This Is Part 2 Of A Four-Part Series Entitled, “Good King Jesus: Teaching Kids To Pray Boldly.” You Can Read Part 1 Of The Series HERE.
There is a portrait I keep in my home office. Small and fading with time, it marks one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. It is of my dad, with his 1980-something hippie hair, holding his two white-haired boys in a tight embrace on the beach. I’m not sure I remember this specific trip, but the memories of beach trips with dad are most prominent when I reflect on my childhood.
My parents divorced when I was just six. My dad, who is some kind of parenting superhero, raised the two of us – with a little help from a village of family members. My dad’s home provided safety, security, guidance, correction, and much more.
This portrait reminds me of one of the most comforting thing about my dad’s home – it was full of peace. A time less complicated and held together by the strong arms of a dad who fought for his little boys and set his own needs aside for their benefit.
This portrait reminds me of my father’s faithfulness to my story.
Portraits become touchstones of our stories. Marking moments of pain. Moments of celebration. Joy. Grief. But, mostly these portraits mark memories. They are reminders of the beauty of our story. When we are grasping for hope that things get better in our current circumstances, we can reach back into our own story and find a touchstone that promises a way forward.
This is probably why God reveals himself throughout the Scriptures through a series of portraits. As I have considered how I might teach my own children how to pray, I have found that shaping their view of God through portraits is most helpful.
The Scriptures are abundantly populated with a variety of different portraits that help us understand the deep, unfailing love and commitment of God to His children. These portraits are types and shadows of a coming Jesus.
Consider these portraits as the Old Testament unfolds:
- Jesus is the seed of woman. In Genesis 3:15 we are told He will one day crush Satan.
- In Exodus, we find the story of the Passover Lamb. Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb given for us.
- In Leviticus, we read of the high priests making sacrifices for the people. Jesus has become our High Priest, making the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins.
- In Deuteronomy, Moses prophesied of a prophet who would be greater than he. Jesus is that Great Prophet.
- In the book of Joshua, Joshua met the Captain of the Lord’s host. That man is Jesus Christ.
- In Judges, the leaders were judges who delivered God’s people, each of them typifying the Lord Jesus.
These biblical portraits provide touchstones illuminating the beauty of our Savior. But, why does it matter how our kids see Jesus? Why does it matter that they see Jesus on every page of all of Scripture? Can these portraits really shape how we teach our children to pray?
Let’s dig a little deeper using the story of Ruth and Boaz.
The book of Ruth lands in a bit of an awkward place in the Bible – maybe it provides the calm in the midst of a leadership storm. The time of Moses, Joshua, and the Judges will quickly come to an abrupt end and King Saul’s poor reign will be upon us. Unlike the previous books, which had dealt with the warfare surrounding the future of Israel, the book of Ruth gives a glimpse into the daily lives of the ancient Israelites.
The story of Ruth is this:
- There is an awful famine in Judah and Elimelech, from Bethlehem, travels to Moab with his wife, Naomi, and two sons. While in Moab these two sons marry two Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah.
- Ten years pass and all three women are now widowed. Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem and Ruth, contrary to the wishes of Naomi, chooses to return as well.
But Ruth Said, “Do Not Urge Me To Leave You Or To Return From Following You. For Where You Go I Will Go, And Where You Lodge I Will Lodge. Your People Shall Be My People, And Your God My God. Where You Die I Will Die, And There Will I Be Buried. May The LORD Do So To Me And More Also If Anything But Death Parts Me From You.” And When Naomi Saw That She Was Determined To Go With Her, She Said No More. (Ruth 1:16-18 ESV)
- They arrived in Bethlehem at the time of the barley harvest. Ruth promptly went to the fields of Boaz to glean. Gleaning was a process of gathering the leftover grain after the harvest. Usually made available for those who were poor or widowed. In Ruth’s case, the Hebrew law gave her the right to request (or demand) that her nearest family member of her deceased husband take her as his wife. Boaz had been related to Ruth’s husband and was willing to marry her, but since there was another man of closer kinship, it was necessary to go through certain customary and legal measures before he could rightfully claim her.
- After the rightful kinsman waived his right to marry Ruth, Boaz married her with the blessings of their neighbors. Eventually, Ruth and Boaz became the parents of Obed, the grandfather of King David.
Boaz was what is known in Hebrew as a kinsman-redeemer (Go’el HaDahm) – one who delivers or rescues (Genesis 48:16; Exodus 6:6) or redeems property or person (Leviticus 27:9–25, 25:47–55). Ruth and Naomi were both left without hope and found gleaning after the harvest to even survive. Boaz willingly took on the one who lacked the resources to provide for herself and redeemed Ruth.
In the same way, God is Israel’s Redeemer – the one who promises to defend and provide for them. He is Israel’s deliverer (Exodus 20:2), rescuer (Jeremiah 20:13) and preserver (Ezekiel 34:10–12).
As we move forward into the New Testament, Hebrews 2:11 remarks that Jesus is our brother and redeems us as people who have great needs for which only He can provide. Jesus bought us for Himself, out of the curse, out of our absolute lack, and made us His own beloved. By bringing us into his family He has blessed us for all generations. Jesus is the one true and final kinsman-redeemer.
This portrait of Jesus is among the more profound. Jesus is the one who has willingly become the hero of our story. We were without hope and Jesus refused to allow us to continue without hope. Instead of allowing us to get what we deserve, He gave us what he deserved. He becomes our kinsman, brother, and redeemer. Jesus’s story echoes throughout all of Scripture and promises us that there is always a portrait of Jesus for our current circumstances.
Now, how does the portrait of Jesus found in Ruth teach our kids to pray boldly? Here are a few reflections:
- Jesus is family. As you teach your children to pray boldly to Jesus it is important that we remind them Jesus is our brother. He loves us. He cares about the other members of our family. We can pray boldly for our family members because we are in Jesus’s family.
- Jesus provides for our needs. Jesus wants to hear the things our children desire – whether provision or Xbox. God wants our children to pray for the things they desire and as we pray for our children we do so knowing that Jesus will shape the desires of their hearts.
- Jesus redeems our story. All of our stories are messy and come with an almost unlimited amount of uncertainty. We must encourage our children to boldly approach Jesus with openness about all parts of their story. We celebrate the moments of joy and happiness, but we also bring our pain and grief to Jesus knowing He will hear our pleas.
- Jesus takes what we deserved. Boaz was not the rightful kinsman redeemer for Ruth. Remember there was another kinsman who had the rightful responsibility for Ruth’s well-being; however, Boaz interceded on Ruth’s behalf because he knew what would be best for her. This is what Jesus does for us – He intercedes because He knows what is best. Or maybe said another way, Jesus takes what we deserve and gives us His best. Our children can bold pray to Jesus because He died for us and gave us all of the spiritual inheritance that was due Him. That is love. A love that can be trusted with our deepest longings and needs.
Next time we will look at how the Gospel portraits of Jesus can teach our kids to pray with confidence and peace.