A LESSON FROM THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO COMPASSIONATE LIVING
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
16 JANUARY 1994
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Before we start with today’s lesson, I want to make sure that you have a copy of The Beginners Guide to Compassionate Living.
Do you have a copy of it?
I pray so, for it's your Bible.
We have an example of compassionate living exhibited by Boaz and Ruth in the book bearing her name. Let's look at verses 2:17-23.
17. So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
Now, an ephah is about 0.6 of a bushel or about 21 dry quarts. That's a lot of barley to just pick up from the leftovers in someone's field.
That's enough for a person to live on for three months.
18. And she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also took it out and gave Naomi what was left after she was satisfied.
That means she gave Naomi, her mother-in-law, about 99% of what she had worked all day to acquire.
19. Her mother-in-law then said to her, "Where did you glean today and where did you work? May he who took notice of you be blessed." So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, "The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz."
20. And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "May he be blessed of the Lord who has not withheld his kindness to the living and to the dead." Again Naomi said to her. "The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives."
21. Then Ruth the Moabitess said, "Furthermore, he said to me, 'You should stay close to my servants until they have finished all my harvest.' "
Thus, from these successive harvest days, Ruth and Naomi will be able to have enough barley to last them all year.
22. And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, "It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his maids, lest others fall upon you in another field."
Why would Naomi say this?
Could it be that most people wouldn't do as Boaz is doing?
Let's see as we go on.
23. So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
Boaz allowed Ruth to gather the leftover grain from the field, for he had compassion for her.
Similarly, Ruth had compassion for her mother-in-law; for she gave all that she had to her, so that they might have food to eat for the year.
But Boaz was just doing what the Lord told him to do.
Everyone else was told to do the same, but from what Naomi told Ruth, we can assume that they didn't follow what the Lord told them.
Let's turn to Leviticus 19:9-10 and see what the Lord tells us to do:
9. ‘Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very comers of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.
10.’Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.
This is exactly what Boaz did.
But why do you think that Naomi and Ruth commented about the way Boaz was, as if it was unusual to be as kind as he?
It's because most people don't listen to the Lord our God, and they consider everything in the field to be their potential profit.
They fail to understand that according to God's ways, gleaning your own fields will yield only a little, but leaving the gleanings for the needy will produce a greater harvest.
And from what we know about Boaz, he was quite wealthy; for God blessed him.
This is exactly what Moses said when he repeated and expanded this command of the Lord in Deuteronomy 24:19-22.
19. "When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
To those who have a giving and compassionate nature, the Lord has a way of increasing the income so that what is left is still greater than what they would have had if they gave nothing away.
20. "When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.
21. "When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.
22. "And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.
Boaz remembered the hardship of the Israelites in Egypt, where they were in need, and he did as the Lord commanded him.
But Boaz did even more.
He made the alien, Ruth, feel comfortable and protected, and even wanted.
This is where the acts of love and compassion not only fulfill the Law, but exceed it.
This is why we need to learn to extend this love and compassion beyond our human neighbors to all the animals and to the world in which we all live, for it confirms our love for God.
Jesus gives us an example of truly compassionate living in John 5:1-18, and of the way such a lifestyle both fulfills and exceeds the Law:
1. After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.
3. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters;
4. for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]
5. And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness.
6. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?"
Jesus already knew what this man wanted and needed, but making him express it served to strengthen him, though he may not have recognized it at the time.
It was Jesus' compassion for this man that led Him to help him, something that no one else appears to have done.
The man may have given up emotionally; but by responding to Jesus, he will
be, in a way, helping himself.
7. The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me."
By this man's answer we can see that he is depressed, but he hasn't given up;
for, by the way he answers, he is in essence saying, "Jesus, will you be the one
to help me?"
8. Jesus said to him, "Arise, take up your pallet, and walk."
9. And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.
The man got up and walked.
He didn't just lie there and complain about how he couldn't walk. He got up and walked.
He exercised his faith.
He received Jesus' compassion; a fact that we all must learn.
And, he never went into the water.
Now it was the Sabbath on that day.
10. Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet."
11. But he answered them, "He who made me well was the one who said to me, 'Take up your pallet and walk.' ''
12. They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your pallet, and walk'?"
13. But he who was healed did not know who it was; for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.
Here was this man, who was unable to walk for thirty-eight years, and now he is walking; and all they are concerned with is that he is carrying his pallet!
They should all be praising God for the miracle, and for His compassion for this man.
These people obviously don't have any compassion of their own, or they would not be acting in this manner.
If we cannot feel for what the other person is suffering, our religion is of no use to us.
If we cannot praise God for the miracle, we have no faith of our own.
If all we do is complain about the violations of the letter of the Law, we have no love and compassion within us, and we don't know Jesus.
14. Afterwards Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you."
Jesus healed him first, and then warned him about his sins.
Love and compassion always open the door to the presence of God, but we can remain there only if we confess our sins, and truly strive to sin no more.
15. The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
For this reason they should have recognized who Jesus was or, at least, as a prophet of God; but because of the hardness of their hearts, they saw none of this.
16. And for this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.
17. But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working."
18. For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
He is; but the Jewish leaders were blinded spiritually from seeing the truth because of their hardness of heart.
Listen to how Jesus responded in verses 19-20:
19. Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.
20. "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel.
And before we leave this thought, listen to what Jesus says of these things in John 14:12.
12. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.
Not only did Jesus do these things, but we who believe can and should be able to do even greater works.
Now, let's consider what the greatest miracle was.
Was it not Jesus' love and compassion, for that fulfilled the Law and even exceeded it?
On the surface, the physical miracle actually violated the letter of the Law; but love and compassion overcame the violation.
The greater things that we will do are not the waving of our hands over someone to heal them, but the expression of our love and compassion.
For love and compassion must always come first, whether in the feeding of the alien or the native, or whether in providing healing comfort, or ending the suffering of animals, or the destruction of the environment.
Love and compassion have no boundries.
The Father and Jesus first loved us, and showed us compassion; shouldn’t we do likewise for others, and even more?
Your Comments are welcome
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