I Thessalonians 5:12-28
I just read the book of Ruth. It’s not the first time I’ve read it and I’ve heard it preached over a dozen times during my life. But during my reading of it this time, it struck me as refreshing, encouraging prose. Maybe it’s because I felt at war in my spirit–trying to stay positive and upbeat when I really felt like crap! Maybe it’s because I truly am at a vulnerable place at the moment and God took this opportunity to show me something I wouldn’t have otherwise seen if I had read Ruth on a good day. Maybe it’s because God needed to pass on some encouraging words to you. I may never know the full purpose of His revelation, but I welcome it just the same.
When I read about the women of the bible, I find myself cringing at some of the things they did to survive. To be completely fair to them, I cringe at some of the things we do today. The Kardashians come to mind–flaunting their beauty to make money. I wonder now if survival has turned to greed. We may never know. I also think of Miley Cyrus and her need to prove to the world that she’s all grown up now. By the way, Miley, we get it. You can stop now. Some of the things we do and have seen our parents do for survival can be downright embarrassing. I’m all about doing things right, meticulous, on time. But as we all know, where I think I’m perfect in one area, I’m flawed in another. And so we are as a people.
Let’s go back a bit and look at Tamar. Her story still jabs me in my ribs. I have tried to imagine disguising myself as a prostitute. Are you kidding me? My heart stops at such a thought. In my mind, I’m asking “How could you? How disgusting?” What Ruth did to ensure her security, pales in comparison to what Tamar did.
How am I Iooking at this? Through worldly eyes, of course. I don’t see these events as God sees them. Surely, these people acted of their volition and God had to clean up their mess. Hmmm . . . Let’s think about that for a moment.
Could it be that God is telling us that He can use the foulest of man as well as a true believer to fulfill His plan? There seems to be a mixture of both among these beautiful women of God. How dare I call what God made foul? Isn’t that the way you and I would characterize Rahab? And yet, she is the great+grandmother of David and, Jesus is the descendent of David. Hmm . . .
God’s way and His plans can be difficult to understand. Very difficult. How in the world can my God ask me to live chaste, mind my own house, live a godly and pure life, AND accept Tamar sleeping with her father-in-law, or Ruth making advances on her husband’s relative.
The thing we must remember is that centuries ago women had no rights. They couldn’t own property. And their struggle reminds me that a man during that time wouldn’t put up with a sassy, smart-mouth like me. I assure you, I’d be nailed to a post and burned at the stake. Or they’d probably stone me to death. Either way, I wouldn’t survive pass my twelfth birthday. I barely survived my momma’s backhand. And every backhand I got, I deserved.
I’m certain somewhere along the lines, there’s an exception to the rule that women were forbidden to own property, though I haven’t found one yet. (Believe me, I’m searching. The woman who sold “purple” goods in the New Testament comes to mind, though.) At any rate, the only way a woman could be guaranteed financial stability was through her father, her husband, or other male relative(s). Otherwise, she became homeless, destitute, a prostitute, or died of starvation and deprivation. Brave women such as Ruth, Tamar, Rahab, and Naomi had to use whatever was at their disposal. Using today’s terminology we might be tempted to say these women used “trickery” to ensure their financial stability.
But the question still remains, “Why would God allow such behavior and then turn around and warn me (us) to live a clean, wholesome life?”
I don’t know if I can fully and intelligently answer that question. Since I don’t have the mind of my God, this question may haunt me ’til the end of my days. However, here is what I do know. Each one of these women had God at the center of their hearts. Even Rahab, though a prostitute, had heard about God and His power and she believed. (Joshua 2:8-13) And Rahab’s belief spurred her into action–to save the spies sent to Jericho. Because of these women’s belief, which had to be strong, they were obedient and active servants of God. I don’t think for one minute these women had the wisdom to know beforehand where their faith would lead them. But this lack of knowledge didn’t discount their faith. They walked through faith under the veil of darkness until light came forth. And it did indeed. And they praised God for it!
What’s my point?
God doesn’t have to lay His entire plan before me in order for me to believe. I don’t need to know the end result in order to ACT on my faith. Knowing what I need to do is hard enough. What good would it do me to know His full plan? I’m not sure our souls could take in all of what He’d have to say. Our carnal minds can’t handle it. We have a hard enough time obeying the scriptures we do understand.
I Thessalonians 5:12-22 is powerful.
“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do NOT put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. . . .”
The question remains: “Why would God allow such behavior and then turn around and warn me (us) to live a clean, wholesome life?” After I read I Thessalonians 5:12-22, I realized that I will never know the answer to that question, and I don’t need to know. The example that Rahab, Ruth, Tamar, and Naomi left me is this: “to be thankful in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ”; and “. . . pray continually.” You and I, just like Rehab, Ruth, Tamar, and Naomi have NO IDEA what goodness will come from our trials. If you and I give up now, God’s goodness will only sprout through someone else. How terrible would it be to miss God’s blessing because I got in a hurry? The mere suggestion of such a scenario is heart-wrenching.
You must understand there is something very powerful in the waiting process. Though trying and sometimes long, and many of you know I can truly attest to this, He will bring forth a harvest so plentiful that we will not be able to speak of it intelligently. Our English language would only restrict all efforts to describe HIS goodness. Sometimes all you can do is sit back and be in awe and smile at His revelation.
This is why God wants us to wait on Him. He doesn’t want us to fix it for Him, to hurry His plan, to think we know better than He does. His plan and His ways are perfect! His timing, impeccable! Do I wish He’d hurry? You bet I do. But to miss the opportunity to journey with Him, is to miss the whole point of the wait. It would be as if I had an appointment with Him in the garden, but I got in a hurry and had to leave. What was the point of going to the garden? It’s like making plans for a wedding, the wedding day arrives, and you decide to grab hold of the preacher and say your vows in a bathroom and scurry off to the honeymoon. What was the purpose for all the preparations? The point of my wait is to grow in Him; to fall in love with Him; to understand and give to those who have no hope.
You see, it’s not all about you and me. It’s about our relationship with God and His will for us.
So, take another look at the road map God has provided you. No matter which direction He’s steering you in, follow. Maybe God will allow you to wander in the wilderness for awhile. Maybe He’ll give you a map that only reveals the longest route to the promised land. Wherever your map leads, you can’t spend all of your time wondering why. You’ve got to get moving. If you’re not careful you’ll be so consumed with the whys that you’ll end up missing the journey.
KNOW THIS: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
So, can you run that by me again. You can’t wait on the Lord because–what?
Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Poet, Author