08(Ruth 01,16) Ruths Decision
Ruth made a brave, outspoken confession of faith. It was made by a young woman, a poor woman, a widow woman, and a foreigner. I should think there is no condition of gentleness, or of obscurity, or of poverty, or of sorrow, which should prevent anybody from making an open confession of allegiance to God when faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has been exercised.
I am glad that all candidates for membership in our church make their confession of faith at our church meetings. I have been told that such an ordeal must keep a great many from joining us; yet where there is no such ordeal, they often have very few members.
It was when Naomi returned to the land which she ought never to have left, it was when she came out from the idolatrous Moabites among whom she had, as you see, relatives, and friends, and acquaintances,-- it was when she said, “I will go back to my own country, and people, and God,”—that then the Lord gave her the soul of this young woman who was so closely related to her.
It may be that some of you professedly Christian people have been living at a distance from God. You have not led the separated life; you have tried to be friendly with the world as well as with Christ, and your children are not growing up as you wish they would. You say that your sons are not turning out well, and that your girls are dressy, and flighty, and worldly. Do you wonder that it is so? “Oh!” you say, “I have gone a good way to try to please them, thinking that, perhaps, by so doing, I might win them for Christ.” You will never win any soul to the right by a compromise with the wrong. It is decision for Christ and his truth that has the greatest power in the family, and the greatest power in the world, too.
It was while Naomi was on her way back to her own land that she heard the good news that her dear daughter-in-law had decided to be a follower of Jehovah. This gave her great joy; but how must some of you Christian people feel when you find out that others have been caused to stumble through your living at a distance from Christ?
I. INFLUENCE TO GODLINESS.
A. The influence of companionship.
Nobody doubts that evil company tends to make a man bad, and it is equally sure that good companionship has a tendency to influence men towards that which is good.
B. The influence of admiration.
The few glimpses which we have of that godly woman, in this Book of Ruth, show us that she was a most disinterested and unselfish person, not one who, because of her own great sorrow, would burden others with it, and pull them down to her own level in order that they might in some way assist her.
When a Christian so lives that others see something about him/her which they do not perceive in themselves, they are often attracted towards the Christian life. When the sick Christian is patient, when the poor Christian is cheerful, when the believer in Christ is forgiving, generous, tenderhearted, sympathetic, honest, upright, then it is that observers say, “Here is something worth looking at.”
C. The influence of instruction.
I have no doubt that Naomi gave her daughter-in-law much helpful teaching. Ruth would want to know about Naomi’s God, and Naomi would be only too glad to tell her.
We should make people want to know what our religion really is, and then be ready to tell them. I have no doubt that, many a time, in the land of Moab, when her daughters-in-law ran in to see her, Naomi would begin telling them about the deliverance at the Red Sea, and how the Lord brought His people through the wilderness, and how the goodly land, which flowed with milk and honey, had been given to them by the hand of Joshua. Well, beloved, it ought to be thus with us also. We should take care that the influence of our companionship, the influence of our lives, in which there should be something for observers to admire, and the influence of our conversation, which should be full of gracious instruction, should lead those who come under our influence in the right way.
II. DECISIONS FOR CHRIST WILL BE TESTED.
First, it had been tested by the poverty and the sorrow of her mother-in-law. Naomi said, “The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me” <Ruth 1:20>; yet Ruth says, “Thy God shall be my God.”
Some people say, “We should like to be converted, for we want to be happy.” Yes, but suppose you knew that you would not be happy after conversion, you ought still to wish to have this God to be your God. Naomi has lost her husband, she has lost her sons, she has lost everything; she is going back penniless to Bethlehem, and yet her daughter-in-law says to her, “Thy God shall be my God.”
Oh, dear friends, if you can share the lot of Christians when they are in trouble, if you can take God and affliction, if you can accept Christ and a cross, then your decision to be his follower is true and real.
Next, Ruth’s decision had been tested when she was bidden to count the cost. Naomi had put the whole case before her. She had told her daughter-in-law that there was no hope that she should ever bear a son who could become a husband to Ruth, and that she had better stay and find a husband in her own land.
My young friend, before you say to any Christian, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” <Ruth 1:16>, count the cost. If you are following an evil trade, you will have to give it up; if you have formed bad habits, you will have to forsake them; and if you have had bad companions, you will have to leave them. There are a great many things, which have afforded you pleasure, which must become painful to you, and must be renounced. Are you prepared to follow Christ through the mire as well as along the high road, and down in the valley as well as up upon the hills? Are you ready to carry his cross as you hope, afterwards, to share his crown? If you can stand the test in detail,-- such a test as Christ set before those who wanted to be his followers on earth, then is your decision a right one, but not else.
Another trial for Ruth was the drawing back of her sister-in-law. Orpah kissed Naomi, and left her; and you know the influence of one young person upon another when they are of the same age, or when they are related as these two were. You went to the revival meeting with a friend, and she was as much impressed as you were. She has gone back to the world, and the temptation is for you to do the same. Can you stand out against it? You two young men went to hear the same preacher, and you both felt the force of the Word; but your companion has gone back to where he used to be. Can you hold out now, and say, “I will follow Christ alone if I cannot find a companion to go with me”? If so, it is well with you.
But one of the worst trials that Ruth had was the silence of Naomi (v.18). When a young person has just joined the people of God, it is a severe test to be brought face to face with a very mournful Christian, and not to get one encouraging word.
Sometimes, brethren and sisters, we must swallow our own bitter pills as fast as ever we can, that we may not discourage others by making a wry face over them. It is sometimes the very best thing a sorrowful person can do to say, “I must not be sad; here is young So-and-so coming in. I must be cheerful now, for here comes one who might be discouraged by my grief.” You remember how the psalmist, when he was in a very mournful state of mind, said, “If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me” <Ps 73:15>. Let it be too painful for us to give any cause for stumbling or disquietude to those who have just come to the Saviour, but let us cheer and encourage them all we can.
III. TRUE GODLINESS MUST MAINLY LIE IN THE CHOICE OF GOD.
God is the believer’s choicest possession. Naomi had not much else,-- no husband, no son, no lands, no gold, no silver, no pleasure even; but she had a God.
Next, God was now to Ruth, as He had been to Naomi, her Ruler and Law-giver. When anyone truthfully says, “God shall be my God,” there is some practical meaning about that declaration; it means, “He Shall influence me; He shall direct me; He shall lead me; He shall govern me; He shall be my King.
He must also be your Instructor. At the present day, I am afraid that nine people out of ten do not believe in the God who is revealed to us in the Bible. I can point you to newspapers, to magazines, to periodicals, and also to pulpits by the score, in which there is a new god set up to be worshipped;-- not the God of the Old Testament, He is said to be too strict, too severe, too stern for our modern teachers. They do not believe in Him.
I believe in the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob; this God is my God;-- the God that drowned Pharaoh and his host at the Red Sea, and moved His people to sing “Hallelujah” as He did it; the God that caused the earth to open, and swallow up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and all their company;-- a terrible God is the God whom I adore;-- He is the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, full of mercy, compassion, and grace, tender and gentle, yet just and dreadful in His holiness, and terrible out of His holy places.
IV. DECISION TO CAST OUR LOT WITH GOD’S PEOPLE.
She might have said, “You are not well spoken of, you Jews, you Israelites; the Moabites, among whom I have lived, hate you.” But, in effect, she said, “I am no Moabitess now. I am going to belong to Israel, and to be spoken against, too.
Now, dear friend, will you thus cast in your lot with God’s people; and though they are spoken against, will you be willing to be spoken against, too?
I have heard people find fault with the members of our churches, and say that they cannot join with them, for they are such inferior sort of people. Well, I know a great many different sorts of people; and, after all, I shall be quite content to be numbered with God’s people, as I see them even in His local church, rather than to be numbered with any other persons in the whole world.
“Oh,” says one, “I will join the church when I can find a perfect one.” Then you will never join any. It will not be a perfect church the moment after you have joined it, for it will cease to be perfect as soon as it receives you into its membership. I think that, if a church is such as Christ can love, it is such as I can love; and if it is such that Christ counts it as his Church, I may well be thankful to be a member of it. Christ “loved the Church, and gave himself for it” <Eph 5:25>; then may I not think it an honour to be allowed to give myself to it?
Ruth was not joining a people out of whom she expected to get much. Shame on those who think to join the church for what they can get! Yet the loaves and fishes are always a bait for some people. But there was Ruth, going with Naomi to Bethlehem, and all that the townsfolk would do would be to turn out and stare at them, and say, “Is this Naomi? And pray who is this young woman that has come with her? This Naomi,-- dear me! How altered she is! How worn she looks! Quite the old woman to what she was when she left us.” Not much sympathy was given to them, as far as I gather from that remark; yet Ruth seemed to say, “I do not care how they treat me; they are God’s people, even if they have a great many faults and imperfections, and I am going to join them.” And I invite all of you who can say to us, “Your God is our God,” to join with the people of God, openly, visibly, manifestly, decidedly, without any hesitancy, even though you may gain nothing by it. Perhaps you will not; but, on the other hand, you will bring a good deal to it, for that is the true spirit of Christ. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” <Acts 20:35>. Yet, in any case, cast in your lot with the people of God, and share and share alike with them.