WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Happily Ever After
February 9, 2014
It’s the fairy tale ending we all want to hear. It’s the ideal ending to a perfectly crafted story. But is ‘happily ever after’ the kind of ending we’re designed and created to discover?
In this message, Pastor Ed Young takes another look at a unique and powerful love story found in the Old Testament. As he unpacks each character, we discover that ‘happily ever after’ requires some very strategic and very intentional steps. And when we are willing to do things God’s way, it’s the kind of ending we can all experience.
Good morning! What’s love got to do with it? That’s what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about this secondhand emotion. We’re talking about commitment. We’re talking about pledging yourself to a position no matter what the cost. Well, since we’re talking about love and love stories I’ve invited my man back. I’m talking about Chuck Bethany! Let’s give him a round of applause. Because since we’re talking about romance we need some music, don’t we? What do you think? Valentine’s is right around the corner. Guys are you square for Valentine’s? Hope you are. Are you? I like it… I like it!
Today I want to tell you a story, and this story is a true romance novel. It’s found in the book of Ruth. Now, Ruth is nestled over in the Old Testament. I think it’s the greatest love story out there not only because of the character development but also the subplot. Last week we opened this series, What’s Love Got To Do With It? And we talked about Ruth. Basically Ruth was from a land called Moab. She left Moab, went to God’s country, Bethlehem. You know, where Jesus was born. She happened to meet (because her husband had died in Moab), she happened to meet billionaire Boaz, this man of God, called the kinsman redeemer. Basically, as we left them last week, we saw that they lived happily ever after.
I don’t know about you but I like to live happily ever after. When I was a kid my mother would read me all those children’s books, all the epic children’s books. And they lived happily ever after. Go to a movie and what do you want? You want a good ending. Or maybe someone reads a book or whatever and we say, how does it end? And now and again if you’re reading something or watching something you might fast-forward to the end. Or maybe you’ll turn to the last chapter because we like an ending. I would argue we’re made for happily ever after. We’re made for it. All of us face an ever-after. We either face it with God or without God. Yet we find that Ruth and Boaz lived happily ever after.
Well today I want to give you the back-story of Ruth and Boaz, this couple. And what I love about the Bible is the Bible keeps things real. No smoke and mirrors, no veneers, I mean it’s like boom, boom. Keeps it real. The Bible, in many circumstances and in many areas, is not G-rated, it’s R-rated. So if you’re ready to tackle that, here we go. Are you ready? Yeah, I think you are.
Now the book of Judges, the last verse says something pretty scary. It says, “In those days there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Does that sound like 2014 or what? I’m just gonna do right in my own eyes. If it’s true for you and you don’t hurt anybody (sounds sexy) you go ahead and do it. I’m just gonna do what I’m gonna do. What’s true for me is true for me. What’s true for you is true for you. That’s what was going on in the book of Judges. And that’s where we find ourselves with Ruth. Ruth was in Moab. She was a Moabitess.
But to give you kind of the backdrop of the story let me open up the book of Ruth. Ruth, chapter 1, verse 1, check it out. “Now it came about in the days when the judges governed everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes that there was a famine in the land.” The food was scarce, all right? “And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn (that means he took a little trip) to the land of Moab.” Moab. I love that name, don’t you? Moab. It sounds like some exercise equipment. I need some mo-abs! anyway, Moab. “… with his wife and two sons.” So we’ve got, and don’t let these names confuse you, but we’ve got Elimelek, his lovely wife Naomi, and their two sons, Kilion and Mahlon. They bolt from God’s country because the food was scarce. They go to a land that God said not to go to, that God said to avoid. They go to a land called Moab. Where’s Moab? Moab is on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. I’ve swum in the Dead Sea before and it’s eerie. All this salt floating around. You can’t even sink. You know what, we’re gonna get another trip on to Israel. Who wants to go to Israel with me? I’m serious. We’re gonna go. You watch for it, over the next year, we’re gonna all go to Israel. It’s an awesome trip. Swimming in the Dead Sea. We’ll all swim right there. It’s pretty crazy. We can look to the east and there’s the land of Moab.
Moab was wheels-off. A decadent culture. The gods they worshipped, one God named Chemosh, when you wanted to please Chemosh at certain times you would simply sacrifice children to him. There was another god, Baal-Peor, the god of perversion. Ginormous orgies, the god of pornography. Those body parts we cover were uncovered. The god of prostitution. The god, one commentator said, of anything goes. Sounds like our culture, doesn’t it? Just look around. I mean, you’ve driven down north breast, I mean Northwest Highway before, haven’t you? We live in Moab! We live right there in Moab!
So you’ve got Ruth living in Moab and then you’ve got this other chick named Orpah (I didn’t say Oprah) living in Moab. And here’s some trivia about Oprah. I even looked this up. Originally Oprah was named Orpah from this Moabitess, yet her family didn’t like the way you had to pronounce it so they changed it to Oprah. And speaking of Oprah, I want to give away a new car to everyone who showed up today at church! Yeah. No one believes me. That’s OK.
So, this family, they leave God’s country. It’s supposed to be just for a little while. And they go to Moab, where they’ve got more food. I would rather have an empty stomach and a full heart in God’s country than have an empty heart and a full stomach outside of God’s country. How about you? Isn’t that a fact? Many times we’ll go, like, well it’s getting tough! It’s getting difficult in God’s country. Man it’s really difficult. Well, there’s no opportunity without opposition. And when you have opposition that means you’ve got a real opportunity many times. The opposition should alert you and me to our position where God wants to put us.
Well, Elimelek was like, “No, no, no. I don’t like, kinda having some hunger pangs so I’m just gonna go and take my family from Bethlehem (which means the house of Bread, Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” And he was born in Bethlehem, get it? Get it? Are you feeling me? Yeah. I know Chuck’s feeling me). They left the house of bread and they moved into the house of blues. They moved to Moab. What in the world are they doing in Moab? I mean, come on Elimelek! Somebody stand up and lead somebody! Just cowering, just caving in. So they make their bed, they make their whole living in Moab. And here’s what’s so sad. When they moved to Moab, not only did they move to Moab, Moab moved into them. And that’s what happens. Whenever you make the move or I make the move from God’s place, out of God’s will, to Moab, not only do we move into Moab, Moab will move into us. And when we move into Moab, here’s the Tweet of the day, are you ready for this? When we move into Moab, #1 it takes us farther than we want to go. We stay there longer than we want to stay. And it costs us more than we’re willing to pay. I would clap right there. I think that’s a clapping line right there.
I’ll say it again. When we live in sin, outside the will of God, it takes us farther than we want to go. “I can’t believe I’m into Moab this deep!” We stay there longer than we want to stay! “I only meant to stay here like for a day or a couple of hours and it’s been 10 years!” That’s how long Elimelek and his family stayed in Moab. And it ends up costing us more than we want to pay.
“Well, Ed, what do you mean?” Guess who clocks out? Elimelek. He does in Moab. Every time I go to a funeral, every time you go to a funeral, the body in the casket preaches a sermon. It’s the last sermon. When I do weddings, no one pays attention when I do a wedding. They can care less what I’m saying. But when I do a funeral, I mean they are locked in. Because we’re talking about life or death. Elimelek preached a sermon. Naomi should have woken up and smelled the espresso but she didn’t.
Then her two boys, they married these two hot Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Guess what? They clock out. So stay with me. You’ve got four people moving from the house of bread to the house of blues and only one coming back. Because Naomi, this widow who was depressed, despondent, downtrodden. She’s like, I have nowhere to go. Because back in the day if you were a widow you had nothing. All the property, everything was about the man. If you were a woman, too bad.
So here is Naomi, again just hammered by grief. Definitely in a dark, deep time of depression. Let me tell you something about depression. Depression is real. Don’t ever think it’s fake. Don’t tell somebody who’s depressed, “Hey, snap out of it. Hey, just think good thoughts.” I mean that’s fine and dandy but it’s amazing how many times in the Bible men and women of God went through depression, went through a time of darkness. So you’ve got Naomi, she’s been in Moab now for a decade. And now she says, I’m gonna go back home. I’m gonna go back to B-town, Bethlehem. I’m worthless. And she wanted to change her name to Mara, which means bitter. That’s how bad it was.
Well, you won’t believe this. Her two daughters-in-law, now this is a miracle. Orpah and Ruth, the Bible says they attached themselves to their mother-in-law. That’s a miracle. You know I’m just kidding, right? He knows. They attached themselves to the mother-in-law, Naomi. And they look at her, think about it, Naomi’s old, man. And they’re young at the zenith of their life. And they probably made their way back to Bethlehem, back from Moab, back from outside of the will of God into the will of God. Don’t you know they saw the Lord in Naomi’s life, even though she wasn’t really living it totally and completely for God. They saw something different so they just made their way back. Three women. Burdened with guilt. And maybe, just maybe, they pulled over in a Chick-Fil-A parking lot. I don’t know. But think about it. Three chicks who’d been filleted by the world. And here’s what is so whack about it. Here’s Naomi, she’s going, “I’m going back to Judah. To Bethlehem. I’m leaving this ungodly place. I’m leaving Chemosh and Baal-Peor, and all this other wheels-off-ness. Yet she encourages (and I kind of understand why she did this, but then again I don’t), she encourages Ruth and Orpah to go back to Moab. Three times, read your Bible, “Return to Moab. Don’t hang out with me. Go back!” go back, go back, three times. Return, return, return. Go back, go back, go back. Now that’s some pressure. Presha busta pipe! Right? And Orpah was like, she’s kinda lagging behind and she’s like, well I’m not sure. I mean, I want to go with you, Naomi, but now she looked up at the Chick-Fil-A sign, then looked back to Moab, and she thought, “Man, I’m gonna go back to my religion. I’m gonna go back to my relatives.”
I meet so many people who say, “Well, I’m not sure about giving my life to Christ, because what will my relatives think? What will my grandmother think? What will my uncle think? I’m not sure about being baptized. What will my relatives think? Hey, God bless your relatives, that’s great, but you’re big enough and old enough and responsible enough now to make the decision yourself. Because when I get into Heaven, God’s not gonna say, “Hey Ed, first of all let me talk to your grandfather.” No, no, no. He’s gonna be talking to me. He’s gonna be talking to you.
I will never forget. One time I was at a baseball game, of all places. A guy invited me to go to this box. And I was hanging out there and I was in the back. It’s weird that I even did this, eating hot dogs. I don’t even eat hot dogs. But when I eat one I just have to eat like three of them. I love hot dogs, although I don’t eat them. But I found myself eating hot dogs. A guy came up to me that I recognized from a Jewish background. He told me that he had been coming to Fellowship Church and he said he really enjoyed it. And he said,
“I’m just kind of on the edge of giving my life to Christ. But my relatives, I mean, I’m Jewish, dude. I am Jewish! What are they gonna say? What are they gonna do?” And I said,
“Yeah, I understand there’s gonna be pressure. But Jesus was a Jew and I think Jewish people make some of the best Christians I know. Because they have this capacity, they’re God’s chosen people and all that, whatever.” So while I’m talking to him, this guy in this box at the back of the box while I’m stuffing my face with hot dogs (and I like mustard on them. That’s it. Mustard and onions, that’s it), while we’re doing that this guy’s getting ready. He like wants to do the deal where we are. And right when we’re talking some idiot, and I’ll say it, an idiot comes up and tries to talk him down from making this decision. And this idiot tells me,
“Oh, yeah, I’m a Christian.” I’m just praying to the Lord, “Lord, take this idiot away. He’s gonna ruin the deal.” He’s messing the whole thing up. Thankfully he walked away. And in that box, this guy bowed down his knees and asked Christ to come into his life. Is that amazing? You talking about facing your religion? You talking about facing your relatives? So that’s what’s in play here.
So, Orpah’s like, “I don’t know. It’s a lot of pressure. And you know I could look back and…” Here’s the deal. Naomi, she was not in her right mind. She wasn’t living for the Lord. Don’t take advice, especially relational advice, from people who are living in Moab! Don’t do it! Because they’re gonna have crazy mc-craze advice for you and me! You ever talk to someone and you’re like, man, that advice is crazy mc-craze! It’s nuts! What’s Ruth doing? I mean, I understand some of it. “Go back to Moab… go back…” What-what? What? What?!
Well, they got to this decision time and as you know, love is a decision. Someone asked me several days ago, in fact I was getting my hair cut and this lady was cutting my hair and there were some people and we were talking and stuff. And she was asking me about Fellowship Church, blah-blah-blah. And they were asking about love. And I said,
“You know, love is a decision. It really is. There’s strong emotion, but it’s not like it’s emotion and flowers and hearts and chocolate candy coming down from the sky 24/7. I love my wife. Today I told her more than I did 32 years ago, but some days we don’t feel in love.”
“I’ve never met anybody who’s been married over 10 minutes.”
“Oh, I feel in love every second…” No you don’t. You’re lying. It’s commitment, right? I mean, yeah, you have to have the chemistry. I understand that. You’ve got to be attracted. But once you step over the line you understand that love is a decision. It’s lived more at 98.6 than 102.5. (it’d be a good place to clap… somebody clap). But our culture says differently.
So anyway, we get to the parking lot (you thought I’d forgotten Chick-Fil-A), in Chick-Fil-A Orpah goes back to Moab. And sadly we don’t hear from her again. It wasn’t a happily ever after ending. On the other hand Ruth (Baby Ruth is my favorite candy bar), Ruth follows Naomi and she works in these fields and meets billionaire Boaz, who probably looked at her and said, “You’re my baby, Ruth.” He probably said that. That’s where we get the candy bar from. And he redeems her. That was sad. He redeems her, marries her, and they live happily ever after.
Did you know this? I just looked this up and I was blown away. Did you know that Boaz’s mom was a hooker? A prostitute? We would say a ho. Rahab! That was Boaz’s mom! Doesn’t that give you confidence? Godfidence? And now God has used Ruth, a Moabitess, in this crazy land. God has used her in this beautiful romance novel.
Let me stop for a second. You are a central figure in God’s love story. So am I. But the question is, have you acquiesced to him and allowed him to do what he wants to do in your life? Because we will never understand love until first of all we respond to this irrational, one-of-a-kind love from the God of the universe.
Well, Orpah bolts and here’s what Ruth says, baby Ruth. Here’s what she says. nce again, I can’t believe it. Naomi gives Ruth an opportunity to bolt but Ruth is like, no way, no way! Check this declaration out. Ruth chapter 1, verse 16. “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from following you. For where you go, I will go. And where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.” She is not just a professor of her faith, she is a possessor of her faith. There are a lot of people that we meet, especially in DFW. There are more spiritual pygmies than anyplace in the world. So many people we meet, they profess but they don’t really possess. Isn’t that a fact?
I think about Elimelek. You remember Elimelek, earlier in the story, who moved from the house of bread to the house of blues? You know what his name means in the Hebrew? God is my king. Wow. He didn’t quite live up to that, did he? The moment I become a follower of Christ my last name is Christian. My full name is Edwin Barry Young Christian. And if you’re a follower of Christ, Christian is your last name. I ask myself regularly, Ed do you live up to your name? Are you living up to your family name? Or are like Elimelek going, “Yep, uh-huh. Oh yeah. God’s my king but I’m gonna live in Moab.” As you read the Scriptures they’ll get even deeper. You’ll see right before Orpah left and made the move back to Moab, you know what she did? She kissed Naomi. How many people in this area kiss God on Sundays but live in Moab the rest of the time. Interesting. But you’ve gotta love Baby Ruth. The truth about Ruth. The proof is in the pudding. She said, “I am fully and totally committed.”
It reminds me of Psalm 37:23, “The steps of a good man (or good woman) are ordered by the Lord and he delights in their way.” I’ve gotta ask you. Have you made a declaration of your faith to God? Yep, you’re gonna have well-meaning people, people like Naomi saying, “Don’t do it! Don’t think about it! You shouldn’t do it!” So it’s either Bethlehem or Moab. It’s either the Promised Land or the wilderness. Moab. Moab.
That’s a weird name. Yesterday as I was trying to put the finishing touches on this message I began to look and research the Hebrew behind Moab. What is Moab? Where did that name come from? And what I saw just like, rocked me. You remember back in the day (because we’re going to Israel next year and we’ll do this), remember back in the day before this story you had Abraham. And I’m coming back to where we are, this is about the love story too. Don’t worry. Abraham and Lot. Abraham, heavy hitter. The dude was absolutely, transcendently wealthy. So he had this relative with him, Lot, and it was like two Fortune 500 companies moving through the wilderness. I mean, these people were like major, major players. So it became so big, so crazy that Abraham said,
“Lot, man, we gotta part ways, brother. People are fighting, all this competition. I will give you first choice.” Now that’s amazing because Abraham was the man. He should have chosen first. So Lot looked one way and it looked like West Texas. I’m not dissing West Texas but you know what I’m saying. He looked the other way, beautiful mountains and fertile plains, and he said,
“You know what, Abraham? I’m not going to West Texas. I’m going here.” And that’s where he went. And ultimately he went to Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot did. So he ended up being in Sodom and Gomorrah. And you know what God said? God said, “I’m gonna judge Sodom and Gomorrah. The fire is gonna fall on Sodom and Gomorrah.” And to give you the Wikipedia, Lot and his family got the insider information and God allowed them time to flee Sodom and Gomorrah, because the fire was falling. And God said,
“Don’t look back when the cities are going up in flames. Don’t look back.” So Lot and his family <panting>, but Lot’s wife stopped and this was a look that killed. She turned back <whoomp!> Turned into a pillar of salt. And as I’ve said, and I will say it again, I’ve been in the Dead Sea. I’ve swum in the Dead Sea, and to this day there are pillars of salt around the Dead Sea. Some of them even look like humans. I’m serious.
Wouldn’t that be a great zombie movie? You’re like floating in the Dead Sea and you feel someone scratching… oh it’s Lot’s wife!!! <bphbpbhbpbhbhb!> Salt going everywhere. <shudder> It scares me. That’s not in the story, I just made that up. It’s my imagination. Yet, Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. So then from there she dies. Lot escapes (and this is where it gets R-rated) to a cave with several of his daughters. The daughters say, “The world is coming to an end!” They get their daddy drunk. They both have sex with him, both get pregnant. One of the sons is named Moab. Guess who found the land of Moab? Lot’s incestuous son, Moab. Isn’t that crazy? And then you’ve got Lot’s wife, who looked back… boom! And now you think about Orpah, who looked back… boom! That’s freaky, isn’t it? Moab. Moab. Bethlehem. Bethlehem… Moab. God’s country… or the enemy’s country.
And then I started thinking about these different characters. I started thinking about Boaz. Because we’ve got Boazes here at church. Some single girls are like, “I just would love to meet a Boaz.” They’re here! How do you find them? You start doing what Ruth did. Be others-centered and you begin to work and serve and you’ll find Boaz. I’m not saying he’s gonna be a billionaire, I’m not saying that, but I’m saying he’s gonna be rich in ways that money can’t touch. Boaz. Boaz. Boaz. We got some Boazes here. Boazes who love God. Boazes who are standup people. Even though you might be from Rahab, cool. You love the Lord, you’re mature, you’re on fire. We’ve got people like that here at Fellowship Church and at our many campuses. Thank you for your Boazes.
Now we also have people like Naomi. You’ve been in Moab. You’ve kinda back-slidden, fallen away from where you should be walking with God, but you’ve come to your senses. You’ve gone through a difficult situation and now you’re like, all right. I am making the move back to the house of bread. We’ve got a lot of people here like Naomi. We love you.
Also, too, we’ve got some people here like Ruth. You’ve grown up, yo’re a Moabitess. Here and there. You’re into this, you’ve been into that, but you’ve made a declaration of your faith. You’ve said, “Jesus I give my life to you.” And now you’ve made this step. You’re in the Promised Land. You’re in the house of bread, feeding (John chapter 6, verse 35) on the cosmic carbohydrate, Jesus. He said, “I am the bread…”
Still others, we’ve got some Orpahs here. And if you’re an Orpah, man, we love you! And I don’t care if you stood in the Chick-Fil-A parking lot and gone, “Well, I don’t know…” and you’re tossed this way and that way. You’re thinking about Moab. Moab’s pulling at you. That relationship, that relative, that Baal-worship, that religion. And maybe you have some people that even are well-meaning but they’re not giving you good advice. They’re saying, “Go back to Moab! Stay in Moab! Stay back there!” Just like that idiot said to me while I was sharing Christ with my Jewish friend, “Oh no, don’t. You better think about it. Stop. No I wouldn’t do that now.”
I would challenge you to turn, to roll the dice, to take the step, Orpah, into freedom, into emancipation, into salvation. And this is the foundation, friends, of love. This is the foundation of it. So is it gonna be Bethlehem or Moab? Where are you in God’s love story? Boaz, Naomi, Ruth, or Orpah?
One last thing, then I’m gonna go. Moab was the incestuous son of Lot. What a founding father. But then I even looked up in the original language what Moab meant, the name Moab, and the name means “who is your father?” Here’s how I put it: Who’s your daddy? So if I’m in Moab, I’m asking, “Who’s your daddy? Who’s your daddy? Who’s your daddy? Who’s your daddy?” God. He needs to be your father. And he will adopt you into his family only through the Son. Our Boaz, kinsman redeemer, Jesus Christ.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]