Saturday, February 13, 2010

Naomi's Perdicament

Even in affliction, See what God has done for you.

Believers, we should see God as both sovereign and compassionate.

As far as biblical women go, Esther is more popular than Ruth. Esther is a beautiful, Hebrew, Queen. There’s beauty, power, and being born in the right family going for Esther. Ruth is not Jewish, not a queen, and we don’t know if many people thought she was beautiful or not. Ruth’s husband dies young. Ruth’s mother-in-law is Jewish and tries to send her back to her own people.

Ruth and Naomi are practically homeless.

Now, Esther is a great story of course and its scripture. But it’s the story of someone who has it all and risks it all for her people.

The story of Ruth is the story of someone who didn’t have much to start with and DID lose it all. Esther is a story of courage. Ruth is a story of faithfulness, hard work, and the Goodness of God.

So we’ll save Esther for another time and look at the story of Ruth.

But Ruth’s story starts with a man named Elimelech.

Rth 1:1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land. A man of Bethlehem-Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, with his wife and his two sons. 2 The man's name was Elimelech, his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem... They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. 6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food. 7 So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.

Imagine yourself in ancient Israel. The Midianite people or perhaps the Philistines have been invading every year and burning your crops just before the harvest. As a result you go to the fields and try to get a little, just enough to take you thru another year, or at least until the wheat is ready and maybe you’ll get some of that before the Midianites burn it too.

One day Elimelech had enough! He loads up the pick-up with all they can cram in the bed and he and hiw wife Naomi and the two boys head down the east side of the Jordan River toward the dead sea and the plains of Moab.

Now let me stop and say a word about the names of these people. Elimelech means either mighty King or God is King. What a strong name. What a name of faith and courage. And the man runs from his own land and people to a land of devil worshipers and idolators. Did he pray? Did he get counsel? Elimelech is married to Naomi, her name means pleasant. What a nice name for a wife, right. And that’s a good start for a good family. Then their sons are born and I don’t know what went wrong but their names are Weakly and Pining. Maybe they were sickly boys, or mama was sick, but it inserts a sour note in the lives of this Bethlehem family.

Now with the famine on, they head for Moab. Moab means ‘of the father.’ They were the descendants of a man named Moab. Do you remember who his parents were? His mother was the daughter of Lot, and the father was Lot himself. Yep, her son was ‘of the father.’ She got him seriously drunk and had his baby. God was not pleased with them. He gave permission for Israel to battle them and kill many of them.

But marriage with Moabite women was not forbidden as it was with other groups. It was the Moabites who hired the prophet Balaam to come and curse the Israelites so that Moab could defeat them. As ancient relatives, they may have been helpful but they weren’t.

So that sets the stage. Elimelech was afraid they would die of starvation in Israel so he goes to Moab and what happens? He died there. Then his two sons die

Hebrew tradition says they had had begun to observe Moabite religion. Moabites worshiped Chemosh and Ashtar and sometimes practiced human sacrifice. We do not know if it is true about there idolatry, but we do know that the father and the sons died. It might not have anything to do with sin. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Naomi was going thru a horrible time but the Bible says “many are the afflictions of the Righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all.” (Psa 34:19) Acts 14:22 says it is thru many tribulations that we enter the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t say a couple of afflictions. It doesn’t say one or two tribulations. It says Many.

We will ALL face many problems in life, many horrible problems, and many tough times. And think, we have it better here in the USA than others around the world. But pain is pain no matter where you live.

Now let’s look at Naomi. (read 8-21) I get the feeling that these daughter-in-laws were pretty good ladies. They both went with Naomi. She persuaded Orpah to go home reluctantly, but Ruth wouldn’t budge. That says something about Ruth but we’ll come back to her. Naomi seems incredibly negative. We are used to seeing Bible heroes be strong and courageous. But let’s give Naomi a break, she just lost her husband and buried her own sons. I can understand some negativity. Listen to Naomi:

1:12 Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have a husband to-night, and should bear sons; 13 would you tarry till they were grown?

1:19 So they went until they came to Bethlehem. And … when they were come to Bethlehem, all the city was moved...and the women said, Is this Naomi? 20 And she said, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara; for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and Jehovah hath brought me home empty; why call ye me Naomi, seeing Jehovah hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

Now that is a negative person. But is she wrong? Did she say anything wrong here?

She says she came home empty yet Ruth is there by her side to help and comfort. How about the fact that the famine is over and she is back home with family right at the beginning of the barley harvest? That’s a good thing right?

Then she says Jehovah has afflicted me. Could that be right? Yes it could be, and it is. “Many are the afflictions of the Righteous…” What is an affliction? It is the result of someone afflicting or attacking you. Who was the one who would bring blessings on Israel? It was Jehovah God right? Who was the one who would bring affliction on Israel? Same one, Jehovah God. (Deu 28:15) It is a sad thing that too many pulpits today do not preach the sovereignty of God.

WHY do we hurt?

Look at 2 options: Either God brings afflictions upon us, or God is allowing them to come upon us and he could stop them but doesn’t. What’s the difference? We are still afflicted!

Now 1 more option: God is not strong enough to stop the afflictions. Is that the God of the bible? Is that a God you want to serve? Is that the God who was powerful enough to create the heavens and the earth? NO.

God is all powerful and sovereign. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, BUT GOD! Two of the greatest words in the Bible. At least 93X the bible says “But God.”

We were dead in sins, but God.

Many are the afflictions… But God.

Joseph said “You meant it for evil, But God meant it for good.”

The battle is not yours, But God’s.

They laid Him in a tomb; But God raised Him from the dead!

When Naomi says God has afflicted me, she is dead on! But she forgot the story of Joseph. Joseph also went to a foreign land and was afflicted by God; But God delivered Him and made him a blessing to his family.

Naomi has more than Ruth, more than relatives, more than a rich nephew, and more than a barley harvest, and more than Elimelech: she has God Almighty the Might King, the Sovereign king.

Listen, when people are suffering under incredible loss, you don’t have to reinforce the afflictions of God, just take them to the Sovereign King who can deliver them out of them all!

This is the message of Hymns we Sing:

William Cowper wrote: God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm....

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

We also sing:

Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength i find to meet my trials here. Trusting in my father's wise bestowment I've no cause for worry or for fear.

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure, Gives unto each day what He deems best. Lovingly its part of Pain and Pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Now a word about Ruth. Especially for Valentine’s day. She knew what it meant to have Steadfast love! She modeled the Love of God for us! “The steadfast love of the Lord never fails. His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, Great is thy faithfulness o God.” (Lam 3:22f ESV)

Listen to Ruth’s promise: 1:16…Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried…

Jesus: "I will never ever leave you or forsake you." Can you see Ruth expressing God's love for Naomi. She embrace her people, she embraced her home, but most importantly she embraced her God.

Have you embraced the God of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ and His Father in heaven. Do it! Don’t put it off. Wrestle with God if you have to. But turn from your wicked ways and put your trust and hope in Jesus Christ who died for your sins, that you would be saved.

1 comment:

  1. Good sermon Dad! :-) I like your new blog theme and pictures too. i don't know how long you've had it up, I usually just read your posts on my site. I liked you 10 Things for a Young Man too!


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