What does God’s favor look like? Is it a life of ease and blessing? A beautiful house, great marriage, 2.5 children, and a white picket fence? Honestly, that’s usually where our American minds go, isn’t it?
But God’s favor doesn’t always look like favor on the outside. Sometimes it does, but after studying the Bible for many years, I’ve noticed a recurring theme of those favored by God: Life was not always easy, but He was with them.
Biblical People Favored by God
Although the biblical characters favored by God were often blessed in the ways we think of blessing, the favor also came with hardship or waiting or rejection of friends and family.
Just as Abraham had to wait a long time to see the favor of God in the birth of Isaac, so Moses dealt with the faithless Israelites for forty years. He did see the land, but he did not live there. Yet, I don’t believe God’s favor left him for a moment. Most importantly, God promised His presence. God never left Moses.
God’s Favor Over David
And who could forget the battles David fought? Favored by God, anointed to be king, yet David was chased by his enemies who’d once been his friends. He was slandered and plotted against, but David was favored by God. Despite the hardships and rejection by men, David experienced an amazing relationship with God. He knew YHWH was constantly with him. As a result, David penned the beautiful, faith-filled words of Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.Psalm 23 NIV
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
When God’s Favor doesn’t look like you expect
Certainly one of the most beloved saints favored by God was Mary. Remember what Gabriel said to her? It’s one of my favorite scriptures.
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.Luke 1: 28-30 NIV
Mary was troubled by this favor. Was she simply recalling the hardships of Moses, David, and Abraham? Moreover, the favor upon her was like no other. God chose this young, unknown, simple girl to be the mother of the Messiah. As a result, she would experience great joy but also deep sadness. It would not be easy to be the mother of the Savior of the World who she’d one day watch die on a bloody cross.
God’s Favor on Ruth
But long before Mary received Gabriel’s proclamation, there was a woman from Moab also favored by God. This favored woman would become the great-grandmother of David making her an ancestor of King Jesus. Yet Ruth’s life had not been easy either. Despite the hardships, grief, and barren womb, Ruth chose to cling to Naomi’s God who became her God too. God’s favor settled on Ruth. We see His favor again this week as we continue our study of this loved heroin. God was indeed with her and her kinsman redeemer, Boaz, who faithfully followed the rules. Thankfully, though Boaz offered the “redemption duty” to the relative, he declined. This closed door opened another for Boaz.
Come study with us this week about God’s favor. If you’re just joining us take some time to read the last few articles about waiting with hope, God’s perfect timing, and when God says “no.” Grab your favorite cuppa and spend time with the One who favors you. (A printable is available.) If you’re using the Ruth Key Word Bible Study, we are on Day 28, pages 239-244.
So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.
Prompt: Hopefully you’ve guessed that the whole sandal thing was part of their ancient cultural transactions. It was a symbolic of one kinsman transferring his right to another. Maybe it meant something like, “Here, walk in my shoes.” I don’t know. But let’s think back to a time in our lives when something that could’ve been a hurdle or disappointment wasn’t. Write it down and thank God for that favor.
Jeremiah 32: !3-15
“In their presence I gave Baruch these instructions: 14 ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. 15 For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.’
Prompt: The context of this verse is set during the Babylonian captivity. God had given Jeremiah knowledge that his cousin would ask him to fulfill his right of redemption to buy the family land. Jeremiah did so, but he then had the legal papers sealed and stored for the day when God would bring the Jews back to their land. Though the people were led into captivity, this was the promise of God’s favor one day. Has God ever done this for you? Has he given you a promise you’ve seen fulfilled or one you are waiting on?
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Prompt: The Hebrew word for “follow” actually means to “pursue” or “chase.” God’s goodness and lovingkindness are pursuing you. What does this mean to you?
“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.”
Prompt: This is God’s favor. Even when things go bad, we can trust His vision, His good purpose, and His plan. How have you witnessed this in your life?
“These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”
Prompt: I love this promise. God closed one door for Ruth, and the closed door opened the way for Boaz to redeem Naomi’s land and marry Ruth. Write a prayer for eternal vision, eyes and heart that know the doors God has opened, the faith to walk through, and assurance of His goodness when doors close.
The Faithful God of Favor
I know many of you are walking through difficult days. Your hardship or crisis certainly feels more like punishment than favor. If you are in these hard places, pray to feel His presence, to hear His whisper, and to know beyond knowing that He’s got good plans. Plans of purpose. Plans of favor. You are loved, my friends. The doors shut and open with great promise in mind. Trust Him. His love is chasing you.
Leave a comment. What are your thoughts on favor?