Ever After (Part One)
(Click here to listen to the sixth Ruth teaching)
This closing scene in the drama of Ruth reaches back to the beginning of the tale to provide an immensely satisfying summary.
With sighs of relief, we read that God did indeed step into Naomi’s story in spite of her predictions of doom and her tendency towards despair. And we can’t help but wonder if He will do the same for us.
Without doing anything to deserve it, Naomi is carried away to a place of rest and security. As she holds her grandson in her arms, her eyes, once dull with pain, brighten with hope. The wrinkles lining her face give way to the smile she cannot repress.
How she must have loved that boy!
Naomi’s friends join in a chorus of blessing as if to remind Naomi of the defeated dirge she sang to them when she stumbled into town at the lowest point of her life. Now, many months later, her life is filled with love and hope and dreams for the future.
We’ll read this week of weddings and babies, love and romance. We’ll delight in all of those delicious details women love. But we’ll also find security in the reality of God’s unending love for us - in spite of our many flaws and failings.
Like Naomi, we lean precariously close to despair at times when our lives take us down painful paths. And like Ruth, we have Boaz to thank for snatching us from soul starvation and filling us full with God’s love.
Someday your story will end as well. Will your epilogue bring a sigh of satisfaction to the ones you want to read it? Will the final lines be filled with praise to God’s faithful loving-kindness?
Will you live this week in the security of knowing that your Father holds your Ever After firmly in His hands?
Verse of the Week
“…OUR ADEQUACY IS FROM GOD.” 1 Corinthians 3v5b NASB
More Words from the Father
2 Corinthians 12v7-10, 13v4
2 Corinthians 1v1-11
1 Peter 4v12-5v14
From my Heart
In Spite of Me
Naomi couldn’t fake it. She was too mad for that - too bitter. She’d suffered way too much to put on a pretty smile and blithely praise the Lord. And besides that, she was confused. Should she run from God or run to Him? Was God out to get her? First Elimelech, then Mahlon, now Chilion. Was she next? Should she just dig her grave, pull up a lawn chair, and wait for the inevitable?
No. Naomi did not suffer well.
But then neither did Job, not really. After his initial grand burst of worship and surrender in Job 1, he regresses to hours and hours of fruitless speculation and endlessly boorish dialogue with his know-it-all friends. Naomi skips all that and slides right into a muddy pit of self-pity.
Yet even with all their flaws and failures, neither Job nor Naomi gave up on God. And even more amazing than that, God didn’t give up on them! In fact, strange as it may seem, God actually used Naomi to bring an idol-worshipping pagan (that would be Ruth) into the Kingdom.
Sometimes we think that God needs a bunch of Barbie-doll perfect people in order to win the lost to His heart.
We’ve got to have our act together,
and always nice.
We can’t get mad,
don’t dare pout,
and must never, ever doubt.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
And I know because I’ve been there.
In the weeks that followed our young son’s diagnosis of Juvenile Diabetes, my safe and tidy world fell apart. I fell apart. I was terrified, sleep deprived, demanding, impotent to control a disease that had launched our family into a tailspin. I cried, I worried, and I called the diabetes nurse-educator every time he hiccuped.
Sue was endlessly patient with my ravings. Since she herself had managed the disease for 20 years or more, she knew exactly how I felt. More importantly, she knew what to do. In the middle of the night when I would call, clueless as to what to do, Sue would calm me down, give me concrete instructions and tell me to go back to bed. In her office, she would push the Kleenex box my way and give me reams of material to read. She never scolded, nor did she shame me for my maternal madness.
Sue was not a Christian. Not in any sense of the word. But something deep down inside of me drew her, despite the chaotic mess on the outside. To my astonishment, one day she showed up at my church. She bought a Bible and asked me where to read. And to my utter and eternal surprise, Sue and her husband and her son gave their lives to my same Savior! I watched in wonder as they were all baptized together.
Sue had seen me at my worst. Not a fake smile in sight. I wasn’t strong; I was incredibly fragile. I wasn’t nice; I reacted wrongly in my fear. And I certainly wasn’t an example to pattern her life after. I was a sniveling mess! Yet still, that Spirit of the living God, buried deep beneath the layers of my grieving, showed up just enough to intrigue her and to draw her to Himself.
Ruth watched Naomi grieve. She heard her rant and rave. She smelled her fear and touched her tears. And something inside of Ruth connected at some visceral level to the spirit of Yahweh buried deep within Naomi’s suffering soul. She wasn’t insular in her suffering. Instead, Naomi’s keening drew her closer to the One she knew as the Creator of life, Elohim.
And Ruth felt Him too.
In fact, through the mess of Naomi’s transparency, Ruth detected the faintest whiff of something real. And she determined to have it.
“We have,” observed the apostle Paul, “this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…”
And so it is in His Kingdom.
He draws hearts to Himself
in spite of ourselves…
In spite of our weakness.
And maybe because of our pain.
And that, my dear friends is all a story of His amazing grace!
From my heart,
An Empty Womb
Even the word sounds bleak: barrenness. Whoever came up with such a nasty word? And Webster’s definition is brutal: Incapable of producing offspring, not productive, habitually failing to fruit.
Sounds like a disease!
A woman’s identity and significance throughout history has been wrapped up in her ability to conceive and bear children. For women unable to have children in our times, the emotional pain can be excruciating. Yet for women in Ruth and Naomi’s culture, infertility could prove disastrous.
“The barren woman joins the widow in the margins of society…displacement is a sure short road to poverty - or worse,” writes Carolyn James.
While society worked against the childless woman, God kept busy helping them. He left us with stories of women who chose not to cave in to the stigma of barrenness - women God used beautifully to bring honor to Himself.
Is there an area of your life that feels barren? Unfruitful? Like a failure? Search out the stories of these “holy women from…former times…who hoped in God.” Watch their stories unfold in fruitfulness as they relied on Him alone to use the brokenness of their lives to bring His story to a hurting world.
Hannah.......1 Samuel 1v2
Rebekah......Genesis 25v20, 26
Rachel.......Genesis 30v1, 22
Bo: “And he went into her.”
This simple word holds a world of implications. It is the fourth most frequently used verb in the Old Testament, generally meaning to go or enter or arrive. With just one added preposition it takes on the meaning found in our reading and used frequently through out the biblical narrative: to have sexual intercourse.
God leaves very little to our imaginations. No fading lights or subtle hints. The Hebrew Bible would not qualify for a G-rating. Boaz drew Ruth away from the well-meaning crowd, took her to his home, and loved her as a man loves a woman. And from that love comes the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ.