The Guiding Grace of God
June 19th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
THE GUIDING GRACE OF GOD
6-19-60 8:15 a.m.
You who are listening on the radio are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled: The Guiding Grace of God. We are following through in the Old Testament some of the great characters and incidents that comprise the story of the Lord’s merciful dealing with His people. And for the last few Sundays, we have been looking into some of the depths of the providences of God in the life of a Moabitess girl named Ruth. So in your Bible, if you will turn to the Book of Ruth, you can easily follow the message of the morning hour.
Last Sunday, we followed through the first chapter in which after the death of Elimelech and the death of the two sons that belonged to Elimelech and his wife Naomi, Naomi hears of the blessing of God upon His people. And she resolves to go back, back to her people, back to her native land [Ruth 1:1-6]. And we spoke of the fact that always a child of God, though he may migrate to a far country, may be prodigal and go off and leave his father’s house, yet, if he is a true child of God, he will always come back [Luke 15:11-32].
And when Naomi, bereft and bereaved in this far country heard of the blessing of God upon His people, she resolved to return, to go back [Ruth 1:7]. Now when she made that resolution, the two daughters-in-law purposed to accompany her, one of whom was named Orpah. When Naomi spoke of the price of leaving her people, and her land, and her family, and her associates, [she] decided the cost was too much; so she kissed her mother-in-law and returned back to the gods and to the family in Moab [Ruth 1:8-15]. But the other daughter-in-law, Ruth, clave unto her and made the commitment of her life then and forever [Ruth 1:14]. “Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” And it is a life commitment. It is until death. “Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried” [Ruth 1:16-17].
So when Naomi saw that this Moabitess girl Ruth was steadfastly minded—she had purposed in her heart to give her life to Jehovah God and to take as her own people the people of the Lord—the two went on together and so came to Bethlehem [Ruth 1:18-19]. And the first chapter closes with the word: “And they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of the barley harvest” [Ruth 1:22].
Now just that description immediately opens up a whole vista of glorious optimistic light and prospect. They came to Bethlehem in the beginning of the barley harvest [Ruth 1:22]. That is the firstfruits of the earth. The first harvest in the early, early spring is the barley harvest. The barley harvest is the Passover time [Leviticus 23:5]. The barley harvest is the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Leviticus 23:6-8]. And on the morrow after the Sabbath—on the first day after the Sabbath, on Sunday after the sabbatical Saturday—according to Leviticus they were to take a sheaf, the firstfruits of the harvest; a sheaf of the barley harvest, and on the first day after the Sabbath, they were to present it and to wave it unto the Lord [Leviticus 23:9-14]. The firstfruits of the earth, the firstfruits of the harvest on the morrow after the Sabbath [Leviticus 23:15]; that was a picture of two things. One, it was a picture of the resurrection of our Lord [Matthew 28:1-7], who in 1 Corinthians 15:20 is called the firstfruits of them that sleep.
In the great harvest of the souls in the earth, the firstfruits that was raised from the dead is the Lord Jesus [1 Corinthians 15:20]. On the morrow after the Sabbath [Leviticus 23:10-12], that’s the prediction in the prophecy that He would be raised from the dead on Sunday, on the first day of the week, on the Lord’s Day [Luke 24:1]. But the very phrase itself means something more. If the sheaf that is offered unto the Lord on the morrow after the Sabbath is called the firstfruits, then it must mean that there are other fruits to follow if this is the firstfruits [1 Corinthians 15:23].
So it is in the resurrection of our Lord to whom that phrase is applied by the apostle Paul. If He is the firstfruits, then there must be many others that are to follow, and a picture of that is found in this Moabitess Gentile girl [Ruth 1:22, 4:10]. The firstfruits unto God, our Lord and Savior; the firstfruits unto God, these chosen people of Abraham; but there are more to follow both into the kingdom of our Savior now [John 4:35] and in that great consummating hour in the world and the glory that is yet to come [Romans 11:25]. All of it figured here, when Ruth comes into the land of God’s people and into the heritage of the Lord’s anointed at the beginning of the barley harvest—the firstfruits offered unto God [Ruth 1:22].
Now in the second chapter, we begin with the story of Ruth, this Moabitess girl in God’s land and among God’s people, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God [Ruth 1:16].” So there in Bethlehem-Judah, in Bethlehem-Ephratah, in the house of bread, in the field of blessing and fruitfulness, 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” [Ruth 2:2].
Now it was according to the Levitical law that when the harvester harvested his crop that he was not to glean in the field, but it was left for the poor, the stranger, and the widow. For example, in Leviticus 19:9-10, it says: “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. Thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.” You know a man could stop there and preach a good sermon on that text. “When you reap the harvest of your land, thou shall not wholly reap the corners of thy field” [Leviticus 19:9]. There and there and there are to be left some standing.
And by the way, if a farmer would like to have on his place, oh, birds, quail, meadowlarks, mockingbirds, you mustn’t wholly clear the land, but in the fence rows, and in the corners, and over yonder in the little hollow, let grow up things of themselves. And if you will, your farm will have meadowlarks to sing and mockingbirds to sing. You’ll have a few squirrels. You also may have a few skunks and a few opossum and a few other things on the farm, all which make it interesting. That pleases the Lord. There is more to life than just this hard task and hard assignment of working to make a living.
“When you reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest” [Leviticus 19:9] As you harvest, what is left behind, leave it there. “Thou shalt leave it for the stranger, the poor; I am the Lord thy God” [Leviticus 19:10]. Now that same thing was said in Deuteronomy in the twenty-fourth chapter and the nineteenth verse:
When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thine field, and has forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.
Thou shalt remember that thou wast poor, a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing.
[Deuteronomy 24:19, 22]
So in Israel where God’s people lived in the day of the harvest, when the harvester gathered the grain, there were gleanings to be made. There were little patches and little stalks and little things of grain broken and spilled that were left behind, and the poor, the widow, and the stranger in the land could glean behind the harvesters. One of the most famous pictures in this world is entitled, The Gleaners. And there is a Sunday school class right there at Coleman Hall, just this side, in which you’ll find one of the finest reproductions of that picture I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t looked at it, pause and look at it, The Gleaners.
So Ruth who is a widow, who is a sojourner, who is a stranger, asked permission of her mother-in-law to go glean in the fields. She gains the permission, and Ruth goes [Ruth 2:2]. Now where does she go? She doesn’t know anybody. Nobody knows her except there is a stranger from Moab who has come to live with Naomi, one of our own [Ruth 2:1]. “So she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and her hap was—the Hebrew of that is interesting–and her hap happened to be—that she was on the part of a field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech” [Ruth 2:3].
Now in the fields of our country, they’re all definitely prescribed, delineated, outlined. There’s a big barbed wire fence or a big heavy corrugated iron fence of some kind, and it goes this way and this way and this way, and the field is very definitely set apart. That’s been because we have invented wire, but in that day, they didn’t have any wire. No such thing invented, and if you go over to Palestine now, you’ll find those fields laid out just as they were in this day. That’s why the Book says thou shalt not remove the ancient landmark [Proverbs 22:28]. The fields were divided according from this ridge to that rock, and from that rock to this bush, and from this bush over here to that clump, and from that clump to this tree. If you cut down the tree, if you remove the rock, the fellow doesn’t know where his field was.
Thou shalt not remove the landmarks [Proverbs 22:28]. That’s where those Landmark Baptists came from. They used that as a text they spoke of so frequently; the ancient landmarks, the great deliverances of the faith of our forefathers.
Now when Ruth came to glean, those fields were only divided by looking at a line from this rock to that clump. So she just went out to glean as she might have opportunity, and her hap was, her hap happened that she gleaned in the field of Boaz [Ruth 2:3].
Now may I pause here to speak about the hap that happens to you. To us it looks as though it were just an accident. As Ruth went out to glean, it was by sheer advantageous circumstance. It was just by fortuitous providence that she happened to glean in the field of Boaz. Not so says the Lord. God says that these things that just appear to happen are under the guiding grace of our heavenly Father [Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 10:13]. If you will look for example over here in the second chapter of Ruth, this chapter and the sixteenth verse, Boaz says to his reapers, “Let fall, 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, and rebuke her not” [Ruth 2:15-16].
It looked as though, as the harvester was harvesting, he just let accidentally let fall a handful. And then over here a little further, he just accidentally let fall a handful, but Boaz called them handfuls of purpose [Ruth 2:16]. It looked as though the handfuls just accidentally fell from the hands of the harvester. Not so. According to the will of the great good man, that was done not advantageously, accidentally, fortuitously, but it was done of a purpose on purpose.
These providences that come into our lives, they look as though to us they were accidents. Really they are the guiding grace and love and mercy of God in our lives. Her hap happened that she gleaned in the field of Boaz—not so really. The dear God, who watches over His own and who guides them with His eyes, guided that girl into the field of Boaz. And these things that happen to us that to us are just accidents, they are not accidents, they are a part of the deep moving, guiding, grace and providence of the Lord.
Now if we had time, we’d just spend the morning here talking about that. May I take a leaf out of my own life and illustrate this? When I was a student at the seminary, I was pastor in Warren County in Kentucky. We had a monthly Worker’s Conference. It met at Smith’s Grove, which was just two miles north of my little church at Oakland, and I went to the Worker’s Conference on that Monday.
It was a cold rainy day, and there drove up from Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. John L. Hill to speak at the Worker’s Conference and B.B. McKinney to lead the singing. The church did not have a pastor, the church at Smith’s Grove, and at 10 o’clock in the morning, all the group that gathered there divided into two parts; the women and the WMU to remain in the church auditorium for their program, and the men to go to the parsonage that was empty and to have the men’s program, the Brotherhood program, there in the parsonage.
So when the group divided up to come back together at 11 o’clock for the service with Dr. Hill to speak, and B.B. McKinney to lead the singing, and to sing; when the group divided up at 10 o’clock, the woman stayed in the auditorium, and the little handful of men, I suppose on that rainy cold morning there were not more than twelve or thirteen men, including Dr. Hill and B.B. McKinney, so we went over into the parsonage where they had placed chairs in the living room in the empty house and had built a coal fire there in the grate in the fireplace. And as we seated ourselves, the man who, who was supposed to have charge of the program, stood up and made this simple announcement. He said, “Our program has fallen through. The man who was to speak has not arrived and is not coming. Therefore, we will have Brother Criswell speak to us.” And he sat down.
There wasn’t anything to do but to stand up and to speak. There wasn’t anybody up there at the front. There wasn’t anybody presiding. There wasn’t anything except the announcement of that man. “We will now have Brother Criswell to speak to us.” I hadn’t thought of it, it hadn’t entered my mind, I hadn’t anything prepared. He just sat down. So I stood up there, and for about twenty minutes, the best I could, I spoke to those twelve or thirteen men on that cold, cold day. When I got through, that big fellow John L. Hill came up to me, put his arms around me and hugged me and said, “Young man I’ve got my eye on you.” That’s the only time he ever heard me speak in his life.
Years after that, the pulpit committee of the First Baptist Church in Dallas wrote a letter to a layman, John L. Hill, and they said, “We’ve had many, many recommendations from preachers. We’d like to have a recommendation from a layman, and we’ve picked you out. Whom would you suggest to be pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas?” He wrote back and said, “There is one man, one man. His name is Criswell. He’s pastor of the First Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma.”
The committee looked at one another, one of whom was Ralph. He represented the young people on the committee. And the committee said to each other, did you ever hear of him? No. Did you ever hear of him? No. Did you ever hear of him? No, no, no. So they took the letter of Dr. Hill and dropped it in the wastebasket.
Nobody had ever heard of him, so they went on with these preacher recommendations. And then finally they said, “Let’s take these three and send them to Dr. Hill and see what he says.” So they sent to Dr. Hill the three preachers, one, two, and three. And Dr. Hill wrote back a little sentence about the first one, the second one, and the third one. And then he said, “But I have already told you, there is one man in America to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and it’s the young fellow who is pastor of Muskogee, Oklahoma.”
Ralph Baker asked Dr. Hill, “Did you ever hear him preach?”
Dr. Hill said, “One time, years ago, in a little parsonage on a cold day, I heard him get up and speak.”
“Well,” said the committee, “Dr. Hill is so certain, and he’s so committed, let’s go look at him.” And they sent Ralph and Chesley Brown and Orville Groener up there to Muskogee to listen to this young preacher preach.
Well, all of that was just an accident. It just, it was just one of those “happen-so’s.” It all depends upon whether you believe in God or not. If you don’t believe in God and the whole thing that we see in life, in death, in this world, and the world that we hope, all of it is just blind. It has no meaning. It has no purpose. It never came from anywhere. It’s not going anywhere.
But if you believe in God and the divine Sovereignty who overrules events, in whose hands are not only the nations of the world but the people who comprise them, if you believe in God, these things just don’t happen. It wasn’t just a “happen-so” that Dr. Hill was there that day. Nor was it just a “happen-so” that the fellow who was to speak at the Brotherhood didn’t come. Nor was it just a “happen-so” that I was there and the fellow called on me, though I was then not more than twenty-five years old.
And when Dr. Hill wrote to this church, that was nine years later. These things are in the providences of God. And when it says here in the Book: “And her hap, happened, that she gleaned in the field of Boaz” [Ruth 2:3], that is the hand of the Lord. There aren’t any just “happen-so’s.” These things are somehow ordered of the great elective purposes of God who rules over the universe.
When Jesus was seated by the well at Sychar, it just happened. It looked as if that the woman came with her pitcher to get water at the well just when Jesus was seated there. It just happened so [John 4:5-7]. It looks as though it just happened that when with Philip the evangelist had left the revival meeting at Samaria and had gone down to Gaza, it just looked as though it happened so that the eunuch was driving by in his chariot [Acts 8:5, 26-39]. No sir. That was ordered of the Lord.
She gleaned in the field of Boaz by the elective purpose of God. “And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem,” from the town out to his fields, “and said to the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee” [Ruth 2:4]. Isn’t that a marvelous thing?
Think of what we said, “Howdy,” “Hello.” What in the world does hello mean? Hello, hello, what does it mean? That’s the thing we use. He said, “The Lord be with you” [Ruth 2:4]. That was the greeting, “The Lord be with you,” and they answered, “The Lord bless thee.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our greeting on the telephone would be something like that instead of saying “Hello.” I wish somebody would dig up for me what that means, hello. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we would say something like, “The Lord be with you,” when you answer on the telephone. And then you’d answer back, and “The Lord bless you.” Wouldn’t that be wonderful? It reveals, it reflects the type and the kind of a people these godly people were in a day and a time of disintegration and corruption; this devout family. So he looked at that Moabitess girl, “Whose damsel is this?” [Ruth 2:5]. And they said, “This is the Moabitess girl that came with Naomi when she returned back home to Bethlehem” [Ruth 2:6]. Then Boaz says to her, “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” [Ruth 2:8-9]. There are two ways you can look upon that, “Go not to glean in another field.”
First, you can look upon that as restrictive, trying to narrow my life. Trying to contain me and to circumscribe me, infringing upon my liberties that I glean just in this field; that is one way. Another way is to look upon it as a great privilege to be separated unto the kindness and grace of God to these people and to these places and to this life. There are lots of people who belong to the church who say by life and example and sometimes by word, “I don’t want to be restricted in my liberties. And when they fling the fling out there, I want to be with them. And when they live in these worldly pleasures out there, I want to live with them. And when they go off to these places, I want to go off with them.”
I have had many and many a man tell me, “I have joined such and such church because,” then they name it. “I am at liberty belonging to that church to drink with my vicar, and my priest, and my parson, and my curator. And I am at liberty in my church to do all of these things, and I like it unrestricted!” Belonging to the church is like belonging to the country club and nothing else. It doesn’t mean any more, nor does it make any more contribution to a man’s life. That’s one way you can look upon it. Glean not in another field; the field of worldliness, and the field of compromise, and the field of sensual pleasure and iniquity. Glean not in another field, but glean in this field among God’s people. Let the circumference of your life be found in this area, in this place, among these people, among these friends; rear your children up in the love and nurture of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4], not out there on the dance floor, not out there in the honky-tonk, not over there at the bar.
Rear your children in this place, in the love and nurture of the Lord. Teach them to pray. Teach them to love Jesus. Teach them to love God. Teach them to love the Lord. Teach them to love the church, glean in this field, and the circle of your life and your home, let it be in this area. When your young people go, let them go with God’s people. When they court and fall in love, let them fall in love in this field with God’s people. And when they marry, let them marry in the hope and love of the Lord in this place. Go not to glean in another field like Samson did, down at Timnath, down at Gaza. And it ruined his life, and it ruined his ministry, and it ruined his great strength! [Judges 14:1-16:31]. Glean not in another field, ruined Solomon whose life was weaned away from God by those strange alliances that he made [1 Kings 11:1-11].
Like Demas, who forsook Paul and the Lord, loving this present world [2 Timothy 4:10]; glean not in another field. Glean in this field. And I don’t look upon it, nor should you, as a restrictive interdiction upon our liberties; all of the liberty in the world, in the field of the Lord, in the house of God, among the people of Christ; “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God” [Ruth 1:16]. “Here, glean in this field [Ruth 2:8-9], and at mealtime, come now hither, and eat of the bread” [Ruth 2:14]. Bread and to spare in the house of the Lord, you don’t need to go out somewhere to have a good time. You don’t need to compromise in order to find your life filled with the glow and glory of all that heaven can afford. You’ll find it here, bread and to spare. Come hither and eat bread with us [Ruth 2:14].
I must close. I haven’t time to finish it. Maybe we can pick up there next Sunday morning and continue. This girl has no idea of the blessings of God upon her life as she follows in the providential ways of the Lord, giving her life to the grace and mercies of heaven; nor do you, the riches and the fullness of your life when you follow after in the way of the Lord.
Now while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you give your heart to Jesus. In this balcony round, on this lower floor, a family to put your life with us in the church, somebody you to give your whole soul and destiny to our Savior, as God shall say the word and lead the way, would you come? Would you give the pastor your hand, your heart to God. As the Lord shall make the appeal, would you respond, and make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
THE GUIDING GRACE OF GOD
6-19-60Two books in the Bible named for women: Esther, Ruth. The unique place of women in the plan of redemption. Under the law, table of genealogy, families followed after men. But under grace, different: the seed of the woman, to Eve.
: Against law, Boaz marry Ruth. Act of Jesus.
: Esther, the grace of God in saving Israel.
A. A message of God’s grace and redemptive love. Ruth, a poor, widowed Moabite girl. A helpless stranger. Shut out by law.
B. We, like Ruth, strangers, shut outBut grace took her in. Wealthy Boaz redeems.
C. Boaz, a type of our Lord, our Kinsman, our Redeemer
D. Ruth is a picture of the bride of Christ, redeemed through infinite graceII. Practical.
A. The care of God for Naomi, His people.
B. Leading His people to the Kinsman, Redeemer
C. Security of the believer in Christ
A. A type of the history of Israel
B. Famine is God’s judgment upon disobedience
C. Calling out of the church
D. Final restoration of Israel to the land