Monday, July 23, 2012

Devotion - Ruth 1

Devotion – Ruth 1

If music be the food of love, play on.

She’s beautiful, and therefore to be wooed; She is woman, and therefore to be won.

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

Hear my soul speak. Of the very instant that I saw you, Did my heart fly at your service.

Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?

The sight of lovers feedeth those in love.

Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.

What is light, if Sylvia be not seen? What is joy if Sylvia be not by?

You know, with a little practice that Shakespeare guy is gonna be pretty good someday. Everybody loves love. Everybody loves a good love poem or a good love letter written by the one they love. What woman wouldn’t want their name to be written in that last line? “What is light if Judy be not seen? What is joy if Carol be not by?”

A young man wrote his sweetheart a love letter and mailed it to her. She opened it up and read how the young man would gladly walk the burning desert to bring her a flower. He would scale the highest mountain to gaze into her eyes. He would fight the wild beast for just one kiss. She was so moved she called him and said, “I must see you. I’m madly in love with you and can’t wait to see you right now!”

The boy answered, “Well, it’s raining right now. How about tomorrow?”

The Bible has often been described as God’s love letter to us. In it you find that God loved us so much He sent His Son to die on the cross and that if we just believe in Him we can have eternal life. But there are also love stories within the love letter. I love the story of Isaac and Rebekah. Jacob worked for 14 years to get Rachel. Hosea loved Gomer even though she was unfaithful. But there is no greater love story in the Bible and arguably all of literature than the story we find in the Book of Ruth.

A story about a man’s love for a woman is common enough. Or a woman for her child or a father for a daughter, maybe. A story like David and Jonathan is rare but I have never heard of another story that talks about a mother-in-law / daughter-in-law relationship like this.

Do you remember last week when we read in Ruth 1 what Ruth said to her mother-in-law Naomi? Turn to Ruth chapter 1.  I want to read just verses 15-18.“Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her. Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.7 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Ruth and Naomi and the other daughter-in-law Orpah had all just lost their husbands. They had no children. They were in a foreign country with no relatives around to help them and it looked pretty bleak for the 3 ladies and so Naomi told them to just go back to their own people. Orpah finally agreed but Ruth said “no way”.  Ruth was devoted to her mother-in-law Naomi.

And you can't blame Orpah.  As nice and sweet as Naomi must have been there was no guarantee of even surviving if Orpah stayed with her.  There was no Social Security, Welfare or food stamps and if you didn't have a man to provide for you back then you could easily starve or be abused and so Orpah made the difficult decision to leave and go back to her family home.

In verse 15, Naomi tells Ruth that Orpah is going back home to her family and to her gods and the chief god of the Moabites was Chemosh.  The Moabites were called the Children of Chemosh and they not only worshiped this idol, they also performed human sacrifice to it.  Evidently Orpah had given that up while in Naomi's family but she returned to it.  And nothing is ever mentioned of her again.

I'm reminded of 2 Timothy 4:10 where Paul says that Demas deserted him because of his love of this world.  Orpah made her decision and as we saw last week, decisions have consequences and we never hear from her or Demas again.  I can't blame someone for trying to better themselves but when you turn your back on God you can expect to reap the consequences.

Ruth, on the other hand, says in 16 and 17 that Naomi's God will be her God and even then calls Him "Lord".  The name "Lord" was considered God's personal name or title.  It was used by someone who knew Him, not just knew of Him.  Ruth made the decision to stay with Naomi not just because she was devoted to Naomi but also because she was devoted to God.

The Jordan River divided Moab from Bethlehem and all of Judah and when Ruth crossed over that Jordan, she left behind that old way of life.  She left behind the old idols.  She left behind her old ways and just as the waters of baptism mean to us that we are leaving behind our old life and we are being buried with our Lord and raised to new life in Christ, devoted to Him, Ruth devoted herself to Naomi and to Jehovah God, forsaking completely every tie she had to the old way.

Now, I wonder how Naomi felt at first when her sons came home and said they were marrying Moabite women.  I wonder if she had mixed feelings.  I'm sure she was glad they found someone but for her, as a Hebrew, it must have been bad news to hear that these girls were Moabites.  You see, Moabites weren't just enemies of Israel.   Ammonites and Moabites were the offspring of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters and the Mosaic Law in Deuteronomy 23 forbid them from being in the assembly of the Lord with the Israelites.

This was the equivalent of your son coming home and telling you he was marrying a woman who had been a member of the Branch Davidians or some other cult. 

Now, I want to ask you a question.  God has laid out some rules.  There are laws that we are to live by.  There was the Law of Moses, the 10 Commandments, Jesus said we are to live certain ways, Paul told us in his letters what God had told him and there are others.  I would include the laws of our land today.  But we mess up all the time. 

You can call it youthful indiscretion or a mistake.  Maybe you feel better calling it a shortcoming or a deficiency.  Peccadillo is a pretty word, maybe that’s what you want to say.  But God calls it sin.  When we disobey, when we go against what God says, He calls that sin.

My question is, when we sin, is God a just God or is He merciful?  I ask this because Ruth is a sinner.  I don’t mean just an average, petty, no big deal sinner.  She comes from a long line of sinners.  She is a Moabitess and as I told you before the OT law says that no Moabite will enter the assembly of God with the Israelites.  In fact, no Moabite to the 10th generation will worship God with the Israelites or be a part of their religious assembly.  God tells the Israelites not to have anything to do with them or their descendants!

I want to skip over to the last 2 verses in the last chapter of this beautiful book.  There is so much good stuff in this little book and I don’t want to give it all away before I have a chance to preach on it but I have to point something out at the very end.  Let’s read just verses 21 and 22 of chapter 4.

21 Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, 22 Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.

Now, if you were to just read those 2 verses they don’t mean a whole lot unless you see that Boaz is the great-grandfather of David and then you realize that that David is King David and then you realize that King David and the others are in the lineage of Jesus Himself.  And who is married to Boaz?  Ruth!  (I know I just gave away part of the story there but that’s ok.)

That still may not mean a whole lot to you.  To see God’s grace and mercy in the life of a Moabitess in the OT may not be a big deal to you.  If not it is probably because you are one of those peccadillo kinda sinners.  You are one of those folks who sin little sins and so you can’t appreciate when God forgives big sins.  But I can appreciate it.  I can appreciate the mercy that allows a woman who should be forbidden to even be near God’s people to actually be related to the Messiah.

I can appreciate that kind of grace and mercy because, like Ruth, I am a big-time sinner and I come from a long line of sinners who don’t deserve that kind of grace and who, yet, have received it.  I’m not a peccadillo sinner.  I have done some genuine, messed up, jacked up, horrible stuff that I thank God none of y’all will ever know about; stuff that is hard for me to think about but God says I don’t have to think about it because He doesn’t think about it.

Because I came to Him and called Him “Lord” just like Ruth did and I repented and begged Him for forgiveness, He says all that nasty stuff is forgiven and forgotten.  And do you know why?  Because He is devoted to me.  Do you believe that?  Can God possibly be devoted to me?  Well, not just me.  Just like Ruth was devoted to Naomi and devoted to God, we see that God is devoted to her and He is devoted to me!

God is so devoted to all of us that He sent His Son to die in our place.  I assure you there is nothing redeemable about me and yet He came to redeem me like an expired coupon.  And like Job says in chapter 19, I know that my Redeemer lives.  And because He lives I can face tomorrow without guilt or shame but not only can I face it, God, like He did with Ruth, has chosen to use me.  And He has chosen to use you.

In Isaiah 55:8 God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”  And this is one of those things I don’t understand.  Why would God use me?  Why is He devoted to me?  I don’t know but it makes me want to please Him.  It makes me want to obey those laws and those commands and it makes me want to tell other people about the all-powerful, all-knowing God who is devoted to them.  I want them to know the great love story written to them.

No comments:

Post a Comment