The following writing was first published on GracefullyTruthful.com - a website full of online Bible studies for women. For further studies like this one, check out the website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
“Friend, I just read your blog. I’m praying for you and I’m behind you, and I’m also reminded of Moses. When the Israelites fought against Amalek, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed a hill. When Moses’ hand was raised, Israel was winning, but when his hand lowered, they began losing. When he grew too weary, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him holding up his hands. We will be here, holding up your hands as you grow weary and tired from battle. You won’t have to keep your hands raised on your own.”
I sent this text to a friend, as I thought of all she walked through in the last year. I’ve watched the Church gather around her family, holding up their hands.
Beautiful, God-crafted, community.
We see this theme throughout Scripture, beginning with God Himself. He exists in the community of the God-head: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Community . . . when God told Adam it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone.
Community . . . when Noah and his family boarded the ark.
Time and time again, community arises in the most unlikely circumstances. David’s closest community was the son of the man trying to murder him. Jesus’ earthly community included the man He knew would betray Him to death.
And the famous matriarch, Naomi?
Her community came from her Gentile daughter-in-law, Ruth.
Ruth, who was new to calling Yahweh her God.
Ruth, who was from a different culture, yet returned to Naomi’s homeland alongside her.
Ruth, who was so much younger than her grieving mother-in-law.
Yet, the unlikely Ruth, exemplifies Biblical community by holding up Naomi’s arms when she was overcome with weakness and her feelings that God had forsaken her.
You see, when Naomi and her family left Bethlehem for Moab, it was only supposed to last until the famine eased.
But Moab brought Naomi nothing but turmoil as she watched each member of her family die.
I’ve walked through grief, like so many of us have already, and all of us will someday. While God’s original plan for this earth did not include physical death, it’s now an inescapable part of our fallen world. But death never has the final word, and despite Naomi’s heartbroken belief she’d been forsaken, God wasn’t finished with her story.
After the death of her two sons, Naomi and her daughters-in-law began their return to Bethlehem. Eventually, Naomi convinced one of them to return to her Moabite family, but Ruth? She would not leave Naomi.
Naomi pleaded. She pushed Ruth away.
She tried to convince Ruth to abandon a hopeless life with a forsaken woman.
Her pleadings fell on deaf ears; Ruth was staying. She embraced Yahweh as her God and the Ephrathites from Bethlehem as her people, just as they were Naomi’s.
When Naomi was weak and weary, Ruth would not abandon her, and believed, in Naomi’s stead, that God’s favor would fall on them.
When they arrived in Bethlehem, Naomi announced the Almighty had made her bitter, replacing her once-full heart with overwhelming, all-encompassing, and inescapable grief Naomi was empty. Forsaken.
Ruth wouldn’t hear of it. Ruth believed favor would come, and she continued to serve Naomi, encouraging her, caring for her, and loving her. Naomi, in her heartache and sorrow, couldn’t see that Ruth was proof she wasn’t forsaken.
God had given her a daughter-in-law who was faithful, and their stories weren’t over.
Death wouldn’t have the final word!
The remainder of Ruth’s story overflows with the Lord’s kindly orchestrated favor and faithfulness to Naomi through Ruth.
As Ruth “just so happened” to gather fallen grain from the field of a man named Boaz . . .
As Boaz “just so happened” to notice Ruth and show her extravagant kindness . . .
As Boaz “just so happened” to have heard how Ruth left everything she knew to stay with Naomi . . .
And as Boaz “just so happened” to be a family redeemer: one who, we’ll learn in the next few studies, could provide Ruth and Noami with a hope and future.
When Naomi felt nothing but forsaken and empty from the deep sorrow consuming her,
Ruth’s faith and faithfulness carried Naomi through.
Ruth held up Naomi’s arms, refusing to allow her to crumble, refusing to allow her to believe she was alone and death would have the final word.
That’s community, friends!
We hold each other up, speaking life and favor over one another. We walk alongside one another during the darkest of days and the hardest of times. We point one another to Jesus over and over and over. We hold up one another’s arms during battle, like Aaron and Hur and Ruth.
I’ve seen true, deep community lived out in the Church. I’ve experienced it during my own battles. It is beautiful. It’s how God designed community to be lived out; as a reminder to each other we are favored, not forsaken!
The following was written for and published by GracefullyTruthful.com - an online Bible study for women. For more studies like this one, check out the website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
I recently created a little playlist called “JOY,” full of songs that make my heart bubble over when I hear them. The songs are often classics and quite simple, a mix of hymns and Elvis, JJ Heller and Ingrid Michaelson, and, believe it or not … Mr. Rogers.
One of my fondest memories is sitting in the den at my grandparents’ house, watching Mr. Rogers while my Papa (who was quite like Mr. Rogers himself, but with a thick German accent and a beard) sat next to me. Hearing Mr. Rogers sing his simple yet deeply profound songs still fills me with joy. So, I added some of my favorites to my “JOY” playlist. “Peace and Quiet” is especially meaningful:
“Peace and Quiet,
Peace, peace, peace [ . . . ]
We all want peace,
We all want peace.
Do you know what peace means? Peace is wonderful.
It sounds like a piece of bread or a piece of paper. But it’s so much more than a piece of anything.
This kind of peace is something very comfortable. When you have it, you feel inside yourself that the people you live with care about you, and you care about them, too. And what’s more, you care about yourself.
Peace means you can talk with people and tell them you’re happy or sad or angry or anything, and they’ll understand, and they’ll tell you how they feel, too.”
I love Mr. Roger’s simple explanation of peace, because we can all understand the feeling he describes, even though our lives aren’t always peaceful… that is, not everyone around us has cared about us.
It’s amazing how significantly the presence of peace can be affected by our companions. My daughters and I recently spent the morning with friends and, as we sat in their backyard, I found myself breathing deeply as I recognized the peaceful atmosphere surrounding me. Kids were laughing, our conversation ebbed and flowed, but because I was with people of peace, I felt peace. Like Mr. Rogers said, I could feel the care of my friends embracing me, and felt my own care for them in return.
In John 14, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.”
He’s given us His peace.
In fact, Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, the Prince of Peace, hundreds of years before His birth.
And even further back in history, humans recognized special peace from the Almighty.
Travel back with me to our war hero, Gideon (remember, the young guy empowered by God, who conquered the Midianites against all odds?) Before Gideon conquered the Midianites, he was called into battle by none other than Yahweh Shalom.
Gideon was beating wheat while hiding from the Midianites, who’d been oppressing Israel for seven years. Israel had nothing, certainly not peace.
As Gideon was laboring in the hot sun, a stranger approached him and proclaimed,
“The Lord is with you, valiant warrior.” (Judges 6:12)
The Lord is with you.
He’s with you.
Now I could talk at length about the words of affirmation and prophecy delivered when he called Gideon “valiant warrior,” but I want to focus on the first words spoken.
The Lord, Yahweh, is with you.
You aren’t alone.
But Gideon is confused, asking the angel, “Please, my lord, if Yahweh is with us, why has all of this happened?” (Judges 6:13)
Gideon recognized the utter absence of peace in his community; if there was no peace, how could the Lord of peace be with them?
The angel commands Gideon to prepare for battle, because the Lord was going to use him to bring justice and ultimately, peace throughout Israel. Gideon knows he’s the youngest member of an already weak family, and therefore, by any human calculation, the least likely to conquer the mighty Midianites. He’s confused and he’s scared . . . and then he realizes he’s talking with an angel of the Lord.
But the Lord reassures him, “Peace to you. Do not be afraid, for you will not die.” (Judges 6:23)
The Lord knew Gideon’s heart, understood his deepest fear, and addressed it directly.
“Peace to you. Do not be afraid, for you will not die.”
While “peace to you” was a common phrase used when coming or going, on this day, Gideon perceived it differently. Perhaps, like a puzzle finally completed, Gideon realized Yahweh Shalom was with him, and His presence was peace.
Gideon commemorated this sacred moment by building an altar, calling it: “The Lord is Peace.”
Not just, “He brings peace” or “He gives peace.” No.
The Lord is peace.
The Lord is our peace.
Because He is with us.
Remember how Isaiah declared the coming Messiah would be called the Prince of Peace?
Jesus came. He was with us. He walked this earth, breathed this air, lived life within the fleshly limits of the mankind His Father created.
The Prince of Peace.
We know Jesus isn’t physically with us today, and, in John 14, when Jesus told us about the peace He’d give, He knew He’d be returning to His Father in Heaven. Therefore, He spoke to us of the Holy Spirit, who would come and dwell in every believing heart, teaching us and guiding us.
God with us.
We all long for peace, as Mr. Rogers reminded us, and peace will never be found apart from God, because...
He is peace.
The Prince of peace.
The Giver of peace.
This study was written for a first published by GracefullyTruthful.com - an online Bible study for women. Check out the website for more studies like this one!
Read His Words Before Ours!
“Through your love and through the ram,
You saved the son of Abraham;
Through the power of your hand,
Turned the sea into dry land.
To the outcast on her knees,
You were the God who really sees,
And by your might,
You set your children free.”
Just her name triggers an avalanche of childhood memories - from concerts, to cozy Christmases at home, to road trips with my mom, and, oddly enough, my alone time playing with Barbies, because yes, I totally named one after my favorite singer. Her voice, along with Rich Mullins’ and Michael W. Smith’s, filled the quiet and stillness of my childhood home, and has worked its way into all of my memory’s cracks and crevices. One song I remember singing along to was, “El Shaddai”.
As I’ve studied Adonai, and pondered this Journey Study, the song has been echoing in my mind constantly …
“El shaddai, el shaddai,
El-elyon na Adonai,
Age to age you’re still the same,
By the power of the name.”
This song was my first, and until recently, only interaction with the term Adonai. I’ve heard this name of God over the years, but never understood its meaning. As I looked up the lyrics to refresh my memory, I had the “Aha!” moment I get every time I write a Journey Study. I need the topic to be real for me, to hit home, only then am I able to share what God is revealing to me.
Adonai is used throughout Scripture, not only in reference to God, but to anyone with authority as “lord” or “master.” Jews have been careful not to take the Lord’s name in vain, and often believed YHWH (Yahweh) to be so holy, they couldn’t even utter His Name aloud. In fact, Jews will still say Adonai, even if YHWH is written.
Additionally, Adonai was often the name Gentiles used for God, instead of YHWH. As we read Scripture, when LORD is spelled in all caps, then the translated word is YHWH. However, if it is spelled Lord, whether referring to God or anyone else, the translated word is Adonai. And when we see “Lord of lords” in the Bible, the phrase is actually “Adonai of adonais.”
Finally, in Scripture, YHWH is often used in God’s dealing with the Jews, while Adonai is used in His dealings with Gentiles. This subtle change paints a beautiful picture of God’s heart and character; as my friend, Rebecca, explains, “He wasn’t the one who changed; neither was His message of hope and redemption. Rather, simply by being called a different name, He flung wide the door for all to see He is for ALL peoples and ALL cultures.”
The idea of a God for all peoples of all cultures is seen throughout the Bible. Immediately, I am reminded of the Ninevites and their story of salvation in the book of Jonah. The inhabitants of the infamous city of Nineveh were Gentiles, yet God used His prophet to declare the freedom and peace found in repenting from sin and living for the Lord.
I’m reminded, again, of when Philip shared the Gospel with the Ethiopian traveler. The Holy Spirit directed Philip to a chariot on the road, where Philip had the opportunity to present the Gospel to a man who was so excited about the Good News of Jesus, he insisted on being baptized that very moment!
Now back to my “Aha” moment …
“To the outcast on her knees…
You were the God that really sees.”
These lines struck a chord in my heart as I imagined a myriad of encounters between God and an outcast woman in which He proved He saw her, both for who she was and who He created her to be . . .
Rahab. The prostitute.
Hannah. The wife who struggled with infertility.
Esther. The Jewish orphan-turned-Gentile-queen.
The Samaritan woman who was living in shame from failed marriages and relationships.
Maria Skobtsova. The single mom who was divorced twice and eventually became a nun.
Jackie Hill Perry. The woman who was a lesbian.
Kendra LeeAnne. The woman who struggled with sexual sin in high school, shame throughout college, and eventually became a single mama to three girls.
You. All of your story.
And we’re just the very tip of the iceberg.
God is the Master. He is the Lord. He is the God who is for all people and the God who really sees.
We get yet another beautiful glimpse of who He is when we read Deuteronomy 10:12-22.
This whole section of Scripture gets my heart beating faster and my eyes welling with tears, but for me, the most meaningful part is in verses 17-19:
“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords [read: Adonai of adonais], the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the resident alien, giving him food and clothing.”
We serve a God who is for ALL PEOPLE, from orphans and widows to immigrants. He is YHWH and He is Adonai.
He is MY Adonai.
He is my Lord.
And He is Lord for all people.
From Bible studies to blogs, articles to musings of the heart, Kendra's writings are unbarred and raw - exactly how she speaks.