(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 4)
Sometimes God will not bless us until we obey his call to separate from a person, thing, habit, attitude, place or people, as I wrote in Note 37 on my ‘BIBLE-BELIEVING Daughters of God’ Page entitled: ‘When God Calls Us To Separate Ourselves’. However, on the other hand, in some situations, sometimes your blessing is tied to your refusing to let go.
This may be the case even in situations where it seems logical to let go and holding on seems to make absolutely no sense. It may also be the case where we are pressured, willed, urged or invited to let go by people or a situation, yet we decide to defy such promptings, to defy what seems like the common sense thing to do, to defy what others and the situation may be screaming at us to do and still choose to hold on.
There are at least three examples of this in the Bible, as demonstrated in the life of Ruth, Jacob and Elisha. Let us examine these characters.
Ruth refused to let go and she was blessed.
After her husband had died, she defied the advice and urging of her mother-in-law, that she not accompany her to Judah but go back to her own people in Moab, where there was a possibility, in Naomi’s mind, that Ruth could find another man and get married.
Naomi seemingly anticipated a life of hardship for herself upon her return to Judah, given that the breadwinner of the family (her husband) had died and so had her two sons. She did not seemingly want Ruth or her other widowed daughter-in-law Orpah, who was also with her, to suffer like this with her. Given that both Ruth and Orpah were Moabites and not Israelites, she also took the view, seemingly, that, as widows, Moabites (which the Israelites did not historically have good relations with) and therefore outsiders, Ruth and Orpah would not be very well accepted by her people and stood no chance of finding men to marry.
For, apart from the baggage that they carried as widows, they were Moabites, people that the Israelites ordinarily held in contempt. Naomi therefore saw Ruth and Orpah’s future as hopeless and bleak, if they accompanied her to Judah where the people there were not their people.
To get her point across, she asked her daughters-in-law that even if she (Naomi) were to get a husband that very night and bear sons (which she knew would never happen due to her age), if Ruth and Orpah would stick around and wait until they were grown, so that they could marry them. She was therefore, in my view, trying to bring the point home, that time was running out for them if they ever hoped to remarry and have a family of their own.
She hoped that this reality check would convince her daughters-in-law that their future was not with her in Judah, where there was no possibility of them ever getting the opportunity to remarry and become somebody’s wife but that it lay in Moab, among their own people.
In response, Orpah gave in and let go of her resolve to go back to Judah with Naomi. Maybe the thought of spending the rest of her life as a single woman with no children of her own was too much to bear. She therefore kissed her mother-in-law goodbye and left.
Ruth on the other hand, refused to let go. Despite the advice, urging, prompting and argument advanced by Naomi, she was determined to not let go of her mother-in-law and to go back with her to Judah. Irrespective of the consequences, due to her love for her mother-in-law, she decided to go with her and to submit to Naomi’s God (which was the true and living God).
In Ruth 1 it reads:
- “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
- Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
- And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
- And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me.
- And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
- And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither 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 thee and me.
- When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. So they two went until they came to Bethlehem…”
Ruth’s firm resolve to not go back to Moab and to the worship of false gods which existed in that land but to hold fast to Naomi and Naomi’s God, reminds me of the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 1:9, who, when they found the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in faith, they “…turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
As a result of the choice that Ruth made to abandon her own selfish interest (which was to hopefully be remarried and have a family of her own in Moab) and to instead go wherever her mother-in-law was going so that she could help her and be there for her, despite the life of solitary hardship that was expected to await, God blessed her bountifully for her choice to not let go.
He allowed things to work out so that when she was in Judah and working in a field out of necessity, to pick up corn that fell from the reapers so that she and Naomi, now poor, could eat, she was spotted by the owner of the field where she was working. He (Boaz), an influential, godly, respectable and wealthy man, just so happened to visit that very field on that very day and when he spotted her, he enquired of his servant as to who she was.
The rest of the story is history. Ruth became the wife of Boaz, the owner of the field and one of Judah’s most eligible bachelors. God also allowed her to conceive and bear a child from that marriage. It was then from this lineage that God later used to bring forth David, a king over all Israel, Solomon his son, who was described as the wisest man that ever lived and who also became a king and finally, Jesus Christ (although born of the Holy Ghost), the Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Ruth’s choice to not let go, therefore resulted in her being blessed immensely, to the point where a whole book in the Bible is devoted to telling her story. That book is called Ruth.
On the other hand, Orpah was never heard of again. She let go when pressured by her mother-in-law to go back to Moab, a place of ungodliness and there is no book recorded about her, as far as I am aware. She may have gotten married and may have had children but sadly, she may have remained single for the rest of her life and childless, living among a people that did not know God.
Jacob refused to let go and he was blessed.
The Bible speaks of a time when Jacob had an encounter with a man, which, from the context of the scriptures, had to have been an angel of God.
We learn in Genesis 32:1-2 that: “…Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.”
Then, after Jacob had passed over the ford of Jabbok and was at one point, by himself, the Bible states that a man wrestled with him. After the encounter, Jacob said that he had seen God face to face and his life was preserved, something that was usually said only when a human being was visited by an angel of the Lord.
That this ‘man’ was an angel is confirmed in Hosea 12:3-4, where it reads of Jacob:
- “He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us.”
During the wrestling, one gets the impression that Jacob, in dire need of a blessing, held on to the angel (which he knew was an angel appearing in human form) because he wanted him to bless him. He especially wanted to be blessed, I believe, in light of the fact that he had heard that Esau, his brother, who had desired to kill him years before for his deceptive act against him was coming in his direction and Jacob was afraid that he would destroy him and all his family.
The Bible states that Jacob and the man he encountered wrestled until the breaking of the day, which suggests that Jacob fought to hold on to him for hours, refusing to let go.
The angel (who appeared in man form) wanted to leave but Jacob refused to allow him to do so. Given that angels are more powerful than human beings and have abilities that human beings as mere mortals do not possess, it is my view that the angel could have exerted power to free himself from Jacob’s grasp but did not. It seemed that instead, he restrained himself (perhaps because he was not authorized by God to use the power he had available) and wrestled with Jacob at his level, which was as a man.
Jacob fought to hold on to this man to such an extent, that the Bible states that the man with whom he wrestled who wanted to be free, apparently seeing that daylight was approaching and so as to bring an end to being held firmly by Jacob, eventually touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh, causing it to be out of joint. This seemed to be the use of a little power on the part of the angel so that Jacob would let go. Yet, despite his handicap, Jacob still continued to hold on.
The man with whom he fought then told him to let him go as daylight was approaching but even with his thigh being out of joint, Jacob kept his grip firm and refused to do so, unless the man (of course with authority from God), blessed him.
The Bible states in Genesis 32:24-30:
- “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”
Jacob therefore defied the will of the man (who was most certainly an angel) to be let go but instead wrestled with him for what seemed like hours, not for mere fighting sake but so that the man would pronounce a blessing on him, which he considered essential to his future.
From the facts, it is clear that he perceived that this man was an angel from God and knew therefore that he had the authority and power from God, to pronounce a blessing on him. Jacob therefore refused to let go and as a result, he received a blessing from the Lord.
Genesis 32:27-30 reads of the angel’s conversation with Jacob and how he gave him the blessing for which he fought:
- “And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
Jacob therefore received the blessing he sought because he stubbornly refused to let go but fought for what he wanted and considered important.
Elisha refused to let go and he was blessed.
On three occasions as he travelled with Elijah the Prophet who was his Master and as Elijah anticipated the time drawing closer on that day when God would take him from this world, Elisha was told by Elijah to not move forward on the journey with him. However, on each of the three occasions, Elisha refused to leave the Prophet but accompanied him wherever he went.
He knew that the Prophet Elijah would be taken off the earth by God on that day and maybe he wanted to see this with his own eyes. I do not know. The scripture does not say. However, he was determined to be with Elijah right up to the end, when God took him.
After expressing his persistence by refusing to leave the Prophet Elijah, Elisha was asked by the Prophet what he could do for him before he departed. In response, Elisha replied that he desired to have a double portion of the Spirit that God had put on Elijah.
Elijah in turn admitted that this was a hard request but told Elisha that if he saw when God took him up from the earth, that his request would be granted.
This must have strengthened Elisha’s resolve to follow the Prophet Elijah, for he did not once leave his side. He continued on with him and did get to see with his own eyes, when God took his Master Elijah up. As a result, he was blessed in that his petition was granted. The Spirit that was upon Elijah, rested upon him, double-fold.
2 Kings 2:1-15 states:
- “And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
- And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
- And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan.
- And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither so that they two went over on dry ground. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.
- And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;
- And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.”
Elisha therefore received the blessing of a double portion of God’s Spirit that had previously been on his Master Elijah because in refusing to let go of his journey with Elijah, he positioned himself in the right place to make a petition and then to have that petition granted, not really by the Prophet Elijah but by God, who honoured his request.
Daughter of God, in our lives today, the lessons from the three examples cited above are important. In all three cases, their blessing was tied to the person they refused to let go of.
Similarly, our blessing is tied to Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. As Christians, no matter what we are going through or what people say or what they tell us to do because it seems like the logical, rational thing to do, we should, like Ruth, Jacob and Elisha, refuse to let go of Jesus, our faith in him and his principles like integrity, morals, standards and truth. We must hold on for dear life because no matter how hard things get and how dismal things seem, he is life itself and there is always hope in him.
It is those that continue to cling to Jesus in faith, refusing to let go, (despite the angry torrents of the world’s storms and the pressure that comes from people telling us, sometimes in subtle ways, to walk away from Jesus and all that he stands for) that will be blessed, no matter how things seem.
Hebrews 10:23 urges us to not let go of our faith in Jesus, when it states: “Let us HOLD FAST the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)”
If God’s Word says for example, that God hates divorce (which it does) and that whatever God has put together, no man should put asunder and therefore, it is God’s will that marriage be permanent, then if we find ourselves in a difficult marriage that has lost its fire and we feel unloved and unappreciated, we may be advised by others and even our own hearts to take the easy way out and to let go. However, if we refuse to let go and choose instead to trust God, ask for his help, hold on and fight for that marriage, once God intervenes, it can be mended and turn out to be a tremendous blessing, even moreso than at the beginning.
If God’s Word says, as another example, that we should not have sex before marriage (which it does), even if the years are rolling on and we are getting older and our biological clock is ticking, we should refuse to let go of God’s leading and his way, which is right, even if it seems like obeying him will result in us being ridiculed by others, remaining single all the days of our lives and without the family that we have long dreamed of.
There is a blessing for those who refuse to let go and sometimes, like Ruth, it comes when we least expect it.
Taking the easy way out, like Orpah, will be to our detriment. Refusing to hold on and contend for our faith, like Jacob wrestled with the angel, will cause us to forego our blessing. Making sure that we are positioned in the presence of God, come what may and never letting go, will result in us getting a glimpse of the glory of God, like Elisha was fortunate to experience, when he saw Elijah being taken up in the whirlwind and finally, when we refuse to let go of God’s way and our love for him, we are assured that God’s Spirit will be with us.
(Written on 13th September, 2020)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interestig, informative, edifying or beneficial, I also recommend that you read the following:
- Note 31 – ‘God Loves Persistence – Fight On!’