In this message, we learn how God challenges society’s expectations (and exceeds our own).
Invariably, when Holly and I speak
to people about dating or marriage,
which I don’t do it too much… The reason for it is
I feel like most of what I did right in marriage
was in the selection process.
I’m like, “Just pray. Pray that…”
I mean, because if you were married to
Holly, you would probably do pretty good too.
She is not hard to be married to. And I
mean that. Okay? You’re like, “Eh, you’re
just sucking up so she’ll kiss you today after
lunch and all that. You just want to look good.”
No, I’m serious about it. That’s really how I feel
about it, but I think she kind
of feels that way about me too.
We were talking the other day. I said, “I know
it’s hard to have me for a husband sometimes. I
know it’s hard. Not because I’m abusive or mean
or don’t love you, or anything like that, but
there’s so much you didn’t know about
me when you said you would marry me.”
She says this thing a lot of times. She says,
“I love everything there is to know about you.”
That makes me feel good. So, I always teach
(I know it’s an unusual Scripture to teach
about dating) from Matthew 13:44, to bring
a New Testament verse right alongside this
Old Testament story about Ruth and your
current situation. In Matthew 13:44,
it says, “The kingdom of heaven is
like treasure hidden in a field.
When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in
his joy went and sold all he had and bought that
[treasure].” No. He bought the field the treasure
was in. Jesus said the kingdom is like that.
I would say that being married is like
that. You don’t just buy the shiny stuff.
Oh, oh, oh! No, no. You buy the whole patch
of field. “I’m not marrying their family;
I’m marrying them.” But on Christmas… Guess
who you get to kick it with every Christmas.
Yeah. They’ll ask Holly, “How did
you know that Pastor Steven…?” I
remember one time at intern teaching they
said, “How did you know that he was the one?”
I was irritated that day about something, so I
said, “She didn’t! She didn’t know. She hoped.”
In a moment of candor. Probably
the interns couldn’t handle that.
That was probably malpractice
on these young hearts,
just thinking it’s going to be this total Jerry
Maguire moment, if y’all remember that movie.
I’m just imagining Holly going, “I think, I
think, I think he’s probably the one. I think,
I think…” How did she know? You don’t know. She
hoped, and then she held herself to a standard
that she would be the kind of woman who would
find the man she wanted God to bring in her life.
That’s very important. “How
did you know?” You don’t know.
“Ruth, how did you know when you got up
that morning that you were going to be
in the field of Boaz? Did you just sense it?
Did you wake up that morning, Ruth, and say,
‘I have a good feeling that today
I am going to bump into my Boaz’?”
Ruth said, “No. I was just hungry. It
was do or die. I had no husband. My
mother-in-law was depressed. My mother-in-law was
so depressed she started saying, ‘Call me Mara.'”
She changed her name to reflect her situation. She
has a conflated identity that is informed now by
her experiences. I’ve been thinking a lot lately
about how our experiences affect our identity.
I’ve been thinking about the entanglement that
happens when you can no longer know the difference
between who you are and what you’ve been
through or who you are and where you come from.
Ruth, the Moabite, was a part of the lineage of
Jesus, the Messiah. That makes no sense. Ruth
knew none of it. “Why are
you slowing down to tell us
all this instead of just preaching the
verses?” Because I want you to realize
that you’ve been reading the book of Ruth wrong,
as if she had some great faith, and as if you have
to have some great faith that knows, “I’m exactly
where God wants me to be, doing exactly what God
has called me to do, and this is going to turn
out okay for his glory.” No. You don’t know.
“But you just had to know. Right?” No. I hoped.
I worked, but I didn’t know. “You had to know
that ‘Jireh’ was going to be nominated for
a Grammy after you wrote it. Right?” No.
I loved it, and I thought, “If they don’t give
us a Grammy for this album, they’re stupid.”
I did. I thought that, but I didn’t know. You
don’t know. As a matter of fact, in the middle
of trying to process that particular album… Have
you all heard the song “Jireh”? After we wrote it,
I loved it so much, and I sent it to my friend,
and he didn’t say anything back about it.
(You know who you are.) I was hanging out
with my friend and my son. Elijah and I really
loved “Jireh.” We thought it was the
greatest song, and we just loved it.
I was talking to my friend, and he said something
about “Jireh,” which he never responded to on
the text message. Look. I was so scared that
maybe I liked it more than other people would,
because when you put something out there,
you never really know if they’re going to
judge it or not. That goes for everything from an
outfit to an opportunity you try to seize to an
encouraging word you try to give. That potential
of rejection can be a really difficult thing.
So I said to him, “I know ‘Jireh’
isn’t a banger, but I like it.”
Afterward, Elijah said,
“What was that crap about ‘Jireh’ is not a
banger? I thought we liked ‘Jireh.’ I thought
we loved ‘Jireh.’ I thought we felt the presence
of God in your truck when we listened to ‘Jireh.'”
I said, “You caught me red-handed. I was so scared
that he didn’t like it that I brought myself down
so he couldn’t do it to me. I did it to myself.”
“You had to know that song was special.”
No. I knew it was special to me.
So, all of these little things… Do you see
it in the Scripture? All of these little
things that whoever wrote down Ruth wrote down
way after it happened… You know that, right?
This is not a live feed. Even when it says in
verse 1… I love stuff like this. Even in verse
1 when it says it was the field belonging
to Boaz… That was added after…years after.
Ruth did not know Boaz was Boaz. Even after
she met him she didn’t know who he was.
So, it sets me free to know that
certainty is not a prerequisite for faith,
that understanding is not a
prerequisite for blessing.
Okay. Let me do a poll. This is for online
too. You can participate in the chat.
How many of you believe that God is
guiding your life? Raise your hand.
How many of you believe that from time to
time you get off track? How can both be true?
If God is guiding your life
and he’s good at what he does,
how can you be better than
God at your job disobeying…?
Because that is what you do. The Bible says we all
like sheep have gone astray. Sheep are “baad” at
following directions. But the question really
is… God is guiding my life. Yes. “Trust in the
Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own
understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.” “The steps
of a good man are ordered by the Lord.”
All of these Scriptures… I love those verses.
I need God to lead me. What else am I going
to let lead me? My feelings? My friends?
Sometimes I think they’re dumber than I am.
I love them, but they’re just as dumb as I am,
if not dumber. I can’t follow them. I’m sorry.
I can’t follow another frail
human. I need the Lord to lead me.
But the question I have deep beneath the veneer
of that verbalization of a theological belief that
God is leading me is “How detailed will he be?
How involved will he get?” When you say,
“God leads me…” Some people say that…
In fact, from a scale of 1 to 10, how much
do you believe God is leading your life?
Where would you fall on a scale of 1
to 10? How much would you believe it?
Watch out for the people who shout “Ten”
really quickly, because they think
God speaks to them about everything.
Everything. They put God in stuff that
I don’t think God cares about very much.
Do you know what I’m saying? I
mean, they really do. They just
put God in the craziest stuff.
“The Lord told me to wear pink.”
But pink does not look good on your
skin tone. That wasn’t the Lord.
Be careful. When people say “Ten” like that, it’s
just a sign they’re overcompensating a little bit,
because probably, if they’re saying “Ten,”
they don’t want to have to make decisions. “Oh,
I believe the Lord is leading me, and that’s why
I’ve been fired four times in the last 18 months.”
Because the Lord was leading you to another place
to get fired from because you’re irresponsible?
That’s what it was? Oh, it was the Lord who made
you late to work 14 times. That was the Lord?
How much can I trust God to lead
me? You know what I’m saying?
Will he step in…? You know, like Jonah, will he
send a fish to spit me out in Nineveh? Maybe.
Will he send a wind if I’m trying to go to
Tarshish and I’m supposed to be in Nineveh? Maybe.
He did that in the Scripture sometimes. Will he
completely redirect me? Is God like a GPS who will
reroute me with a polite British accent? What
does he sound like? How does God lead me? Now,
remember, in the book of Ruth, we started with
eight main characters, and now we’re down to four.
We started with a man named Elimelek.
He died 10 years ago in Moab
during the famine at the very beginning
of the relocation of the family.
We started with his sons, Kilion and Mahlon.
They’re dead too. All we’re left with now are Ruth
and Naomi, and there is no record of
whether or not they even like each other.
There is no record, and I guarantee
you both of them would have rather
had Mahlon (Naomi’s son, Ruth’s husband)
back than to have to live with each other.
Now they’re making do with what’s
left. The tension of the text is
that God is doing something that will result
in a king named David and a king named Jesus,
and they don’t get to read that part. You
don’t get to read that part. That’s why
it’s not easy for you to raise kids, and that’s
why other people who have sent their kids far,
far away and only have to see them three times
a year can tell you how to raise your kids.
They got to read the last sentence of the book
where the kids left the house, but yours are
still here. You don’t get to read how it ends. You
don’t get to know how it ends. You don’t get to
know “Is this the end?” You don’t get to know “Is
my best behind me?” You don’t get to know any of
that. You have to live in the tension. That’s
hard to do, yet there is this note of grace.
It’s almost implied that Naomi and
Ruth are walking along together,
back in Bethlehem, Ruth away from
everything she knew. Do you know
the god Chemosh she grew up serving demanded
human sacrifices, according to their mindset?
Now she’s learning how to worship
a God she has only heard about
through the lens of Naomi, who is bitter about
what God has allowed to happen in her life.
She just makes a decision one day in
the Scripture… I love this Scripture.
It really got my attention to know that the
Bible doesn’t say the Lord led Ruth to the field.
It just says she went to work. Now, if
you are not a “10” person… “The Lord is
leading me every step I take, every breath I
take…” What’s the song? “Every step you take…”
It’s so creepy. It’s such a stalker song.
If you’re not a “10” on that, it’s okay. If you
want to believe that the Lord is leading you,
but it doesn’t feel like it
or seem like it right now…
If you want to believe the Lord is leading you,
but you know it’s your own stupidity that got you
in the storm to begin with… If you are somewhere
in the 6, “I think God is leading me here…”
“I’m going to go out today, and I’m going to see
if I can glean in a field.” That’s all Ruth said.