Summary: We cling to the God of the Bible because he clings to us through Jesus.
A steel reinforced, underground, lead-lined concrete vault. In case of nuclear attack that’s where you should take refuge, say experts. Only a structure like that will adequately protect you from the initial blast and subsequent radioactive fallout. Such structures were not uncommon during the height of the Cold War. They’re still around of course and one in Switzerland was recently converted into a budget hotel. Patrons of that hotel claim that once you put on slippers for the cold concrete floor and wear earplugs to block out the noisy ventilation system, a bunker is not a bad place to bunk for the night. That may be but can you imagine having to hang out in such a place for two weeks after a nuclear blast as you wait for the radiation outside to dissipate? No thanks.
A nuclear attack on the capital region (of Alberta) is, I suppose, conceivable but it doesn’t seem to be very likely. So it probably doesn’t matter that you don’t know where the nearest bunker is to take refuge. There is, however, a much more serious threat that we live under. It’s the reality of daily attacks from Satan and the pain of living in a sin-filled world. Is there anywhere we can take refuge from these hardships? There is. The Old Testament believer Ruth sought refuge under the wings of Israel’s God (Ruth 2:12). Caity, through your profession of faith today you’re signalling as did Ruth your intent to take refuge under the Lord’s wings. Today’s sermon text will encourage you to remain there until God calls you home to heaven.
The true story of Ruth is one of the most loved in the Bible. It took place about 3,100 years ago during the time of the Judges. Initially the story isn’t even about Ruth. It’s about a man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons. They fled Israel because of a famine and went to live in the land of Moab. There, Elimelech’s two sons married Moabite women. But then Elimelech died and not long after that his two sons also passed away leaving three widows: Naomi and her two daughters-in-law. Naomi was so distraught by the deaths that she insisted that people no longer call her Naomi which means “pleasant” but Mara or “bitter” because that’s how she felt towards the Lord.
There’s at least one thing for us to learn here, Caity. Things don’t always go as planned, not even for God’s people. Elimelech thought he could save himself and his family by moving to Moab but he ended up dying there. What we learn is that we really are not the masters of our domain, God is. So you may have some definite plans for what you want to do this summer or further down the line when you’re done with high school but acknowledge what is written in the book of Proverbs: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Keep making plans but always humbly add: “If the Lord wills.”
So does this mean that you are promising to follow a God who will do with you whatever he feels like? No. God is not a dictator who orders his servants to do what suits his fancy without any regard to their well-being. This King has promised to guide your steps for your good. That too is illustrated in the story of Ruth. The trip to Moab may have seemed to end poorly for Elimelech and his sons but it was good for Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite. Her people did not follow the true God. But when Ruth married into Elimelech’s family she came to believe in the one true God. She came to possess salvation. And so God will direct your steps, Caity, so that everything that happens to you will somehow work out for your eternal good. In fact Elimelech’s death wasn’t even evil. Death is really just God’s green light for believers to cross into heaven.
Elimelech and family must have taught Ruth this truth and she believed it. My how she believed it! Her faith is obvious in what have become the most famous words Ruth spoke. When Naomi decided to go back to Israel after the death of her husband and sons, she insisted that her daughters-in-law stay with their own people. One daughter-in-law, Orpah, went back but this is the exchange that followed between Naomi and Ruth: “15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” 16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:15, 16).