Friday, December 19, 2014

DON’T FEEL SORRY

Naomi tried one last time to encourage Ruth to go back home, but Ruth would not go. “Ruth clave unto [Naomi]” (Ruth 1:14). The word used here suggests a maiden on her knees with her arms around her master’s waist, as if she will never let go. Ruth wanted God!

As soon as Ruth crossed over the border to Judah, she was on the road to winning Christ. There was no signpost to tell her, but we know where the road led: straight to the heart of Jesus! Ruth and Naomi came to the place of blessing—poor and not knowing where their next meal would come from—but they arrived during the beginning of the harvest season.

Ruth was penniless, with no future in sight, yet she was a virtuous woman, and had committed everything to the Lord. She said, “Let me now go to the field, and glean” (Ruth 2:2). Only the very poor did such work. The Law demanded that the owners not harvest the four corners of their fields and not glean the remains, so that the poor could have them. “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shall not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest . . . thou shall leave them for the poor” (Leviticus 19:9-10).

It looked as if Ruth had made a poor bargain: Her devotion took her all the way to the place of visitation and now she was sweating over a minimum-wage job! She was even below the poverty line. Take a good look at her, because this is how you may end up if you break loose and go all the way with God!

This was the cross of the apostle Paul until he died: “For we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake . . . we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our own hands; being reviled . . . persecuted . . . being defamed . . . we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring [we get the brush-off, being considered the scum of the earth]” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).

But don’t feel sorry for Ruth—for she was just about to win Christ!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

CROSSING THE BORDER

As we see in Ruth 1, Naomi, Orpah and Ruth reach the border between Moab and Judah and there they face a decision. Will they follow the move of God’s grace over into the fullness of Christ? Their names give you a clue: Naomi means grace; Orpah means stiffnecked; and Ruth means friend, companion.

A confrontation takes place at the border when Naomi decides to test Orpah’s and Ruth’s commitment and resolve. For them, the decision to go will require more than emotion, more than words. They must choose either to go back or to go on—with no promise of reward and a clear vision of the high cost ahead.

Rather than preaching prosperity, ease, and success, Naomi presents to them a picture of suffering and poverty. There is no promise of earthly goods, only a walk of faith. In fact, she encourages them to return to their own mothers’ houses (see Ruth 1:8-9).

Both Orpah and Ruth remain steadfast at this point: “They lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people” (Ruth 1:9-10). You already know from Orpah’s name that, in spite of her river of tears, in spite of all her strong words about going on, she will drop out and go back to her idolatry. Outwardly, however, she is broken and tender, and seems to be part of this move back to God.

I believe Naomi could see into Orpah’s heart, into her struggle. She probably thought to herself, “Poor child! She thinks she wants the Lord’s fullness, but she is still charmed by this world. She would be miserable if she went on, because she’d always be looking back!”
So Naomi says, “Go your way!” Orpah must have reached a decision in her heart, “I’ll go back to Moab and serve God—my way! I’ll still love these precious saints, but I’ve got to get on with my life. I’m not ready to give up my past.”

The Bible says, “They lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law” (Ruth 1:14). An original manuscript adds to the sentence, “and went back.”

Some of you reading this now are about to kiss your brethren good-bye. Something in your heart is pulling you—a circle of special friends or old loves. But as Naomi said of Orpah, “Thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods” (Ruth 1:15), likewise, an idol has your heart—something from your past that you can’t release!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE END OF A FAMINE

In Ruth 1:6 we read, “The Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.” The word came to Naomi that the famine in Judah was over—that once again God had visited His people with plenty of bread and blessings. Memories of past blessings flooded Naomi’s soul, and she began to yearn for the holy place. She was sick of Moab and its idolatry and death. So “she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return . . . wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was . . . and they went on the way to return” (Ruth 1:6-7).

Naomi’s daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, said good-bye to parents, friends, and family. They told their lifelong loved ones they would be gone for good, that they were going to Judah—a place where God was “visiting His people.”

Today, once again the Lord is visiting His people! Once again a famine has ended! Here at Times Square Church and in other churches around the world, the pure Word of God is going forth. When the Lord visits His people, He “gives them bread.”

During this last famine of the Word, while others fled to today’s Moab—worldliness, lethargy, coldness, pleasure, and success—a holy remnant has persevered. They endured the self-exaltation of TV evangelists, the sordid sensuality that swept into God’s house, the foolishness in the pulpit, and the mockery of backslidden Christians.

They prayed, fasted, and interceded. And now the Lord has heard their cry and is visiting His people. Why is Times Square Church packed with hungry seekers? Because word has gotten out that God is here! People are hearing that a word from God is flowing. The same is true in other places, as the news spreads that a visitation of God is taking place. The famine is over! God has sent bread from heaven and if you haven't yet tasted it, then get out of Moab and go back to where God is visiting His people!

This is what Naomi and her two daughters did. Their departure for the border of Judah represented a move toward the Lord. They were being drawn by the Spirit of God, attracted by the news of His visitation.

Today, in the same way, in the Spirit I see untold thousands heading home, back to the fullness of Christ—away from the hype, the emptiness of the gospel of ease and prosperity, the double standards and half-heartedness.