Pursued By Grace Series-Sermon #3
COMING HOME THE HARD WAY (Ruth 1:19-22)
Ruth 1:19-22 (NKJV) – Naomi and Ruth
19 Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”
20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
21 I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
A foolish old farmer, so the story goes, concluded one day that the oats he had fed his mule for years were simply costing him too much. So he hatched a plan: he mixed a little sawdust in with the feed, and then a little more the next day, and even more the next, each time reducing the amount of oats in the mix.
The mule didn’t seem to notice the gradual change, so the farmer thought things were fine and kept decreasing the proportion of oats. But weeks later, on the day he finally fed the poor beast nothing but sawdust, the mule finished the meal and fell over dead.
A silly tale, perhaps, but it serves as a parable of the backslider — the Christian who slips further and further away from God through “unrepented” sin or neglect. Though we know our souls cannot survive on spiritual sawdust, we may well convince ourselves that a little won’t hurt too much, and a little less real spiritual food won’t be missed. Then, over time, the proportion of sawdust increases while the oats gradually disappear. Before long, the change is complete, and our starved, sawdust-stuffed spiritual life has collapsed.
Surely this is how Naomi found herself in Moab with a dead husband and two dead sons. She never meant for it to happen, but one day she woke up to find that she was miles away from where the Lord wanted her to be. This passage is all about how Naomi found her way home to Bethlehem and to the place of blessing.
I know that I am preaching to some people who have allowed a little sin here or a little slackness there and today, you find yourself in a place, spiritually, that you never thought possible.
You looked around your own present life and know that you are lost as a result of your back-slidden condition and you wonder if there is hope for your spiritual restoration. The answer to that question is “Yes!”
And this passage has something to say about how that can happen in your life.
Let’s watch as Naomi returns to Bethlehem and think on the thought “Coming Home The Hard Way.”
I. V. 19a THE ARRIVAL IN BETHLEHEM
(Ill. The trip from Moab to Bethlehem would have taken between 7-10 days. It would have required them to cross the river Jordan and to climb the 2000 plus feet in elevation required to reach Bethlehem. It would have been easy to stop short of the city, but they continued until they were where they were supposed to be!
Ill. Repentance is the same way! Don’t stop until you have come all the way back to the Lord!)
(Note: There is no record of their conversation as they traveled. This reminds us that a person’s repentance is a private matter. It is between them and the Lord and we cannot judge their condition by what they do or by what they don’t do!)
A. To The City Of God’s Praise – (Judah = Praise) Bethlehem was the place where the Lord was honored and exalted. There was no praise in Naomi’s heart when she was in Moab. That child of God who is away from the Father’s house cannot have a heart of praise, nor can their life be honoring to the Lord!
B. To The City Of God’s Presence – (Ruth 1:6) God had visited His people in Bethlehem. While Naomi was in Moab, she was away from the Lord’s presence! When a saint is away from the Lord’s will, he cannot enjoy the presence of God! (Ill. See Jonah – Jonah 1:3) When a believer returns, he can once again enjoy the blessed presence of the Lord, Psa. 16:11.
C. To The City Of God’s Provision – (Bethlehem = “House Of Bread”) It was in the city of Bethlehem that Naomi would find the best of God’s provisions. It was there where she could be fed and provided for! So it is with the saints of God. God’s best blessings are reserved for those who will stay close to where He is working!
D. To The City Of God’s People – She returned to a place of kindred spirits and like-minded people. In Moab she was different! In Bethlehem, she belonged! So it is with the wayward child of God! Can you think of those who have wandered away from the place where God meets with His people? Thank God, they (or you) can come home again!
II. V. 19b-21 THE ANNOUNCEMENT TO BETHLEHEM
(Ill. “Moved about them”. Means the city was disturbed and in an uproar. Naomi’s return to Bethlehem alone, broke and in the company of a Gentile daughter-in-law (Ruth) made news all over town!)
A. V. 21 She Spoke Of God’s Providence – “The LORD hath brought me home again.” She told of how the Lord worked to bring her home. I wonder how many times she had to tell of the death of her husband and her sons? (Note: It was still home! Ill. “I will return to my father’s house.”, Luke 15.) (Ill You can run from the Lord, but you cannot hide – Ill. See Jonah!)
B. V. 20-21 She Spoke Of God’s Punishment – “Hath testified; hath afflicted” She seems to blame all this on the Lord, but it was all the result of her own choices!
(Note: Her words reveals her heart, “I went out…”) (Note: “Naomi” = “Pleasant”; “Mara” = “Bitter”)
(Note: Evidently, Elimelech was a wealthy man when he left Bethlehem for Moab, v. 21 She left full and returned home empty. The Lord will fill you up, but the plan of the devil is to empty you out!) (Note: God surely knows how to get our attention!)
C. V. 21 She Spoke Of God’s Patience – She brought about her own troubles, but the Lord worked hard in her life to bring her home! Why her and not Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion? Perhaps his heart was fixed, but Naomi’s was still teachable, she had not allowed her heart to be hardened.
(Ill. A Seared Conscience – 1 Tim. 4:2.) (Note: Thank God for His patience in our lives!)
III. V. 22 THE ANTICIPATION IN BETHLEHEM
A. It Was A Time Of Blood – The time of barley harvest was also the time of Passover. A time to shed the blood of the lamb and commemorate the deliverance of God’s people from sin, Exodus 12. It is a picture of coming home through the blood, 1 John 1:7-10. Thank God, the blood of the Lamb is sufficient to take care of the sins of the wayward saint!
B. It Was A Time Of Bounty – This was also the time of the Feast of the First-fruits, Leviticus 23:1-14. A time when the first of the barley harvest was offered in a wave offering before the Lord and as a gratitude for the harvest that was about to be reaped. When the priest made the wave offering, he was saying, “This is just the first, there is more in the way!”
(Note: The Lord Jesus Christ is presented as the “Firstfruits from the dead” in the New Testament, 1 Cor. 15:20; 23!) (Note: It is always a time of harvest when a wandering child returns home!) (Ill. The Prodigal son!)
C. It Was A Time Of Beginning – Naomi wanted her name to be changed to “Mara.” But, when the Holy Spirit mentions her in verse 22, He calls her “Naomi”. She may have been “bitter” in heart, but the Lord had some “pleasant” blessings ahead for this woman.
(Note: “Is this Naomi?” The people of Bethlehem were amazed at her appearance and problems, (Ill. Sin brings along trouble!) but the Lord was about to give her blessings and glories that she could not have been imagined! While people may mourn over the troubles of the sinner, but there is joy in heaven over a repentant sinner, Luke 15:7.)
My friends, where has this message found you today? Has sin and worldly living stripped you of all the Lord has done in your life? Do you need a fresh start today?
Two thousand years ago the Lord Jesus Christ told the story of a boy who left his father’s house to find fun and adventure in the world. When he had lost everything he owned and wound up in a place he never thought he would be, he decided to go home. What he found was a father ready to forgive him, love him and restore him to a place of perfect fellowship and blessing. Is that what you need today? If so, then what you need is just steps away. Will you come?
Others need to come to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. You have nothing but the sorrow of sin today and the prospect of Hell tomorrow. Jesus Christ died for you. If you will come to Him today, He will save you by His grace.
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!