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Empty Cupboards, Empty Stomachs Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
June 18, 2021 1:00 am

Empty Cupboards, Empty Stomachs Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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June 18, 2021 1:00 am

It’s been said that if all the tears people ever cried could be gathered up, they’d fill an ocean. Sorrow comes to all of us. Life does have joys, and some people think that’s all it should have. But God also allows tears, because through tears we learn to depend on God for every breath, every bite of food, and every dollar in our wallets. In this message we hear a story of God’s provision.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Life does have joys, but some think that's all it should have. God brings tears as well, because through tears we learn to depend on God for every breath, every bite of food, and every dollar in our wallets. Today, a story of famine and crisis and how God met a woman's needs. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, today you'll speak on Empty Stomachs, Empty Arms. Where did this title come from? Well Dave, I chose that title as I was thinking about the life of Naomi.

What a remarkable story. She and her husband leave Bethlehem. Now Bethlehem in Hebrew means the house of bread, but there's a famine in the house of bread. And of course, as we know, she goes to Moab and then eventually Ruth, her daughter-in-law, comes back. But Naomi is very bitter, angry at God.

She comes back without a husband, her two sons died in Moab, and now she is empty-handed. But it's what God does as a result of that that is such a blessing to us. And I believe that this series of messages will be a blessing to you. For a gift of any amount, these messages can be yours. Here's what you do.

Go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now I'm going to be giving you that contact info at the end of this message because I want you to listen carefully as we walk through the life story of a woman who experienced grief and sadness and even anger and how God blessed her in the end. All of us, I think, realize that the economy is a very important part of our lives, especially when we live here in America where all of our jobs and the economy is interrelated, not only among ourselves but the whole world. If there's anything that Nazi Germany proved, it is this that people will do anything, almost anything, in order to live. If there are soup lines in Berlin or in Eisleben or Munich, people were willing to give up their freedoms, freedom of assembly, freedom of press.

They were willing to give all of that up in exchange for life itself. One of my concerns as we think about our own economy and people who are going through a hard time financially, one of my concerns is for the children as to how they survive. The Sun Times had an article some time ago detailing the stress on children during times of financial downturns.

The bottom line, as you might already guess, is simply this, that when the parents are stressed, and sometimes it is only a single mother, when the parents are stressed, the children are also stressed. And what a burden many of these young ones bear. Today we're going to look at a famine that took place in the times of the Old Testament, and we're going to learn some lessons and hopefully at the end of the day you'll see God in your trial, God in your famine, God in your downturn, God in your situation. If we can accomplish that by the Holy Spirit, and of course only the Spirit can do it, listening to this message will have been eminently worthwhile. I'm going to ask you to take your Bibles and turn to the book of Ruth. Ruth is a little book that occurs after the book of Judges, and it actually is page 223, 222 if you're using a Bible that is available to you, if you just happen to have forgotten your personal one at home.

We encourage you very strongly bring your Bible, underline it, see what the text has to say, and now we begin. It says in Ruth chapter 1 verse 1, in the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land. Judges during this period of time, everybody doing what is right in his own eyes, no central government, no leadership, everybody fending for themselves, a bad situation to raise a family, to raise children. And here's a family that we are introduced to, and there is a famine in the land. You have to see the irony here because actually the famine is in Bethlehem and its surrounding area, and the name Bethlehem means house of bread, beit, which means house, and then lechem, which is bread, beit lechem. So there's a famine in the house of bread, just like some of you thought that if you made the move that you believed God wanted you to make, that somehow you'd have more money, more prosperity, more whatever, but there's a famine right in the house of bread. If you know Bethlehem, it is actually built on a plateau, and along the sides, the terraces, there they could grow olives and they could grow figs, and then in the valleys, huge barley fields. But now a man by the name of Amalek looks around to see some of his sheep die, does not know how long the famine is going to last, so he and his family decide to move. If your first vision is the vision of a famine, let the second picture in your mind that I'm trying to paint, let the second one be a little family moving from Bethlehem to Moab.

Now we pick up the text and you'll notice that they chose to relocate. It says a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab. He and his wife and his two sons, the name of the man was Amalek, and the name of his wife was Naomi, and so they go to Moab. One of the questions that you might ask is this, why did they leave and nobody else seems to have left Bethlehem, but they did.

Possibly the reason is because they were upper class. I say that because you'll notice it says they were Ephrathites. This is verse two. You see, before Bethlehem was called Bethlehem, it was Ephrata. That's why the prophet Micah spoke of it that way. And everybody who lived lived in the area, but the expression implies that they'd been there for generations.

They were people who had planted their roots deeply in that area of the world, their ancestors had. Very probably they had more wealth, if we can put it that way, than the common person in Bethlehem. Because you know it is true, isn't it, that famines strike the rich much harder than the poor. So far as the poor are concerned, things are always tough. It can't really get any worse, whether there's a famine or whether there isn't a famine. Poverty is poverty and you just learn to cope. But those who are wealthier, they have to reinvent their lifestyle. They have to scale down.

It can be very difficult for them to do so. But if you have nothing, then you have nothing. I'm reminded of a story I like to tell about a man who is going to spend two weeks in a monastery. And the head of the monastery took him to his room and said this is your room. The room was entirely bare. Not a single thing, not a pillow, not a chair, obviously not a bed. And then the leader of the monastery said this, now this is your room. He said if you need anything, you come and see me and I will teach you how to live without it. Well, you know, when you're poor you just learn to live without it. But when a family makes a decision like this, it's huge. Because a decision that you make is going to impact who your children are going to marry, all kinds of consequences.

When Rebecca and I chose to come to the United States so many years ago, in a sense that determined who our daughters would marry, etc. And that's the way it was going to be in Moab. Now the Moabites had their own gods. And they were of a different religion.

They were pagans basically. And I can imagine that Emilech and his family said we're going to be there just for a short time. And then we're coming back. Hopefully the famine will have resolved itself in Bethlehem.

That was the plan. It's not exactly the way in which it worked out. So now if you are continuing to have the imagination in your mind of what's happening, now tragedy strikes.

And you have to visualize three funerals. You'll notice it says that Emilech, verse 3, and the husband of Naomi died. Many people think that that was some kind of a judgment from God, but we don't know that.

All that we can read is he died for whatever reason. Well, Naomi decided to stay in the land. Her roots were deep enough there. She was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives. The name of one was Orpah. And did you know, of course, you all know that Oprah Winfrey, this was supposed to be her name, but someone on the birth certificate put the R on the other side of the letter P, and that's how come we have Oprah rather than Orpah. Well, that was one, and the name of the other was Ruth.

They lived there about ten years. And then, add two more funerals to your mind, the sons died, and now instead of one widow, there are three widows in the land. And then after the ten-year period was over and the sons died, Naomi hears that there is bread in Bethlehem. The famine was over. By the way, who caused that famine? You know, the Bible says that God calls for famines. Maybe I'll have an opportunity to expound on that in another message, but God causes them. In fact, in 2 Kings chapter 8 verse 1, Elisha says God is going to call on a famine in the land and it's going to last seven years because God has multiple purposes for financial downturns and multiple purposes for famines, some of which we'll see in a few moments. So she hears that things are better in Bethlehem, and so the three of them begin to go toward Bethlehem, maybe 60 miles away, so they travel several days.

But now we have a remarkable story. Naomi is trying to convince her two daughter-in-laws to go back to Moab. Don't come with me all the way.

Go back home. She's saying, I'm too old to bear you sons that you would be able to marry. What's going on there in the text? Is it because Naomi doesn't love these two daughter-in-laws? Yes, she does, but in those days if you weren't married, you basically had nothing, no guarantee for existence. And so what she was saying is if you go back to your own people, you'll have an opportunity to marry.

But she says, even if I got married now, she says, there wouldn't be any possibility of me having two sons that you'd be able to marry. And then she says in verse 13, know my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter for me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me. Well then they lift up their voices and they weep.

Orpha kisses her mother-in-law, but Ruth clings to her. And Naomi says, go back to your own gods, verse 19. And then we have one of the most beautiful statements in all of scripture. When Rebecca and I were married, this was part of our marriage vow, and I believe I've used this verse every single time that I have ever performed a wedding.

Could it get more beautiful than this? Ruth said to her, do not urge me to leave you or to return from following after you. For where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. And where you die, I will die and be buried.

Wow. And when Naomi saw that Ruth continued to cling to her, she didn't say anything more to her. And she and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem. And now we pick up the story. Verse 19, so the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem.

And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, is this Naomi? And she said to them, do not call me Naomi. Call me Mara. For the almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

I went away full and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? Which by the way means pleasant. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has testified against me and the almighty has brought calamity upon me? Call me Mara. Call me bitter.

But don't call me pleasant. It's a very interesting story. And what I'd like to do is to give some lessons that we will learn about famines from the text. And then at the very end of the message, I'm going to tell you why this book was written and what the real lesson is for all of us.

Thanks for joining me on this brief journey. I think that one of the lessons that comes to us from the text is that we should, in the midst of trials, rediscover the value of family. You say, well, why do you say that?

Where are you seeing this in the text? I find it very interesting that Naomi said, I, verse 21, I went away full and the Lord brought me back empty. And I want to say, Naomi, what's going on here? You left full? I thought the reason that you went to Moab is because you were hungry. You had an empty stomach. You had very little to take with you. And now you're saying you left full. Well, if we could interview Naomi, I have no doubt that what she would say is, I left full because when I left, I had a husband and two sons. And that husband and those two sons were of much more value to me than going to a country to try to get bread.

I was full and I didn't know it. Isn't that true in times of need? We recognize that the most important thing about us is really our families. Tragedies should drive us to one another and to realize how valuable it is.

If you have a family, and some of you don't, and I'll speak to that in a moment, but if you have a family during a time of crisis, you have to value one another and hang together. I have received letters from men who made investments without their wife's knowledge and have lost money. And then from somebody else who got his wife's consent with a little bit of coercion, but blew their entire retirement on a plan that he thought would bring money, but of course it didn't. And that one ended in divorce. What a tragedy.

See, that's the thing. When famines come, lose more arguments, more turfism, what ought to really happen is the opposite. My counsel to this man who wrote me a letter and told his story was you have to humble yourself.

You have to confess to your wife that you made a bad decision no matter how well intentioned. Families need to humble themselves and to acknowledge that they need one another and learn to live and value one another all over again when times are hard. Rebecca and I have been to the Soviet Union and to Romania. And I tell you, we have been in little apartments where you have a kitchen that is so small that two wives can't be in it at the same time. One has to back out to let the other in. And yet in these small little hovels, you have two families living, sometimes three.

And we wonder, how can they do it? By the way, and I'll mention this in another message when I talk about the ultimate collapse that is going to happen probably during the tribulation period. But one of the things that God does during hard times is to expose our consumerism and our need to live large. And he brings us down to a level of commitment and valuing those around us. Did you know that 28 percent of all college students now live with their parents because of our economic challenges here in America? People have to rediscover family. If you have a family, you are full.

Even if you're going through a hard time. There's another lesson that we must learn and that is we discover the value of community, the value of community. Now I'm summarizing here, but Naomi and Ruth, they come back to the land. Naomi somewhere finds a place to live, I'm sure. And Ruth goes out in the fields. She's willing to do anything. She goes out to the fields and she in the field is gathering grains that have been left over from the reapers and now develops a romance because a man by the name of Boaz who is of the family of Elimelech, he notices her and he says some very beautiful things.

He finds out who she is and verse 8 of chapter 2, Boaz said to Ruth, now listen my daughter, don't go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping and go after them. Have not I charged the young men not to touch you?

And when you're thirsty, go and drink, et cetera. And he says in verse 12, the Lord repay you for what you've done and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel under whose wings you have come to take refuge. Well, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer. Whatever you do, make sure to join us on Monday when this message will be completed. You have to hear how this story ends.

It is remarkable. There was a reason why Naomi in the midst of her grief and in the midst of her anger, how God blessed her and she did not know why all the tragedies in her life happened. That will become clear next time. But for today, I need to say that this message, these messages, I should say, famines, deserts and other hard places are available to you for a gift of any amount. What you can do is to play them again and again because you're going to be encouraged. You can share them with your friends. We make these resources available to help you in your Christian walk. We're very concerned to talk about the issues that relate to us and know how to respond to circumstances that oftentimes are very destructive and beyond us.

So ask for famines, deserts and other hard places. For a gift of any amount, these messages can be yours. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com.

Or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337. And remember to listen on Monday so you'll better understand how the story ends and we'll see God's providence along the way. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Sometimes guilt outlives those with whom that guilt originated.

Bert listens to Running to Win and is in this predicament. How can I make restitution for something when the person I owe it to has passed away? And also, a store that I stole goods from no longer exists. Bert, I do have an answer for you because during the days when the Holy Spirit of God was working mightily in a revival movement in Western Canada, many people faced the dilemma that you have brought to my attention. What they did is they gave conscience money so that if you stole something from a store and the store no longer exists or the person that you stole it from, you cannot reconcile with them or they may be gone, they may be dead. What you do is you take this money and you give it to the Lord. You give it on an offering plate and you say, Lord, this is conscience money, I am restoring it. And that's the best that you can do and then you move on from there. You can't redo the past, you can't bring the dead back to life, but what you can do is to simply acknowledge before the Lord that you're making it right to the extent that you can.

God will bless you and God will honor you as a result. Some very wise counsel from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. The media says having more is what life's all about, but having less can be a greater blessing, reaching out to those around you because you have to. Family and community mean much more when tough times come. Next time, more lessons from the life of Ruth. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-02 23:52:08 / 2023-11-03 00:00:48 / 9

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