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God of the Ordinary

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
August 19, 2020 4:00 am

God of the Ordinary

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 19, 2020 4:00 am

Anyone who’s lost a spouse can empathize with Ruth and Naomi’s plight. Even in their loss, though, God was working in their lives, behind the scenes. Learn how God’s unseen hand guides us in seasons of grief, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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There are few losses more difficult to endure than the loss of a spouse. Anyone who's been through that experience can empathize with the two widows whose stories unfold in the book of Ruth. Although Naomi and Ruth undoubtedly were overwhelmed, God was working behind the scenes. And today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg teaches from Ruth Chapter one versus 19 through 22.

When you read these four chapters, you realize that here we are introduced to a small group of people who are just like the rest of us, dealing with the everyday routines of life.

Now, that ought to be immediately an encouragement to most of us, because despite protestations to the reverse, the fact is that most of our lives are rather humdrum and most of our lives are really quite ordinary. And indeed, on the average Monday morning, when you take the newspaper or when you survey your Internet, that material that is provided from around the globe, you find yourself saying, you know, what am I where am I in the middle of all of this?

Does God even know who I am or where I am?

And furthermore, what possible interest could there be in me? It is a tremendous encouragement to turn to this little book of Ruth and realize that God is in charge of the whole universe, actually knows the names and is interested in the affairs of these ordinary people in the village life of Bethlehem. So the book serves as a necessary correction to our proneness to believe that ordinariness must be the precursor to uselessness. It also is a very important reminder when we are prone to go in search of the unusual and the spectacular.

Here, the story says, God doesn't need you to be unusual and he doesn't need you to be spectacular. He made you you and he put you where you are. And he knows exactly your street number. And he created your DNA. So if you happen to be feeling yourself lost in the universe, take encouragement from the providential care of God in this little story. How might feel I get a theologian writes concerning this. He says. Tell me how lofty God is for you and I'll tell you how little he means to you. That could be a theological axiom. He goes on, The lofty God has been lifted right out of my private life.

If God has no significance for the tiny mosaic pieces of my little life and for the things that concern me, then he doesn't concern me at all. I understand what he's saying. You know, somehow or another championing the idea of our desire to diminish God and all of his grandeur and his above ness. But what he's saying is, is if that is all that you know about God, that he is a great cosmic force, that he is up there somewhere.

And you haven't discovered that he's interested in the music details of your life then, says the Alicea, I don't think you know God at all. That's why there's little book of Ruth is so helpful, because it tells us again and again the interest of God in the lives of these ordinary characters.

Feeling ordinary. Feeling discouraged.

They lost in the scheme of things. Seeing yourself on the way home, why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart seem lonely and long for heaven and home for Jesus as my captain, my constant friend, is he in his eye, is on the sparrow and I know that he watches me.

Here with the vastness of the universe to care for, God takes us at where the telephoto lens of his gaze and he shines it right down on the life of this character, Elimelech. He goes from the concerns of the globe to a certain man actually in the King James it is. And a certain man from Bethlehem in Judah.

Now, Elimelech had done a bunk. If we might put it in a kind of. Poetic phrase, he had left Bethlehem, although it was called the village of Bread or the town of bread. Unfortunately, it had run out of bread.

And so he decides that he will take his wife and the family and they will move off to Moab.

The question is, did he leave with a spirit of discontent ness?

Was he distrustful of a God who would provide? We don't actually know because we're not told. But what we do discover from the rest of the story is that God absolutely overrules even the discontented, distrustful response of a man like Elimelech.

In other words, even when we determined to use our rationale and leave the life of faith behind, God in our humdrum and in the ordinary is still working his purposes. And indeed, the ultimate joy in this family and their place in history emerges from a context that clearly wasn't free of foolish conduct.

Fortunately, God's providence covers even our mistakes.

Now, last time we dealt with the body of a chapter under three words, we noted famine, bereavement return, and in the moments that are left to me now, we'll put it just under one other word. And the word is arrival, arrival, famine, bereavement, return, verse, sex, at least the preparation for it. When they discover that food was back in the region, they would make their way back to Bethlehem. And so they set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. And we noted last time the dialog that then ensued between these two daughters in law to Naomi. One of them are finally turning around and going back to her gods and her culture. And there's other great statement of devotion from this young girl, Ruth, which sends her on her way in the company of Naomi, which is verse 19. The description of the arrival of the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the woman exclaimed, Can this be Naomi? Any hope that Naomi may have had of slipping back into things quietly was immediately scorched. We we're told that their arrival in Bethlehem caused the whole town to be stirred. Those of us who have spent the greater part of our lives living only as city dwellers or in the suburbs may find this very, very hard to imagine. After all, it's difficult for us to see living in a place of some size how it could be that the arrival of two widowed women in their routine of of life would somehow or another create a stir throughout the whole community. But if you have lived any length of time in a small village, you will understand exactly how it happens. As a youngster in Scotland, our family vacations were more often than not in the highlands of Scotland. We would go mostly to a little village called Ballan. Tour was contiguous with two other villages. You came down a hill of Ferne and you arrived in a little fishing port called Shandwick. There was no end to Schenn. We could simply ran into Ballan door. There was no end of balance tour. It simply ran into Hilton. But everybody knew where they lived and the person in Hilton knew they didn't live in Ballon d'Or. And the people that lived in Ballan tour knew they didn't live in Shandwick.

And it was always a great mystery to me that we could come down that hill, make a journey of less than two and a half miles and arrive at a caravan site and be greeted by boys and girls on their bicycle's. They already knew that we had come. Why? Because from the vantage point of their lookout spots, they could see the arrival of any aliens. They could know that a car had come from somewhere that they didn't recognize. And the word passed rapidly through this tiny community. And that's exactly what happens here. They come and suddenly the place is a bus. The people are saying to one another, I believe that Naomi's back. She is. That's who that was. Well, it looks like Naomi said another girl. I didn't think so. She seems a lot smaller than when she left. Has she lost weight? Knows somebody? I don't know. She's lost weight at all, in fact. I mean, I was behind her, but I think she's a little plumper than when she went away.

You say come now. They didn't say things about that. I like that. About Bible characters, did they? Of course they did. This is a business, a group of women having a discussion. Look, if we're gonna study a book that's all about women, you have to allow me one of these a night.

The men are where they should be out in the fields working.

The ladies are where they want to be in the village, gossipy.

Wonder where her husband is. What do Elimelech?

I mean, she went out of here, she had a husband who watching back on her own for where? Her sons. Who's the girl? Oh, I don't know. They say she's a widow, too. She's back. She's a widow. She has a girl, whether she's a widow, who's Dónal?

And then one of them up close. It is you, Naomi, isn't it?

Hey, don't call me Naomi. Why don't you just go ahead and call me Marah?

Well, of course, the only means pleasant and narrow means Vitor.

And I've got to be honest with you and tell you, yes, it's me. And yes, I'm back, but I don't really fit my name. And the journey of my life through these last years has brought me to a position in which I feel such a sense of bitterness and embitterment that for somebody to shout out pleasant, it doesn't make me turn my head. But if you were to shout out bitter.

I may respond.

Quite a, quite a how do you do, isn't it? This is you, Naomi, isn't it? And all of a sudden she jumps down her throat.

Let's be fair to Naomi. Can you imagine that journey back?

And particularly when you get in the precincts of those old familiar haunts.

When suddenly old familiar faces reappear on the other side of the street. And, you know, in an instant, oh, that's Mrs. So-and-so, my. She's changed. And that must be her son's. Look how they've grown. And then round the corner to the park and suddenly a flood of memories. This is where I used to bring the boys. And further down the road to where she and Elimelech walked when they caught in one another and it all gushes over her. I went away, fool.

Look at me now. Hey, don't call me pleasant. Call me bitch. They'd be a better name for me right now.

I'll tell you why, she says. I'll tell you why. Because Shaddai. The Almighty.

Has made my life very bitter.

This is a level of honesty that we don't often encounter, isn't we start back in verse 13, which he tried to dissuade the girls, our daughter in laws from coming with her. She says, listen, my daughters is more bitter for me than for you. The explanation, because the Lord's hand ya ways and has gone out against me.

I actually I'm really drawn to this character, Naomi, now. She'd gone on my buddy list. You know, I would like to. I am good. Because we would have a lot to talk about. She doesn't hide her feelings, right? What you see is what you get. Don't call me this. Call this. She doesn't pretend that she isn't ticked because she is angry.

There is no attempt on her part to sweep all of these experiences of life aside and play the part of the stoic with a stiff upper lip. Oh, yes, I'm back and everything is fine. Nor is there any endeavor on her part by means of false affirmations to try and make everybody believe that not only is all well, but she feels that everything is well.

If she were to have done any of the above, then she would have been less than honest. And secondly, she would have betrayed the theology which underpinned her expression of faith in the midst of the dark side of Providence, for that's where she'd been living, where. Cowper calls it a frowning providence. It was no surprise that when inversed 13, she said what she said about the Lords and going out against her. The women wept. Says one commentator, let the women's tears remind us of the importance of not hiding our feelings or pretending that they're not there. But you see, Naomi's experience reminds us. That some pains, quite frankly, seem unbearable. There's some circumstances seem unjust and some questions through all of our lives remain unanswered. It is in the humdrum and ordinariness of life that we make that discovery. The language with which he makes this expression in verse 21, I went away for the Lord, brought me back empty is actually this fool. I went. But empty brought me back your way. I mean, it's absolutely clear in our mind. I had a husband. I had children. I had a future. I had hopes. I had dreams. I had I had the expectation of all this new and wonderful opportunity. And I went away for.

And here I am. And yes, it is Naomi, but as I say, I don't fit my name.

But look at that, how I just draw this to a close here, look at how our honesty is more than matched by her theology.

She doesn't attribute these dreadful things in her life to chance. It's in L.A., it's only that God-Fearing person who has any problem with pain. The atheist shouldn't make any comment about pain. What is the atheist have to say about pain?

If there is no God, it is a chance universe and things just rumble and tumble along.

What do they have to say about pain? What do you mean? Where is God in the midst of this? You have no God. You've nothing to say.

Is the God fearing who has a predicament?

For now, we have said that this God controls everything by his sovereign power. He creates and by his providence, he sustains.

And so now I lost my two boys. Now I've lost my husband.

Now I've made a hash of this. I on to blame this on. You see how our theology.

Shaddai, the providing the protecting God, Alec Matear says this is the characteristic of God that may be summarized as the God who is at his best when man is at his worst. What it should I mean, it means that God's at his best when we're at our worst. And that's the framework within which she deals with her pain.

The Lord is afflicting me, verse 21, the almighty has brought misfortune upon me. I've gone through famine. I've gone through bereavement. I've gone through partings. I've gone through questionings. I've gone and lived in apparent hopelessness. But I know God as Shaddai.

And so I can leave the explanation and the responsibility for this bitterness with him.

You see why theology is so important. You see why a knowledge of God and his dealings is the key. When the when the waves hit and when the wheels come off the wagon and when everything goes haywire on us, what are we going to do in that day?

She would've been glad to sing the song through it all, through it all. I've learned to trust in Jesus. I've learned to trust in God. I've learned to depend upon his word.

And then verse 22, the narrator returns.

Draws the chapter to a close with perfect symmetry. I love the way the whole thing ties together. Not any point would be thrilled with this notice. First one in the days when the judges ruled there was a famine. And the man from Bethlehem went to more at verse 22. They came back from Moab to Bethlehem and the harvest was beginning. It's so wonderful.

What a great story.

Full circle. Finally, Bethlehem is living up to his name. The house of bread has bread and.

As I've read this again this week, it's just been it's been like a movie in my mind. And I've had my own theme music playing in my head, I would sing it for you, but it would probably clear the building faster than the fire alarm. But it has all been element to this point. Part of it has been played by a lone bagpiper. All of the cinematography has been shot through a lens that makes everything just slightly gloomier than it would otherwise be.

But now, as it comes to the narrator's voice coming up on this closing scene in verse 22, the music is just about to change just ever so slightly.

And what it does is it just changes from a minor key to a major key. Just there's a little there's an inkling of it. And then it goes back and then it comes again. And just suddenly there is a shaft of light that comes down through the clouds and it hits on the barley fields. You just get a long shot away out from the village. And there you see some of these men out in the barley fields and somehow the clouds of parted. And there's an inkling that there's a future beyond Chapter one, that there's something about to take place, that the narrator is telling us that this more bright girl has a future, that there's something about the dawn, there's something about to break.

Because when God is at work, even a hopelessness. Maybe the doorway to fresh starts and to new opportunities.

And so the music picks up and it doesn't become a jig, but it certainly moves that far.

Lifting the spirit of the reader. Saying, well, this Naomi, who still trusts even in the bitterness. I wonder what's going to happen to it. And I wonder what part God has for Ruth. I wonder if she'll get remarried.

Oh, I don't think I'll fall asleep.

I think I read Chapter two. Have you seen God in the ordinariness of your life? Have I?

Are we've fallen into the trap of believing this somehow or another, God only operates in this spectacular and in the extraordinary. And so we're going through day after day after day looking for something spectacular and something extraordinary and missing the fact that God is speaking in the ordinariness of everything.

In a bowl of apples, on a table, in a meal, well prepared.

In a bird, on a feeder, in a garden. In a conversation with a friend in the backyard.

Although he has a whole universe to care for, he turns his gaze on a certain man or a certain woman in Cleveland, Ohio.

And he says, I know your name. And it is graven on the palms of my hands.

And although you feel yourself cast a vote on a universe that is going who knows where? As surely as I took Naomi off and brought her back. I'm looking after you, too.

Don't miss him in the moon as it shines through the clouds.

In these simple gestures, God is sustaining and guiding his children.

Until at last, he will dispel all the darkness. He will dispel all the darkness.

A comforting reminder from the Old Testament book of Ruth. You're listening to Truth for Life. And Allaster Begg has titled today's message God of the Ordinary. If you listen regularly to Truth for Life, this message may have sounded familiar. That's because we aired it earlier this year. We're revisiting it today as part of a series called Oncor 20/20. You may know you don't have to wait until Oncor to hear your favorite messages again. Each program is available on your mobile app or on our Web site. You can browse through all of Alistair's teaching whenever you like. And we are so grateful for the faithful listeners who support this program because it's those gifts that enable us to make these messages available free of charge. When you donate today, we'd like to express our thanks with a compelling book by respected pastor and theologian Sinclair Ferguson. The book is titled Maturity Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life.

Beginning with the biblical definition of maturity, Sinclair Ferguson provides an overview of the path to spiritual growth, reminding us of the blessings that are ours in Christ as well as the challenges and pitfalls we're likely to face along the way. Request your copy of maturity when you give online at Truth for Life.

Dot org slash donate or call eight eight eight five eight eight seven eight eight four.

I'm Bob Lipin. Hope you can join us Thursday for another message from the Book of Ruth as we continue on Core 2020, the Bible teaching of Allaster Begg is furnished by Truth for Life.

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