Man’s perception vs God’s intent

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Detlef Stegen

Adam and Eve hid from the face of the Lord. God had made these two beings according to his pleasure and purpose. His full hope was set on them that they would keep His commands. But how disappointed He must have felt when He had to look for them and they were hiding. May He not find us hiding from His presence today.

Today’s text is from Ruth.

20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” 22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth 1:20-22

Now Naomi had a relative of her husband's, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favour.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 11 But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Ruth 2:1-8, 11-12

Christian, do you realise that if you come to the land of the Almighty, you will find refuge under the wings of the God of Israel. It is wonderful to be led by God’s spirit. It can be difficult at times but in the end the reward will overshadow the difficulties.

Ruth’s husband decided to go to Moab for the reason of returning with the Ruth. Is it a mere coincidence that you have come to the gospel? You do not even see it as a privilege. It is because of your parents that you are bound here where there are no pleasures, you feel. Are there sons and daughters today who regret that they did not find shelter under the wings of the gospel of Jesus Christ? If you have gone off because of your choice, do not blame your parents or the gospel. Do not blame the Lord’s servants and say that they were too hard on you. It was your own choice. You chose to go your way. In the strange land in which you now are, you are in poverty and your spiritual life is in ruins. Blame yourself and say you are the person who went wrong, it is my corrupt heart that needs to be scolded.

Naomi now said that people should not call her by her wonderful name but Marah because the Almighty has made my life bitter. You can give yourself names and say that your life is bitter. Remember your name Naomi, why do you call yourself Marah? You want to call yourself Marah. Are you in the land of the Moabites who do not worship Jesus Christ? They worship and sacrifice to their idols.

I went away full but the Lord has brought me back empty. She had her husband. She had two sons. She must have loved them. They went to a land of plenty because there was famine in Israel. According to their evaluation, their lives were full but they were in a strange land, not in the land of Canaan, the land of promise. She said I went away full but the Lord has brought me back empty. The Lord has afflicted me. He has brought misfortune upon me. The bottom fell out of the lives of Ruth and Naomi. The easy way for Ruth would have been to return to the security of her own family and leave Naomi alone in her poverty. But Ruth trusted the God of Israel and chose to stay with her mother-in-law.

Those who grieve need those who will mourn with them and help them to carry their grief. A commentary on this text says Through Jesus we can find restoration from the destructive forces of sin. It is easy to think that if circumstances were just a little better, our spiritual growth would proceed more smoothly. The test of anyone’s spiritual strength is how well they persevere when times are bad. This book talks about a family that suffered extreme losses. Naomi’s husband died, then both of her sons. One daughter-in-law returned to her tribal family, but the other daughter-in-law persevered in this seemingly hopeless situation. Ruth refused to let difficult times determine the outcome of her future. Her perseverance in difficulty is an example to all who face painful situations. Commentaries Spiritual Renewal Study Bible

It is wonderful that God found a Ruth in Moab. She said, ‘Please, mother-in-law, do not urge me to stay. Your God will be my God, your people will be mine, where you live, I will live. Where you die, I will die.’ What promises have you made to the Lord Jesus? What love did you have for Him when times were good? What happened to that love when times were bad, and flesh was torn from flesh? Do you remember the love you had for your Lord because He died for you because of the love He had for you? Do you remember what He has forgiven you of? This should remind you of the words of Rev Stegen who said: If you tend to be proud, remember the sins you were involved in, that should cure you of pride for the rest of your life.

Remember the promises you made to your Lord and Master in the good times? They were promises of a bond to your Saviour Jesus. Did you know what you were saying? Were you childish when you uttered those words? The One who died for you has not forgotten the words of promise you spoke to Him out of love. Is there bitterness in your heart because of something someone said to you or someone corrected you harshly? Do you rather evade that person in the future? The Lord may be with that one against whom you hold bitterness. You will be richly rewarded under those wings if you take refuge under the tree of the words of that person. You have allowed bitterness. Do not rob yourself of heavenly blessings by being bitter. Bitterness is like a chain tied to your ankle that will weigh you down and inhibit your spiritual progress.

Naomi said call me Marah. Everyone can see that my life is full of bitterness. I have been afflicted. The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me. She failed to realise that God had joined her to her daughter-in-law who was favoured of the Lord. Back in Bethlehem, they also starved. Ruth said to her mother-in-law that she would go to the fields and pick up the left-over grain behind the reapers (if we had more such young people in South Africa, not people who say they will take what they can get) ‘I will go to the fields and in whose eyes I find favour, they will allow me to pick up bits here and there.’ People today claim that poverty is their right. They have demands because they are living in poverty. They can steal from anyone who has something, especially the rich Boaz. ‘Who does he think he is? He lives a glorious life with workers and riches. We must down him. We must have a strike. We must write in the media. I am dying of hunger.’ What does Ruth do? ‘I will go and pick up the left-over grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favour.’ I will win that person. I do not make demands. The mother gave her permission. What a wonderful relationship between mother and daughter-in-law, like a very own daughter.

She entered a field and gleaned behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she worked in a field that belonged to Boaz. What does your life turn out to be? What will your grief turn out to be? What will your bitterness turn out to be? Don’t you see? Don’t you hear? What does preaching turn you out to be? Is your spirit revived because of Jesus? Have your sins been forgiven because of Jesus? You cannot even count the sins you have been forgiven of. Jesus renews a life that is bitter, a life that is worn out and wearied by sin in a strange land.

Children, we are talking about lives that turn out to produce the fruit of God’s spirit. How come when you are grown up and reach the age of 18, 19,20 years that your life turns out to be something contrary to how your parents trained you? Your parents place trust in you because they love you and admonish you. They think, they hope, they pray that you will be a trustworthy soul, but what do you do to the trust that has been entrusted to you? Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Are you a Timothy? Do you accept admonition and thanks which lead you to be more trustworthy? God is very close to those who trust Him and He often surprises them with ‘unlooked for blessings’.

Little do we know what may happen to us tomorrow, but this sweet fact may cheer us that no good thing may be withheld. Chance has vanished from the faith of Christians because they see the hand of God in everything. The trivial events of today or tomorrow may involve consequences of the highest importance. We would sooner glean in His field than take away the whole harvest from any other field. Oh, for the footsteps of His flock which may conduct us to the green pastures where He may dwell. This is a weary world when Jesus is away. But how divinely faint all things become in the glory of His presence.

We thank the Lord that we have living examples of people who are trustworthy. We can see His flock and draw close to it. We have people whose names have been changed. You have called yourself Marah but how wonderful if God has changed your name. If you have been through the refining process of difficulty, hardship, loss, tears, grief and pain, you will find yourself close to the Lord. He often surprises us with ‘unlooked for blessings’. This daughter of Marah turned out to be the mother of David’s grandfather. She was not part of Israel. Through grace she said she would leave her father, mother, country and go because she saw the light, she saw the land of promise and she said she was going to call those people, her people.

True spiritual renewal grows out of painful beginnings. Some say that the crown comes after the cross. Victory comes after battles and possibly many have died because of the battle. In the last book of the Bible, we read that he who endures to the end will inherit all these things. You might say that it is only for the lucky ones. Matthew Henry says there are no ‘lucky ones’. It depends on God’s choices. Can He choose you? Do you seek favour in His eyes? When others ignore you, they don’t thank you, they don’t see you, you are not invited, can you say, ‘Lord, You are busy. You want my heart. You want that which is dear. May I find favor with you.’ I am sure daughter, that your mother is teaching you because she wants to instill this spirit that Ruth had into your heart and life. Your response is, ‘Mom, it’s difficult. Mom, you are robbing me. Mom, we live in different times.’

In Moab, she lost her husband and sons, but she won Ruth. Are you trustworthy, sons? Maybe you no longer have a father, only a mother. Can she trust you? Baba Dube said that when his father passed away, he prayed that his mother would never say that he did not respect her because his father had gone. Others don’t care. What does it matter if I hurt my parents or not, I have suffered enough. Learn from the older ones who said they did not want to hurt their mothers. ‘I will do it another day,’ you say, ‘I am still playing so nicely.’ But through your questions you are breaking your parents’ trust. Your parents’ hearts possibly bleed today but you are flying high wherever you are. You have chosen not to humble yourself under your parents’ authority and they are bleeding to death because of your untrustworthiness. You will bless them with your presence at their funeral? Son, wherever you are, with God our lives can turn out to be favourable in the sight of God.

Let us be renewed in strength and zeal. Let us glean in the fields of our heavenly Master whatever portions of grain we can pick up. Let us gather them for our heavenly home. May our Lord and Master be satisfied with the crop that is brought into his barn. The harvest is ripe but the labourers are few. If you are a labourer, let us be a team and gather for the Lord until our heavenly master says we should not leave the field and He commands the servants to leave more grain for us. Do not miss your opportunity. You have come to a place where we seek to be guided by God’s spirit.

May the Lord bless these words that we might be renewed and strengthened through the grief and pain. We see the field of our Master and see that He can bring an outcome of this life that has been refined and molded into something for God’s cause.

Conclusion Dietmar Joosten

These words were written as an example to follow. They are wonderful words. When things are difficult and there are many questions, bitterness, doubt and uncertainty can fill your heart.

Job had many difficult experiences. He could not even bury his own children because of his circumstances. He lost everything. He could have been filled with bitterness. But at the end of everything he said, ‘I had always heard about the Lord…’ We hear these things every Sunday. We hear with our ears but our eyes must behold the working of God. You say you are always sick and need operations. Do not be like Naomi. Jesus was born from her line many years later, but she did not see it at the time. God has a plan for every life. Job said, ‘I see now. I understand. I had to experience this.’

We need to be faithful where God has put us. God had a plan with their lives at that time. Why did this accident happen and many other questions? Your brain will lead you into a black bush and you will run around and hit your head against this tree and that tree. We need hearts that trust God in everything. ‘I have lost so much, things have happened to my family,’ you say. Allow God’s plan to unravel. Leave that and allow God. If there is a sin that needs to be removed it must be done because it can lead us into dark corners. This service was especially for you if you have difficult experiences. Stay faithful and keep upright.

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