LOVINGKINDNESS: A HEART THAT IS ONE WITH GOD

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LOVINGKINDNESS: A HEART THAT IS ONE WITH GOD

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

28 OCTOBER 1990

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

Ruth 1:1-5, 16-17
        2:1-13
Psalm 106:1
        107:1
        136:1-9, 23-26
Hosea 2:18-20
Luke 23:34
John 3:3, 5, 16
        15:13
Acts 7:55-56, 60
1 Corinthians 2:16
James 1:27

Preparation Verse: (James 1:27)

This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

There is a state of being in God's relationship to us that is referred to as lovingkindness. The Hebrew word, hesed, expresses the compassion of our Lord toward us and the whole of creation, and the mercy He bestows upon us.

It is a state of holiness and grace that is not normally attributed to human beings, for lovingkindness is reserved for kingdom living.

To begin to live in a state of lovingkindness, one must spiritually enter the kingdom of God, and we cannot do this unless we are born again, and truly filled with the Holy Spirit.

Do you remember what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 and 5?

3. …"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

5. …"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

That is, unless we are born of both the water of the womb and of the Holy Spirit, which comes freely with our belief and faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Unfortunately, many people claim to be born again, but show little or no evidence of kingdom living.

And if we do not enter the kingdom, we cannot fully understand what lovingkindness is all about, for it includes loving the unlovable.

It means to be able to love someone when they hate you.

It means to be able to love someone else so much that you would die for them, as Jesus tells us in John 15:13 –

13. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

It means to be able to love every other human and animal, and the environment we all live in, and do no harm to the whole of God's creation, while protecting it from the harm of others.

It is the kind of love that God expresses for a sinful world in John 3:16 –

16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

It is the kind of love that allows someone in tortured anguish to say, as Jesus said from the cross (Luke 23:34),

34. …"Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. "....

It is the kind of love that Stephen expressed as they were stoning him to death (Acts 7:60):

60. …"Lord, do not hold this sin against them!"….

Stephen was not God. How could he express these Godly words? Verses 55 and 56 tell us:

55. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;

56. and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

Unless Stephen was born again, he could not have done this, for we cannot see into the Kingdom unless we are born again.

It is a free gift, but unless we are willing to receive it, it will not do us any good; but God continues to reach out to us in the hope that we will receive, as when one is asked to marry, they must respond positively, or there can be no wedding.

Listen to how Hosea expresses this for the Lord in Hosea 2:18-20 –

18. "In that day I will also make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
The birds of the sky,
And the creeping things of the ground.
And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land,
And will make them lie down in safety.

19. "And I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In lovingkindness and in compassion,

20. And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the Lord.

If we receive this offer, we can have a taste of living this way now.

There will no longer be any hurting or killing of any kind.

There will be no more hunting or fishing.

There will be no more people killing each other.

There will be no more war.

There will be no more capital punishment.

Our kingdom living will be as it was in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.

We can live this way today, if we remember and believe what we are told in 1 Corinthians 2:16, and as we discussed last week:

16. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Yes, each of us can have the mind of Christ; and in that mindset, we can show lovingkindness to each other and to all of God's creation.

Hosea spoke the words that we read at a time when Israel was going astray, much like our nation and the world is doing now; for there is very little true lovingkindness being expressed among the peoples of the world, or even in our little community.

The problem is that our mindset and our hearts are not centered upon the Lord. We don't normally begin our every action, or even every day, acknowledging the Lord our God.

Note how the psalmist expresses this in Psalm 106:1 –

1. Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

And the same is expressed in Psalm 107:1 –

1. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

See if you can respond in your hearts to the psalmist's words in Psalm 136:

1. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

2. Give thanks to the God of gods,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

3. Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

4. To Him who alone does great wonders,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting;

5. To Him who made the heavens with skill,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting;

6. To Him who spread out the earth above the waters,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting;

7. To Him who made the great lights,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting:

8. The sun to rule by day,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting,

9. The moon and stars to rule by night,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

23. Who remembered us in our low estate,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting,

24. And has rescued us from our adversaries,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting;

25. Who gives food to all flesh,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

26. Give thanks to the God of heaven,

Why?

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Can you see what God is trying to have us understand?

Can you hear the words so that they enter your heart?

Can you take the spiritual bounds of our earthly existence and break them, so that the endless glory of the Lord our God can enter in?

But this glorious kingdom living, and the lovingkindness that softens our hearts, only comes when we turn to God.

When we turn away, God will chastise us in the hope that we will see the errors of our way and turn back to Him.

Such was the case in the time of the Judges of Israel and, as we read this Book, we seem to be on a spiritual roller-coaster: one of the people turning from God, being punished, then repenting and being delivered.

You cannot run away from God's punishment, it will follow us wherever we go, just as it did with Naomi's family in the Book of Ruth. Listen to what we are told in 1:1-5 –

1. Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons.

2. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there.

3. Then Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.

4. And they took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years.

5. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.

These lead-in verses tell us a lot about the attitudes of these individuals, and the extent to which kingdom living and lovingkindness were a part of their lives.

Elimelech tried to run away from God and His punishment, and he entered a land of greater sin.

Why do we, as human beings, so often think that some other place will be better than the promised land of God?

Why do we seek something other than heaven?

Elimelech obviously would not listen, so he died in his sins.

And what about his sons?

They also seemed to follow in his footsteps, for they even took foreign women as their wives; for the desire of their hearts was to remain in that land, and not return to God's promised land. Thus they died in that land.

But there was something different about Naomi.

Her heart was truly set upon God, and God blessed her for that, even though it does not seem so on the surface.

And Naomi's lovingkindness affected the hearts of her daughters-in-law, Ruth's heart more so than Orpah's; for when Naomi decides to return to Israel, only Ruth truly wanted to live in the kingdom.

Listen to what she says when Naomi urges her to return to her family, in verses 16-17:

16. But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.

17. "Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me."

Do our lives affect others as did Naomi's with Ruth?

If we live in the kingdom of God, they should.

So Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem with very little other than their own lives.

Let's pick up this story in chapter 2, beginning at verse 1:

1. Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.

2. And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter."

3. So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

4. Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, "May the Lord be with you." And they said to him, "May the Lord bless you."

Here again we see more of the lovingkindness of the individuals.

Ruth goes out to gather the grain left in the field after the harvest. It was hard work, for usually there was not very much left. She knew that both she and Naomi would need food, and she loved her mother-in-law enough to provide for her, so that they would not have to beg, which would have brought further grief to the heart of Naomi.

And Boaz is different from Elimelech. He stayed in the land of Judah during the drought, and God blessed him. And he is obviously a kind man, as we can see from his exchange with his workers.

There is more. Listen –

5. Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, "Whose young woman is this?"

6. And the servant in charge of the reapers answered and said, "She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab.

7. "And she said, 'Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.' Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while."

Notice how the lovingkindness of Boaz is also expressed in the life of his servant. Not only did the servant allow Ruth to glean in the field, but in the heat of the day, the servant offered Ruth the same comforts and sheltered rest as the other workers.

The servant did this because he knew that Boaz would approve.

Do we exhibit this same kind of lovingkindness to those around us?

If not, we should; for we can change the world.

Now listen further and see how this lovingkindness of God in our hearts builds the family of God – the true church:

8. Then Boaz said to Ruth, "Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but stay here with my maids.

9. "Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw."

10. Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?"

Do you see the effect of a little kindness? And it really hasn't cost Boaz anything.

Ruth knows what she feels in her heart, and she knows what Naomi feels. She has had enough time to understand how most of the people feel, so she questions Boaz about his motives.

So let's let Boaz answer her, while we listen in:

11. And Boaz answered and said to her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know.

12. "May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge."

13. Then she said, "I have found favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants."

Boaz gives the glory of his kindness to God, but he is God's servant who is providing the blessing upon Ruth, whom he has just prayed for; and Ruth, in her answer, acknowledges both truths.

What about us?

Can we live in, and share, the lovingkindness of the Lord?

If your heart's commitment is to the Lord, we can.

Don't be afraid to be compassionate and show mercy to every other living being, for these are the ingredients upon which families and churches are, or should be, built.

Amen.