RUTH: WEEK SEVEN
The Journey (Part Two)
Verse of the Week:
“DO ALL THINGS WITHOUT GRUMBLING AND FAULTFINDING AND COMPLAINING (AGAINST GOD) AND QUESTIONING AND DOUBTING (AMONG YOURSELVES).” PHILIPPIANS 2:14 AMP
More words from the Father:
From my Heart:
What About Me?
On pondering Ruth’s boldness, her verve, her enthusiastic embracing of hardship, I find myself asking, “What about me?”
Have I arrived at this place, in this role, because God led me here? Or did I take a few too many wrong turns along the way and then settle in just to survive? Am I here…doing what I’m doing…being who I am…because I’ve so entrusted my life to the Father that I have followed every hint, every word He has spoken and landed finally in my sweet spot? Am I in that place intended for me to serve Him?
Did I, instead, take the reins in my own hands to drive me and everyone else around me down the road I chose…the path I preferred? What if, deep down inside, I don’t want to be this person I’ve become along the way? What if I don’t want to do the things that define me?
I don’t want to play the role of policewoman/Nazi-commander in my home anymore? Will the world collapse around me if I turn nice? Will clothes mold in wadded up piles? Will the health department have to step in and close down the kitchen if I’m not there to catch every crumb? Will my husband bankrupt us? Will he go off and buy a Maserati the minute I let up?
What would happen if I let go of control?
Should I warn them first?
“By the way, I’ve decided to play the nice guy from now on. No more scolding, sulking, silently disapproving. I’ve decided to be like Ruth and Sarah. Oh…and Mary. Definitely like her.”
“From now on I’ll ask nicely, or not at all. Because I love you, with all your faults and flaws, you don’t have to fit yourself to me any more because I find you fascinating and fun, intriguing, and delightful.”
What would happen after I scraped them off the floor?
And what if…
I don’t want to be bound by my birthdays anymore? Are the freshman 15 and baby-fat and middle-age spread inevitable? Or could I push my slothful self out the door, slip into my running shoes and change all that? And if my body is indeed the temple of the Spirit of God, aren’t I somewhat obligated to try?
I quit complaining? Would I be okay if nobody knew I had a headache? I once tried not to complain for a whole week. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even make it through one whole day! My conversation is laced with common complaints.
“My, its hot…
What if I stopped all that?
What if I never said a bad thing about anybody ever again? Would I have anything to talk about?
The real question is, “Can I change?” Can I overcome my past patterns to become who I want to be…who I believe God made me to be? Can I overthrow my history, much like Ruth did, to reinvent myself? Can I really change by choosing?
One glance through Scripture convinces me I can. The change in Peter between who he was at the end of the gospel of Luke and who he emerged to be in the beginning of the story of Acts is nothing short of astounding! He went from whining wimp to warrior preacher in how many days?
What about Paul? Talk about an about-face!
And John? Jesus nicknamed him and his brother, James, the “sons of thunder,” clearly referring to their raging tempers. A look at his trilogy of letters in first, second, and third John reveals an entirely different temperament. There he’s known as the “Apostle of Love.”
If they can change, can’t I?
I can almost hear Jesus break in to interrupt my raging thoughts… “Martha, Martha…hush now…settle down…you are worried and bothered about so many things.” “Mary,” He gently reminds me, “has chosen the good part.”
Choosing the good part…again,
From my heart,
Wisdom from the Scriptures
Naomi’s life started out well. Pleasant, as the meaning of her name suggests. She grew up in the town of Bethlehem, situated in the bread basket of Israel. Her childhood would have evolved around agriculture: plowing, planting, gathering, preparing, and the celebrations which accompanied ample harvests.
She married well. Elimelech was of the elite tribe of Ephrathites, thought to be the founding fathers of Judah. Their family originated with Caleb, Joshua’s consort in their spying days.1
But then her life took a downturn. Due to an apparent famine, Naomi’s husband chose to defy the dictates of the Mosaic Covenant2 and migrate to the land of Moab. There, she lost her entire family to premature death; first Elimelech, and soon thereafter, her two adult sons, Mahlon and Chilion. She found herself abandoned and alone in a foreign land, estranged from the God of her childhood, far away from all that was familiar and safe.
Called a “female Job” by many commentators,3 Naomi becomes a spokesperson for every woman who suffers. In the narrative you get a clear look at Naomi’s hurting heart. She is exposed, bearing her pain for all to see. Naomi feels that God is against her (Ruth 1:13, 21), that He has afflicted her (1:21), and brought misfortune upon her (1:21). She feels empty (1:21) and bitter (1:20).
And yet, little does she know, God is lovingly dictating even the most excruciating of circumstances. By the middle of the story, Naomi is dishing out wise advice to her daughter-in-law. She exhibits a keen understanding of her culture and even an underlying sense of God’s purpose for His people. And she gets her happily-ever-after ending. Holding her grandson, Obed, in her arms, Naomi’s life once again takes on meaning and purpose. Her friends bless her and help her to recognize that God is restoring her life and giving her hope for her future.
In this raw and wrenching depiction of pain, the God of Scripture gives us permission to go ahead and ask those questions that defy easy answers, to rail against the circumstances that upend everything we hoped for.
Naomi’s story is a story of a God who listens…and cares.