Our service was led by Alan Davison, from Carmarthen Evangelical Church, who preached from Ruth chapter 1. Alan began by telling us about Thomas Scott, an eighteenth century preacher who joined the clergy for a living at a time when being a preacher was a good career path. He became curator of two parishes in the Midlands, although he was an unbeliever at the time. He was well-known for denying many doctrines of the Bible, preaching was just a career for him. He avoided his parishioners. Even so, one day he heard there was a dissenter preaching nearby. Some of his people were going to hear this man preach so Thomas Scott went along. He was confused by what he heard. He later learned that the dissenter was visiting his parishioners. The audacity of the man! So Thomas Scott started a written dialogue to put him straight. The man didn’t argue but witnessed about what Christ had done in his life. This man was John Newton. Thomas Scott began to change. He started preaching about what John Newton had written to him. Two of his parishioners were saved after hearing him preach, yet he wasn’t saved himself. Later, after facing a personal trial, Thomas went to see John Newton and he became converted. John Newton was then called to London and Thomas Scott replaced John Newton in his parish.
There are many parallels with the story of Thomas Scott and with the story of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi also started out very shakily. She and Elimelech were Israelites, part of God’s people. However, when famine came to Israel, Elimelech looked to move to Moab, not a place of high standing in God’s eyes. The land of Moab would be wiped out, torn from the pages of history. Elimelech was focusing on physical needs instead of depending on God. Satan also tempted Jesus, focusing on the physical needs, yet Jesus responded with the word of God.
After Elimelech’s death Naomi was left to rule the family. Her two sons married Moabite women – expressly forbidden in God’s word. When the two sons died Naomi wanted to return to Judah. Both daughters wanted to go with her; they must have seen something in her life that attracted them, similar to Tomas Scott. Strangely, Naomi discouraged them not to go to Israel, even though her daughters-in-law wanted to know more about Christianity. Despite this, both women wanted to continue with Naomi. Naomi continued to discourage them and Orpah agreed not to go, but Ruth stayed. Naomi tried one more time to dissuade Ruth, ‘But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you”’ (Ruth 1:16-17).
The book of Ruth is an incredible story between Boaz and Ruth. More than this is the undying love of God for Ruth, a Moabitess. Ruth forsake her past life to begin a new life. Ruth is going to go with Naomi no matter what she says. Moab was a traditional enemy of God, so Ruth could have difficulties in Israel because of her marrying her sons to Moabite women. Naomi need not have worried; her own friends accepted her lovingly. No matter what mistakes we make, God still works through our mistakes to see His plans come to fruition.
Despite uncertainty, Ruth leaves her family to go with Naomi and her God. She was leaving everything behind, including her family who would have looked out for her. Ruth has chosen the right action, not the convenient action. She was identifying with the people of Israel, God’s people. Ruth was following in illustrious footsteps: ‘By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be is treated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible’ (Hebrews 11:24-26). Moses was in a position to live a very comfortable life in a palace yet he gave this up.
Ruth’s commitment was not just to Naomi but, after her death she would remain. She would worship God from now on – the bedrock of her life. Ruth unreservedly chose Yahweh. She is confidently committing herself to God. She speaks of her personal God, she has accepted God as her God. We see here a new belief in God as Ruth comes under the influence of the Holy Spirit; Ruth’s understanding was enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Even today there are people outside our chapel walls who would never dream of coming inside. However, logic is overturned by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit quickened Ruth’s affections. The same is true for us. Over 85% of people who have become Christians, (not those who have grown up in a Christian family), do so because of the impact of one Christian who has influenced their life.
Naomi was clearly bitter about her circumstances, ‘She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”’ (Ruth 1:20). Yet she recognised it was a deserved chastisement, she is still a believer. This testimony would be noticed by Ruth, whose will had been freed. The Holy Spirit has drawn her to God.
Ruth speaks for herself, ‘For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.’ She wants to live life to the full. The Holy Spirit has opened her eyes to the spiritual realm. There is a great contrast in the lives of the three widows. Orpah gave up but Ruth has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, quickened and freed.
Despite the fact Naomi tried to dissuade Ruth to go with her, Naomi was blessed by Ruth. Ruth was blessed too. May God be a restorer and nourisher in our Christian lives.