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May 20, 2022 12:00 am
As humans, our default action when things aren't going well is to up and leave. If there's strife in the Church, we go find another one. If we're not happy in our marriage, we get divorced. If a friend let's us down, we let them go. The "greener grass" syndrome infects us all. Contentment doesn't come naturally or easily . . . but like all precious things, it's worth working for.
This is a riches to rags crisis hitting this family what you have here are our Rockefellers, living like immigrants you have Vanderbilts homeless.
So why stay in Bethlehem, where the famine has reduced them and everybody else. The handouts there use to a better life and that why stable in our faith and our our forefathers.
Let's move where the grass is greener. Then comes the compromise following Christ for not happy in our marriage we get divorced if a friend lets us down. We let them go.
We think that will find something better somewhere else.
Contentment doesn't come naturally or easily, but like everything else that's precious it's worth working for Stephen Davey continues through the book of Ruth today.
The characters face a crisis which set a series of events in motion.
This is wisdom for the heart and Stevens called this message greener grass as I drive to and from my home. There is a pasture on the side of the road with half a dozen horses that are grazing away in spite of the fact that there pasture is sought for Highland Green. It's not unusual to see one of those horses straining his neck over the upper beam of that fence to try to get a mouthful of grass on the other side not nearly as green never fails to remind me of the myth of the greener grass. The belief that somewhere else.
Life is better, easier and more fulfilling.
It cannot be in the middle of your own pasture.
It's got to be somewhere else. The grass always looks a lot greener doesn't it enough in a different house or with a higher paycheck.
Maybe it's a different job or at a different school, or in a different neighborhood or driving a different car next to a different spouse belonging to a different family.
The grass is always greener everywhere else.
But wherever you are, that we can ignore the fact that some situations are difficult and harder than others and sometimes we need to make changes. The problem comes though when we decide that surely God would not purposefully make life difficult or uncomfortable or challenging.
In fact, you really just wants everybody to be happy, so greener grass must be proof of God's leading. The truth is greener grass just might be the most dangerous. It you will ever escape. I'm reminded of Irma Bob, I got a funny way of summing up the myth when she entitled her book the grass is always greener over the septic tank. It looks promising, rewarding, you have no idea what's underneath. What were about to witness the myth of greener grass literally played out in real time in living color, robed in flesh and blood in the lives of real people. If you've ever read you one of those fairytales to your daughter where it's all make-believe before you ever get past the first page or the hero ever shows up becomes foreboding and dark and troubled storm clouds, just kind of gather over the scene while in the fairytale of Ruth and Boaz, which happens to be truth the same storyline emerges. So the background of the story barely gets past the first few lines and it's dark and foreboding clouds begin together. Let's go back to verse one and get a running start. Now it came about in the days when the judges govern that there was a famine in the land and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. Now let's stop there for a moment without a doubt this man.
His wife and his two sons are facing a crisis. That's where thoughts of greener grass usually find their way into our hearts and minds in the middle of a crisis for this man was a famine in the land which affected his hometown of add to that the political crisis of the people during the days of the judges we started our last session together that the collapse of morality, the collapse of civility, the effecting of life, true religious piety. All of that, compounded with living in fear of a Midianite attack. The loss of cattle. Maybe even the loss of your own life and then you you pile on on top of that the investment potential in the land of Bethel have never looked more bleak. And now you add on top of that the very feet of the crisis.
At the very top.
The cupboard is empty. The hayloft is empty cattle are starving, there's a there's a certain irony that's lost to English readers. Upon in the Hebrew language that Jewish readers would have immediately caught the phrases famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem. Next to it that would be upon why because Bethlehem means house of bread. In other words, the breadbasket of Judah is empty.
People who live in the house of bread are going hungry, the original audience would have immediately caught the contradiction in terms. The pond there is a famine in the house of bread that's sort of like talking about him arising in gang warfare in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, the Association of famine with Bethlehem, the breadbasket of Judah would have created in an immediate twist for the reader.
The Bethlehem way, about 6 miles south of Jerusalem and its name house of bread was something it evidently earned wheat I learned barley islands all grapes were plentiful in ancient days, but now there's a famine more than likely it's the famine mentioned in Judges chapter 6 the only famine mentioned during the times of judges which allows us to place this story with the leadership of Gideon and the oppression of the Midianite even more importantly, it helps us understand that this famine is the result of God's judgment, because the people have rebelled against him. God often used famine to bring a nation to their sense of need God's design was was for the people not to leave the house of bread, but to repent, begin again to follow after God and the cycle would come around.
By the grace of God, and he would again fill their houses with bread to eat. God had a way of using famine to refashion faith faith in his promises and his provision. So it was it was something that you can observe as testing of their character and that which would deepen that even more play on word meetings was the fact that they would move to Moab. The Lord called Moab. In Psalm 60 verse 80 wash pot. That was a part used to wash dirty feet that would be akin to calling Moab trashcan where you put things you want to throw away this region was the wastebasket.
So now you have a Jewish family in in a crisis of faith leaving the house of bread and moving to the dumpster. They moved from the breadbasket to the trashcan and the Jewish reader would have immediately picked up on the meanings of these were before we go much further. Let's take a look at the characters in this drama. There are six key players here, but after these opening verses, only three of them will be left alive. Verse two informs us that the patriarch of the family was named Lynn Malec loosely translated his name that God is my King of the tragedy of a Lenox life was simply the heat and live up to his name. Next comes Naomi. Her name means gracious one, and then a Naomi and Lynn Malec's sons sort of make a brief curtain call and their names are male on and killing on. They have rhyming name could have meant that they were twins. More than likely they weren't, they just happen to have a mother probably that one of their children's names to you. No rhyme mothers do. They start with the same letter or the and with the same ending. Or maybe it's like my ministry minded parents. You know this is good for deputation because we would line up in front the church is where we go to Ray supportive. My dad would say no, these are our four sons, Daniel, Jonathan, Steven and Timothy, and then he would say to from the Old Testament to from the New Testament standard that is putting funny but then they couldn't resist.
My mother had to get three of us middle names that started with D's Duane Dean and Dale three days which looked a lot like my report card growing up. I don't know if Naomi had a little paperback book you know with 200 Jewish boys names that rhymed or not. The reason I suggest that even though it's a little tongue-in-cheek. There's actually little seriousness thereto. She must've like rhyming names or she and her husband, because the meaning of their names are not good at all. She must've just like the sound of them male on means puny or weakling and Killian means piling. Imagine their names mean puny and whiny for 2 Boys Way to go. Mom, thank you for giving me that for the rest of my life well read in verse four gives the names of their future wife of their orca or pup means abstinent, literally stiffnecked, lovely name for a girl fairly governor like say that there are no more prison here is anybody name orca so the thought good or pup then finally there's Ruth's name means comfort. Perhaps it could mean friend so here you have Mr. puny marrying Miss strong neck and Mr. whiny marrying Miss friend or comfort. I think that's absolutely electric when you spend 30 hours in your study. Things get funny okay frankly you look at that Ruth is the only one who doesn't quite fit the picture and actually they will all literally live out the meanings of their names, all except for one the only one who should have lived up to his name.
A little like my God is King. God is the master of my life.
God is sovereign, my God comes first.
To me, not quite want to point out one more clue about this family meanings of these names are so freighted with interesting insight. It's in the middle of verse two were told that they were for fights of Bethlehem F. Rest was the name of the wife of Caleb the famous and in fearless comrade of the Joshua.
Remember, according to first Chronicles to 19 Caleb's descendents were the first to settle Bethlehem F for fights were members of a clan. One author said that was actually the first family of Bethlehem.
They were the aristocracy of the town of Bethlehem. They were the leading families.
They had the last name so to speak, that would stop traffic all that to simply underscore the crisis.
This is a riches to rags crisis hitting this family what you have here are our art Rockefellers, living like immigrants you have Vanderbilt's homeless and hungry. So why stay in Bethlehem, where the famine has reduced them and everybody else to handouts there use to a better life and that we can only imagine why stay in the land.
They must've thought.
Why stay in the land of our faith and our forefathers. Let's move where the grass is greener. Then comes the compromise following the crisis.
I have learned in my study that from the ridge of hills on the edge of Bethlehem. You can see into the land of Moab. Moab was situated in such a way that it was well watered by rains that were driven inland by the winds, especially in the wintertime of the Mediterranean Sea Lynn Malec no doubt stood on that ridge overlooking the dry brown grass the parched fields of Bethlehem and he could easily see 50 miles just due east across the Dead Sea. The fertile plane. The green fields of Moab.
Maybe he thought to himself will only go for a short period of time. God won't mind our flight from his land and his people will be a quick visit, just a quick one and that's all you think you might notice the progression of the terms used in these verses. Look at verse one it says that they went to sojourn, that's a verse that refers to a temporary stay.
Then in verse two says they entered Moab and remained there longer then in verse four, you read that rather astounding text that surprising comment that informs us that they have lived there for 10 years, learned from a little lack the danger of green grass is it can easily turn in the quicksand which he would discover the land of Moab. No wonder these first five verses by the way, form the only part of this entire book where God is never mentioned. Once in the narrative like this. The absence of God's name implies the absence of a desire for God's will. This is the only paragraph where the name of God will not appear again. Let's try to slip in his sandals little I could've argued Outlook I'm not going to become a Moabite okay come on. I don't believe in all that stuff and certainly never get offer my children or my grandchildren to keep marsh, the God of the Moabites and enter into their child sacrifices are not in the child sacrifice.
I'm not into idolatry. I would never do that I'd never condoned that I'm not a Moabite. I'm just going to go temporarily. You know for sake. God's word and worship of God delivered Moabites, but just for a little while I'll just live with the Moabites, I will become a Moabite before you know it.
Sometime before his death he is evidently picked out Moabite women for his sons to marry which is really going to compound the issue and without warning, perhaps even to him. The covenant promises of the land and the seed in the prophets in the covenant keeping God no longer mattered. It all just faded away, pursuing greener grass has a way of lowering your spirit to sleep. It's just a temporary compromise. It's just a quick trip. It's just one phone call. It's just one bet.
Just one sip just one personal expense charge to the company account is just one little lie is just one purchase punishes one click of the mouse, but the greener grass soon grows into a wilderness where one can barely see daylight. Perhaps ladies and gentlemen, a little like never intended to return if things worked out. I frankly believe that probably buried in his heart. Either way, the leading patriarch of the leading family in Bethlehem who had scandalized his community by moving to Moab would never return again so to move from the crisis to the compromise to the consequences. Notice how rather suddenly the writer reports the deaths of these men. Verse three then a little like Naomi's husband died just that's a two verses later. Verse five in both male and Killian also died. No explanation no medical diagnosis, just the shocking news that everyone around them in Moab and certainly everyone back in Bethlehem.
This is headline news back in their hometown. Most Jewish writers and evangelical writers as well. Read between the lines and contend that the deaths of of a limo black and his sons were divine judgments upon their unbelief's are like the subtle reference to the New Testament church and the believers in Corinth in first Corinthians that certain church members and died they died early deaths because they approach the Lord's table while at the same time cherishing planning engaging in secret sin prescriptions 1130 is just dropped in suddenly there's no commentary, no explanation, no justification, no ration, just it's there they died, the sons of Allah Malec certainly disobeyed God by not returning. They adopted the faith of their father, or the lack of by not converting their wives to the God of Abraham, Ruth would be converted later after her husband's death by not coming back with their father's body by not caring for the ways of God there early deaths. I would believe as well were judgments for having assimilated into the lifestyle and culture of Moab and would become an example to the people of God.
So the paragraph ends in verse five with Naomi virtually alone.
Notice it simply says the woman was bereft of of her two children and her husband as she alone was left to wonder I'm sure, where did those 10 years ago when to go hat I get here. How did this happen now that she lost everything, let me offer several observations from this scene where we watched the man chase after greener grass observation number 11 sinful decision. Apart from seeking God can lead to more wrong decisions that lead you further and further away from the path of wisdom.
Maybe you're thinking, Stephen. What I do about my sinful decisions I made several of them.
In fact, I'm a believer, but now off the path about a fellowship with Christ by going to die in Moab. Well Jesus Christ can and will forgive every sin you confess and he waits for you. Confess it and for fellowship to be restored. For those of you who believe restoring your fellowship with the father is paramount. For those of you who have yet to believe. Believing will forgive the record of sin against you, and in Jesus Christ happens to specialize in redeeming sinners. I should know, I'm one of them about you, but if you are a believer and you've made some wrong decisions that dishonor God know that true repentance is willingness to own up to those actions and decisions as sinful violations of God's word and will. And that's what John met when he said that we admit our sin, we confess that we say the same thing as someone go we we use the same words as God uses about those action. There are no more loopholes no more excuses. Furthermore, true repentance will take responsibility for consequences. It doesn't push them off on someone else doesn't slip them under the carpet. It doesn't say what somebody else's to deal with it it it it doesn't try to get out of it. True repentance admits it owns up to it and accept the consequences fact consequences that may last for years, but they become God's way of reminding us all of his grace and his forgiveness and his strength to do the right thing and to walk with him now.
Observation number two. Deciding to pursue greener grass rather than the glory of God is the fountainhead of grief five versus what they represent a volume of sorrow don't and grief and it all began with a look and then a longing and then leaving greener grass merrily disguised great grief observation number three greener grass may make a lot of sense but making sense and trusting Christ are two different things altogether times. Greener grass may make great economic sense but bring spiritual laws greener grass might make great personal advancement, but it also might mean tragic spiritual digression but let's put it all on the table, but let's just put it out here where we we all know and understand what's going on. The reason greener grass can make so much sense is because our hearts are selfish and corrupt and our minds are in need of daily renewal and transformation. Romans 12 went into the hearts of every problem is the problem of our hearts. That's the issue we happened to be the greatest obstacle in our lives for godly living. We can make so much sense out of sin, we can make disobedience look look rational and we can explain our way around everything because of our sinful hearts.
Disobedience can make so much so just be aware that making sense and trusting Christ could be two different different things altogether. One more observation famine in the will of God is better than a feast outside the will of God, taken from Naomi here, she would say all have learned that one for sure. One short trip, one temporary stay became a 10 year residence and now look what you have. You have three widows and you have three grades.
But this isn't the end affected it. It merely sets the stage for new beginning, God has a way of taking people to get lost in Moab. The trash dump and setting their feet back on the path to Bethlehem the house of bread, but it will require submission. Naomi and Ruth, and you're already ahead of me and I know that and I feel like I'm pulling back on the reins on this runaway cart Naomi and Ruth are going to experience the grace of God. Why because they will ask for it.
They will pursue it. They will return to the land of the Lord for he will not give it to them in Moab give it to them when they come back to Bethlehem.
God has a way of redeeming wasted years and foolish decisions for those who want him to select Naomi and Ruth. Let's leave the scene with at least remembering that we can enjoy the favor and the fellowship of our kinsman redeemer Jesus Christ if we wanted if we pursue it if we walk toward it. If we embrace it. If we ask for it.
He will not given to us in the trashcan. Leave it own up to it, confess it and he will put our feet back and overhead us back toward the house of bread just like with Ruth God brings redemption, but Ruth will respond to the offer and we must do the same God asks you to respond to his offer today. You're listening to wisdom for the heart. This is the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey Stephen is the pastor teacher of the shepherd's church in Cary, North Carolina. You can learn more about email@example.com. We post all of Stephen's teaching there in both audio and written transcripts. In fact, if you missed a portion of today's lesson you can go online and here the entire thing again. That's wisdom online.org it's always encouraging for us to hear from our listeners, please write and tell us how this ministry is blessing you can send us an email. You address it to firstname.lastname@example.org info@wisdom online.I'm Scott Wiley and I thank you for joining us today will be back next time with another lesson from God's join us, right here on wisdom