Tag Archives: purpose

Ruth :: Authentic


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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.


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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. 


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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. 


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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. 

Authentic :: Hannah

Barrenness is a popular theme in Biblical history, especially among strong female characters. The definition of ‘barrenness’ is ‘unable to produce fruit’, or in women, offspring, which makes me truly wonder if this theme isn’t about child production so much as it is about fruit and fulfillment of purpose. In Hannah’s time as in Sarah’s barrenness was not only upsetting, it was also shameful because a woman’s purpose was to produce heirs for her husband’s line. Thus the practice of polygamy—though not God ordained—became popular. The culture believed this would solve problems, but as always when we try to solve problems out of God’s will and purpose for our lives it often leads to more problems in the end.


This theme isn’t about child production so much as it is about fruit and fulfillment of purpose.

Sanctified in Her Sorrow

Hannah was married to Elkanah. As the favored wife, but also the barren wife, she was like Elkanah’s first wife. So it is really no surprise that Peninnah, the second wife, though she produced many heirs for Elkanah, did not treat Hannah well. In fact, between the two women there was much animosity and conflict. In 1 Samuel 1: 1-7 Elkanah, Hannah and Peninnah’s roles are clearly defined in the first few verses. It’s significant that Elkanah is obedient in sacrificing to the Lord and that he is honoring both his wives. However, by having two wives and showing blatant favoritism he is perpetuating conflict in his household.

Hannah’s character, however, is never questioned. Throughout the narrative, she remains sanctified in her sorrow, which leads to her supplication and ultimately her songs of praise. Because when desperation turns to prayer and worry to praise, God moves in miraculous and wonderful ways.


When we try to solve problems out of God’s will and purpose for our lives it often leads to more problems in the end.

1 Samuel 1: 8: This one verse says volumes. Hannah is sad that her prayers are unanswered ‘year by year’ and finally the sadness overwelms her and she breaks down into unappeasable tears. Having sobbed myself to sleep more than once in my own life, I feel a deep connection to the level of emotion Hannah is feeling–when you can’t be strong any longer, and all you can do is cry out to the Lord in your sadness, the tears are heartbreaking. And Elkanah, being a man and likely unfamiliar with this kind of soul sickness (not all men are unfamiliar, but I think we can agree that weeping in this way is  more common to women–especially in ancient cultures), asks, “Am I not more to you than 10 sons?”

Elkanah, unknowingly devalues Hannah’s sorrow, insisting that his favoritism should be enough for her. But, can one person ever fulfill your every need? No, of course not! Nor should they try, because people, no matter how wonderful they are, will eventually disappoint us. And besides, it wasn’t ever really about having children anyway. It was about feeling purposeless and useless–like your very existence is a disappointment to everyone around you, including God. It’s about feeling broken. It’s about that deep, gut feeling that you are supposed to be someone else, but you can’t do it on your own and because you can’t you feel as though something is wrong with you. That kind of emptiness and longing, quickly turns to desperation…and there are only two paths from desperation: bitterness or earnest supplication. 


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Fortunately, Hannah’s desperation turns to earnest supplication and prayer.  I love that verse 9 tells us Hannah rose. She knows only one person can truly fulfill her needs: the Lord. Giving over everything she has to God, she throws herself on his mercy and begs for the fulifillment she seeks.

While Hannah is praying in 1 Samuel 1: 12-18 she is being observed by the high priest Eli, but he is quick to judge her. Which, if we are honest, though we have all sought acceptance in the Lord’s house, many of us have experienced this kind of judgment there as well– a judgment that wounds instead of heals the brokenhearted. At least, I know I have. For years I avoided the church because of the wounds afflicted in a place that should have been so welcoming. 

Eli is more concerned about appearance than he is about the condition of Hannah’s heart. Instead of greeting her, or listening to her, he accuses her of being a drunk. You can almost hear the sneer in his voice as he prepares to kick her out of his perfect temple. 

But Hannah is wise. She is patient and respectful even though this authority figure has insulted her, she knows a soft response turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). Although it is tempting to reply in a snarky way, her humility wins the authority figure to her side–a lesson we could all stand to learn from time to time. 

Fulfilled in her Faith

1 Samuel 1 19-28 shows thatHannah’s request is fulfilled, but almost immediately she must give up the fulfillment of God’s promise…or does she?

Giving up her child when he is 2 or  3 years old to the service of the church seems counterintuitive, but if we go back to the definition of barren and we think about fulfillment—Hannah never really wanted a child to fulfill her. She knew that, just like with her husband, a child would not fill the longing and ache in her heart. No. The only thing that would truly fill the hole was production of fruit. As a teenager I always thought Hannah was making one of those deals with God that we all try to make from time to time that fulfill some kind of selfish desire. As an adult, I see that Hannah’s supplication and promise was not at all about making a deal, but was really about fulifilling a purpose. 

Not that it would be without challenge. Any time you give up something you longed for, you will struggle with feeling empty until you remember who really fills you. And that will never be another person. Only God. 

3) Skim through 1 Samuel 2: 1-11. What do you notice about Hannah’s song?

By the end of the narrative (1 Samuel  2: 12; 18-21: ), Hannah is restored, and I think it is important to note that she doesn’t abandon her firstborn son. Sure, she dedicated him to the Lord’s work, but every year she visited and brought gifts, making sure that Samuel knew he was loved and chosen for a special purpose. As a result, God honors Hannah with more children and greater purpose than she could ever imagine! After all, Samuel would be the priest who would guide, direct and minister to the greatest King Isreal would know, David. 

Heed Like Hannah

Life is never easy. It’s filled with sorrow, disappointment, and conflict. Sometimes we are in conflict with others based solely on the circumstances that surround us. Sometimes we are judged by authority figures—perhaps even unfairly. There is always a human factor involved in every interaction we have. Often we have a choice to get ourselves out of these circumstances, but sometimes we are stuck. Either way, how we handle the conflict is what defines us as either strong Godly women or whiny, manipulatively selfish women. 


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It’s easy to believe that one thing will bring joy and fulfillment to our lives. We often fall into the trap of thinking ‘when I have that new pair of shoes, then I’ll be satisfied’ or ‘when I meet the right guy, that’s when I’ll really be happy.’ But, what happens when you get those things and they don’t meet your expectations? We either become embittered or we can take a lesson from Hannah who didn’t let her supplication rule her life, but focused on her own heart and motivation. If she hadn’t been so willing to dedicate her son back to the Lord, I wonder if he would have answered her prayer with so much grace and honor. I can’t say for sure, but I can say that the Lord is faithful, and we can learn a lot from Hannah’s heeding of his word. 

Authentic :: Jonathan

When I was little I had a BFF. Or so I thought. As it turned out, she wasn’t so much of a BFF as she was a BF whenever it was convenient. And it was convenient when we were 7 and lived close to one another and had similar interests. But she became a cheerleader as soon as middle school hit—she was popular and beautiful and had no interest in me and my nerdy self, unless it was to toss me up in the air in a cheerleading stunt and hope I didn’t break on the way down. It wasn’t a wise choice, but sometimes when we really want to fit in and be like the “cool kids”, we’ll do anything short of throwing ourselves into lava pits. Sometimes though, I think the lava pit would be more forgiving.

Life may be hard, but building our legacy doesn’t have to be.

As I grew older, I learned what a real BFF looked like. Friendship is a lot like love, it’s patient, kind, giving (see I Corinthians 13, really not just for marriage!)—it’s not selfish and it certainly doesn’t value popularity over people. The most important lesson I have learned about friendship is that friends help you grow. And best friends help you work to improve your flaws rather than simply judging your imperfections. Life is short and hard, and God didn’t intend for us to live it on our own. He means for us to live in relationship with others, which is why Jesus had circles of friends. I mean, look at the trinity itself—we are made in God’s image and God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit work in tandem and in communion. We are meant to do the same. To build something that will far outlast the length of our days here on earth. Life may be hard, but building our legacy doesn’t have to be.

Losing a Legacy

We remember Jonathan not as a great ruler but as the best friend of David, future King of Israel. Jonathan is friendship, and if we pay attention we can learn to be (and have) great friends too.

In 1 Samuel 14: 49 & 13:1-3 we see Jonathan establishing his legacy as a military leader under his father’s command. The text tells us Saul is a young man (between 30-40 years old) at the time of this raid, so Jonathan must be in his teens, probably no more than 15-18, yet he is already in charge of a military unit.

While it was customary for young men to be a part of the military during their teenage years, in order to be established as a respected leader, they would have to have been born with significant charismatic qualities. Even a prince had to prove himself worthy of such a role among a militant culture. 

Right after this raid, Saul makes a big boo-boo. He gets impatient when waiting for Samuel, a prophet of the Lord, and offers up the burnt sacrifice to the Lord, which sounds great. He’s super religious, right? Well, not exactly. According to God’s law, Saul, a Benjaminite, should have waited for a Levite, Samuel, to offer these burnt sacrifices up. Take a look at Leviticus 1 for more of the law regarding this. Beyond this break of protocol, Saul’s heart was not really in the right place. He offered the sacrifices, not because he believed the Lord was on their side and would provide. Not as a way to thank the Lord for his graciousness and favor. And not even as a way to appease the Lord. No, Saul saw his army scatter and realized they would see him as a weak leader. So he offered these sacrifices as a way to make himself look better and convince the men to continue to follow him

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1 Samuel 13:22-14:23 returns to Jonathan, who must have heard the proclamation of Samuel who has just informed Saul his kingdom will not last. As such, his father’s mistakes have cost Jonathan the throne. One day he knew the exact direction his life was headed, and the next moment everything is completely up in the air. 

But that doesn’t stop him. Jonathan has a job to do. They are in the midst of a war and they are severely outnumbered. The army is weaponless. and yet, he confidently asserts that the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel (vs. 12b). With only his brave armor bearer as back up (and this armor bearer actually follows him. Definitely seeing some of the charisma) he goes into the Philistine camp and kills some twenty men in an area of about half an acre (v. 14)–totally William Wallacing the whole lot of them. 

Saul sees the apparent chaos caused by God and led by his son, and first tries to hide behind the ark, then rallies the troops and goes into battle. Confidence shaken, we can already see how leadership is transferring out of his hand and into those who have more faith–his son and then later, David. 

Questioning Leadership

1 Samuel 14:24-43  reveals a lot of family dynamics and motivation. Saul pronounces a curse on whoever should break his, rather stupid, oath. Curses have real power and are directly connected to the actions of people. Well, okay, but what is a curse? According to GraceLife Church’s Grow Spirit Life, “A curse is a binding agreement [contract] in the spiritual realm which results from some form of disobedience to God’s word. The EFFECT or FRUIT of that agreement in our lives is called a CURSE. The curse will function like a barrier or limitation” (49). The results of Saul’s impulsive declarations are clear throughout the text, all the way to Jonathan and Saul’s deaths in 1 Samuel 31. Curses are real, but thanks to Jesus and God’s grace, they can be broken. Consider this:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. 

Galatians 3:13-14

There are 5 main sources of curse: Generational sin/curses, occult involvement, disobedience, unholy/symbolic things, spoken curses (if you are interested in learning more, I recommend participating in the Grow Spirit Life group led by Pastor Jimmy at GraceLife). So Saul’s pronunciation is no joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly, by anyone in his army. 

While Saul does not make a particularly wise decision in bounding his men to an oath not to eat all day before an important battle, Jonathan also makes a mistake. First, he does not communicate well with his father, who is also his commander. This lack of communication leads to his tasting the honey and bring the curse down upon himself and the men. Second, he questions his commander/father’s decisions in verse 29. Although I agree with Jonathan’s assertion and judgment of his father’s decisions, making the comment to his men–who are also under Saul’s authority–shows a lack of wisdom on Jonathan’s part. Where he should be helping to build unity among the men, his comments breed disunity and the discord can be poisonous should it start to spread.

Like most teenagers, Jonathan doesn’t always agree with the decisions his father makes. Interestingly, we don’t see him openly rebel against his father, but we do see him question his father’s choices. There is a time and a place for us to question people who have been placed in authority over our lives. It’s not always wrong to question a leader’s decisions, but we have to be careful in how we go about this process. Talking to others, gossiping and grumbling only brings discord whereas open and honest communication with our leaders can sometimes bring about change. God wants us to stand up for what is right and good, but he wants us to do it the right way, not our own way. 

Building a new Legacy

In 1 Samuel 15 Saul makes his biggest boo-boo of all. God gives him a command: Now go up, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them […] (vs.3). But Saul doesn’t listen; he kept the King alive, he kept some sheep and cattle, and he set up a monument to himself. And, he doesn’t even realize what a major jerkface he is being! 1 Samuel 15: 22-23 spells out the real problem: Saul thought he knew better (and was better) than God. His punishment: God rejects him as king, His spirit left him, and he would live a troubled life from here on out. Furthermore, his legacy would end and be given over to a new dynasty. Unfortunately, that is bad news for Jonathan too, because home slice just officially and irrevocably lost his claim to the throne.

As we continue to read, in 1 Samuel 18: 1-4 Saul’s been rejected by the Lord, which unfortunately means Jonathan has too.  There is some debate about exact ages of these men at this point, but after doing a lot of research, I pitch my tent in the theological camp that suggests David was about 18 when he met Jonathan, who was about 29.

Why? Because of the way Jonathan reacts to this young man who is taking the place he always thought would be his. He saw David slay Goliath, and perhaps it reminds him of a time when he believed he could do the same. Perhaps he remembers the time he pulled a Braveheart on the Philistines and trusted in the Lord. He sees himself in this young David, but even more, he does not see his father with whom he has been at odds since his own youth. He looks at this man anointed by God and became one in spirit with David and loved him as himself (vs. 1). It takes maturity and an awful lot of life experience and faith to allow someone to take your place and to do it with a gracious heart and a thankful spirit. 

Instead of being bitter and resentful, Jonathan chooses to embrace this shift and pour his heart into helping young David be the man God wants him to be. He chooses to listen to God and believe God knows what is best, even if it is a disappointment to himself. 

Unfortunately at this point, it becomes painfully obvious that Jonathan has to pick a side: his father or his friend. And we see that it wasn’t much of a choice. 1 Samuel 19-20 develops the relationship and shows that Jonathan chooses David–he chooses faith and God and life over the death and destruction that now seems to follow and plague his father. 

Jonathan is proof that even the strongest human needs good friends. In David’s case, Jonathan literally saved his life at least twice, but our friends can be lifesavers too if they are operating within the God-given purpose of community. Friends bring accountability and encouragement–both of which help us to function in the purpose God has set for us. In Genesis 2:18 God declared that it was not good for man to be alone, clearly, we are made for community. Yes, this pronunciation was made before God created his helper, Eve, but I think it is applicable to friendship too. Spouses offer one kind of encouragement and accountability, but friends offer another level. Even Jesus had friends. Same-gendered, multi-generational friends offer different kinds of support that help us seek and pursue God’s purpose for our lives. But it works both ways; to have good friends, you must be a good friend and once you find your people, you know. Friendship is active. So, get going. 

Finding your Purpose

Some people are blessed enough to discover their purpose early on. others have a little more searching to do before their purpose becomes clear. Some people think they know their purpose only to discover later they never really had a clue. And for some, their purpose changes throughout their lives. Suddenly. Without warning. Completely transforming their lives.

Some accept their purpose.

Some run from it.

Others fear it.

Regardless, we all have a purpose. 

I was a very morose teenager. You know Eeyore?  We would have been best buddies. As such, I wondered on a pretty regular basis why God spoke to others and not to me? I drew the conclusion, falsely, that he must play favorites.  After all, how did one get chosen to be a favored disciple? There must have been hundreds of Jewish boys in the area when Jesus began his ministry, so what was so special about these 12?  In my mind, they must have done something to earn the favor and pleasure of God. It was the only thing that made sense. None of them were particularly smart (Jesus literally had to pull them aside and explain the allegory in his stories). They had average jobs, at bets–some below average (I mean, come on, no little kid dreams of growing up to be a tax collector, Matthew!) They weren’t a bunch of hot studs who made up the first boy band (at least I don’t recall hordes of women and girls following them and screaming when they flashed a dimpled grin their way).

So God did play favorites.

Um. No.

The more I grow in my faith and the older I get, the clearer it becomes that God is not playing favorites. He chooses those for great purpose whom he knows will choose to listen to his voice (with the exception of maybe Jonah, who chose to go in the opposite direction when he heard the call, but that’s a story for another day).

Those who chose to accept their purpose, those called by God, those who listened and obeyed, they received great favor from God, sure. They also experienced great heartache and did not live lives of peace. They had HARD, blessed, purposeful lives.

So what does this mean for us? For you and me in this life filled with distractions that threaten to snuff out our purpose before we can even fulfill it? I think it means 3 things:

  1. We must be willing
  2. We must be ready
  3. We must be disciplined

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We must be willing

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When Jesus called the 12 disciples, he didn’t wait around for them to make pro-con lists.  He didn’t let them go home and ask for permission or discuss it with family, friends and mentors.

He called.

They went.

Mark 1: 18-20 is clear Come follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay, he called them and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired me and followed him.”  (NIV)

Jesus knew who was willing…he singled them out. He called. They went. No questions asked.

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We must be ready

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Not everyone is ready when God calls them to a purpose. It’s a sad fact of life. I mentioned Jonah earlier.

Jonah 1:1-3a reads: The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because its wickedness has come up before me. But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. 

God called. He fled.

In Matthew 19:16-22 a wealthy young man sees himself as a successful leader. A good man. He has kept all the commandments and set himself up as a leader in the community. Then he asks Jesus what else he must do. Jesus tells him in verse 21 If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. 

Notice this is the same command he gave to his disciples–and they weren’t all poor. Tax collectors, for example, were notoriously wealthy and corrupt. Yet this young man “went away sorrowful” in verse 22; he wasn’t ready.

Fortunately, God can redeem our purpose even when we rebel. Jonah may have spent 3 days as fish food, but his purpose was fulfilled in the end. The young man chose not to give his all for Jesus, but at any point, he could have changed his mind and Jesus would have accepted him on the spot.

We have to be ready when Jesus calls. We have to be ready to go. We have to be ready for our lives to change radically.

We have to be ready.

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We have to be disciplined

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Being willing and ready is actually the easy part, believe it or not. Being disciplined. That’s the tough part. To be disciplined you must be trained. You must be controlled.

How?

Just like a soldier must be in shape, we also must be physically trained. We must treat our bodies like the temples they are, putting as many good things in as we can and saying no to as many harmful things as possible. In today’s world with ready access to harmful images and music, and shows–a simple drive to the grocery store to fill up the cart with junk food, or a quick trip the drive thru (#guiltyascharged), is not a disciplined life choice. I’m not saying you need to be ready to run a 5k (but kudos to you if you choose that route), but I am saying that discipline is not always fun, but to fulfill our purposes we must learn what is good for us and what will end us in the belly of a fish for three days (metaphorically speaking, of course). Because once you are swallowed, you have to work your way through a lot of yuck.

BUT

You can make your way through the yuck to the other side of grace with a little bit of discipline.

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Living in your purpose is not an easy task, but it’s what we are ALL created to do–whether we know specifically what that is or not.

God doesn’t play favorites, but he does show favor to those who are willing, ready and disciplined.

Are you?