CHRISTMAS: “A TALE OF 3 LADIES” (Ruth 1)
FBC Earlville, N.Y. December 2, 2018 10:30 AM
Rev. Jeremy B. Stopford, Pastor
TODAY’S “SPECIAL”: A “Shepherd Funny”
Do you know why in New Testament times that shepherds refused to hang glide?
They were soar afraid!
Inspiration for a message comes in many unusual forms, but I must admit this has been one of the most unusual sources of direction. The other night I couldn’t sleep, so I prayed! And in the middle of the prayer I asked the Lord where He wanted me to go in the way of messages for the Christmas season. All of a sudden, a still small voice said, “List the books of the Bible, and think of a book that has the Christmas story in it – a story from which you have not preached here in Earlville.” I’m thinking, sort of, “yeah, right.” Gen, Ex., Lev, Num, Deut., Joshua, Judges, RUTH.” Then it hit me – Ruth is the Old Testament Christmas story! So here we are.
Look at Ruth 1:1, “in the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land…”. This verse takes us back to the LAST verse of Judges, Judges 21:25, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” The family we are looking at for 3 of the next 4 Sundays lived at this time. They did not see life through the eyes of the Unseen Hand of God guiding them. They saw life, perhaps as many of you do, through the eyes of “what is best for my family; what is best for me.” That is a most practical guide, but outwardly it may appear to have no substance to it.
We will meet Elimelech and his family: Naomi, and two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. There is no mention of the Lord here in Chapter 1. There IS mention of a famine. Elimelech does what he thinks it best for his family in the famine, head to where there is food and water. Yet in the midst of this journey for what is best, there is the tale of 3 ladies who will lead us to Christmas. And there is the tale of the Hand of the Unseen God. Perhaps we all will see Him in a fresh way this Christmas season, too. PRAYER
1. NAOMI – THE EYES OF THE FACTS
We are introduced to Naomi in 1:2. She was Elimelech’s wife. Her name means “pleasant”. Can you imagine all the hopes and joys her parents had when they named her that? Let’s check the facts of her life:
#1 FAMILY! (1:1-2) Is it possible for a couple to be a family, with children, but not be a family? Naomi was born in a family of Israel, presumably in the area of Bethlehem. Tuck that information away. Something happens really famous in that city many years later. You may want to remember that!
And she marries a dude from Israel named “Elimelech”. His name means, “God is King”. They settle in Bethlehem. The ancient city of Bethlehem was once called “Ephrath”, so in our story they are known as “Ephrathites” – that would tell people they were from Bethlehem. So far so good. They have the potential of some very spiritual roots. What could go wrong?
#2 FAMINE! (1:1) Famine is often used in Scripture as a source of judgment. Remember the times of the days – everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. The famine is designed by a loving Heavenly Father to point His children to Himself! It is providentially designed to cause His children to seek His face, His help, His direction. He did that often to Israel as a nation, and He does that often in our lives. Even the prophet Amos (8:11) talked about a “famine of the word of God.”
There is no mention in these verses that Elimelech sought the Lord’s leading here during the famine. He simply sought what was best. And it is neat that the Lord is gracious. Because through the famine, this family will learn God’s grace (or “favor”).
#3 Went to Moab (1:1) – they headed south, a symbol for going away from the land of promise. Israel, the land of blessing. Moab, the land of the enemy. That’s a fact
#4 Continued there (1:2) – this indicates that when the famine was over, well, they were happen in the land of the enemies of Israel.
#5 Elimelech died (1:3) – this is a major change in Naomi’s life, as it has been for many that we know. This was a fact, a fact with which she would have to adjust quickly
#6 Her sons took Moabites for wives (1:4), contrary to the Mosaic law which demanded that an Israelite was to take a wife from the tribe in which he was born.
#7 The sons died (1:5). “Mahlon” means “sick”; “Chilion” means “pining”. Perhaps all their lives they were a tad sickly, and Naomi like a good mother had to deal with their illnesses often. But now her husband and 2 sons were gone.
#8 She returns to the land of blessing (1:6). Her conclusion, v. 13 and vs. 19-21, she is no longer “Naomi” (“pleasant”), but “Mara” (“bitter”).
2 Cor. 5:7 says, “for we walk by faith not by sight”. Thankfully, the story does not end here. But looking at the facts, Naomi was now a most miserable woman despite the blessings of the roots of her life and heritage.
2. ORPAH – THE EYES OF THE FLESH
We don’t have a whole lot of info about her.
But we know her heart: Verses 7-8 and verses 13-15 show that the roots of her life were the false gods of Moab. She returned to her roots. She returned to a life without God and without hope.
What a sad commentary! There is nothing more in scripture mentioned about Orpah. She might have had an godly heritage created in Israel, the land of promise, but she chose the false gods, the empty gods of the world.
Is it possible for those who say they love Jesus to so settle for those empty gods as well? Ponder that a while.
A choice must be made. Orpah chose the flesh over the faith.
3. RUTH – THE EYES OF THE FAITH
Note this: Ruth saw the facts of the famine as well as the hope of Israel. She saw the faith of Naomi, as feeble as it may have been.
She saw the death.
She saw the eyes of the flesh through her sister-in-law, Orpah.
But she had a look, a look of faith! (vs. 16-17).
Isn’t it funny that these verses are often quoted at weddings? But the context is the SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law!
NOTE v. 18, “she was determined” – steadfastly minded!
The eyes of faith have a mindset on the Lord, and respond accordingly.
She, like Orpah, realized the offer of Naomi was a choice between the gods of Moab and the living and true God of Israel.
What a crossroads! And she made the right choice!
Our conclusion is based on the reality, firm upon God’s word, that we are people of promise.
How is your sight today – through the eyes of facts, flesh, or faith?
When we read the last chapter, we will see God has not nor ever will change, that He is the God of promise, of His Word!
3 ladies of Christmas. Perhaps you never heard of them before.
They’re tucked away in the Christmas book of the Old Testament, the Book of Ruth!
Close in prayer