Category Archives: Learn it

Authentic :: Tamar part 2

A tale of two Tamars continues several decades after the story of Tamar and Judah. This time, Tamar is a princess, born to a life of privilege and tragedy. 

Tamar the Princess

Tamar had a childhood unlike any other, growing up with not only a king for a father, but arguably one of the most famous kings of all time. The King. King David.  

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You see, Tamar and Absalom were siblings of incredible beauty. True royalty, they had everything…including a big, complicated modern family. After all, when daddy has over eight wives (and a number of concubines), life is bound to get interesting. And, in Tamar’s case, dangerous.  

The long and short of it is this (2 Samuel 13:1-9): Amnon, Tamar’s half brother, fell in love with his half sister (recall that while this was not uncommon for the time period, it was not exactly condoned either). His friend/cousin, Jonadab , noticed how Amnon lusted after Tamar and devised a plan for some…romance…well, for some alone time at least. Amnon would pretend to be sick and ask dear ol’ dad to send his sister to cook some food for him. He wanted to eat it out of her hand, because they were so close I guess. David agreed. Tamar agreed. Tamar made the food, but Amnon refused it and sent everyone home…except Tamar. ‘Come feed me in my bedroom,’ he said. Tamar agreed, suspecting nothing, after all this is her brother with whom she should be safe. But in the height of the #metoo movement of the 21st century we see just where this is going.

As you can imagine, there is a lot going on in this story, which 2 Samuel 13: 10-19 wastes no time in getting to the crux of the story. Amnon requests Tamar to come into his bedroom to “feed him” but it isn’t his stomach that is aching to be satisfied—it’s another piece of anatomy. Tamar brings in the food and he grabs her, asking for her to sleep with him. When she refuses, asking him to do the honorable thing and marry her first (“[my father] will not withhold me from you”), he takes what he wants—forcefully and without hesitation.

Out of Control

Sadly, this is not an uncommon story in world history. This kind of violence and deception was the whole reason why 98% of the time women in a royal household were put under the protection of heavily guarded eunuchs. Regardless, the moment Amnon got what he thought he wanted, his mind and emotions changed and rather than listening to his sister’s pleas he cast her out—thereby completing her shame and dashing all hopes she had for any kind of happily ever after. What’s more, this one act would throw the entire kingdom in a state of utter turmoil as siblings see violence as a means to an end, and their father stand by and do…nothing.

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Heinous crimes, unfortunately, will always be a fact of this fallen and broken world. We shouldn’t ignore this story, we should learn from it, as we do from all that is in God’s word. Let’s face it, the hard issues like this is what we need to talk about—what we need to learn from because life isn’t easy and while intellectually we know that ‘everything happens for a reason’, that doesn’t make it any easier. But knowing that God doesn’t make mistakes should give us hope that no matter what we experience, redemption and grace are always ours for the claiming.

All Actions (and inactions) Have Consequences

No matter what, our actions have far reaching effects and once we commit to a decision—good or bad—we lose control over what will happen next. Humans like to think that we have control, or at least that we can maintain some kind of control, but the fact is human control is an illusion. Tamar probably felt that she had the situation in hand. Sure, the requests her brother made were a little unorthodox, but it is so easy to feel in control when you are safe. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am in NO WAY blaming or victim shaming Tamar for how this story plays out. I’m simply pointing out that at every moment in our lives our decisions lead us down paths and into situations that can quickly get ‘out of control’. So Tamar says yes to the first unorthodox request, because her father sent her and she loves her brother in the way all sisters should.

By the time her brother has cleared the room and receded into his bed chamber, I hazard to guess that Tamar is feeling a little uneasy. She’s been sheltered her entire life, kept under close watch by servants and eunuchs, and suddenly she is alone in a room with a man who, culturally, could be a potential match for her (as she admits when she pleads with him). Tamar must have been pretty young, still a virgin, and not yet married off to a political match, so the attention she receives in this moment from her older brother—and the heir to the throne—probably felt kind of nice at first. All young girls like to feel special and her brother asked for her specifically. So, she draws close, still feeling in control, until he grabs her and everything changes. He asks, she refuses and begs, he takea—unraveling a series of events that will change the course of Hebrew history forever. Those actions, those moments would lead to Tamar’s shame, Amnon’s death, Absolom’s banishment, and conflict in David’s family forever.

But still, God was in control—God was there even in the midst of the tragedy—but in our fallen world we can never forget that all our actions (even ones out of our control) have consequences.

Emotions are Decieving and Capricious

I hate the term ‘fell in love’, because it implies so many things about love that are not really accurate descriptions of love. Amnon used “falling in love” as an excuse to do whatever he wanted—especially when a friend petted his ego enough to remind him of his position and ‘rights’ as a son of a king. Amnon confused “falling in love” with obsession and lust—because if he was really in love he wouldn’t be impatient to ‘get his hands on her’. He would want what was best for her—even if it meant that he had to sacrifice something he valued. After all, he should know that God is love, and as a God of love, he is constantly making sacrifices for his people. If nothing else, he should have at least heard those stories. But, his arrogance overrode his common sense, which is why when he got what he thought he wanted from Tamar his love turned to hate and shame. Momentary pleasure is always fleeting. And, our actions have consequences. Amnon didn’t think about the far reaching effects, he didn’t think about Tamar’s well-being, and, in fact, he ignored what would be best for himself and the kingdom. He sought that one pleasure that he believed would make him happy, and instead it made him miserable, which is exactly what happens when we let our emotions get the best of our common sense.

Leadership begins at Home

King David is known as the man after God’s own heart, but this story just reminds me that despite this, he was still an incredibly flawed man. First, he was gullible and didn’t see any flaws in his own children. Having been a teacher for over ten years and having had my own encounters with parents—this is a common theme I’ve noticed. For some reason it is easy to see the flaws in everyone but our own kids, which is why not only did he allow Tamar to be put in such a vulnerable position, he refused to do anything to fix the situation after it had erupted into chaos and as a result his second son, Absolom (Tamar’s full blooded brother) felt the need to take matters not his own hands. David’s lack of discipline and leadership in his own family also had far reaching consequences

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When Justice Eludes

2 Samuel 13:20-29; 37 picks up the story of these consequences, which includes the death of Amnon and the exile of Absolom and the heartbreak of David. Tamar is never mentioned again, and we are left to mourn her shattered life, knowing only that her brother took her into his own household and by all appearances moved on with their lives until the time was right and then he struck. But revenge is not the same thing as justice.

Tamar’s life took a drastically different path than the one she had dreamed of, and we don’t know exactly where she ended up, but I can see two likely scenarios.

One, Tamar lived out the rest of her days in bitter mourning over what she lost.

Two, Tamar sought God in her moment of despair, because even when her brother got the revenge she so rightly deserved, the consequences remained. Justice will only be found in the safe, forgiving, reedeeming power of Yahweh. Only then could she find a new, potentially satisfying life, despite the trauma of her past.

And we are left with the same choices when life doesn’t go as we planned. Our emotions are capricious, our control is illusive, but God is constant, and it is up to us to decide if we will run to or away from God no matter what life throws at us.

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Authentic :: Tamar part 1

A Tale of Two Tamars

Two women of the same name are perhaps among the most tragic stories in the Bible. Well, there are a lot of tragic stories, but these really do make a person sit up and go ‘what now?!’

So let’s set the scene for part 1:

Tamar the Canaanite (Genesis 38)

Once upon a time, in a land far away from his brothers, a man named Judah settled down with a Canaanite woman. Together this delightful couple had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. They were a perfect family. The three boys grew older and Judah realized his eldest son, Er, was just incomplete. So he found him a wife. Her name was Tamar.  


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Now, like most little girls, Tamar dreamed of the day she would marry and have children. She would be the perfect wife and mother because she’d been dreaming and preparing for this day her whole life. Unfortunately, about 3.5 seconds into the marriage, it was clear that her husband was not the Prince Charming she’d been dreaming of. In fact, the LORD found him to be so evil, that he struck Er down. Er died, and just like that Tamar became a widow.

Now, Jewish tradition dictates that if your husband dies before you are able to conceive a child to carry on the family name, then the closest male relative must perform his Levirate duties and produce offspring for the dead relative and the widow. Sooooo, Onan was required by law (and his father) to lay with Tamar. As it turns out, Onan was about as delightful as his brother and while he did sleep with Tamar, he made sure that his, well you see he spilled his…well, let’s just say he made sure Tamar would not get pregnant. So, seeing his wickedness, God struck down Onan too (seriously, I mean really you’d think he’d learn from his brother’s mistakes, but no.)

Tamar was still a widow with no children so Leviate law dictated that Shelah (the third son) sleep with her next. However, Shelah was kinda still a kid so Judah sent Tamar back to live with her father until Shelah was grown…or so he said. However, like most stupid fathers, Judah didn’t see any fault with his own sons, but rather blamed Tamar for his sons’ deaths. So he had no intention of allowing her to sleep with Shelah—thus condemning her to a life of solitude and shame.

The Jerkface.

Sometimes things happen that are just completely out of our control. What do we do when life seems unfair, unjust, or just plain wrong? If we are wise, we trust in the Lord and let him direct our decisions and our plans.

Right or wrong, Tamar devises a plan, and personally given the cultural context, I can get behind her extreme actions, and evidently, God directed them given the ultimate outcome. According to Jewish tradition, Tamar was most likely a Canaanite woman who converted to Judaism either before or after she married Judah’s son. When she devises the plan, the narrative takes on a positive tone, not condemning her, but confirming that she is doing what is righteous because Judah was being unrighteousness. Rather than living in the shame her father-in-law saddles her with, Tamar decides to take the future into her own hands, but trusts God will ultimately vindicate her.


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Genesis 38:20-23 we see that Judah has never been very good at the whole ‘personal responsibility’ thing. This is actually an echo of Genesis 37:26-27, where he wants to do the right thing, makes a comment or a suggestion or a half-baked action, but doesn’t really follow through. What it boils down to is Judah takes the path of least resistance–knowing what is right, but refusing to stand up for it. He sleeps with a woman who he believes is a ‘cult prostitute’ (or a prostitute for a religious sect), which is pretty heavily frowned upon in God’s law. He gives this prostitute some pretty personal items (kind of like giving her his driver’s license and social security card) as collateral and then, rather than tracking her down, he just shrugs off the items as stolen and goes about his business, never recognizing the sins he himself has committed.

Judah is quick to judge Tamar when it comes out that she is pregnant “immorally”. She’s been living in her father’s home, ignored and forgotten by him until he believes she’s made a mistake and then suddenly he’s all fired up–to burn her at the stake. Nevermind his own sins which he thinks has been forgotten and hidden. But yet again, God proves that he is just and righteous and not only will our sins be found out, but there is also always a consequence to those sins.

This story is not as tragic as it could have been. While it is not exactly a happily ever after kind of situation, it is a beautiful picture of conviction and grace, on the part of Judah, who when he does realize that he was wrong actually admits it and does his best to make it right. After all, Tamar’s life was literally in his hands. He could have ignored the message she sent him and had her burned at the stake–his honor forever in tact. But he didn’t.


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On the surface, this appears to be condoning Tamar’s deceptive acts, but I think it’s actually highlighting her determination to follow God’s law no matter the consequences to herself. Let me explain.

  1. Despite the fact that her two previous husbands were jerks, she never curses God, the men, or even Judah. She had every opportunity to be bitter and surly, but instead she is obedient and compliant. She bides her time and takes action only when she sees that there is no other choice.
  2. When she devises her plan she is careful to still bring honor to bother herself and Judah. She targets him specifically, and strategically placing herself in his path. She covers herself with a veil, which shows an unusual amount of modesty for the ‘prostitute’ role she is playing.
  3. Tamar is thoughtful and cunning, making sure that she can prove who the father of her child is–securing identification tags rather than money, or other forms of payment that might have been tempting.
  4. When the scheme is found out, she does not go public. She doesn’t shame Judah (or herself), she trusts Judah and God to do the right thing, by privately addressing the issue (unlike Judah who rants to anyone who will listen about burning her at the stake).
  5. She is gracious to forgive, only grateful to be vindicated and justified in her own moral character.

All of these elements prove that Tamar was not just acting out of selfish ambition, but with a desire to honor the Lord, Judah and herself.

And we can learn a valuable lesson from her example in how to deal with those who have wronged us–a lesson that is hard to apply but valuable to remember, because at some point we will all feel taken advantage of, lost, or forgotten by the world. So, what do we do?

  1. Be thankful for what we do have, not bitter over what we have lost or think we deserve. After all, if we truly got what we deserved, we wouldn’t be any happier (death, we all deserve death and punishment because we are all sinners)
  2. Check your motivation. Always ask yourself if the actions you are taking will bring honor to God, and if the answer is ever no…take a step back and think about another plan, or just wait to hear from God. Jealousy, revenge, and bitterness do not bring honor to God, but obedience, justice, and thankfulness do.
  3. Think things through. All actions, even rightly motivated, have consequences so it is highly advisable that you consider all the possible outcomes before acting.
  4. Keep things private. I know posting your business and beef with others on social media feels good in the moment, but it causes way more damage to you and the other person when you go public with any kind of conflict. If you truly want to bring honor and justice to a situation, keep it private. Don’t “vent” about to others either. “Venting” is usually just a nice way of excusing your own gossip. Trust me, I know this from personal–heartbreaking–experience.
  5. Forgive. You’ll never truly bring honor, glory or peace if you don’t learn to forgive the wrongs. I’m not saying that it’s easy–I’m sure it was a struggle for Tamar, but forgiveness is the only way to move forward. They don’t call it ‘holding’ a grudge for no reason–it holds you back as much as it does anything else. Let go. Let God. Move on.

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Tamar’s story might be weird to the 21st century mindset, but despite the differences, there is always a human connection to be made and if we are wise…we won’t just hear. We’ll learn.

Authentic :: Mary

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary the last couple of weeks. For obvious reasons, given that it is the Christmas season and she gets a lot of press this time of year, but also for the fact that she absolutely astounds me. No, really. We are talking about a teenager who said yes to something that would radically alter her life without seemingly thinking twice about it. I’ve worked with a lot of teenagers over the years (let’s see roughly 25-30 per class, 6ish classes a year, 12 years…That’s like 1,800- 2,160 teens) and a good many of those teens do not accept authority, suggestion or direction; you tell them to do something at least 3 times with a personal anecdote about why they should and a good bit of the time (I don’t know the exact percentage), they do the opposite or at least not exactly what you advise and then come back and ask you what went wrong. Despite the permanent facepalm imprint on my forehead, all I know to tell them is: you didn’t listen.

Mary was one of those rare exceptions. The angel told her what to do and she did it. Now I’m not dogging teens, cause quite frankly it’s not just a teenage problem. It’s a faith problem and I’m not sure I have the kind of faith Mary had. Of course I hope I do, but let’s just say there are many reasons why God didn’t choose me to be the vessel that would birth his one and only son. 

Greatly Troubled

Luke has always been my favorite gospel. The man was a doctor and his logical approach to these happenings make everything seem less ‘fairytale’ and more real. He starts off the Gospel in chapter 1: 3 stating that he has “carefully investaged everything” and will write an “orderly account”. This makes my type one heart just soar with expectation—because Luke, well, he just gets me. His gospel starts from the beginning with John the Baptist before we ever hear about Mary, but then he is the only one who gives us an account of Mary’s experience. Starting in chapter 1: 26-38, he carefully documents the encounter. And clearly this is written by a man, because we are not given a lot of information about how Mary reacts other than upon hearing the news that she is “highly favored”, she is “greatly troubled.”

Her reaction to this greeting is curious, but let’s get real. No matter what this angel had said, Mary was probably freaking out. To put it in perspective: Mary couldn’t have been more than about sixteen (chances are she was younger since she was ‘pledged to be married’ and that could happen at a very young age in ancient cultures). This giagantice man-angel, who had to be pretty darn intimidating, appears to her—alone. The first thing you are going to wonder is if you had too much wine with the last meal, long before you ever register what the man is actually saying. However, the fact that the text tells us that she is reacting to the words and wondering what it might mean (vs. 29), reveals more about her character than anything else. 

When you are told you are ‘highly favored’, we can expect one of three reactions: 

  1. Blatant pride (‘Of course I am. I’m me and I’m the greatest. Who wouldn’t favor me’) 
  2. False humility (‘Oh stop it. I’m not that great, after all!’)
  3. True humility (‘Come again? What do you mean?’)

Mary wasn’t faking—she was truly humble in a moment that could have puffed her up, she wondered at what the greeting could mean. I would like to say that I’d respond in the same way to those words, but the truth is, I spend most of my life hungering after words of affirmation and when I get them I’m more on the #2 reaction where I say ‘Oh, stop’ but really I feel in my heart that I deserve every bit of that praise. I’m not saying that reactions one and two are always bad, but God certainly appreciates a truly humble heart and I don’t think he would have chosen Mary if he didn’t know that her humility was genuine. After all, we really don’t deserve any kind of acknowledgement for our ‘awesomeness’ because each and every one of us is a sinner and the only one who really deserves the praise is God. Not that we can’t appreciate others for what value they bring to our lives, but we can definitely lean more toward ‘greatly troubled’ and away from ‘proudly justified’ as we strive to be more like Jesus—or in this case, his mother. 

I am the Lord’s Servant

Again, in Mary’s response in vs. 38 I think perspective is colored by the gender of the author, but also because the author had no way of being inside Mary’s head. Yes, ultimately she said “I am the Lord’s servant” and that may have been the end of the story…but I wonder if she didn’t have a slightly longer conversation with the angel. Women—even in ancient cultures—tend to want a few more details than what is recorded in history. Times have changed, but the nature of a woman’s needs have not. I suspect there is a little more to that conversation, but Luke’s pragamtism and second hand account leaves us with the finality of Mary’s response, which, after all, is all we need to know. I’m not suggesting that she turned the angel down at first, but I am suggesting that she may have hesitated, or wept, or asked ‘why me?’ Not in a bitter, surly way, but in a humble—how could the Lord possibly think I’m worthy of this?—way. Like the first time a mother holds her first born child. She looks down at that infant in absolute wonder that not only did she help create that little human, but that God entrusted her with this little human’s life and she wonders, what have I done to deserve such a blessing? 

And the truth is, it’s not what you have done, Mary (or any of us), it’s the potential the Lord sees in us that showers us with his blessing and favor. God didn’t choose Mary because she got all A’s on her report card and swept the house the right way every day, or because she could make a perfect latke. No, he choose her because he saw her heart and he knew that she would say yes in the right way and be a conduit for the rest of his plan. Just like he sees in each of us the potential to fulfill his plan and entrusts us with what he knows each of us can be successful with. 

Each of us has a choice, like Mary, every day. We can say “I am the Lord’s servant” or we can say “I am my own servant” and that choice defines how and where our lives will run. As Joshua so elegantly puts it: “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euprhrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living..” or yourself and the gods of America, the money, power and narcisism that runs rampart in our world (Joshua 24:15). It is up to us to decide. Mary could have said ‘thanks, but I’d rather live the picket-fence life Jospeh and I had planned.’ She could have seen her pristine reputation as proof that she was still favored when she turned the Lord down, and he would have found another vessel. His plan is never derailed by our choices. But he knew she wouldn’t say no. Because she choose to serve the Lord—she chose a hard path, but the only one that would bless her in the long run: to serve the Lord no matter the consequences. 

And the truth is, it’s not what you have done, Mary (or any of us), it’s the potential the Lord sees in us that showers us with his blessing and favor. 

Community Support

The most realistic part of this account, to me, is not Mary’s response to the angel. It’s not her humility. It’s not the fact that it all came to pass. To me it’s that the second the angel left, and she ‘hurried’—ya’ll she RAN to Elizabeth, her girlfriend. Because all ladies know that when something is going to change your life, you go and find another lady who is older, wiser, and who has some experience with angel visits, and you spill your guts out to her. I love that not only did she run to her, she shared her heart. They laughed, they cried, and girls, you better believe, they sang together. Because let’s face it, 2000 years has not changed girl talk or slumber parties. There will always be secrets shared and songs sung. And boy did these two ladies share secrets: miracle babies and unimaginable blessings—promises through the pain that living in a broken world would inevitably bring. Because let’s face it: this was a happy moment that would soon be followed by heartache, judgement and hardship. Mary risked everything in saying yes to the Lord, and she knew she would need support and instead of wallowing in uncertainty she RAN to the support that God provided: Elizabeth. 

It’s hard sometimes to recognize that we need support outside ourselves. Our culture preaches independence and self reliance. But God did not intend for us to live life that way. In the very beginning he stated: “…It is not good for man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:18) and that rings true even today. Living a Christian life is not easy. In fact, it’s downright hard sometimes. Look at Mary: she had it all (reputation, favor, a fiancé)—and then she said yes to God and nearly lost it all. But God is faithful and the community he builds for us is meant to support us in all of the hardships that accompany saying yes to God and living counter-culturally. 

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Saying yes was risky, but saying no even more so. After all, it was that one simple act of obedience that quite literally saved the world. 

Authentic :: Ruth


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The way we react to the circumstances in our lives reveals truths about our character in ways we don’t fully understand. I tend to get really angry when things are out of my control. Mostly it is that seething, under the surface, she is way too quiet kind of anger, but when life is really stressful, I can get mean angry. Short. Unkind. Snarky. Boy do I use a snarky retort as a weapon sometimes. What I am less quick to do in stressful, uncontrollable situations is trust that God is working through the mess to his own glory. And my benefit. Then I feel pretty stupid. And sorry. And guilty.

I don’t love admitting that, but it definitely reveals my struggle with control. Ruth did not have this problem. Her reactions reveal a strength of character worth both admiring and emulating. 

Life Happens

So here’s the deal (Ruth 1: 1-10). Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Kilion are from the town Bethlehem. Yeah, it’s the same place you’ve probably heard of with a manger and a stable and a pretty famous baby. Only this is like way before that baby’s birthday and there was a famine in Bethlehem, so Elimelech takes his family and moves to Moab. They live here for 10 years and LIFE HAPPENS.  First a funeral, Elimelech dies. Then a couple of weddings. Mahlon and Kilion marry two Moabite women: Ruth and Orpah. And then, a couple more funerals. Just as soon as we find out the two sons are married, they’re suddenly gone. What we don’t hear of during this 10 years is any birth announcements. Tragedy heaped upon tragedy leaving Naomi, Ruth and Orpah utterly alone. A stranger in a strange land, Naomi has a choice: stay or go. And so she decides to go. Packing her bags and her daughters-in-law they head back to Bethlehem.

 On the road, Naomi gets real (Ruth 1: 11-14. She shows them their future. Now Ruth and Orpah have a decision to make: stay orgo.

Three women. One choice.

Evidence that the decisions we make now can shape the future we will have. Ultimately what it comes down to—do we want to trust God and  follow Him despite the unknowns? Or do we give into our fears and insecurities?

But God

By Ruth 1:15-22 the two  women arrive in Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest. They’ve both experienced a great deal of loss and trauma, but are handling it in very different ways.

Naomi has fled home seeking comfort in the familiar. Basking in self-pity, she renames herself Mara (bitter one) and even her attempt to send her daughters-in-law home is a way for her to wallow in mental self-flagellation as she wastes away into obscurity. Her own private punishment.

Ruth is a radical. Though she is now the stranger in the strange land and her situation is as hopeless—or more so—than Naomi’s, she takes a RISK and TRUSTS the Hebrew God, a God she couldn’t have known for more than a few years at bestbut for whom she is willing to sacrifice everything. Even, perhaps, her life.

Ruth followed Naomi out of faith, love and trust. 

  • Faith in God. 
  • Love her Naomi and her late husband.
  • Trust that no matter what life throws at you, God will have your back. 

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Reaping what you Sow

I don’t believe in coincidence. Ruth made a tough decision that changed her entire life. Actually, it made her a legend. Ruth saw a problem, she came up with a solution, she sought the guidance of her authority, and she executed a well-thought-out, albeit risky plan.

Consider the harvesting process. Each of these steps is crucial in Ruth’s story (Ruth 2:1-13)

  • Ripened standing grain is cut by men with hand sickles. 
  • Grain is bound by men and women into sheaves.
  • Stalks of grain left behind were gathered, a process known as gleaning. HOWEVER, the gleanings were specifically to be left for the poor and widowed (Leviticus 23:22).

Ruth knows the risk of working in a field, isolated and vulnerable, with so many working-class men. She’s a beautiful young widow–a foreigner seen as a second-class citizen. Unwanted advances and even rape would have been possible in this position. Yes, the gleanings were  meant to help the widows and poor survive in a harsh patriarchal society, but men do not always follow the rules of God and so risk was inevitable. Fortunately, God was there with her every step of the way. 

  • The sheaves were transported to the threshing floor. 
  • Grain was loosened from the straw, a process called threshing, by the treading of cattle or toothed threshing sledges
  • The grain was tossed into the air with winnowing forks so that the wind, which was stronger in the afternoons, would blow away the straw and chaff leaving the grain at the winnower’s feet. 
  • The grain is sifted to remove foreign matter.
  • The grain is bagged for transportation and storage.

Only with great risk can you achieve great reward.  In Ruth 3: 1-13 Naomi sees an opportunity for redemption. Ruthobeys—without question. But the plan is not without great risk. In fact, it is a radical move. Placing herself in this position with a man—any man—makes Ruth incredibly vulnerable (verse 7).

Boaz’s reaction reveals his own character as well. Instead of taking advantage of this woman in this vulnerable, brazen position, he immediately begins thinking about how to protect her reputation and even how he can protect her. He’s humble, but strong. He’s a real man. In the novel Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck describes one character, Slim, in this way: 


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“A tall man stood in the doorway. He held a crushed Stetson hat under his arm while he combed his long, black, damp hair straight back. Like the others he wore blue jeans and a short denim jacket. When he had finished combing his hair he moved into the room, and he moved with a majesty achieved only by royalty and master craftsmen. […] There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke. His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love. […] His hatchet face was ageless. He might have been thirty-five or fifty. His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought. His hands, large and lean, were as delicate in their action as those of a temple dancer (17-18).

Steinbeck Of Mice and Men

To me, this can also describe Boaz, his character and his position in this narrative and with Ruth herself. 

Which is then amplified in Ruth 4:1-12. The morning after Ruth’s radical proposal (a modern woman?), Boaz acts both honorably and without delay. Proving yet again that God is always in control.

Trust God and do the Next Thing. 

Much in our lives seem out of our control, unfair or unclear. Ruth can relate, and yet instead of becoming bitter like Naomi, or angry like me, Ruth trusted God, even when the path led somewhere seemingly hopeless. As a result,  she was blessed beyond her wildest dreams. How do we learn to trust God and walk in his path even when life is hard? We practice. We look for ways to trust and lean on God rather than ourselves. We remind oursleves daily who is in control and we embrace opportunities to learn more about his power, grace, and mercy even when life gets tough.

Great risk often yields great rewards, but also could result in greater pain, but it is the only way we will reap the rewards he intends for us. And boy does he plan greatness, if only we will embrace it.


Authentic :: Esther


When I was in middle school I had a crush on this boy and so a friend of mine decided she would play matchmaker and asked him what he thought of me. I was sitting within hearing distance, and I’ll never forget his response. If pretty were a scale, he said holding up his hands so that she could see the invented spectrum, then Ashley is right here. And he pointed to the far end of the scale, which if translated into numbers would have put me around a 2 or 3.


Photo by Maria Molinero on Unsplash

Ouch.

I remember feeling a little stunned because it was the first time I had ever been made to feel less than, unacceptable, or unworthy. Up to that point I had a lot of confidence for a middle school girl. I made good grades. I had good friends. I was nerdy, but still accepted by most of my peers because I was so nice. But that moment something shifted inside me and I began to see the world a lot differently. 

I don’t share that story often because, honestly, I feel a little embarrassed that I let a jerkface boy create so much of my identity for so long. But the fact is, this happens all. the. time.  

As a woman, I’ve been made very aware that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sure, but the beholder is quite often influenced by the onslaught of cultural imaging and stereotyping. I think most women can agree that these expectations can be a little overwhelming at the best of times and absolutely crushing at the worst. Because, quite frankly, it’s tough being a woman. 

It’s Tough being a Woman

Let’s face it, being a woman is not easy and when you have the weight of the world, at least your world, on your shoulders, things get evenmore complicated even faster. That’s Esther. Tough stuff.

So Esther is an orphan. When she was quite young her parents died. We don’t know how they died, just that both her mother and her father died and she is raised by a cousin—Mordecai (Esther 2: 5-7). A male cousin, no less. If that wasn’t enough trauma for one little girl when she wasn’t much more than a teenager she was taken into the Citadel at Susa as a candidate for “future queen” (Esther 2: 8). 

Sounds great, right? Queen? What little girl doesn’t want that? It’s not quite that simple. Don’t you know what happened to the previous queen, Vashti? After a lot of feasting and wine the King, Xerxes, summoned her to his presence. He wanted to show her off—like a real trophy wife. She refused—maybe cause she didn’t want to be groped and fondled by a bunch of rich drunk guys. Or maybe because she was spoiled and drunk herself. Regardless, when she refused the king, she was banished and never heard of again. Killed? Who knows? Maybe (Esther 1:19-20).

Also, let’snot forget that word candidate. She’snot guaranteed the title of queen, but once she is in the harem…well, she’s not coming out again. And well, pleasing the King doesn’t just mean looking pretty. That’s only part of it. I think you can follow my drift. Once you’re in that Harem, you are the king’s—so there goes Esther’s dream of any kind of normalfamily life.

Beauty Treatments for the Beautiful

After being ripped from her adoptive father’s home, in Esther 2: 8-18, we see this young protagonist spend 12 months in beauty treatments. Well, that seems odd considering the palace officials only brought the most beautiful young, virginal women to the harem to be considered as candidates in the first place. But if our culture has taught us anything, even the most beautiful women are often made to feel as if they are not doing enough to be as beautiful as they could be. This is why beauty pageants, though not inherently wrong, do often create more insecurities in women than they do promote positive body image. I have no real feelings for or against pageants, but I do have a lot of feelings about the way a focus on beauty affects the way women interact with each other and view themselves. As a result, we see a lot of problems in a culture which validates women based on beauty, and Esther experienced these problems first hand. 


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

To make matters worse, this atmosphere bred competition, and a brutal one at that. Esther wasn’t just competing against the other women either. She also had to contend with Vashti’s memory and even the cultural expectations as she hid her linage for fear of persecution. So, I can’t’ even imagine how the atmosphere of the harem inflamed her insecurities before and after being chosen as queen. 

Competition Never Ends

Later in the narrative, we find Mordecai, Esther’s adoptive father, entering the narrative as a bigger player than a conduit for the new queen’s upbringing. In chapter 2, he had even saved the king’s life by discovering an assassination plot. Unfortunately, this camaraderie and favoritism with the king is short-lived as jealousy expands not only in the harem but throughout the king’s men as well. Because let’s face it, when you build your whole kingdom on competition for favor, you are just asking for conflict among your people. Haman, an official of the king’s, wants o be top dog and he sees Mordecai as a threat (and he doesn’t even know the half of it! Since Esther remained silent about her lineage, no one even knows she is related to the Mordecai). Then, in Esther 3 Haman’s jealousy is just too much and we see it spinning out of control.

Haman devises a plot, not only to rid the country of Mordecai but of all Jews. His genocidal plan is received with indifference by the king. Which begs the question of what is actually worse—theactive hatred of Haman, or the passive indifference and allowance of the king?

Either way, Mordecai sees the danger, but alos the home and he pleas with Esther to go to the King about the edict. After all, Esther has the King’s ear and may be the Jews only hope. However, as we read Esther 4: 4-14, her response is heartbreaking. In verse 11 she reveals that thirty days have passed since she has been called to the King’s side. Her time is gone. She no longer has the King’s interest. Her husband has grown tired and bored with her and though he saw her high on the scale before, she is now feeling like she’s fallen to that 2 or 3. And she allows this to control her self-esteem, thoughts, actions and reactions. She let a jerkface man validate her identity, like so many women before her and so many women after her will do. And it crushed her. 

But Mordecai doesn’t accept this.

He reminds her that the King, her husband, this jerkface man does NOT control or validate her identity. You are a Jew! He reminds her. You are one of God’s chosen people, and He chose you for this moment! 

Xerxes may have chosen Esther as his queen, but God chose her as his daughter. And that reminder is all she needs to find the courage to act, because after all–despite what our culture tells us–men and women do not control our identities. Only God can do that and when we rest firmly in the knowledge that he has chosen us for a purpose and for his glory, then the way others percieve us no longer matters. 

Siezing your God-given Destiny

Esther 5 is so interesting because we see Esther taking charge and seizing her destiny and then at the last moment she seems almost to chicken out, but I’m not sure she hesitates for fear. Maybe, but I think it was the Lord guiding her words and steps. She fasted for 3 days and she’s hungry, tired, and scared, but it is in those vulnerable moments that we hear God speak with the  most clairty, because we stop trying to control our own destiny and we step into what he has planned for us. 

So, in Esther 6 we feel the increase of tension in a seemingly insignificant as we are waiting for Esther to reveal the plot to Xerxes.  Without the pause, we would have missed the most vital part of the whole story! GOD causes XERXES to have a sleepless night revealing an important hero—Mordecai. This downplays Esther, Mordecai’s, and even Haman’s role in the story and brings the TRUE protagonist to the forefront—GOD. Even though His name isn’t mentioned anywhere in the text, evidence that HE is still in control simply leaps off the page!

It is in those vulnerable moments that we hear God speak with the most clairty,
 because we stop trying to control our own destiny and we step into what he has planned for us. 

Esther 7:1-10 Finally shows us justice for Haman’s plot. In the remaining chapters, vindication for all the Jews comes through another edict where the Jews are allowed to defend themselves, but here ends Esther’s involvement in the story. Her words are straight from the Lord and she uses every moment to her advantage, thinking before she acted, and waiting for the Lord to move. 


Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Waiting on the Lord is never easy, especially when justice and revenge are more appealing options, but the older I become the more I understand that our happiness doesn’t depend on other people, what they think or what they tell us, our happiness depends on stepping into who the Lord created us to be–not what some jerkface says we are.