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June 15, 2018

Horse on shore at Outer Banks, NC (Photo by Doug Maxwell) Click to enlarge
Our neighbor Doug took this photo on the outer banks in North Carolina.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

"Barley Harvest"

Message summary: Today let us consider a barley harvest which took place about 3,200 years ago.

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"So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning" (Ruth 1:22).

We have a young friend named Naomi Grace who just celebrated her tenth birthday. Naomi is from the Hebrew language and means "beautiful, pleasant, delightful." Grace, from the Latin, means "favor, blessing." This beautiful name prompts a message about her namesake, the only Naomi in the Holy Scriptures.

Darrel in combine
Although we tend to consider late summer and autumn as harvest time, we actually have various harvests through the season beginning in the spring. Hay is harvested throughout the growing season. Earlier this week we shared a photo of large round hay bales we spotted in a field in Lebanon County and last week I helped (a little bit) with the alfalfa harvest, unloading the small bales.

There is a predictability regarding the times of each harvest from year to year. I spoke to Darrel, a young farmer friend (shown here driving the combine) and he told me the next major harvest in our area will be the barley harvest which is starting now.

Barley turns a beautiful yellow indicating harvest is near. In the next several weeks we will see the combines working the fields all throughout our region. It's a beautiful sight to see and hear the combines slowly working back and forth across the fields.

Today let us consider another barley harvest which took place about 3,200 years ago. Of course there is a vast difference in harvesting methods from that age and our own but the goal is the same.

It's interesting to note how many times the Bible reminds us to consider our roots.  History was very important in the life of the Jewish people. Great New Testament sermons like Peter's (Acts 2) and Stephen's (Acts 7) are rooted in history; the record of God's providential work in space and time.

"Arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning." This simple, easily overlooked, detail in the daily text places the lives of two ordinary women, Naomi and Ruth, beset by heartache squarely in history, in the context of a specific place "Bethlehem" and a specific time "when the barley was harvested".

Naomi's husband had died along with her two sons in Moab, a neighboring land devoted to other gods. Her heart was broken as she returned to Bethlehem with Ruth, her daughter-in-law who insisted on joining her in one of the greatest faith verses in the Bible, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following 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" (Ruth 1:16).

When they arrived and Naomi was recognized by the women of Bethlehem she plainly instructed them, "Call me Mara" (which means "bitter"). Thankfully the name didn't stick and in a wonderful way God worked things out for both Naomi and Ruth.

Grief (identity unknown)
Some of you have lingering heartache which has resulted in bitterness today. We all have experiences where it seems life has just not been fair. Our experience is not at all unique to our lifetime and surely, all through the ages, people have dealt with heartache, disappointment, injustice. Dealing with the hurts of others is a major part of ministry. We read in an "Our Daily Bread" devotional, "One of God's purposes in pain is to brand the image of Jesus in our hearts."

Let us learn from history and rejoice as we see how the unchangeable God worked out His plan in these two ordinary women, Naomi and Ruth. A wonderful New Testament verse that many of us have memorized expresses this truth: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Rest in deep assurance today that this is absolutely true!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You have great purpose for our lives and for the legacy we leave those who follow. In our journey there are the bitter waters we drink from and the sweet fragrances that fill our nostrils. Through it all Your plan is to bring the good out of bad circumstances, as You remind us of our calling to live according to Your purpose. We want to be trustful in the hard times and faithful all the time. Amen.

Combine at wheat harvest
I took this photo of Darrel operating the combine for a harvest 11 years ago. Look closely and you will see that Darrel had company, his girlfriend Kelly who joined him and went along for the ride! Darrel and Kelly just celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary and now have two children whom they are raising to follow the Lord.

Home view at sunset 6/14/18
Brooksyne and I sure enjoy coming out to the front porch and drinking our coffee while enjoying the beauty of spring all about us. Usually Mollie shows up with her Frisbee or triple ring set that she wants us to toss until she finally peters out, but that's her enjoyment of spring as well.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Faithful Men"  Video  A Cappella Christian Classics Performers A song challenging men to join the harvest of souls.

"The Victor's Crown"  Video  Calvary Church choir

Seedtime on an Amish farm, the rarely seen view of the farmer!  Video  (26 seconds) See if you recognize the whistled tune! My friend Jesse recorded this yesterday as he planted corn. He wrote, "Beautiful day, I got done with the planter today. Thought I would share the experience of planting corn."

Finally today:
Smucker meeting 6/14/18
Yesterday morning our first visit was to the Smucker Company which had an employee meeting. Marlin, the owner, is good-naturedly tossing out gift cards to employees who had perfect attendance.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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