Do children today still have nursery rhymes read to them by their parents? My parents sure read to me. One that I remember quite well is ďHumpty Dumpty.Ē
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses
And all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty
All of us have had a great fall. Many never have their lives put back together again. Many never have their self-hood in tact again.
The emotional pain and trauma from a fall creates shock and suffering. The fall may be from an abusive parent or spouse. It may be from vanished dreams. It may be from the loss of a job or loss of health.
Many seek to kill the pain through addictive behavior. There are plenty of people ready to make a dollar off of the pain from the fall that shatters us into pieces. The sex industry, drug dealer, and the brewing industry profit because of addictions that mask the pain instead of accepting and dealing with it in healthy ways.
There are those who are ready to take advantage of broken and weakened people who live in fear of losing their jobs, their homes and possessions, and their health. Even corrupt spiritual leaders use Christianity. They exploit and profit from peopleís addictions, weaknesses, and fears for their own selfish gain. They are the most despicable of all and will not escape the wrath of God.
These addictions also include the inordinate desire to please others at the sacrifice of self-hood in order to acquire acceptance and friendship. All kinds of methods, things, chemicals, and people can become addictions to kill the intense pain from the fall.
None of them work. As my friend, Pastor Roger Bennett, teaches, ďThe pain killer becomes the pain producer.Ē
From my study of Scripture and from my life experience which has included great falls, great breaking, and great pain, I believe that God is the first cause. I believe that God breaks us either directly or indirectly. By indirectly, I mean that God allows us to fall.
Sometimes, God takes the wall out from under us. He does this on purpose to make us realize how dependent, finite, and frail we are. For example, I knew a pastor who God once put flat on his back with a sickness. He said that God did this to him in order to get his attention. This pastor was a lost soul, did not go to church, and owned his own business. He had it made without God.
Only when he lost his health and could not manage his business, did he look up and take the hand of God in Christ reaching down to him. His life changed dramatically. He received Christ, was baptized, joined the church, and surrendered to the ministry of serving the Lord as pastor all in a span of about six months.
Thus, I believe that God is the first cause of bad things happening to us. Rich people, successful people, and powerful people think that they have no need to depend on the Lord for anything. In fact, many consciously or unconsciously believe the maxim of Karl Marx, the author of the Communist Manifesto, who said, ďReligion is the opiate of the people.Ē Karl Marx hated the Lord and believed that people had the ability within themselves to be self-sufficient without any help from God. To Marx, religion was a crutch.
In other words, Humpty Dumpty could put himself back together again without any help from God or anyone else including the all the Kingís horses and all the Kingís men! For me, I am not afraid to admit my helpless, mortal, and weakened state from my human condition. I am not ashamed to admit my deep need for Christ. It is only when I admit such helplessness like my pastor friend did that I can then look up and reach up for the hand of the Shepherd who picks me up out of the ditch, nurses my wounds, and sets me on my way again - a new man, a man in love with the Lord, and a man who is grateful for His mercy, love, and grace.
The story of Ruth and Naomi is the story of falling off the wall not through any fault of their own or from any punishment by God. These women were God-fearing, pure, and innocent. I believe that God allowed these misfortunes to happen to them, and thus, I can say that God took away everything and everyone from them. Why did God break these two dear women? Why does God break us and let us fall off the wall broken into pieces that no person can put back together again?
The brokenness in Naomi and Ruthís life gave God the opportunity to change their situation for the better. Naomi did not sit around and moan and groan about the horrific losses she experienced. The loss of food forcing her and her husband to leave home and go to Edom, a foreign country. The loss of her husband, Elimelech. The loss of her sons. The loss of possessions and ability to work forcing her back to Bethlehem. No, she didnít sit around and whine and complain to the Lord about her multiplied losses. In her compassion and concern for her daughter-in-law, Ruth, she was given a plan from God. Ruth needed a home.
Boaz had been gracious to Ruth when she gleaned in his field. Boaz was a relative. God in His wisdom and providence in the Books of the Law, provided for a kinsman-redeemer to a helpless, homeless widow. Boaz was that kinsman-redeemer. Boaz is a symbol of Christ who is our Kinsman-Redeemer as well.
Naomi looked to the revelation of God in Scripture, in the Pentateuch, to put the pieces back together again. The Lord is a mechanic. He fixes broken hearts.
God is always at work in our lives to bring us and to keep us in a love relationship with Him. He does this without violating the free will He has placed in us. Yet, He creates adversity and difficulty to make us realize how weak and frail we are. He creates these difficulties because He loves us. Let us never forget that. Just as a loving parent takes away things and people who are bad influences from their children, so God takes away people and things from us. He breaks us into pieces. He breaks us because He loves us.
The Scripture teaches about this love from our heavenly Father.
The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as his child. So hold on through your sufferings, because they are like a fatherís discipline. God is treating you as children. All children are disciplined by their fathers (Hebrews 12:6-7).
Did not our Lord have the power to give the Promised Land to the Hebrew children immediately instead of forcing them into the deprivation of the wilderness making them rely upon His provision and grace? Is He not going to do the same with us?
The brokenness from the wilderness is evidence of Godís providential love for us. What is His goal for us? It is to lead us into a love relationship with Him, to teach us dependence upon Him, to teach us gratitude, and develop the image of Christ within us. Our goal may not be His goal. Through brokenness, God is working to make our goal into His goal which is to be and to do what He created us to be and to do.
In changing our situation and putting the pieces back together, Naomi gives Ruth some good advice. She is all hot, sweaty, and smelly. Her clothes have the dust of the field on them. Ruthís condition reminds me of our human condition. In our natural state, we are indeed smelly, sweaty, and have the dust of the world upon us. We need a bath. We need to be bathed in the cleansing blood of Christ confessing our sins, our weaknesses, and our goof-ups instead of trying to kill our pain through addictive behavior or trying to fix ourselves.
Confession brings cleansing. The adage is true, ďConfession is good for the soul.í It is always the first step God uses in putting the pieces back together.
Ruth bathed, put on her best, clean clothes, and covered herself in perfume. She didnít look like the same Ruth nor smell like the same Ruth.
In Christ, neither do we! The Apostle Paul put it this way.
God uses us to spread his knowledge everywhere like a sweet-smelling perfume. Our offering to God is this: We are the sweet smell of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are being lost.† To those who are being saved, we are the smell of life that brings life (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).
Ruth left the house feeling good about herself. She felt like every woman wants to feel about herself when they look into the mirror. She dolled herself up. The before and after picture tells the story.
Before, she did not feel attractive. After, she feels beautiful. Before, she did not feel good about herself. Now, she feels lovely. Naomi knew that the new Ruth would be attractive and appealing to Boaz who was her intended catch.
Isnít this what God does when He puts us back together? He gives us esteem. He pronounces us holy and righteous. He adopts us as His child. He weds us as His bride, and puts a new, clean robe of righteousness over us. We give off a sweet smelling odor attractive to others in the fellowship of Christ. We do not repel others by our foul stench of profanity, cruelty, or mean-spiritedness. Godís grace is poured over us like fine perfume. We smell good!
Moreover, the Lord makes us lovely to Him. Just as Ruth looked lovely and smelled wonderfully for Boaz, God makes us look lovely and give off an incense that pleases Him. After all, we are the bride, and Christ is the groom. Iíve never officiated a wedding where the bride looked and smelled like she came out of the pig pen.
Yes, the Lord changes our situation for His glory and for our benefit of becoming a fit bride for our Groom. And sometimes, He has to break us to make us. Once empty, God can fill us and lead us to a brand new start into a new situation and a new dependence on Him.
In our brokenness, we discover the grace and kindness of God. Thatís amazing in itself. Instead of fighting in hostility with God through feeling that God has abandoned us and instead of whining over our losses blaming God for them, we discover His grace and kindness. Yes, God takes away everything and everyone away for a reason often unknown to us at first and certainly unknown to those who are not His children.
Boaz woke up from his sleep on the threshing floor to find a woman sleeping at his feet. Startled, he asked, ďWho are you?Ē Ruth answered, "I am your servant Ruth. Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer" (vs. 9 NIV). Ruth found grace on the threshing floor - a most unlikely place. And we find grace when knocked to the floor - a most unlikely place. We find our Kinsman-Redeemer as we lay prostrate at His feet.
Boaz was kind to Ruth and exhibited Godís grace in several ways as her kinsman-redeemer. He told her not to leave. He did not want her to be accused of being a woman of the night which would damage her reputation if someone saw her walking the streets in the middle of the night. He protected her reputation.
When we are in Christ, the Lord gives us a name and status. No matter what others may think of us, no matter their opinion of us, we have the name of Christ written in our hearts and in our self-hood. Thus, we are protected from the slander, cursing, and gossip of those who say mean, cruel, and unkind things about us because the Lord protects our name. He knows who we are. We know who we are in Christ, and that is all that really matters. That is the grace and kindness of the Lord! The Lord protects our self-hood, our person-hood, from slanderous and libelous attacks from others. Our reputation is protected for we know who we are.
Boaz demonstrated his kindness and the grace of God by providing for her. He gave her six measures or six omers of barley, slightly more than a bushel - about sixty five pounds. Boaz poured the barley into Ruthís shawl where she carried the grain on her head to Naomi. Boaz gave her as much as she could carry. Ruth didnít work for it. She didnít plant it. She didnít harvest it. She didnít earn it. It was a gift! Boaz is the one who paid the price.
Godís grace is a gift. Christ paid the price for our salvation on the cross. We didnít deserve it. We didnít earn it. We didnít work for it even if we have done a thousand good deeds. We cannot merit the grace of God.
Godís grace makes us rich. Even though we may not have much of this worldís money or possessions, we are rich. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV). So often when God breaks us, then we truly discover the grace of God reaching down to us. In that discovery, we strike the mother lode of gold - the grace of God.
Ruth left Boaz with abundant provision - all that she carry. We leave the cross with the abundant life of Christ provided through His cross.
Finally, Boaz showed Ruth grace by accepting her proposal for a marriage relationship with him. By laying down at his feet, she proposed marriage to him. That was one way they did it back in Bible times. It may not be the proper etiquette for a woman to ask a man to marry her, but that is what Ruth did.
After Scott and my daughter, Kelly, had dated for about two years, I told her that I was going to have to get my shotgun and tell that boy to marry her! It was past time! I told her that since he was so shy that she needed to propose marriage instead of him doing the proposing! She quickly told me to mind my own business and that she would never be the one proposing. It just wasnít the right thing to do!
In the case of Ruth and Boaz, Ruth asking Boaz to marry her must have been the right thing. Boaz was an older man. Ruth was a younger woman. Boaz correctly acknowledged that Ruth could have sought our a younger man to marry, but she didnít. Why? Because Boaz was her kinsman-redeemer.
A younger man would fulfill her fleshly desires. A younger man would be strong and full of vitality. But, Boaz was her kinsman-redeemer, and she chose redemption over fleshly satisfaction.
In her brokenness, Ruth found her kinsman-redeemer who alone had the power to put the pieces from her fall back together again.
Dear friends, the younger men represent the world and all of itís false promises to satisfy our fleshly desires and needs. In our natural state, we covet more - more money, more things, more sex, more, more, more and yet, the world never satisfies. Having it all may satisfy for a short time, but in the end, it creates a desire for still more. Desire is never satisfied. For example, when the desire to win a Super Bowl is achieved, immediately the desire to win another takes itís place.
Boaz represents Christ, our Redeemer. He alone has the power to put our broken pieces back together like He wants us to be - humble, grateful, and in the image of Christ instead of the image of the fallen Adam. This is the grace of Christ.
When God breaks us, we donít have to wish and hope. We know that He is going to put us together again in better shape and in better circumstances than we were before the fall.
I can think of several examples in our own church. I can think of Ruth and the brokenness she experienced. As a result, she went back to school and became a nurse. I think of her loss of her husband, Herman. Lonely and alone, God gave her Jerry. It was not a coincidence that he was sitting there at Hardees in Varnville when she walked in that day.
I can think of B. J. whose husband left her with two small girls to raise. Like Ruth, she saw the Lordís provisions by playing the piano at three churches each Sunday to make a little extra money to support those children. And, the Lord eventually brought her and Vic together as husband and wife. God takes the broken pieces of our lives and puts us together again in better shape and in better circumstances than we were before the fall.
Then, I think of several in our church being crushed now into a million pieces. I can say with all confidence, that God is working even now and even though you cannot see Him working to put you back together again.
Our merciful and gracious Lord will protect you, provide for you, and in all of this turmoil and trial, you will discover that mother lode of gold - Godís grace.
He who holds the world in His hand. He who rules the heavens and earth knows your name, knows your brokenness, and will bring from this a love relationship with Christ that you never knew before and form the image of Christ in you which is why He made you and loves you so much.
I was just a broken vessel laying shattered on the floor
Every piece that really mattered had been shattered o'er and o'er
Then I found a man named Jesus and He looked upon my face
He said if I would let Him, He would mold me back in place
So He gently placed my life upon the great potters wheel
He washed away my angry pain with love that I could feel
With His nail scared hands He touched my heart
He cleansed me through and through
Then He smiled at what He'd fashioned, twas an image all brand new.
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