Life-Study of Joshua, Judges & Ruthby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this concluding word on the book of Ruth, I have the burden to cover a very crucial point in Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.
This crucial point is that these books show us one picture with two sides. One side concerns God’s move in His economical Spirit, the Spirit of power; the other side concerns God’s move in His essential Spirit, the Spirit of life. With all the judges, and even with Joshua and Caleb, we can see only the work, the move, of God in power. In the books of Joshua and Judges it is hard to find even a hint of God’s move in His life.
Samson is a typical illustration of one who moves in the Spirit of power but not in the Spirit of life. Samson was very powerful, even at the time of his death (Judg. 16:28-30), yet with him we cannot see anything of life. Yes, he was a Nazarite, keeping his hair long as a sign that he submitted to God as his Head, not drinking wine, and not eating unclean food. However, this was his following the divine regulations; it did not indicate that he had anything of the divine life. Even though Samson was a Nazarite, he did not know how to restrain the lust of his flesh. The matter of sex was a great stumbling block to him, and both among God’s holy people in the Holy Land and among the Gentiles, he practiced the indulging of his lust. This shows that he was not a person in life.
Furthermore, the account of Samson, as the last judge, the conclusion of the judges, indicates that the entire situation of the judges consummated in the exercising of power without anything of life. It is difficult to understand how a Nazarite could be such a fleshly person. He was full of power and also full of lust. In his case, these two things went together.
This picture answers a question that I have had for many years. A number of Pentecostal preachers have been reckless, without any restraint, or control, of the lust of their flesh. Yet at the same time they have been genuinely powerful in their preaching. On the one hand, they powerfully preached the fundamental gospel concerning Christ, the Son of God, as our Savior; on the other hand, they were living in fornication. I have known a number of cases like this both in China and in the United States. For a long time I could not understand how there could be such a situation. Now I realize that these preachers are today’s Samsons. Jehovah’s Spirit came upon Samson (Judg. 13:25; 14:6, 19); there is no doubt that he had the real power of God. Nevertheless, he and so many of the judges had no control over their indulgence in lust, such as Gideon, who had seventy-two sons of many wives (8:30-31; 9:5); Jair, who had thirty sons (10:3-4); Ibzan, who had thirty sons and thirty daughters, and brought in thirty foreign daughters from abroad for his sons (12:8-9); and Abdon, who had forty sons and thirty grandsons (12:13-14).
In contrast, the book of Ruth is a book not of power but of life.
Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, was punished by God because he did not live according to God’s eternal economy. He did not commit fornication; on the contrary, it seems that he just made a little mistake in leaving the Holy Land. But when he left the good land due to the famine, God came in and dealt with him, leaving his wife and his two daughters-in-law with nothing, as widows without children. I believe that before going to Moab, Elimelech mortgaged all his property, including the inheritance of his two sons. Eventually, Naomi, a widow with two widowed daughters-in-law, returned from the land of Moab, owning nothing. Nevertheless, Naomi did not rebel against God’s dealing. Instead, admitting that God had dealt not only with her husband but also with her, she said, “The All-sufficient One has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but Jehovah has brought me back empty” (Ruth 1:20b-21a). From her speaking we can see that she was a godly woman. She believed in God, regarded Him, and feared Him.
When Naomi came back to the Holy Land, she came back to the rest in God’s economy to participate again in the enjoyment of the God-promised land, where there would be the possibility of being related to Christ’s genealogy. Her returning was a great thing, yet it was not accomplished by power. Rather, she came back as a poor beggar who sent her daughter-in-law Ruth to glean in the field.
Ruth was outstanding in life. The purpose of the book of Ruth is not to tell us anything concerning power but to reveal the things of life to the uttermost. Naomi made it clear to Ruth that she had no capacity to produce a husband for her who could redeem her and bring forth a descendant for her father-in-law, Elimelech. Feeling that the situation was hopeless, Naomi encouraged Ruth to return to her mother’s house in order to have a future. Ruth’s reply was full of life. She would go with Naomi forever, being with her in poverty. Ruth said to Naomi, “Do not entreat me to leave you and turn away from following after you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you dwell, I will dwell; and your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die; and there will I be buried. Jehovah do so to me, and more as well, if anything but death parts me from you” (vv. 16-17). This is the real spirit of the New Testament believers—to follow Jesus by forsaking everything: parents, children, relatives, houses, and so forth (Matt. 10:37; 19:29; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 14:26). This is the way of life revealed in the New Testament.
Like Naomi and Ruth, Boaz was a person in life to the uttermost. Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, I must seek some resting place for you, that it may go well with you” (Ruth 3:1). Then Naomi charged her to wash herself, anoint herself, put on her best clothes, go down to the threshing floor, and, at the proper time, make herself known to Boaz. Eventually, Ruth identified herself to Boaz, saying, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Spread your cloak over your maidservant, for you are a kinsman” (v. 9).
In his contact with Ruth at the threshing floor that night, Boaz was absolutely restrained, not moved, in his lust, absolutely different from the lust-indulging judges. Boaz blessed Ruth and highly appraised her. Then he told her that he was willing to bear his responsibility according to God’s ordinance to redeem Elimelech’s inheritance, yet he would not overstep the one who was ahead of him in this matter (vv. 12-13). Here Boaz seemed to be saying, “Daughter, wait until tomorrow. Yes, I am your kinsman, and we are free in God. But there is another kinsman who is closer to you than I am, and he must be allowed to go ahead of me. If I do not care for him in this matter, the holy people of God will condemn me for overstepping. Let the other kinsman go ahead of me. If he is not willing to do the kinsman’s duty for you, I will do it for you.” Boaz was lawful in every way, and his being lawful was based not on power but on life. This shows that Boaz had the highest standard of life.
In the Lord’s recovery, should we take the way of the judges to be powerful and to do a great work? If we take the way of the judges instead of the way of life, whatever we accomplish will mean nothing. Not one judge was a forefather of Christ. The judges had nothing to do with keeping the line in humanity to bring in God in His incarnation. It was Ruth and Boaz who participated in keeping this line. However, they did not fight a war; they did not exercise any power.
It is crucial for us to see that only life can bring Christ forth. Only life can keep the lineage, maintaining the thin line to bring God into humanity, to produce Christ and to minister Christ and to supply the entire human race with Christ. This was done not by the judges but by Ruth and Boaz, who took the way of life.
In the Lord’s recovery, I have very much promoted the gaining of the increase, but I do not mean that we should try to gain the increase by being a Samson or a Gideon. I would rather have no increase and keep my genuineness in life. I would rather be without any power, without any result from the work, and remain in the line that brings forth Christ out of eternity into time, that brings forth Christ with His divinity into humanity.
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