There is higher history, of kings and queens, and there is lower history, of ordinary men and women who are otherwise anonymous. They look small compared to the big players on the scene, but often they move history. Like Ruth. And like the young lady we heard last night at Cape Town.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return 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.” Ruth 1.16
We all know that Judges, a true higher history where God’s kingdom would come through mighty leaders, ends up a bust. The last verse is a sad commentary on the downward direction of God’s people and apparently of God’s plan for a Messiah to save the world: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
But the story was not over. Turn the page of your Bible and you come, not to the King that is thought to be needed, but to a Moabite, a foreign woman named Ruth. Ruth’s love of her Jewish husband’s people led her to say those famous words, “Where you go I will go and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God.”
From that woman, then, with her marriage to Boaz, came the line that would lead to, not just a King David, but the adopted baby of Joseph, the Son of the virgin Mary, King Jesus.
What lower history teaches us is that great things are done in hidden places. The Bible will pound this truth in as we move from Ruth to Hannah in 1 Samuel and Esther and Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the captor king of the Jews, a simple man who would lead the people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem in 52 days.
Great things: hidden places.
The closing testimony last night, about the amazing growth of the Church in Asia, featured a young lady I will never forget all of the days of my life. She will remain anonymous here, just as she must. She is a Ruth. She is a Hannah. She is a Nehemiah. She is God’s great girl though hidden from the world. Standing before us, dressed in what appeared to be her boarding school uniform, she carefully read her testimony. The salient features of that testimony include the death of her pregnant mother. She told of how she and her father, who worked for Kim Jung II, sought to live after that. Her father was converted to Christ during this time. They fled to China. There they lived with Christians. Her father returned to North Korea, out of a love for his people, to preach Jesus Christ. For this he was imprisoned. The girl lived, then, with a pastor and his wife. After three years her father was released and they were reunited “for a short period.” Why? Because her father went back in to Korea to preach again. He has not been heard from since.
“They have probably shot him as they do the others who preach Christ.”
She was adopted by the pastoral family. Now at 18 years of age, she is in a school in South Korea. She told us, as she continued her careful reading, looking up only once and that for just a glance at the massive crowds of over 4,000, that she wanted to go to university. There, she continued, she wanted to study political science. She wanted to be involved in diplomacy in order to get back into North Korea and to “do what my father did: to share the love of Jesus with my people.”
Then, her voice began to crack just a bit. A lump appeared in my throat. She paused and continued, “Please pray for my people. Please pray for North Korea that they will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ…” and her words finally gave way to sobs. The audience intuitively stood and applauded. We applauded not only for this courageous girl, but for the work of God in her and through her. She had been through unimaginable horror. Yet she is giving her life to return to identify with her people.
“I will go where you go…”
We applauded also, I think, because we knew this was God at work in our midst. We applauded because this was not a bishop or a preacher or a king. This was a girl whose heart had been pounded down by the pain of her people. She had seen Jesus in a dream, she said, and He asked her why she did not come to Him? She woke up and went to her knees and prayed to Jesus, she said, for the first time. God was at work in the lower parts of history, in the anonymous places, the hidden places. And so we applauded and we could not stop. Finally, having fallen into the arms of a Korean pastor who was on the platform, she returned and bowed before us in the humble way Orientals do. By then we knew it. We knew that North Korea would hear the Gospel again, and again, and again. Like the other nations of Asia reported on that night, where growth had been in once case 100 fold since the last Lausanne gathering twenty years ago, North Korea’s story is not over. We will hear of an explosion of the Gospel in that nation. It cannot withstand Christ. The mightiest power in North Korea cannot overcome the mighty power of Jesus Christ and God’s plan for redemption that resides in that little girl with a heart as big as her nation.
Great things are done in hidden places by anonymous people with God-sized dreams. They are done at the greatest costs and with the greatest love. These are truly the people who are taking over the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” Ruth 1.17