By Gloria Li
04 Nov. 2012 Sunday
|Sermon: What Is Your Choice||video||audio||ppt
|Worship song: More Than Amazing||video||audio||lyric|
|Worship song: I Just Want You 你是唯一||video||audio||lyric|
Scripture Reading: Ruth 3:1-18
One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home b for you, where you will be well provided for?
2 Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.
3 Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking.
4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
5 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered.
6 Soshe went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.
7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.
8 In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.
9 “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsmanredeemer.”
10 “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.
11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.
12 Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman- redeemer nearer than I.
13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.”
15 He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Then he went back to town.
16 When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her
17 and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law emptyhanded.’ ”
18 Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”
Good morning everyone, would you join me in a prayer?
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for gathering us together to worship you. Father, we know that the weather outside is cold, but it is warm in our hearts to worship you. Lord, may your name be exalted through our service today. Lord, may you quiet all our hearts so that we can be transformed by you through your Word. Lord, be with us. May your Holy Spirit come upon your servant. May you use your servant to deliver your message what you want to say to all of us here today. Lord, be our center in today’s service. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
My sermon title is “What Is Your Choice?” We need to make decisions every day. For example, today is very cold outside. And when you woke up this morning, you needed to make a decision – “come to church, or stay at home?” It is really cold outside. “What should I decide? Come to church as usual, or stay at home?” I know that today, the number of the congregation is a bit smaller than normal, than last Sunday.
So people have different choices. And also every day we need to decide whether we want to get up early or late. And sometimes, when you attend a party, you need to decide what to wear to that party. So there are many choices like this that we need to decide every day. But those things are not big deals, are they? It is not a big deal for you to choose what to eat for lunch after the English service.
But for some choices we make, they are big deals. They can change our lives totally, and make our lives totally different. For example, someone who studies very hard and enters into Peking University, and someone who enters into work after he or she graduates from high school, their lives might be totally different. And choices like that you decide to marry this person, not that person, can make your life totally different, won’t it?
So if you choose to hate someone who offends you, and then because of your hatred against them, you choose to kill them, and finally you might be arrested and put into prison. But if you choose to love and forgive someone who offends you, you will be set free from your hatred against the offernder. If you choose to believe God and obey God, and know Him, you will do whatever He wants, like taking care of someone who is in need. You will find true joy in God.
So the choices you make about career, marriage, work and religion are all big deals. You will have a totally different life depending on the choices you make. So what is the best choice we should make? What principles should we follow when we make some decisions? Today’s account is about the issue of making choices; and because they make different choices, their lives are totally different.
Review of Ruth Chapter Two
As Larry said last weekend, the account of Ruth happened during the time of Judges. It was a time when there was no king in Israel, and Israelites made all the wrong choices. Those people were chosen by God and they knew God’s laws, but they were not paying attention to them. Their bad choices were made against God and His Word. So it was a dark time in Israel’s history. But the account of Ruth is like a light shining into the darkness, and so it is God’s grace and blessing even in the dark time. Let’s see how the different characters made their different choices in this account, and how they affected their lives and even influenced Israel’s history.
So first, I want to briefly talk about the account of Ruth chapter three. Last week, Larry talked about chapter two of Ruth. We learned that Naomi knew what Boaz had done for Ruth – Boaz allowed Ruth to glean in his fields and offered her some food; he even gave orders to his servants. He said:
“As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, ‘Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.’ (Ruth 2:15-16)”
A Risky Plan
Naomi knows that Boaz is a good man, always caring for the needy. She also knows that Boaz is one of her close relatives. So at the beginning of chapter three, Naomi thinks that she wants to make Boaz and Ruth marry each other later. So, Naomi asks her daughter-in-law Ruth to go to Boaz’s threshing floor, to uncover his feet and lie down there. And Ruth does whatever her mother-in-law Naomi tells her. And we know from the account that Boaz treats Ruth very well.
When we read this account, we might ask, “Why does Naomi ask Ruth to do this, to go to a man’s threshing floor, to sneak in and to lift up the man’s cloak and go in to lie down at his feet in the evening?” From our point of view, it sounds very crazy, “Why could Ruth’s mother-in-law ask her to do this?” Isn’t it crazy? But it comes from Israel’s custom – kinsman redeemer. So I will explain what kinsman redeemer means.
In those days, if a man died, his widow would really be helpless, especially if she did not have any children, who would take care of her when she gets old. And people who were poor would have to sell their lands in order to survive. But God gave them laws and told them that, “when a man dies, a close relative must marry the dead man’s widow, and buy back the lands if they had to sell it. That way the widow would be provided for and still be able to have children. (Leviticus 25:25-31, 47-55; Deuteronomy 25:5-10)”
So we know that in Israel, the kinsman redeemer is the close relative who has the obligation to marry the one whose husband has died; and also the responsibility to redeem the family’s property and the widow by marrying her.
So Naomi is an Israel’s woman, she knew this law; she was very familiar with this law. But was this normal for a woman to go to the threshing floor and lie down at the farmer’s feet? No. Was this a normal way to get a husband in Israel? No. But in this case, none of the male relatives of Naomi was doing what they were supposed to do as the kinsman redeemer, so this is why Naomi asked Ruth to go to the threshing floor of Boaz. By going there and spreading Boaz’s cloak over her, Ruth was requesting Boaz to take responsibility as the kinsman redeemer. That means that he would buy back Naomi’s family property and marry Ruth. Boaz told her he was willing to do that, but first he had to check to see if another closer kinsman redeemer would do it. And Boaz also gave some more grain to Ruth to bring back to Naomi. After Ruth came back from Boaz, and told everything to Naomi. Naomi was very happy and was confident about Boaz and she thought Boaz would follow soon and serve as the kinsman redeemer. So from this story we know, there are three characters, Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.
And as I said in the beginning, this is about the issue of making choices. Now let’s see what choices these three characters have made.
First, let’s see Naomi. Naomi loves Ruth and treats Ruth as her daughter, so she said in the book of Ruth, when she talked to Ruth, she said, “my daughter”, so she loves Ruth very much, and she wants to find a home of care and security for Ruth, so she makes a plan. She watches Boaz and knows that Boaz is a good man. Why is he a good man? Because he is kind, he loves to care for someone who is in need. Even though Ruth is a foreigner, he loves to care for her and allow her go get the barley. So Naomi tells Ruth to make herself as clean and attractive as possible to go to the threshing floor of Boaz and sneak in, lift up his cloak and lie down at his feet.
But when Naomi chooses to do this, why she can do this, is this the key? Yes it is. But why can she make this decision? It is because she chooses to trust God, and obey God’s law and put all the risk in God’s hand. Do you still remember last week, Larry’s topic is “In God’s Hand”? Everything, everyone is in God’s hand, so Naomi puts all the risk into God’s hand. She chooses to trust God and obey God’s laws. Naomi focuses on Ruth before herself; she doesn’t think if Ruth remarries, who will take care of her. What’s result after Ruth remarries? But in the end, when she looks for God and puts everything in God’s hand, what’s the result in the end? Other women said to her,” this daughter-in-law is better than having seven sons, this daughter-in-law is better than having seven kids.”
So let’s look at the second character of the story, Ruth. What’s her choice? Number one is when she decides to go with her mother-in-law to go back to her mother-in-law’s hometown. We know, Naomi has two daughters-in-law, one is Ruth, and the other is Orpah. And when Naomi decides to go back to her hometown, she has no sonand she tells her daughters-in-law,” you can go back to your hometown, I can’t find a husband for you.” But Ruth said to Naomi, “where you will go, I’ll go. Your country will be my country, your God will be my God.”
From chapter one of Ruth we know, another daughter-in-law, Orpah, loves Naomi as well; but because of the different choices they made, Orpah left her mother-in-law and went back to her hometown. But Ruth, this lady of Moab, decided to go where her mother-in-law would go. Her mother-in-law’s God can be her God; Naomi’s country can be her country. I think Ruth can make this decision. As you know, Naomi is from Israel, she knows God, and she believes in God, she trusts God. I think they would talk about God in their family, so Ruth knows God from her mother-in-law and she loves God after she got married. And this is the first choice Ruth made: to go with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem.
The second choice Ruth made is to obey her mother-in-law’s word. We know from chapter three that Ruth does everything Naomi tells her to do; she doesn’t ask why; she doesn’t doubt; she just does it. She doesn’t run after the younger men, but obeys what Naomi tells her to do. I think her obedience to Naomi is based on obedience and faith in God. Because of her decision, a young woman of Moab was chosen by God to become the great grandmother of King David, an ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at the third character of this story, Boaz. As it is just said, Boaz is a kind person, and he loves to care after people who are in need. He chooses to obey God, to obey God’s laws, to obey what God’s laws command. And God’s law in the Old Testament is to care for each other, especially for the people who are in need, who are poor, and who are foreigners. And Boaz did this. He cares for Ruth, even though she is a foreigner. And Boaz did what the laws command him to be a kinsman redeemer, to take the responsibility of a kinsman redeemer.
And also Boaz chose to keep pure. We know Ruth came to him, and lied down at his face. He had the choice to have sexual relationship with Ruth that night. But Boaz chose to say “No, I chose to obey God’s law.” So from these three characters of this story, we know all the choices they make are based on obedience to God.
What is Your Choice?
So dear brother and sisters, what’s your choice? What is your choice? Is your choice based on obedience to our God? And when they make the choice based on obedience and faith in our God, and receive the blessings and grace from God, how can they obey God? Because they know God first. All of these three characters know God, know who God is, know what God’s laws require them to do, what they should not do, and obey them.
So how about us? Do we know God? Do we really know our God’s will for us and for this world? How many hours, how many minutes have you put aside for reading your Bible every day? How many hours and minutes have you put aside to pray to God? How many hours have you put aside for the eternal things, for seeking eternal things? Have you put God in the first place? Do you still remember I gave a sermon called “God as MIP”, God as the Most Important Person. Have you treated God as the most important person in your own life?
Our Decision, Our Obedience
So Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi did. And they could get blessings and grace from God. But when they obeyed God and they trusted God not because they wanted to get blessings and grace form God. It was because they wanted to obey God, they wanted to bless God, they wanted to obey the giver. They did not focus on the blessings and grace, they just focused on God, on the Giver, on the blessings He gave to them.
So this is their heart, so how about us? What is our heart? Have we obeyed God? So I want to encourage you. Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz, they made the decision to trust and obey God. I want to encourage all of us here to make a decision from today. Lord I want to trust you, I want to obey you, I want to make you my number one place in my heart. Lord please help me, I am waiting to be used by you for your gracious plan of salvation for the people in the world. I want to seek your kingdom and righteousness first.
How About Us?
And if we obey God, we will have an outcome like the story here. When they obey God, they care for each other. So how about us? How can we have a specific way to obey God in the following week to care for each other? We can’t care for all the people here. In this room, maybe more than 700 people here. You can’t care for all the people around you, but you can care for some several people in your group. You can do this, you can care for several people as your brothers and sisters, as your family members.
I heard a story from a small group of our English fellowship. They are studying Ruth right now for their Bible study, and when they learned about God’s laws for taking care of the poor, they asked who are the poor and the needy among us? And they collected some money to help an orphanage, then they found that someone in their group is needy, so now they are trying to work together to help him. So how about us? What is our reaction to our God’s laws? How about us to care for each other? Not just care for others by our mouth, by our prayer, but also by our action.
God Cares For You!
So I want to encourage you to make a decision, trust Him, and obey Him. I know some of you here may be in trouble. You may have some disease, you may feel hopeless, you may feel helpless, you may not know the next step, how to go to the next step. But I remember, I want to use a verse to encourage you, to trust him, in 1 Peter 5: 7 says: “Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.” Dear brothers and sisters, our God, our Lord and Savior, he cares for you, he cares for each of us here. No matter if you are Christians or not, no matter your belief is strong or weak. But our God, he is willing to care for you. Trust him, depend on him, rely on him and obey what he has commanded. And if you make this decision, see how God will make your life totally different in the coming days. Let’s pray together:
Dear heavenly father, thank you so much for giving your message, for giving your words. Lord, help us be your servant, and we can make decisions to trust you and obey you, This decision is very important to us. Lord help us be faithful to you, be obedient to you, Lord. Lord, we know we are weak, but we have you. As Apostle Paul said:” you can fulfill the perfect things through our weakness.” Lord, help us be faithful in our spiritual life no matter what the situation we meet, no matter what the situation we are in right now. Lord, help us, no matter what decisions we will make for different things in our own life, no matter it is physical or spiritual. But Lord, let us base our obedience and faith on you. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
May God bless all of us.