Our Sarah Sisterhood Bible study again yesterday had a powerful discussion about God’s grace working in hearts of Bible women. One point that struck me hard was how God does not edit out lament, even wrongful accusation lament from the Bible. Read the verses, what a commentator has to say, and then a few thoughts. The gospel gives hope for our hearts even when they are not soft!
Ruth 1:20–21 (NIV)
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
“God sometimes takes away the things that have become precious to us because they are supporting us in our life of sin and hardness of heart toward him. Alternatively, he sometimes takes away things that were good in themselves because he wants to use our lives as a powerful testimony of the sufficiency of his relentless grace in the midst of our weakness and loss. Invariably, though, he has not brought these trials and losses into our lives because he hates us or is seeking to afflict us, or to get even with us for our sin. On the contrary, if we are his children, he loves us and through this loss wants us to receive something far more precious than all of the trinkets to which we become so desperately attached. He wants us to give us more of himself.” Iaian Duguid
This is all true. But notice the biblical narrator leaves Naomi’s statement in. He doesn’t edit it out, nor does he insert this commentary. Can we leave it? Can we recognize that the Author of our lives and the Author of Scripture knows and loves our hearts enough to see the bitterness and hear the accusations and still send his Son to die for these same hard hearts? This is what the Book of Ruth, and indeed the entire Bible is about — the God who changes our hearts from bitter to soft; who allows us to be empty that he may fully fill us.
I admit, it’s not as easy as turning a key and becoming content. But knowing who we are in Christ makes a big difference.
I’ve been offline for a few days, leading a story intensive for 9 wonderful women who are seeking to know and understand who God is and who they are by hearing and telling stories of redemption. Preparing for this sweet time, I turned to Iain Duguid’s commentary on Numbers, called God’s Presence in the Wilderness, and it is currently my new favorite book! (Yes, I know it’s a little theo-nerdy for a commentary to be your favorite book:)! But listen to some of the quotes I will offer you over the next few days, and see what you think. I’m not on commission, but you may even want to order the book and read it for yourself!
“The first step toward contentment is knowing who you are in Jesus Christ. Who are you? You are an unprofitable servant, deserving eternal judgment, saved by God’s grace and mercy alone. The great saint John Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” certainly understood who he was. He had inscribed on his tombstone: “John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.” The knowledge of who he was gave him the humility and godly contentment that breathe through all of his writings.
The Apostle Paul knew the path to contentment through accurate self-knowledge. That is why he declared to the Corinthians, “what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). The first half of the verse doesn’t strike us as too bad: we surely want to proclaim the lordship of Christ over all things. However, the second half hits us where it hurts: “we proclaim… ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” We would typically much rather proclaim ourselves “your leaders for Jesus’ sake” and take center stage in the church. However, that is not Paul’s approach. He understood that in Christ’s kingdom, leadership means service.
If we truly understand that we too are simply unprofitable servants in God’s kingdom, how can we think of ourselves as better than those around us? Are we free from certain sins that embroil others in their grip? It is only because God in his grace has kept us out of the grip of those sins or has released us from them. It is not us; it is all his work. Are we more accepted by God because of our law-keeping than they are? Certainly not. If we are able to come into the presence of God, it is on the basis of Christ’s merits alone, not ours. So why do we think we are better than them? If we are not better than them, though, what basis do we have to envy their situation? If we recognize that we truly deserve eternal judgment, how can we be discontented with our present circumstances? Is our present life really hellish? Or is it, in fact, the perfect program of sanctification for our souls, designed personally for us by the God who is working all things together for our good? If that is true, then everything we face — good or bad — must be part of that sovereign plan. Why would we long to exchange our perfect plan for someone else’s plan of sanctification? Their plan may look easier to us, but even if it is (and remember, appearances can be deceptive), it wouldn’t meet our needs. Godly contentment cures envy-driven grumbling.”
How about you? Whose story are you trying to live? Is that a source of discontentment for you? How could some of the trials you are facing be part of God’s redeeming story for you?
“David Hume, the Scottish philosopher and skeptic, was once challenged as he was going to hear George Whitfield preach: ‘I thought you do not believe in the gospel.’ Hume replied, ‘I don’t but he does!’ Just so! When a preacher (or teacher, et addition:), believes what he (or she) preaches, there will be passion. And this belief and requisite passion will know the smile of God.”
From Iain Duguid’s commentary on Numbers
What are YOU passionate about?? Do you preach or teach it with the energy of a college mascot?
Aubie has passion and preaches the gospel of Auburn football:)!