This sermon is number 1 in a series of 4
"Sojourn In Moab"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2009 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I want you to turn with me now to the book of Ruth - Joshua, Judges, Ruth - and I've taken a title for, I suppose, the whole series: 'Redemption and Revival in the Book of Ruth'. We only want to read the first 6 verses of chapter 1.
Verse 1: "Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech". Now that should be pronounced 'Eli-melech', it means 'My God is King' - but we pronounce it here in Ulster as 'Elimelech', so I'll keep with our pronunciation, not to confuse you! But that's an important little point to make: "the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread".
Now I don't know how familiar you are with this little book of Ruth, but there are a number of purposes that the Holy Spirit has inspired this book to us. Perhaps the first and main purpose is historical. When we get to chapter 4, particularly the last verses, you will see that the writer explains the ancestry of King David. What he is doing for us is building a bridge between the time of the Judges - of course, Judges is the book before Ruth - and the time of the kingdom, when God gave to Israel kings to reign over them. So it's bridging the gap between those time periods to show that God was answering the cry of His people in giving them a human king, and how He was doing it, eventually through David.
There isn't only a historical purpose to this book, but there's a prophetical one. Now we're not going to spend time on this this morning, although we will touch on it in subsequent studies, but we see within this book how God has a plan for Israel, and still has a plan for them today - and yet how God is dealing presently with Gentile peoples, yet there is a day coming when He's going to bring Israel back to Himself. There is, thirdly, a typological purpose in the book - you know what a 'type' is, I hope. It's simply a picture in the Bible of some spiritual truth, particularly a New Testament one. Here within this book we have a beautiful romance, but that romance is a picture of a relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and His church - for He is our Kinsman Redeemer. We'll find out what that means as we study this book.
Then fourthly, and I think this is often the purpose that we miss when we study the scriptures: there is a practical purpose. There is something that this little book says to all of us. It's not just a study of history, a study of prophecy, or typology - it's a study that is personally relevant to all of us here today, particularly those of us who name the name of Christ, because it touches very poignantly on our relationship as individuals with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now it is noteworthy to point out that the two books in the Bible that have titles that are names of women have a contrast with each other. I'm sure you know that the other one I'm thinking of is the book of Esther, and that's a book about a Jewess who married a prominent Gentile. Esther the Jewess married King Ahasuerus - and this other little book named after a woman, Ruth, is about a Gentile woman who married a prominent Hebrew, Ruth marrying Boaz.
Now some people these days say the Bible is all down on women - well, here is the Bible naming two of its titles after a woman. In fact, as you study both of those books, you find out that both of these women played a significant part in God's plan of redemption. Esther, of course, was instrumental in saving God's people from physical destruction. As we will see, Ruth is important in the genealogical link in the messianic line - first of all to King David, and then ultimately to our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Son of David who would save His people from their sins. These women are important, and the books are important! In fact, if you had time - you could turn to it now for a moment - Matthew chapter 1, you'll see the genealogy of the King of the Jews, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In verse 5 of Matthew chapter 1, you see that Boaz - who Ruth will marry - was a descendant of another Gentile, Rahab. We're almost certain that this is Rahab of Jericho, the harlot that we read about. Ruth is another Gentile in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ. She is entering in along with Rahab, a Gentile, to the lineage of Christ.
That is a great picture for us today of the grace of God - what do I mean? Well, you see, both Ruth and Rahab - being Gentiles - were outside the commonwealth of Israel, and all the promises of God that we find in the Old Testament weren't to them. So they were cut off from Jehovah, the God of the Israelites - and yet here we see, in the Lord Jesus Christ, by grace they are being brought in and blessed irrespective of their ethnic origin. That's the wonderful message of the Gospel, that's what the whole Bible is leading to, isn't it? That this is a Gospel, and God is a God who loves the world of sinners lost, to redeem them from the fall!
This little book of Ruth is wonderful, because Ruth, the character herself, belongs to all of us. She was a Gentile, not a Jew - and because she belongs to all of us, we can identify with her. Her Saviour belongs to all of us, Jehovah of the Old Testament, and the Lord Jesus of the New. As the little poem put it:
'What a star of Messianic truth
More beautiful than Gentile Ruth?
In her the Gentiles find a place
To share the hope of Judah's race;
Now see from royal David's line
One hope for Jew and Gentile shine!'
Now the keyword of this book, of course, is the word 'redeemed'. It means simply to buy back that which was lost, and another keyword is connected to the word 'redeemed', it's the word 'kinsman' - or it could be translated 'relative', and you find it 12 times within the book. Now, of course, Boaz is the redeeming relative, or in Hebrew the 'Go'el' - which has such rich meaning we'll see in subsequent studies. Boaz is the one who buys back the land that belonged to Elimelech. He goes into a far country to find bread, he loses everything. Naomi returns back to Bethlehem, and Boaz - her kinsman redeemer - buys back her possessions and her family in the person of Ruth, and marries Ruth who is now a widow herself. Boaz, Ruth's Go'el, is the picture of our Kinsman Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ - our redeeming Relative who has bought us, not with corruptible things such as silver or gold, but with His own precious blood.
Roy Hession has written a lovely little book on the book of Ruth called 'Our Kinsman Redeemer', and he says that 'Redemption is the key theme of this book, along with revival'. Redemption and revival! He points out that revival is a Greek word beginning with the Latin prefix 're', like 'redeemed', 'revival' - and that Latin prefix simply means 'again'. There are several Bible words beginning with 're', and all of them speak of the restorative - there it is again - the re-storative grace of God: restoration, renewal, regeneration, resurrection, revival. All of them are pointing to the fact that our God is a God of grace who restores what we have lost in sin. That's what this little book is about.
Finney, the great revivalist, said: 'Revival is nothing less than a series of new beginnings' - starting all over again. God starts to do something again because we did it wrong. He does it again, and even if it goes wrong at the time He does it again, He does it over and over again until we get it right. That reminds me of a story I heard on cassette recording told by Peter Brandon, who is an evangelist who sometimes visits the province. Some of you may be familiar with the writings of W.W. Faraday - he wrote on several Bible character studies, good books, it would be worth your while getting them. He was one of the early Christians who belonged to what we now know as the Brethren movement - but there was a great move of God way back in the beginning, when they got back to the New Testament pattern and knew the blessing of God upon them. In his late life W.W. Faraday was expressing reminiscences of those experiences where, at the very Table of the Lord, when they were breaking bread, people were being converted - imagine that! There, after they would break bread, they would bow their heads and ask the Lord for guidance about what they should do in evangelism that day - and whether it was renting a theatre or a cinema, they would go to the places where the people were and preach the gospel, and there were hundreds saved.
Now Peter Brandon is now in his eighties, so he's going back to when he was starting off in ministry and W.W. Faraday was in his eighties or nineties, and he was expressing all this to young Brandon. He said these words, he said: 'You will live to see the day when Gospel Halls and New Testament Assemblies will start closing their doors'. Now, we're in that day today. 'You'll live to see it, but do you know what you need to do when that happens? Do what we did: start all over again!'. I think that's tremendous, there is great profound truth in it, because that is a work of God: He redeems that which is lost, and He revives that which is flagging in life.
Now we're not going to concentrate on redemption this morning, we have plenty of time to do that, but we're going to look at revival. I want you to see in verse 1 the time when this little book of Ruth was taking place - incidentally it was harvest time, as it is harvest time now. But it says specifically here: 'It came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land'. Now if you have a Bible like mine, you'll see right above the title of the book of Ruth the last verse of the book of the Judges - chapter 21 verse 25 - and this was the characteristic mark and trait of this era: 'In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes'. It was a time of moral decay, indeed it was one of the lowest points in the history of the whole nation - there was division, cruelty, apostasy, civil war and national disgrace. So it should not surprise us that it was a time of famine.
Why is that? Well, God promised that He would send famine as chastisement for His people's disobedience. When they removed themselves from the obligations of covenant blessing, He would send famine. We see this in 2 Chronicles 7, if you want to turn to it, verses 13 and 14 read: 'If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land'. Now there, in those two verses, are the cause and cure of this chastisement of famine that come upon the people. Now notice that famine is in the land because every man did that which was right in his own eyes, but God has told them assuredly: 'If you call upon me in repentance and faith again, I will answer you' - but the people didn't. Oh, they did in cycles of shallow superficial repentance, but they always went back to their sin again.
That is the time that we find this little book of Ruth in. They heard God's calls upon them, but they decided upon their own plans. It is in embryo, in cameo, here in verse 1, of the life of this little family headed by Elimelech - for here he is in Bethlehem, in the promised land, and he gathers his little family together and he leaves Bethlehem and travels to Moab. The famine is there, but he doesn't call upon the Lord - he goes somewhere else. In verses 3, 4 and 5 we see that after Elimelech died in Moab his sons married Moabite wives - Mahlon married Ruth, chapter 4 verse 10 tells us that, and Chilion married Orpah. Now again this was a transgression of God's holy law, because the law said that they weren't to marry Moabites, and Moabites were not to be received into the congregation of the Lord until the tenth generation - Deuteronomy 23:3.
Now we know, with hindsight, that grace, God's grace, is overruling all this to bring Ruth into the line of David and Messiah - but see the disobedience of Mahlon. Oh, grace often overrules our failures and mistakes, doesn't it? Thank God it does, or we'd all be done! But it doesn't make our failures and mistakes right, does it? In verse 1 we see that Elimelech, along with his family, they were only going to sojourn, they were only going to visit this place to get bread in time of famine - and yet in verse 4, at the end, we see that they were still there after ten years, enough time for his two boys to mature and marry wives!
Mahlon and Chilion died leaving Naomi with two foreign daughters-in-law, only married, perhaps, a number of months - Orpah and Ruth. Now imagine the responsibility of the head of the home here, Elimelech. He had led his family from the land of the living, the promised land, to the place of death and barrenness - not only did Elimelech die there, Mahlon and Chilion died there, and the two daughter-in-laws of Naomi were barren there. Mahlon and Chilion didn't have any children.
Warren Weirsbe said: 'A family makes a bad decision, and exchanges one famine for three funerals'. Sidlow Baxter says: 'They sought bread but found graves'. That's what Moab became for them: a graveyard. Now, what does that tell us? Simply that it is a most serious thing to step out of the will of God - that should frighten us, it frightens me.
Well, let's look at these individuals for a moment, or their names at least. If you look at verse 2, let's look at this man Elimelech. Well, I have said already his name means 'My God is King', but it's obvious from this story that he wasn't living up to his name. He wasn't submitting to the Lordship of his King, Jehovah. Naomi, his wife, Naomi's name means 'My pleasant one' - well, as we shall see in our further studies, she had lost all her joy. She said: 'Don't call me 'joyous' or 'pleasant', call me 'bitter''. Mahlon means 'sickly', Chilion means 'pining'. So here's a man whose name says 'My God is King', whose wife is 'a pleasant one' - meant to be, at least - and he doesn't behave as if God is his Lord, and his wife certainly isn't full of joy but sorrow, and they have two sons who become sickly and pining in this barren land of Moab.
Now look at where they left, verse 1 says they left Bethlehemjudah. 'Bethlehem', you know, means 'house of bread' - it was a place that was meant to be blessed with bread and substance, and great sufficiency. 'Judah', of course, means 'praise'. You will remember from the prophecy concerning the Messiah in the book of Micah, that He was to be born in Bethlehem Ephratah, and 'Ephratah' is the old ancient name for Bethlehem, and it's the root of this name that is given to Mahlon and Chilion, 'Ephrathites'. That ancient name 'Ephratah' means 'fruitfulness'. Bethlehem, 'the house of bread', its ancient name 'fruitfulness' - now, put all these things together for a moment and we get a very powerful picture and message to our souls. These folk could be classed as backsliders, and the message is: we will always backslide when, like Elimelech, we do not submit to the Lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Living God. When we step out of God's will we lose our joy, we cease to be like Naomi, 'pleasant ones'. We become like Mahlon, 'sickly'; like Chilion, 'pining' away in barrenness, because we have left Bethlehem, 'the house of bread'; Judah, 'the place of praise'; Ephratah, 'the area of fruitfulness'. All we get is barrenness and death!
You know, that's true of individuals and groups of people, assemblies of God's people. When we operate on our own initiative, our own human wisdom rather than waiting on God for His divine direction, it always - always - ends in disaster, no exceptions. So often when I get a gift to me, or a book or something like that, or a card, the person will write Proverbs 3:5-6 on it - oh, that everybody that wrote it would live by it! 'Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths'. Now I know it can be difficult, and it is more difficult today than perhaps it was a generation or two ago. I know, in many respects, Christians' backs are against the wall and it can be difficult to live faithfully and godly lives in a perverse and adulterous generation in which we are living today. Sometimes we feel like David did in Psalm 55: 'Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest' - we just want to escape. Sometimes the pressure of living a Christian life in this wicked world gets to us. Even in service and ministry, it can be so difficult at times.
Confession is good for the soul, so I'll confess to you one of my recurring dreams - I hope there's no psychologists or psychiatrists here, because it might be something worse than I'm imagining! I have a recurring dream - you know the way sometimes people have a dream that they're falling, and then they waken up before they hit the ground. I'm told if you don't waken up before you hit the ground, you're in trouble - but anyway, that's another thing! I have a recurring dream that I can fly - alright? Maybe you've had this one too? I beat my arms, in the dream now, and I start to fly. I go so high, and I can see everything panoramic down below. Now I'm not a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, but I imagine that it's some kind of interpretation of the fact that I might find myself at that moment in a difficult experience - and you just want to get out of it. 'Oh that I had wings like a dove! That I might fly away'. Now last night my wife was coughing, and my wee boy was coughing all night and I never got a wink's sleep - that was the second night, so that's probably, after I did fall over asleep, just before the alarm went, what I was trying to get away from! But we can feel like that, can't we? Sometimes we take the avenue of exit that is into the world - into Moab - because that's easy, that's the way everybody's going!
Whereas Isaiah says, whilst we might want wings to escape difficult situations: 'They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles' - but it doesn't come by going your own way, no matter how much pressure you're under, it comes by waiting on God, waiting for His way. God is never in a hurry - that's what frustrates me about Him at times, because I'm always in a hurry! But He never is. So much of the time it's when we're under pressure like that, that we make the wrong move - isn't that right? We have a knee-jerk reaction. Now this is what they did: in famine they went to this place. We've looked at the time, the time of the Judges, look at the place: they went to Moab of all places, southeast of the Dead Sea.
Now the Moabites were the descendants of Lot from his incestuous union with his firstborn daughter that we read about in Genesis 19 - but they also became the enemies of Israel, and treated then despicably during their pilgrim journey in the wilderness from Egypt to Caanan. Even in the book of Judges, nearer to where we are now, we see that Moab invaded Israel and ruled over them for 18 years - Judges 3. Isaiah 16 says they were a proud people, and the Lord says of them in Psalm 60: 'Moab is my washpot' - an expression of disdain.
Now in the Old Testament we can see several other disastrous decisions of men and women of God who decided to sojourn in the world for a while because of difficult situations. Abraham experienced a famine too, and it says in Genesis 12 that Abraham went down to Egypt, and he got all sorts of problems upon himself because of that. Lot, in Genesis 13, went to Sodom - those well-watered plains that looked well to the naked eye, but were full of such wickedness and evil - and would incur the wrath and judgement of God not long after he moved there. We read a similar situation about Isaac. Isaac, in Genesis 26, in a famine as well, went to the Philistines for help - why? I heard it on the radio even this week, to do with the credit crisis and fuel disaster and all the rest: 'Desperate times call for desperate measures'. Now that might be the clarion cry of pragmatism in our world, but you'll never hear God say those words - never!
Sojourning ended up in 10 years of barrenness and backsliding, because bad choices end up in ruined lives, wrong decisions - why? All because God was left out of their plans! Now, today is like the day of the Judges, I'm sure you'll agree - every man does that which is right in his own eyes, and there is no king, there's no answerable responsibility in our society. That is the model of any archetypal permissive society, and we're not surprised about that out in the world, but what about the church? Well, it is the case, similar to the time of the Judges, that our King, our Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ has not returned yet - and many true believers are living like Elimelech, as if they had no King or Lord at all, in unbelief, in disobedience, God has been left out of their lives! They go to church on a Sunday, and they carry the Bible, and they maybe read it, and they maybe pray - but what I'm talking about is: in the intricate details of their life, in the decision-making processes of their plans, God is left out!
I wonder, Christian, is He left out of your life? Is He left out of your business? Is He left out of your studies? Is He left out of the way you run your accounts? Is He left out of the way you operate in your family? There's an interesting point to note when we compare the book of Joshua with the book of Judges, and the two time periods. It's like a tale of two generations, because Joshua's generation was the generation that conquered the land in triumph, but the Judges' generation are the group that polluted the land by their compromise. It was Joshua and his generation that fought the enemies that the Judges' generation ended up making friends with! They end up, as the people of God, fighting each other and not the enemy. Joshua begins as a tale of the rule of God - that's theocracy, where God was in charge - and at the end of Judges we see that it's under the rule of none, not even a king, anarchy!
Through Joshua's conquest the Judges' generation enjoyed comfort, but their problem was: their comfort lead to complacency, and that complacency led to compromise. If that was the case for a second generation group of people in ancient Israel's day, what is it like for a second, or third, or fourth, or fifth, or sixth, or umpteenth generation of Christians in Ulster today? I think it's the reason why we're in some of the problems we are in as the church of Jesus Christ. Certainly we are a materialistic society, we are comfortable, maybe because of the blessings our forefathers have known. There's nothing to be scorned in being comfortable, every good and perfect gift comes from God - but the problem is when that comfort goes to complacency, and eventually to compromise, and we cease to worship the Giver and worship the gift instead!
You would have seen, I'm sure, the Olympics - and of course, China is in a capitalist boom, a revolution of consumerism. One Shanghai pastor put it like this: 'Consumerism makes you think you don't have to suffer to follow Jesus. It makes you think you can have lots of things, and Christ as well. In reality you end up with lots of things, and most of the time you don't even realise Christ has gone'. Sidlow Baxter said of the book of Ruth and the era of the Judges: 'The God of their fathers was simply a convenient resort in times of extremity. When things were tolerably comfortable, bare-faced betrayal of Jehovah was the order of the day'.
Now I'm asking you as a company of God's people - we've a lot to thank God for, and praise God for that, we all have - but I'm asking every single one of you: do you find yourself in Moab today, in the world? Oh, you don't have to be going to the clubs and pubs to be in the world, you know. A place of stagnation - Moab is spoken of in Jeremiah 48 and verse 11, a paraphrase puts it like this: 'From her earliest history Moab has lived in peace. She is like wine that has been allowed to settle, she has not been poured from flask to flask' - that's the fermentation process, but you could describe it as stagnation. You're not going anywhere! Have the refreshing movements of the Holy Spirit been lost to your heart lately? Has the Bible become a dry book to you, dead? Prayer no longer has passion in it, but it's an empty exercise when you even get round to it? Personal witness is the farthest thing from your mind or heart, let alone volition. Service to God, whatever menial or great way it might be, it's a task, it's a chore - and you've lost your joy!
You see this little book of Ruth? It's a cry to us to examine our souls, because it could be that there is famine there! The prophet Amos talked about a famine not of bread, nor of thirst of water, but of hearing the words of the Lord - and all of that can take place, believe it or not, in a place like Bethlehem, in the house of bread! The New Testament Assembly is the house of God, and you can be experiencing famine there as any place. Now we have to say, and maybe someone will say, 'Well, it wasn't all their fault, because there wasn't much bread in Bethlehem, was there?'. Well, that's the truth, there wasn't. There was no bread in the house of bread, and we have got to face this today: sometimes the reason why Christians go back into the world is not because the world is attractive to them, but Bethlehem has become dry to them!
Now that can be the church's fault - and of course it's not all the church's fault - that the Lord Jesus is not real to people any more, so they feel they have to have a bit of fun in life, and go into the world - some bit of joy, something to occupy their time. If Bethlehem has no bread, it's all our faults. If my soul is famished, it's my fault, don't you think that the pastor's responsibility is to feed you on one day out of seven, so that you can live the rest of the six with what he gave you! You're to feed your own soul, and maybe you're not doing that? Well, the answer, my friend, is not to go to the fields of the world, it's not to go to Moab for help or ideas, but it's staying in Bethlehem, it's seeking the face of the Lord as to why we are in this state, why our hearts are cold, why it seems - to me at least - to be out of touch with God.
These Israelites were under God's discipline, and they didn't know it. Now I'm baring my heart to you this morning - a man said to me once, be careful who you bare heart to, because they could stick a knife in it! I hope you'll not do that! But I believe the church of Jesus Christ in the West, and in Ulster, though we are blessed from our Christian heritage, I believe we're under the discipline of God. I believe we're under a measure of chastisement. We haven't been faithful with what God has given to us. We are Laodicean in our spirits. Do you remember what the Lord Jesus said to that church? 'You say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent'. He's only chastising us because He loves us, don't think of it as punitive justice - that was dealt with at the cross! This is restorative justice, He wants to bring us in line with His will!
Do you know how God did it with this little family in Bethlehemjudah, with the head of it, Elimelech? He let them go into Moab, and He took away all their breadwinners: Elimelech, Mahlon, Chilion - any hope of bread was gone. That's what He'll do with us. If you have your back to Christ today, and you're a child of God and you're walking out of fellowship with Him, and you're doing things that are not pleasing in His sight, He will attempt to bring you back - and He might do it by taking away those breadwinners, stripping you. The result will be death and desolation, and Moab became a graveyard to these people! Imagine it! Burying a father and burying two boys, three widows out of it all - why? Because of a sojourn in Moab that lasted ten years.
Hebrews 3:12 says: 'Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God'. Was there a road back? Praise God, there was! That's what this little book is all about, that in the darkness of the Judges' age where there was anarchy, there's a little jewel of hope in a person called Ruth. The road to revival started when, in verse 6, we read that Naomi had heard that the Lord had visited His people again in Bethlehem with bread. Isn't that wonderful? News of a revival back home! O to God, that the news of that would go forth to the four corners of the globe from Ulster and from Ireland! You know there is revival in parts of our world today, where the famine has been lifted and the rains of God have come, and there are full fields of ripe grain that are being reaped as we speak - and it's all happening because the folks have repented and got before God.
I wonder have those experiences - and you have heard about them from India via your pastor - do they make us hungry enough to repent here? Do they? Maybe we don't need God's blessing any more, we've three or four square meals in the day, and then the trip to McDonald's. We have our fancy car with air-conditioning, and a seat to warm your bum - we have everything we need! We don't need God any more...but she heard the sound of the revival cry in Bethlehem, and that was the start of a wonderful journey - but listen: you've got to be prepared to make it. It's like you ladies going and viewing outfits in the fancy shops, 'Oh, I love that one, that would look fantastic on me', and then you look at the price tag and you're not prepared to pay the price! Oh, we all want revival, don't we? We all want to know God more - 'O, for a closer walk with God' - but we need to go through with God, and pay the price! That's a different thing...
Good news from home started the road of revival, and then there was something else: she learned her lesson - that's Naomi. In verse 20 she said: 'Don't call me Naomi! Don't call me joyous!', chapter 1 verse 20, 'Call me bitter', and we'll preach on this tonight, 'for I went out full, and I came back empty' - what a statement! But she had come to that realisation, and she was starting to repent. Can I tell you something? Repentance is not, what is often said, forsaking your sin as such, in a practical way. Repentance is in the mind and the heart - it means, it's 'metanoya' in Greek, 'turning your head, turning your mind', changing your mind about your sin and what Christ means to you. Out of the seven churches addressed by our Lord Himself in the book of Revelation, five were told: 'Repent, repent, repent, repent, repent!'. People in Ulster think repentance is something you do the night you're saved - it's something Jesus says you do every day, when daily you take up your cross and follow Christ. We've got away from this, have we not?
Let me finish with the story, as we come just now - this is where we are now, we're at the foot of the cross. There was a great revival on the Isle of Lewis during the 1940's. Duncan Campbell was used with several others as instruments of God in that awakening there - but before it, and this is where the real work of God happens you know, men of God in that place were aware that the spiritual temperature of the island was in dire straits. They had once before, not that long before this, experienced a touch of God in revival and they realised that their spiritual vitality had gone cold and indifferent. In view of the situation the Free Church Presbytery of Lewis got together and made a public statement, a declaration. They put it in the Stornoway Gazette and in the West Coast Advertiser, the local press. This is how it went, and I'm just quoting it, but let it sear into your soul as you think of this theme of redemption and revival in Ruth. They wrote: 'The Presbytery of Lewis, having taken into consideration the low state of vital religion within their bounds, and throughout the land generally, call upon their faithful people in all their congregations to take a serious view of the present dispensation of divine displeasure, manifested not only in the chaotic conditions of international politics and morality, but also and especially in the lack of spiritual power from Gospel ordinances, and to realise that these things clearly indicate that the Most High has a controversy with the nation'. They go on: 'The Presbytery affectionately plead with their people, especially with the youth of the church, to take these matters to heart and to make serious inquiry as to what must be the end should there be no repentance! They call upon every individual, as before God, to examine his or her life in the light of the responsibility that pertains to us - that haply, in divine mercy, we may be visited with a spirit of repentance and may turn again unto the Lord whom we have so grieved with our iniquities and waywardness'. Amen - and can I say something? They were not in a fraction of the state, morally and spiritually, of our own nation today.
While most of the nation of Israel was wandering away from the Lord, there was a Gentile named Ruth whose faith shone out in brilliance. Even today in this darkness, Jesus says to His church: 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man, if any woman - not a crowd now, just individuals - if any will hear my voice, I will open the door, and come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me' - commune with him. I trust you'll come back tonight, and tomorrow night, and Tuesday night to see this great message of redemption and revival - but more than that: I pray to God that you'll experience it, and I'll experience it, for, O, I need it - in all our hearts.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Monkstown Baptist Church in Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his 'Romance of Redemption and Revival in Ruth' series, entitled "Sojourn In Moab" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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