Often times, when we’re faced with a difficult situation, it requires us to take a step back. We don’t always have the tools to navigate an emotional roller coaster, especially if we’re dealing with something that we’ve never faced before. No one ever expect to go through another plague of virus bringing death, sickness, tragedy. In order to be prepared to fight some of these things, we have to go through them.
When life turns bitter we can become better if we quit blaming God, quit trying to isolate ourselves from people who really care, and finally get ready to embrace a new season of hope. There is glory and blessing, after this! God’s word still has answers for a plagued world.
Today we will look at a story that many may be familiar with but I need us to look at it in light of what we are going through today…
A drought and famine had hit Israel and a godly family was looking for a way to handle their problem, it seemed logical, it seemed to be the way of blessing but it held a curse rather than a blessing and a bitterness set in. How can a godly family become bitter and how then do we move to better?
In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech (El-lem-a-lek), and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon (Mal-lon) and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there.
Israelites were strictly forbidden from having anything to do with Moab. Do you remember the sin of Balaam we talked about when studying the letters of Revelation.
Elimelech was a godly man but even godly men can in desperation make bad decisions. We need to always be on-guard watching, being faithful especially when we find ourselves being pressed on every side.
Tough financial, health, and/or relationship decisions can cause us to panic and make bad decisions. Not being in prayer, the word, and fellowship with other believers or already living a compromised life can cause bad decisions that can trip us up.
This virus, election, and protest have been that type of test for many…the decisions made early on and sometimes daily…how we treat one another, how we show love and respect for all people while disagreeing, how we respond to our fears, worries, and doubts. Do we trust God to be with us in this season of famine…famine of peace, famines of clear direction, famines of joy?
Moabites worshipped other gods, sacrificed their children, were into temple prostitution. Were driven by power, money and the complete control of others.
It cost Elimelech greatly to decide to compromise
Ruth 1: 3-5
Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. 4 The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.
The first year after they arrived Elimelech died. Ruth was forced to marry her sons off to Moabite women. Ruth hadn’t heard that the famine had ended in Israel so she still felt trapped in Moab.
Often when we get in difficult places rather than listening to the Lord and continuing to push into Him we start making the best decisions we can rather than pushing to hear what the Lord would say to us. This is at times, the greatest struggle of faith that we take, waiting is so very difficult. Patience is a portion of the fruit of the Spirit that God will give us if we will ask. Resting is the way the Lord wants us to make decisions, resting and trusting in Him. Sin often robs us of that level of trust in the Lord, things like fear, guilt, shame, anger, self-righteousness rob us of the peace and rest. It cost Naomi. In doing so Naomi had her sons compromise and marry Moabite women.
Now those of you that know the story may be saying, it seems like this was God’s plan all along…Job tells us God’s purposes will not be stopped. We know God worked with it and we will see why shortly why
For ten more years Naomi stayed in Moab. The drought had been over for 9 years yet she was stuck until her sons died. Compromise can deafen our ears to what God is saying. Once again she was just trying to survive but I wonder what God would have done if she would have gone to him to ask. Having heard finally that the famine was over she makes a decision
Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah. 8 But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept.
Naomi realizes on the journey back to Bethlehem that her two Moabite daughters –in-law would not be accepted as much as she wanted them to stay with her she didn’t know what was going to happen to herself or to them so she let them go.
Ruth 1: 10-14a
“No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? 12 No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? 13 Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.” 14 And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye.
The tradition was if a brother died then the next brother in line would marry the widow and produce a son for his brother. That is what Naomi was talking about to her daughters-in-law.
You can hear the hopelessness and despair in her voice.
When we get focused on ourselves rather than God, everything can become bitter. Naomi blamed God for her circumstances “the Lord raised his fist against me” – Moab was not where God wanted them, God brought many people through the drought who remained. God obviously blessed Naomi’s relative Boaz (if you know the story)
Where is your focus?
We can focus on
– how bad things are at work or even losing a job, your finances in general
– what the doctors have said to you, the virus
– your struggles with schooling, your kids, your marriage
– politics, riots, protest
I get it but I also get that God is real and He knows what we are going through
Or you can go to God and say, “I don’t know what to do, help me!” God will meet you there, he will meet you in surprising ways if you will allow Him…God really loves blessing his people if we will just keep our eyes on him and trust Him….we will see that in the story
Ruth 1:14b – 18
But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. 15 “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” 16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” 18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.
Naomi needed a friend, someone to stand by her and Ruth was willing to lay down her life for her friend. Ruth thought she was only doing a nice loving thing to honor her mother-in-law but God saw it as a sacrifice that he was about to honor in a big way. She chose to follow the Lord leaving all other gods behind…you see Orpah was a nice loving woman but was not truly willing to leave, but the comfort of life was more powerful to her than her love.
How often does that happen to us, the comfort of our jobs, our routine, a bad relationship, a future we had planned, when God is calling us to follow him…like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus, Jesus loved him asked him to leave his comfort, his security and follow but he said no, Jesus wept for him because Jesus gives the dreams, he is the dream maker and if he is calling us to something else, it is far greater than anything we could imagine….and Jesus weeps if we choose not to follow.
Despite this blessing to Naomi, she still was depressed, she didn’t get it.
Ruth 1: 19- 22
So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked. 20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?” 22 So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the young Moabite woman. They arrived in Bethlehem in late spring, at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Surrounded now by rejoicing friends and family, celebrating her life, she cuts them all off, doesn’t let them rejoice over her and complains about God, “call me Mara”…. (Naomi means loveable, agreeable) why did she spend 9 extra years in Moab, because she refused to hear God, or seek him as far as we know, because God would have sent her home earlier…or perhaps God wanted her relationship with Ruth to grow, giving Ruth the opportunity to choose freedom…either way
We need to learn to keep trusting God, asking Him to always show us His plan above our circumstances…pushing to see things His way rather than ours.
What are you facing today that is making you bitter? You are God’s child, He loves you the most…choose to trust Him…ask Him about your situation, circumstances then ask Him to show you what to do…don’t react, respond to His heart!
Ruth laid down her life for Naomi and despite Naomi’s bitterness God blessed because of Ruth choosing to have the faith to believe.
The story goes like this Ruth brought new hope to Naomi, Ruth marries into wealth, because of her faithfulness to Naomi and God, Ruth has a baby, giving Naomi a grandson she never thought she would have….Ruth became the great grandmother of King David and in the line of Jesus
God turned everything around for Ruth because of her laying down her life, her love for Naomi…Naomi was blessed through the faith of Ruth.
What in your life, what drought in your life, is causing you to be bitter? Will you miss your destiny or will you choose to trust God and allow Him to make it better.
Bitterness is a drought that robs us of life…bitterness dries the bones
Hebrews 12:15 tells us this
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
If we don’t walk in God’s grace, toward ourselves and others, trusting in His great love for us…the bitterness poisons everything
Ruth walked in love and grace and that eventually impacted Naomi to bring her hope…we never know how we too can bring healing to others who are suffering from disappointment and other things that cause bitterness they are missing all the joy God has for them so
If you are facing bitterness, lets deal with it…if others in your life are bitter lets pray God uses you to set them free and allow the rivers of life and love to end their or your drought