The Rich Young Ruler
One of the most poignant stories in the Bible to me is the story of the rich young ruler. This impressive young man had made many “right” choices in his life and he was obviously from a successful, affluent family. I imagine he was admired and highly respected as a young man of both character and position. He realized that his wealth and influence came with responsibility and he seemed to embrace that.
And yet, something was still missing… despite all that he was and had, he inherently knew that he needed to be saved. His stuff wasn’t enough! He also recognized that there was something extraordinary about the authority and teachings of Jesus. In the gospel of Mark it says he RAN to Jesus – and then, this wealthy, influential man KNELT DOWN and humbly asked the simple sandal-shoed carpenter, “What must I do to have eternal life?” That’s quite a picture, isn’t it? Jesus saw the young man’s desire to measure up to the mark. He saw his hunger to hear from a man he considered a great teacher. He saw his willingness to do the right thing.
Jesus said, “You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not testify falsely. Do not cheat, honor your father and mother.”
“Teacher, I have obeyed all these laws since I was a child.”
Before Jesus responded to the rich young ruler, the Bible says He looked at him and He felt great love for him. Then Jesus said, “You lack only one thing—go and sell all you have and give your money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow Me.” The Bible says the man’s face fell and he went sadly away because he had many possessions (see Mark 10:17-31).
What was that conversation all about? Jesus was extending an invitation to this man to embark on a “God-adventure” with Him. It was up to the man to choose what he would do. As much as he loved God, as much as he obeyed the law, he was entangled in and limited by his possessions. Jesus wanted to give him a new identity—a new name. He was inviting him to come along with Him into a life of walking in God’s plans and God’s purposes where God leads and supplies all that is needed. That’s an exciting invitation but a frightening one. It’s an invitation that is extended to every true believer. You see, God isn’t just out to touch our hearts and forgive our sins. He wants to CHANGE us. Then He wants to USE us. The more we are willing to be changed, the more He is able to use us. I wonder what might have happened if the rich young ruler had said “yes.” I wonder how many times he asked himself that question over the years.
What about you? You are created for God-adventures, you know. Don’t settle for a mediocre life because it is safe and predictable. The King of the Universe is inviting you to walk with Him. You have to let go of everything else so you can hold on to Him. Don’t miss out on His purposes for you. Say “yes!” and grab hold.
Exodus 3:2, 7 2There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.
7The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
The angel of the Lord is referred to by rabbis as the Prince of the Countenance. We know Him as Jesus, the visible manifestation of the invisible God. When Moses made his choice to side with his people, he had to flee for his life from the very people that had raised and educated him. In the wilderness of Midian, he received the second half of his training. Now he knows he can do nothing. He is humbled and ready to be called by God. Most of us would rather skip the last half of God’s training, but it is essential. Without it we end up polluting what God would do with our own wisdom and ways. When Moses was prepared, Jesus met with him.
This is the same Jesus of the New Testament that looks on people with compassion. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8) God said, “I have seen their misery and heard them crying out…” God is concerned about suffering wherever it takes place and to whomever as we saw in the story of Hagar. We are made in His image, and He loves and values each life.
It is argued that the God of the Old Testament brutally destroyed lives and therefore is not like the New Testament God. He does end life when it is so corrupt and perverted that it only causes pain. He is the same just but merciful God in both testaments. If you are experiencing pain and suffering, know that God sees your misery and hears your cries. He will bring a change or see you through it because of His great compassion.
Meditation: God is concerned about suffering and I should be also. His life in me will demonstrate His concerns.
Our Love Life
God’s rules were given for our protection, and there are consequences for breaking them.
God’s love has no limit, but that doesn’t mean our behavior has no boundaries. While some people may argue that rules are stifling, any good parent knows limits are essential to raising children well (Heb. 12:6-7). And so is continuing to love them when they break the rules. This may bring two questions to mind:
1. Why does the Lord have so many rules? They’re designed to protect us and bring peace. But God doesn’t force obedience. The Bible neither says nor implies that we have to live up to the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount in order to be loved. (See Ex. 20:1-17; Matt. 5-7.) However, following God’s rules is the path to joy and security.
2. What happens when I sin? No one is able to sin beyond the reach of God’s redemptive grace. He will always forgive. But grace is not a license to sin. The Lord will allow us to experience the consequences of sin.
God loves without condition. To show His great care for mankind, He gave solid principles on which people are to build their life. His affection is in no way diminished toward those who ignore biblical rules, but His heart is grieved by their defiance. He delights in believers who seek and follow His will (1 Thess. 4:1).
“When ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.” – 2 Chronicles 32:31 NLT
God wanted to see what was in Hezekiah’s heart – not what he wanted others to think but what really was important to him, what he actually believed. So He withdrew “in order to test him.”
This can happen in our lives, too. God always is with us, but He may want to see what is in our hearts. How does He do this? At times, He may seem silent or distant. He may not answer our prayers immediately or provide the direction we need right away.
How do we respond during these times? Become discouraged? Feel abandoned? Assume He will not answer our prayers?
The Bible assures us that God is with us even when He is silent. Through His silences, He determines our true character. In these situations, we are weighed in the balance. He is finding out what is in our minds and hearts and learning the real conditions of our beliefs and thoughts.
If it ever feels that God is silent, realize that He may have withdrawn from you for a season. But He never has abandoned or forgotten you. He may be testing you to see what is in your heart.
Be sure you are ready for these tests. Always remember to stay faithful to His Word. Continue to declare His promises to be true. And realize that if you obey Him and remain faithful, He will pour out even greater blessings.