Reflections on Ruth:
by Brian Bailey
I remember as a teenager seeing the Four Spiritual Laws as presented by the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry.
Law number one was: God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.
Can you just imagine for a moment, how Job would have responded if after the loss of virtually everyone and everything important in his life (except his nagging wife) if someone handed him one of those tracts? I can imagine very easily, and it would not have been a pretty sight.
Sometimes in our lives when we are having Job moments (or days, or months or years) such a statement seems like a very cruel joke. And we can find ourselves asking with some bitterness perhaps: where is this wonderful plan I am hearing about? Where is the love?
We hear in the Bible that “God is love.” Yet at times life causes us to wonder, “Where is the love of our Father?”
You see, as we are battered by the sufferings of this world, it would be one thing if we look at God as the pagan Greeks looked at their gods. Their gods were capricious; their gods moved on whim and could be very unfair and unkind. Making one of the Greek gods angry could trigger that god to strike back and afflict them in some fashion.
The message of the Bible is that our God is not so.
The human heart cries out for fairness, for justice, for the righting of life’s wrongs.
Our heart, the good and holy part longs for things to be right. Even the most cursory glance at the world around us tells us that this world is not right. The sufferings in the world are on an unimaginable scale. We see injustice around us. We see good people who never seem to get a fair shake and we see people who get ahead by dishonesty and corruption.
We want the world to be just but it is not.
We mourn, for example, the loss of six million Jews in the Nazi holocaust. How many realize that the Nazis murdered more than three times as many Russian citizens during the Second World War or that Stalin murdered as many as five times that number?
Yet, this is the crisis of faith— to look honestly at the world’s condition and at the condition of our own lives and reconcile it to what we are told of the character of God.
This longing is as old as Abraham, approaching God under the stars of the heavens as he grappled with God’s impending judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. He asked the bold question, “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:16-33)
And then Abraham asks an even deeper, more probing question: one that truly gets to the heart of the matter...
“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
This is not merely a rhetorical question that Abraham asks. Abraham is seeking to know and understand the character of this God he serves, the God who took him from his homeland and made promises for his future and for his children’s future. Abraham wants to know on a deeper level, is God just? Is God…good?
I have strong memories of my elementary school years, back before God was completely divorced from the public classroom, of reciting a grace at lunch which said,” God is great, God is good…”
Is God good?
Can we see the goodness of God in our lives?
Does He right the wrongs? Does He balance the books?
Does He bring justice to the earth?
And how does that justice impact me? Does the Judge of all the earth do right?
One thing is very clear regardless, God does not move to our beat, to our time schedule. In our day, where we long for quick answers and solutions to problems, some difficulties and injustice seem to drag on for months, years, and decades. Indeed, we long for the day when, as the Nicene Creed tells us, Jesus “…will come in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”
I will make some statements that I ask you to accept at face value, for now at least.
God reserves the right to define what is good and what is just in our lives.
God reserves the right to show love and render justice as He sees fit.
He reserves the right to do so on His timetable.
In short, God reserves the right to be God.
That is very humbling, to be reminded that we are not the center of the universe, that we are the created and not the creator. As the old hymn proclaimed, “…thou art the potter; I am the clay.”
God is God.
Yet if we do not recognize the truth of what is said here, God is God, we will not understand what God is doing in Ruth, in the Bible as a whole, and in the events in our lives.
Since we all have, or will have a Ruth and Naomi experience in our lives, there are questions we can ask:
Is there bedrock Truth we can lean on when life comes apart? Or, perhaps put another way, is there any certainty in times of uncertainty?
When life is coming apart at the seams we have to go to the ultimate source for life, we must go to God. We go to God even when our emotions shout at us to run away and not trust. We need to go to God when our souls are hurting and wounded and we have no idea what He is doing.
We need to be honest; we need to be real as we come to Jesus. Are we really foolish enough to think he doesn’t know what’s in our hearts? But as we come in honesty, we need to be open to listen. We need to learn first of all that even when life is coming apart we have not been and will not be, abandoned.
Martin Luther lived in Europe in difficult tempestuous times. His movement to reform the Catholic Church caused conflict and upheaval. Among his many gifts, he was a musician who wrote hymns for the new Church Movement. Perhaps his most famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, was written to put Psalm 46 to music. Psalm 46 deals with God’s people in uncertain, difficult times and makes a bold, stirring declaration:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalms 46:1-3)
Bedrock truth One:
God is our refuge and our strength. He is present; He is there with us in trouble. Because God is our refuge we can have courage even when the earth shakes and gives way.
We also read in Psalms 46 of God’s power over all of the affairs of men; it can be humbling to read:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the chariots with fire.
"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!" The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Sometimes the suffering, the trouble we find ourselves in is a very real manifestation of the fact that we are not abandoned: God is working and moving in our lives for our good and His glory. But sometimes it seems as if we have been boxed in or placed into a corner where we cannot move.
When I was younger, much younger, I used to wrestle with my brother Bobby. Since he was older and stronger, he often pinned me to the floor. I didn’t like it one bit! I couldn’t budge an inch until he decided to release me.
When we read verse 10 of the Psalms, “Be still and know that I am God…” I have been told that the Hebrew wording for “be still” is the deliberate imagery of wrestling, of being pinned to the mat. Sometimes, to work His work in our lives, building us and restoring us spiritually He has to pin us to the floor.
When life is a mess we have to ask what is God doing in us through all of this. God does not pin us down without a reason. Everything around us may seem out of control but God is in control.
Bedrock Truth Two:
There are no accidents with God. God never says “oops.” As hard as it can sometimes seem because of the particular tragedies and sufferings we endure: we must conclude...
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side, the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same, and he must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
the body they may kill; God's truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Think of at least three people you know and respect: how have they suffered in their lives. Remind yourself of their stories.
Think of one person who handled suffering well. Think of one person who handled suffering poorly.
What was different about their responses?
Can you think about any other bedrock truths about God?Last Update: 2012-10-19 17:10