While studying Ruth I came across a sermon by Spurgeon on Spiritual Gleaning. He likens Ruth's gleaning to the spiritual gleaning of the Word. I can relate to the gleaning as I learn from God's Word by grasping some small tidbit here and there. If I'm given a whole sheaf, I'm unable to process all the new information.
Spurgeon points out that some people want their corn handed to them instead of doing any gleaning themselves. I'm afraid there have been times I've expected a pastor to feed me enough spiritual food to get me through a week when I should have been taking advantage of the resources and technology available to me (with some discretion, of course).
"I believe that the real gleaner, who gets any spiritual food, will have to stoop to pick it up; and I would gladly stoop to know and understand the gospel. It is worth while going anywhere to hear the gospel; but, nowadays, people must have fine steeples to their places of worship, fine gowns for their ministers, and they must preach most eloquently. But that is not the way the Lord ordained; he intended that there should be plain, simple, faithful preaching; and it is by the foolishness of such preaching that he will save them that believe. Beloved friends, remember that gleaners who are to get anything must expect to stoop."In certain locales we have been tempted just to avoid attending church altogether as there wasn't enough good "corn" available. I know this would most definitely displease God and goes against His instruction to assemble together with other believers on a regular basis. And no, the internet and TV sermons are not a replacement if you are physically able to attend.
God uses sinful flawed men to preach His Gospel message. It's difficult to listen to someone once a bit of error is mixed in with their message. I just want to completely tun them out altogether. Spurgeon has an interesting take on enduring a bad sermon:
"I heard a man of that kind [that mixed truth with error] once, and when he said a thing was so-and-so, I said to myself that it was not; and when he said such-and-such a thing would happen, I said it would not; and I enjoyed the sermon then. He said that the people of God, through their sin, would perish; I had only to put a “not” into his sentence, and what a sweet and comforting message it was then! That is the way, when you hear a bad sermon, just to qualify what the preacher says. Then, after all, you can make his discourse suggest spiritual thoughts to you, and do you good. But you must be content, wherever you go to hear the Word, to pick up the corn ear by ear."I will have to try this method out sometime, but not at our soon-to-be home church. I suppose I've often had the long-time habit of searching flaws in people and in preaching. Instead, I should be seeking to learn more about God and His ways. His grace, His forgiveness, His patience, His glory and His love can be seen all around us as we visit with friends or listen to a sermon, even a bad one.
I can rejoice in the fact that someday there will be no more lies to believe, no more brokenness, no more confusion. We will see Him as He is and we will be like Him! Yes, perfect. Here in this sin-infested world that's so difficult to even imagine.
As I continue to read through Ruth during this harvest season I will look at her diligent gleaning a bit differently. I will make more of an effort to glean from the fields God has provided.
O child of God, never be afraid to glean! All there is in all thy Lord’s fields is thine. Never think that your Master will be angry with you because you carry away so much of the good corn of the kingdom; the only thing he is likely to be offended with you for is, because you do not take enough. “There it is,” he says; “take it, take it, and eat it; eat abundantly; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved!” If thou findest a sweet promise, suck all the honey out of the comb. And if thou gettest hold of some blessed sheaf, do not be afraid to carry it away rejoicing. Thou hast a right to it; let not Satan cheat thee out of it. Sharpen up the sickle of thy faith, and go harvesting; for thou mayest, if thou wilt; and if thou canst, thou mayest take a whole sheaf, and carry it away for spiritual food. But if thou canst not take a whole sheaf, the Lord teach thee how to glean among the sheaves, even as Ruth did in the fields of Boaz; and may he, in the greatness of his grace, let fall a few handfuls on purpose for thee, for his dear Son’s sake!