In last week’s study, we considered how the backsliding of Elimelech and Naomi brought chastening upon their heads. That did not cure them, however, of their backsliding. Backsliding is easier to start than to stop. It brings with it a hardness of heart and conscience, a blindness of mind and soul that renders the backslider stiff-necked and unfeeling and undiscerning of the judgment of God.
The backslider’s heart is epitomised in the parable of the prodigal son, Luke 15:11-32. The worse things became, the further from his father he went. Naomi had been persuaded to leave Judah much easier than she had been to leave Moab!
I. THINGS WILL GROW WORSE FOR THE UNREPENTANT BACKSLIDER.
Let us see that such is true in Naomi’s case. Evidently, Naomi never thought of going back to Judah when her troubles first began. When her husband died, the backsliding continued and deepened.
1. Death entered the home. Her nearest and dearest was taken. He who took her down into Moab is taken from her.
2. Her lot was one of loneliness. “She was left.” She was now on her own and her dreams had turned to ashes.
3. She is left a widow. One whose lot was hardship and want, Deut 24:19-21, Mark 12:42.
II. SHE SAW HER CHILDREN FOLLOW IN HER STEPS.
“And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years,” Ruth 1:4. The most serious of all earthly relationships was entered upon without reference to God and His truth!
1. They married in defiance of God. The Moabites were forbidden entrance to the congregation of Israel. “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever,” Deuteronomy 23:3. Thus there was a siding with those who had sought to curse Israel, Deut 23:4. This is what happens through backsliding. A wrong view is formed of the world by children through the friendship shown it by their backsliding parents.
The flock spoken of here could not be an ‘earthly’ body of people for a number of reasons. Here is another reason as well as that given last time which was that it could not be ‘a band of human beings because of the their description. “ . . . . ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance,” verse 7.
The new reason is:
Because the Saviour has promised never to ‘leave’
The 99 were ‘left behind’.
Here is a promise given to His people. “ . . . he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5.
* Those who are left “in the wilderness” in this parable could not be those to whom this promise was given!
The word ‘leave’ means ‘forsake’, which makes it even more unlikely that it is the saved that is referred to.
We must ever remember that the Lord Jesus does not have to LEAVE you while He comes to me to help and look after me! He is OMNIPRESENT! He is everywhere present at all times! “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, . . . lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen,” Matt 28:18, 20. Acts 18;10. He was with Paul & all the apostles. He was with EACH ONE of them.Even so He is ever with all of His people. Jesus’ divine nature makes Him always with us. “Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD,” Jer 23:23-24.
* This truth Nathaniel learned. “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel,” John 1:47-49.
We started to answer it by pointing out that when the Saviour came to earth some 2000 years ago, He left behind His father, His glory and the glorious company of Heaven in order to save His people.
I believe ‘that leaving’ is what is referred to here!
The flock spoken of here could not be an ‘earthly’ body of people for a number of reasons.
Because of their description. “ . . . . ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance,” verse 7. This cannot refer to any group of human beings, not even the saved!
“. . . . there is no man that sinneth not,” 1 Kings 8:46
“ . . . for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23.
Saved and converted sinners are ever in need of repentance. Rev 2:5, 16; 3:3, 19. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” 1 John 1:8.
“All of a Christian’s life is one of repentance.” Martin Luther.
I think that may be seen in the action taken by Elimelech. He went to Moab to escape the judgment of God. He was hardened beneath the chastening of God. The purpose of chastening is set before in Hebrews 12:5-11.
A name study provides us with interesting details.
Elimelech = “My God is king.” He typifies the measure or state of true religion there is in such days as the days of the Judges. He had a name to live. Notice he left Bethlehem, “The house of Bread.” In time of famine we should come to Bethlehem, not leave it! See 2 Chronicles 28:19-23.
Naomi. = “My delight.” It is a good name but she did not live up to it. Bitterness was her lot in Moab, verse 20. Obedience and return brought joy, 4:14-15. She possibly married an unsaved man, who professed but was not really saved!
Mahlon and Chilion. “Sick” “Pining or Consumptive.” Such were the offspring born to these two backsliders. Both perished in Moab with their father.
Sickly religion is the offspring of disobedience and backsliding and a looking to Moab for deliverance. Moab was a nation born out of a most wicked union, Gen 19:37.
It is to the modern Moab, the offspring of the union between the church and the world that many look for deliverance in these days.
Having considered the lost estate in which we as sinners were born, Paul takes us on to consider the change God wrought and how it was God delivered us from such a dreadful condition. The picture Paul paints of the natural man’s spiritual state in verses 1-3 is a dark picture indeed! However, see how the next verse begins!
“But God.” He it is Who makes the difference!
The Christian has had a spiritual resurrection.
THE AUTHOR OF MAN’S SALVATION IS GOD.
Can we ever emphasise this truth sufficiently?
It is the chief of errors for man to believe that he is the author of his own redemption.
It is the chief of errors for it was the first manifestation of man’s sinfulness. “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD,” Genesis 4:3. This offering was in direct disobedience of what it was God required as an expression of faith in His mercy – A LAMB. The labour of man’s hand is considered by many sufficient to save their soul. It is a universal and utterly destructive error!.
This error is the greatest hindrance to conversion. As long as man feels that he controls this matter he will not heed God’s warnings and exhortations. Who will seek unto the doctor who believes himself fit and healthy!
This error is the last to be overcome in the sinner’s heart. This sin keeps the sinner hard and unbowed and defiant. It is built on pride! ‘I am good enough for heaven! It must be overcome before there is a bending of the knee before Christ and a recognising that “Salvation is of the Lord,” as Jonah cried out, Jonah 2:9.
This man must learn and believe before he can be saved.
SALVATION SPRINGS FROM GOD’S LOVE AND GRACE.
If it is not of man then it must be of God and that unmerited and undeserved.
1. Love is the foundation of God’s plan of salvation. Love is the spring of all that God undertook to do for His elect. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” John 3:16. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” 1 John 4:9-10. “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” Titus 3:4-7.
2. He graciously undertook the work of redemption. Out of His love sprang His free unmerited plan of deliverance. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) . . . For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:5, 8.
Please note the clear setting forth the truth that it was GOD, not man who wrought this work!
3. God’s salvation brings to the believing sinner the wonderful benefits of God’s mercy and grace. His benevolent action toward the sinner sprang from His love and grace. Note what it is the believing sinner enjoys as a result. “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in hiskindness toward us through Christ Jesus,” verses 6-7.
GOD’S SALVATION CAME TO US THROUGH CHRIST.
I must stress this for how many go, as it were, knocking at the wrong door looking for salvation! “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” verses 5-6. It is THROUGH CHRIST ALONE that we are saved! There is a story told us in 2 Kings 5:1-14, in which a Syrian General, Naaman, who suffered from leprosy is told that there was a man in Israel, Elisha the prophet, who could heal him from his disease. Naaman, like all men, made assumptions regarding the matter and didn’t heed the simple instructions given him. Consequently he turned up at the royal palace with a fortune in gold and silver to pay for his cure. Not until he heeded the instructions and went to Elisha and obeyed his instructions was he healed.
It is to Christ we must go for the saving of our soul, not the church or minister, the saints or any other. I repeat the words of Mary, recorded in John 2:5. “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Peter said on one occasion, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life,” John 6:68.
There you have it listener! Salvation comes to us THROUGH the Lord Jesus ALONE! “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,” 1 Peter 3:18. He purchased salvation for His people on the cross of Calvary.
Again I quote Peter: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” Acts 4:12.
Before we leave these words in Ephesians 2:1, please note that Paul speaks in the past tense. He says: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” The wonderful work of regeneration has taken place for them. They are presently ‘alive in Christ’! Their conversion was a past event. They were in Christ. Their sins were forgiven. THEY WERE SAVED!
Paul would have them know that this is what they have, where they are. The phrase “by grace ye are saved” means literally, “by grace ye have been saved.”
God’s grace is conveyed to us through Jesus Christ. You know nothing of God’s grace until you are united to Christ.
Every Christian has a real and vital union with Christ. We were joined to Christ in the covenant of grace before the worlds began but there came a time when experimentally, the Christian was brought into union with Christ and was made spiritually alive.
As the branch partakes of the life of the trunk, even so we are partakers of Christ’s life. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing,” John 15:5. We live off Christ. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” Galatians 2:20.
If you are not united to Christ the life then you are dead in your sins.
WHAT A GLORIOUS HONOUR IS THUS CONFERRED UPON THE CHRISTIAN!
“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:6-7.
Not merely made alive but made to share in Christ’s glory. These are the eternal benefits and blessings of faith in Christ. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne,” Rev 3:21.
We are citizens of heaven. “For our conversation (or our citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20. Hannah, the mother of Samuel rejoiced in prayer and said: “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory,” 1 Samuel 2:8.
Hear John’s word on this matter. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is,” 1 John 3:2.
Dear listener, seek unto Christ for these blessings and be assured of them in time and eternity.