Sunday 2nd August

Service Transcript & Video

   

 Will life every be the same again??           Ruth 1v 1-5

I was in the shops this week and overheard 2 people talking about how much life has changed in these past few months and one of them asked the other… 

           Q. Will life ever be the same again??

It’s good question in the midst of a global pandemic…

It’s a heart-breaking question when your life has been completely turned upside down by tragedy and loss…

 

To-day we’re diving into the Book of Ruth and taking a look at the first 5 verses in a short book that has only 85 verses.

It’s a super wee book.

At one level it’s a beautiful love story… Mills and Boon for those of you who are old enough to remember those love stories. The kind of story that makes women go… AWH.. that is sooo sweet…

 and makes 10yr old boys go.. YUK…  I think I’m going to be sick!!

But the book is much, much deeper than that…

It is a love story…. 

It’s a God story… a Gospel story… 

 it’s a story of God’s generous, relentless loving kindness… 

HIS covenant… committed saving kindness… who in His wonderful mercy and grace… redeems (x23 in the Book ) and rescues someone like Ruth who, just like us actually , is way, way outside God’s covenant people Israel…. 

and yet is brought right into the heart of God’s great salvation story in the Bible and becomes not only a great grandmother of King David…. 

but even more amazingly … an ancestor in the family line of King JESUS Himself.  (Matthew 1v5).. 

This King…  who is of course God’s beautiful Saviour and the only Redeemer  for the broken, hurting peoples of our world.

It’s a powerful reminder that people whom we, inside God’s church, might so easily have written off as beyond God’s reach… is actually… by God’s enormous generosity, kindness  and grace… 

saved, redeemed and ‘written into’  His wonderful salvation story and  ‘invited into’   His worldwide family of believers..

Fantastic!!

So let’s jump into these opening verses and with open, hungry hearts and minds, catch whatever the Holy Spirit is wanting to press home into our lives to-day.

 

  1. The time:

V1 “ In the days when the judges ruled the land.”

So we’re talking very roughly about the period 1350 BC – 1050BC

The period just after Joshua had led God’s people into the Promised land.. The Book of Judges just before the Book of Ruth tells us the history of the nation during this period 

and it’s Not pretty reading…

In fact…. It’s awful… it makes such distressing and depressing  reading…

An endless cycle of wars, violence, atrocious treatment of women, lawlessness, godlessness and bloodshed…

Time and again God comes in response to his peoples cries of despair and raises up Rescuers (judges) who deliver God’s people from their enemies…. only for them to slip into their bad old ways all over again..

And the painful story of this period is summed up in the very last verse of the Book of Judges which is just over the page… before the Book of Ruth

“In those days, Israel had No King; everyone did as he saw fit.”   (judges 21v25) 

 The Message  “everyone did what they felt like doing”

It’s like a football match.. with No referee.. No rules.. No right or wrong… everybody playing to their own rules…it’s bound to be chaotic… 

Of course it’s going to end in disaster.. 

of course somebody is going to get badly hurt!

It’s clear..  

Without a King.. without good and godly leadership… the country is spirally out of control.. morally, spiritually… sexually.. ethically… everyway..

Of course we see that Not only in the days of the Judges….

We see it in our own day… and our own cultural moment.. where people are saying and declaring more loudly and more defiantly than ever….

“Look I am happiest when I’m living to please myself.. 

I am happiest when I   make up my own rules of what’s right for me… and doing what’s right for Me.. 

and NOBODY has the right to tell me otherwise..

So God and the Bible are increasingly seen as restrictive and prohibitive to our own personal freedoms and lifestyle choices…  and therefore irrelevant to HOW we live our lives to-day….

And the Book of RUTH… set somewhere in this period of ‘the judges’ is preparing us for the coming of a good and godly King called David…  a man after God’s own heart… who will lead the nation according to God’s Word and way and will..

So the Book of Ruth ends in chapter 4v 18-22 with this family line that traces right the way down to King David… and of course…

 We know.. 

We can trace this same family line right down through the generations to an even greater King and Saviour in  David’s greatest descendant..  Jesus Christ… God’s one and only Son … and our Saviour King. 

You know folks…

 When we touch one life… we touch ONE generation… But when we touch ONE generation we touch the NEXT generation and  the NEXT generation and the NEXT…

Because when we touch ONE generation for Christ you touch EVERY generation that follows…

HOW powerful is that??

Q. Whose life are YOU touching and transforming with the GOOD NEWS of JESUS in this generation?

 

  1. The Place:

We read in v1   that there is a famine in the land… and then we are introduced to this one little family.. a man, his wife and 2 sons…

This man lived in Bethlehem… Bethlehem means ‘bread basket’.. it means it’s rich agricultural land where wheat and barley were grown… where harvests were plentiful…and life was good!

Yet we read …. there is a ‘famine’ in the land of Israel.. and it’s so bad it’s affecting the last place on earth where you would expect there to be food shortage…   Bethlehem.

Q. What would YOU do if there was NO food in the Shops? Think of the panic there was at the start of this present crisis ….  when loo rolls were flying off the shelves…

Q. What should Elimelech do…? 

Q. How will he provide for his wife and 2 boys?? 

He decides just for a short time to leave Bethlehem and  go over into the neighboring country of Moab.

 It was only meant to be ‘for a while’ (v1) 

But then we read (v2) that they went to Moab and lived there (lit.. remained there) and 

by v4 we read they have been there 10yrs

I don’t know if you’ve ever said or done something a bit like that

“Lord I know I shouldn’t really do this….   But….

Just this once..

Just on this one occasion

Just for a short time LORD.

I wouldn’t NORMALLY LORD… but… just in these difficult circumstances…

When you’re facing hard times it’s  So easy to slip into your own solutions… and Elimelech does what he sees fit… just as in Judges 21v25…

Q. But is it GOD’s Way??

Elimelech’s name means… GOD is MY KING.. but we know it’s one thing to have the NAME… but it’s another thing to live it out… especially….  in a time of crisis and difficulty..

It’s easy for any of us to say that we are Christians, followers of Jesus… that JESUS is LORD of our lives…  but then.. in a time of crisis, challenge, difficulty, pain, trauma… 

to behave and live as if that really isn’t true.!!

Q.  Isn’t it??

I love what Corrie ten Boom says… 

“”When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” –                             Corrie Ten Boom

Before I read my Bible each day I often grasp it close to my chest like this and pray something like this…

“O LORD.. Help me to take YOUR WORD  in and live it out in my life to-day.”

Q. What challenges are you facing in your life at the moment that makes you want to throw away the ticket and jump off the train?

Q. What are your coping mechanisms for the tough times??

Q. Are you trusting GOD and remaining where He has placed you or are you trying to run away and find your own solutions??

Q. Do you remember when the Devil was tempting Jesus in the wilderness when Jesus had fasted for 40 days and was absolutely starving.. famished…hungry (Matthew 4v2)

The devil tempted Jesus and said… “if you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “Man does Not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of GOD.”

Bethlehem,  ‘the bread basket’ of Israel….  of course is where JESUS was born… 

 JESUS who called Himself the ‘BREAD of LIFE’ …. the ONE who alone can satisfy the deepest longings of our souls..

Going to Moab is Not the answer….it will Not satisfy the deepest longings of your soul…

Only GOD can satisfy

Only by looking to HIM and trusting Him will you find peace that will carry you through your present crisis.

When you are in the tunnel… rest in Him …  alone.

 

 

  1. The people:

When we read through the Book of Judges we get the BIG picture of what is happening in the nation of Israel…. but when we turn over the page from Judges and open the Book of Ruth we are introduced to this one very ordinary family from Bethlehem…

(v2) Elimeleck, Naomi (pleasant), Mahlon (sickness) and Chilion (failing)

Really the first 5 verses of the Book tell the tragic experience of Naomi… who in famine loses her home, moves as a refugee with her family across the borders to a strange and hostile nation of Moab where they have nothing and know nobody…

To compound her pain her husband Elimelech dies and she is left with her 2 sons (v3). 

They marry Moabite women, who come from a pagan culture, worship pagan gods, follow different ways.

Then in the space of 10 yrs Naomi loses Not just One son but Both sons….

I mean how does this poor woman cope with the amount of loss and heartache that she has endured in her life…

We sing that God is the Way maker, Promise keeper , Light in our darkness… and rightly so…   BUT… 

 it sure doesn’t feel like to  that  to Naomi in these first 5 verses as she receives one hammer blow after another..

It ‘feels like’ the GOD of Israel, who provided food for His people for 40 yrs in the desert… has forgotten her, abandoned her, stripped her of everything and everyone that she has ever known and loved.

It’s difficult for us to grasp the depths of despair and hopelessness in this poor woman’s heart and soul…

Q. How would YOU feel in her shoes??

Q. what Questions would YOU want to ask GOD in her situation..??

Q. How would You begin to comfort a woman like Naomi when life is so cruel, so harsh, so unfair??

It’s a reminder that we as God’s people, lovers and followers of Jesus, are NOT a protected species, from the harsh realities of life in a broken and hurting world.

 God does NOT wrap us up in cotton wool. 

Christians go through some heartbreaking tragedies, just like other people do.

In these opening verses of the Book of Ruth.. God is nowhere to be seen as this family and this woman Naomi stagger from one tragedy to another…

 from plenty to empty… 

from having everything…  to having nothing….

From a comfortable lifestyle in the prosperous region of Bethlehem…. to being totally bereft and being left all on her own.

So V5 finishes with these words..

“and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.” ( lit… left alone)

Q. What is ever going to become of her??

Q. how will she ever cope?

Q. Will she lose not only her home and family, but also her faith and trust in her GOD and Saviour?

Yet as this story unfolds we will discover that GOD has Not abandoned Naomi… that in His providential goodness and care He is quietly working behind the scenes… 

 in the ordinary and  everyday affairs of this little family… to  fulfill His eternal purposes… Not only for Naomi and Ruth…. But at an ever GREATER level….

 His purposes for the salvation of the world.. and indeed  His saving purposes for your life and mine to-day. 

Because from Ruth and Boaz line…  the Saviour of the world will come… the GOD of Heaven will enter human history!

The words of Jeremiah 29, written hundreds of yrs later  to God’s broken people in exile in Babylon…  who feel the future looks so bleak and hopeless to them…

 could easily have been written to this poor grieving widow and mother Naomi…

“The truth is this: You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised and bring you home again.  For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen. 

You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.

 Yes, says the Lord, I will be found by you, and I will end your slavery and restore your fortunes; I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and bring you back home again to your own land.”    Jeremiah 29 v 10-14

Folks I do Not know what your situation and circumstances look like…  For some of you … they may look particularly bleak and difficult at present…

BUT GOD is GOD…

Our God is Emmanuel…   

GOD is with us.  YOU are NOTleft  alone..

Even when we don’t see it He’s working. 

Even when we don’t feel it He’s working. 

He never stops, He never stops working…

He’s the Waymaker, promise Keeper, light in our darkness.

That is Who You are LORD…

 

And because of Who GOD is… 

we can say… whatever our present challenges and… however dark our present difficulties…

YES..  Life May NOT be the same

Life with loss will NEVER be the same

BUT with GOD…

We do have a future..  and a   future full of HOPE!!

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