God.  Deuteronomy 28:32  Your sons and daughters will be given to another people, while your eyes grow weary looking for them every day. But you will be powerless to do anything.
  • Naomi’s sons lived in a married state for approximately ten years without either having any children.
    • The barrenness of both Ruth and Orpah must be interpreted as evidence of Yahweh’s hand against them.
    • Deuteronomy 28:18 Your descendants  will be cursed, and your land’s produce, the young of your herds, and the newborn of your flocks.
    • Later, in Ruth 4:13, it would take Yahweh’s intervention to allow Ruth to have a child.
  • Both sons die, leaving Naomi with no male family members.

Applications

  • Am I submitting to the rule of Christ, or do I act as I see fit?
  • When trials come, and I experience the consequences of living in a society which has forsaken God, what do I do? Do I try and come up with my own escape plan, or do I submit the will of God?
  • The decisions Elimelech made affected his entire family. When I make decisions that can affect those close to me, what principles do I follow? Do I act in fear, or do I act in faith?
  • Ignoring the Lord’s rule is something to be taken seriously. It can have bitter consequences for those who ignore His rule and those around us who are impacted by our godless choices.