I’m back this week to continue our study on The Book of Ruth with Pastor Steve Wilson. We’ve already learned massive insight into…
In this fourth lesson of the series (August 13, 2017 – “Grace”) we take a look at two types of grace that God uses to get our attention, bring us to repentance and draw us closer to Him. You would be wise to follow along and see if you can become an efficient grace-spotter in your life. It may be harder than you think………especially if you are like Naomi.
Zechariah 1:2 is a good example of where God is expressing anger over disobedient sin and giving instruction for the listener to return to Him on the heels of a great destruction. God is always looking for restoration through a sinner’s repentance; whether it’s a people group or a single person.
So far we know that the famine we see in chapter one of the book of Ruth is God’s discipline for all of Israel. He wanted them to stop worshiping other gods and return to their love for Him. Naomi and her family run to the forbidden Moabites for food and safety. Shortly after they arrive, Naomi’s husband and two sons die; leaving behind Naomi, Ruth and a second daughter-in-law. Ruth and Naomi travel back to Bethlehem when the famine ends and Naomi’s grief turns into the sin of self-pity for all to see.
In Genesis 50:20 Joseph tells his brothers who sold him into slavery and years of horrible events, that all of his trauma was for good even if his brothers meant it for evil. Naomi could have used a little of Joseph’s perspective for sure.
In John 12:24 Jesus illustrates for us how grace is woven into the reality of death, loss and suffering for us in this life. Out of death comes life; like the fruit that springs forth from a seed that has died…all of nature declares it so.
Even Romans 8:28 declares that God causes all things (even the bad) to work together for our own good. It’s those times in our lives, when things are going contrary to what we’d really prefer, that we can know God is acting to produce repentance in our lives. I bet you have tons of examples every day, week, month and year when things were going contrary to your preference. That was God………did you miss it? I know I did. Naomi did.
She didn’t see that the famine was a grace of God to produce repentance and a closer relationship with God. She didn’t see that she and her family were given the grace of acceptance, food, shelter and work in the land of their enemies. She didn’t see the grace of her sons finding good wives and the subsequent love and deep commitment directed at her; especially by Ruth.
Discipline and Kindness Flowing Side by Side
Paul says in Romans 2:4 that kindness also leads to repentance. Two different tactics are able to produce repentance and lead a person back to the Father; discipline and kindness. We see both at play in the very first chapter when God gets the news to Naomi that the famine was over and the barley harvest was happening back in Bethlehem. This grace came to Israel even though they had not yet changed their ways. Why did God do this? Psalm 37:1-40 answers by telling us how the righteous are never forsaken.
“Do you struggle seeing grace where you see sin? If you do, where do you expect to find grace? That’s were it’s at. It lives right there in the middle of that sin; always calling you to return, always calling you to repent.”
God, the Grace-Full Photo-Bomber
The greatest grace of all in this story is that God showed Himself to Ruth, a woman from the outcast Moabite tribe. She commits to serve Naomi’s God and make Him her own. If we could lay picture moments of Ruth’s life out, where would we see the kindnesses? Where would we see the disciplines? God was surely photo-bombing those grace-filled pictures all along for a greater purpose; the lineage of King David and Christ Himself.
Ruth, being from an enemy tribe, would not have been ignorant to the extreme cost of trying to integrate into the people of Israel. She would have, at best, been an immediate outcast and, at worst, been unable to survive on her own had Naomi died. The language, the food and the culture in general would have been untenable for her alone.
Ruth had real faith running through her, real grace working in her, and had fully counted the cost of her commitment to God. We see this example as exceptional but it should not be the exception! If right now you do not see your life as connected to God as Ruth’s life, then you need to stop and open up that photo book of your life and take stock of all the God-given graces that have just slipped your notice. List them. Give thanks for them all.
Where is the work of God’s grace (kindness) in your life?
The sweet, gentle moments where you can find good.
Where is the work of God’s grace (discipline) in your life?
The uncomfortable moments that are contrary to what you’d prefer.
Even if you just started listing the graces from one 24-hour period, you’d have a page full of graces. No one can exist even a moment without God’s grace. There is no moment of your day that you can say, “there is nothing good happening or bad happening”. There is no living-limbo. You are breathing by grace. You are aging by grace. You have an opportunity to die by grace and with God’s grace you can have the faith to live anew, in perfection with Him forever.
The day you were born-again (justified) was not the day you were let off the hook for God’s disciplining hand (the hard times). It was the day He opened your eyes and your heart so that you could be thankful for all the graces, no matter the form that they are born out of. If these graces don’t begin to humble you into thanksgiving, then you have lost sight of the price that had to be paid (mercy) for your place in the family of God. Don’t despair. God will, without your prodding, continue to heap grace upon you and awaken your mind to Him.
It’s my intention to continue to bring you the best bits and pieces of God’s word taught at Grace Community Church. Don’t miss out on future issues! Please subscribe to Views From The Pew.