When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible, please click here and may you be blessed by singing along with "I Am Resolved."
To listen to Rev. Sandy's Sunday, January 3, 2021, sermon, click here or read it below.
Bad Days Don't Last But God's Love Endures Forever
Good Morning and Happy New Year to everyone! Today we're going to begin a series on the Old Testament Book of Ruth. Our scripture comes from Ruth Chapter 1 and you can be turning there in your Bibles.
When we think of the Book of Ruth, we most likely remember the 16th verse which is frequently included in weddings, but there is so much more to learn. Ruth is the eighth book of the Bible and in Jewish numerology, eight is the number for “a new beginning.” How appropriate that is for us today as we are beginning a New Year.
The Book of Ruth is proof that love isn't what we say; love is what we do. It's a portrait of loyalty itself. As we delve into the Book of Ruth, we will see bad times, yet we will also find love and redemption. The story of Ruth parallels what our Kinsman-Redeemer does for each of us at the point of salvation. That Kinsman –Redeemer is Jesus Christ. He is the one who rescues us from our lives, our loss, our grief and our bondage caused by sin. He is the one who willingly paid the price for our deliverance and restoration.
Reading from Ruth Chapter 1.
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 Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
2 And 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 Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
3 And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.
4 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.
5 And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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.
9 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.
10 And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
11 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?
12 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;
13 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.
14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
15 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.
16 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:
17 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.
18 When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
19 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?
20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
21 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?
22 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.
As we begin a New Year, we are thankful for Your love which is everlasting and doesn't change or vary. Though our feelings change, Your love never does.
I pray that we would understand the depth of Your love for us. Help us to understand there is nothing we can do to be loved any more or any less than You already love us.
Help us to show love for others as You have shown love to us. Teach us how to love unconditionally as You love us.
In this new year, give us Your peace and blessings of good health, provide us with Your protection and keep us safe in today's world.
In Jesus' name,
Have you ever had “one of those days? “ You know the kind I mean. You overslept and are already running late for church, then find your car has a flat tire. Or you run out of gas four miles after you pass the last gas station. Or you just finished getting dressed for church and realize it's Saturday! Sometimes it's not just a bad day but a series of bad days or bad weeks or bad years! That's where we find Naomi.
This story happens around the time that Gideon was one of the Judges of Israel. The nation of Israel was in anarchy, chaos and apostasy. This was a very dark time for the country as everyone did what they wanted to do and sin was rampant because God’s people had hardened their hearts.
The story begins with a prodigal family. A man named Elimelech, which means “God is King,” lived in Bethlehem-Judah, which means “the house of bread and praise,” with his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. Mahlon means “sickly.” He was not exactly a healthy son. It’s not perfectly clear what the name Chilion means but the best we can tell it means something like “failure” or “loser.” One son was sickly and the other was a loser!
Elimelech owned a small plot of land, where he grew barley, and around the border of his plot olive and almond trees grew.
Then one winter the life-sustaining rains failed to fall. Without them, crops failed, and springs and even the deepest wells dried up. Panic struck the area.
A man could not feed his family, so Elimelech and his family gathered up their meager belongings, and like a hundred million refugees before and since, made their way to another land.
Given that there was a famine, and given that he had a family to care for, it seems very reasonable for a man to seek his livelihood wherever the opportunities arise. But was it the right thing to do? Sometimes the most obvious solution isn't always the best. God wants us to walk with Him in our daily lives, but that means we must consult God for His direction. In the case of Elimelech, was he seeking God's way or man's way?
The text doesn’t say that God intended for Elimelech to leave his home in Bethlehem. It was a decision that Elimelech made by himself. Remember that hundreds of years earlier, God told Abraham to leave his homeland, but that wasn’t the case with Elimelech. Elimelech and Naomi sinned when they left Judah for enemy country.
They should have stayed and waited out the famine, because it is better to be hungry and in the will of God than to have a full stomach and be out of His will. But Elimelech disregarded God’s law and went anyway.
The family traveled east, down the steep hills of Judea, and across the Jordan River to Moab and settled in Edom. Moab was a land of rich soil that was not overcome by a famine. But, Moab was an eternal enemy of Israel. The people of Israel had been instructed in the book of Deuteronomy never to enter into a treaty of friendship with these people. The Moabites were birthed by Lot having an incestuous union with his eldest daughter according to Genesis 19:30-38. The son born out of this sin was "Moab". The Moabites were into the cultic worship of the local deities and practiced Baal worship.
Not long after settling in Edom, Elimelech became ill and died. But Naomi still had her sons.
Shortly after the death of their father, the boys married Moabite girls, Ruth and Orpah, who were Gentiles and pagans. Several years later, both sons died.
Elimelech’s departure from Bethlehem did not keep him and his two sons from dying in a foreign land, and leaving his wife Naomi perhaps more destitute and isolated than if she had remained at Bethlehem among her friends and relatives.
We can run away from famine, but we cannot escape death.
Naomi and her daughters-in-law, now widows, were desperate and overwhelmed by their bad situation.
Now understand that widows in the ancient world had no social status and no economic means to survive as there was no work for women. This would especially be true for Naomi, since she was an Israelite living in a foreign country. There was no Social Security system and she had no male protector or provider. In such a situation, widows back then would equate to the homeless in our society today.
Young widows were allowed to stay in their father’s home, but an older widow whose parents were dead was dependent upon her children for support. Now, without children and living in a strange land, Naomi could die if someone wouldn’t take her in.
She believed that God had dealt harshly with her. In fact, Naomi changed her name which meant “pleasant,” to Mara, which in Hebrew means “bitterness.” Naomi believed, because of her personal losses, that God had turned away from her, and therefore, she decided to reciprocate by turning away from Him.
Naomi sinned by getting bitter and blaming God for her plight; it was her decision to go to Moab, so why blame God?
Remember, a “root of bitterness” can poison our life and the people around us, so we need to avoid carrying grudges.
Finally, Naomi got word that there was rain and fertility again in Judah. After so many years of tragedy, she decided to return to the only place in the world where her husband had owned a piece of ground. She would make her way back to Bethlehem.
It must have been a tearful scene when those three women reached the border between Moab and Judah. They lifted up their voices and cried.
Naomi said, “Go back to your homes. There’s no hope that I can have other sons whom you can marry, and even if I could, who would want to wait so long?”
They said, “No, we won’t go!” But the mother-in-law insisted.
As they stood there crying, Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye and left her to return home.
Orpah's story is, unfortunately, too familiar. She was one who readily professed love, but her love was shallow and fickle. She joined with Ruth in her profession of love for Naomi, and she wept loudly to be convincing. But when it came time to prove her sincerity, she turned back to be with her own people. She returned to the paganism and idolatry of Moab. Like Judas with Jesus Christ, she kissed and went her own way.
Yes, Naomi did encourage her to do so; but Naomi also said the same to Ruth. But Ruth refused to go back; instead, she clung to her mother-in-law, and begged her to let her stay. Naomi reminded her that her sister-in-law had gone back to her own people and also to her gods and then she suggested again that Ruth should do the same!
Today, we can see that Naomi sinned by urging her daughters-in-law to go home. Imagine a Jewess sending them back to their false gods!
Naomi did not want to take two Moabite women back to Bethlehem with her and reveal the family’s disobedience to God.
However, Ruth had come to trust in the God of Israel and she refused to go back. She returned to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi, and by doing that, she was denouncing her own family and religion. She was willing to leave Moab behind forever and to follow Naomi to Israel.
Ruth was willing to submit to Naomi and to allow Naomi to guide her life. (This will be seen in later chapters in the times that Naomi gives Ruth advice concerning the manners and customs of Israel.)
Ruth was willing to give up all the old ways of Moab and to conform her life to the way people live in Israel. She was ready to make a dramatic change in her life. She wanted to be a part of the nation which she married into. She was ready to claim a new lineage. She was willing to give up the gods of Moab and follow the true and living God of Israel.
This statement was her declaration of faith in Jehovah God. She told Naomi that she was willing to commit to this new plan for life for as long as she lived. She even invoked the curse of God upon her life if she let anything but death come between her and the commitment she made.
As she insisted strongly upon going with her, Naomi gave up dissuading Ruth any more. Ruth was more than a ”professor” of love. She was a “possessor” of love. She stood firm in her commitment even when the future looked hopeless. Even when they were back home in Bethlehem, there was no work and no security.
Although God does not prevent the painful consequences of our sins, He does overrule us and our sins so that His purposes are fulfilled.
By the grace of God, Naomi’s emptiness will become fullness, and her sorrow will turn to joy. Next week in Chapter 2 we will see what Ruth does to meet their needs.
But right now, if you’ve never really been saved and known God, not known about God but known God, and don’t have a personal, intimate relationship with Him, I want to encourage you to invite Jesus to come into your heart and life.
There’s no better time than now to repent, turn to God and respond to His grace.
The Bible tells us in Romans 10:9-10 & 13:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
It's that simple and you can sincerely pray this prayer, or one of your own.
Father God, I believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins and on the third day You, God, raised Him from the dead. I believe that with my heart, and I confess with my mouth that from now on you're my Lord. Please forgive me and wash me now of my sins, come into my heart and fill me with your Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
If you’ve known God but walked away from His call on your life to do your own thing, then it’s time to stop in your tracks and repent all over again and get back to fulfilling God’s plan in and through your life. Tomorrow may be too late.
Once again, I wish you all a blessed, healthy and Happy New Year! May you be blessed in Jesus' Name.