Damaris: A Little Woman with Great Faith

shore-bird-floridaDamaris is only mentioned once in the Bible.

But certain men joined unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. —Acts 17:34

In this passage, Paul has just finished preaching his famous sermon on Mars’ Hill in Athens, Greece. He made quite a stir by the things that he said. Some of those who stood by and listened were not convinced, but were willing to talk to him again later. Others, however, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of Paul’s preaching. Among them was this woman named Damaris. Her name means “a little woman,” and it can also mean “gentle,” as it is probably derived from the Greek damazo, meaning “tame.” Some suppose her to be the wife of Dionysius, but it seems as though that would have been mentioned if it were true. Others suppose her to be his disciple.

So, honestly, the only thing we know for sure is that she was present to hear Paul preach at Mars’ Hill, and she trusted in Christ for salvation by faith. That she is mentioned by name probably suggests that she was a significant woman in the community. For that matter, the fact that she was present at the Areopagus is significant, for it would have been quite rare for a woman to be there. Either she was of high social status, or she was a foreigner, or perhaps she was an educated woman. This third point would make sense if she were indeed a disciple of Dionysius.

One thing is sure, it is an honor to have one’s name recorded in the Holy Bible, but the greater honor by far is to have one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Damaris had her name recorded in both places because she put her faith in Christ. The canon of Scripture is complete, but the Lamb’s Book of Life is not. Is your name in it?

Next week: Rhoda

Photo taken in Pensacola, Florida, 2017

Ruth ~ A Nobody Who Became Somebody Special

Today’s study is a continuation of last week’s look at the life of Naomi. Ruth was born in the land of Moab. She was not one of God’s chosen people by birth, but nevertheless she was chosen by God to fill a very special role in history, as we shall see.

Allow me to recap last week’s story to set the stage for today. There was a famine in the land of Israel, so Elimelech moved his family from Bethlehem (the House of Bread) to Moab (God’s Washpot). They went there to stay, not just to wait for the end of the famine. No one knows why Elimelech truly wanted to leave Bethlehem, but God had a purpose, as we soon shall see. Elimelech and Naomi had two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, and they married two women of Moab, Ruth and Orpah. They were married for ten years before the brothers died, yet they both died childless. Elimelech had also died, so Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. Orpah and Ruth both went with her part of the way, but then she told them to return to their families, where they could remarry and worship their gods as they were accustomed. Eventually Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye and returned home, but Ruth stuck with her. In fact, the Bible says she “clung” to her. (Imagine a bond tighter than super glue.) Then Ruth said something to her mother-in-law that is now often quoted at weddings: “Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you: for where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17). Let’s see exactly what Ruth was promising to her mother-in-law.

1. Where you go, I will go.

Ruth had never been to Israel. In fact, it is likely she had never before left Moab. And yet she was willing to go anywhere with Naomi, such was her loyalty to this woman to whom she was related only by marriage. Perhaps Naomi, by the grace of God, had shown more love to Ruth than she had ever known from any other person.

2. Where you lodge, I will lodge.

Ruth did not intend to use Naomi to gain entrance into Bethlehem and then find her own way from there. Instead, she would continue to love and care for her mother-in-law, putting the elder woman’s needs ahead of her own. Ruth had such a servant’s heart, and also a spirit of gratitude for all that Naomi had done for her in the ten years that she had known her.

3. Your people shall be my people.

Ruth knew she would be a stranger in Israel, a foreigner, an outcast. Very likely the people would never accept her as one of them, and yet she would accept them as her own for Naomi’s sake.

4. Your God shall be my God.

Here is the key to all of Ruth’s commitment. Naomi had introduced her to the one true and living God, and Ruth had come to follow God for herself. She had turned her back on the false gods of her people and embraced Jehovah. This is why she could never go back to her old life. Her old life was dead. She now had a new life and a new walk.

5. Where you die, I will die.

Considering the difference in age, Ruth most likely assumed that Naomi would die before her, but she affirmed that she would remain faithful to the God of Israel even after Naomi’s death. She was steadfast, committed, and there was no turning back.

6. And there will I be buried.

This perhaps also points to her new faith in Jehovah, for most of the heathen practiced cremation. By admitting that she wanted to be buried, perhaps she was also admitting her faith in the resurrection of the dead. Or perhaps she was simply emphasizing the fact that she would never forsake either Naomi or God, whether by life or by death.

With this statement of loyalty, Naomi was content, and the two of them walked on. They arrive in Bethlehem at the time of barley harvest. We can assume that they return to the home that Naomi had lived in with her husband and boys before they left Bethlehem more than a decade before. They would have been very tired from their journey, and they probably both fell asleep with very little trouble, in spite of the dust and spiders that would have taken over the house during the long absence. I can easily imagine that when Naomi awakened the next morning, she found Ruth already up and busy tidying the house, chasing the bugs out, sweeping and dusting, washing and scrubbing, turning the house back into a home.

But they needed more than just a clean place to live. They also needed food to eat. So when the house was clean, Ruth asked Naomi if she could go find a field where she could glean, as the Israelites had a law whereby to care for the poor of the land, that they could go behind the reapers in the field and pick up the gleanings that had been dropped. That was the welfare of the day. I love how the Bible says, “And she happened to come to a part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:3). Was it luck that led her there? or the Lord? Of course, we know that nothing in our lives happens by chance. God led her, not only to a place where her immediate need for food would be provided, but a much greater need would be met.

In the Old Testament times, protection of the family inheritance was very important, so a provision was made in the law of the kinsman redeemer in the case when a man died leaving no heir for his property. According to the law of the kinsman redeemer, someone of close relationship to the deceased could marry the widow, and the son born to them would become the heir to the property, as if he had been born to the deceased man. In much the same way Jesus Christ is our Kinsman Redeemer. That is why He had to be born. He could not redeem us as God; He had to become the God-Man in order to identify with us so that He could redeem us and give us an inheritance in God. This is very simplified because I’m trying to keep this article short. To learn more, study it out for yourself or ask me in a private message.

Boaz, the owner of the field that Ruth “happened” to find, was a near kinsman to her. He was not the nearest kinsman, but the nearest kinsman forfeited his right to redeem the land, so Boaz and Ruth were able to be married. This is to me one of the most beautiful love stories ever written—and it’s a true story, which makes it even better. Please read the book of Ruth for yourself. It doesn’t take long.

So Boaz and Ruth were married, and they had a son named Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse, and Jesse had a son named David—the very same David who became king of Israel! Can you imagine! God used a woman from a foreign land, an outcast, but a woman who forsook all and trusted Him completely, and elevated her to the status of great grandmother of King David, and in the direct line of Christ (Mt. 1:5). Did she know how God was going to use her? No. Do you know how God is going to use you? No. Nor do I. What I like most about the book of Ruth is that God uses little people… nobodies… people who in their high school yearbooks would be voted as “least likely to succeed.” Those are the people who, when fully surrendered to God, can be used to do great things. Because it is not them; it is God. God only asks us to be faithful. The rest is entirely up to Him.

Next week: Damaris

Naomi ~ Pleasant Amid Unpleasant Circumstances

Ruth's Journey 02

From Bethlehem to Moab

Everything we know from the Bible about Naomi is recorded in the book of Ruth.

Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. —Ruth 1:1-5

Here we are introduced to Naomi and her family, and also the setting in which they lived.

There is great significance to the names in this narrative.

  • Bethlehem = House of bread
  • Judah = the praise of the Lord
  • Ephrath = fruitfulness
  • Moab = God’s washpot
  • Elimelech = my God is king
  • Naomi = pleasant
  • Mahlon = sickly, puny
  • Chilion = pining, failing
  • Orpah = stiff-necked
  • Ruth = friend

So here is the picture of Naomi. At the beginning of the narrative, she is a very pleasant woman, married to a man who loves God. They belong to the tribe of fruitfulness and live in the House of Bread, in the land where the name of the Lord is praised. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Like a Hallmark moment. Two sons are born to them, Puny and Piny. Both the boys have serious health issues, but they are alive, and Naomi is thrilled to be their mother.

A terrible famine comes to the House of Bread, and Naomi’s wonderful husband falters in his faith. Afraid to trust God in the famine, he moves his family down to God’s Washpot. It may seem completely insane to leave the House of Bread, even in a time of famine, but God has a plan, and God’s plan rarely makes sense except in hindsight.

The Scripture does not tell us how much time goes by; it only says they “continued there.” That means they find a house and settle in. They are not just there for the season; they are there to stay. But Elimelech dies, and pleasant Naomi is left a widow with two sons in a strange land. Her sons take wives of the women of Moab. Piny marries a strong-willed athletic girl named Orpah, and Puny marries a friendly young lady named Ruth. What do these girls see in these men? Who knows. All I know is that, again, God’s plan rarely makes sense except in hindsight. 

Ten more years go by, and yet no grandchildren are born. At last Puny and Piny also die, and Naomi decides to return home. Both her daughters-in-law agree to go with her, and they all start off together. But before they go too far, Naomi stops and tells the girls to go back home to their mothers so that they can find hew husbands among their own people, for they are still young yet. In Bethlehem they would always be looked upon as outsiders. Not only that, but to go to the land of Judea meant to worship the true and living God, forsaking the idols of their family. Both the young women cry at the thought of having to leave Naomi, but Orpah finally kisses her mother-in-law goodbye and returns home to her family. She has lived with Naomi for 10 years, but evidently she has never accepted Naomi’s God as her God. She stubbornly returns to a life of idolatry, and we never hear about her again.

Friendly Ruth, however, has a softer, more tender heart. I won’t go into detail here about her response, because I want to talk about Ruth in more detail next week. But for now, I’ll just say that she clings to her mother-in-law, vowing to go with her all the way to Bethlehem, care for her, and stay with her for the rest of her life.

The two women travel around the north end of the Dead Sea, crossing two rivers and traversing mountainous terrain to move from Moab to Bethlehem. Today, it is nothing for us to get in the car and drive 50 miles. We could reach our destination in an hour or so. But traveling on foot, it would have taken Ruth and Naomi 7-10 days to walk this distance.

Ruth's Journey 01
This is now Naomi’s second time around the Dead Sea. A decade or more before, she had traveled to Moab with her husband and sons. Now she is returning, older, bereft of her family, and accompanied only by a foreign girl who—albeit kind, is still a foreigner. This is not the pleasant Naomi who had left Bethlehem all those years before. The end of chapter 1 tells the story:

So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was stirred because of them, and they said, “Is this Naomi?” And she said unto them, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty: why then call you me Naomi, seeing the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, who returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest. —Ruth 1:19-22

So Naomi asks for a name change. She has been through a good many hardships in her lifetime, and the pleasantness is clean gone out of her, leaving bitterness in its wake. You will notice that the people never do call her Mara (meaning “bitter”), and she quickly puts an end to her pity party and learns to be happy and pleasant again.

Once more I’m going to save a good part of the story for next week, but I will skip to the end, where Naomi finally has the joy of holding her one and only grandson, Obed. My, he is her pride and joy! Does Naomi have any idea the significance of this little grandbaby she holds in her arms? This boy will grow up to be the grandfather of David the king, and further down the line our Lord Jesus will be born. That is what makes this book such a beautiful picture of redemption! But I’m getting ahead of myself, for today I wish to focus on Naomi.

Conclusion:

Naomi loved her husband enough to follow him to a foreign land, seemingly away from God’s perfect place for them. She loved her sons, although they were not the perfectly healthy children that all mothers hope for. She loved her daughters-in-law enough to give them a choice about whether or not they would return to Bethlehem with her. And she loved God enough to serve Him openly and unashamedly in a foreign land. This is evident because Ruth had learned enough about God to want to serve Him too. While Naomi did let the trials get her down, she didn’t stay that way for long. Ultimately Naomi trusted God. She knew He had a plan for her life that was far bigger than anything she could imagine, and she knew God would provide for her. What a wonderful example she is of the joy of the Lord. No matter how deep the valley, God’s love runs deeper still. And joy is more powerful than despair.

We are not perfect. Like Naomi, I sometimes lose sight of God’s face, and I get discouraged. But like Naomi, I don’t stay there. God will restore joy and peace to those who will trust Him. And remember: God’s plan rarely makes sense except in hindsight.

Next week: Ruth

Photo courtesy of Living Passages
Map courtesy of The Bible Journey

Sarah: Model of Obedience

This woman played a very significant role in history, and her life has been put on display as an example for us women to follow.

Genesis 11:29-31; 12:1-20; 16:1-6.

Abram takes a wife (Genesis 11:29-31).

She is introduced to us as Sarai, meaning “my lady” or “my princess.” I’ll talk about this more in the second half of our study. We are told right from the start that she is barren. Back then barrenness was considered a curse or a judgment for sin, but in her case, it was God’s perfect will. She could not have understood the reason why until later, but she trusted the Lord.

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Deborah & Jael: Models of Courage

WF White fuzzy flower (6)Deborah and Jael were contemporaries who lived during the time of the judges in the Old Testament period. Both of them played very important roles in the deliverance of the nation of Israel from oppression under the hand of Jabin, a nearby king.

Their account is recorded in Judges 4 and 5; and in Hebrews 11:32-34.

What this account reveals about these women

Deborah, called “a mother in Israel” (5:7), was the nation’s only female judge. She was humble, courageous, and wise, and she did what she could. Continue reading

Abigail: A Virtuous Woman

shepherd-and-sheepMy church offers various home Bible study groups, and as soon as I moved to this area, I began attending the women’s Bible study. It has been such a blessing to me, not only to get to know some of the women in my new church home, but also to dig into God’s Word and find out for myself how He wants to speak to me through the accounts recorded of the women in the Bible. Our group is meeting tonight to study the life of Abigail, and so I’ve been preparing for tonight’s discussion. This gave me the idea of sharing these gleanings with you. Our group only meet once a month, but each Tuesday I will look at a different woman from the Bible until the topic is exhausted. I hope it will be an encouragement to you, and that you will join me in going through this study together.

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