I Will Follow
(Excerpt from the sermon)
Sermon Series: Four God So Loved
There is something powerful & transformative in the story of Ruth. To summarize, A man by the name of Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and two sons moved out of Bethlehem because there was a famine in all of Judah. Elimelech & his family moved to Moab. Now to give perspective, if you live in California, that is like moving from San Francisco to Hemet. It just doesn’t make sense. The city of Moab was not a good place to live; Elimelech and his family were Hebrew which means that the city of Moab was enemy territory but Elimelech in his decision to move was seen as abandoning God, leaving God for a dark place. They find themselves in poverty and they're forced to sell off the land they have back in Israel, back in Jerusalem. So now, they're in bad shape and they have nothing to fall back on, and then we're told in the story through sickness, famine, and hunger, Naomi, Elimelech's wife, is the only one remaining because Elimelech and his two sons die. So Naomi's left in exile as a Hebrew woman in Moab and she has no future. She has no future because she's too old to marry. In ancient civilizations, you didn't marry only for companionship, love, and sex. You married to extend your family name, the progression, and the expansion of your family. It's all you had but Naomi can no longer offer that to anyone because she has no husband, no sons, no family, no lamb, no money, no assets, nothing. Her two sons had wives who have now become widowers. Their names are Orpah and Ruth. All Naomi has now is her two daughters-in-law. So Naomi decides to return to her home but both Ruth and Orpah want to return with Naomi and actually follow her outside the city. Naomi was obviously loved by her daughters-in-law because they wanted to come with her. But she says, “No, you can't come with me. You gotta stay here.” Why? Well, because they're young. They're beautiful. If they stay in Moab, they could find a husband, have land, have territory, and have a life. If they go back with Naomi to Bethlehem, they'll probably be killed. They're the enemies of the Israelites. But Ruth loves her mother-in-law so much that she takes the risk and goes with Naomi back to Israel. At the end of the story, we find out that God blesses Ruth and Naomi by providing for their every need.
The message is, in heaven's name, get out of Moab! What are you doing down here? That is a message. Think about it for a moment. Every immigrant leaves home expecting a better life, right? I mean, why else would you leave? You're looking for hope. You believe that there will be better than how you have it here. Your passion for a better life is so great that you're willing to risk your life to get it. You don't leave one land as an immigrant to go to another one in hopes that it'll be worse. Right? Who does that? No one except Ruth. Ruth says to her mother-in-law “I'm coming with you and I expect the worst life.” Yeah. Why does she do it? She loves Naomi. She's seen something in Naomi's God.
Now in Ruth's mind, she has one of two choices. She can stay in Moab, have her physical needs met, and gain material, wealth, and stability but probably lose her soul. She's not living in denial. She knows that her people and her culture have a dramatic negative impact on her and because she's seen the good in Naomi, she recognizes the evil in Moab. To drive the point, Ruth is understanding that if she stays here, she may physically survive, but she will spiritually die. So, she is going to leave Moab and lose material wealth, but ultimately she will gain her soul.
Moab is killing us. Some of you are part of a club that you need to get out of. It makes you look good, you're running with the right crowd, but it's killing you spiritually. Some of you are in relationships that you know it’s sucking the life out of you, but you won't get out of it. You're in Moab. Some of you're in a job you should have left a long time ago but you're terrified that you won't have enough money to pursue things that aren't that important. You could live a lot more simply and quite frankly, some of you need to get outta California now, to gain your soul. This pursuit, the things that you're after, might be feeding you and sure, you might be making money but that is only momentary gain. You might be gaining influence, but the cost is great and you're losing your soul. Do you think Jesus was kidding when he said “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” This crowd you're involved with, this thing that you've got, you don't have it. It's got you. You're not strong enough to break free. The allure is too great, You're too weak. But, there's only one possible solution. You have got to get out of Moab! You need to leave and go forward!
When are you finally going to come home? Ruth is the first immigrant that does not expect a better life, yet she gets it. Do you see what the message is? See, you're terrified that you’re going to be worse off if you go and do what God asks you to do. But in reality, it ends up being immeasurably more than you could ever hope for or imagine. Especially to the young people who are reading this, you are enamored that sex, money, and power are what life is all about and if you accept these false pleasures, you’ll find that it has a hold of you. Some of you think you have to have all these followers, you think you have to be liked, you have to dress a certain way and it's all killing you. It's Moab. It's sucking and draining the life right out of you.
God is trying to tell you that if you get out of Moab and you come home, your life will not be like it was in Moab. It'll be so much better. But you have to have the courage. You have to have the courage to leave everything behind that is keeping you in Moab. If you trust God by getting out of Moab, you'll discover the life you never thought you could have, and only when you see Jesus for who he truly is, will you leave that old life behind. The entire Bible is written to reveal who God truly is. He's your kinsman Redeemer. He's rescued you out of the land of Moab. He's covered you with his love and compassion and protection. He left his home and stepped into a land far worse so that you could come into a land far greater than you could ever hope or dream or imagine. And by knowing that simple fact, it should give you the courage to leave your old life behind.
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