Good afternoon. We have now concluded our studies in the book of Judges. We are now going to begin a series of lessons that I am looking forward to. We are going to look at one of the most powerful, interesting characters of all the Old Testament. The man’s name is David! And as I have begun to study the life of David, I have realized that you really can’t look into the life of David, unless you first look into the life of Saul. And you really can’t tell all the story of David, unless you first have studied the life of Samuel. And so, over the next few weeks, we are going to be looking at Samuel’s life and at Saul’s life. But before that, this afternoon, I want to take you to the very beginning of the life of David. In fact, I have entitled the lesson, David’s quiet beginning, because I have come to the conclusion that the story of David begins immediately following the book of Judges. The story of David begins right in the period of time of the Judges. Now we have studied Judges for ten or fifteen weeks and maybe you have noticed that little, tiny book that follows the book of Judges. It’s the book of Ruth.
And for a long time, I have wondered about the book of Ruth. Why did God place it in the scriptures, as He did, separate from Judges? I know it’s a beautiful, little story and we tell it sometimes at weddings and, occasionally, at funerals. But did God put the book of Ruth in the scriptures just so we might use it at weddings and, at times, at funerals? I don’t think so. I think God knew exactly what He was doing when He put the book of Ruth, with its special message, where He placed it. Because you have the book of Joshua, which is a book of history, about the Israelite people going in and conquering the Promised Land. Then you have the book of Judges, which is, again, a lot of history. And then, there is the little book of Ruth. And from there, you go to 1st Samuel, then 2nd Samuel, and you look at all of this information before you get to the life of David. And I want to begin this afternoon in the book of Ruth, by reminding you of that familiar story, so that you might see what I am talking about. It begins in verse 1 and it says “……”
I. The story of Ruth
So, obviously, times are hard in Bethlehem, of Judea. It’s hard because there is a famine in the land. So, apparently, for survival’s sake, the man, Elimelech, leaves his area and goes down to another town, in Moab. Now you’ve seen that happen in your lifetime, maybe. You may have seen people, for survival’s sake, leaving the land that they have known, going to another place to find food to eat or a way to make an income. In Oklahoma, they called the 1930’s, “the dirty ‘30’s”. And in the 1930’s, all across western Oklahoma, most people made their living by farming. But in that day, they didn’t practice good conservation techniques. And so, when they got a major drought, when the wind was blowing and bringing lots of dust, they would lose their crops. You know, you may have seen what big dust storms can do. A few years ago, National Geographic made a report on it. They would show pictures of dust storms and the difficulty it would cause for survival in affected areas, especially in the areas where they didn’t have modern techniques. Well, in the 1930’s, in Oklahoma, many farmers got to the point where they had a hard time surviving. They were so hungry that many loaded up their belongings, their family, and went on to a further land. Many ended up in California. So many Oklahomans did that, in fact, that they were given a name by the rest of the nation. They were called “Okies” because they were trying to survive by going to another land! And, as you open the book of Ruth, you find that there is an Israelite who is trying to survive by taking his family elsewhere. He could have been called an “Okie”. But when he arrived in that new land, tragedy struck again, because when you read verse 3, you see “…” So Naomi is left there with her two sons. But before very long, these two sons are ready to marry. They look around and see all those Moabite women and they cast their lots. One of them marries a woman named Orphah. The other marries this woman named Ruth! And ten years pass and tragedy strikes again. Both boys died! I can hardly imagine what it would be like for Naomi, living in a strange land, having lost her husband and both of her children. But, about that time, she hears that God has returned his favor to her people. So in verse 6, we read “…” See, back home is a good place for her to go. When you are far away from home and times are tough, sometimes the best you can do is turn your face back to home. To be honest, it’s partly why I have kept my Belgian citizenship. If something goes wrong, money-wise or health-wise, I want to be able to go back. So Naomi decides to go and, at first, the two daughters-in-law decide to go along! But Naomi is a wise woman. She turns to these two daughters-in-law, with great love, and she says to them, verses 8-9, “….” But the two daughters-in-law cling to her and they say, “No! We are going to go with you.” But Naomi continues and she says, in verse 11, “…..” And now the daughters-in-law begin to think. At least, one of them does because, Orphah, with a broken heart, turns and leaves Naomi and goes back to her people. But not Ruth! Ruth is clinging to Naomi with all of her might. And Naomi says to Ruth in verse 15, “….” Come on, do the same thing; but Ruth is clinging and she says the famous words in verse 16-17, “….” What a scene! Ruth clinging to her mother-in-law, saying the only thing that could change her mind was death. And so, Naomi gives up. She says, “OK”. She gathers, with Ruth, the little they have and they begin their journey to Bethlehem. And when they arrive, in Bethlehem, it is harvest time! And by now, they are hungry. They are very poor, remember! So Ruth says, “I‘ll go in the field and follow the harvest workers and get grain for us to eat”, verse 2. Now she is not talking about stealing anything. Today that would be stealing. I remember when we did that, my brother and I. We would run and crawl in the fields to get leftover watermelons; but that was wrong. That was stealing! That’s why we would hide. But in that day, it was customary for someone hungry, for a beggar, to go behind the harvesters. God wanted it that way. In Lev. 19:9-10, He had said, “…” See, God was always the God of the needy and He always made provision for them. And now Naomi and Ruth were benefiting because of it. But the thing you must realize is that Ruth sacrifices her pride and she humbles herself, by taking the form of a beggar, in order to provide food for her mother-in-law and herself. But God designs the events, so well, that she ends up in the field of a man named Boaz. And you may remember that Boaz is a distant kinsman of her father-in-law, who has died. And Boaz sees Ruth picking up the grain and in verse 5 of chapter 2, he inquires and he says, “….’ He is told about her and he decides to show her kindness. And the story is long, but it ends like this. Boaz is attracted to Ruth and Ruth is attracted to Boaz. And so, in chapter 4:13, we read, “….” And now, Ruth is able to move into the comfort of a rich man’s house. But not only Ruth! Naomi too! For remember, she said, “I will never be separated from Naomi, except by death. So she takes her mother-in-law with her in the house of Boaz. But I want you to really notice the way it ends in chapter 4:22. “….” Did you notice the last statement? Jesse was the father of David. So, it seems the book of Ruth was placed in the scriptures to tell us the quiet beginning of a man named David. David was the son of Jesse, the grandson of Obed; which means his great grandmother was Ruth. Now if you would turn to the book of Matthew, chapter 1. You find here the genealogy of Jesus; and if you look at verse 5-6, you read, “…” So amazingly, you find the same names here, then, in the book of Ruth. Names that seem so insignificant and, yet, who become part of the genealogical tree of David and Jesus. And I think that is so, this afternoon, because of a very special quality in the life of Ruth. And we are going to talk about it in a few seconds, but I want you to know first, that that same quality will be seen in the life of David and then in the life of our Lord, Jesus Christ. But, I believe it originated in the life of Ruth. And that quality was “love”. What a tremendous love Ruth had!
She loved Naomi enough to leave her own people. I don’t know about you, but home is special to me. And I don’t know if you were all reared here or in a big city, someplace else; but I could guarantee, for nearly all of you, home is special! And leaving home is not easy. And I think, in a way, we must really respect missionaries, working in another place than in the U.S., because they have left that special place, their home, for another people, like Ruth did. Do you know why Ruth did it? She did it for the same reason those missionaries do it. It is because of that quality called love. Ruth loved Naomi enough to leave her home and she went off to another land. And not only was it leaving; but she had to learn new ways! Because, see, the Israelite ways were quite different from the Moabite ways. And it is not easy to learn different ways, another culture. But she was willing to do it because she loved Naomi. She loved her so much, she gave of herself. Because again, she said, “I will go out in the fields; I will gather the grain, so you might have something to eat.” And what she was saying was, “I’ll play the role of a beggar that you might have something to eat.” What a tremendous love Ruth showed Naomi! But don’t you understand that David had that same love within his heart? He had it for other people too; but, he had it especially for the Lord. David was a rare character. And God treated him as such! And God loved David, though he made many mistakes. God loved him for the reason that David loved God with all his heart! And what you will see, in the next few weeks, is David loved God enough to leave certain, comfortable situations for the benefit of God. And you’ll find that David loved God enough to learn completely new ways of life in order to glorify God better. And most of all, you’ll find David laying his life on the line, over and over again, and giving large amounts of money when he didn’t have to because he loved God.
And you march all the way through scripture. And you march all the way to Jesus Christ. And don’t you see the same thing in His life? Jesus loved God and He loved man enough to leave that place called heaven. And I don’t think there is a single person in this audience that will ever fully understand what that meant! Jesus left heaven! And He came to this earth! Do you know He had to learn new ways, our ways? He had to learn to dress like we dress and eat like we eat and to suffer temptation as we suffer temptation and to suffer hurts as we suffer hurts. He had to learn obedience through the things He suffered! And He did that because He loved! And, don’t you see, that He gave Himself for us. Don’t you see He was nailed to the cross when He didn’t have to be nailed because God and He loved us?
And what I am trying to say is, the book of Ruth is the quiet beginning of a man named David and it may well be the quiet beginning of a man named Jesus. It’s a story of love. And maybe we can draw a conclusion from all of that!
II. The lesson
If God was impressed enough with a woman called Ruth to put her story down in the scriptures; and if God was impressed enough with a woman named Ruth, to bring through her, a man named David, and later, a man named Jesus, His own Son, then maybe it’s the same quality that, in our lives and in our hearts, will impress God today! God wants every single person here to love Him enough to leave all those sins and all those things, in this world, that so easily distract us. He wants us to love Him enough to do that. Heb. 12:1 says, “…..” And God wants us to love Him enough to learn 2nd Peter 3:18. I’ve been told that you don’t cause anyone to learn with forced learning. People have to want to learn. And God wants all of us to open the scriptures and read what He says and write those things on our hearts. He wants us to love Him that much. And He wants us to love Him enough to honor Him with our lives. And what that means is, I put Him first! Day by day, I make decisions that put God first and I honor Him, thereby, with my life. Now that’s what God wants. And He has made a promise. Anyone who will love me like that, He says, I’ll give them an eternal home called heaven! But I want to ask you, do you love God? I am here telling you that love is more than a feeling. A little boy was standing out on a street corner, one day. And it was a busy neighborhood and a man began to speak with him. After a while, the man said, “Little boy, do you love your mother?” The little boy thought about it for a moment; then, he looked at that man and said, “Why sure, I love my mother! I love my mother with all my strength and with all my heart!” And now the man says, “Little boy, how do you know you love your mother with all of your strength and all of your heart?” By now, the little boy is a little puzzled. He thinks and he thinks and finally he smiles and says, “Mister, see that apartment house across the street? My mom and I live on the 4th floor of that apartment house. It’s so old it doesn’t even have an elevator. And we are forced to heat the place with coal. And our landlord gives us the coal; but he keeps it in the basement. And every day, someone has to go down in that basement with a bucket and get that coal. But see, he says, my mama is not very strong. She is not very big and, so, everyday, I get the coal bucket. I get down in the basement. I fill the bucket completely full of coal and I carry it to the top of those stairs. It takes all the strength I’ve got, Mister! Some days, I have to stop and rest two or three times; but I usually get it there for my mamma. And Mister, I think that shows I love my mama with all of my strength and all of my heart?” Love is always expressive.
Jack Benny died in 1974. Following his death, a day or so later, to his wife, Mary Livingston Bennie, came this almost perfect rose. The next day, another, almost perfect rose. Still, the next day and the next day and the next day. And finally, Mary Bennie called the florist and said, “What’s happening? Why do I get a rose every day? And the florist said, “Mrs. Bennie, your husband came to us, before his death, and he made arrangements so that every day, for the rest of your life, you will receive a near perfect rose, as nearly as I can find, because he wanted you to know, every day, for the rest of your life, that he loved you!” See, love is always expressive. It is more expressive than feeling. And God looks at people and says, “I want you to love me the way Ruth loved Naomi or I want you to love me the way David loved me and I really want you to love me the way Jesus loved me.
And so, you ask yourself, “Do I love Him?” Have you shown your love, by willingness to leave all of the things of this world; that so easily beset us? And have you shown your love, for God, by being willing to put forth the effort to learn what He said and write those things on your hearts? And, has God seen your love, by seeing your willingness to honor Him and really put Him at the first seat of your heart? Has He seen that love? Because when He sees that love, by your actions, by your expression, then He will love you more than you will ever know and He will provide you more blessings than you’ll ever be able to comprehend, in this life. Love God! That’s the quiet beginning of David. And something will come back to you over and over again! Now, I ask you this afternoon, if you are not showing your love to God, start showing it! By your showing it, you’ll be doing it. So you’ve heard the lesson and we ask you to do what you know you need to do, as we stand and sing.