Her name was Mary, a form of the name Miriam (the famous sister of Moses). The name was common among Jewish women in those days. A well-known tradition says she was born in Jerusalem, the daughter of Joachim and Ann. Other early sources say Mary was born in Nazareth. There is even an ancient record that points to Sepphoris, a town a few miles from Nazareth, as her birthplace. Wherever she was born, Mary’s life most likely unfolded in the staunch Jewish settlement of Nazareth in the hills of Galilee, not far from the important caravan routes linking Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Mary was a woman who lived in a small family house of stone and mud-brick. She worked like any young girl, grinding wheat and barley into flour, preparing dishes of beans, vegetables, eggs, fruits, nuts, and occasional chunks of mutton. Wool had to be made into clothing. Bread had to be baked. A few chickens and a donkey had to be fed. And in the village, small as it was, there were always little children to care for.
From the people of Nazareth Mary learned about life. Few strangers visited the town. It had little wealth, culture or learning. But just as a tiny drop of water contains a wealth of living organisms, so the small town of Nazareth had a rich life of its own. Children were born, young people married, someone died and was buried. Mary felt these joys and sorrows. A sheep was lost, a family quarreled, a son left home. From such small things, life’s deepest lessons could be learned.
The people of Nazareth had a strong Jewish faith. As God’s chosen people, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Jews believed this land was theirs, given to their ancestors whom Moses led out of Egypt. They knew by heart the deeds of kings like David and Solomon and the words of prophets like Isaiah and Elijah. Even though the Romans, with Herod’s family as their puppets, now occupied Palestine, the Jews of Galilee believed God would someday send a Messiah who would free Israel from her enemies. For some Jews, foreign domination only fanned the fires of revolution more brightly in their hearts. Others, like the Pharisees, became more strictly conservative and exclusive in their religious practices. Still others, like Mary and many ordinary people of the land, became more and more aware that they were powerless themselves, but God, the all powerful, could raise up the lowly. Their faith was of the deepest kind:
“The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Blessed be the Lord. The Lord our God, the Lord alone!
Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul
and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:4-5)
Mary’s faith was strong. Yet, in fervently religious Nazareth with its high moral standards, she hardly stood out at all, even in the eyes of those who knew her best. Besides, as a woman living in a society where men counted most, she would be little noticed except as a mother and a wife. When she was 15 or so, Mary’s parents made plans for her to be married, as was customary in those days. They chose Joseph of Nazareth, a carpenter, for her husband. The engagement took place and Mary returned home to wait about a year before she would go to live with her husband as his wife. But then, something happened:
“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favored! The Lord is with you.’
“She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favor. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a Son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob forever and his reign will have no end.’
“Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ “‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you,’ the angel answered, ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’
“‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary. ‘Let what you have said be done to me.’ “And the angel left her.” (Luke 1:26-38)
The Gospels, compiled years after these events at Nazareth, tell the story of Jesus and recall Mary only incidentally. True, St. Luke’s account sees Mary favored by God, the Lord’s handmaid, a model believer. His story describes her fear and perplexity, her faith and acceptance during the angel’s visit. But still, we are left to ourselves to imagine Mary’s life and her experience when the angel left her.
Once the angel left, Mary faced some troubling questions with only faith to guide her. What about her marriage to Joseph? Since she was bearing a child that was not his, Mary had to face the anguishing prospect of divorce and the shame it could bring down upon her in a small town that frowned on an unfaithful wife. Even though he had a high regard for her, how could she explain to Joseph the mysterious act of God and an angel no one else saw?
The threat was removed when the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son and you must name him Jesus.” When Joseph woke, he took Mary as his wife to his home. Together they would do what God would have them do.
Before the Christian Era, there were only two degrees for female relatives of Master Masons. These were the True Kinsman, and the Heroines of Jericho Degrees. After the Birth of Christ, those Masons who believed on Him desired to perpetuate the memory of his mother, Mary and founded the degree of Master Masons Daughter. It was adopted by the Ancient Craft Masons and have come down to us unchanged.
True Kinsman – Ruth
The True Kinsman degree was founded on the friendship that existed between Ruth the Moabitess and Naomi, the mother of Mahlon, the Israelite who was an eminent Master Mason. Genesis 18 and 19 tells of the origin of the Moabite Nation and the origin of the Ammonite Nation. Ruth’s deep love for Naomi and her sincere desire to serve the God of Israel in association with His people enabled Ruth to leave her parents and native home to live with Naomi, look after her while at the same time, turning her back on the ungodliness of her childhood.
Ruth took on the positive quality of doing what she could, where she could and with what she had. She became a humble gleaner in the field of Boaz. She stood out as a positive person who joyfully did her work unashamed. Her complete faith and trust in God calls out a lesson to us today. One we should emulate in our times of trouble.
Ruth 2:2-3 says that Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3 Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers.
And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. Behind the scenes of Naomi and Ruth, God was quietly at work. The very fact that Ruth was with Naomi, having given up her own, and was now going out to work says she trusted God.
I must say that there is an opposite side to this story. Many like Naomi become bitter and swelled with the cynical view of “Why is God doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this?” The cynic never trusts anyone much less God!
BOAZ … As a kinsman to Ruth’s husband Mahlon, Boaz was by law to care for her. He could have sighed and begrudgingly allowed Ruth to glean from his fields. But Boaz being a man of integrity and loyalty to God in the midst of these dark times, sees an opportunity to express his thankfulness to God for His gracious care shown in his own life. He greets his workers in the field, “The Lord be with you!” It shows he is sterling in his love for God. It was not a cliché. How do I know, because of the kindness and care that is shown to Ruth, a foreigner, and a stranger. God’s providential care had been showered upon Boaz and now he was willing to allow God to use him to show care for another.
- Allows Ruth to glean more than just extra. God never has us live off the residue of His love. vs. 8,15-16
- Gives Ruth protection. God at times hedges us in. vs. 9a
- Provides Ruth with water for her thirst. vs. 9b
- Feeds Ruth from his own table. vs. 14
RUTH …Another sterling example of light in the midst of darkness is Ruth could have become selfish having hit the “jack pot” of sorts and thought only of herself. She could have easily forgotten her bitter mother-in-law. She could have focused upon Boaz as the gift giver and lost sight of who she was, an outsider. I believe she loved God with a whole heart and that allowed her to return and care further for Naomi.
In the book of Ruth, we learn of her destiny to become a part of the family within the nation of which the Savior would come. Ruth’s “happening” to come into the field of Boaz was not chance or luck, it was by God’s design of providential care. God knew what He was doing and He still knows what He is doing in your life today. Ruth is the Great Grandmother of King David(Matthew 1:1-17 tells the genealogy of Jesus).
Keep in mind and heart that Ruth is modeling for us what we should be. She is here in the scripture not for some nice story to tell, but her life is for our admonition (1 Cor 10:11). Let us ever remember and strive to have the attitude of faith we can learn from the Life of Ruth.
Heroines of Jericho – Rahab
Built over the gap between the two walls of Jericho was the house of a woman identified in both the Old and New Testament as Rahab, the Harlot. This ancient “city of Psalms”, as it was known, was surrounded by two walls. According to recent archaeological findings, there was a space of twelve to fifteen feet between them. Houses on sun-dried brick were built over the gap between the two walls and supported by timbers laid from one way to the other, or by small cross walls of brick. Rahab’s house was in one of these strategic points and her window looked on the outer wall.
There is some question as to whether she was a prostitute (James 2:25) or just an innkeeper. She may have been both. Or, it may have been that she was just a strong independent woman trying to take care of her family and in being a businesswoman it was assumed that she was a prostitute. In early times, (this was about the 14th Century, B. C.), persons who ran inns were not always the most moral persons. What Rahab was does not matter so much as to what she became. She became a woman of such faith that she could say to the enemy, “The Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath”, Joshua 2:11.
Because of its advantageous location, Rahab’s house attracted the attention of two spies from *******. They represented the Israelite army of Joshua, who had succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel on its long journey from Egypt to Canaan. Joshua had made plans to absence on Jericho, which commanded entrance to Palestine from threat.
“And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from ******* as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went, and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there.” (Joshua 2:1 RSV)
Down the hills from *******, from the eastern edge of the Jordan valley had come these two travelers. It is easy to imagine that they were young and walked with authority, their long, flowing robes swaying as they pressed forward with quick steps. Eager to avoid notice, they mixed with the crowds outside the wall, surreptitiously keeping their gaze on the structure of the massive walls protecting Jericho, key city to the rich Jordan valley.
Rahab was a resident of Jericho who prevented their capture after they were discovered (Joshua 2:2-7). Rahab must have been very courageous to be willing to risk her own life in order to protect enemy spies whom she believed to be on a godly mission. She had heard of the Israelite crossing of the Sea of Reeds, when the waters parted before them, also of their victories over the Amorites. So strongly did she believe in the Israelite cause that she could say confidently to the enemy spies, “I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the lead faint because of you” (Joshua 2:9)
“Now then, swear to me by The Lord that as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign, and save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” “And the men said to her, “Our life for yours! If you do not tell this business of ours, then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when The Lord gives us the land.”
“The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours which you have made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, you shall bind this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down; and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. If any one goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we shall be guiltless; but if a hand is laid upon any one who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath which you have made us swear.” “And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed; and she bound the scarlet cord in the window.
Word soon spread among the people of Israel that God would fight for them. A women living in a house on the city wall had made it possible for Joshua to march forward. And he had led his men, not by might but by strength of the living God, sending the Ark of the Covenant and the priests along with the advance guard. The scouts then returned to Joshua and reported all that they found, including their promise to Rahab. The Israelites then crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, with The Fall Of Jericho the first military objective.
Rahab gave the sign and grips and Joshua’s soldiers were ordered not to harm her. This was 1451 years before Christ. Masons adopted these signs for their female releatives and they have come down to us unchanged to this day.
The walls of Jericho fell and the city burned and Joshua declared, “The city shall be accused, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” (Joshua 6:17)
Rahab and her family, however, finally were received into Israel, apparently by marriage. She became the wife of Prince Salmon, who could have been one of the spies who appealed to her for aid. Rahab is the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth, and their son Obed bore Jesse, the father of King David, through whose line is traced to Jesus Christ.
“and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.” (Matthew 1:5-6 RSV)
This is the Oldest and most universal of all female degrees. Wherever the foot of Free Masons have trod, and the land where their mothers, wives, widows, sisters, daughters habited, this Heroines of Jericho degree has been known and practiced. It was founded on a incident that happened in the passage of the Children of Israel from the wilderness of Egypt and sin, to the Land of Promise.