Sermon #5 Ruth Series:
Title: “Change And Decay In All Around I see”
Text: Ruth 1:19-22
Subject: Contentment with God’s providence
Date: Tuesday Evening - May 4, 1993
“Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day,
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around (me) I see -
Thou who changest not, abide with me!”
I once heard Bro. Scott Richardson say, “Life in this world ain’t much. It begins with a slap on the bottom and ends with a shovel full of dirt in your face, and there ain’t much in between except bumps and bruises.” Certainly, Naomi would agree with Bro. Scott. (Read Ruth 1:19-22).
Naomi was a true believer, once highly esteemed in Bethlehem, a woman of wealth and influence. But during a time of famine she left her country with her husband and her two sons. When Elimilech and Naomi might have used their riches to relieve great need, they chose to hang on to their money and leave their people. But things changed in a hurry. After ten years’ absence, Naomi returned from Moab bereaved and destitute. She had lost her husband and her two sons, her money and her property. She came back to Bethlehem with nothing but the ragged clothes on her back and a daughter-in-law who was as poor and destitute as she was. How quickly things change! When Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, as she walked down the streets, broken, weary, ragged, and worn with age and trouble, the whole town was astonished by what they saw. They said to one another, “Is this Naomi?” The withered rose is so much unlike the blooming flower that the one bears only a faint resemblance to the other; and Naomi was so unlike the woman who left Bethlehem ten years earlier that her friends could hardly believe it was her - “Is this Naomi?”
The afflictive hand of Divine Providence makes great changes, sometimes shocking changes, in a short time.
May God the Holy Spirit be our Teacher as we meditate tonight on this woman’s trials and troubles, trials and troubles which she ascribed to the hand of God.
1. Naomi stands before us as a picture of the fall of our race in Adam.
2. Naomi here represents the changing circumstances of life in this world.
3. What should our attitude be when we see great changes in the lives of our friends or experience great changes in our own lives by the providence of God?
I. CERTAINLY, NAOMI STANDS BEFORE US IN THIS TEXT AS A PICTURE OF THE FALL OF THE HUMAN RACE IN ADAM (vv. 20-21).
If we could get some idea of Adam’s condition and circumstances in the Garden of Eden, as God made him, we would look in the mirror every morning and say, “Is this Adam? God made us full, but now we are empty!” (Eccles. 7:29).
Illustration: “I’ve seen better days!”
A. God made man in his own image and after his own likeness (Gen. 1:27). In the beginning, Adam was full!
· He was righteous.
· He was spiritual.
· He was smart.
· He was powerful.
· He was peaceful.
B. But Adam sinned, and we sinned in him - Oh, how great was the fall of man! (Rom. 5:12).
1. We all bear greater resemblance, by nature, to the devil than to God (Matt. 15:19).
2. Now we are empty!
· No righteousness, only sin!
· Not spiritual, but carnal!
· Not wise, but foolish!
· No longer strong, but weak!
· “No peace!” “Without peace!” “Without God!”
C. The only remedy for this lost, ruined condition is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:14-16).
When Naomi had lost everything, she returned to Bethlehem, she returned to her God and his people. Even so, sinners who have lost everything in Adam must return to the Lord God by faith in Christ Jesus. When Naomi returned to Bethlehem, she came home to God.
1. Bethlehem means “House of Bread.”
In the house of God there is always “bread enough and to spare.” And there is always a warm welcome in the Father’s heart for returning prodigals.
2. The word Judah means praise - Bethlehem-Judah was the Place of Praise.
Naomi and Ruth came out of the place of sorrow and suffering, out of the place of death and despair into the place of praise.
The Mercy-Seat is the Place of Praise. There God meets with sinners and declares that they are forgiven. That Mercy-Seat is Christ (Heb. 9; 1 John 2:2).
3. Bethelehm-Judah was The Place of God, the place of His Presence, His Power, His Protection, His Promise, His Provision. That is what Christ is to all who trust him. He is our Divine Refuge (Prov. 18:10).
II. In this text NAOMI ALSO REPRESENTS THE CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE IN THIS WORLD.
What changes occur in this world! Every day something new happens that either elevates or depresses our spirits.
A. We rejoice in favorable changes.
Naomi had been through some hard times. But things were about to get much better. Even in this vale of tears there are some joys that must not be overlooked or taken for granted.
· The maturity of our children.
· The prosperity of our friends.
· The conversion of lost friends and relatives.
B. But our text is not talking about favorable changes. The changes Naomi had experienced were afflictive, trying changes, changes that are hard to endure.
Though her friends appear to have been terribly disturbed by Naomi’s great losses, she was composed. She resigned herself to the will of God. She speaks honestly, but not scornfully of the Lord’s dealings with her (vv. 20-21).
1. Naomi had endured a very sorrowful trial.
She went out full. At least, she thought she was full. After all, she had everything the world could offer.
· A strong, respected husband.
· Two healthy sons.
· Great wealth - Financial security.
But she came home empty!
a. The fulness of this world is soon gone (Eccles. 1:2-3; 1 Sam. 2:3-5).
b. There is a fulness that can never be taken away (Lk. 10:42).
2. Naomi acknowledged the hand of God in all her troubles.
She said, “The Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me.” “The Lord hath brought me home again empty!” (See 1 Sam. 2:6-8).
a. Nothing will give your soul peace and satisfaction in the time of trouble like the acknowledgment of God’s hand in your troubles.
· Job (Job 1:21).
· Eli (1 Sam. 3:18).
b. The One by whose hand Naomi had been afflicted and by whose hand she had been brought home was, “The Lord, the Almighty!” El-Shaddai!
· God of the Covenant (Gen. 17:1).
· God All-Sufficient.
· God Almighty.
3. Naomi acknowledged the pain she had felt and still felt by reason of her long trial.
She said, “The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” The cup of affliction is a bitter cup. Though it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness in the end, it is not joyous, but grievous in the experience (Heb. 12:11).
· Job 13:24-26
· Lamentations 3:15-17
4. Naomi also acknowledged that the Lord God had dealt with her sharply because she had given him reason to do so. She said, “The Lord hath testified against me.” “He doth not afflict willingly” (Lam. 3:33).
God had a controversy with her, so he laid the rod to her back that he might retrieve her heart (Job 5:17-18).
5. Naomi humbly submitted to and acquiesced in the will of God.
She said to her friends, “Call me not Naomi (Sweetness), call me Mara (Bitter): for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me!”
God will do what ever must be done to correct his erring children and turn their hearts to him again. How many illustrations we have in the Scriptures. Naomi is but one.
· Naomi lived in Moab for 10 years.
· Lot lived in Sodom a long, long time.
· Samson did not lose his hair the first time he laid his head in Delilah’s lap.
· David spent a full year without communion with his God.
He says, “Give me thine heart.” And if your are his, he will see to it that you give him your heart.
III. WHAT SHOULD OUR ATTITUDE BE WHEN WE SEE GREAT CHANGES LIKE THIS IS THE LIVES OF OUR FRIENDS OR EXPERIENCE THEM OURSELVES IN GOD’S GOOD PROVIDENCE?
Let me briefly give you these closing words of exhortation. May God the Holy Spirit seal to our hearts this portion of his Word by making it beneficial to our souls and by making us useful to one another.
A. When you see one of God’s people suffering great adversity, be kind, gracious, and sympathetic, even when you know they have brought the trouble upon themselves (Eph. 4:32; Gal. 6:2).
1. Relieve them if you can.
2. Love them if you can’t relieve them.
3. Receive them when they return - 70 times seven!
B. When the Lord God fills your cup with bitterness, seek by his grace to be content, even when you are made to suffer adversity (Phil. 4;12).
Illustration: Jan Bonar - “Fade, fade each earthly joy!”
The man who lost two sons - “Borrowed jewels.”
1. Trust God’s providence; he knows how to turn your bitter waters into a fountain of sweetness.
Illustration: Naomi was bettered by her bitter cup.
2. Set your heart upon the world to come (2 Cor. 4:17-5:1).
a. We are unworthy of the least of God’s mercies.
b. The Lord God has done great things for us.
c. All things are ours.
d. Eternal glory and eternal happiness await us.
3. The Lord knows exactly what he is doing (Rom. 8:28).
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
With blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own Interpreter
And He will make it plain.