A Prayer for Friday

Resting on God (from The Valley of Vision)

The thought of your infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but you are forever at perfect peace.

Your designs cause you no fear or care of unfulfilment, they stand fast as the eternal hills.

Your power knows no bond, your goodness no stint. You bring order out of confusion, and my defeats are your victories:

The Lord God omnipotent reigns.

I come to you as a sinner with cares and sorrows, to leave every concern entirely to you, every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood; revive deep spirituality in my heart; let me live near to the great Shepherd, hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.

Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth, from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.

Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know; let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, that I may bear its reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence, know in it the power of the Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; unbelief mars my confidence, sin makes me forget you.

Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots; grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to you, that all else is trifling.

Your presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.

Abide in me, gracious God.

From Mara to Mama

Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 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. (Ruth 4:16-17 ESV)

In her own words Naomi left Bethlehem “full” and returned “empty.” She made it clear to the women who greeted her up on her return that everything had changed–even her name. “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara.” Don’t call me pleasant, call me bitter. In the years that had transpired in Moab, Noami had drunk the bitter waters and they affected every ounce of her being. She was a bitter woman.

These same women are back on the scene. Again Naomi is the center of attention. Again they are excited for her. This time bitterness has been replaced with celebration. Hopelessness has been displaced by hope. The whimper of a baby boy can be heard on Naomi’s lap. The scene is quite dramatic. It appears that the women have gone to Ruth’s house, asked for the newborn baby, and brought him to Naomi’s house. Or rather they have visited Boaz’s and Ruth’s house where Naomi has come to see the newborn, and they take the baby from Ruth and hand him off to Naomi. However the scene unfolds, these women play an interesting role.

And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” Mara had become mama. Empty had become full. Hopeless had become hopeful. Poor had become rich. Listless had become enthusiastic.

God specializes in turning Maras into Mamas. He specializes in making saints out of sinners. He isn’t intimated by your past, isn’t confused by your circumstances. Your predicament is no problem to him. Your mess is easily his masterpiece. Come to Him. Give him yourself.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

Be Thou My Vision

As a college student I lived on the edge of the dangerous cliff of pleasing men and pleasing God. I wanted others to like me, yet knew I wanted God to like me too. I wanted to do God’s will and peoples’ will too. I was part of a men’s college choir with a remarkable director who brought out the best in us. We wore crisp tuxedos, traveled to mostly Methodist churches and performed. My hypocrisy wasn’t so obvious…it was internal. The hypocrisy of others was very obvious. They would get drunk the night before, show up the next morning and sing hungover.

Ironically a song I learned for the very first time as a member of Wofford’s Glee Club was Be Thou My Vision. I knew better than living the double life I was living…many of my fellow Glee Club members didn’t. Thankfully God didn’t give up on me. Naomi knew better than to be bitter over what happened to her–but she was bitter anyway. Be Thou My Vision should have been the song she sang on the long road back from Moab to Bethlehem. Maybe it needs to be your song today. Pray these words to God today:

  1. Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
    Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
    Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
    Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
  2. Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
    I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
    Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
    Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
  3. Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
    Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
    Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
    Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.
  4. Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
    Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
    Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
    High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
  5. High King of Heaven, my victory won,
    May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
    Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall,
    Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

If you have four minutes, Fernando Ortega sings it beautifully: 


When God Proves You Wrong

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 4:15 ESV)

“He shall be to you” are words of hope. Naomi came back to Bethlehem looking in the rearview mirror. And all she saw was heartache, disappointment and a judgmental God. Don’t forget Naomi’s words to the women when she came back to Bethlehem:

So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (Ruth 1:19-21 ESV)

This “angry God” never gave up on Naomi. Don’t miss that. Sometimes you and I are prone to give up on the untouchables, the unreachables, the incorrigibles. God doesn’t. He had a plan for Naomi’s life and it included a boy who would love her and tend her land…who would nourish her in her old age.

Oscar Wilde, Irish writer and poet once said,

The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

Naomi mistakenly thought her past dictated her future. God proved her wrong…thankfully.

God Will Supply All Your Needs

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. 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! (Ruth 4:13-14 ESV)

The Lord gave her conception. We’re not sure why the author of Ruth pointed out God gave her conception. One wonders if it was a stretch because of Boaz’s age for him to father a child. Whatever the challenge, it is clear that Ruth had a child because God wanted her to have one. The second miracle is that the child was a boy. A boy was necessary in order to preserve Naomi’s line and tend her land. Naomi needed a boy and God gave her a boy through Ruth’s marriage to Boaz.

But the surprising turn of events in the story is that this boy ultimately became the redeemer. No one saw this coming! Up until this point Boaz has been the hero of the story…the man who reached out to a Moabite stranger gleaning in his field and directed his field workers to leave her extra food. He is the man who waited at the city gate anxiously looking for a redeemer who was closer kin to Naomi.

But Boaz, with all of his heroic acts, was upstaged by a baby boy. Who would have thought that a baby boy would burst onto the scene and redeem Naomi! What Boaz couldn’t do, the boy would do. What Boaz couldn’t feel for Naomi, her grandson, Obed, would. Through Obed, God promised to meet every need Noami had.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 ESV)

Kept By God

Slowly and deliberately pray this prayer to the God “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…”(Jude 1:24):

Jehovah God,

Creator, Upholder, Proprietor of all things, I cannot escape from your presence or control, nor do I desire to do so.

My privilege is to be under the agency of omnipotence, righteousness, wisdom, patience, mercy, grace.

You are love with more than parental affection; I admire your heart, adore your wisdom, stand in awe of your power, abase myself before your purity.

It is the discovery of your goodness alone that can banish my fear, allure me into your presence, help me to bewail and confess my sins.

When I review my past guilt and am conscious of my present unworthiness I tremble to come to you, I whose foundation is in the dust, I who have condemned your goodness, defied your power, trampled upon your love, rendered myself worthy of eternal death.

But my recovery cannot spring from any cause in me, I can destroy but cannot save myself.

Yet you have laid help on One that is mighty, for there is mercy with you, and exceeding riches in your kindness through Jesus.

May I always feel my need of him.

Let your restored joy be my strength; may it keep me from lusting after the world, bear up heart and mind in loss of comforts, enliven me in the valley of death, work in me the image of the heavenly, and give me to enjoy the first fruits of spirituality, such as angels and departed saints know. (The Valley of Vision, page 106-107)

The Wedding

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. 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! (Ruth 4:13-14 ESV)

Years ago I was invited to a wedding in a small town in South Carolina. When I arrived at the local First Baptist Church I realized this wedding was the social event of the year in this small town. The church was filled for the 6 pm formal event. The main floor and the wrap-around balcony was packed. The groomsmen walked in–appropriately attired in long tails. The bridesmaids wore diamond necklaces–because that was only fitting for such a formal event. Once the wedding finished the bride and groom processed to the bride’s family antebellum home for an unbelievable reception. As an outsider to this small town I have never forgotten that evening.

Boaz and Ruth’s wedding most likely created no small stir in the town of Bethlehem. The serious student of the Bible cannot miss the foreshadowing. The LORD gave Ruth conception and she bore a son. Conception was the first act of God, the fact that her child was a boy was the second act of God. The fact that the boy born would redeem Naomi was the third act of God. Obed, whose name meant servant, was an promising foreshadowing of another Redeemer.

Jesus, like Obed, would be born of an unlikely couple. Like Obed, Bethlehem was his birthplace. And better than Obed ever thought about doing, He would redeem his own mother and step-father, and every other person who would place their trust in Him.

God’s Reward for Unrequited Faithfulness

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, 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 4:11-12 ESV)

What Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion could not do (because they were dead!), God did. The people invoked His blessing on Ruth and Boaz.  “Make Ruth like Rachel and Leah!” they declared. Rachel and Leah were the matriarchs of the Israelite people. This was quite a blessing to pronounce over a foreigner named Moabite.  The blessing was qualified by the designation that Rachel and Leah “together built up the house of Israel.”

Then the people turn their attention to Boaz. Remember this is Boaz who had practiced unrequited faithfulness. He did something knowing he would get nothing in return. The elders of the town speak: May you act worthily…and be renowned. Boaz, may you make a name for yourself. Here’s what is interesting: we never know the name of the other kinsman-redeemer, the one who was more closely related to Naomi. He goes through history unnamed–Boaz’s name went down in the annals of history and is known today in Christian circles all around the world. God reward unrequited faithfulness.

The elders made it clear that God was about to give Boaz a gift: his name would be Obed, a baby boy who would come screaming into the world of Boaz and Ruth. Obed would grow up and have a son named Jesse who would himself have a ruddy teenager called David whom God would choose to be king of Israel!

God rewards unrequited faithfulness.

Unrequited Faithfulness

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. 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.” (Ruth 4:9-10 ESV)

It is one thing to do something for someone who can return the favor. People do it everyday. Kids do chores so they can get an allowance. Employees work to get a paycheck. Friends do favors because they hope for one in return. In stating his purpose, Boaz clearly communicated his reason for buying the property: to honor three dead guys. That’s right. He did what he did for someone who would never be able to say “thank you.” Boaz practiced unrequited faithfulness.

Unrequited means unreciprocated, unreturned. There is no way Boaz can get any return on his investment. Elimelech, Chilion and Mahlon have died. They can’t say “please” nor can they say “thank you.” Boaz is practicing unrequited faithfulness.

Today you will most likely encounter someone who will never know the sacrifice you’re making, the burden you’re carrying, the pain you’re enduring–to help them. In those interactions, know that there is an unseen Observer who initially commands and ultimately rewards. It is He whom you are serving. Serve Him today.