This sermon is number 2 in a series of 4
"Return To Bethlehem"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2009 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Well, thank you very much for your welcome again, and for your encouragement. It has been a delight to be with you and to share God's word with you over this special weekend, particularly from this little book of Ruth that we're looking at over the next three sessions that we have left. So we're turning to Ruth, the book of Ruth - Joshua, Judges, Ruth - and I will be preaching the Gospel tonight, but particularly the message will be for those who we could class as backsliders. You remember the title I took for this, 'Redemption and Revival in Ruth', and that's what this little book of Ruth is all about.
We're going to take our reading from chapter 1 again, verse 6 this time we'll begin at, and we'll summarise the first five verses as we saw them this morning in my introduction. But let's just take up our reading at verse 6 of chapter 1, and we're going to read through to chapter 2 verse 3: "Then she arose", that is Naomi, "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. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah. And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest. And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech".
Now if you were with us this morning, we looked at the first six verses of chapter 1. We saw the time period, historically, that is spoken of here. It was, of course, the time of the Judges - and we noticed that the last verse of the book just before the book of Ruth, the book of Judges, reads like this, chapter 21 verse 25: 'In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes'. It was a time that was characterised by moral decay and decadence, one of the lowest points in all of the history of God's children, Israel. And so we were not surprised to see that God, as He had promised, chastised His people by sending a famine. So in verse 1 we read that there was a famine in the land - God, you see, promised that if His people disobeyed Him, well, He would make the heavens like brass and the earth would not yield forth any fruit.
During that difficult period in the nation a man called Elimelech gathered together his little family, and left their home in Bethlehemjudah and traveled to the land of Moab. In verses 3 through to 5 we saw that after Elimelech and his family had uprooted and moved to Moab, Elimelech died. His sons then married Moabite wives - Mahlon, his son, married Ruth; Chilion, his son, married Orpah - and we noted also that God's law forbade an Israelite to marry a Moabite. Indeed a Moabite or a Moabitess was not allowed to enter into the congregation of the Lord's people until the tenth generation, and yet they had disobeyed the Lord in this regard. At the end of verse 1 we saw that the intention of Elimelech and his family was only to sojourn, to traverse for a little time, in the land of Moab - but ten years later we see that they're still there. Mahlon and Chilion have now died, they have left Naomi, their mother, with two foreign daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.
We marked very seriously the point that Elimelech, in very very difficult circumstances it is granted, Elimelech led his family from the land of the living into the land of death and barrenness - and that is marked by the fact that Mahlon and Chilion bore no sons to their two wives, and Naomi returned to Bethlehem eventually childless. None of her own children are surviving, and she has no grandchildren to show for their two marriages. They have exchanged one famine for three funerals. They sought out bread and found graves. We pointed out forcibly, particularly to those who call themselves Christians, what a serious thing it is to step out, consciously, of God's will and plan for your life. I trust if you were here this morning you got that message - but there may be someone here this evening, and you didn't get it, or you weren't here this morning - or you know that you're, at this very moment, about to be or currently are out of God's will. You're absolutely aware of it! Well, I'm warning you: from the testimony of Scripture, particularly this Scripture and Elimelech's family experience:
'Sin will take you further than you want to go,
Slowly, but wholly, taking control.
Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay.
Sin will cost you more than you want to pay'.
Elimelech's name, we saw, means 'My God is King' - but he didn't live his life, he did not arrange his affairs with the Lordship of Jehovah in mind. We saw that Naomi's name meant 'My pleasant one', but she had lost all her joys - they had gone! Her son's name, Mahlon, means 'Sickly'; Chilion means 'Pining' - and that was their experience as they moved from Bethlehem, which means 'the house of bread', where God had promised to feed them, as they moved away from His chosen place for their lives. They move from Judah, which means 'praise', they have lost now their note of song, celebration in the Lord. As they move from that region that we have seen was called in ancient times 'Ephratah', which means 'fruitfulness', they themselves die spiritually - and three of them die physically!
The message very clearly was, where we ended up and where we start this evening: for anybody to operate on their own initiative in their lives, rather than seeking God's will, God's word, God's plan, anybody living like that will end in disaster. It mightn't look like disaster, but in God's eyes it is. They went to Moab of all places, southeast of the Dead Sea. Moab, we saw, were the enemies of ancient Israel. They, indeed, had ruled over Israel during the Judges period for 18 years. Here we see children of God moving away from Bethlehem, 'the house of bread', the place of rejoicing, the place of triumph, and they're going to their enemies to find sustenance.
We saw that Abraham did the same thing in famine in Genesis 12, he went down to Egypt. Lot did the same thing, and chose the well-watered plains of Sodom. Isaac, during famine, went to the Philistines for help - and all of those sojourns ended in disaster. Bad choices, wrong decisions, all because God was left out of their lives. Now I want to bring four people before you this evening. The first is Naomi, the second is Orpah, the third is Ruth, and the fourth is Boaz. I want you to look at each of their testimonies, that is: what they have left, the mark they have made of their lives spiritually - that's what a testimony is.
Let's look first of all at Naomi's confession. We find it in verses 20 and 21 of chapter 1: 'She said unto them', when she returned to Bethlehem, 'Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me'. Here, I feel, is one of the saddest verses in the whole of Scripture, verse 21, she says: 'I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?'. Naomi's confession is the confession of a typical backslider, a person who has started off well with God. Like Naomi, 'pleasant one' her name means, you have known the joys of the Lord; but because of the path that you have taken in your own wisdom, not God's, you find yourself 'Mara', 'Bitter'. The joy has disappeared and, as someone prayed in our prayer meeting - not knowing that I was going to say it tonight - you become one of the most miserable people in the world, for that's what a backslider is. You see, they have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, they know that God is real, they know that the power of God unto salvation is the gospel, and they're trying to satisfy themselves with the things of the flesh, self and the world - and it doesn't work, and they know it doesn't work!
It makes them miserable, even though they seldom admit it. They cannot be satisfied with the imitations of this world. It makes them bitter - but I think Naomi was bitter for another reason. She was blaming God, I feel, for her predicament. You need to read over it again, but she points the finger at God several times for what had happened in her life. She was blaming God, and perhaps even blaming God's people, Israel, and the promises that were given to them. Yet in all of her blaming of God, she forgot - conveniently - that she made the decision to go to Moab.
Now the root of bitterness, as the Bible calls it, is often the cause for men and women backsliding. You see, sometimes things can happen, particularly in churches - and that's often the way it goes, sadly. The root of bitterness springs up in a person's heart, and all of a sudden the daggers are out for another brother or sister in Christ - and before you realise it: your joy is gone, your fellowship with the Lord has been interrupted, and it's all downhill after that! It poisons your life - but, you know, bitterness can also poison the lives of the people around you...sitting at the dinner table when you're carving up the pastor, or the elders, or that brother or sister in Christ, rather than the roast! Your children are listening, and it's affecting their lives.
Hebrews 12:15 says: 'Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled'. A lot of people hold things in their heart and say: 'Well, I might be grumpy and bitter, but I'm not harming anybody only myself' - that's a lie! You're harming more than yourself, you're harming those around you, and your bitterness is contagious! Many backslide because of bitterness. They're carrying a grudge against God or one of His children. Proverbs 14:14 says: 'The backslider is full of their own ways', full of themselves, full of their rightness.
Naomi's other confession was that she had gone out full, but the Lord had brought her back empty. Oh, this is so sad. How had she gone out full? Well, she went away from the house of bread, even though there wasn't much bread there - but we saw this morning, what they should have done is call on the name of the Lord and ask why this famine had come, and repented, and they would have got the bread back...but they went away. She went out from the place of bread, but there's more than that: she went out with a husband and two children - and she came back empty! I imagine before she left Moab, she, Orpah and Ruth went to those three graves, and would never see them again.
She came back a widow, childless, along with her daughters-in-law. What she is saying in 'I went out full and came back empty', is 'My life has been ruined because I have turned my back on God and His people'. Is there someone here tonight who can say that? She is filled with regret. Oh, that's a backsliders heart. What regrets have you this evening? Naomi was the embodiment, and maybe you are as well, of Proverbs 13:15: 'The way of transgressors is hard', or Proverbs 14:12: 'There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death'. You see, this was all self-inflicted - Elimelech and Naomi had brought this upon themselves - but God is so gracious, for God works things together for good to them that love Him. What they had brought upon themselves adversely, the Lord is now using in His will and plan to bring them back to Himself! He's a gracious Father, we see this very clearly.
Now I was looking up my concordance to see the verses in Scripture concerning backsliders, and it's amazing to note that I think most of the verses to do with backsliders are found in the Old Testament prophet of Jeremiah. You know, of course, that Jeremiah was called 'The Weeping Prophet'. He wept buckets of tears, at one stage he said that his whole head had become like a river of waters, all because of the waywardness, the backsliding of God's people! He speaks of the depths to which backsliding Christians - we put it in our context - children of God can go. Jeremiah 3:6: 'Hast thou seen', God says, 'that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot'. Do you know what He's talking about there? The Canaanites had a religious ritual where they worshipped fertility gods - and we'll not get into it tonight, save to say that through sexual immorality they thought that they would make the fields grow with grain and the rains fall upon it. There they were at the shrines of these pagans, engaging in immorality and harlotry - and they're God's people!
You know, some people think Christians are above all that. I'll tell you: in the church in Corinth, Paul said, 'There is fornication among you which the people out in the world wouldn't even mention'. The depths to which those who call themselves children of God can go, never underestimate it! In backsliding Israel went far. Jeremiah tells us more, in fact he says that God was brought to question His relationship with Israel over their backsliding. Jeremiah 3:8: 'For all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce'. Imagine this! God was going to cut Israel off, in a sense, for her backsliding. Now you say: 'Well, God will never do that with a true child of God' - well, that's true, but then a true believer, if they are a true believer, would need to question their heart and their relationship with the Lord. As one man put it: 'A lot of backsliders would need to question whether they were front-sliders in the first place'!
Jeremiah says backsliders often try to justify their behaviour, Jeremiah 3:11: 'The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah'. God is angry with the backslider, that's what Jeremiah is all about - and yet God in His grace and love wants to be merciful to His people! 'Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God'. Yet, time and time again, when God came to His people, and - if I can say it reverently - begged with them to return unto their Lord, they were so stubborn and intransigent. Is that where God finds you this very evening?
'Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding?'. It's as if it's a constant state of being: 'How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter?'. Jeremiah is a book to the backslider, if ever there was one. But there is something interesting, the Lord Jesus came to the apostles on one occasion and He said: 'Whom do men say that I am?'. The response that came back was, 'One of the prophets', etc, etc - but one of the names that was mentioned, it's a strange one, 'Some say you're Jeremiah'. Why do you think they thought He was Jeremiah? Because of the tears over a wayward nation, over a people that had rejected Messiah - do you not see Him standing on the Mount, looking over Jerusalem with the tears running down His blessed cheeks? 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thee as a hen gathereth her chickens, but ye would not!'.
He was the Man of Sorrows, wasn't He? And His heart is still breaking over those who call themselves Christians, or have done in the past, and they're nowhere tonight. But can I say to you this evening: we're all backsliders in a sense, because all of us in our first father, Adam, and Eve, were once in fellowship with God - but sin broke in and destroyed that, and we've all turned our backs on God. 'All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way'.
Verse 6 says that Naomi, in this terrible state, remembered the house of bread, Bethlehem. You know, I like to call Naomi the prodigal daughter of the Old Testament. Charles Dickens was asked the question: what was the greatest short story in all of English literature? And he said, 'It is the prodigal son' - and he was no Christian. Well, here is the prodigal daughter, like the prodigal son - you know the story, don't you? Luke 15, he had everything in his father's house and he asked for his inheritance - which was tantamount to telling his father, 'I wish you were dead, so that I could get your money' - and his father gave it to him. He went to the far country, he wasted everything in riotous living, sin. He hit rock bottom. The Bible says there was a famine in the land. He went and hired himself to a farmer, and ended up that he was so hungry that he ate the pigswill. It was when he reached that bottom point that he remembered home! He remembered that in his father's house there was bread, and that to spare! The Bible says, 'He came to himself' - do you know what that means? If I can put it in the vernacular, 'He wised up'. But he only thought that he could ever be a servant in his father's house, little did he know that his father would be running out to meet him halfway, and would make him his son again, and re-clothe him, and have a whole celebration that he had come back - his son that was lost had now been found! That's what the Lord wants to do for you, whether you're a prodigal son or a prodigal daughter.
Naomi's confession: 'I went out full, but I came back empty' - is that you tonight? O, the Lord would meet you this evening, and the Father would put His arms around you, and kiss you on the neck, and restore you to everything that you had ever lost. There's something else: Orpah's intention. I want you to see Orpah's intention as well as Naomi's confession. Verse 8: 'Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me'. Now this is interesting, Naomi is a backslider here - did you know that backsliders lead other people astray? No man is an island, Paul said no man dies unto himself or lives unto himself - you have an effect on other people by the way that you live. Here is Naomi, and she's sending her two daughters-in-law back to the land of Moab. Three times, if you look at the passage, she sends them back to paganism - imagine a Jewess sending them back to idolatry!
More than that, if you look at verses 8 and 9, she prays that they would go - that shows you how good a backslider's prayers are. Now why did she not want them coming home to Bethlehem with her? Well, of course, the obvious reason was: she felt she couldn't give them any more sons, and they would remain unmarried. They would have more of a chance going home to their own father's house. Well, there is that, but I think and suspect that there's another reason. Imagine Naomi going home to Bethlehem, she had left there in good standing - reasonably so - the circumstances were grave enough to in some way legitimise her leaving Bethlehem, but here she is coming back with two daughters-in-law, and they're pagans! They are a living embodiment that revealed her family disobedience. I'll tell you: you see when you backslide? There's a lot of water goes under the bridge. They had backsliden for ten years, and it was making it harder to return home because of the baggage they had - but listen: she didn't realise, maybe you don't realise tonight, that's not a reason for delay, that's a reason not to delay before you gather any more baggage and it's made any harder!
Well, in verse 10, Orpah seemed to have the strength to resist the invitation of her mother-in-law to return back to her pagan roots. 'And they', look at the plural, 'they said', verse 10, 'unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people'. There's strength in numbers, isn't there? Sometimes people can say and do things because their friends and family say and do things. Maybe Christianity has been like that for you: you're coming here to this church because the family does. You say you're a Christian because the family does it, but in your heart of hearts it isn't real to you. That's what Orpah was like, 'Oh', she said, 'We'll go with you, Naomi', verse 10 - and then look at verse 14: 'And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her'.
Now we don't have time to read it, but the reason for this change of heart is found in verses 11 to 13, where Naomi was reiterating: 'I have no more sons to give you, neither will I have any more to give you' - and because of those thoughts, Orpah was having second thoughts and she changed her mind. Now can I say something to you: you're a backslider tonight, or you're not saved - now listen, whatever the devil tells you is the cost of becoming a Christian or renewing your fellowship in Christ, it is a lie from the pit of hell. Here's the proof: Ruth got everything that her mother-in-law said she would lose by going to Bethlehem, and she got more! Now I'm not saying that it's an easy thing to be a Christian - no, no, no, it's not. The Lord wants to make disciples, that means He wants all of you - it's hard work. It was hard work for her, and it would mean poverty. She would have no male provider, there would be separation from her home and her loved ones too - but what I'm saying to you tonight is: don't believe the lie of the devil that your life that you're living now is better than living for Christ, for it's not, it's not life at all! Satan is a thief who comes to steal, and to kill and destroy; Jesus Christ says, 'I'll give you life abundantly'.
Orpah had good intentions. I wonder is there someone here tonight, and you have Orpah's intentions but you are indecisive about your salvation? Like the man who said: 'I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not sure'. It's a dangerous thing to be indecisive. There was an old boy who lived on the border that separated the North and the South during the American Civil War, and he didn't know what side to take - so he decided he would wear a Confederate army jacket, and Union army pants. Of course he ran into trouble, because the Union soldiers shot at his jacket, and the Confederates shot him in the pants! It was fatal for him. Now I had someone say once: 'It's better to make the wrong decision than build up the habit of indecision' - well, I don't think that's right, because you can see the problem that Naomi and her family got into from making a wrong decision. But that being said, praise God, she got right with God in the end - but, mark, we never hear of Orpah again!
Indecision. Well, thirdly, look at Ruth's decision - verse 14 of chapter 1, it says at the end: 'Ruth clave unto her mother-in-law'. Proverbs says: 'He that covereth his sin shall not prosper, but whosoever confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy'. Oh, what a wonderful thought - and Ruth said, 'I'm going with you'. Look at verse 16: 'Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God'. There it is! 'Thy God shall be my God', she was resolute, decisive about that step of faith in Christ. Do you have Ruth's resolution tonight? Do you have her determination to choose Christ? Backslider, what are you going to do? Are you going to make a greater mess of your life? Are you going to go further into Moab, into sin, and cause grief to the heart of your Saviour that was pierced, and forthwith came blood and water for you?
Person who has never trusted in Christ: what are you going to do? It's in your hands. There was once a wee fellow, and he had a twinkle in his eye, and he was wanting to trick an old friend of his. He had a wee bird in his hand, and he said: 'You tell me now, is the bird dead or alive?'. The old boy was cute enough to know that if he said it was dead, he would open his hands and it would fly away; and if he said it was alive, the wee brat would crush it and kill it! Do you know what the answer the old man give was? He says: 'The decision is in your hands, you choose'. That's where you are tonight: whether you're a backslider, or you've never been a front-slider; whether you've been saved many years ago, or you've never been saved - whatever your spiritual state is now. It comes to the very common denominator - though we need the Lord working in our lives - that 'be it unto thee according to how you will', that's what the Lord said, wasn't it? What do you want to do about it?
Ruth decided: 'Thy God will be my God'. Naomi's confession, Orpah's intention, Ruth's decision - oh, that it would be yours tonight. Look finally at Boaz's redemption. In verse 22 we read that they returned home to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest: 'And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz'. Now this is wonderful, you've got to understand a bit about the Bible: this 'kinsman' was just a word for 'relative', but there is a law in the law of Moses in the Old Testament, and it says that if a man died and had no children a close relative, a kinsman, should redeem - that means take back what is lost - and marry the widow, and raise up a perpetual family to the name of the deceased. That kept his name going, but it also kept the family within the tribe forever. Now since Boaz was a relative of Elimelech, that means that he was eligible to serve as the redeeming relative by marrying Ruth.
Now Naomi had foregone the privilege, she probably felt she was too old anyway, and passed it down to Ruth - but you need to see that there was something special about Boaz, because you had to be more than eligible to do this job, you had to be able! That meant you had to be rich enough - if you couldn't keep your own family, you were hardly going to take another one on. But not only had you to be able, you had to be willing! Now Boaz is a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, if ever there was one. It shows how He is towards sinners, backslidden sinners, unconverted sinners - and if you read all of chapter 1, you'll not find Boaz's name mentioned, and you might never have known about Christ, or have had no regard about Him - Ruth didn't even know Boaz existed in chapter 1! But Boaz knew all about her, in chapter 2:11 he was set to tell her all about what she had done in leaving her home and following Naomi back to Bethlehem. Do you know that the Lord knows all about you? Jesus could say to Nathaniel: 'When you were under the fig tree, I saw you there. I know all about you'. He knows all about your struggles, He knows all about your fears, and your tears, and your trials. He knows all about your sins, He knows all about your habits, He knows all about your brokenness, He knows all about the things that have driven you to where you are just now. The miracle of it all is: He loves you.
He's a compassionate Saviour to the stranger. Remember Ruth was a Gentile, she wasn't a Jew, and yet here is Boaz being compassionate to her, and being willing to redeem her and all that she owns. Then in chapter 2 we find that Ruth goes from not knowing Boaz to being in his field, and then in chapter 3 she gets to Boaz's feet, and then in chapter 4 she's found in Boaz's family! Oh, that you would get to the feet of Jesus tonight: 'To as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God'. Oh, that you would be a member of His family tonight. Now there's a difference between Boaz and Christ, and it's simply this: to redeem Ruth and all that her family had, he only had to buy and marry; but for the Lord Jesus Christ to redeem your never-dying soul, He had to bleed, He had to go all the way to the cross and be nailed there to buy back what was lost.
You see, your debt isn't money, it's sin. You'll pay your debt in death and hell if your sin isn't dealt with, but Christ dealt with it at the cross, and you must come - like Ruth, as we will see in subsequent nights, she did, and she came to the feet of Boaz and asked him to take control of her life, and he did, and he changed it for ever! He'll do that for you too this evening. You see we are not redeemed with corruptible things, Peter says, like silver and gold, or the tradition of our fathers, or our way of life, but by the precious blood of Christ. It cost the precious blood of the eternal Son of God in human flesh for your redemption, for you to be bought back from sin, ruin, destruction, degradation.
Well, this is a wonderful story. By the grace of God Naomi's emptiness - remember her cry: 'I went out full, and have come back empty' - it was transformed again to fullness. Her sorrow was changed to joy. Her hard labour in the fields was turned to rest. Her fear was transformed into peace and assurance. This book that begins with three funerals ends with a marriage. Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, moves from bitterness to blessedness; and Ruth travels on the journey from loneliness to love - all because of the redemption of Boaz. The difference was made when Ruth put her life at her redeemer's feet, and entrusted herself to him. He took over, and he changed everything - that's what you need tonight.
I believe this is a message from the Lord to someone, or more, in this gathering. Bill Gaither wrote a song many years ago, and it could describe your experience tonight, it went like this:
'If there were ever dreams that were lofty and noble,
They were my dreams from the start.
And the hopes for lives best, were the hopes that I harboured
Deep down in my heart.
But my dreams turned to ashes, my castles all crumbled,
My fortune turned to loss.
So I wrapped it all in the rags of my life,
And I laid it at the cross'.
The chorus says:
'Something beautiful, something good,
All my confusion He understood.
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife,
But He made something beautiful of my life'.
He'll do that for you tonight, wherever you are, whatever you've done. My friend, backslider or unsaved, you've got to come to His feet, the foot of the cross - those nail-pierced feet that now live for you, and would save you, because He's here tonight by His Spirit. Will you come and lay, in the rags of your life, all your brokenness, sin and strife - and He'll make something, something beautiful of your life.
Let's all pray. Now I say it lovingly, though it's quite pointed: you could be here in a suit tonight, or a fancy hat, you could have your Bible with you, you could be a member of this church - but you're as big a backslider as Naomi ever was. I believe our churches have such people in them. You might even have a position, that means nothing if your character isn't to match. This is serious stuff now, we all find ourselves in this position from time to time, where we grow cold and we backslide - some to lesser or greater extent. But I know - and listen, I'm sure about this, for God has testified this to me in the last couple of days concerning this message - it's for people in this gathering tonight, it's for you...but it's up to you to respond. What will you do? Backslider, it's time to come home. Unsaved person, it's time to make this God your God, this Saviour, this Redeemer yours. Now you say: 'How do I do that?'. Well, just where you are, from your heart now - you don't have to say it audibly, but by faith believing - you just say, and you can even repeat after me if you really mean these words: 'Lord Jesus, I confess I have sinned. I deserve to be judged, but I thank You that You took my judgement and my sin on the cross to be my Redeemer. I want You to redeem me now, I fall at Your feet. Take me and make me Yours, and change my life forever and save my soul'.
If you do that, God has promised, if you have done it in faith, He will save you. We would urge you not to go without being redeemed, and something beautiful - backslider, imagine that, you thought it could never happen again, too ashamed - something beautiful! Unsaved one, something beautiful can be made of your life. Oh, He's a wonderful Saviour.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Monkstown Baptist Church in Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Romance of Redemption and Revival in Ruth' series, entitled "Return To Bethlehem" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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