20070304 Making Wise Decisons - Ruth 1
Sunday 11th of March, 2007
9 & 11 am Services
Making Wise Decisions (Part 2): Ruth 1:6-22
Wodonga District Baptist Church
When I was about ten years old my grandfather looked at me and in one of those special moments when wisdom is shared he said, “Life’s a cinch by the inch, hard by the yard, walk don’t run.” I looked him in the eye and said, “What?” Those words were wise about not running too fast trying to be somebody great. Just deal with the things before you today well. Wise advice for making wise decisions from my granddad.
My dad once said to me during exam time when I was obviously slacking off, “If you don’t prepare to pass, be prepared to fail.” Wise words dad.
Some people have asked kids for advice on making wise decisions when it comes to love and marriage.
Pam whose 7 years old, when asked, “When is it okay to kiss someone?” responded, “When they’re rich.”
To the same question, Howard, age 8 said, “The rule goes like this: if you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It’s the right thing to do.”
When asked, “Is it better to be single or married?” Anita, 9 said, “It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.”
And finally when asked “How would you make a marriage work?” Ricky aged 10 said, “Tell your wife that she looks pretty even if she looks like a truck.”
Today we’re continuing to look at “Making Wise Decisions.”
This is part two in the series on the book of Ruth and last week we saw that the book started out with lots of meaning, “In the days when judges ruled.” What a time that would have been. Disunity, people turning away from God, everybody doing as they saw fit and total a general lack of godliness was the scene.
In Bethlehem (the house of bread) there was no bread, so Elimelech (My God is King) took his wife Naomi (Pleasant) with their two boys Mahlon and Kilion to Moab. It seems here that Elimelech has said “Because there’s no bread in Bethlehem we’ll take things into our own hands, come out from God’s care and protection and move to a foreign land.” He moved his family out from under God’s judgment and in the land of Moab things went bad to say the least.
Elimelech died and the two boys married Moabite women, which God had warned them against doing. One married Orpah and one married Ruth. Niether couples had any children for the ten years of their marriages and then both boys died, leaving Naomi, with no husband, no sons, in a foreign land with two daughters-in-law. What a desperate situation. For a widow, in these times, the future was bleak, but to be a widow without sons was far worse. Yet for Naomi her situation was almost beyond belief for she was in a foreign land.
Have a look in verse 6, it's says “When she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home.” I don't know about you, but it wouldn't take me much thinking to actually go back. And for Naomi, she had lost her husband, she had lost her two sons and all she had was two Moabitess girls. So she says, “There’s food back there. I'm going to die here, because no one is going to look after me. I'm a foreigner in this place. I am going to starve to death. I might as well go back to my home, where at least maybe someone will take pity on me and because I've lost all my family and maybe someone will give me some food.
So Naomi makes decisions. When it comes to making wise decisions Naomi is full of practical wisdom, she is logical, she looks at the situation as they appear and makes a decision based on that. And this time is no exception. She looks and she says, “Well I don't have anything here, my husband made the decision to leave in the first place, and look what has happened. God is providing bread for his people again in Bethlehem, I'm going back home.” Now this is the second thing that God wants to teach us about making wise decisions. God gave us brains to use them! He wants us to make decisions that are wise and thought out. Here Naomi uses practical wisdom. Look at your circumstances. Is it obvious what God wants you to do? Then do it. If it seems pretty clear the decision that you are needing to make, don’t get too spiritual, or worked up about it. Just do what seems wise. Search the Scriptures, seek advice from wise counsel.
You might say, “Jonathan, it okay to say “Be wise” when you’ve been to Bible college and probably own a lot of Bibles and books. How can I be wise?” Wisdom comes from reading God’s Word daily. Feeding on God’s Word makes you strong. This year we’ve invited you to read through the Bible in a year and what a great experience it’s been for me. SOAP has been a great way for me of reading God’s Word and hearing from Him and putting into practice the things I read and hear.
If you have a major decision to make and don’t know how to be wise, ask someone who is a committed Christian and who lives their lives feeding on God’s Word.
And as she walks along the road we see this vivid picture of a conversation taking place is told in graphic detail, so all of a sudden with just had so much information on the first few verses, now, the writer stops and gives us insight into a conversation that takes place on the road back to Bethlehem.
And look at Naomi’s logic, the way she talks to them. Verse 8, they were going back and she says to the two girls, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home,” (don’t come with me, go back). And she blesses them, and she says, “May the Lord show kindness to you...” What she’s saying is may God bless you in the land. May you find security is some of the things she is saying. May you actually go back to your mother’s house and find that they look after you there, may you find other husbands to marry you in the future, and may God really bless you as you stay here. Naomi, doesn’t want to inflict upon them the pain and hopelessness that would come from staying with her. She’s trying to save them from suffering. They kiss, and they weep loudly in verse 9. I think the girls really know, together, that this is what must happen. They realise that this is for the best, so there’s the weeping and the kissing and they’re feeling pulled and grieved and they say no, “We will go back with you to your people.” V10. We’re going to return with you, we are going to stick with you.
Then, Naomi comes back and she starts to give them all the facts, all the logical reasons why they should leave her, she wants to let them know that it’s not good to come with her. Look at them in verse 11, why, why go with me she says, I can’t bear you any sons any more, you think I’m going to give sons to you in my old age? I’m too old, plus I don’t have a husband, there’s no one whose around for me to bear children with and look, even if I were to be married tonight and to have a son, and then are you going to wait for this son to grow up and be old enough for him to marry you? Are you going to hang around for that long without marrying, waiting for me? Even if you would wait, how can you wait that long?
She says turn, go back, go back its silly, its silly and with all her convincing, I can feel Orpah thinking she’s right, she’s right I’m not going to get married, I’m going back there to this foreign land, and she says, the final thing almost like the final blow, Naomi says this at the end of that section, she says “the Lord’s hand has gone out against me”, don’t stick with me, don’t you come near me, God hates me is basically what she’s saying. Look what He’s done. My husband’s gone, my two sons have gone, I’ve come to this land, and I’m lost. Don’t hang around with me, God’s against me. I don’t think she got it right, but that’s how she feels. I think when you’re facing such grief you can think that God’s got it in for you. Naomi, she didn’t decide to go to Moab, did she? It was Elimelech who decided. She just followed her husband along. She didn’t have anything to do with all the rest that was happening.
Maybe some of you this morning can sit and think, “Boy, there’s been so many things that have gone wrong in my life,” and you might be tempted to think, God’s against me, God has got it for me. Look back at my life, there’s been suffering after suffering. Things have gone wrong; don’t hang around with me, God’s got it in for me. I don’t know what your situations are. I think sometimes people willingly turn against from God and they experience what it’s like not to be under God’s blessing. And it may be that you’ve been openly sinning and that God is not blessing you in the way that He was. Well stop sinning now. Turn around, confess your sin and come back to God. But you know, sometimes we experience suffering like the famine that Elimelech felt. And it’s not your fault, in fact it might be somebody else’s fault that causes the suffering. And at that time it is not that God’s against you at all, it is time to remain faithful to Him. Even though Naomi was in pain, even though she was suffering greatly and grieved, even though she felt the Lord’s hand was against her she made the decision to return to Bethlehem and God’s people. Naomi made the right decision, a wise decision to go back under God’s care to Bethlehem. And now she was giving her daughters-in-law the opportunity to leave without shame.
And Naomi uses her logical reasons to say, keep away, go back, go back, stay away and Orpah says okay. She cries and they hug and off she goes and walks back down the track. But in some very telling words, the Scripture says that Ruth clung to her, she grabbed hold of her, she wouldn’t let her go. The same word is used in Genesis, where the Scriptures say in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”. They will cling to one another, they will become united. And Ruth holds onto Naomi, and clings to her. Naomi’s not finished though, she continues on and she points to Orpah and she says look at her, she is going back, she’s going, you’re missing your chance, quick, make the choice. And that brings out some of the most passionate words in the whole of Scripture; from this Moabitess with nothing at all it seems logically or humanly speaking to follow Naomi down the path.
This is what she says,
16 But Ruth replied, "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. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."
Ruth makes a statement that says enough, don’t ask me to leave you, don’t ask me to turn back any more because where you go I’m going no matter what it takes and where you live I’m going to live, I’m going to be hanging around Naomi, your people the Israelite people are going to be my people and your God, the God you serve, the Lord God Almighty will be my God and right up until death, even in death, only then will we be separated. I’m going to be with you all through and I’m making this oath right now that I’m never going to leave you.
This young woman had been observing her mother-in-law, Naomi, don’t you think? Naomi’s decision in the midst of grief, her willingness to accept that this is from God’s hand yet to still obey and follow him, must have had a profound impact on Ruth. So much so that she makes this bold statement of commitment to Namoi which can only come from a deep faith in God. Naomi is in deep sadness and letting her daughters go recounting all the reasons why she’s lost, why she’s gone, why it’s finished for her. While little Ruth is there who has so much against her already, she is a Moabitess, she’s lost her husband, she’s about to go into a land where she will be a foreigner where people won’t want to marry her people, they won’t want to look after her and care for her but she knows that if she has Naomi and her God, then she has all she needs to face the future. When she says your God will be my God, I think Ruth must have been watching and seeing the way in which Israel’s God had worked and how he had been working in Naomi’s life, in their people and she commits herself fully to following the God of Naomi. And she walks on from this point in, committing herself no matter what happens to Naomi, I’m going to be with you, I’m going to stay with you right to the end and from there the issue is finished, it’s all closed for her and she walks back.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever observed the people of God, those who have put their faith in Him no matter whether things are going well or terribly, and have you made the decision to follow God no matter what? What’s stopping you?
What would you do if you were Naomi in that situation? Well, Naomi does not show any signs of appreciation, in fact in verse 19 says the two went on until they came to Bethlehem and the whole town was stirred because of them in the people came out in the women said, is this Naomi?
20 "Don't call me Naomi, (not ‘pleasant’)" she told them. "Call me Mara, ‘bitterness’ because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me."
She doesn’t see that there’s any good that’s happened, she’s gone away full and come back empty. The things I really like about Naomi is that she is real, she’s honest. In the midst of pain and suffering don’t just grit your teeth and put on a fake smile, dress up nice and pretend everything is alright. And at the same time don’t take it out on those around you, the kids, the wife, the dog, the cat. The best place to take your frustrations is to God. Naomi stand in the line of so many godly people who remain trusting and believing in God’s goodness, but let him know how they feel and cry out to him with their frustrations. David, cries out, Job cries out, Jesus on the cross cries out. Naomi lays the blame squarely at God’s feet but still puts her trust in him by obediently returning to him.
She doesn’t talk about Ruth next to her and Ruth may be walking behind, and they walk into this new place and she can’t see any good at all in coming back.
Even though Naomi didn’t quite realize it things were starting to turn around.
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
Ruth was with her and the barley harvest was beginning. God was going to fill again the empty Naomi.
You know, little did she know that Ruth, the Moabitess, that was next to her, would be the one who would eventually marry and give birth and her line would continue and out of her line would become King David, the one that would be the King of Israel and out of his line, down the track, would come Jesus, son of David, yours and my saviour. On the road, while they were talking together, Elimelech had made a poor decision, Naomi was using all her logic and reason that she could see right before her to make a decision to send the girls away. But in the midst of untold odds stacked against Ruth and saying you should be anywhere else but going with this woman, Ruth decided to trust in Naomi’s God, no matter what.
And today you and I are trusting in Jesus Christ as a result of a faithful woman who obeyed God. I wonder this morning is it time for you too, like Ruth, say afresh, God there are so many things that can lead me away from you, there is so many decisions I could make rationally and reasonably without looking to you. I don’t want to make them any more God. Afresh today God I want to commit myself to following you no matter where I go. I’m going to follow you right til death and then at death I know I will be living with you forever. Many people have committed themselves to following Jesus Christ through being baptised. They’ve also committed themselves to this fellowship, to be a part of this church, and to walk with us and following this God, no matter what. They’ve become church members. Have you done that? Maybe this morning it’s time that Ruth’s words might come to you and say I want to have the same commitment to God as Ruth had and I want to be committed to the church family, I want to be baptised. I want to obey what God has said in his Scriptures about following Him in baptism. I want to do that, I want a want to identify and become part of this family formally. Maybe that’s what God is saying to you this morning. Then we’d love to talk with you, we are starting baptism classes again shortly and we would love you to join us for that. It might be that you have been baptised, I want to be a church member then you can do the same thing this morning come and talk to us about being a church member.
Maybe this morning it may be that you have never ever trusted in the God that Naomi trusted in, and the way that Ruth did. This morning may be a great time to you to do that. Why don’t we spend just a few moments in prayer and I’ll say a prayer and if you would like to repeat that prayer with me and you can begin to trust in Jesus Christ and you can follow him with all that you have in the same way that Ruth did. Lord I thank you for dying on the cross for me. I thank you for giving all that you have to me. Thank you that you want me to be a part of your family, God forgive me for going my own way I give my life to live with you. If you would like to pray a prayer like that why don’t you pray in your heart as I pray this morning? Lord Jesus I thank you for loving me and for dying for me. God, I thank you for your promise to never leave me or forsake me. God I thank you for your promises to care for me. This morning I commit myself to following you Lord Jesus no matter what. I ask for your forgiveness for going my own way. Thank you for dying for my sin, I want to live for you, in Jesus’ name Amen.