Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Decisions - Ruth 1

FBCRB 7/15/12

“Decisions” – Ruth 1

We had a great time last Wednesday night. We started having a family dinner discussion around the table discussing what the Bible says about certain big topics. Last Wednesday was “What does the Bible say about divorce?” and it was so good. I encourage you to come and be a part. You don’t have to say anything but you are welcome to. On the heels of that discussion on divorce, though, one might go away thinking I am against marriage or love or some nonsense like that and that is certainly not the case. I told the group that for me personally it is sort of like asking Mrs. Lincoln if she wants to go back to Ford’s Theater and see a show. She might say, “No, thank you. The last time I went there something really bad happened.”

But that does not make me against marriage, love or romance. In fact, it makes me appreciate even more couples who have been married for long periods of time. Several of you in here have been married multiple decades. My parents have been married 54 years. I know because I texted my mom the other day and her reply was 54 looooonnnnnggggg years. I can appreciate the effort involved there. That response probably tells more about her kids than her husband, especially her daughters! :)

But we can all appreciate a good love story. Women seem to be drawn to that more than men but we all want that in our lives. Adrian Rogers tells the story of 3 girls who were college roommates at their Christian college and were in their dorm room one night praying, “Lord, give us pure hearts. Lord, give us clean hearts. Lord, give us sweethearts.” And, all the girls said, “Ah-men.”

We are going to be looking at one of the most beautiful love stories ever in any kind of literature this morning and we have it right in our Bibles but before we do, this is a perfect opportunity for me to give a warning about some popular forms of media that are out today. One is a book and the other is a movie. The book is 50 Shades of Grey and the movie is “Magic Mike”. Both are extremely popular with women right now and both have been described as “mommy porn”. Ladies, when your friends start giggling and talking about these it’s time to politely excuse yourself or even nicely tell them you don’t care to see, read or talk about such things. You wouldn’t want your husband, son or father watching or reading things that portray women like these portray men so don’t be a part of it.

In fact, if and when that happens, that would be a great time to say something positive about your husband. Trust me on this. I know you have been married for a thousand years and your husband knows you are kidding when you say things about him but he also needs to know that you do not speak poorly of him in public. So, use this time to say something positive about him. When my mom texted me back about the 54 long years, I jokingly asked her if she had been mistreated and her immediate response was, “No, Daddy has always treated me like a queen. Far better than I deserve.” So, when your girlfriend wants you to go see Magic Mike you could say that while your husband may not look like Matthew McConaughey, he is…and then you fill in the blank.

So guys, now you have to make sure that your wife has something nice to say about you. I’ll leave that to you and I will end this session of “Marriage Advice from Todd”. That is all the marriage counseling you will get from me today and you can rest assured that counseling from me will be few and far between. Let’s get back to our beautiful love story. It comes from the Book of Ruth. Ruth is a continuation of the Book of Judges but while Judges was about culture, rules and laws regarding the nation of Israel, the Book of Ruth is about a common woman who was concerned about common things. Ruth is a picture—in the Old Testament—of the Church. And, she marries a man named Boaz, who was a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, our kinsman Redeemer.

If you have never read the story of Ruth, I think you will love it. It’s a great story, considered by many to be a great work of art no matter what kind of literature.

Benjamin Franklin—as you know, one of the fathers of our country—was also the ambassador to France. And, when in France, he was a member of a literary society, and they were giving different readings and so forth. Ben Franklin, without letting this agnostic literary society know where he had gotten it, shared with them the love story of Ruth. They were astounded. They said to him, “Dr. Franklin, that is beyond a doubt the most beautiful romance—love story—we’ve ever heard. Would you give us leave, please, that we might have it published and give it broad distribution?” He said, “It is already published, and it already has broad distribution. It is found in the Bible, that book that you profess to despise”.

I hope you have your copy of that book today and if you do please turn to the Book of Ruth which is in the OT right after Judges and before 1 Samuel. I try not to have you read any more than is necessary to get the point across but this morning I want us to read the whole first chapter. It’s not terribly long. In fact, the whole book is only 4 chapters. Go home and read the whole thing before we come back next time. You will be glad you did. And as we read I want you to think about the decisions that the characters make and we will consider that after we read. Read chapter 1.

There are 3 things I want us to see in this chapter regarding our decisions.

· We are free to choose.

· Our choices have consequences.

· Our consequences affect others.

The first verse says that this was the time of the judges. We have some Gideons here this morning. Gideon was one of the good judges but overall this was a dark and bloody time for the Hebrew people. It was also a time when names meant a lot more than they do now. You will notice that Elimelech (whose name means “my God is king”) is coming from Bethlehem that means “house of bread”.

So, evidently Elimelech had a godly background but he chooses to leave the house of bread and go to the land of their enemy to wait out the famine. There is no other source that corroborates the fact that there was a famine at this time so we have to wonder what drove this decision.

Now there is an ongoing debate over whether man has free will or if God is sovereign. And, honestly, I’m no Aristotle but I chalk that up to something I will never completely understand. We will talk about God’s sovereignty again in the next couple of weeks but for now, without dealing with a lot of semantics, we all understand that we have choices to make. God gives us a will, and with that will we make choices. We’re not machines. We’re not forced. God made us moral creatures; and, when God made us moral creatures, God gave us a choice.

Joshua 24:15 says “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”. "Come now, and let us reason together,'' says the Lord Isa 1.18a. “I have set before you this day life and death, blessing and cursing…choose life, that you may live”(Deuteronomy 30:19). If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. Jam 1.5

The problem here is that obviously Elimelech did not ask God for wisdom nor did he pray about any aspect of this trip. God wants us to make right decisions.  It is for our own good that we make good decisions.  It is for the good of the Kingdom that we make good decisions and that is our goal, right?  To further the Kingdom?

As I was studying this the other day, I took a break and took my dogs for a walk.  I have 3 dogs.  Bo, Sara and Dori.  And every day it is the same:  Good boy Bo!  That's a sweet girl, Sara!  And where's Dori?  I like to walk them without leashes but Dori gets distracted and then won't come when she is called.  Now she has to walk on the leash or not at all.  She makes the choice.  That's freedom through obedience.

Some people think all God does is make up things we shouldn't do.  He has a long list of "thou shalt nots" and you can't have any fun being a Christian.  But the longer you serve Him the more you realize that if He says no it is for your benefit and the benefit of the kingdom.  The next thing about the choices we make is that they have consequences. 

Elimelech is going where he shouldn't go and with poor motive.  He was not seeking first the Kingdom.  He was seeking bread.  He takes his 2 sons (whose names mean "weak" and "sick", by the way, so this can't turn out well) and also his wife and the wives of his sons.  God did not tell him to go, it just seemed like the thing to do at the time.  There is a proverb that seems to have been written just for Elimelech.  Proverbs 16:25 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."  Nobody proved this better than Elimelech.

Also, the thing about our choices is that while we are free to make the choice, we are not free to choose the consequences.  I think there ought to be a warning label on spandex that says, "Just because you can wear this doesn't mean you should."  And it's the same with the choices we make.  Just because you can do something does not mean you should because there are consequences and you have no control over them.

Just because you can live with someone and not be married to them does not mean you should.  You can't choose the disease you may get or the pregnancy that comes out of it.  When you make choices outside the bounds of God's plan you should expect the unexpected.  Galatians 6:7 says, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."

Every night when you watch the news, there is story after story of somebody making poor decisions.  You see the business man who steals from his company; the mother who abuses her child, the drug dealer who sells to a cop.  Do you know how many of those people thought they would get caught?  None.  We can all say "amen" to that because we don't steal or do drugs, right?

How many times has a lie come back to bite you?  Have you ever been busted gossiping?  Have you had to apologize to a neighbor or a family member for saying something inappropriate?  Nobody ever thinks they are going to get caught.  Jerry Sandusky ruined boys' lives for years and for the longest time thought he would never get caught and now that he has we all cheer but God says a sin is a sin.  He hates them all.  The thing about making bad choices is that while God sees all sin as sin the consequences can be extreme, as Elimelech and his family found out.

Yes, his family also found out about the consequences because our consequences affect others around us.  Naomi, whose name means "sweetness" went back to Bethlehem and when her friends saw her they said, “Hey, look.  There’s Sweetness.”  And she said, “Don’t call me Sweetness.  Call me Bitterness.”

Naomi didn’t do anything to deserve this.  Neither did Ruth or Orpah.  Have you ever been in that position?  Has anybody ever made a decision that affected you?  Of course they have.  Adam and Eve made a decision that still affects all of us thousands of years later.  Think about David.  He made one wrong decision and it led to so many others.  Instead of going to war with his troops like he was supposed to do, he stayed at home, saw Bathsheba, and a man lost his life.  A baby was born and died.  The lives of many were changed forever because of one little decision made outside the will of God.

How about you?  I know some of you are in the process of making some big decisions in your life.  Is your relationship with Jesus where it is supposed to be?  Satan would have you believe that it’s no big deal.  You won’t get caught.  It’s just a little decision.  And that’s how it starts every time.

Thankfully we serve a God who is forgiving.  When we do make bad decisions there are consequences and they often affect other people but we don’t have to live in guilt and shame.  In fact, I’m anxious to talk about God’s sovereignty in the coming weeks because we serve the same God as Joseph in the OT who told his brothers in the last chapter of Genesis, “ What you intended for harm, God intended it for good”.

I can see that in my own life and that is one reason that, as I said earlier, I don’t hate the thought of someone getting married.  I’m not against it.  I know God to be a God of second and third chances.  I know Him to be merciful and generous.  I know Him as my Father and even my Friend.  Do you have that relationship with Him?  You can.

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