Life in the Spirit

Last week, in our study of Ruth, we noted that the Book of Ruth is traditionally read during the Jewish Festival of Shavuot, also know as the Feast of Weeks or in Greek as Pentecost.  This was the harvest festival in ancient Israel and, more importantly, the celebration of the giving of the Law of Moses.  It is called the Festival of Weeks because the Jews count the seven weeks starting with the second day after Passover, 49 days.  This is called the counting of the Omer.

An Omer was a volumetric measure of grain equal to about 2.4 quarts or 3.74 pounds of barley.  Each day of the counting, an Omer of barley was offered as a sacrifice in the temple until Shavuot when an offering of wheat was made.  Counting the Omer is to show how the coming of the law is anticipated and how the people desire it to be make it real in their lives.

It is interesting to note that Shavuot is commanded in Leviticus 23:15-21 and immediately after that in verse 22 is the command that they were not to reap to the edges of their fields, the very command that provided food for Ruth and Naomi.

Christians generally recognize this festival as  Pentecost.  Pentecost is an english transliteration of an ancient Greek word that means means fiftieth, Shavuot is celebrated on the 50th day after passover.  But Christians do not celebrate the coming of the law, they celebrate the coming of the Spirit.

Since these two things, the Spirit and the Law are so interconnected in Scripture and since Jesus says that we are to worship in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24), it might be useful to compare life under the Law to life in the Spirit.

The events in the Book of Ruth might be said to represent the Law at its best.  Ruth and Naomi rely on the Law for their protection and their redemption (at least in human terms) is accomplished by Boaz’s obedience of the Law.  We rely on laws for our safety all the time.  Something as simple as a stop sign, a Law, saves us from death and destruction at a crossroad.  But the success of a stop sign depends on the willingness of people to obey the law.

Why are people willing to obey our laws?  Why do you obey the law?  Why do you think Boaz obeyed the Law of Moses?

Let me point out several things about the Law from Roman’s 7 and 8

  1. At best the Law produces a quid pro quo, we obey and God blesses.  At worst it actually incites sin.  We may even come to resent or fear the law for its strictures on our lives even when we try and follow it.
  2. The law, as an external code, provides no means for accomplishing obedience.  There are punishments for disobeying and rewards for obeying.   In essence we are slaves to the Law bouncing between rewards and punishments.
  3. Ultimately the law means death, because no one can keep it.  In fact, it’s worse than that because we don’t even really want to follow the law.  Paul says that even if we want to do good we can’t because there is another Law in our heart, the law of Sin working aginst us.  The very Law we would try to follow then condemns us to death.

However, through the Spirit of God:

  1. There is no condemnation for us in the Spirit because God sent His Son as a sin offering to condemn sin instead. (Romans 8:1-4)
  2. The Spirit lives in us, not apart from us, and empowers us to life, that is to life in the Spirit not to life in sin. (Romans 8:14-17)
  3. The Spirit makes us children of God, who do not live in fear and who’s reward is not based on what they do, but who they are related to.  (Romans 8:14-17)

I think that last point is worth some discussion in the context of Ruth.  What happens to her prefigures, in a way, what happens to us.  The everything she would have in life, her very ability to stay alive, was predicated not on what she did, but her status as Boaz’s wife.

So with us.  Our righteousness is not based on what we do in relation to the Law, but on our status as sons and daughters of God.

Are we relying on the Spirit of God?  Are we seeking His Spirit?  Are we allowing His Spirit to live through us or are we determined to be self made, to do it on our own?