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But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”” (Ruth 1:16–17, ESV)

Naomi has nothing to offer Ruth.  If she travels back to Bethlehem she will in all likelihood not be married; they will live in poverty; they will spend the rest of their days struggling to survive as two widows with no means of support [husband or children].  Ruth fully understands this.  She is willingly entering into [what she thinks is] a life of suffering and deprivation.

In addition Ruth is turning away from her Moabite gods and fully embracing Yahweh, the God of the Israelites.  Is there any better description of this turning in all of the Scriptures than in Ruth’s simple words: Your God [shall be] my God? 

The Bible Knowledge Commentary comments here:

She chose life with Naomi over her family, her national identity, and her religious idolatry. In one of the most beautiful expressions of commitment in all the world’s literature she laced her future to that of Naomi. She confessed allegiance to the people of Israel (your people) and to the God of Israel (your God). Here was a stirring example of a complete break with the past. Like Abraham, Ruth decided to leave her ancestors’ idolatrous land to go to the land of promise. And Ruth did it without the encouragement of a promise. In fact she made her decision despite Naomi’s strenuous encouragement to do otherwise.

Ruth is an amazing woman and we haven’t yet learned how amazing since we’re only at the end of chapter one.  What looks like a choice of self-destruction into a life of deprivation…well, we shall see what God makes of it.

Acts 18:27 And when he wanted to continue on into  Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there, he greatly helped those who had come to believe through  grace. (Mounce NT)

The Complete Word Study Bible defines “grace” as: “A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.” We have a good example of what this means in Acts 18.27.

Remember that Luke, no doubt due to the fact that he was a physician, is very precise and careful in his use of theological terms.  Here Luke is describing the ministry of Apollos and how many responded to his preaching of the gospel and came to believe through grace.  We expect Luke to write that many people came to believe through the preaching of Apollos, or through the preaching of the apostles, but Luke knows that this isn’t accurate.  Yes, Apollos played his part, but those who came to follow Jesus by faith did so because of grace, not Apollos.

Here is why this is such a crucial and happy fact:  God doesn’t need an Apollos to draw us to faith.  He can use a terrible Methodist preacher as he did with Charles Spurgeon; He can use the death of an unknown, suffering person in the next hotel room (who turned out to be a close, colleague from college), as he did with Adoniram Judson; or He can even use no one in particular, as he did with my wife who came to faith wandering around a graveyard.  God doesn’t need an Apollos because he uses grace.  Thank the Lord that He uses men like Apollos, he doesn’t need them, but he uses them, but everything is ultimately of grace, the sheer bounty and benevolence of the Good Giver.

 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord. ”
https://ref.ly/Je17.7;esv

I find it interesting here that Jeremiah writes this verse, immediately after penning the contrasting verse:

“Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord. ”
https://ref.ly/Je17.5;esv

We take from this a few lessons:

  1. You cannot trust in man and also trust in the Lord. Trusting in man will turn your heart away from the Lord.
  2.  If you trust in man you are cursed. These are very strong words, but spoken only because they are true.  Trusting in man will lead right down the pathway to destruction.
  3. If you trust in the Lord you are blessed. This is the opposite of being cursed and it means to be happy/fulfilled.  Since men seek fulfillment and joy in life, trusting in the Lord is the only way to get what they are seeking [though mankind seems to have a high tolerance for the pain of seeking joy in any other way but the Lord].

I take from this that it is good and right to seek our joy and fulfillment in the only way that true joy and fulfillment can come: through a relationship with our Lord.  Seeking to flourish in life in any other way is a fool’s errand and will lead to destruction.

Jeremiah 8:22 (HCSB)
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
So why has the healing of my dear people
not come about?

There was, of course, balm in Gilead.  While biblical commentators don’t know exactly what this balm consisted of, it is clear that it was used for medicinal purposes.  The people of Judah complain that they are in desperate straits and that God has not saved them.  God’s answer is that the remedy has been there all along–faithfulness to him.  There is balm available; there is healing available.

Instead of faithfulness to the covenant, the people pursued God and other gods.  They were performing the rituals that God had commanded, all the while also offering sacrifices to false gods of the nations surrounding them.  Needless to say, this was not acceptable to our God.  This was idolatry.  God treats idolatry very harshly and if he is that concerned about it, we ought to be that concerned also.

The ESV Study Bible comments: “They prefer false prophets to God’s written and revealed word.”

We ought to be considering the lessons of Jeremiah’s Judah very carefully, because we live in a culture in which, as followers of Jesus, we are allowing ourselves to become ensnared by the cultural trends around us, many of which are diametrically opposed to faithfulness to God.  We believe it’s okay because we are also devoted to God.  This is not okay.  Not at all.

God will fight against our flagging devotion to him, even when we do not want him to.  This is an act of love.

 

“For ||thus|| saith he that is high and lifted up—
Inhabiting futurity、
And ||holy|| is his name:
<A high and holy place> will I inhabit,
Also with the crushed and lowly in spirit,
To revive the spirit of the lowly, and
To revive the heart of them who are crushed;— ”
https://ref.ly/Is57.15;emphbbl

There is an amazing juxtaposition in this verse between God and what Isaiah calls “the lowly.”  Here God is the “high and lifted up” one, the one who inhabits futurity [or eternity].  This God is called holy.  Now, if we didn’t know better, we would assume that this God would be too busy with other things to worry about the lowly.  He is great and powerful and holy and lifted up, so doesn’t he spend his time with the powerful and wealthy?  Does he have any time at all for those who are poor and oppressed and hurting?

The funny thing is, he certainly does, indeed he goes out of his way to assure us that his heart and mind and strength and power are committed to “the crushed and lowly in spirit.”  He wants the lowly to live and those who are crushed he wants to bring to life and sustain and comfort.

What does God get from this?  Nothing from the lowly, they don’t have anything at all to offer except their own crushed and broken spirit.  The funny thing is, this seems to be exactly what God is after.  He calls the broken to himself and comforts them.  Jesus will put it this way:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
https://ref.ly/Mt11.28-29;esv

Doesn’t Jesus in Matthew sound a lot like God in Isaiah?

 

 

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ”
https://ref.ly/Is55.10-11;esv

I love this passage and often pray it before I am about to preach or teach.

The promise here is that the Word of God will accomplish its purpose. My own words do not have this power, it is only God’s words that have this power and that carry this promise.  This is why it is so vitally important to get people to read or hear God’s word.

A missionary couple from our church [Gabriel and Rachel Nunez] work with the Ka’apor tribe in Brazil and a team came down to Brazil this spring and recorded some native readers reading the Ka’apor Bible so that they could make a recording and play it for Ka’apor tribe members, since literacy is spotty in the tribe.  I think this is an awesome project because it takes God’s words in Is 11 seriously and seeks to get God’s word into the eyes (and ears) of as many people as possible.  God has promised to bless these efforts.

Of course if this statement from God is true, and it is, then looking at our own lives we ought to be diligent students of God’s word because this is what will carry power in our own lives, not books on Christian subjects and issues, though they are certainly good, not even what someone else thinks about the Bible, even though these are good to read and helpful.  The power, as God points out clearly here, comes from God’s words themselves so we should read and meditate and absorb and love and enjoy God’s word.  There are no words so true, no words so powerful, and nothing more important that we can be doing.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ”
https://ref.ly/Heb4.12;esv

 

“But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you. ”
https://ref.ly/Is49.14-15;esv

  • The Problem: God’s people were afraid that God had forsaken them. This is a lament and it is set forth in honesty and despair.  Will God forsake his people?  Has he forsaken them?  It’s an all too common issue and anyone who has read a missionary biography or understands church history knows that this is an issue that comes up again and again. God, for purposes that we don’t fully understand, seems to appear to abandon his own people from time to time, to danger and difficulty.  Israel was going to be judged for her idolatry, would God abandon his people forever?
  • The Response from God:  I will not forget you. God’s response is given in a solemn promise and both God’s character and history itself demonstrate that what God promises here is true and he will do it.  He will not forget his people. The ESV Study Bible entitles this section: “Human despair is more than offset by divine grace.”

    Sit back in your chair and breathe in that truth for a minute.  God will not forget his people. This is his promise.  This is his oath. This is his character.  Kings will not cause him to abandon his promise. Time will not cause him to abandon his people.  Opposition, danger, and difficulty are hand maidens to our sovereign God and no more stand in the way of his promise here than a bunny rabbit could block an elephant.  God has done what he promised in the past; he will do what he has promised in the future.  He will not forget his own people.