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Journey to Jesus, Week 2

We are on the Journey to Jesus. Each day we are celebrating the truth that we serve a good God with a good plan. This week, we are going to be reminded that the journey is long and sometimes it is hard. There are struggles, questions, broken situations, and lots of waiting. BUT GOD! He is always at work and always making a way. Let's pick up the journey and see what God has in store for us....

DAY 7: The Children of Israel and the Promised Land

The children of Israel knew about living during a difficult season of life. They had been enslaved in Egypt and forced to do hard labor. Moses returned to Egypt and boldly approached Pharaoh and said, "Let my people go!" After some convincing, Pharaoh complied.

The plan was simple. The Israelites would leave Egypt under Moses' leadership. They would travel through the desert, and along the way, God would teach them how to live as a nation. Twelve spies would go into the Promised Land with the instruction to survey the greatness of the land. Here is an important point: the land was already theirs. They didn't have to earn it or buy it, and they certainly didn't deserve it. That's the thing about the "land" God has for us. It is an amazing grace gift from Him.

Unfortunately, the twelve spies went into the Promised Land and judged the land based on THEIR ability to possess it rather than on GOD'S ability to provide it. This led to big trouble in the Israelite camp. The outcome was forty more years of wandering in the desert. Moses never entered the land because of the sin in his life. God raised up a new leader named Joshua. Interestingly, Joshua was one of the spies who believed that they could take the land and possess it as God promised.

I have to admit that I love the Israelites, and I can relate to their story. My desert wandering has resulted from judging God's plan based on MY ability to possess it rather than GOD'S ability to provide it. When I do this, I take my eyes off the Lord and put my eyes on myself. The good news is this. God is a redeeming God! The original generation died, and God raised up a new generation to enter the land. God was faithful to teach the Israelites every step of the way. We can be assured the same principle applies today. God is faithful! He forgives our sins! In the process, He uses our desert wandering experiences to teach us lessons that refine us. This Christmas, let’s celebrate all the ways God redeems and restores!

DAY 8: Ruth God’s people settled in the Promised Land and into a viscous sin cycle. (The people sinned, God sent consequences, the people repented, and God sent a deliverer.) Enter a Jewish family of four fleeing a severe famine in Bethlehem. Shockingly, this family landed in the pagan country of Moab. That is where we meet Ruth. Ruth married one of the Jewish sons who fled the famine. The son died, and eventually, Ruth, along with her mother-in-law Naomi, returned to Bethlehem.

Women in Ruth’s day were viewed as property. Their thoughts, feelings, and preferences were rarely, if ever, taken into consideration. Moabite women had a stigma. They were considered dangerous to Israelite men. So, it was a big deal for Ruth to leave Moab, move to Bethlehem, and settle among God’s people. Once in Bethlehem, Ruth and Naomi settled into a routine. Ruth gleaned in the field and threshed the barley. In the most unexpected way, Ruth met and eventually married another Israelite named Boaz. (Stay tuned for that story!) Boaz and Ruth had a son who provided lineage leading to the Messiah.

The fact that God included a Moabite woman in His story speaks volumes about the way God values everyone, no matter their age, gender, background, race, or social standing. Throughout history, we see that God has enjoyed using unlikely people to display His amazing grace. God’s heart has always been for all people and all Nations. This Christmas, let’s celebrate that God works in unlikely ways. Messy family situations do not stop the plan of God. Everyone can experience God’s offer of grace no matter their family, background, or social standing.

DAY 9: Boaz Ruth was gleaning in the field when a man walked up to her and began a conversation. “Boaz said to Ruth, ‘My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me.” (Ruth 2:8)

It makes me smile to think of what a “pinch me, I’m dreaming!” moment this could have been for Ruth. She set out one morning, not knowing where to go or what kind of response she would receive. Would she find a field? Would she be granted permission to glean? Would she be safe while out in the field? God provided the answers. Not only did God guide her to a certain field, but the owner himself chose to speak peace into her life.

It is impossible for us to know how Ruth was treated in Bethlehem. The Bible tells us she attracted attention. She stood out because she was a Moabite woman living in the land of Bethlehem. As a result, she was an outsider. The outside is a hard and lonely place to live. It can leave us feeling like we have to do all the “right things” to earn acceptance. We feel like no one thinks we’re worth including. If nothing changes, we end up stuck on the sidelines or tiptoeing through life, trying to go unnoticed.

Boaz not only noticed Ruth, but he also blessed her. “‘May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.’” (Ruth 2:12)

If you know the story, you know that Boaz is Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer. Boaz provides a picture of Jesus. What Boaz did for Ruth, Jesus does for us. Way back in the Old Testament, God painted a picture of the grace that would be available to us by taking refuge in the One True God through Jesus. This Christmas, let’s celebrate that grace changes the direction of our lives. It moves us from the outside to the inside and gives us real hope & a meaningful future. I bet Ruth never dreamed she would be included in the lineage of the Messiah, but she was!

DAY 10: David Israel wanted a king. Let that sentence sink in. God was their King, and King Jesus was on the way, but Israel wanted what the other Nations had. So, God gave Israel a king. David, the son of Jesse, found his home in the hill country, tending sheep, until God confirmed him as the right man for the job.

King David was known as a man after God’s own heart. Still, his story is complex. He knew about being in the depths of desperation and God graciously saving him. David knew what it was like to have a target on his back and experience God’s deliverance. He also knew about falling into sin and reaping God’s holy consequences. Throughout David’s life, his experiences brought him to a place of desperation for God.

One such situation occurred as a result of David sleeping with Bathsheba, who became pregnant. To cover up the sin, David sent for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite. Uriah came home from war but did not sleep with his wife. David later had Uriah killed. David thought he had gotten away with his sin, but God did not miss the offense. God confronted David and sent holy consequences into his life.

How did David make it through these experiences? David cried out to God for help. He cried out to God because he often found himself at a point where he could not fix his problems. David needed God to intervene. In response to David’s cry for help, God saved him and delivered him.

Israel wanted a physical king, but every king fell short. It was through the line of David that the Messiah would come. Jesus would save His people from their sins. If you feel bound up by sin and the uncertainty of life, not knowing what will happen next, you can find peace and assurance in the birth of Jesus and the cross of Calvary. This Christmas, hold onto the Lord. Know that the Lord will deliver you. Even if you are in the depths of desperation, God is with you. Even if nothing in your life makes sense and by all earthly accounts hope seems gone, know that Jesus is your perfect King! Let’s celebrate that truth together.

DAY 11: Isaiah and the 400 years of silence God raised up men and women to point His people to the coming of the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

God’s people needed a Savior, and that is exactly what they would get, although Jesus wouldn’t come in the package they expected, or provide deliverance in the way they wanted. Thankfully, God sent what was needed, not what was wanted! Again, Isaiah foretold of this reality. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

The journey was long and hard. At times, the road was unexpected. And then, there was no word from the Lord. No visible movement of God... just quiet. The four hundred years between the last Old Testament prophet who spoke and the earth-shattering cry of the Messiah must have felt like an eternity.

Waiting is one of the hardest things we are called to do. In times of waiting, we can wonder if God sees, cares, and remembers us. One thing we can learn from the Christmas story is that our timing and God’s timing don’t always line up.

We may never understand why we have to wait, but we can learn something from the four-hundred-years of silence. Waiting led to God’s plan, and God’s plan led to the meeting of our deepest need. Our deepest need is to know God in a real and personal way. I am thankful that God’s still, small voice of faithfulness is louder than any silence we will ever face. God works in the waiting. Christmas came after a very long season of waiting. This Christmas, let’s see the value in waiting- especially if you are in a season of waiting. No matter the time frame, cling to Jesus today.

DAY 12: The In-between When I think of “key players” in God’s story, the characters we have discussed from the Old Testament come to mind. Each life was created by God and for God - not one was an accident. Every story mattered. The timing of their lives fit perfectly in God’s plan. Ultimately, God provided a road map of His story through the lives of His people.

This led to the opening of the Gospel of Matthew and the introduction of New Testament characters who had a front-row seat to the life and ministry of Jesus. It might be easy to miss how the opening of the Gospel of Matthew bridges the gap between the Old and New Testaments. It’s easy to read through a list of names or genealogy and think of it as incidental or extra information.

Here is the bottom-line truth. There is nothing incidental or extra about the Word of God. A genealogy is actually an authenticating list of God’s faithfulness and plan - one person and one story at a time!

God’s best gift to us is the invitation to know Him and make Him known. That is what Christmas represents to me! Because of Jesus, I can know God in a real and personal way. This means I can share Him joyfully with others. How does this happen? It's by knowing the story of God. This is more than head knowledge that is made up of facts, figures, and lists. It's driven by heart knowledge that is full of love and surrender to a good God with a good plan. Just like the characters in the Bible, our lives are part of God’s story, and it is a story of love, redemption, peace, and purpose.

This Christmas, let’s ask God to help us see our place in His story of love, mercy, and grace. Just like the characters in the Bible, God’s story can flow through us, even if we feel stuck in the “in-between” of God’s plan!

To follow the Journey to Jesus and enjoy interactive conversation, follow my facebook ministry page at Andrea Lennon Ministry and my Instagram account @AndreaLennonMinistry. Be sure and come back to the blog next week and enjoy more posts as we Journey to Jesus! You are so loved and we love celebrating Christmas with you!

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