Month 1:4, Week 1:3 (Shleshi/Bikkurim), Year:Day 5936:004 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Monday 26 March 2012
Ruth & Lao-tzu
Hard Journeys with a Happy Ending
Some decisions in life are really, really hard, especially those that are going to change your life forever. And the best choices always require considerable sacrifice particularly when it comes to family and friends. When Abram was called by Yahweh to move out of the metropolis of Ur and become a bedouin in a foreign land, he had to literally leave everything and everyone behind - everything that he had ever known: his country, culture, business, prosperity, home...and especially his wrong religion. And yet who can doubt that Abraham is one of the most blessed persons of history? Even today we are his children by adoption when we accept his descendant, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
"I am Yahweh, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it" (Gen.15:7, NKJV).
I have had to leave my homeland - and practically everything I knew - twice: first when I left Malaysia (the country of my birth and upbringing) and second when I left England (the country of my forefathers). I have now been in Scandinavia for nearly a quarter of a century. I have changed climate three times - from the steamy tropics of the Far East, to temperate Britain, and now to sub-arctic Sweden.
I got a foretaste of the latter many years ago en route to England from Malaysia on an Air India flight when we stopped off in Moscow in the middle of winter. These were the days of the Soviet Union and though we were only refuelling, the Russians forced us off our plane, took away our passports, and made us wait in the airport lounge. The whole airport was under snow so you could barely make out the shape of the buildings. Our passengers from Singapore and Malaysia were in tropical short-sleaved shirts and were wholly unprepared for a bus trip with temperatures at around -35C - there was a 60 degree change from the cabin of the plane to outside, and even though the trip from the plane to the bus was only 1-2 minutes it was pure hell for the Chinese, Malay and Indian folks on board (or a white Asian like myself) - they might have caught pneumonia. The bus wasn't much warmer either, not really even approaching a comfortable temperature by the time we arrived at the terminal. We had to wait there for several hours with nothing to do except look at some wall photographs of Soviet aircraft and nothing to consume except one black cup of coffee with a small lump of chocolate on the side. Everything else was closed as it was about 3 a.m.
I do not believe that stop-over in Moscow was an accident and though it portended events many years distant it has served as a reminder to me of how Yahweh prepares us in advance of things He wants us to do. My first winter in Norway in 1988 it sank to -35C and the shock of it reminded me of Moscow. Later I would visit the Ukraine months after it became independent from the Soviet Union and got a taste of what Soviet life had been like. The heavy pollution, disintegrated infrastructure, low cost of living, low quality of goods and scarcity of things were a shock compared to what I had been used it. The water supply ran intermittantly, things like toilet paper and paper or plastic shopping bags which we take for granted were non-existant, busses and planes so antiquated you thought they would fall apart at any minute, public toilets...I can't even describe them to you. The people were wonderful, hospitable, and untainted by Western materialism. Preaching was a challenge because I wasn't prepared for any of the questions I was asked. People were hungry for everything.
I can't say exactly what the culture shock was like for Abram. He got a new name - Abraham - to in part signal that huge change. All his assumptions about God had to be changed as he walked in emunah (faith) with Yahweh. And when I think what I once believed as an Anglican and what I now know, the change could not be more stark. Some things which I thought were forbidden were actually permissable, and things which I thought were permissable were forbidden.
I am glad, in retrospect and on the one hand, that I had several decades to work through all of these, though on the other regret that I did not have a teacher who could have sat down with me and saved me years and years of arduous study, prayer and struggle. The advantage is that the investment has paid dividends. I am so absolutely sure now, having seen nearly all the alternative explanations of life and religion and been forced to weight them all (because of my natural curiosity and hunger for all emet/truth), that I am on the right path. And the fire that the Ruach (Spirit) has given me convinces me that this is the kind of divine ahavah (love) that I want for eternity. I could never go back to what I once had.
Many are coming from all these different kinds of backgrounds and are literally being parachuted into a new world when they face when Yahweh's pathfinders share what they have with them. It's enough to blow most minds so I am sympathetic. Knowing how long it took me, I try to be patient with folks coming out of one world into a literally totally different one. I think of my own global wanderings, of Ruth the Moabitess and Rahab the Canaanite and of the huge adjustments they had to make in leaving their pagan societies for Yahweh's Divine Theocracy. Yet these, and others like them, were not your ordinary riffraff - both would be the progenitors of the Messiah. What was it, then, that made them make such huge life-changing choices?
For Rahab it was the testimony of the incredible works of Yahweh-Elohim. She knew that He was irresistable. For Ruth, it was the astonishing example of her mother-in-law, Naomi. We are impressed when we make encounters with Yahweh and we are impressed by others who have had encounters with Yahweh and whose lives positively shine. Rahab figured out which the winning side was in the approaching conflict between Israel and her pagan sovereign, and hedged her bets, while Ruth saw an amazing lady. She would have to make some major choices, though, before she got the husband she wanted: she would have to choose his country (Israel) and his religion (the worship of Yahweh). And Abigail...well, I think she was a mixture of the two - she saw that Saul and her husband were losers because they despised Yahweh and knew what kind of a man David was.
Providence has a way of making all things work out when right, Yahweh-honouring choices are made. Our plans and dreams may not turn out quite the way we intended them to (Yahweh has a way of wrecking plans made in the flesh or with a lack of the prophetic), but Yahweh's are infinitely more satisfying in the long term. Harlotry in Jericho may have been good business for Rahab but it was ruining her spiritually and physically. Once naturalised as an Israelite, her life totally changed and she became not only the wife of Salmon but the ancestor of David and Yah'shua (Jesus)! Ruth, though originally married to an Israelite before the faminine took him, was not apparently married to Yahweh's choice and circumstances were arranged by Him to make sure she would meet up with the older, and almost certainly already married Boaz, to follow in the footsteps of Rahab to be a progenitor of the Messiah.
One can only wonder at what Abraham went through and all the opposition he received for doing what Yahweh told Him to do. He was not without trials and tribulations. Pain is inevitable in this life but misery is optional. We can only speculate as to what would have happened if Abraham had remained in Ur, Rahab in Jericho, and Ruth in Moab. The famine would probably have claimed Ruth, the collapse of Jericho's walls would have erased Rahab, and Abram...who can say, for Ur was in a drout area as well as being at the crossroads of various invaders.
The important things are these:
There was definitely a right time and place for our three heroes - a time when it was obvious that huge choices had to be made. Yahweh always has secondary plans for us if we make wrong choices, but who wants less than best? Something will intervene to show us the right course to take, but we will have to fight to hold on to the emet (truth), for it does not come easily. He will not force us but He will plant something tov (good), strong, powerful and irresistable in us - like a downpayment - of what is yet to come!
- 1. To be with the right Elohim (God);
- 2. To be with the right people of Elohim (God);
- 3. To be in the right place at the right time; and
- 4. To be home in the right family.
What will you choose? Yah'shua (Jesus) never said that life in this world would be easy but He did say it would be worth it. Our three heroes can definitely testify of that!
What's your next choice? At the very least, face in the right direction - looking to the Promised Land. And then, as Inspector Chan Ka-kui of Hong Kong said, quoting Lao-tzu, to encourage us on: "A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step!" 
 A more correct translation from the original Chinese would be: "The journey of a thousand miles begins under one's feet". The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath ones feet. Rather than emphasising the first step, Lau-tzu regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness. Or another way of putting it would be: "Even the longest journey must begin where you stand". Yahweh likewise commands us, when we are in commotion of mind and lev (heart), to "be still, and know that I am Elohim (God)" (Ps.46:10, NKJV). Then we will hear Him, and know the emet (truth) for sure.