Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God can actually use the things that you’ve done or the things that were done to you, over which you had no control. God can actually use those failures as means of grace, means of getting you to Jesus, and means of helping you point others to Jesus.

Leslie: It’s Friday, June 29, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. We’ve all done things we’re ashamed of. In fact, many people fear that something they’ve hidden for years will be found out.

God already knows your past, and it doesn’t disqualify you from His love. Listen as Nancy explains how God can redeem our past and even make something beautiful out of it. She’s in a series called Ruth: The Transforming Power of Redeeming Love.

Nancy: As you think back over your story, your past, or your family line, do you ever wonder if some things that have taken place in your life or in your background might disqualify you to really be used by God?

I know that some of you have felt that way because some of you have told me that as we’ve talked about your story. You’ve wondered, How could God ever make anything of value or worth out of my story?

In fact, all of us probably have things in our past—either our own lives or the lives of our family members—that we’re not really proud of. If we were writing a book, a biography of the story of our lives, I don’t know about you, but there are some things that I would want to leave out if I were telling all about my background.

We don’t mind others knowing about good things in our family tree, about famous people in our background; but there are things in our family trees, our family lines, that we’d just as soon others not be aware of.

The first paragraph of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, chapter one, is the family tree of Jesus. It’s His background, the people who led up to Jesus coming to earth; and in this paragraph we find the only reference to Ruth in the New Testament.

This week we’re beginning a study in the story of Ruth, and before we go to the story in the Old Testament, I want us to look in the New Testament and see where she fits into the family line of Jesus.

If you have your Bible, let me encourage you to open to Matthew, chapter one. We’re going to read the first paragraph. These parts of the Scripture are called genealogies.

Matthew 1:1-6: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” This is His family line, and it may surprise you to know that there are some things in His family background that you and I might not have wanted to include if we had been telling our story.

This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac was the father of Jacob,
[whose name, by the way, means deceiver, so that already tells you there’s something a little shady in the background here],
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Salmon.
[You don’t usually read over these portions, do you?]
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother [or ancestress] was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.

Now skip down to verse 16. A lot more names are included in the paragraph in between, but then we come to the end of this portion, the end of this genealogy, and we read that Jacob was “the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

So Jesus forms the two bookends for this genealogy. It’s His story, we read in verse 1, and then we read in verse 16 that He was born at the end of this line of individuals.

Now, why should we bother to read this story, to read this genealogy? Well, first of all, as we read this list of names, most of which we’re not familiar with and some of which we can hardly pronounce, we’re reminded of how important individuals are to God. God has a heart for individual men and women.

These names that don’t mean a lot to us have been preserved in God’s Word and are a part of His plan, His plan of redemption. These individuals matter to God, and that says to me that my name matters to God, that your name matters to God, that God knows just where we fit into His eternal plan and purposes, and that where we fit is important to God.

Then we see in this genealogy, this family tree, the importance not only of individuals to God, but the importance of women to God. Remember that this genealogy was written in a culture where women were considered inferior beings, and it was unusual in that day and age for women’s names to be included in the genealogy because typically the family line was taken through the men.

But we find in this story that God divinely inspired that five women should be included in this record, and notice what kind of women. Four of the five women were not Israelites. They were Gentiles, which is a picture of the grace of God. It really foreshadows God’s plan to bring Gentiles into His family. Not just Jews, but Gentiles were to be included in the work of Christ.

And then look at who these women were. In verse three we read about Tamar, who was the mother of Perez and Zerah. Remember that Tamar, whose story is told in the book of Genesis, was the Canaanite daughter-in-law of Judah.

Judah and Tamar had an incestuous relationship, and out of that union came Perez and Zerah. Perez was part of the line of Christ. God took this horrible story, applied His grace to it, and out of that family line came the Messiah.

Then we read in verse five about Rahab. Rahab, who was a Canaanite also, was a prostitute. She was a foreigner. Her life was a story of failure and disgrace, but God drew her into His family. God drew her to faith and to repentance and made this woman with this horrible past a part of the family line of Christ.

Then we read in verse five about Ruth, the third woman in this genealogy. She, too, was a foreigner, from the Moabites, a despised race. Yet God brought her into His family by grace and said, “You’re going to be part of My plan. You’re going to be part of the family line, part of the family tree of the Lord Jesus.”

In verse six we read about Bathsheba, who had an illicit relationship with King David. She was probably a foreigner also, a Hittite woman, not originally of the Jewish faith. But God put His hand on this woman and said, “I’m going to turn this negative story, this sinful story, this disgraceful story into a story of grace.” Through her line came the Messiah, came Christ.

Then, of course, we have the fifth woman, Mary, who was a Jewish woman and had a pure heart. But keep in mind that in that day, when her story was known, there were undoubtedly those who thought she had not been pure because she came to be with child before she and Joseph were married. So there were some reputation issues there, but God chose to include this woman, as a matter of His grace, in the family line of Christ.

Now, as I look at these women, and also at the stories of some of the men in this line who did not have really pure lives—we see David, who was an adulterer; Jacob, who was a deceiver; Judah, who had this relationship with his daughter-in-law; and then we see the lives of these women—I see that God includes sinners and outcasts in His plan.

That means that in God’s plan there is room for me. That means there’s room for you. You say, “But you don’t know my story. You don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know what my parents did. You don’t know what kind of family line I’ve come from.”

Well, God knows your past, and God knew these women. He knew these men, and He says, “There’s room for sinners. There’s grace for sinners to be included in My plan.”

It’s interesting that several of these women had egregious failures. So did the men in this family line. But there’s no reference to their failures in this genealogy.

It’s like God just includes their names but doesn’t bother to tell us, at this point, “Here are all the things these people did that might have disqualified them.” They’ve now been included by grace, and when grace is applied, I don’t have that past anymore.

I’m set free from the bondage and the shame and the guilt of that past, and it’s all because of one Person in this family tree. His name is Jesus. It’s having His presence in your life, in your family tree, in your lineage, that turns disgrace to grace, that turns the ashes to beauty.

So the story is really His story. It’s all about Him. It’s not about me. It’s about where He fits in here, and as a result this becomes a message of hope.

The past may seem to be hopeless, but when you figure Jesus into it, you now have a story of hope. That’s why these names are included here. The purpose was the Messiah, the coming of Christ into the world.

I think of how God took my parents, both with non-Christian family pasts and both with things in their family lines that were not pleasing to the Lord, but God rescued my dad. God rescued my mother. God brought them together, applied His grace, and helped them to start a whole new family line, and out of that family line people are now coming to Jesus.

That’s what God wants to do with us, regardless of our past or our baggage. You know what this says to me? It says that you and I need to stop using our past as an excuse for not being used by God. We need to stop using the family we came from as an excuse for not having a fruitful walk with God.

So many women I meet today are basket cases, are dysfunctional, and the reason they say they are is because “You don’t know my parents. You don’t know what my dad did. You don’t know what my ex-husband did. You don’t know what my grandparents did.”

There’s this sense of victimization: “I can’t help the way that I am. My life will never be of any real value because of where I’ve been, where I’ve come from.”

I read this first paragraph in the Gospel of Matthew, and I know that there is hope, that you can be free from your past. God can actually use the things you’ve experienced in your past—the things you’ve done or the things that were done to you, over which you had no control—God can actually use those failures as means of grace, means of getting you to Jesus and means of helping you point others to Jesus.

Think back on your family past. Think back about your family line, some things you’re ashamed of. Why don’t you just right now say, “Lord, I thank You that You can turn ashes to beauty, and I trust You to use my past, my family line, in a way that will be redemptive and ultimately that will point people to Jesus.”

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss with a lot of hope for anyone with an imperfect past. And that’s all of us, isn’t it?

Maybe you know someone who could use some hope. Why don’t you send them a transcript of today’s program? You can do that by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com .

Now that Nancy’s laid a foundation for the book of Ruth, we’re ready to launch into the actual story.

Nancy: Ruth, chapter one, verse one:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

The first phrase of the first verse tells us something of the setting that this story falls into. It says this story took place in the days when the judges ruled.

The story of Ruth is really a microcosmic view of life, focusing on one particular family during the period of the judges. As you get to know this story, you’ll agree with me, I think, that the story of Ruth is like a beautiful white pearl set against a very dark backdrop because the days of the judges were the dark ages of Israel’s history.

If you go back to Judges 2, I want to read a paragraph in that chapter that describes what it was like during the days of the judges. Judges 2:7 says, “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel” (NKJV).

This was the period of time when the Israelites saw the works of God. They saw God deliver the people out of slavery in Egypt. They saw the Exodus. They saw God’s power taking them through the Red Sea and through the wilderness. They saw the power of God that took them into Canaan and conquered the foreign nations there. They saw God give them the land of Canaan.

That was when Joshua and his peers were living. As long as those men of God lived, the people followed God. But then verses 10-13 tell us,

When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.

Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths (NKJV).

Now this is a reference to the Canaanite gods. Canaan, as you know, was an agricultural economy, and in order for the people to be prosperous, two things had to be fertile: the land, so they could have crops, and their wives, so they could have laborers to work the crops.

The Canaanites’ chief god was called Baal. That word means lord or owner, and the Canaanites believed that Baal, a false god, owned the land and that he controlled fertility. Ashtoreth, referred to in this paragraph, was believed to be Baal’s female partner.

The Canaanites believed that the fertility of the land and of their women was due to sexual activity between the gods. It’s a very perverse religion, so in order to get the gods to do in heaven what they wanted done on earth, the people would actually, to remind the gods, go up to places that were hills, actually called high places, and would perform on those hills the sexual acts they wanted the gods to perform in heaven to make the land and the women fertile.

In time, the Jews became assimilated into this Canaanite culture and began to practice these very heathen, pagan aspects of worship. That passage in Judges goes on to tell us, in verses 14-15,

The anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.

This is a picture, a reminder, that when we forsake God, when a culture goes its own way, God is going to bring consequences. The goal of the consequences is always to restore us back to a place of worship and obedience to the true and living God.

God is not trying to wipe His people out. God is disciplining them. He’s chastening them for their good so that they will become, once again, His true followers. Verse 16-18 say,

The Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so.

And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.

Then you see their cycles that took place in the book of Judges. God would deliver them. The people would obey God for a while, and then once again they would fall into a time of spiritual decline and disobedience and idolatry. Verse 19,

It came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their own, stubborn way.

Now, Ruth 1:1 tells us that this story takes place in those days—in the days when the judges lived. That’s what Israel was going through, and when I read about those days, I’m so reminded of what we see when we pick up our newspaper, when we turn on the news and see what’s happening in our culture, what’s happening in our world.

I talked last week with a woman who was telling me that she’s the only believer in her very secular, worldly, pagan family. She told me that when she goes to family gatherings, she has to listen to all kinds of profanity, sexually explicit language, off-color stories and jokes, and loose talk.

She says, “How do I function in that kind of environment? They’re my family. Do I just walk away? Do I tell them what they’re saying is wrong? How do I interact with that kind of culture?”

Sad to say, those kinds of issues are not just out there in the world, but today we’re finding that those kinds of issues are taking place among the people of God. It was not only the Canaanites in the days of Ruth who were worshiping false gods and being immoral and perverse. It was the Jews. It was the people of God.

And so today we find that it’s not just those who don’t profess to know Christ; it’s inside the four walls of our churches that we find people living in ways that are so like the world.

The days when the judges lived were days much like ours. I get letters; I get calls; I get messages from women sharing with me situations in their local churches with those who are in Bible studies, with those who are considered godly, mature believers but who are laughing about sexually explicit material and movies, about things that are worldly and sinful and not holy; and they say, “How do we function in that kind of environment?”

Well, as we unfold the story of Ruth over these next days, we’re going to see that there is a way we really can live pure and godly lives, lives that influence the world around us, even though the world or the church around us may be very ungodly.

What we see in the story of Ruth is the reality of God’s presence even in the midst of a very corrupt world—that God has not gone to sleep. He’s not AWOL. He is very much present. He’s very much alive, and He’s very much active, and we have in the book of Ruth a call to be different, to go against the flow.

That’s the story of Ruth. In the days when the judges lived, there was this woman who didn’t know any better but to trust God, to obey God, to live a pure life even though hardly anyone else around her was.

She said, “I’m going to trust God. I’m going to walk with God, even in the midst of this culture.” Now, I’m not saying it’s easy, but this story gives me confidence that it is possible to walk with God in your workplace, in your family, in your world, in your church, even if no one else does.

It’s possible to walk with God; and our call, really, is to be shining lights in the darkness of the culture around us, to make a difference in these dark times. The verse that comes to my mind is Philippians 2:15, where Paul says our goal is that you would be “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (NKJV). 

See, Paul’s not saying, “Come out, and don’t have any contact with the world.” He’s saying you’re supposed to live right in the world, and in the midst of that crooked and perverse generation, you are to be the children of God, blameless, harmless, without fault, shining as lights in the world.

It is possible. It can be done. And God’s purpose and heart for our lives as women—though we may be very isolated, though we may be very alone in the convictions we have about following the Word and the ways of God—God’s heart is that our lives would create a light, create a fragrance that would draw people to the truth, would draw people to the Messiah, even as Ruth’s life did in the days of the judges.

Leslie: The book of Ruth will help you recognize ways your life can bring glory to God. Nancy Leigh DeMoss is in a series called Ruth: The Transforming Power of Redeeming Love. You’ll get so much out of this story if you read Ruth along with us and listen to the entire series.

You’ll get additional minutes of this teaching when you order on CD. You’ll gain insight as you listen at your own pace. Order the series by calling 800-569-5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

There’s another way to enjoy the richness of this story: Learn to share it with other women. Nancy teaches through the book of Ruth on DVD, and this would be perfect material for your small group at church or in your home.

Find out more about these DVDs and the workbook that goes with it. It’s called The Message of Redemption and Revival in the Book of Ruth.

Sometimes a shortcut doesn’t save you any time. Find out the difference between doing things quickly and doing them well, when we pick back up on the book of Ruth. That’s Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures is taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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