December 8, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
The story of Ruth is well known for the beautiful displays of sacrifice, faithful devotion, and love. We see the healing of Naomi’s bitterness. We see the widow Ruth provided for by Boaz. We see godly strength in the man Boaz. And, of course, we see how God preserves a family line that will eventually produce the great king David and the even greater king Jesus Christ.
As much as there are great story lines in Ruth to celebrate, this little Old Testament book is very frank about suffering. Life is hard. From natural disasters, to untimely deaths, to socio-economic struggles, to crises of faith, Naomi’s and Ruth’s lives are filled with hardships. Their lives are not too different from ours.
The primary message of Ruth is not how to be a godly woman or a godly man. Nor is the message one of God-honoring love and marriage. These are certainly illustrated in the story. The primary message of Ruth, however, is that God is faithful to his people even in the midst of hardships.
Perhaps the most pivotal verse in the story is 2:3, “So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.” Up until this point, Naomi’s life was one bad turn after another. She returns to Bethlehem widowed and destitute. Ruth, the Moabite, has clung to Naomi and followed her home. It seems that in Naomi’s perspective, Ruth’s persistent following is just another unfortunate turn of events (how is she to care for herself and a widowed, foreign woman?). Naomi lost hope.
Have you ever reached that point in the circumstances of life or even in a relationship where you lose hope that any good can come of this situation? That’s where Naomi was; and she became bitter.
God, however, never abandons his people. He may allow hardships to come, and allow his people to walk in darkness, but he never leaves them there. In Ruth 2:3, Ruth “happened” to arrive at Boaz’s field. You might say “the rest is history.” But does history rest upon a coincidental stumbling? No. God brought Ruth to that field. It was a part of his plan from the beginning. So this tale of sacrificial love growing out of hardship highlights the providential care of God.
No matter the darkness you walk through, God has not abandoned you. In fact he is working for your good even in those dark circumstances, even if you don’t recognize it (it took Naomi a while to see God’s kindness to her through Ruth’s persistent following).
Perhaps Paul had the story of Ruth on his mind when he wrote, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:16-17). God is working for our good, even in hardships, whether we see it or not.
Christmas is the most vivid illustration that God has not abandoned us. He took the initiative to send his only Son in human likeness, to let him suffer as we do in temptation, and to lead him to bear in his body the full weight of our sin. If nothing else, Christmas is a call from God to fight bitterness and hope in him!