“ON EAGLES” WINGS MINISTRIES”
“See how I bare you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto myself.” Exodus 19:4
Royce Kennedy, 909 Whistling Duck Drive, Largo, MD 20774. U. S. A.
“Call me not Naomi, call me Mara.” Ruth 1: 20. February 2012. Page 1.
There are two biblical stories in which the word Mara is used, and in both cases it means bitter. In real life we sometimes become bitter over certain conflicts, especially when we think that we have been wronged, or exploited for the benefit of someone else. Paul sought to minimize or eradicate the climate that breeds bitterness. He writes:
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.” Ephesians 4: 31. Again we read: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” Hebrews 12: 15. It is clear that in any scenario we care to use, the word bitterness carries an undesirable and unpleasant connotation.
It is much like the word “pride” or “proud” in scripture; neither of them is ever used in a positive sense; thus, the word Mara implies bitterness. As we step back in time to the emergence of ancient Israel, we notice that just about all of their experiences, from the years in bondage, their trials and failures in the wilderness, and their triumph in the Conquest of Canaan, are symbolic of the Christian experience. The bible said, first the natural, then the spiritual, and in this study it plays out perfectly.
Soon after Israel’s departure from Egypt, they came to Marah, and in their thirst, they found that the water was bitter. “And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved (tested) them.” Exodus 15: 23-25.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church saying that the Rock that followed Israel in the wilderness was Christ from whom they were made to drink; and we have every reason to believe that this tree that was cast into the waters that made them sweet was also Christ, the Tree of Life. Notice how God leads us at times from one extreme to another, but all is designed for us to learn how to strike a balance, and how to get our lives and Christian walk on an even keel.
A while ago the people were dying of thirst, but in a short while they “came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water, and three score and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.” Exodus 15: 27. Now they are at Elim, a perfect oasis ideal for relaxation but with the possibility to become off-guard, lethargic, and complacent. We notice that there were twelve palm trees and twelve bespeaks of divine government. Twelve is featured in scripture, that when put together, it offers a direct pattern. For instance, Jacob had 12 sons, and down through time they produced the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus had 12 apostles, and Revelation speaks of a city with 12 gates, guarded by 12 angels. The city had 12 foundations, and selections were made numbering 12,000 from each tribe of 12, producing the number 144,000.
We notice that there were also seventy palm trees at Elim, and as we have highlighted the number 12, we will look a little closer at the significance of the number 70. In my studies I have seen that whatever God initiated in the Old Testament usually runs along a set pattern throughout scripture. I have also noticed that God’s dealings with individuals in the Old Testament, was never meant to be restricted to the person in question; rather it speaks of a bigger truth with much more encompassing reality in the New Testament. The silver cord of redemption runs the full gamut of human history from Genesis to Revelation.
The number 70 has been used and combined into much of human history as a pattern from which God, seemingly, has not deviated one iota. Here is a biblical account of how seventy year periods have figured into man’s complicated history. At seventy years old, Cainan begat Mahalaleel. Seventy tribes were figured into the narrative of Genesis 10. All the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt were threescore and ten. Genesis 46: 26. The Egyptians mourned for Jacob threescore and ten days. Genesis 50: 3. Jacob fathered seventy children.
For me, two seventy year periods stand out above all else as they relate to all “time prophecies” and as they impact the human race in general. We read: “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” Jeremiah 25: 11. Daniel and his three companions were caught up in this event, and spent the rest of his life in Babylon, dying at a ripe old age at the royal palace in Sushan. But as the seventy year captivity drew to a close, Daniel encountered a huge surprise. The angel Gabriel visited him and advised him that another period of testing and amazing unfolding are determined upon Israel and the City of Jerusalem. Only this time, instead of seventy years plain and simple, the coming period is compressed into seventy weeks of years. In other words, each week consists of seven years in real time; so the seventy weeks that were determined upon Daniel’s people amounted to a total of 490 years. For an in-depth study of Daniel’s seventy weeks, buy my book—“When Shall These Things Be?” from PublishAmerica.com. This is a book every library needs to have!
Psalm 90: 10 speaks on this wise: “The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Not only does Christendom embrace this statement as being man’s lifespan, but even law makers, celebrities, and just about every body walking down the street have accepted this theory that man’s lifespan is seventy years. It was a Psalm of Moses and it must be funny to think that the man who wrote this, began to work for God at the age of eighty and when he died at one hundred and twenty, his eyes were not dim and all of his bodily functions were intact and functioning well. Moses was not fixing man’s lifespan; rather, he was bemoaning the fact that because of Israel’s unbelief at Kadesh-Barnea, God in his anger turned them back into the desert to wander forty years until all who came out of Egypt died, except Caleb and Joshua. God told them explicitly that since it took them forty days to spy out the land, each day shall be a year of wandering. The idea was to afford them time to fall in the wilderness, and the children they claim would be devoured by the giants in Kadesh; they would go in and inherit the land that they despised. It was their short life span that Moses addressed. Man’s actual life span is one hundred and twenty years. Genesis 6: 3.
There is an important element in studying God’s dealings with mankind that we need to put in proper perspective and hold to hold it close to our heart. As we will notice in a step-by-step approach to ancient history, God never dealt with a person simply on the basis of that person’s individual need or purpose. The same holds true in the case of Naomi as we will examine as we proceed. God’s dealings with Noah were not intended for Noah and his household alone. God had, as it were, a new creation to establish in the earth, including even the animals that came into the ark, and it had to begin with Noah and his family.
God’s intimate relationship with mankind in general, began with a rich man named Abram and his wife Sarai dwelling in the city of Ur, in what is present day Iraq. His revelation to this man and his wife was not simply to begin a new trend in overland travel and migration from one country to another. The grander scale of things was encased within the context of what God expressed. “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be called Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations (not merely the Jews) of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.” Genesis 17: 4-6. But let us be cognizant of the fact that up to this very day, Israel has no reigning king; and since God referred to many nations (other than the Jews) it stands to reason that these kings that God spoke of were to be kings of other nations, except over time they lost their connection to Abraham. Of Sarah we read: “And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.”Gen. 17: 15. But who are these kings of nations that came out of Abraham and Sarah?
Their son, Isaac, had linkage all the way down to Jesus Christ; and the scripture concludes that if we be of faith, then we are Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise. So what began in Ur of the Chaldees with a single man of faith, resonated throughout the inhabited world, and the ripples reverberated all the way to our day. The same holds true when we contemplate our own salvation; it is never about US; it is always about OTHERS! It is so easy to get trapped in our little cocoon of my church and my ministry that we completely miss or forget what our calling is all about. Thank you Jesus! It is not about Royce Kennedy! It is not about Elwin Roach, or J. Preston Eby, or any of our great bible scholars standing on the frontline today. Like at the great feast at Jerusalem, men are still saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus!” That is where the answer lies!
The story of Naomi brings to the forefront some significant truths that we will observe as we proceed, beginning where their story is introduced in scripture. We will notice that bitterness in part, can be a learning experience, and in the case of Joseph as he revealed himself to his brothers, he said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” But we have no evidence in scripture that Joseph knew exactly what his trials were about while he was going through them. Usually, it is after the fact that we look in hind sight and begin to put the pieces together to get an angle on the episodes of trials and errors that plagued us along the way. It is only after being taken through these moments of uncertainty that in time we learn to “let go, and let God” as the saying goes.
Over serveral times of trials and tests we finally learn to say like Joseph, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” That is a philosophy that can undergird us in times of severe tests; when trials beam brightly like a white hot iron in the blacksmith’s furnace. And yet, it is at that point that the iron becomes manageable, flexable, and can be bent and shaped as the smith desires. Naomi’s story began with a family of four: a husband, Elimelech; two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, and herself. They lived in Bethlehem-Judah and were called Ephrathites. They lived in a time when judges ruled in Israel, and at this particular time there was famine in the land.
The word Bethlehem-Judah means the “house of bread” but in this case it seems to be significant and ironic that where there ought to be bread a famine exists. So leaving the “house of bread” this family of four went to sojourn in the land of Moab. The Moabites were descendants of Moab; Lot’s son by his eldest daughter, and the Amorites were from Lot’s son Benami by his youngest daughter. Both were the products of incest between Lot and his two daughters, and the Moabites were idol worshippers.
Yes, there was bread in the land of Moab; but by leaving the “house of bread” that Naomi’s home represented to sojourn in a land that embraced idol worshipping was simply going in the wrong direction. Later on, she learned that there was now bread back in her homeland, but the damage was already done. The first blow to strike was the death of her husband. The second step still going in the wrong direction was that both Mahlon and Chilion married women of Moab. One of the strictest warnings God gave to Israel as they made their way out of Egypt was never to inter-marry with heathen nations. Do not let your men marry their women; and do not let your women marry their men. But the pendulum had swung all the way round and Naomi was a victim in the center of this crisis. But were all these events already destined in God’s blue print?
There are two schools of thought that we can choose from. We can think that some things go wrong and as a result God steps in and turn it into good, as a way to salvage the situation. On the other hand, we can assume that even what seemed to be wrong and totally ill advised was exactly the way God wanted it to be from the beginning. We could assume that Joseph had dreams but he kept telling them to the wrong people and that caused their hatred or strong dislike of him to grow. But when we get to the grand finale and he stepped forward as head over the land of Egypt second only to the Pharaoh, we have to conclude that every act went the way God intended it to be all along. The same holds true in the conflict and dialogue between Abraham, Sarah, and Agar, involving Ishmael and Isaac. When we fast-forward to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we see that these were allegories with an ongoing conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. The matter to consider in these test cases, is that the players in these real life dramas did not know at the time what realities and symbolisms were attached to their ongoing trials. As a matter of practice, many Christians continually say that the devil had them going through the grinder all week.
They spend much of their time separating between good and evil. To these lovely souls, all of the bad is being perpetrated by Satan; and the few good breaks that drift in their direction are from the Lord. But there is another reality to embrace that is more positive and it is based upon the concept of a single eye as Jesus taught. When we say that a person has a one-tract mind, we mean that the person’s mindset is fixed on a single issue in so much that there is no room to entertain anything else. Job referred somewhat to this concept when he said; “Though he slays me, yet will I trust him” and throughout the book of Job, not once did he ascribe any of his misfortunes to the devil. He did not offend in a single word!
Naomi’s sons both married women of Moab and although her husband died, her family was still intact seeing her number was still four. We can only assume that the sons, being Hebrews, spent much time and effort to teach their wives about the One God of the Hebrews; in an effort to wean them away from the many gods the Moabites served. For the moment and from this particular vantage point, we can say that the directions this family took marked the way to more heartbreak and sorrow. They had left the “house of bread” where seemingly there was no bread left because of famine. It sort of reminds us of the prophecy that said there would be famine for the word of God.
It stands to reason that in God’s house, where he said that there should be meat in his house, if meat (his word) is in short supply, people will stray into strange pastures seeking grazing lands where the grass is tall and full of juice. That is why the prophets at one time spoke of God raising up shepherds who will feed the flock, and Paul admonished the elders from Ephesus to “feed the church of God which he has purchased by his own blood.” The name Mahlon means “the sickly one” and the name Chilion means “the pinning one” or “wasting away one.” Many experts conclude that the boys could have been twins; but in either case they were not healthy and robust. It is possible that Naomi had to spend a lot of her time seeing to their health with tender loving care.
Whatever we care to glean from it, or read into it, for a while the family did well in the land of Moab. We can also assume that the two wives of Moab blended nicely into the Hebrew family as daughters in law. We can also assume that they got on very well with their mother in law. This held true while their husbands were alive, and after their death, the two widows became even closer to their mother in law, making the total of three widows. The bond between them grew stronger out of necessity for moral, spiritual, and economic support.
The case of Naomi at this point in time, is like the church drifting into forbidden territories and in the process lost all the gifts of the Spirit. Her husband and sons all died in a strange land, and even if the place was awash with food and water, and birds chirping in the breeze, it was not exactly a place for Hebrews to feel at home among the many idols being worshipped. At times when we seem to encounter a lack of bread at our home-base, we turn aside in search of food. Years ago in San Diego, I met a wonderful sister who loved the Lord and was hungry for growth. She had come out from organized religion and was on a quest for deeper truths and a more spiritual walk with God. Unable to find what her soul longed for, she became unstable to say the least. Where ever she heard that a certain ministry was, she caught a bus or train and headed in that direction. If things did not work out as she thought they would, before long she is back in town. David hung up his harp by the willow trees in Babylon and refused to sing the songs of Zion, exclaiming, “How can I sing the songs of Zion in a strange land?”
We can conclude that Naomi had a lot of adjustments to do in the land of Moab, and holding on to her Hebrew faith in the process. The process later involved two young ladies from the opposite side of the equation who had to make adjustments also. Now we have a mixture of faiths that require movements from each side in an effort to blend in the middle. We can assume that with faith and patience Elimelech and his family could have stayed put and weather the famine, waiting for God to turn the tide and bring food in abundance once more. By leaving Bethlehem-Judah, “the house of bread” and sojourning into a strange land, simply because there was bread there, the family lost all its male members who were supposed to be the strength and backbone of the family. That demise left three women holding on to one another for dear life. After a while word reached Naomi that there was now bread back in her country and she made ready to return. Ah! If she had not left! Her plan to return home began to turn the spotlight upon what true conversion really means.
Without knowing it, Naomi now becomes the path to a new life for her two daughters in law; with the option of serving a new God—the only true and wise God; or of turning back. Before long we notice that the widowed wives would have to make choices! They could both stay home with their people and continue to serve their gods; or they could return with their mother in law. Of course, although she did not impress upon them what the latter choice would entail, it would become obvious in due time. After listening to the argument offered by her mother in law, Orpah decided to return to her people and her gods as suggested by Naomi.
One of the finer points to observe at this point is the fact that some years earlier, Naomi and her family came into Moab as sojourners fleeing famine in their own country. But now she becomes to vehicle and door to the life that the most High has established for his people. Without having any conditions and pre-requisites laid before her by her mother in law, Ruth bade goodbye to Orpah but held on the Naomi. She then offered a candid picture of her mindset and all that she is willing to do of her own free will.
She went on to speak words that have been immortalized over the years; mentioned in love letters and greeting cards; preached in numerous sermons, and taught in bible studies. “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for wither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part theee and me.” Ruth 1: 16, 17. This is a reflection of the very character of Ruth as woven into the very fabric of her being as her name implies. This is the sign of true repentance because she renounced her people and her gods, and made a commitment to the God of the Hebrews. This scenario transpired in the case of Rahab, the harlot who hid the spies; betrayed her king and country on behalf of a God she only heard about; possibly from traders who plied that route on a regular basis. But in the grand scheme of things, she married Salmon, one of the spies, who became the father of Boaz, who in turn married Ruth, who in turn produced Obed, who produced Jesse, the father of David, and Jesus came through the lineage of David. So Boaz was half-Jew, and Obed was quarter Jew since his mother was from Moab.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is called the son of David, and in Revelation he is referred to as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” As we glance over these details in short order, we cannot help but recognize that in all that God does with one person is always meant to become a part of a bigger picture. Naomi bemoaned her situation in that she went out full and was now returning home empty; so call me Mara for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me, and in fact has testified against me, and has afflicted me. Ruth 1: 20,21. I do not believe that God had to constantly alter his plans as circumstances changed in the life of Naomi. He did not have to work with one set of plans while her husband and two sons were alive; but altered them when her husband died. He did not have to make more alterations when both sons died, and alarmingly enough Naomi’s decision to return home after news that there was corn back home reached her. God did not need a writing pad, a pencil and an eraser, to constantly write, erase, and write again. I think that in all the ups and downs, the highs and the lows in Naomi’s life, God’s ultimate will was being done in the order he orchestrated.
Orpah displayed the fact that even while the kingdom of God and all its blessings are at arm’s length, some will remain where they are; and some will make a start with good intentions; but when reason and common sense take over, they will yield to logic as Orpah did, and return to the life they knew all along. Ruth was different! Naomi was not able to make outlandish promises to Ruth, and as far as we can see, she did not make any demands of Naomi. In her heart, she cut all links with the world and people she knew all her life; and in her mind, whatever happened to Naomi, it was alright to have it happen to her also. In her new country she met a wealthy and noble man named Boaz to whom she was married. Naomi could never in her wildest dream think that she would bring from Moab a young lady who would later be figured into the lineage of Christ the Messiah. So she did not return empty as she thought, and her bitterness was the result of her not knowing exactly what God was working in her and for her benefit. God doeth all things well! Doesn’t he?
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Royce O. Kennedy