SALVATION BY GRACE – THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK IN THE BIBLE
Sermon by Dr. J. Frank Norris, First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas
DR. NORRIS: I invite your attention to Ruth the first chapter and 14th verse and following: “And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.”
I think Ruth the most beautiful book in the Bible. It touches every chord of the human heart. All ages are interested in love, courting and marriage and the home. God uses two family relationships to set forth His love to man.
First, that of father and son. “This my Son.” Jesus gives us that heart appealing message in what we know as the Prodigal son.
Second relationship, that of husband and wife.
There are two books in the Bible that are named after women: The Book of Ruth, and the Book of Esther. In one a Gentile marries a Hebrew, in the other a Hebrew marries a Gentile.
Naomi was a wonderful woman, she and her husband and two sons when the famine came on Canaan, went over to Moab where there was plenty of grain. While there her husband died, and her two sons, who had married Ruth and Orpah. Then she heard that the famine was ended in Canaan, the rains came, the harvest was abundant, and she returned. When she started to leave she implored these two daughters-in-law to remain with their people, “For,” she said, “I have no more sons.” Orpah listened to the advice of Naomi, wept and said, “Goodbye” Ruth said, “No.” And she came into that land with her mother-in-law, and went to the fields to glean, and soon she was recognized by Boaz, in whose field she gleaned; she became his wife, and he as a kinsman redeemed the land when another who was a nearer relation than Boaz could not redeem it because of his own inheritance. She had a son named Obed, he was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Naomi made a very common mistake, she left the land because the famine was in the land. She came upon hard days and ‘said, “I will seek another place.” Abraham made the same mistake. Jacob made the same mistake when he went down into Egypt and got in trouble and his descendants were four hundred years in bondage. The same mistake the Christian makes today, always wanting to be where he is not: instead of meeting the famine and difficulties running from them. We do not leave them, we only think we do. We carry them with us.
Prophecy of Restored Canaan
Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.” Ruth 1:6. A marvelous prophecy of the hour when the Lord will visit that Land, when the early and latter rain shall come, when the desert shall blossom as the rose, when the orchards will again hang with abundance of fruit, when every man shall dwell under his own vine and fig tree, when in the dispensation of time the Lord shall reign gloriously in Mount Zion.
There is not a more beautiful Scripture in the Word of God on true friendship than the plea of Ruth, “And Ruth said. Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried” – True in life, loyal in death, resting together in the grave – “the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. When she saw that she was stedfastly” – mark that word “stedfastly” – “minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.” – and said, “Come on, go with me.” You know, there is no human joy like the joy of true friendship, that inner circle of friends. Everybody has a few. It was said once that there was a man hung in Chicago – he was a man who had no firiends. He was called the “friendless man.” I am not talking about the friends of the outer court of the Gentiles, I am talking about the friends of the inner court. The true friend knows not one drop of traitor’s blood.
I read a thing the other day, I hope that it is true, if one can hope a past event is true, a fellow don here, a constable at Dublin said it wasn’t true that Ford killed Jesse James, the world’s greatest outlaw. This old constable said that Ford plotted to kill Jesse James, but Jesse beat him to it, killed Ford, put him in a coffin, labeled it “Jesse James” and got the reward – and I am just human enough to hope that’s what took place. Why? It would have been all right for some one else, somebody not in the inner circle to have shot him in the back, but everybody despises a traitor on the inside, who will lift his hand like Judas Iscariot. We have had the greatest group of people here all through the years, absolutely trustworthy, but sometimes we find one that is otherwise – some of these days I am going to publish the real “Inside the Cup” sure enough. An outstanding denominational leader, several years ago, absolutely bribed a former employee to get the list of membership and mailing list of the paper, and then sent tracts to everyone on the list. It didn’t bother me. I took it as a huge joke. This poor fellow who gave this list got in the Dallas County jail – his wife called me up at midnight – not the sanhedrin who gave him the thirty pieces of silver; they mocked him when his wife went to them for help – and I went over, made his bond, and brought him home. He didn’t say a word riding home, all three of us were on the front seat. I didn’t have anything to say, neither did they.
The joy of the inner circle of friends is worth more than gold, yea, fine gold, sweeter than honey and the drippings from the comb, it is joy like the ointment that comes down the beard of Aaron, and runs down even to the skirt of his garment; it is like the dews of Hermon, where the perpetual snow melts in the scorching sun and sends its moisture out in the desert and it blossoms like a rose. The joy of that inner circle! That’s why Ruth stands out today as a great character because she said, “Intreat me not to leave thee, let me live with thee, let me die with thee, let me be buried with thee.” That’s true, loyal friendship.
I just want to call your attention to a few things.
Naomi lacked faith, she said, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealth very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me.” Oh, the lack of faith when we need it. “I was full, I am empty, my faith is gone.” That’s when we need faith. You know intellectually we all have a great deal of faith. We talk about what we will do. We don’t know until there comes a time when we are empty. Show your faith, not when the barns are bursting full, show your faith when they are empty. I’m not talking about intellectual faith, I am talking about heart faith. There is an infinite difference. Oh, we stand up and preach, “All things work together for good to, them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” But wait until some untoward event happens, then see whether you can say it. There is the rub. Not with your head, but with your heart – Do you accept it?
In the second chapter we have the kinsman-redeemer, “And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz.” It was a Hebrew custom when a woman was left a widow, a near kinsman that could, by law, married her and redeemed the land she owned. It meant to buy her with it, and raise up children.
Boaz Type of Christ
I want you to notice here how Boaz was “a mighty man of wealth.” Boaz is a perfect type of our kinsman-redeemer Jesus Christ. All things are His, for the Word tells us that He is “heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” Again we are told of His wealth, when Paul says, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him.” Then Paul tells us: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” The wealth of the universe is His, therefore our Kinsman-Redeemer that becomes our husband, has the wealth of time and eternity.
I want you to notice in the same chapter – just want you to read this book. You were given a little skeleton of it as you came in the door – the hard menial services of Ruth: “And 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. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was the kindred of Elimelech. And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley” – a little more than a bushel, a bushel and three pints, to be exact.
Let me tell you something, a lot of people are sitting around waiting for something to happen. The depression is over. I’m not telling you how it is over, but it’s over. The greatest blessing of the last three years, and will be of the next few years to come, if time shall last, will be that the whole world has come down now and has got to get down to hard work. In this machine age when you can touch a button and have “57 varieties” on the table, we have gotten away from real hard service. I can stop and say much right there. One of the greatest curses of this age is downright laziness, and everybody has been trying to see how they could get out of hard work. Well, we will have to learn how to get in it again.
Here is a woman whose name takes high place in the galaxy of the famous of all time; who is in the ancestral line of our Lord Jesus Christ, out here in a field working with her own hands.
Marvelous Example of Grace
Ruth is the greatest book in the Old Testament on grace. It is on the doctrine of grace to the Old Testament what Ephesians is to the New. “And Ruth said unto Naomi, Let me go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace.” Grace! Grace! “Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger ?”
I want you to notice several things about this grace. First of all her kinsman-redeemer Boaz took knowledge of her. He knows all about her. “He knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are dust.” Again, he took knowledge of her when she was a stranger. A stranger! A stranger! Paul says, “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers” – “strangers” – “from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”
I want you to notice the definite decisiveness of Ruth, how she left all, “And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband: and how thou has left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore.” You know the trouble with most of us is we are still in the land of Moab. We hear a good deal and we think a good deal about Canaan, we sing about going to Canaan, but we stay in the land of idolatry. That’s real consecration, that’s real separation, that’s the Holy life, come out of Moab, cross over into Canaan. Too many of us look to the distance, too many of us hear about it, very few are willing to leave Moab – But oh the joy! If it means life, if it means death, if it means ostracism, if it means persecution, if it means burden, if it means sweat and toil, if it means the tears of Gethsemane, if it means the Cross of Calvary, God help us to leave Moab and come over into Canaan!
The Promise of Reward
I want you to notice next the promise of reward. Ruth 2:12 – Just introducing ourselves to this book – “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” The recompense of reward! We read concerning Moses, “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” – Why? – “for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Not for salvation, but for the reward. Mark that expression, “Under whose wings thou art come to trust.” Isn’t that a beautiful expression? Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” The Psalmist says, “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.” Again, he says, “How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.” And again, “Be merciful unto me, 0 God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.” Again David says, “I will abide in thy tabernacle forever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings.” Again, “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” Again he says, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”
That’s why old Charles Wesley wrote the second verse of that old immortal hymn:
“Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, O leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me;
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.”
Notice briefly, Ruth’s acceptance of grace. Now there is God’s side and our side. God provides grace, but He is not going to force it on anybody. He wants us to accept it. What did Ruth say? Then she said, Let me find favour” – “favour” means identically the same as “grace” – “in thy sight, my lord: for that thou has comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens” – “I am a gentile; I am a stranger; I am not worthy; I am not of your blood, but you have been kind to me, you have recognized me, and therefore, I will accept this grace.”
Today, wouldn’t it be marvelous if old world could get, one time, a true vision of God’s grace, in giving a lost soul everything without price, without money, without title, without blood, without ancestry, without standing, and no merit, and no claim, and no righteousness, and no character.
“In my hands no price I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling.”
“He Giveth More Grace”
“Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” God help us today to humble our hearts that He may give us “more grace!” Then He goes on, and piles up grace, grace on top of grace, a high mountain of grace, and then He goes up to the topmost peak of God’s revelation of Grace; here is where He gives more grace. Not only was he Ruth’s kinsman redeemer, not only did he recognize her, speak kindly to her – what did he do ? Not only did he tell her to reap in his field, what else does he do? Listen to it, “And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers.” No Gentile was permitted to do that, but here he crosses the social line; here he breaks down the middle wall of partition; here he takes a stranger in; here he puts her at the table with himself. That’s why David sang, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
That’s why Jesus said: “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”
That’s why the father said when his prodigal son returned, “Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”
“Oh for the day, whenever it shall beam
Which gives us back the coat without a seam;
When from all quarters of the earth combined,
One universal church shall knit mankind.
To build the heavenly Salem then shall rise,
With one consent, the great, the good, the wise.
All sects united in a common band,
Join faith to faith, and mingle hand in hand:
Together lift the sacrifice of prayer,
And the slain Lamb’s eternal supper share!”
But he doesn’t stop there. It is abounding grace. There is still more grace. Oh, who can scale the heights of Divine grace? Who can measure the length of Divine grace? Who has a scale to measure the depths of Divine Grace? It goes down to the deepest depths of hell. Its breadth is the limits of the universe, and begins with eternity and ends with eternity. It reaches down to the deepest depths and lifts us to the highest height. That’s where grace begins – it begins with our knowledge of God and ends with the glorification of His saints, heaping grace upon grace.
What else? Boaz, not only had her eat at his table, but mark this statement: “And he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed” – satisfied – “and left.” Oh, he gave her Benjamin’s portion. “And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs.” So here the kinsman-redeemer who saw this strange girl, this Gentile,, says “Come on and sit down with us” and he didn’t stop there, he gave her an extra portion of parched corn. “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” It would have been enough if it had said, “it was abundant;” but the Word of God doesn’t stop there but says, “exceeding abundant!” grace. Oh, who can scale the heights of Divine grace? (Voices, Amen). The flood was twenty-two feet above the topmost peak of earth, but God’s grace goes to the topmost peak of heaven.
Bushels of Grace
And he didn’t stop there. Here is some more grace. What else? “And when she was risen up to glean Boaz commanded his young men to let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not” – here is what it was, she had been picking up a few grains here and there, now he says to the men, “Take some from off the sheaves” – and that’s the grace of God, He doesn’t just let us take the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table, but He says, “Go in the barn and help yourself” You don’t have to have a meal ticket, nobody is going to ask any questions, the only thing on earth you need is wide open, empty arms, get a sheaf and feast on it.
What else does it say, “Not only let her glean even among the sheaves, but pull handsful on purpose for her'” Oh, how good God is! When sorrows come, when old age comes, when afflictions come, and we feel that we are lost, wrecked and ruined, everything on earth is gone, God just sends an angel and says, “Drop handsful of grace.” He dropped handsful one night at Philippi when old Paul and Silas were in jail; he dropped loads of grace, when Daniel went into the lion’s den.
What else? “And leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.” “So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.” Exactly a bushel and three pints – just call it a bushel. Why, she just went to get a little something to eat, she was hungry, and she came back home with a whole bushel and would have brought more if she could have carried it. It was as much as she could carry – that’s about the weight a woman can bear up under. Do you know what it means? She had a bushel full of grace. That’s why Paul in that great chapter on grace, said, “In the ages to come” – after the sun and moon and stars shall shine no more, after time shall no longer be, after governments have risen to fall no more, in the ages upon ages, out yonder – what else Paul? That “he might shew” – I wish I knew how to quote it – that “he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace – of his grace” – “in his kindness” – that’s another word for grace – “toward us through Christ Jesus”
Oh, beloved, here he recognized her, that’s grace-He knows us, that’s grace – he took us in when we were strangers, that’s grace – He accepts us, when we are sinners, that’s grace-He puts us into His family, that’s grace – here He gives her Benjamin’s portion, that’s grace-with His own hand He gives her parched corn, that’s grace – then He gives her handsful, that’s grace – then He gives her a bushel, that’s more grace!
Here is what it means: “Know this, when you journey down to the end of time, or to the end of the ages, or to the day when you come to Jordan’s cold stream, and there it will be dark and you wonder who will take you over; you have never seen grace until you come to say farewell to Moab.” Then he says, “I want to show you grace, I want to show you grace and glory, then I want to show what it means to be a child of God, I want to show you then what it is to be heir of God, I want to show you then what it means to be joint heirs with Christ, then I want to show you what it is to be priests of God, I will show you then what it is to be kings and to reign with Him.” Therefore, “In the ages to come,” he said, “I will show you grace, I will show you the riches of grace.” Oh, where is the man who goes around talking about what is going to happen to us. Let come what will, let the foundation of earth give way, let troubles come, let wars and bloodshed come, let famines come, let death stalk abroad, thanks be unto God we have an inheritance undefiled, incorruptible, reserved in heaven for us! Let the whole Federal Reserve Bank break, God’s bank will never break, then we will sing the last of the song of Amazing Grace.
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years – make it ten million, make it a hundred million, make it ten billion! (Shoutings).
“When we’ve been there ten billion years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.”
I am not through – shall I finish?
Giving Salvation to Others
DR. NORRIS: Ruth did this, after he had given her all that grace, what did she do? Oh, God help us to get this lesson. She didn’t just sit down and say, “I have plenty. I have all the grace I need, anybody can get it if they want it.” What did she do? “And she took it up, and went into the city; and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth, and gave to her that she had reserved after she was sufficed.” She came home to Naomi and said, “Oh, mother, mother, I have found plenty, and I have had plenty, I have had a great feast, I am tired, but I am not hungry. I am satisfied, and I have brought you a whole bushel!” That’s real missionary work. God forgive us for feasting on the grace of God and not giving to others!
Do you know what love is? It is giving out. Oh, the trouble with us beloved, here many of you are so worried this morning over personal matters, this thing and that thing, until you do not see the need of a lost world. Get up, carry something to somebody else, and you will have joy. What ever you give of material things, that’s good. God says give money, for the Word says, “For God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things may abound to every good work.” You have a lot of God’s money in your pocket, then don’t go around complaining that you haven’t any faith. God isn’t going to bless you when you hold back His money. God doesn’t expect you to give of what you haven’t, but of what you have. Not what man has not, but what he has. Listen beloved, you had better get right on this, you had better be a partner with God, then nine-tenths will go farther than ten-tenths – I would rather have nine-tenths with God, and get sick, than have ten-tenths and get sick without God. When crepe is tied on the door, I would rather have God with nine-tenths than to have the ten-tenths without Him.
I close – famines, depressions, upheavals, conflicts, wars, all mean a time when we can give a revival to the world by giving the Bread of Life.
Naomi’s sorrow turned to joy, listen how she sings, “Blessed be the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.”
I haven’t time to go into the courtship of Ruth and Boaz – but it was beautiful and according to custom. Look at it in the light of that time, and not in the light of our present day. There was nothing improper about it.
The law-kinsman could not redeem, but a kinsman according to grace could, therefore Boaz is a perfect type of Christ, and then when they married he becomes the true kinsman, and is first, “Famous,” second, a “Restorer.” That is exactly what Jesus Christ is, His name is famous, he was called “Wonderful,” “Counsellor,” “The Mighty God,” “The Everlasting Father,” “The Prince of Peace!”
The Great Family of Ruth
I want you to notice this, that in contrast with the wars, sorrows and death of the present world, here comes grace and joy. I could preach a whole hour on this.
What a great family Boaz and Ruth had – listen – Obed, Jesse and David, then Christ, King of Kings. I don’t know what you are, but let me see your children. A friend of mine said the other day, “More preachers have been wrecked by their families.” That’s true. You say you are not responsible for your family. You are, and the Word of God makes you so. Right here you fathers and mothers need to come back to the Word. I haven’t any rebuke for the women, God forbid that I should say one word of unkindness, but when a woman finds she has time to do everything on earth but train her children, far better both she and the children had never been born. A father’s and mother’s first thought should be of the family of children – and the Bible says that the father who neglects his family is worse than an infidel.
Oh, the beautiful home life! A great man said once, “Let the world think of me as it will, but let me have the love and confidence of them that abide under the shadow of my roof.” What a tribute!
I close with this: The book of Ruth is a prophecy of the marriage of the Lamb, when our Kinsman-Redeemer comes for us, then, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.”
I want you to hear this choir sing while you remain standing, a marvelous message on grace:
“In looking thro’ my tears one day,
I saw Mount Calvary;
Beneath the cross there flowed a stream
Of grace, enough for me.
Grace is flowing from Calvary,
Grace as fathomless as the sea,
Grace for time and eternity,
Grace, enough for me.
While standing there, my trembling heart,
Once full of agony,
Could scarce believe the sight I saw
Of Grace, enough for me.
When I beheld my ev’ry sin
Nailed to the cruel tree,
I felt a flood go thro’ my soul
of grace, enough for me.
When I am safe within the veil,
My portion there will be,
To sing thro’ all the years to come
Of grace, enough for me.”