W. T. P. Wolston.
DECISION FOR CHRIST.
"Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women. of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab; for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah. And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? Are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons: would ye tarry for them till they were grown? Would ye stay for them from having husbands? Nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother in law, but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara; for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty; why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty had afflicted me? So Naomi returned, and Ruth, the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab; and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest." — Ruth 1.
There are three characters, beloved reader, in this chapter, which bring before us and illustrate three entirely distinct states of soul. In Naomi you have the sad and solemn case of a backslider; in Orpah you have the fearful condition of a soul that prefers the world to Christ; and in Ruth you have the beautiful picture of a soul that prefers Christ to everything. You can easily tell, my friend, which of these three, characters is yours. Are you a backslider? are you one who prefers the world to Christ? or, are you one who prefers Christ to anything and everything? Do not say you do not know; that is not true. You do know. When I was in the world I knew quite well that I preferred the world, and that in my heart there was nothing but enmity to God's beloved Son.
In the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as in the New, you have the truth unfolded that God loves us, and wants us to know and love Himself. Men do not believe it, but there it is. Look at Naomi, she is the picture of one who has known the love of God, and turned her back upon Him for something in the world. Is such an one reading this paper? — one who has known the love of God, walked for a while with the Lord, confessing His name, seemed for a time really true-hearted to Him, enjoyed the sweetness of His presence, and then something has come in — something perhaps in your worldly circumstances — and little by little, insensibly perhaps at first, your back has been turned on the Lord. At first the turning away was very slight, but it was turning from Him, and little by little, little by little, you got farther and farther of, till at last the soul woke up to find it was utterly empty.
Everything is bitter in the soul that has given up Christ for the world. "Call me not Naomi (i.e., pleasant), call me Mara (i.e., bitter)," says Naomi (ver. 20). Oh, reader, are you one that has got back into the world, and turned your back on the Lord? Fain would I have you turn right round to Him again this moment. Oh, wandering one, return, return! Backslider, the Father has missed thee from the family circle, the Saviour has missed thee from His side, the Shepherd has missed thee from the flock; oh, return, return! Nothing has changed His heart towards you; spite of all your wanderings, He loves you still; He would have you back by His own blessed side. In this chapter I get him bringing back Naomi.
Ten years she and her family had been away from Judah; yet she ought never to have left Judah, the place where God was known. It was quite natural she should go when there was a famine there, you say. Yes, quite natural, for nature always turns its back upon God; but see the folly of it. Could not God have maintained them in Bethlehem? "Bethlehem" means "the house of bread;" and could not God have maintained them there in peace and plenty? But what does she get by leaving it? Does she get peace and plenty in Moab? No, the heart that leaves God for the world gets plenty of trouble, but not one scrap of peace; a soul that has slipped away from the Lord, and got back into the world, wakes up, sooner or later, to find itself in misery and wretchedness.
Naomi leaves Judah with her husband and her two sons; a little while, and the one she loves best in the world is taken from her side and laid in the cold tomb. Ah, the Lord knows how to touch a heart by a sorrow like that. He says, Child! I love you too much to let that pillar remain by your side on which you are leaning. I will take that pillar away that you may lean on Myself. And now Mahlon is sick and dies. ("Mahlon" means sick, and "Chilion" pining.) And Chilion too is "pining" and dies; and she is left alone. Here comes the epitome of her history. "The woman was left of her two sons and her husband" (ver. 5). Thank God He did not leave her! Thank God, though you leave Him, He does not leave you. Do you know what passing through grief, such as this scripture unfolds, means? He would draw your heart by it to Himself.
And now see how the grace of God draws the heart back to Himself. Naomi rises up to return; not alone because she had found Moab only a graveyard, but because in the moment of her deepest distress and sorrow, when everything was broken up in Moab, she heard that there was plenty in the land she had left. Fool that she was ever to leave it! She hears that the Lord had "visited his people in giving them bread." Oh, how our Father loves to visit His people and give them bread! He may chasten His people when they need it, but the delight of His heart is to fill them with jay to overflowing. It was the grace of the Lord that drew her back.
What drew Peter, after his terrible denial of his Master? It was that look of love. Though all should deny Him, he would not. He had said he would go to prison and to death for Him, but never deny Him. Full of self-confidence, which is often the secret of backsliding, he says he will never deny Him; but he was sleeping when he ought to have been praying; he was cutting of the servant's ear when he ought to have been quiet; he forsook Christ, and fled, when he should have been near Him; and though he went into the palace of the high priest afterwards (it was John who took him in), he did not get there by clinging to Christ, and a little servant girl can make him afraid, and deny that he ever knew his blessed Lord.
"Thou also wast with Jesus," she said.
"Woman, I know Him not," replies Peter.
Then another said, "Thou art also of them."
And Peter said, "Man, I am not."
But soon a third urges, "Did I not see thee in the garden with him?"
And then Peter began to curse and to swear, saying, "I know not this man of whom ye speak."
Terrible picture of our weakness, when away from God! Within earshot of Jesus he can turn round and deny that he ever knew Him. And Jesus heard it, and turned round and looked at him. "You do not know Me, Peter?" That was what that look said. "You do not know Me?"
What kind of a look do you think the Lord gave Peter? Was it a withering look of scorn and contempt? Did it say, "Miscreant, liar," in its glance? He deserved that it should, but oh, no, it. was a look of broken-hearted love, of love so tender and strong. A look that said, "I love you still, Peter: if you do not know me, I know I love you." And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
I do not wonder that he wept bitterly. The grace of the Heart that he had wounded broke him down; and then afterwards we are told of the Lord's meeting and restoring this backsliding one. He appeared to Simon after His resurrection. The fact is recorded, but did you ever wonder how He restored him? Did you ever wonder what passed between the Lord and Peter that day? He does not tell us. We only know the fact. The Lord does not tell out all that goes on between a soul and Himself. He not only restores Peter. but He brings him to judge the thing that led him away, and then He trusts him again. The backslider never gets right with God till he has it all out with Him. When you get back, and judge the point of departure, then He restoreth the soul. The Lord does what we never do. We say, "I could never trust so-and-so again, after what has passed." The Lord shows out to all how He can trust Peter after He has made him judge himself.
On the shore of Galilee's lake the Lord publicly restores Peter. First of all He says, "Lovest thou me more than these?" Not more than these fishes; but Peter had said that though all should deny Him, he would not. Peter, using a word which implies more than love in general, answers, "Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I have a special affection for Thee."
A second time He asks him, and a second time Peter answers, "Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I have a special affection for Thee."
And now a third time the Lord puts the question. Three times Peter had denied Him, three times He interrogates him; and this third time He uses Peter's own word, "Hast thou a special affection for me?" and this time Peter flings back the door of his heart and says, Lord, look in. "Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I have a special affection for Thee." No one else would think I love Thee, but Thou knowest; no one else could believe it possible but Thou. The Lord seems to, say, "Now, Peter, you take care of what I love best. I will put into your care that which is dearest to Me. 'Feed my lambs,' 'Shepherd My sheep,' 'Feed My sheep.' I can trust you now that you distrust yourself." That is how the Lord restores, and gives back confidence. May He thus restore you this moment, O wandering one!
Now turn and look at these two young people who say they will go up with Naomi. Naomi does get back to the land, but on the road see the mischief she does. Oh, backsliding one, if restored, beware how you again slip away from the Lord, lest you be the cause of everlasting ruin to some other soul or souls under your very roof. There is nothing so terrible as backsliding, nothing so disastrous as slipping away from the Lord!
Both these two young people had passed through the same sorrow, were in the same circumstances, under the same influences, and with the same testimony before them; for Naomi must have unfolded something of God to them, to make Ruth speak as she does afterwards. Orpah thus had the same opportunities, the same privileges, the same advantages, as Ruth, and at first they turn their backs on the world together. These two seriously mean to leave it; and I doubt not, beloved unsaved soul, you too have had your moments of serious thought; you have had your moments of conviction, have you not? Have you never trembled as you heard the preacher reason of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come? You know you have. But have you decided for Christ? No doubt you have said, "It is better to be a Christian than not to be one." Your sins have come up before you, and you have trembled as you thought you must some day have to do with God, and you have felt afraid of the judgment to come.
But perhaps you say, "I have had no convictions, no anxiety, no fear for the future, or thought about my soul and God." Do you say that? Ah! then, my careless, Christless friend, there are days of hopeless sorrow before you; days of terrible conviction, days of fearful anxiety, days of agony, and remorse, and terror unspeakable; but where? In the place where hope never comes; when anxiety, and convictions, and sorrow, and remorse come all too late. Oh, that you may be aroused, awakened, convicted now, my unsaved readers; now, while you have still time to decide for Christ!
It may be, with some of you, that deep sorrow has been known in your heart; death has knocked. not at your door, but at the door of one you deeply loved; and as that one has been taken from you you have felt, "How would it have been had I been called away like that?" Ah, what would it be if you died now?
Young man, what would the issue be if you died this moment in the state in which you are? Where would you spend your eternity — your long, your endless eternity?
Hoary old man, grown old in forgetfulness of God, grown grey in rejection of Christ, with all your sins still upon you, if God called you away at this very moment, where would you spend your eternity?
Young woman, so gay and thoughtless, thinking only of the world, caring only for pleasure, with no thought of Christ, unwashed, unforgiven, if God were to cut you down now, as you read this, where would you go to spend this endless eternity that is before you? It is high time you were converted. Oh, turn round to Jesus, your sins shall all he forgiven; you shall taste the blessedness of knowing the Lord. It is better far to belong to Him, happier far to be numbered among "His own;" and could you have a moment better than the present to accept Him as your Saviour? Could you have a more important moment than this moment, in which to decide for Christ? Impossible! He loves you and wants to save you. His name, Jesus (i.e. Jehovah, the Saviour), may well invite your trust; but put it off, put it of till tomorrow, and what shall then be? God knows.
But a few days ago I was called to see one who had been the day before in life and health: in six hours she was a corpse; and friend, it may be so with you tomorrow, or even today, and what do you think it would be to die in your sins? Think! think! I warn you; be warned in time! Have you no care for your precious soul; no anxiety to flee from the wrath to come; no desire to be with God's beloved Son by-and-by? Oh, would you not like to know that your sins can be forgiven? Would you not like to he found among the ransomed of the Lord, by-and-by? Would you not like that your voice should swell that chorus of praise to the One who died to save you? Would you not like to be there in that scene of life and glory? Oh, decide, DECIDE NOW, DECIDE FOR CHRIST!
Truly, this world is a scene of sorrow and death. What had Naomi found Moab to be? A graveyard! And what is this world? A great graveyard! Sorrow and death everywhere. The hearse that you meet as you go into the street tells you of death. If you turn from it and go another way, what will presently meet your eye? A house with the blinds all drawn down. Oh, you say, death has been there too. A few steps farther and you meet one draped in deep mourning; death again has been taking away the loved one. You go to your home, and there the first thing you see is the black-edged letter waiting for you, telling once more the tale of sorrow, bereavement, and death; and a morning or two hence some one else may take up the newspaper, and there, the last upon the list, "died suddenly," is your name.
Yes, this world is one vast graveyard, but what a relief it is to turn from it to the living God! I cannot tell you what it is to my heart to know that the One who loves me best can never die. The one I love best here is the one with whom my deepest sorrow is connected, for death may come in and take that one away from me. But I have One to love now who can never die. Ah! but you say He has died. Yes, and He died for me, that is the best of it; that is what wins the heart for Christ. He died for me, and now the heart may flow out to Christ unhinderedly, and never shall its tendrils be rudely broken. You may love Him deeply, tenderly, yea, with your whole heart; your deepest affections may go out to Him, and never shall they be crushed or disappointed, for you will have found One to love who can never die. You who have known sorrow, would you not like to know Him to comfort you in it? You who have known death taking your dearest, would you not like to know Him who is the Resurrection and the Life? You who want an object to live for, would you not like to know Christ? Is your heart empty? He will fill it, for Christ fills to overflowing. There is life for the dead, comfort for the sorrowing, bread for the hungry, everything in Jesus, and an object to last you all your days, One who can never die.
Perhaps you say, "I should like to be a Christian, it is better far to be a Christian, for the world has never really satisfied me yet." No, and it never will, for the heart is too big to be filled with aught except Christ, but He fills it to overflowing. But you tell me, "Some Christians are not happy." I will tell you why, they are like Naomi, backsliding ones. They want to have a bit of the world and a bit of Christ; to hold the world with one hand and Christ with the other. No wonder they are not happy, they are not the right. kind of Christians at all; they have too much of Christ to really enjoy the world, and too much of the world to fully enjoy Christ; now, do not they deserve to be miserable for their half-heartedness? I think so. Besides, look at the damage they do; what is the effect of their half-heartedness? Why, by-and-by they will say to some young person who wants to be out-and-out for Christ, "Well, you know, you must not go so far; if you are going to be as decided for Christ as that, you will have to give a great deal up; you had better not take such a stand."
After this sort speaks Naomi, saying, "Go, return." "Go back!" I have no words strong enough in condemnation of such behaviour to inquiring souls. "Go back" where? Go back to hell? Go back to the lake of fire and brimstone? Go back to Moab and its gods, and to hell at the end? for that is the real meaning of it. And this is the advice of one who knew the living God. Get all you can in the world, and everlasting ruin at the end. Even the world holds Christians, who act in such a way, in contempt. Very deep and profound was the contempt I had for unreal Christians when I was in the world. I respected real Christians, though, alas, I hated them; but I despised half-hearted ones. Oh, beware of in any wise ceding the truth one bit; by so doing you lose everything and you gain nothing.
Yet Naomi's words seem kind and plausible, "The Lord deal kindly," etc. (verse 8); "The Lord grant you that ye may find rest" (verse 9). What mockery! Turn your back on. Him, and look for rest! What might they have answered her? "We had everything, and it has all been swept away by death. Our cup was full, but it has been dashed to the ground, and we are empty and desolate in the world; we want something living and abiding." Just suited are such souls for God to come in, and fill, and comfort, and satisfy. And they seem in earnest, too, and say, "Surely we will return with thee." They appear so interested, so engaged about it. like a heart almost decided for Christ. But Naomi says, "Turn again." Oh, how could she? Turn from God! Turn back to the world; the world that had failed to satisfy them! Naomi was the very picture of some crooked, crotchety, cross-grained people, who have no expectation of other people being saved; it is as much as they know they are saved themselves.
I suspect, too, that Naomi had a bit of Scripture in her mind that day, that no Moabite should enter the congregation of the Lord, even to the tenth generation. (See Deut. 23:3, 4.)
So now she brings out this — If you go with me, your worldly prospects will all be blighted (verses 11.13); go back, and the Lord give you something in the world. Worldly prospects all ruined; I think I see Orpah's face. I cannot stand that, she says; I never thought of that. This brings Orpah to the point, and now, dear reader, comes the point whether you really want Christ or not. "But," you say, "will my worldly prospects be blighted?" So it is often. The moment you are out-and-out for Christ, your old companions will slight you and leave you. Do you, therefore, say, It is up hill work being a Christian? Yes, it is; but look at the top of the hill, look at the end of the path, it is all brightest glory, the fair scene of light, and joy, and blessing with Christ for evermore.
When this point is come to, there is decision; and then comes the line of demarcation. Hitherto, these two had been going on side by side, to the same spot; and there may be two souls in one family, perhaps two sisters, whose hearts are moved — both think they would like to be Christians; but now decision is called for. Ah, I am not prepared for that, says one. I had not counted the cost, says Orpah; good-bye, Naomi, good-bye. I shall always feel kindly towards you, and I hope we shall meet again some day; but I can. not go with you at that cost; and she turns her back on God and on blessing. From that moment Ruth goes one way, and Orpah another; the one is decided for God, and the other is decided for the world; and they separate for ever, each step now taken more widely sundering them from each other; sad finale to what seemed so hopeful a beginning.
Oh, but you say, the picture is so dark, so dreary. Shall I lose in this world? Very likely. Will my prospects in life be blighted? Very likely. Then it is so dark, I could not be a Christian. And you go back, you choose the world, you reject Christ.
Everything in the world looks fair and bright before you for a time, and you say it is most natural you should cleave to the world and turn away from God; most natural, but what is the end? A little while and the grass is cut down, and tomorrow — tomorrow it is cast into the oven, the solemn end of an. unconverted soul. A bright prospect the world has, most surely! No real joy for time, and nothing but real sorrow for eternity. You turn your back on God and blessing, on Christ and His love, and presently you are cast off by God, forsaken by Him, and then you spend your eternity where hope and light and love never, never come; and you choose this, and call it a bright picture, do you? Nay, it is like the rich man in the gospel, who was hurled in one moment from the lap of luxury to the lake of fire! Your path ends in death now, and judgment for ever.
Oh, I warn any one who is this moment just balancing the matter. Do you turn back? "I do." Do you answer really, I do? You choose the world? "Yes." You turn your back on the truth, then, and back into the world in affections you go? Against Christ? "Yes." For the world? "Yes." Back to her people and her gods goes Orpah, and you follow in her steps. Hear what Isaiah says of these gods, "gods that cannot save"' (Isa. 45:20). What an awful picture of a soul that turns its back, deliberately, in cold blood, on God and His Son!
One of these two characters is yours. Either, like Orpah, you refuse Christ and you choose the world, or, like Ruth, you say now, I cannot go back; you tell me the road is rough; I care not, it is the end of the road my eye is upon. Ruth is the picture of a soul that says, I will have Jesus, come what may in between. There is something in Jesus that attracts my heart, and Him I must have. But it will he a rough road. I care not, I must have Him. There will be stones in the way. I know it. There are lions in the path. No matter, "I will go!" "Where thou lodgest, I will lodge." Mark how she goes into details; let the road be ever so rough, the accommodation ever so bare, she has sat down and counted the cost. "Thy people shall be my people," even though the Lord's people be a despised people, "And thy God my God," that is, the end before Ruth is God Himself.
To the heart that wants salvation, that wants eternal life, I say, What is it you covet? It is God Himself. What do you want to possess? It is God you want. In Isaiah 45 we hear of gods that can. not save, and then God unfolds what He is, "a just God and a Saviour." How just? Because He will not pass over or make light of sin. How a Saviour? He gave His own beloved Son to die on Calvary's cross, the just for the unjust, to bring us to Himself. And now He is willing to save to the utter. most all that come unto Him through Jesus. "Look unto me and be ye saved," is His word. If I tell you of my God, what is He? A loving, a gracious God, a saving God, a God who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up to die in order that He might spare you. A God who loves you, and who wants to save you.
Well, do you say "Thy God shall be my God"? My heart delights to hear the words. What a God He is! a just God, and a Saviour. "Look unto Me, and be ye saved." Does He say, Look unto Me, and feel saved? No, it is. "be ye saved." If it were feel saved, Satan would whisper, But you do not feel aright. It is "be ye saved." Are you looking to the Lord? then you are saved; the moment your heart says, Well, God is for me, He loves me, He bids me look and live, I do look. Then what does He say? "Be ye saved."
It is a blessed thing when the heart says, Christ is mine, I respond to His grace, to His call; hence. forward, I am His. I AM DECIDED FOR CHRIST. "When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, she left speaking," and so can I! If decision for Christ is the word you can say just this moment, my work is done. I trust you are not "a little bit inclined' towards" (No, no!), but "stedfastly minded" for Christ.
They come back to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest, and in the next chapter we read of Ruth gleaning until the end of barley harvest, and wheat harvest; what does that mean? She came in for everything. Whenever the heart is decided for Christ, everything is yours. The Lord grant you to have your heart so fixed on Christ, so pledged to Christ from this hour, that you may know you are Christ's, and Christ is yours, and all that He has is yours too. The God that gives life to the dead, speaks peace to the troubled soul, and comfort to the sorrowing one, gives life and hope and joy to every believer, and will take each such in a little while to be where He is, in scenes of eternal brightness and beauty. Oh! who would not have such a God? And you must make your choice. Either you must drop this paper godless, or for God. You must decide either against the Lord or for Him. There is not a single person can lay aside this paper undecided. If it is not for Christ, it is against him. "He that is not with me is against me." There is no middle ground. Is it among the foes, the adversaries of the Lord, your lot is henceforth to be cast, or numbered with His own, — able, henceforth, to sing this hymn that my heart loves?
"My heart is fixed, eternal God,
Fixed on Thee,
And my immortal choice is made,
Christ for me."
MEETING WITH CHRIST
"And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech. And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee. Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this? And the servant that was set over the reapers answered, and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens: Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? And when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. Then she fell on her face and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been showed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust. Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens. And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left. And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men. saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not; And let fall also some of the handfuls on purpose for her, and leave them, that the may glean them, and rebuke her not. So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up, and went into the city: and her mother in law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed. And her mother in law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned today? and where wroughtest thou? Blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she showed her mother in law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man's name with whom I wrought today is Boaz. And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen. And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest. And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field. So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law." — Ruth 2.
This second chapter of Ruth is intimately connected with the first chapter, which tells us briefly that a man named Elimelech, with his wife Naomi, and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, under pressure of circumstances, left the land of Judah — left Bethlehem (the house of bread), and went down to Moab (the land of idolatry); turned their back on God and went into the world. A little while and Elimelech dies in Moab; a little longer and Mahlon is sick and dies, and then Chilion pines and dies likewise. Her husband and her two sons are taken away and Naomi is left alone. She wakes up to find her husband gone, both her sons gone, and she is left, the abject picture of desolation and sorrow.
Then she learns that the Lord has visited His people with bread, she hears of the grace of the Lord, and she sets out to return to Judah. Orpah and Ruth, her two daughters in law, say they will leave the land of idolatry and death and go up with her to Canaan. Canaan typifies heaven, and every sinner says he would like to go to heaven. They both make the start, and then. you get Naomi, in effect, saying, "If you go with me, your worldly prospects will be ruined, go back to the world."
Though they both say they will go with her, yet Orpah, true to her name, when she hears what Naomi says, turns back, frightened at the prospect. Orpah means "a fawn," and a fawn is a timid, easily frightened creature. How many Orpahs there are now! How many who turn back frightened, afraid of the roughness of the road; terrified at the difficulties! Orpah turns back to the world — to Moab, "unto her people and her gods,"' i.e., to her relations and her religion — and what kind of religion was it? Empty forms. A dull, Christless religion, with nothing in it for the heart. She is the type of a worldly professor. She goes back, and this brings Ruth to the front.
"Do not ask me to go back," she says, "I will go on." But the way is rough. "Never mind, I will go." But you will lose everything. "It is no matter, I will go on, I must go on. I have had enough of Moab. I lost my husband in Moab, the one I loved best I lost; the world has only been a scene of sorrow, desolation, and death to me. Is there not a place of light, and joy, and incorruptibility that you can tell me of, and that I may reach? Thy people shall be my people; I will go with you." And now comes the spring of it all, "Thy God shall be my God."
Can you say that, beloved friend? Can you say, "I want Christ?" Oh, blessed soul! if you can say, "I want Christ," soon you will wake up to the truth that Christ wants you. Precious, precious truth, Christ wants you! He has come into the world and sought you; you have not to seek Him. He has sought you; He came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost.
Well, Ruth goes on and gets to Bethlehem-Judah - blessed place! May you get to God's house of bread — the feet of Jesus; may you reach the "house of bread" this day; the place where you shall find rest on the bosom of Jesus! God grant you to meet Jesus even this day! Would you not like to meet Jesus just now? Would you not like to know Jesus? Would you not like to have Jesus? Would you not like to be able to say, "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend?" Would to God that this day I could introduce you to Christ! What joy would fill my heart! It is the evangelist's part, as an instrument, to introduce the sinner to the Saviour. You want Jesus? The evangelist comes and tells you Jesus wants you. You want to be made happy? Jesus wants to make you happy. You want eternal life? Jesus wants to give you eternal life. You want your sins forgiven? Jesus wants to for. give you. You want rest? Jesus wants to give you rest. Oh, would you not like to rest on the very bosom of Jesus henceforth? You say. "Yes, I would. I am anxious." Blessed sight! Do you talk to me of pictures? I say the two most lovely pictures under the sun are a company of saints happy in Christ, and a company of sinners wanting Christ.
Ah, you who want Christ — you are the very one Christ wants! He wants to save you. He wants to have you. He wants to take you with Him to everlasting glory. Will you let Him? Will you let Him save. you today? Will you yield yourself to Him now? Do you say, "I want Christ?" Well, listen, then. I am going to talk to you about a Friend.
Boaz is a lovely type of Christ as a kinsman. He was able to do the part of the near kinsman in His death and resurrection. He has bought the field.
Two things come out in Christ the Saviour: He is the full revelation of God, and He is a perfect Man too. There is a Man who can deliver you from the lake of fire, a Man who can bring you in righteousness to God, "a mighty man of wealth," and His name, His peerless name is JESUS. He was rich. He had everything. He was the eternal Son, the very delight of God, and in the grace of His heart He passed angels by, came into this world, and, oh, marvel of marvels, He who was God. became a man that He might rescue you. The first man, in his pride, tried to become as God, and he became a sinner; but listen! He who was God became a man, in the grace and love of His heart, in order that He might die and deliver you from the power of sin and Satan, and bring you in righteousness to God. "For ye know the grace of our Lord. Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye. through his poverty. might be rich." Oh, would you not like to have Christ? You say, "I am so poor." Yes, but He is rich, this mighty Man of wealth! Tell me, now, would you not like to be possessed of Him? Would you not like that there should be a link between your soul and this mighty Man of wealth? All that God is He showed in His life, as man on earth. All that the first man is, was fully met by His cross, when He took upon Him, as a Substitute, all the sin and guilt, then, by dying, swept it all away, rose again, and went to heaven as man. He came down as God, He went up as man (God too, always, of course). He perfectly manifested God to man down here, and now He perfectly manifested man to God up there.
"How wondrous the glories that meet
In Jesus, and from His face shine!
His love is eternal and sweet,
'Tis human, 'tis also divine!
His glory — not only God's Son
In manhood He had His full part
And the union of both join'd in one
Forms the fountain of love in His heart."
Oh, would you not like to know this Jesus?
Well, Ruth goes forth now to glean, "and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz," a very important item that. What does it mean, do you ask? It means this, it was not sub-let, thank God. It belonged to Boaz, it was a place where Boaz got his rights, where he was everything. It is the place where Christ's claims are fully acknowledged. There was a chief reaper too, which I doubt not prefigures the One who carries on the work down here now, the Holy Ghost. But the field belonged to Boaz, and Ruth is among his reapers now. Oh, it is a grand thing to be among Christ's reapers. It is not sowing time now, it is reaping, and there is a day coming when He who sowed and they who reap shall rejoice together. His service is the sweetest joy under the sun; there is only one thing sweeter than His service, and that is Christ Himself. Do you ask, Is it hard work to serve Christ? I know of no joy like it, save the enjoyment of the Person of the Master.
And now, mark the intimacy between the master and the servants. "And Boaz said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you, and they answered him, The Lord bless thee." It is beautiful; there is perfect communion between the Lord and the reapers, and it is most blessed to see the way He comes in and out among them.
"Whose damsel is this?" he now says. He had his eye on the stranger, he marked the stranger and asked about her, and the servant can tell him all about her. He had found out all about her. The Lord puts the servant oftentimes in full knowledge of what is going on in a soul, just in order to meet the need of the soul, by His word, through the servant. Here, however, we have a beautiful picture of the way the Lord Himself deals with a soul now. Look at the tenderness of the Lord; do not judge of the tenderness of the Master by the roughness oftentimes of the servant. "Hearest thou not, my daughter?" Listen how tenderly He speaks, the moment you enter the field where He is, the moment you become a gleaner in His field, this is what He says. "My daughter."
But, you say, this is an Old Testament scene. Then listen to one from the New Testament. There was a poor woman, when the Master was on earth, sick and weary, and she hears of Jesus, and she wants to get to Him, for she says, "If I may but touch His clothes, I shall be whole." The crowd throng and press Him. She follows with the multitude, trying to get near Him. The crowd sways and moves, but she presses forward, reaches the Person of Jesus, touches the hem of His garment, and, lo! she is healed. The woman would have gone away at once, I think, but Jesus stood still and said, "Who touched my clothes?" If she had gone away, though she was healed, the devil would have suggested, Ah, yes, you are healed now, but you will be just as bad again tomorrow. This the Lord knew, so He arrests her footsteps as she had arrested His, and ere she departs, most sweetly confirms her. When she heard of Jesus she came, and when she came she touched, and when she touched she was healed; and then, being healed by His power, He confirms her faith by His word, and sends her away with words which she could never forget, and which I trust may fall as sweetly on your ear and heart, dear reader: "Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole, go in peace, and be whole of thy plague." Her past was — "thy faith hath made thee whole;" her present — "go in peace;" her future - "be whole of thy plague." He assures her not only is she whole, but she is to be so ever after. Is not that a grand confirmation service?
But, best of all He owns relationship with her. Do you trust Him? Then He owns you. He acknowledges you the very moment you acknowledge and trust Him.
Again, there was a man sick of the palsy, in the 2nd of Mark, and they bring him where Jesus was. The house is full, but they take of the roof and let him down to the feet of Jesus, and when He saw their faith He said, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." And again, "Arise, take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house." And he went out by the door. He had come in by the roof, lying on his back on the bed. Thus, you see, whenever there is faith, the Lord owns relationship with the soul, and then sends it forth, a witness of His grace and power. There ought to be no cripples in the Lord's camp.
"Then said Boaz to Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? go not to glean in another field, neither. go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens; let thine eyes he on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them; have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? And when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn. Then she fell on her face and bowed herself to the ground." His grace breaks her down entirely. What does he do? He puts everything at her disposal, and, the moment a soul trusts Christ, He puts everything at its service. The whole range of Scripture blessing is at your disposal when you trust Him, and you have but to drink of the streams of that fountain of living waters, which His own death and resurrection have opened up for your thirsty soul.
"Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly (to the heart — margin) unto thine handmaid." Ah, beloved, when Jesus speaks He speaks to the heart, for there is such grace in His words; such tenderness, such pity and compassion, such healing of the wounds of the soul.
But this only the more deeply bows down the soul before Him, and, while His grace is thus discovered and enjoyed, there is also discovered and judged what self is. This is repentance; a most necessary exercise of the soul, and one which ever accompanies the learning of God's grace. In figure, Ruth passes through this exercise when she says, "Though I be not like to one of thine handmaidens." She feels, and every new-born soul feels, "I am utterly unworthy of His grace. I do not deserve such love." She judges herself: it is repentance, self-condemnation.
"And Boaz said unto her, At meal time come thou hither." You see your soul is to feed, but where is it to feed? In company with Christ, while withal it feeds on Christ. "Eat of the bread, said Boaz. "He that cometh unto Me shall never hunger," re-echoes Jesus. What bread is it? "The living bread," the bread that "endureth to ever. lasting life." And this Bread is Christ Himself. "I AM the living Bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall LIVE FOR EVER; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world . . . . Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood HATH ETERNAL life" (John 6:51, 54).
"Dip thy morsel in the vinegar," too, Boaz adds. What does that mean? Participation: the soul that knows Jesus is to have full participation with Him in everything. He shares all with us, and feeds us with the finest of the wheat. "And he reached her parched corn." Yes, beloved, that hand that was pierced for us on the cross is the hand that feeds us now, the hand that leads us and guides us. He likes to have us by His side. In the world we shall find people get tired of us, they do not always want us; but there is never a moment when Jesus does not want us by His side; no, never.
And to Christians I would say, Be sure and get your regular meals; get them in company with Christ, feeding on "the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." There is nothing He has He does not place at your disposal the moment you trust Him; and He wants you to take it all from His own hand in full communion with Him, self, so that He may see you enjoy, in His own blessed presence, those precious fruits of His work which love like His alone could make yours.
"And she did eat, and was sufficed, and left." What a picture of a soul simply sitting down and fully receiving the grace of God! What is the first thing I do when His grace offers me Christ the living Bread? Why, I eat. What follows? I am sufficed, satisfied. The heart is full, the conscience is perfectly purged, the soul is at rest. In place of being, like the swallow, ever on the wing, or the sparrow, ever seeking wherewithal to satisfy its hunger, I am deeply content. The old ceaseless cravings and wants of the heart are perfectly, fully, eternally met by Christ and His work; and then, as a simple sequence, comes this, there is something (in our case an immensity) "left," which we carry off for the benefit of others. Grace magnificently expands the heart, strips it of selfishness, and fills it with desires for the blessing of others. Till Christ is known, the heart is aching through its emptiness, for the world is too small to fill it, so deep are its caverns; but when Christ is learned, its deepest recesses are filled, and filled to overflowing, and there is abundance "left" for others.
But we must yet follow our gleaner, only, how. ever, to learn deeper lessons of the loving heart of the Lord of the harvest. So now, when Ruth is risen up to glean, the word goes forth, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: and let fall also some of the HANDFULS OF PURPOSE for her, and leave them that she may glean them."
How beautiful is His grace! There is plenty of food, plenty. It is Bethlehem — the house of bread — she has reached most truly. Was not that a blessed handful the Lord gave that poor woman in the gospels, "Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace, and be whole of thy plague."
"But," you say, "I am afraid of the judgment-day." Well, then, here is a handful for you. "He that believeth, is not condemned;" and again, "He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me HATH EVERLASTING LIFE." Gather up that handful, beat it out, take it home, and eat it. "Hath everlasting life, and SHALL NOT COME INTO CONDEMNATION, but IS PASSED from death unto LIFE."
What have I for the present? EVERLASTING LIFE. What have I for the future? No CONDEMNATION." What about the past? I was in DEATH, and have PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE." What a complete salvation! I have thanked the Lord for that handful many and many a time, dear reader; and I trust you will gather it, too, this day, and thank Him likewise for its priceless value.
"So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley." That is, Ruth knew exactly what she had got, and she had got it in a way in which she could use it. "The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting," and many souls do the same. Ruth was not of that sort, she was a diligent gleaner, she was a wise gleaner. She did not take away any of the straw, she only took what she could make use of. What was the use of having it beaten out? She could take it away in a compact bundle and use it. And, when a soul gets hold of Christ, it knows what it has got; it is something tangible, no vague thing. A big bundle of straw may not have a single grain of wheat amongst it. Many people are what I might call straw-carriers. They are full of doubts, and fears, hopes, and feelings, and frames, and experiences, and maybe's, and uncertainties, and ambiguities; and they have nothing distinct. They can never say, "I know." Such, although they may be very diligent both as bearers and readers, have never "beaten out" their gleanings.
If you are of this sort, my reader, you take a plain word of warning, and do not trust any longer in uncertainties, but see to it, from God's own Word, that Christ is yours and that you are Christ's.
Ruth left the straw behind. What do you mean by leaving the straw? Why, leave the style of the speaker, or the eccentricity of the writer, leave everything I have said, and carry away only the golden grain of God's precious, enduring Word, on which your soul is to feed and fatten. One word from God is worth all beside. Get your hearts full of Christ, and go and confess Him. When people have Christ in their hearts, it comes out. It is our privilege to know, without a doubt, what our God gives us. Ruth knew exactly what she had got, and she took it home.
"And her mother in law saw what she had gleaned; and she brought forth and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed," — that is, the parched cam that Boaz gave her at meal-time. She could not eat it all. He gave her more than she could eat, and she took it home. That is, Christ so satisfies your heart that you are full yourself, and have the flowings over for souls round about. What a blessed result of meeting with Christ!
But now, one warning word ere I close, should this paper be in the hands of one who has not met Him. You have a soul. Is it saved or lost? You are going to heaven or to hell. Which is it? Friend, decide. Delay no longer. Loiterer, do not linger. Oh, decide now, or you, who are loitering now, and meaning to decide some day, may find that it is too late; that you are left out in the cold, and the door shut; that the gospel trumpet is no longer giving its sweet note of entreaty, or its warning note of alarm, but the trumpet of judgment is sounding instead your eternal death-knell, for you are without Christ.
You are unsaved. Oh, lingerer, do not risk it! Turn to the Lord now. Decide now. Yield your heart to Him. Is He not worthy?
"Worthy of homage and of praise,
Worthy by all to be adored,
Exhaustless theme of heavenly lays,
Thou, Thou art worthy, Jesus, Lord!"
Has He never had your heart yet? Then let Him take it now. May your language be, -
"Take Thou my heart, and let it be
For ever closed to all but Thee;
Thy willing servant, let me wear
The seal of love for ever there."
Will you not have Him now, and go and confess Him? Own you belong to Him, and let every one know you have, and love Him. And then may He feed your soul till you see the Lord in the air — caught up to be for ever with Him!
REST IN CHRIST.
"Then Naomi, her mother in law, said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley tonight in the threshing floor. Wash thyself, therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor; but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. And it shall be when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do. And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do. And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her. And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. And it came to pass at midnight. that the man was afraid, and turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid; spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid, for thou art a near kinsman. And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter; for thou hast showed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest; for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman. And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman's part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth: lie down until the morning. And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor. Also he said, Bring the veil that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her: and she went into the city. And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her. And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me: for he said to me. Go not empty unto thy mother in law. Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day." — Ruth 3.
There is one little word in the first verse of this chapter that seems to characterise the whole chapter — the little word Rest. The early part of the book has given us a soul really decided for God. In chapter 1 we have Ruth decided for God, and the people of God. In chapter 2 we have what were the fruits of decision — meeting with Boaz, who is a type of Christ. She is broken down under a sense of His kindness, by His gracious words, but then she leaves Him, type of a soul that has got a sense of Christ's grace, touched the hem of His garment, but then some, how gets away out of the conscious enjoyment of His presence and of His Person. Ruth goes back to her mother in law, and we hear, for a time, nothing more about Boaz. Now, to be merely benefited, or saved by Christ, without the full enjoyment of Himself abidingly, is not enough. What Christ gives is rest — full, abiding, present and eternal rest. We get, then, rest in the third chapter, and relationship we shall find unfolded in the fourth.
Ruth 1 is Decision for Christ; Ruth 2 Meeting with Christ; Ruth 3 Rest in Christ; and Ruth 4 Relationship to Christ - being united to Him.
Naomi says, "My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?" I want to ask you, my* friend, one little question here. Have you rest? There is no real rest for the soul, till it is actually in the place Ruth illustrates in this chapter, and where is that? Where does Ruth find rest? At the feet of Boaz. And where does a soul find rest? At the feet of Jesus! Ruth feels Boaz is the only one in whom she can implicitly confide, and she goes and places her. self under his wing. She does what the Lord allows more than one sinner to do in the gospels, — places herself under his protection, — gets to his feet. Look, for instance, at the woman who was a sinner, in Luke 7 She gets straight to the feet of Jesus, and see how He blesses her! Have you found rest at the feet of Jesus yet? You say, What do you mean? Ah! it is clear, then, you do not know it. You have not found rest yet. You have never yet been quietly, calmly, seated at the feet of Jesus.
There is no real rest in the world; if you watch the faces as you pass along, how you see care, and anxiety, and restlessness, depicted in almost every countenance, leaving indelible lines. How rarely do you meet a person of whom you can say, What a restful face! Now, there are three rests spoken of in Scripture, and it will be my business in this paper to briefly open up the first two. You know where they both occur, in the end of Matt. 11, after what had been a stormy, dark day to the Lord Jesus. John the Baptist, His forerunner, was doubting if He were the Christ; Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, the cities where His mighty works had been done, had refused to believe Him; men had called Him "a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber," and He turns away from this dark, restless scene, upward to His Father, and says, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son; and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Matt 11:25, 27).
Oh, reader, are you a babe to whom the Son can reveal the depths of the Father's heart? The Father's heart, the Father's bosom, can only be known by revelation, but the Son perfectly reveals the Father.
Then the Lord turns round again to this restless, troubled world, and gives the loveliest invitation that ever fell on mortal cars. Resting Himself in the Father's perfect love, He calls every labouring, laden, restless soul to come to Him, undertaking to introduce the newcomer, whoever he may be, or whatever he may have been, to the same sphere of restful delight which He Himself had in the Father's love, spite of any surrounding circumstance. Never from His blessed lips fell there words more God-revealing, soul-need-meeting, love-begetting, and heartbreaking than these — "COME UNTO ME ALL YE THAT LABOUR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST."
Beloved, there is rest for the labouring, rest for the heavy laden, rest for the weary, rest for the anxious, rest for the troubled, at the feet of Jesus. IT IS REST OF CONSCIENCE. He gives you rest of conscience first of all, a perfect clearing of all that YOU HAVE DONE, through what HE HAS DONE. Have you been thinking you must do some. thing to be saved? Such a thought is a delusion of the devil, and a snare. You can do nothing but sin, and you have surely done plenty in that line already. "GOD SAW (what you never did, perhaps) that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that EVERY IMAGINATION OF THE THOUGHTS OF HIS HEART (not to name his acts) was ONLY EVIL continually" (Gen. 6:5). This is your moral condition, and what fit for God can come from you, then? Nothing, simply NOTHING. "Yea," you reply, "I see that, and I have given up trying to do anything or to be better." What are you waiting for now, then? "For what Christ will do." This is another snare and delusion of the devil. Christ's work is already finished. He will Do no more for you than He has done. He can, in this aspect, do no more. He has died once. He has suffered once. He has borne sins once. He has atoned for them once. His blood has been shed once. All this is finished, and never will or can be repeated. God has accepted His sacrifice, and raised Him from the dead in token of His acceptance thereof, and of His perfect delight in Christ.
If, therefore, your sins are not now put away from God's sight by what Christ HAS DONE, they never can be, for you cannot do it yourself, and Christ will do no more in order to do it. Now, then, do you see? Either the work which gives rest to the conscience is DONE, or IT NEVER CAN BE. Which is the truth? "IT IS FINISHED," was the dying Saviour's legacy of love to the heavy laden sinner, and the soul that hears and believes gets REST about the solemn matters of sin, iniquity, transgression, and God's judgment thereof, through faith in Jesus, who died to secure this rest by Putting away the sin which hindered it, and then says, "Come unto me . . . and I will GIVE YOU REST."
Then He adds, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall FIND REST UNTO your souls." This rest is quite different from the rest of conscience which I get through the work of Christ; it is the REST OF HEART, the rest of spirit, that I get by communion with Him as a living Person from day to day. The first rest is the Sinner's rest, the second rest is the Saint's rest, and there is still another rest, of which the apostle speaks in Heb. 4:9 — "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." That is God's rest, which we are going to get by-and-by. A sinner gets rest of conscience in the work of Christ; the saint gets rest of heart in the Person of Christ, and then there is God's rest -GLORY, where sin and its fruits can never come, into which He is going to take us who believe, spirit, soul, and body, for eternity: and that is the end of the path on which the soul enters who once trusts Jesus, comes to Jesus, confides in Jesus.
Now, tell me, would you not like to know these rests? You know the world cannot give you rest. Have you rest as you think of Death? Have you rest as you think of the Day of Judgment? No! you know you have not; "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked;" no peace till you come to Christ. Those who have come to Him have rest. It is impossible for a soul to have come to Christ and not to have rest. If you have not rest you have not simply come to Jesus, that's all; you may have come half-way, and you may he a little self-complacent, too, that you are different now from what you used to be, but there is no real rest save in personal contact with the Lord Himself, getting alone with Him, and finding out how He meets the need of the soul.
In the second chapter, Boaz seeks Ruth, and speaks to her when there are plenty of others by, but in the third chapter Ruth goes where she knows she will find Boaz, and speaks to him alone; and when a soul is bowed down with a sense of its own ungodliness, with a sense of its own utter unworthiness, and the grace that is in Christ, you will find that it will withdraw, and feel that the Lord Jesus alone is the only One to whom it can really go. Ah, beloved, your whole burden is never rolled off until you get to Him alone, until you cast yourself unreservedly upon the bosom of Jesus.
Naomi says, "Shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?" And where does she advise her to seek rest? At the feet of Boaz; and to you, dear unsaved one, I say, at the Saviour's feet there is peace for you, there is pardon for you, there is forgiveness for you, there is life for you, there is rest for you; to Him, then, to Him you must go.
Ruth is the picture of a thoroughly earnest soul. She does what she is bidden. She goes where Boaz is, and she casts herself down at his feet.
Perhaps some soul says, "Must I not make myself better first, must I not do something first?" You cannot, try what you will, you cannot make yourself one bit better, one bit more fit for the Saviour's presence. "Ah, but," you say, "Ruth was told to wash and anoint herself." Yes, but you are not, and that is the difference, for, as Job says, "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch and mine own clothes shall abhor me." That is, all the efforts of man are not the least use. Snow water is the very purest of all water, and what does snow water typify? Rites and ceremonies, and everything else that springs merely from man's flesh. People are trying all this, but it does not do, snow water does not cleanse from sin; nothing can cleanse you before God, or give relief to your soul, but the precious blood of Christ. To try to improve yourself, is only a snare of the devil to keep you away from the Saviour. There is a little hymn that says:
"If you wait till you are better
You will never come at all."
The devil knows that, and so he whispers, "Improve yourself, try and make yourself better." No, no! Heed him not; come! come! come as you are; the more you labour, the more tired you will get, and do you get any nearer? Not a bit, only more burdened. It is a great thing when a soul is heavy laden, and when the burden gets intolerable. The devil tries to hinder you finding it intolerable by slipping the burden first on one shoulder, then on the other; now on the bosom, and then on the back, but the burden is there all the same; rest you never find till you find it at the feet of Jesus. Oh, listen to his loving call: "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "I will GIVE," what a word for a helpless sinner! If you only knew the grace of His heart, and how He wants to give you salvation, you would trust Him at once, and receive what your weary soul need — rest.
And now Boaz speaks to Ruth. She has done nothing. but place herself under his protection, "And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth (which means "beauty") thine handmaid; spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid, for thou art a near kinsman. And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter, for thou hast showed more kindness at the latter end than at the beginning." How the Lord de. lights to have a soul in living contact with Him. self. He says, "Thou hast showed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning." What does he mean by that? Why, in the 2nd chapter she had gone into the field merely as a gleaner, and there had met Boaz. Now she had gone straight to him, confided in him, put her case entirely into his hands. "Take charge of all my affairs, I claim thy care," she seems to say, "thou art a near kinsman," that is, the heart claims Christ, and cannot do without Christ.
Does your heart say that? Do you claim Him? "How can I claim Him?" you ask. By faith. Faith can always appropriate Christ. Because you and I were under sentence of death, He became a man, died, and by His dying abolished death, and put away sin; and now, in resurrection, He takes all who believe into living union with Himself. so that by faith I can go to Him and say, "Thou art a near kinsman." What is that lovely word which He sends on the morning of His resurrection to those who trust in Him? Listed, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." Who are His brethren? Those who confide in Him. He acknowledges them, He takes the kinsman's place. He says, "It is true that I am thy near kinsman." He takes our place, under the judgment of God, in grace upon the cross, takes our sins upon Him, goes into death and the grave, but He rises from among the dead, and the first thing He does is to share all His spoils with us.
Oh, who would not have such a Christ? a Christ who says to the faith that claims Him, "Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter." He delights to have a soul in close quarters with Himself. Look at the blind Bartimaeus; He first brings him near to Him, and then He gives him what he wants. Look at Zaccheus again; He brings him down from the tree and goes with him to his house. He delights to have a soul near to Himself; nothing rejoices. His heart like the simple confidence of a soul who can trust Him entirely.
"Thou hast showed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning." That is, he says, "You used not to trust me, but now you do. You have more confidence in me than you had." What a lovely picture of the heart of Jesus! Satan says, "Don't you trust Him; He will not have you; you are not good enough;" but do not you believe Satan. You trust Jesus, there is nothing He values like confidence; He calls it "kindness" even. He has had hard and cruel treatment from many: will you not show him kindness? Many scorn and despise Him; do you trust Him. Does he see you confiding in Him? Behold then the rich fruit of this confidence. "I will do to thee all that thou requirest." He says, Every need of your heart I will meet. He owns Himself your kinsman. He owns you. He saves you entirely. He does all you require. You have nothing to do but to be still and trust Him.
"Howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I." Yea, there is a kinsman very near, and some of you have had very close dealings with him. You have tried to please him, tried to satisfy his claims, tried to meet his requirements. "Yes," you say, "I have tried to keep the law." You are right, there is the nearer kinsman, but can the law redeem? Can the law do a kinsman's part? No; the law can only condemn, can only prove you guilty; it cannot redeem.
"But if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth." You have nothing to do but to trust Him. He takes all upon Himself. He does the whole work. He blesses you. He brings you to God, and if you have got to go back into the city (and you and I have to go back and walk through the world, after He has saved us), see how He sends you back. He sends you back full. "He said, Bring the veil that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, He measured six measures of barley and laid it on her, and she went into the city." Six measures of barley! She could glean for herself about one ephah, and not a bad gleaning either; but now see what He gives! And mark this, too. She goes empty to him, holds the empty veil. Ah, there is something carried away that is very tangible, when I go to Christ. I carry away something very substantial that I have got from Him. Six measures. And what are His measures? They are filled full, pressed down, and running over; that is what He gives a soul that simply trusts in Him.
Then Naomi says, "Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest until he have finished the thing this day." My rest depends on the fact that He will not rest until there is something finished that enables Him to bless me perfectly. You have only to sit still and hear what Jesus says. Cast yourself simply on Him, and then you learn what rest really is. Boaz had something to do, but has Christ something to do? NO! But will He not do something? No! Has He done it, then? Yea, for we have heard those blessed words, the precious legacy of a dying Saviour, "IT IS FINISHED." "It is finished."
RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST
"Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down. And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's: And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it. Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it. Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel. Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe. And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, of the hand of Naomi. Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to he my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut of from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel, and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and he famous in Bethlehem: And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young woman. So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son. And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall he unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him. And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women, her neighbours, gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi: and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David." — Ruth 4:1-17.
The complete and thorough espousal of our cause by Jesus is that which leads to our espousal to Him. When once I learn my own utter weakness and incapacity as a sinner to rightly respond to the claims of God, I am glad to have my case taken up by One who can settle every difficulty and liquidate every claim that lay against me. This Jesus does.
By nature my relationship to God is grave and serious to a degree. The Psalmist acutely felt it when he said, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). To this true witness Paul adds his testimony, "And you who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (Eph. 2:1.3).
What solemn statements of God's Word regarding man in nature!
Born in sin - shapen in iniquity — dead in sins — children of disobedience — children of wrath. Man's history begins in sin, and ends in wrath. Such, dear reader, is your present relationship to God if not yet brought, through grace, to own your state, and to trust simply in the Lord Jesus. If this latter be true of you, however, everything is changed, and the above-quoted Scriptures, though they most truly describe what was your relation to God, in no wise apply to you now. Everything is altered the moment I have simply come to Jesus. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new, and all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself" (2 Cor. 5:17, 18).
Jesus is my Saviour, and does a Saviour's part, and all this in view of a deeper purpose of His heart, viz., to have me in relationship to Himself, as a member of His Body, that blessed assembly, which, as His Bride, He will have for ever by His side, the partner of as joys and glory, as well as the witness of His grace.
To have believers thus united to Himself is that for which He apprehends us. No pains, no, trouble, are spared to effect this deep and eternal purpose of His heart, and in the action of Boaz, in this 4th chapter, we have this precious truth illustrated.
"Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman, of whom Boaz spake, came by." Boaz states the case to this nearer kinsman; but is there any help to be got from the nearer kinsman? Will he redeem? No, he cannot. He says, "I cannot redeem. . . . lest I mar mine own inheritance." The law can do nothing for the poor guilty sinner but prove his guilt.
You remember the parable in the New Testament of the man who went down from Jerusalem, the place of royal grace, to Jericho, the place of cursing — figure of man, as a sinner, turning his back on God and the place of blessing, and going down the high road to hell. The poor man falls among thieves, who strip him, and wound him, and leave him half dead. "And by chance there came down a certain priest that way." By chance, mark. "Ah," you say, "here is just the right man, here is a man of a tender heart, a man who can help," but "He passed by on the other side." "I cannot touch him," he says. Why? Because to touch him would have been to disqualify himself, to make himself unclean; he would, so to speak, have "marred his own inheritance."
Then there comes a Levite, the second functionary of the law, but he passes by too, he cannot touch him or help him. The priest and the Levite were the "nearer kinsmen" of the wounded man, they were both nationally and religiously connected with him, but they cannot help him; the law cannot help, it can only condemn those who are under it. But when the Samaritan, type of the Lord Jesus, came down, he, though not bound to touch the wounded man, who had no claim on him, came where he was, went right down to the spot where he lay, picked him up, and set him in a perfect place of safety, yea, put him in his own place. The law could not help the sinner, so passing by, it made the way clear for the Saviour. The nearer kinsman could not redeem, and the way was made clear for Boaz; there was no reason why Boaz should take up Ruth's case, save that he loved her; and there is no reason why Christ should take up our case save that He loved us.
Jesus is ready to do a kinsman's part. He buys us and brings us back to God by the wonderful redemption price of His own life-blood which He shed for us. But You ask "Am I worthy?" That is not the question. The whole point is, not your worthiness, but the grace of Christ. A soul brought into contact with the law is necessarily miserable and self-condemned, for its claims can, not be responded to, for "by the law is the knowledge of sin"; the law gives a man a sight of his guilt, his sin and unworthiness, and the deeper the soul feels that the better, for the more it has the sense of its utter ruin the more suited is it to Christ, as then it is a question of only the total ruin of the sinner and the absolute grace of the Saviour. Oh, take the place of utter ruin, of being thoroughly lost and helpless; own yourself a sinner, and nothing but a sinner, and then you will find what the grace of His heart is. Nothing can be done to improve you; Christ takes up the case, and He does the whole work; it is not you doing your part, and Christ doing His, but He has done the whole work. The gospel is not, as one described it once, like a boat pulled by two oars, one oar "faith," and the other oar "works." That is the devil's gospel; you do your part, and Christ will do His! No, no, He saves the soul; He puts away sin; He brings in redemption; He settles all with God; He brings us to God, and then He says, "You will walk differently now, of course, now that you belong to Me."
"And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, of the hand of Naomi. Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife." The price that Boaz paid we are not told, but the property and the coveted person became his. Redemption gave him title to claim Ruth as his bride. And have we not heard of One who both said and acted thus? "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which, when a man hath found, he hideth, and for jay thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field" (Matt. 13:44). The field is the world. The hidden treasure defines the souls in it precious to the Saviour's heart, and for the sake of them "He selleth all that he hath," gives up everything, and in sorrow, and woe, and bloody sweat, and death, and for the glory of God, He, on the cross, makes propitiation, meets the righteous demands of God, pays down the ransom price of His. own life, and then makes all His own by purchase. For the sake of the treasure — "His own" — He buys all.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it' (Matt. 13:45, 46). The pearl is usually considered to be Christ, to possess whom, the sinner sells all. Such a thought is totally without foundation in Scripture. What has the sinner to sell? Nothing, unless you count his sins as being worth something, which is worse than folly. The sinner is guilty, defiled, ruined, bankrupt, lost, and dead in sins, and can do nothing but what ensures God's righteous judgment. To talk of his "selling," therefore, is folly, he has nothing to sell, and Christ cannot be valued at any price you may name.
But how simple and surpassing sweet becomes the similitude when I see Christ as the heavenly merchantman, who, beholding the Church, figured here as a "goodly pearl," sells all to make her His own. Little wonder that He says, "One pearl of GREAT price," for the price was Himself, and who, I say, can value Christ aright? None!
As the pearl lies deep in the mighty waters, and has to be fetched up by the venturesome diver, so the Church (composed, as it is, of sinners saved by grace) lay deep in sin, ruin, and condemnation, the mighty waters of divine wrath and judgment righteously impending on every soul thereof.
And what did Jesus do? "Christ also LOVED the church, and (1) GAVE HIMSELF for it: (2) that He might SANCTIFY and CLEANSE it with the washing of water by the Word; (3) that He might PRESENT IT TO HIMSELF a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27).
Yea, blessed be His name! deep into the dark waters of our condition did He fling Himself, that by dying He might blot out our guilt, and then, rising from the dead, connect us with Himself in everlasting glory. His love was the spring of it all, and here is presented in a threefold aspect. In the past, "He gave Himself, — that settled every question of our guilty state before God. For the present, He sanctifies, purifying us by the water of the Word. In the future, He will present us to Himself as the Bride, the Lamb's wife, glorious and spotless, suited to Himself, His intelligent helpmeet for ever, sharer of His glories and joys. What love! Our past, present, and future are canopied with a love that leaves nothing to be desired but a more appreciative heart, to return to Him the blessed affections which fill His own bosom, and which alone can be gratified by such return, for love is only satisfied with love, and can brook no less requital.
"So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife." What an unexpected, but bright, and happy, finale to the path that opened full of sorrow and loneliness, when with firm purpose of heart she turned her back on Moab and its gods, to go to Israel's land and to confide in Israel's God. But such is this touching history (full of deepest meaning, too, as truly typical of Israel's future days of blessing under a risen and reigning Christ), and so, too, dear reader, will it be with you, if Jesus is now the object of your heart by faith. You are related to Him in a new, living, and eternal manner, by the Holy Ghost which dwells in you. The nuptial day is not yet come, but in the meantime the Holy Ghost forgets not to say, "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2, 3).
As espoused to Him, O beloved, let there be chastity of heart to Him, simplicity, fervour, faithfulness, earnestness, confidence, unfeigned affection, untiring industry, unswerving loyalty of love, till the moment when He shall come and gather us up to be with Himself, and then shall every desire of His heart and ours be satisfied. He will have us in His own likeness and glory, and we shall have the joy of unbroken fellowship with Him for ever. I wonder not at all that in Rev. 19:7-9, of that day it is said, "Let. us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage. supper of the Lamb."
It is the day for which He waits. Shall not we, with joy and patience, do the same?
The place nearest His heart, the highest place of all, is the place we shall get by-and-by. He will come and take us into the Father's house, and then the marriage of the Lamb will be consummated.
Oh, blessed Lord, hasten the day!
But, ere I close this sweet and fruitful book, I must put a few pointed queries to thee, dear reader.
Now, tell me, will you be there? Are you going to spend your eternity in those bright scenes of eternal day and rest, or are you going to spend your eternity shut out from them, and in the lake of fire?
The day is coming, dear unsaved soul, when all you cling to so tightly will be tom from your grasp most ruthlessly, and you must pass into eternity. And, listen, you have not wanted Christ here, and you have lived without Him here, and you must live on without Jesus there. When a man dies here, he passes out of the sight of his fellow-men, which is the first death: but then there comes the second death, and what is that? He passes from God's sight for ever!
Ah, beloved, does he still exist? Listen! "The fearful," that is, those who are afraid to confess Christ, ashamed to own Jesus now; "and the unbelieving," that is, the scoffer, the rationalist, the sceptic; "and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).
Sinner, there is your eternity! As God lives in heaven, you must live in the lake of fire. The first death closes irrevocably all intercourse with man; the second death closes irrevocably all intercourse with God. — And oh, I ask, are you going to brave it? Are you going to risk it? Do you say, "I do not believe that bit of the Bible?" Then throw it all in the fire. It is all true, or none of it is true. If God is worth believing at all, He is worth believing entirely; and whether you believe or not, still is His word true. But then there is the other side, Jesus says, "I want you to live with Me. I want you to be loved by Me. I want you to dwell forever in My Father's house." But man often, alas, replies, "I would rather live without God, and die without Him, and be damned without Him, than bow down to be blessed by Jesus."
Ah, my friend, there will be no pride in hell; there will be no rebellion in hell, and you will carry down your memory with you there, and then you will remember how His grace besought you here. Oh, turn, turn to Jesus now, accept Him now, and in that day when He makes up His jewels you will be there, as, through His grace, I know I shall be there. If He has loved me enough to die for me, He is worthy of having all my heart. You may depend upon it you could not do a better thing than turn to Jesus now. He will give you rest for your conscience through His work, rest for your heart in Himself, from day to day, and, by-and-by, He will stoop down and lift you into the rest of God, where your song shall be of Him and His grace through all eternity's blessed bridal day!
"O precious Saviour, deep Thy pain,
When forth the life-blood flow'd
That washed our souls from every stain,
That paid the debt we owed.
Cleansed from our sins, renewed by grace,
Thy royal throne above
(Blest Saviour) is our destined place,
Our portion there Thy love.
Thine eye, in that bright cloudless day,
Shall, with supreme delight,
Thy fair and glorious bride survey,
Unblemish'd in Thy sight."