“My God and My People” Ruth 1:1-22 August 17, 2008
SI: We’re studying the book of Ruth.
It’s a story of how God takes his people from tears to rejoicing.
This is our last Sunday in chapter one, we’re going to read the whole chapter.
I know we’ve read portions of this chapter for the past four Sundays
and we will be re-reading those, to get the flow of the story before
we move on to chapter two.
One of the ways to read Ruth is to see the different ways
people respond to the hardships and troubles of life.
Chapter one, the chapter someone has called the weeping chapter—
is full of people who all responded differently to hardships and trouble.
Examining their responses gives us insight into ourselves,
and the Christian life and what it means to live by faith.
We’ve looked at several of them, in past weeks—
this morning we’re going to look more closely at Ruth herself.
INTRO: Charles Spurgeon—the famous 19th century Baptist preacher—
once said that the Christian life is like a great ship, a great ocean liner.
All the passengers on that ship are going to the same port—heaven.
They all have the same Captain—Jesus Christ.
They have all put their faith in the Captain to guide safely across sea.
But the experiences of each passenger on that ship can be very different.
One passenger dines at the Captain’s table every night—
But another passenger trips while coming on board, breaks his leg—
and spends the entire voyage in the infirmary.
Spurgeon’s point is that true believers who have very much in common—
who are going to the same place, trusting the same Savior—
can have very different experiences of the Christian life.
One of the places where these experiential differences are most pronounced—
is in the weeping chapters of our lives.
That’s exactly what we see in the first chapter of Ruth.
One by one, people drop out—Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion, and Orpah—
They drop out of the story because their faith is proved false, or unformed.
And we are left with Naomi and Ruth.
And these two women walk side by side through the rest of the book.
They are both believers—that is absolutely certain—
and yet their experience of the faith couldn’t be more different.
Naomi is the passenger with the broken leg.
She believed in Lord. He was very real to her.
She talked about him and to him.
She believed that he was good.
She prayed for him to bless other people.
Naomi believed all of that—and yet she did not believe it for herself.
She said—Let’s just face the facts, I’m old, widowed, bereft of children,
can’t get re-married. Even if I could get married, not going to be able to have
children and grandchildren to carry on the family line.
The life that I wanted just didn’t happen
The Lord has emptied me.
The Lord is against me.
Naomi on ship of faith—
but she’s in the infirmary with her bitterness and despondency.
And then there was Ruth.
Her circumstances were very similar to Naomi’s.
She had lost her husband. She was childless.
She was facing an uncertain future.
And yet she responded in a very different way from Naomi.
You never see in Ruth, not here or anywhere in the story,
even a touch of the bitterness or doubt in God’s goodness toward her.
Ruth was calm and steady during the times of weeping and loss,
and she was just as calm and steady later in the story when
her circumstances are totally reversed and she gets the life Naomi dreamed about.
Ruth is the passenger who eats every night at the Captain’s table.
Her experience on the voyage of faith was a good one.
And that’s what we want, isn’t it?
In the weeping times and the good times—whatever we face—
we want calmness and joy—not bitterness and despondency.
The Lord gives us everything we need to accomplish that.
He gives it, we have to put it to use.
The Lord gave both Naomi and Ruth all they needed.
Naomi pushed it aside,
but Ruth pushed it down deep into her soul—and you see the wonderful results.
So let’s look at Ruth and see in her example three things you must do
for your experience of the Christian life to be full of joy—
even during the weeping times.
I’ll give them to you as we go.
MP#1 First, you must claim God’s promises.
You must claim God’s great and precious promises for yourself.
Naomi neglected this, Ruth excelled in it.
Out of everything that Ruth said, the most remarkable is—
“Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”
That line should set bells ringing in your memory.
Where does something like that appear earlier in the Old Testament?
It’s an echo of God’s words to Abraham.
When Lord established his covenant with Abraham—
laid out for him his plan of blessing and salvation through the promised son—
He said: “I will be your God and the God of your children after you.”
And then, the Lord repeated that promise to the nation of Israel
before they entered the Promised Land:
“I will be your God, and you will be my people.”
Ruth applied this to herself: Your people will be my people, your God my God,.
This was a profession of faith in Old Testament language.
If we updated it in New Testament language, Ruth was saying:
I’ve given my life to Jesus Christ. He’s my Savior. I’m a Christian now.
We don’t know how Ruth learned these covenant promises. Maybe from Naomi.
But what’s important is see is what Ruth did with them.
She made them her own. She claimed these promises.
And by claiming these covenant promises of God,
she was able to move ahead with clarity and joy.
Naomi said: Ruth, there is only one way for you to be happy.
You have to get married and have children,
that’s only going to happen if you stay in Moab like Orpah.
But Ruth was claiming the promise—I will be your God.
And so she was able to say—No, I’m not going back to Moab—
I’m going to Bethlehem because that’s where God wants me to go.
And that may mean I will never get married,
but I know that God will bless me.
You have to do the very same thing.
2 Peter 1:4 says: . “He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that
through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption
in the world caused by evil desires.”
You have to claim the great and precious promises of God.
Promises of God are the conduit through which you bring the power of God
to bear on the moral and spiritual struggles you are facing.
This weekend we were with some Christ Covenant folks—
started talking about our children, challenges of raising children.
We agreed that one of our biggest struggles
is that we tend to parent out of guilt and fear.
We feel guilty when deny children things or experiences that everybody else has.
We are fearful that we are somehow going to damage our children’s psyches.
And because of this guilt and fear, we sometimes avoid the hard decisions
and the demands and disciplines that they need.
What happens when those are your motives and things do go wrong—
when you do go through a weeping time related to your children?
You get dragged down even farther.
So you have to claim the promises of God regarding your children.
Ruth gives us a good place to start—God’s promise to Abraham,
“I will be your God, God of your children after you.”
And numerous times God speaks of pouring out grace along lines of generations.
Claim those promises for yourself and children:
Lord, be the God of my children as you have promised.
Great Shepherd, tend to these little lambs.
When you believe that, can make decisions with clarity and joy, not guilt and fear.
Whatever your struggle, there are promises that speak to it.
Find them. It is by claiming Gods promises that you overcome the
the things that ruin your experience of the Christian life.
Whether it is guilt or fear or self-pity or bitterness—
and all the foolish decisions those things lead you into—
the power to overcome them is in the promises of God.
If haven’t done that. Don’t neglect any more. Start today. Claim God’s promises.
MP#2 Second, you must love God’s people.
Loving God’s people is absolutely essential for enjoying the Christian life.
Just look at the effect this love had on Ruth—
it helped her take her eyes off herself and her situation,
it gave her a sense of purpose and direction, and
it gave her an even greater confidence that the Lord was for her.
That is even more clear when you contrast Ruth with Naomi.
Naomi was so wrapped up in herself, that she didn’t really love Ruth.
Think about what she told Ruth to do—
Go back to Moab and get a husband, go back to your gods!
It was a horrible thing for a believer to say.
And when Ruth made this declaration of love and commitment—
Naomi responded with silence. And when they get back to Bethlehem,
Naomi was at her lowest point. Call me Mara, call me bitter.
The Lord is against me. The Lord has emptied me. I have nothing.
And there beside her stood, Ruth, this incredible gift of God.
Do you see the contrast between these two believers?
And do you see what love did for Ruth’s experience of her faith—it lifted it.
But you also need to see that Ruth’s love for Naomi was deeper
than loyalty to her mother-in-law, it was deeper than friendship.
She said: I’m committed to you because your people are my people,
and your God is my God.
In New Testament language she was saying:
I love you because you are my sister in Christ.
There is a bond I have with you because of our union with Christ—
and that enables me to love you in this deep, sacrificial way.
This is really the main theme of the book of First John.
Over and over John says, “Love one another.”
“Love your brother in Christ.”
And then John goes on to say that if you love your brother—
it will heighten the enjoyment of your walk with God.
If you love your brother, you know that you belong to the truth.
If you love your brother, your heart is set at rest in God’s presence.
If you love your brother, you have the confidence being heard in prayer.
Enjoyment of the Christian life is tied to confidence before the Lord in prayer.
When you know God is listening, face anything.
You can go through the deepest valley with joy.
There is an inseparable connection between loving your brother in Christ,
and freedom in prayer and a palpable sense of God’s presence.
And the opposite is also true.
If you don’t love your brother, then you will bring that with you when you get
on your knees and it will ruin your prayers.
You will have no confidence that God is listening to you.
Troubles will come along and you will not have any experiential assurance
that God is listening. And it will throw you into turmoil.
Peter says something like this to Christian husbands in his first letter.
Be considerate to your wives and treat them with respect
as heirs with you of the gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
If you aren’t considerate, don’t treat with respect, not just as your wife, but as
your sister in Christ—you will have no confidence God listening to your prayers.
That may be the problem with some men here—
may be the reason your are stunted in your Christian life—
You don’t treat your wife with respect as fellow heir of salvation—
and you haven’t had meaningful prayer for years.
The Lord brings into all of our lives people to love—
and he places a special emphasis on the need to love fellow believers—
might be bitter, difficult believers like Naomi.
If you want to dine with the Captain,
enjoy the voyage of the Christian life—love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Love is shown in concrete ways—in the kind word,
in acts of service, giving yourself in sacrificial way.
If this is a pattern of life, will help through weeping chapters.
Claim God’s promises, love God’s people
MP#3 Third, you must cultivate God’s perspective.
Perspective I’m talking about is an eternal perspective.
It’s what Ruth expressed so well when she said to Naomi—
“Where you die, I will die. And there I will be buried.”
Once again, just like everything else Ruth says—
have to read through Old Testament glasses.
To express a desire to die and to be buried in the Promised Land
was really a way of saying—I have a hope beyond the grave.
The Old Testament saints knew that the Promised Land of Canaan
was just a picture, a promise of greater things that God had planned for them.
The book of Hebrews tells us that.
Abraham and the patriarchs were looking by faith past
the physical land of promise, to the eternal kingdom of God.
And as I said, the way they expressed that was to be buried in Promised Land.
Remember Jacob, when he was about to die in Egypt, gathered sons around him—
take my body to the cave in Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac are buried.
Bury me there—and that is what they did.
And remember Joseph made his descendant swear would bury his body there too.
His body was embalmed and 400 year later, when Israelites left Egypt
during the Exodus, took his bones with them and buried in the land.
It didn’t really matter what happened to their bodies.
But it was for them a sign of their eternal perspective.
That’s what Ruth was expressing as well.
And look at the calmness and joy that gave her.
She was able to look beyond the fact that she was a childless widow,
without any apparent prospects of marriage, going to a land where
she would be a stranger, to take care of a bitter old woman.
Because she said—when I die, I’m going to be buried in the land of Israel.
And what that means, is that there is something far better.
The New Testament writers have a name for this—
the call it the hope of glory, and the blessed hope,
and the hope stored up for you in heaven.
The hope of glory is that through Jesus Christ
you can know for certain that God has plans for your future. Wonderful plans.
Even the Bible cannot tell us everything God has planned.
It only gives us the outlines and lots of hints that it is something wonderful.
If you know Jesus Christ personally, trusting Him,
You have a future, you have the hope of glory.
That’s the eternal perspective that you have to cultivate.
It gives you an experiential defense against all the weariness and
despondency and discouragement that threatens your joy.
It gives you a place to stand in the hardest times.
Allison and I like to ride our motorcycle out through the county.
And there are some county roads we particularly like.
On one of them, you come to a crossroads, on the left is a hill, with a grassy lane.
And on the top is an old cemetery.
We like to stop there and look around.
Some old graves, Confederate graves—and you can see very far.
Once, when we got to the top, a little old lady was putting flowers on a grave.
She came over to us and we started talking.
She said—I buried my husband a few weeks ago, I’ll be buried here too.
I love this spot, I love this view.
Up here on this hill, we’ll be able to see Jesus very clearly when we rise.
Here was a woman who was dining with the Captain on the voyage of faith.
She had an eternal perspective that enabled her to go through this
weeping chapter of her life with calmness and joy.
Whether it is bereavement or illness, financial loss, unfair treatment by people,
even hardships brought on by your own foolish decisions—
It’s the hope of glory, the eternal perspective that helps you in weeping chapters.
Believing in heaven, and your resurrection, and new earth,
and living and working in Christ’s eternal kingdom helps you say—
I will not give up, I will not lapse into bitterness and despondency.
But like Ruth, the ancestress of the great Captain himself—
I’ll claim God’s promises, love his people, cultivate his perspective.
And I’ll trust him to guide me with joy and clarity
through the weeping chapters of my life.