As of today, January 21st, 18 days have passed since the town of Baga, Nigeria was razed, where 2,000 of it’s innocent men, women, and children were mercilessly massacred. As Boko Haram’s bloodiest raid to date, most of its victims were women, children, and the elderly who could not escape the terrorists’ rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles. As people ran, swam, and hid for their lives, thousands upon thousands drowned in nearby Lake Chad, where the body count was so high that soldiers stopped counting.
Since the attack on Baga, the Boko Haram has kidnapped 80 more young children and women from the village of Mabass, as well as many other villages along the “porous” border of Nigeria and Cameroon. With all of this happening within weeks of each other, one has to wonder how news of these nightmares haven’t been acknowledged outside of independent news agencies. Amidst the multiple terrorist attacks that have recently occurred in France, Iraq and Syria, these horrific events have been all but ignored in mainstream media. And while one would expect that the country’s very leader would step up and do something definitive about these attacks– or, at the very least, acknowledge the barrage’s many victims by offering his sincerest, deepest condolences– Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, still has yet to express anything concerning the assaults that have taken more than 2,000 of his citizen’s lives. As unbelievable as it sounds, the depraved events that have occurred in Nigeria during the past few weeks still have yet to be widely acknowledged by any government entity, especially the very country of Nigeria– where the 2015 elections seem to take precedence over the lives of its’ slaughtered and displaced citizens.
In reality, this complete lack of any compassion or empathy expresses the belief that the oppressed and vulnerable in Northern Nigeria do not matter. In a world where terrorist attacks are becoming a commonly discussed subject on the evening news, the blood of thousands of innocent people cries out from the ground with no one to hear it. With no voice to be heard, these atrocities go unnoticed, treated like a scratch on the knee instead of the gaping wound in need of immediate attention that it is.
Such apathy and refusal to act is in direct opposition to the passionate way Jesus cared about others. All over both the Old and New Testaments, Jesus (YHWH) is seen time and again as “El Roi,” or “The God who Sees.” Accounts of Christ coming to His people in need can be found in many different places. Yet, in an incredible story of compassion, the book of Ruth expresses the truth of God’s redemptive work well, in the way Naomi, a hebrew, and Ruth, her Moabitess daughter-in-law, were seen, heard, and helped by the Lord after losing all they had.
In Ruth 1, we see Naomi’s family quickly fall apart, as her husband and sons all die within ten years of each other. After this intensely grievous time, Naomi hears that “the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them,” in Israel, and decides to return back to the land of Judah (Ruth 1:6-7, NIV). After a tearful goodbye, Naomi and Ruth separate from Naomi’s other daughter-in-law, Orpah, and return to Israel (Ruth 1:16-18, NIV). In Israel, penniless and destitute, the newly widowed Ruth finds a job picking leftover grain in the fields of a man named Boaz to support her and her mother-in-law (Ruth 2:1-3, NIV). Women with no husband or children had little rights in Hebrew society, and lacked the financial and societal security a husband provided in Ancient Israel. Naomi, bitterly heartbroken towards her circumstances, claims that “the Lord’s hand has turned against her” (Ruth 1:13, NIV). Yet, contrary to Naomi’s belief, the Lord had His eye on the poor, grieved women Ruth and Naomi were– for good, and not for evil.
As the story progresses into chapters 3 and 4, we find that a man named Boaz enters the picture– and, in a noble, compassionate way, redeems Ruth and Naomi by marrying Ruth and taking them both into his family (Ruth 4:9-12, NIV). In a genuine act of love towards these two destitute women, Boaz cherishes the vulnerable Ruth– even when it was in his power to abuse her– and, in turn, is the vessel in which the Lord conveys His unfailing Love to Ruth and Naomi. As many commentators have observed, the character of Boaz is seen as a Christ figure, paralleling the same righteousness, compassion, and love with which Christ redeemed us from our destitute, broken, sinful lives. Naomi’s friends, upon seeing that she is holding Boaz and Ruth’s son in her arms, exclaim the sure truth: that the Lord was faithful and changed her mourning to joy.
“Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
(Ruth 4:14-15, NIV)
In other words, Christ saw the pain these defenseless, impoverished women were going through, and did not leave them in their grief. He, through Boaz, redeemed these women’s lives, and proved once more that He is “the God who Sees,” “The Lord who Provides,” and “the Lord who Heals” (Genesis 16:13; Genesis 22:14; Exodus 15:26, NIV).
The fact that Boaz knew the Lord shone through all He did, whether it was in word or deed (Ruth 2:4; Ruth 2:8-12; Ruth 4:9-10, NIV), and the Lord used Him in an amazing way. Just as the Lord redeemed Naomi and Ruth through the righteous actions of Boaz, so the Lord works in and through us to bring relief, justice, and healing to those in dire need. We, as a people who claim to know and love the living God, must be equally as loving, selfless, and compassionate as Boaz. We, as Christ-followers, must live to serve God and others, speak up for the helpless, and pursue justice and mercy, just as Jesus did. With Jesus’ love and power, may our arms be open to the needy, and our voices be heard for the voiceless.
Please be praying for the hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon who are facing displacement, grief, and illness due to Boko Haram violence. Pray for those grieving the loss of their friends, families, and loved ones.
Pray for those who are still caught in the midst of Boko Haram violence. Pray that Christians there would have peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7, NIV), and that they’d take comfort and refuge in the Lord their God.
Pray for those kidnapped. Pray they’d have freedom soon, and that as they trust in Jesus, He’d use them to bring Boko Haram members to the Lord.
Pray also for Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. Pray his heart would be softened and that he’d experience the intense, true love of Christ. He, despite his vulgarity and hatred, needs to know the Love of Christ– or there is no hope for him and the members of his militia.
Pray that this intense pain, trial, and tribulation would come to rest soon. Pray for restoration, healing, and strength for Nigeria on all sides.
Like Naomi and Ruth, may the people of Nigeria experience God’s unfailing Love as He uses us to speak into a dark and broken world.
Do you know Jesus?
Many people view God as far away, cold, or condemning. Other people see God as “the big guy upstairs,” a God who is completely tolerant of any lifestyle (even sinful ones) and gives people whatever they want. While both of these views are popular in the world, they are both false and do no justice to the true and living God.
The truth is, God is incredibly personal, and incredibly Holy. In the beginning, God created mankind to have fellowship with Him as they took care of the Earth He had created (Genesis 2:15, NIV). But, eventually, we as people were deceived by satan, and believed the lie that we could be fulfilled outside of being with God. In the process, we disobeyed God, hiding from Him in shame and fear (Genesis 3:8, NIV).
This willful disobedience against God– otherwise known as sin– completely separated us from having an intimate relationship with God, and brought death of all kinds into the world today (Isaiah 59:2, NIV). While God still loved us, we were completely unable to fellowship with Him, due to the fact that we were sinful and He was completely “Holy,” or set-apart. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, our choices to live outside of God’s will for our lives killed us, and in turn, brought about violence, hatred, envy, jealousy, and pride in our relationships with other humans (Genesis 4:1-16, NIV). Broken, darkened and separated from God, we deserve eternal separation from God, or hell (2 Thessalonians 1:9, NIV).
All throughout the ages, men tried to please God by perfectly following the Law– yet always fell short, unable to be perfectly Holy as God required (Romans 3:23, NIV). But God, in His infinite love, mercy, and grace for us, sent Jesus, His only Son– perfectly flawless, God in human flesh– to be the eternal sacrifice for all of our sin (Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV). While our sin crucified Him, it was not more powerful than His Love for us; three days later, He rose from the dead, forever defeating sin and death itself (1 Corinthians 15:4, NIV). In triumphal victory, Jesus proclaimed that all who believed on Him could be eternally forgiven of their sin, and enter into a personal relationship with the Father (John 14:6, NIV). By His own power, God redeemed us from everything that separated us from Him– so that we could freely share in all it means to be God’s children (Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:11, NIV).
Romans 10 states that if “you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NIV). Do you hear that? God loves you so much that He sent His son to die for your wrongdoing– so that, by faith in Him alone, you could receive eternal life, a relationship with Him, and the power of His Holy Spirit living inside you (John 3:16; John 16:13; Romans 8:11, NIV). Do you believe in your heart you are in need of a Savior, and that Jesus is your only Savior? That’s great! To confess with your mouth, say this simple prayer with me, or say one of your own:
Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God. I believe that You died for the sin of the world, and three days later, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. I have sinned against You in thought and deed; because of this, I deserve hell. But I pray today that You would forgive me of my sin, enter into my heart and life, and help me, by Your Holy Spirit’s power, to live a Holy life for You. I thank You for that, Lord Jesus. In Your name I pray, Amen.
If you’ve just prayed that prayer with me, I’m very glad to tell you that you have now accepted Jesus into your heart and life! Jesus being in your life means that you will never be alone again– and that Christ will continually form you into His image as you seek, trust, and obey Him. It does not mean that you will never sin or that your life will be trouble free; it means that through Jesus’ power, you can conquer the troubles of this life, and that He will help you to live wholly for Him (Romans 8:26; Romans 8:37, NIV). What a beautiful thing to hear!
Jesus calls us to share this beautiful news with others (Mark 16:15, NIV). Please be praying about how Christ can use you to bring His love and good news to the people around you!
If you have other questions about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel, click here.
May you be extremely blessed in your walk with Christ! 🙂