“I’m no Tamar, Brother. I’m a Ruth.”
I had been thinking a lot about Ruth (The Book of Ruth) and Tamar (Genesis 38). Anyone with any sort of romantic bent will sigh a little as they read the Book of Ruth and be somewhat appalled as they read about Tamar. I thought about what it took for both of them to pursue their dream. They both had to prepare themselves. Ruth, washed and anointed herself and put her raiment upon her. Tamar put off her widows clothes, covered her with a veil and wrapped herself. I’m sure at that point, though they were both going through the motions of preparing themselves, what they were about to do still hadn’t quite set in. It wasn’t until each took that first step away from what they had known for many years that reality hit. Ruth, dressed in her best and smelling of perfume, stepped out from her mother-in-laws home, that safe place and started her endless walk down to the threshing floor. Tamar, slipped away from her father’s home wrapped and veiled as a harlot and started her long walk up to Timnath to the side of a dusty road. Ruth the Brave. Tamar the Bold. Each of their stomachs were in knots as they walked toward their destiny. They both were imagining the possible consequences of what they were about to do. Ruth wondered what would happen if Boaz refused her. What if he rebuked her for her forwardness. Tamar blanched at what would happen if Judah discovered who she was or if the men of the town came upon her and treated her as the harlot she was only pretending to be. Then, much sooner than either wanted, they were each in their place and their story would soon unfold. Ruth, waited for darkness and the revelry to end and for the man her future rested on to find a place to sleep. Tamar waited for her father-in-law, the man who had promised her a future but had withheld it from her, to appear as he walked on his way to Timnath.
Scene 3 and the curtain rises.
Darkness had fallen and Boaz had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry. He laid himself down at the end of a heap of corn and was soon asleep. Ruth stepped softly from the shadows, her heart pounding and went to where he slept. Trembling, she uncovered his feet, and laid her down…..Tamar gazed at her father-in-law from behind her veil, terrified at what she was prepared to do…..It was midnight and though it was silent, Boaz awoke, startled and knew he wasn’t alone. He quickly turned himself only to see a woman lying at his feet. He whispered harshly, “Who are you!” Ruth answered breathlessly, “I am Ruth, your handmaid. Cover me with the skirt of your garment and be my protector for you are a near kinsman.” Boaz answered her with great gladness and love and proved to her that he was an honorable man. He set his mind to making her his wife and he did.
Judah went over to the side of the road where Tamar sat. Thinking she was a harlot, Judah said, “Let me have intercourse with you.” For a moment Tamar wondered if she could do this thing, then she remembered the cruelness of her first husband, Judah’s oldest son and how Judah’s next son had simply used her, making sure she didn’t conceive. She steeled herself and said contemptuously, “What will you pay me?” The bargain was agreed upon. Judah’s staff, seal and cord left for a pledge until payment of a kid from the flock was made. Tamar allowed herself to be used as a harlot and conceived. She got up and went back to her Father’s home, putting away the harlots garb and putting back on her widow’s garment. Tamar had humbled herself to conceive. It had been her law given right to be protected and allowed the chance to conceive after the death of her first husband, but it had been denied her. Tamar was done passively waiting for what she knew was her right. She did what few would do and made sure that her child would never be called a bastard for she had indisputable proof as to who the father was.
Ruth and Tamar. Their stories are so much alike, their braveness, humbleness and boldness, but the thing that struck me was, at the end of the story, Ruth went from lying at Boaz’s feet, to laying in his arms, whereas Tamar knew Judah from behind a veil and when Judah found out who it was he had left his staff, seal and cord with he knew her no more.
It is a day and age to not just be “along for the ride”. Passive service to God will no longer do. Passive “waiting on the blessing” should no longer be the norm. We need to re-look at how we find the will of God for our lives. As Lee Stoneking says, “We need to be aggressive!” We need to push and shake the gates and doors of heaven until we find out what God would have us do. Somehow we need to get off of the “path of least resistance” and out of the “go with the flow”. We need to be bold and have a warrior attitude. Fight for what you feel God has for you! If you must stay behind the veil, then so be it. I will not. I choose to be a Ruth. If I must humble myself, I will, but I will at some point leave the feet of my promise to be in the arms of my promise.
9. And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi.
10. Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.
11. And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem:
12. And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young woman.
13. So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son.
14. And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel.
15. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him.
16. And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it.
17. And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
18. Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron,
19. And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab,
20. And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon,
21. And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed,
22. And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.
“I’m an 11th hour laborer.” I felt the blood drain from my face as the realization struck me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I had been in Pentecost since early 1977. I had started teaching Sunday school by around, 1984 or earlier. I worked every meal, I cleaned the church, I sang solos and was in the choir. I headed up the Ladies Ministries for a period of time. I did fund-raisers, I was submissive to my Pastor and loved the Saints. The trouble was… I was not a soul winner. I wasn’t even a soul-inviter or a soul-Bible-study-teacher. Oh, I was faithful. I tithed and gave as generously as I possibly could. I became a core member of the church and was a part of the leadership group. I was proud to be called a “Mother of Zion” by my Pastor and loved Saturday night prayer…but I was not a soul winner. I raised my children in this Holiness Way and got them to every camp and youth event. I made sure they dressed modestly and stayed out of trouble…but I was not a soul winner. I made sure to greet every visitor and shook their hands, I might have even gone so far as to sit next to one or two upon occasion, but I never cherished them or took them to me as a mother would her children or brought them into my home and made them a part of my inner circle of friends. I was content to be friendly at church but I did not Love that Soul. I was not a soul winner.
While the Faithful Ones labored in the field of harvest, day after day, week after week, month after year after decade…I lived the same minutes and hours and months and years and was like a sleep-walker, a dreamer. I dreamed I was working for God, but when I awoke, it was but a vapor and a night vision. There was nothing of substance to offer the Master. Martha’s house was kept running like a well oiled machine, but there was no fruit on the vine. My hand was not in the harvest.
Then, in God’s Mercy, He woke me up. I shook myself and looked around me. I was stricken when I realized that my service in my church had been like a white-washed tomb, a cloud without rain, a bird feeder with no seed. I wondered where I had been and what I had been doing all of these years. I looked at Matthew 20 more carefully.
Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.”
Where were those laborers when the householder went out early in the morning? My guess is that they just couldn’t be stirred. They were sleeping. The “do not disturb” sign was on the door.
3-4 ”And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard,”
The 11th hour laborers missed this opportunity also! Why?? My guess is they may have actually stirred themselves after their leisurely morning and maybe even went so far as to check out the marketplace to look for work. They maybe even saw the other workers way out there in the field, but some thought they had missed their opportunity to be laborers and so, sadly went back home. Others saw how far they would have to walk and the time and effort they would have to invest to join them and so they thought, “Next time. I will join them later.”
5 “Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.”
Hmm. Let me see. If I understand the Jewish clock a little bit, the first hour is about 6 am and the twelfth hour is about 6 pm . That would make the third hour about 9 am. The sixth hour would be around noon and the ninth hour would be around 3 pm. (please have patience with me…I am but a Sunday school teacher) so what was that laborer doing from noon to 3 pm? The way I see it, (because I’m talking about me) is, that laborer was belly up to the church buffet, crying, ” feed ME, feed ME, feed ME!” Then, sadly, as I’ve seen too often through the years, laborer after laborer decided it was time to, “take a break”.
6-7 “And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us.”
That wasn’t exactly true was it? There were plenty of opportunities to do the work of God, to bear fruit, to care for and love souls. It’s just that, there had to be a “want to” and there was precious little “want to” to get the work done.
Folks, it’s the eleventh hour. It’s the eleventh hour of the church for sure and for some, the eleventh hour of their life. You don’t have to be old to be in the eleventh hour of your life. That little 16-year-old I read about, didn’t know she was finishing her hours here on earth when she hit that truck. And as I wiped the tear that slid down that lady’s cheek as she realized that the stroke she had suffered was going to take her, I wondered at what she must be thinking, knowing she was finishing her hours here on earth.
As I have been writing about since about this time last year, God graciously, mercifully woke me up and stirred me. I am an 11th hour laborer, but I am going to be the best 11th hour laborer I can be.
Jesus! Let me strengthen the arms of your servants that have labored these many years, turning neither to the left nor to the right in serving you. And Lord! Let me refresh your servants that have labored through the heat of the day, unfailingly faithful, no matter the field, whether the rain fell or it did not, whether the soil was soft or fallow, they worked for you. Lord! Send Me! Send Me! Send Me!
Matthew 20:7 He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
Proverbs 6:9. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?
10. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
11. So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.
PS: You will be hearing more about a couple of Web sites my very dear friends, Amanda and Uriah Ocean Peterson are building. One is medcityministries.com that Uriah had a vision of for the city of Rochester, MN. The other is apostolicjourney.com which Brother Uriah encouraged me to call my own, though he is the creative talent setting it up. I’ll add links as they are up and running.
I would say, “Take care” but; I think we’ve done enough of that. Instead, I will say, “Throw caution to the wind! Jump in! Do something! Catch this wave!”
As Rev Lee Stoneking says, “This is That which was spoken by the prophet Joel! Another That is not coming!”
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I was watching a scene, in my mind’s eye of a Christmas many, many years ago. I saw myself watching my family as they bent low toward the floor and a lighted box. Their faces were intent and blank at the same time. Their eyes were fixed on the box, yet there was no engagement with it. I became more and more concerned and finally, I had acknowledged to myself that the Christmas gift to my son of a PlayStation had been a huge mistake. I was deeply disturbed and prayed, asking Jesus what could be done now that it was in the home and the family was completely taken up with playing it. I had cried out to God in my heart and asked for forgiveness for my foolishness and asked for a way of escape. Then, the way God does…I felt that peaceful answer settle down over me. I knew what to do and I didn’t have to wait long for my opportunity. In those days, we often had to run up and down the road for one thing or another, so it wasn’t long before I had my son in the car with me. I asked the question, “If you hadn’t gotten the PlayStation for Christmas, what would you have wanted?” My son answered quickly, without hesitation. “A snowboard.” I responded, “Would you still want one if we could take the PlayStation back?” Again, he did not hesitate, “Sure.” And that was it. The PlayStation got packed up and returned that very day and a snowboard was bought. My son and my daughter became avid snowboarders and didn’t seem to miss the PlayStation.
I was reminded of the PlayStation Christmas one evening after a time of consecrating prayer. It had occurred to me that entertainments take time and prayer of any consequence takes time. It takes time to force your thoughts into submission and focus your spirit on God. It takes time to create an atmosphere of worship. It takes time to come into the presence of God and once in the presence of God, it takes time to communicate and worship as He deserves. Often these sacred times of prayer become a time of consecration and receiving my marching orders from God. I have thought so often since I determined in my heart a while back to make time every day for deep prayer of how different it would have been if God had not gotten a hold of me early in 2012 and convicted me about my different entertainments. I disconnected from cable, got the TV out and now give Facebook only a few minutes at a time compared to the hour or more it used to get.
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