Good morning again. Today we are beginning our new six week sermon series called Forming. In the next six weeks, we are going to be excited. Because the Holy Spirit’s going to lead us, um, in profound ways as we explore how God is our divine potter, continually forming and reforming our lives. We will discover in the next few weeks that even, that God shapes us. And he shapes our paths even in the midst of loss and despair. He ultimately leads us to his redemptive love and his covenant promises using the circumstances of our lives. And we will discover how God forms us with a purpose. He gives us a calling for us to go and to serve and to impact the world in the most ordinary moments of our lives. So let’s pray, we’ll read some scripture, and we’ll see what the Holy Spirit has for us today. Dear Father, thank you for bringing us to this powerful story of Ruth and Naomi and Boaz, but ultimately it’s a powerful story of your grace. Jesus, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to this place this morning to open up our eyes so we can see with him the Holy Spirit, what we could never see on our own as we study your word today. And Holy Spirit, we ask you to take me out of your way so this can be your time with your people. In Jesus name, amen. Amen. As we start our new sermon series this morning, Reforming. It is a story that at first feels like a hot mess. However, in this beautiful story, we’re going to discover the enduring truth of God, that in His hands, brokenness is an opportunity for renewal. In God’s hands, His grace is always at work in our lives, whether we know it or not, whether we can feel it or not, He’s working in our lives to be vessels of His purpose and His love. Rich, would you hand me my water? Sorry. My allergies, um, are different here in Arizona. I’m from Greensboro, Arizona. So… When we open up the pages of the book of Ruth, and I’m going to invite you to go home and read the entire thing. It’s four chapters, not very long. It’s an easy read. It’s like a really good novel. It invites you to find a comfortable place in your home. Kick off your sandals, grab your favorite drink, snuggle up with God’s word, and just dive into what he has to say.
That’s the story that we are approaching today. It’s about God’s faithfulness, his faithful love that’s at work in the lives of his people. And when we sit before the Lord reading this story, he invites us to discover that into the darkness. And into the chaos of this world, and the darkness and chaos of our lives, his voice comes. And we experience the love of our almighty God, who’s working hard behind the scenes, preparing things for us, to discover that he is with us always, and he presents these moments in very unusual ways. This morning, Our story takes place in a dark time for the Israelites. It’s a time of the Judges. If you’ve ever read that book, the Judges, you’ll know that it was a time of instability and darkness. Listen to Judges chapter 2 verses 10 and 11 about what it says that the people of Israel were facing. After that whole generation, that is, after Joshua and Joshua’s A generation had gone to ga to, had been gathered to their ancestors after they had all died. Another generation grew up who neither knew the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and they served the Baals. Dark chaotic time. Let’s read the first few chapters, first few verses of Ruth chapter 1. Let’s see what’s going on. Now in those days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and his two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. Intrigue already. Danger already. They’ve already gone someplace they’re not supposed to go. The man’s name was Elimelech. His wife’s name was Naomi. And the names of his two sons were Malon and Kilion. They were Aphrothites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died.
And she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women. Intrigue number two. One named Orpah and the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. After they had lived there about ten years, both Malon and Killian also died. And Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. Get the picture here? This woman’s heart is in, is been shattered. When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters in law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters in law, she left that place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. Then Naomi said to her two daughters in law, Go back, each of you to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband. Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud as, and she said to them, and they said to her, we will go back with you to your people. But Naomi said, return home my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have more sons who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters. I am too old to have another husband. And even if I thought there was still hope for me, even if I had a husband tonight, and then I gave birth to sons, would you wait until they grew up?
Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you because the Lord’s hand has turned against me. As they wept aloud, and at this they wept aloud again, and then Orpah kissed her mother in law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. Look, said Naomi, your sister in law is going back to her people, and her gods go back with her. But Ruth replied, do not urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go. And where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people. Your God, my God. Where you die, I will die. And there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me. Be it ever so severely if even death separates you from me. This is the word of the Lord. Well, I tried to tell you that this was a, a fun, sparkly story, and then I read the first 17 verses. It’s not what we expected. You know why? Because I told you it was like a good novel that you curl up with. In a, with a good novel, what do a lot of them start with? Once upon a time, and then they end with what? Happily ever after. That doesn’t sound like this, does it? However, it doesn’t sound like it because it doesn’t fit our narrative.It doesn’t fit what we expected when your pastor stands up here and says, I got a powerful book for you. But guess what? It fits God’s narrative.Brings us to our first point. We are all part of God’s plan. Listen again to what Ephesians 10 says, for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. God’s got a plan for these women, and they are so deep in their grief they can’t see it, they can’t feel it, they can’t even understand it.
And there are times, my friends, in our lives that we are there too. And so you’re gonna be asking me, how can tragedy, how can sorrow, how can death be part of God’s plan? And I will say to you, it’s not. When God created the heavens and the earth and He put us in the garden, it was not His plan for us to be living in the destructive world that we’re living in right now. But sin entered. We broke. We broke the relationship when we went our own way, and ever since then, you and I have been living out the consequences of what happened when destruction and evil came. With it came death. Yet, our Almighty God uses what Satan, our enemy, meant to destroy us. He uses, God uses those circumstances in this broken world, in our lives, for His good and for His glory and He transforms us through His love and His grace in the things that you and I face every day. So yes, our reading begins with tragedy. That’s not how it’s going to end. God’s plan is in place for their lives. God’s already gone before them into Bethlehem. He’s made provision for them. He has made a way for everything that has been stolen from Naomi to be restored. Brings us to our next point. God’s not limited by our impossible circumstances. And yes, for Naomi, she was in an impossible circumstance. Think about the culture she was living in. She is a Jewish older woman living in a foreign land. Her husband has died. Her two boys have died. There are no grandsons coming up underneath them to take care of her. She’s in a pickle and she has no hope.
Especially no hope for her, let alone these two daughters in law that she has with her that she’s supposed to take care of. Where will the hope for Naomi come from? For there is none in Moab. Brings us to our next point. The grace of God can be heard even in the farthest and darkest places of this world and in our lives. Listen again to what Ruth chapter 1 verse 6 says. When she heard When she heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them. Remember, they had to leave because of a famine. God had provided food for them. Naomi and her daughters in law prepared to return home from there.
In her deepest, darkest circumstances, the word of the Lord, the voice of God, comes and brings music to her ears. In her desperate time of need, God reaches down into the midst of Naomi’s deep grief. He sends word, come home, my dear daughter. Come home. Naomi calls her daughter’s in law together. Come on ladies, pack your bags, we’re heading home. However, along the way. As Naomi is struggling to take one step in front of the other in the midst of her grief, she runs out of steam. If you’ve ever been grieving, you know what I’m talking about. She can barely take care of herself, let alone these two daughters in law. She tries to send them away. I want you to picture that scene. In your mind, they’re on that dirt road, not an asphalt road like University and Rekker. They’re on a dirt path. They’re dragging those bags behind them. And she runs out of steam and she turns around to them and she says, I can’t do it. Go home. Go home to your families. Go home to your moms. Go home to a future husband. Go home to your gods. My God has nothing for you. Can you hear the desperation, the despondency that life has brought her? In the middle of all of that, these three Middle Eastern women grab hold of each other and they start sobbing.
You can hear it, right? We’ve heard Middle Eastern women sobbing before. It’s wailing. You wouldn’t have wanted to be on that road, walking toward them. It was a hot mess. Orpah, for whatever reason, decides to go home. Maybe, she thought, you know, this woman’s just a little bit too depressed for me. And I know she’s told me about her God, and I know she’s told me about the land, but I’m a foreign woman, and I don’t wanna, I don’t know if that’s gonna be best for me, so I’m gonna go home. I’m gonna be, go backwards to what I know. I know what it’s like to live in Moab, I know what it’s like to be in that culture, I know what those gods are like, those little g gods. They’ve been my gods my whole life. They might be able to take care of me. I don’t know about Naomi’s God. So she turns around and she goes back home.
It’s a picture of how we are so often when we get into a difficult situation. We too have a tendency to go back. To go back to those things that numb us. To go back to those addictions. To go back to those things that take away our pain. To go back to those idols and those little G gods that we knew before we knew Christ. Ephesians tells us that we were once lost before we knew Christ. We did the things that this world does. Don’t go back in the midst of your pain, in the midst of your confusion. Go forward, even if you have to go forward like Naomi. Struggling to take one step in front of the other. Not because she had the energy to do it, but because God was urging her forward to do it. The fact that Orpah went home makes what Ruth did even more phenomenal. No matter what Naomi says, Ruth won’t budge. Even when she says, life is too bitter for me, for the Lord’s hand has gone out for me, Ruth won’t leave her. This is what, Ruth does something so unthinkable here. She proclaims covenant loyalty to her mother in law. Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die. There, I will be buried. My Lord, may Lord, the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you from me.
Did you hear what she just did? She just renounced her whole entire life. She renounced her Moab citizenship. She renounced all of those little G gods. She renounced her family. I’m going with you, Naomi, no matter what you say. I’m clinging to you. I am going to go there, and I’m going to take care of you no matter what you do. There are some translations that say, at this point, knowing, after hearing this, Naomi stopped urging her. There’s other ones that say, Naomi became quiet. Boy, that was a long way home. This girl, she just won’t leave me alone. It’s unbelievable what she did. Naomi’s a bitter woman struggling to get by and Ruth won’t leave her instead. I’m moving forward with you. You see, when we struggle to move forward and we’re just doing it, We’re just going through the motions. We need somebody who can move forward with us that is going to move forward with the power of God. Because they remind us of His provision. They remind us of His power. They remind us that, yes, get up every day. Take one more step today. If that’s all you can do, then do it and I’m gonna be beside you. You’re not doing this on your own because God sent me to be with you. I’m moving forward toward your God. Ruth says, she’s lived with Naomi as her daughter in law for 10 years, the Bible says. She has come to know something about the God of Israel, and she doesn’t want to leave him. In fact, she wants to move forward toward him in renouncing the gods of Moab. She is saying, I want to serve the God of Israel.
And he Goes with her and he gives her a blessing because of that. Don’t send me back. Our next point is, you know, our circumstances are not the truest indicator of God’s heart toward us. Naomi could not see the heart of God because of her grief. She was judging God’s character on her circumstances. He has left me. He’s left me bitter and empty. By the time she gets to the town square in Bethlehem and the ladies come running toward her, Ah, it’s Naomi! Can that really be Naomi? And they’re all excited. Don’t call me Naomi. Naomi means pleasant. Call me Mara, for I am bitter. And the Lord has left me empty. Ruth is standing right next to her.
Can you imagine how Ruth’s heart felt? What am I? Chopped liver? I’ve come to help you. And you are saying to your people, you’ve got nothing. She had everything. She had her God. If you trust your heart in the middle of your circumstances to tell you about God and his character, you’re going to be wrong about 95 percent of the time. Probably 100 percent of the time. If you are going through something that Ruth and Naomi are going through, instead of judging God by your own circumstances, you need to judge Him by what He has said about Himself. And if you don’t remember what He said about Himself, then get up every morning, open up the book, this book, open it to the Psalms, let the Holy Spirit pour God’s grace over you as you read. This is where you’re going to find the truth about the character of God, not by the world, not by your own self. And if you are going through what she’s going through, then don’t stop praying.
As the world tempts you to pray, I don’t have the strength to pray. Well, if you don’t have the strength to pray, then do what I did when I was in the middle of my grief, when my son died. I would go to God and I would say to him, I, I have no words. I have no words, but I trust you, and so all I’m gonna say is your son’s name. And I would, just in the middle of my sobbing, I would just say, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, trusting that he had the words. And he, I believed him, that he would intercede for me on the throne. Room in the throne room of heaven and he would say the things that I needed to say but I had no words to say him That’s where Naomi is when you are in the middle of something. Don’t take away prayer Go go run to it And if you can only say his name the power of the name of Jesus will get you through what you’re going through We have a mighty God. And in the middle of everything that we face in this world, He wants to remind us, I’m your provider. I’m your redeemer. I’m your deliverer. I’m the one true God. And I am sovereign over every possible thing that happens in your life. No matter what you’re facing. Don’t go back. Go forward. Keep walking. This life can be painful. It can be hard. It can be lonely. But God’s always moving us forward toward Him. Instead of going backwards, cling to the hand of God. Beg Him, don’t let my hand slip out of your hand. You promised that you carved my name in the, in the palm of your hand. So don’t let go of me now. As we close, I just want to leave you with a few thoughts from a devotion a friend of mine shared with me this week. The devotion is about the Book of Ruth. It is written by a woman named Jean Friar, Jane Friar, and this is what she writes. I am disappointed in God. Few Christians will say those words right out loud.
They sound so harsh. But Naomi admitted her disappointment without flinching. Call me bitter from now on, she said. Have you ever been where Naomi is? Feeling like life dealt you a cruel hand. This life certainly brings situations and circumstances upon us that make it hard not to be bitter and not to doubt and not to say, God, where are you? As Naomi did. Maybe you’re tempted to feel that way this morning. What is it that would make you feel that way? Betrayal of some kind? Maybe something has happened and you’ve gone to the doctor and no matter what they’re throwing at it, it’s not going away. And you’re wondering, Jesus, where are you in this? Maybe you’ve lost your spouse, or one of your children, or maybe you are a child grieving the death of your parents. This world can be harsh, can be hard. Friar goes on in her devotion to say this, and I want you to know that if you forget everything else I’ve said, fine. But don’t forget what I’m about to tell you, because this is the important part. Taken me a long time to get there, right? It’s worth noting this thing. Even though, while Naomi suffers, even while she rails against the Lord, He is still on her side. Not her honesty, not her doubt, not even her bitterness can stop God from caring for her. God cares for Naomi first, through Ruth, and then is, is in chapters three and four, you will meet a man named Boaz. He is called her kinsman redeemer. Go look that up. Go find out why Boaz is a kinsman redeemer, and you will see how Jesus Christ is our kinsman redeemer. A kinsman redeemer pays, buys you back from what this world has taken away from you. Through it all, God provided for his beloved daughter Naomi. By the time we get to chapter 4, this powerful book, we get to discover how God ultimately cares for you and I.
It happens through Naomi’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson, who ultimately is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. She’s the great, great, great grandma. of King David, and we know that through the lineage of King David comes Jesus, right? And he’s our ultimate kinsman redeemer. You see, by the end of this book, this is way beyond Ruth, and way beyond Naomi, and way beyond Boaz. For it foreshadows our own redemption through Jesus Christ, who is the one who came to save us. From the sin, and the evil, and our disappointments, and our brokenness that we suffer in this world. This book ultimately draws each one of us to the very heart of God. Who, by the way, He is here in this place today, because this is His house. And He promises us that when we gather in His name, He comes among us. So we are in the very heart of God who this morning is looking out at all of us and he is declaring to you I see you. I knew you were going to be here this morning I knew we were you were going to be hearing about Ruth and I want you to know that I love you I am with you in your circumstances, he says to us this morning. I sought after you. I sent my son to step out of heaven, to take on flesh, to die on the cross for you, he says to us this morning. We have hope through our almighty Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Today, as we seek God’s transformational grace, I pray that Jesus comes to each one of us who needs to hear his voice in our own Moab. We need to hear the voice of Jesus telling us, I love you. I died for you. I was raised to new life for you. So that in this world, you can have hope. In whatever it is that you are facing today. If you’ve never come to know Jesus in your life, what in the world are you waiting for? Whatever it is that is separating you from the love of God, you’ve got to give it up. Today’s the day, today’s the moment that you need to surrender your life to Him. You need to just let it all go. There’s a lot of us who grow up in the church and we still separate ourselves from Him. Don’t do that. If you are a lifelong believer and something is in between you and God this morning, give it up.
Life’s too short for us to be carrying around the weight of pain and sin and brokenness that we’re not supposed to be carrying. We’re supposed to take it to the cross. So take it there and give it up and don’t be like me and go back and get it. Leave it there. We have a powerful God filled with glory and power and might. And he’s here today saying, let me transform you. Let’s pray. Dear Father, you are an amazing, amazing almighty God. Some days, all we can say is your son’s name, Jesus. In those days, help us take one step in front of the other, not through our own power, but through yours. Thank you for reminding us that it is through your grace that we are saved, not because of our own worthiness, not because of the things that we try to do to get your attention or to get your love. It’s through your son. It’s through your mercies, through your grace that we’ve been saved. Travel with us this week, God, in the mundane, ordinary moments of our day. Come and whisper into our ears, I love you. I love you, my son. I love you, my daughter. You are mine. No matter what you’re facing, let me sing songs of joy to your heart, he tells us.
It’s in Jesus name we pray. Amen.