Blessing Out of Bitterness - Ruth 1:15-22
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For today's recap, we'll have a look at two major themes in this passage: Ruth's conversion and Naomi's lament.
What we encounter in verses 16-17 is nothing less than Ruth’s conversion, or at least the profession that serves as the proof of her conversion. Somewhere along the way she has repented – something every one of us is commanded to do - and has turned to Jehovah. She has shunned the illusion of the false idol Chemosh, and chosen the reality of the God os Israel. In much the same way, we would do well to stop serving all the little false gods we bow down to, such as status and stuff and selfishness.
It's clear that Ruth has made a clean break with her past, and time will tell us that her repentance was real. Her actions will match her profession of faith. She will demonstrate that she is never going back to Moab.
Her words to Naomi were, "where you die, I’ll die. Where you are buried, I'll be buried!" Do you see how her commitment, her love, goes beyond Naomi? She might have said, "Naomi, I’ll wait until you pass away, then probably move back home to Moab, sweet Moab." But no, she says in effect, “When you die, Naomi, I’ll remain in the same land that I’ve now claimed as home, and I’ll die and be buried in the family plot.” Ruth’s decision was faith-filled and motivated by hesed love. It was her love for Jehovah that motivated her love for Naomi.
When Naomi and Ruth arrive at the gate of Bethlehem, Naomi has been gone for at least a decade - a very long, hard, decade. The ladies of the town think they recognize her. “It’s me!” she says, “but don’t call me pleasant anymore. Call me bitter.”
Naomi’s next words are harsh. The Lord has “dealt bitterly . . . brought me back empty . . . testified against me . . . brought calamity upon me.” These words are a bit shocking in our nice, sweet, world of westernized Christianity. But maybe we could learn something from Naomi and from God’s word about the place of lament in the life of the believer. Perhaps we could learn that lament is OK in its place and really quite normal.
It makes even more sense when we realize that these words of hers are not so much words of accusation as they are an acknowledgement of God’s total control. And even in bitterness, her soul is pointed toward God
So what we can see, but Naomi can’t, should encourage us in our own situations. Think about this: Naomi left Judah because of a famine, and now she returns because of a famine in her soul. And look: she’s back in Bethlehem and the "house of bread" is about to enjoy a barley harvest. It’s springtime!
You see, Naomi thought she was returning home empty, but the harvest was ripe . . . and there was hope. We see this from our vantage point, 3,000 years later. Now what do you suppose your life would look like from another vantage point? Believer, don’t think for a minute that the details of your life are given any less attention by the Great Author Jehovah than those of Ruth's life. Does Jehovah write a bad story? Does he forget his loved ones? In Isaiah 49:15 God Almighty challenges, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you." Take courage in your lament! You are not forgotten.
For more from this message, particularly about Christ and his demonstration of hesed, we recommend listening to at THIS LINK.