Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 3 * BOOK 64
BUT GOD! – PART 3
Okay, again we want to thank you so much. My, I asked Cheryl again this morning, “Cheryl, is the bank account okay?” And she said, “Nothing to worry about.” So, we just praise the Lord! Because you’ve got to remember, most of our contributions are $25 and $50 bucks, and that takes a ton of people to keep us on the air. All we can do is just say thank you, and thank you, Lord, because the response is just phenomenal. I think I shared it with you a while back that we came to the conclusion that most of our primary responders are men. We are reaching so many men from 25 to 75 years of age, who never had spiritual interest, and they are just elated. They just can’t say enough how everything has changed their lives.
Now, I don’t take credit for it. It’s the Lord that does it. But nevertheless, we’ve been the vehicle the Lord has seen fit to use. So, continue to pray for us. And pray for our listening audience, that hearts will be open, because I’m so confident in what we teach, because we simply take what the Book says.
In fact, I guess I can give an illustration before we start. I had a gentleman call from, I think it was West Palm Beach, Florida, some time ago. He was a very devout, religious, young man, forty-two years old. He said, “I have never missed going to church, and I’ve always been devout, but I caught your program for the first time today, and by the end of the program I was believer, and was out of my dead, religious church.”
He says, “Now, don’t get the bighead. You didn’t do it. It was the Word of God that was on the screen.” So, I don’t know what verses it was we used, but the Lord directed it to his heart. You know, it doesn’t take six months to get saved when God is in it! These are the kinds of responses we get, and we just give the Lord the credit for all of it.
Okay, let’s pick up where we left off in our series, for however long it takes, when God moves in with the three-letter word “B-U-T.” But God or But Noah, as we saw in the last lesson. To begin this lesson, turn to the Book of Ruth, chapter 1. We’ve got much the same scenario as we had in Genesis 6. It’s “but Ruth.” So, go down to verse 14, and then we’ll go back and look at the background.
“And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave (or hung on) unto her (her mother-in-law).” Well, by itself that doesn’t tell us much, so we need background, don’t we?
All right, now when you go back through chapter 1, and we’re not going to take time to read it all verse by verse, this little Jewish family of Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, had left Israel because of hard times and famine in the land. They went down into Moab. Now, if you know your Middle Eastern Old Testament geography, Moab was over on the east side of the Dead Sea, on the southern end. So, they either had to go around the south end of the Dead Sea to get to Moab, or they had to go around the north end. Nevertheless, they ended up in that Arab nation of Moab, which was a taboo for Jews. They were to have nothing to do with the Moabites.
But here we have this Jewish family, in complete opposition to the laws of Israel, finding themselves down in Moab. All right, we find that after they get to Moab that in verse 3:
“And Elimelech, Naomi’s husband died;…” Now, Naomi is left alone with her two sons, and they, contrary again to all the laws and traditions of Israel, married Moabite women. All right, in verse 4 we find these two sons:
“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.” Which, in any period of time, is a long time. All right, so the ten years go by, verse 5:
“And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. 6. Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, (both of them) 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.” In other words, the famine had ended up in Israel, and things were prospering once again. So now she sees fit to go back to her homeland, with the idea that she would leave her daughters-in-law in Moab.
“Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. (Which, of course, is the southern area of Israel. It’s the area around Jerusalem and Bethlehem.) 8. And Naomi said unto her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, (That is her sons.) and with me.”
“The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. (Now after all, you know, they’ve been family for ten years or more.) 10. And they (the girls of Moab, Ruth and Orpah) said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.” That is the Jews, Israel.
“And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in womb, that they may be your husbands? 12. Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons; 13. Would ye tarry for them till they were grown?” Now, you want to remember that some of these old customs in antiquity were beyond our imagination, because they would necessarily wait for a replacement son to be born and finally become a husband to replace one that’s been lost.
“Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? Would ye stay for them from having husbands? Nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. 14. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; (She’s going to go back home to Moab.) but Ruth…” But Ruth! Now listen, there’s more there than meets the eye, because where does Ruth end up? In the genealogy of Jesus Christ! Ruth becomes part and parcel of the line of David. So, who’s behind it all? The Sovereign God! Isn’t it amazing! He’s in control of even marriage relationships. Here we have a woman from a taboo place such as Moab, yet by God’s grace she comes into a relationship with a Jewish family. So, she and her mother-in-law, two widows now, go back to the homeland of Israel. All right, now verse 16.
“And Ruth said, (contrary to what Naomi is insisting) Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people (Israel, remember.) shall be my people, (And here’s the crowning part of all.) and thy God my God.”
Now, who was the god of Moab? Idols. They were idolaters. They had no knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So, here comes the pagan lady, Ruth, embracing the God of Israel, again by faith, and she goes on then to promise:
“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. 18. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. 19. So they two went until they came to Bethlehem.”
Now, you all know of course that Bethlehem is one of the key little towns in all of Israel – the House of Bread.
“…And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? 20. And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home empty:…” Well, that’s what she thought, but she didn’t come back empty. She came back with a daughter-in-law that would fall right in line with the line of King David. So, verse 22:
“So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.” Now, I think you all know the story of Ruth. How they had no real means of support, so Ruth becomes a gleaner in the grain fields. One of the fields that she happened to glean in was the field of Boaz, who was a next of kin. So, when the time comes for God’s providence to be put into play, Ruth not only becomes a gleaner in the field of Boaz, but also actually ends up being his wife. Then, of course, from the line of Boaz and Ruth, we have, if I remember correctly, Obed and then Jesse and then King David.
But the point is, it wasn’t just human beings operating under their own free will, but who’s behind it all? The God of Creation. I don’t think it’s a bit different today. I think that we’re left to the free will. Everything that happens isn’t God directing us like a puppet, and yet He is so aware of every facet of our life that He can control it in His own way of controlling. You know, I always remind people that if you’re a believer today, just look back and can’t you see how God has been maneuvering things all the way along? Of course He does. It’s beyond our comprehension how God can leave us with a free will and yet get us exactly where He wants us. So remember this, not only was it “But Noah.” Not only was it “But God” in the case of Joseph. But now, even in the case of this Moabitess young lady, “But Ruth,” by Providential guidance, stayed with her mother-in-law and became part of the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Okay, let’s go to another one of these key “buts” in Scripture. Let’s go to I Chronicles chapter 28 verse 3, and we’re going to come now to King David. Again for a little recap, when the Tabernacle was constructed out in the wilderness during those forty years, they carried it from place to place by taking it down and with staves were able to carry it on the shoulders of men. So, the Tabernacle makes its way all the way up to an area north of Jerusalem. King David, with all of his power and his pomp and his circumstance, was always rather upset that the house of God at which Israel worshipped was still just a little tent up there in the mountains. How much more appropriate would it be to have worship in a beautiful temple, I suppose much like the pagan temples of David’s day. So it was just a heart’s desire of David to build a temple that could house the Ark of the Covenant.
All right, so now we’ve come to I Chronicles chapter 28 and verse 3, and we find our two key words again, and what are they? “But God.” King David had power. He had pomp. He had wealth. “But God.” All right, let’s jump back to verse 1.
I Chronicles 28:1a
“And David assembled all the princes of Israel, the princes of the tribes, and the captains of the companies that ministered to the king by course,…” In other words, that’s what I mean by pomp and circumstance. All of his servants that waited on him were surrounding him because, after all, he was the king! This included his military leaders and his captains.
I Chronicles 28b
“…and the captains over the thousands, and captains over the hundreds, and the stewards over all the substance and possession of the king,…” Now, I don’t think I have to remind you that David was at the pinnacle of Israel’s history. Solomon takes it a little further, but David is the one who brought Israel to the very peak of her historical significance as a nation among the nations. All right, so they’re practicing much the same thing as the Gentiles around them.
I Chronicles 28:1c-2
“…and of his sons, with the officers, and with the mighty men, and with all the valiant men, unto Jerusalem. 2. Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, Hear me, my brethren, and my people: As for me, (with all of my power) I had in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building:” He had everything at his disposal. He had the wealth. He had the manpower. He had already bought the threshing floor from the Canaanites, and he’s now ready to build a permanent temple dwelling place for the Ark of the Covenant and the place of worship of the God of Abraham.
I Chronicles 28:3
“But God said unto me, (God intervenes! And what does He says? Oh no, David, not so fast. I’m not going to let you build my Temple. Why?) Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood.” He’s shed blood by the gallons. Verse 4:
I Chronicles 28:4a
“Howbeit the LORD God of Israel chose me before all the house of my father to be king over Israel for ever:” Now, there’s a thought provoking word, isn’t it? How long will Israel’s kingship go? Into eternity! For Christ is referred to as the what? The Son of David. So, when He returns and sets up His kingdom in Jerusalem, yes, it’ll be God the Son, but He’s still going to be referred to as the Son of David. So, when David speaks of his kingship going on into the foreverness of eternity, it wasn’t loosely spoken, because that is exactly what it will be.
I Chronicles 28:4b
“…for He hath chosen Judah to be the ruler; and of the house of Judah, the house of my father; and among the sons of my father, He liked me to make me king over all Israel:”Now, not only did David come out of the House of Judah, but who else? Jesus Christ Himself is of the House of Judah, and that’s why it’s a likely line of Kings from David right on up to the Lord Himself.
I Chronicles 28:5
“And of all my sons, (for the LORD hath given me many son,) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.” So Solomon now becomes the one that will build the Temple for the Lord there in Jerusalem. But again, in spite of all of David’s power, in spite of all of his clout, in spite of all of his wealth, who was Sovereign? God was. “But God” intervened and David couldn’t even begin to lay the first brick of a temple, because God overruled.
All right, let’s look at the next one before our time is up. Go with me to Jonah chapter 4 verse 7, and what are the first two words? “But God.” Of all places, here in this little book of Jonah, “But God.” What does that mean? Again, He moves in providentially, contrary to good human sense. God does something that would seem ridiculous. Well, what’s He doing? He’s teaching a lesson, even through the acts of this man Jonah.
All right, now we have to go all the way back again and recap. What had happened? Well, God had instructed Jonah to go to this wicked Gentile city of Nineveh and preach salvation to them. But now remember, I’ve been stressing over the years of my teaching that when God was dealing with Israel, what was to be their attitude to the rest of the Gentile world? They were to have nothing to do with them. As we saw with Ruth. They were not to intermarry with a Gentile. They weren’t to try to evangelize them. They were to have nothing to do with them socially or spiritually. It was strictly taboo.
But okay, now in the case of Jonah, what does God do? He said, “Jonah, I want you to go to that wicked city of Nineveh and I want you to preach to them.” Now, I imagine Jonah had the Old Testament mentality that the Twelve had in the New Testament. So, let’s go up to the New Testament before we look at Jonah. Go up to Matthew chapter 10, and people are shocked when they see this verse, especially since it’s from the lips of the Lord Jesus Himself. I’ve had people call and tell me they showed it to their preacher, and it made him mad. They don’t want to believe this. Well, then they’ve got problems, because it’s the Lord Himself that’s speaking.
Look what He says in Matthew 10. Now remember, I’ve got Jonah in the back of my mind, and I want you to have Jonah in the back of your mind, because nothing has changed. This was the mentality of Israel from day one. All right, Matthew 10, at the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus has just chosen the Twelve, now verse 5.
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, (See that? Don’t you have a thing to do with Gentiles.) and into any city of the Samaritans, (Who were half-breed Jews.) enter ye not: 6. But, go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” That’s the way it was from the day that Abraham was called out of the Ur of the Chaldees. Have nothing to do with those Gentiles around them.
Now you see, the reason was because the whole then-known world’s population was steeped in vicious, satanic idolatry. And God knew that if He would permit His chosen people to begin to intermarry and intersperse and have intercourse with them through whatever area of life, it would destroy the Nation’s spiritual purity. So, they were to have nothing to do with the Gentile world.
All right, now let’s go back to Jonah. Jonah is a good Jew who has been told and taught to have nothing to do with a Gentile. Yet here the Lord says in verse 2 of chapter 1 of the little book of Jonah:
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, (Gentile city) and cry against it; (Why?) for their wickedness is come up before me.” But God, in grace now, is going to send a Jew with a message of salvation.
“But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish…” Now Tarshish, I think most agree, was probably a reference to Spain, at the western end of the Mediterranean. Nineveh is east! So, when God tells Jonah to go east to Nineveh, Jonah, thinking he’s a good, obedient Jew goes west on the Mediterranean. You’ve heard me refer to this over and over. When he gets out on the Mediterranean and the ship starts having trouble, Jonah would rather walk the plank as go to a Gentile city. That was a typical Jewish response. But again, God is going to intervene. So Jonah, after being swallowed by the great fish, is spit up on the shore – a picture of death, burial, and resurrection, of course. And he goes to Nineveh, and he preaches salvation. And again the Lord told him in chapter 3.
“And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 2. Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. 3. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.” It was one of the biggest cities in the ancient world. So, as a result of Jonah’s preaching, the city of Nineveh repents and experiences God’s goodness and grace.
All right, now if you know the story of Jonah, in his pouting response to God’s being gracious to Nineveh, he goes out and sits in the heat of the desert sun. But God springs a gourd up, and it becomes an umbrella for him and shields him from the heat of the day. Now then, as he’s enjoying the shade of that great gourd:
“But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.” God intervenes sovereignly, again. He prepares a worm that kills the gourd. Where does that leave Jonah? Without a shade tree. Well, what was the lesson? I think the lesson is, no matter where God is telling Jonah to go or what to do, God is providential and He is sovereign, and He can do whatever He wants, including taking away his shade tree.