Untitled Sermon (2)
-God’s chosen people
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and on down to Moses who led them out of Egypt. then Israel was led by Joshua and conquered the promised land.... mostly. This brings us to the time of judges. As you read through scripture, and history for that matter, you will see that God often uses extremely flawed and sinful people to accomplish his tasks. He does this for two primary reasons. first, His Glory is made known by the things he accomplishes in spite of the shortcomings of the people he chooses to use, and second, every hero of the bible is a less than that points us to the greater. Jesus is the greater. Jason talked about this last week that this time of Judges came about because Joshua failed to complete the mission. They only mostly conquered the area, and because of that settled into an area along side of people who worshiped false gods. These are people who considered things that YAHWEH deemed to be sinful, as acts of worship to their gods. including child sacrifice and other forms of deviance, that due to our younger audience, I won’t mention. As Israel settled the land, they gradually started to accept the pagan worship and forgot about the God of Abraham and His laws. God then punished them for their sin by having them be oppressed by the very people who they had tried so hard to be like, and suddenly remember YAHWEH and cry out to Him for help. He would then give them a Judge to rescue them. But like i said before these judges were a far cry from perfect. We start off with Barak and Deborah. Barak was supposed to be the hero, but because of his cowardice God used two women to bring about the salvation of His people. You have another coward in Gideon, who God used to lead 300 men with torches and trumpets to defeat an entire army. Skipping forward a little we land on Jephthah. This is a man who was so out of touch with the God of Israel that he thought God would appreciate him sacrificing his daughter. I mean did he forget what was said in Deuteronomy 12? 29 “When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
32 [b] “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. The last judge mentioned in the book is Samson. Anyone here ever heard a sermon on be a samson, or even a sermon that paints samson in a light that makes him look like a great man? Those completely missed the point. I can say that, because I've preached a sermon like that before. Samson was a train wreck. He completely disregarded the law, his vow, and God. This was a man who had the potential to be great, but instead was selfish, self-centered, and as did what he felt was right in his own eye. He is a caricature of the entire nation. A people who have the potential to mighty and bring glory to the one true God, but instead as Judges 21:25 puts it 25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Now this is the setting of Ruth. My hope today is that you see the contrast of this woman and the culture she lived in, and also that you walk away today with an understanding of commitment and possibly, for some of you, a new view on conversion.
Ruth’s Loyalty to Naomi
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
This morning I want us to look at these tree women. In some compacity at least, we all share similarity with them. Some of us are like Naomi, and already trust in YAHWEH. Some of you may be like Ruth and are coming to know God. Unfortunately, there may be some here like Orpah. You may hear the good news of Christ today and the cost is too high, and you turn back to your gods and your people.
I want to start with those of us who identify with Naomi. We know the God of the Universe. We have felt his love and even when we are crushed, we will still serve Him. I’m going to read into the text a little here. So, this isn’t able to be verified, but I don’t believe it to be that much of a stretch to assume that Naomi’s house was significantly different than that of the community she lived in. She had two Moabite daughters in law who loved her to the point that one wept as she went back to her family and Ruth flat out refused to go back. What was it they saw in Naomi that drew them in, and ultimately led one of them to turn from her gods and follow the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? We don’t have it explicitly laid out for us what Naomi was like, but we can look to the rest of scripture to see the contrast of what God calls us to versus culture.
The bible tells us that Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. That means as husband we should be so sacrificial in our love for our wives that, if it were possible, we would be willing to suffer the full weight of the wrath of a Holy God for wives. Not only when they are good wives, but even when they are acting like our enemies, we are to love them that sacrificially. Culture says that we should love them as much as they love us. We should manipulate them to get what we want when we want it. Buy them gifts, not because you love them and want to make them happy, but to get something in return. Am I the only man here who has done that? Culture says that you should let your children be who they are in their heart, but the bible says the heart is wicked above all else. Culture says it is harmful to discipline your child, but the bible says that those who refuse their children actually hate them, and those who do discipline in a godly manner do so for the sake of saving the child from hell. Culture says that you cant make a business thrive if you don’t cheat the numbers now and then, but the bible says that a “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” In other words, God views us cheating in our business’ the same way He does lying, arrogance, those who justify the wicked, the sacrifice of the wicked, homosexuality, those who sow discord inside the church, and those who shed innocent blood. My parents are here today, and one of the lessons I learned from watching my dad own his own business is integrity. I have watched him do what is right even though it came at a personal cost to him, and odds are no one would have ever known. My question is what does your house look like? Does it look like our culture? Do you love your wife like your unbelieving neighbor, or is your marriage something supernatural? When your kids friends come over do they see respect from your kids, or are your kids no different then they are? Do they see a home that has healthy boundaries that are filled with laughter and love? When life happens and tragedy strikes, do they see you respond with hope and continued faith, or are you broken like the rest of the world? For those of us who fall into the Naomi category, we have to live the life we are called to. Not just for our own personal sanctification, but through that sanctification we will introduce people to the God of the universe and the atoning work of His Son Jesus. Naomi was as flawed and sinful as the next person, but in spite of her flaws, she was faithful. And time and again in scripture we see how God uses the faithfulness of weak and broken people to do miraculous works.
With the time I have left I want to contrast Ruth and Israel and Ruth and Orpah. First let's look at Ruth and Israel. Israel was God’s chosen people. They were called to be holy, pure, and a stark contrast to the culture they were surrounded by. But remember this during the time of the Judges and during this time Israel had adopted the practices of those surrounding cultures. Jephthah went so far as to sacrifice his daughter to God. If you remember God abhors the shedding of innocent blood and considers it an abomination. Israel was wicked, and that wickedness is even more egregious because of who they were called to be. You know that feeling you get when you see a cop or solder shed innocent blood. You are angry when a criminal does it, but when those who are held to a higher standard are wicked it infuriates us. That’s what you have here. They were given the law, The God of the universe had revealed himself to them, He had chosen them, and they had turned from him and done what was right in their own eyes. By contrast you have this Moabite widow, a foreigner, a gentile, a woman, who makes the conscious decision to turn from everything she knows and commit to Naomi and Naomi’s God. Ruth understood that she had nothing to offer but faithfulness to either of them, and because of that faithfulness she got to be part of how the entire world would be saved. So what is it that Ruth gave that Israel didn’t? faithfulness.
As I close, I want us to take a look at the difference between Ruth and Orpah. What I don’t want you to think is that I'm up here dogging Orpah or those who may identify with her. On the contrary, my heart breaks for them. Orpah loved Naomi and Ruth deeply. She had suffered with her. There are very few bonds that are as strong as bonds forged in the fires of suffering. When you are absolutely crushed, all hope is lost, and the only thing you have to hold onto are those who are walking through it with you, those are tough bonds to break. Those are bonds that make you even pack up and start the journey into a foreign land with foreign people who would shun you. Naomi obviously cared deeply for her daughters-in-law and knew the kind of treatment they would get in Israel. Let me stop and paint a picture for you of what they were walking into. In Israel, at that time, widow women were at the bottom of the social totem pole. Well almost at the bottom. Gentile widow women were below the dirt at the bottom. The odds of them starving to death was high, and the odds of them being shunned by all of the people in Bethlehem would be high. Naomi, knowing this, looks at the girls and pleads with them to go back to their families where they would be taken care of. No one should ever doubt Orpah’s love for Naomi, but she didn’t love YAHWEH. Looking at Orpah reminds me of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus wanting to know how to have eternal life, but walked away saddened because the cost was just to high. Orpah didn’t want to lose Naomi, but she didn’t want to continue to suffer either. To contrast, look at Ruth’s response. Verse 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” If the contrast of Ruth and Israel is faithfulness, then the contrast of Ruth and Orpah is commitment. I see Ruth’s response, and it reminds me of Thomas. In John 11 we see that Lazarus has died and Jesus tells the disciples they are going back to Judea. The disciples immediately start trying to talk him out of it because the religious leadership want to stone him. Jesus rebukes them and tells them he is glad he wasn’t there to heal Lazarus so that the disciples may believe. Then comes one of my favorite lines in the gospels, John 11:16 (ESV)
16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” When we are talking commitment, this is it. Jesus, where you go, I’ll go. Where you die, I’ll die. At the beginning of this sermon I told you that I wanted you to walk away with an understanding of commitment and conversion. As I read through scripture, and I see that to be saved we must repent of our sin, and believe in Jesus as our Lord, I don’t see the pigeonholed conversion scenario that we here in America have come to believe to be necessary. What I mean by this is that you don’t have to have the emotive earth-shattering moment to be saved. What you do have to have is an understanding of the depravity of your heart and the cost of your sin. The only thing that you and I deserve is the overwhelming full wrath of a Holy God being poured out on our head for who we are an what we have done. We have to have an understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the perfect Son of the Living God who came to earth, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and was crucified in our place having that wrath meant for us poured out on His head. He died, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day defeating sin and death. Repentance is recognizing your sin and turning from it and believing in Jesus as Lord of your life means to make a commitment to submitting to how He says for you to live. For Ruth, this moment was the culmination of the calling that the Lord had doing the entire time she had been with Naomi. It was the sum of all of those times when she saw the difference of Naomi’s house and the culture they lived in, those lessons of God’s faithfulness taught at the dinner table, seeing how Naomi responded to losing her husband and sons, and to seeing her love for her daughters-in-law. I plead with you today to be like Ruth and Thomas. Yes, they were both incredibly flawed and sinful people, but they were committed to the Lord. They both understood that there was no cost they weren’t willing to pay, and there was no turning back. Time and again Jesus told his followers to count the cost, and that following him would cost them everything. Those of us who know Jesus can tell you that in comparison to Him everything pales and truly doesn’t even begin to compare. As the band comes up to play and pray and sing, if you are here this morning and you have decided to follow Jesus, come tell me or Jason. We would love to celebrate with you this morning. If you are somewhere between Orpah and Ruth, and you aren’t quite where you are ready to commit, but you also aren’t willing to turn away, come grab one of us, we would be happy to answer any questions you have, and pray with you.