Ruth: A Guide for Life’s Troubled Times
by Brian Bailey
Last Update: 2013-08-12 16:41
“But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!" Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.” (Chapter 1 verses 8,9)
What a gut wrenching, heart-breaking scene! These women had endured the greatest calamity that could befall a woman in those times. From where they stood at that time their lives were destroyed.
Sobs of emotional pain and suffering were torn from their bodies as they prepared to part ways. There was a tremendous bond here that was breaking between these three women who had endured so much. The thought of the ending of their relationship compounded their misery.
Separation would be another loss.
Loss is perhaps the most common affliction to us all. If we live long enough we endure the passing of youth into middle age and then to old age. Our bodies bear the marks of time and disease. We bring children into the world, we love them and see them mature and leave to create their own lives. We lose our own parents to age and decay and death. As time progresses if we live long enough we lose siblings, friends and spouses ultimately to death. It is a trail of leaving behind and losing what was once most dear.
For these three women there was a special bond that only those who have endured great suffering together can have.
Naomi tells them to go to their Moabite families. She pronounces a blessing on them.
She says, “May the covenant-making God, Yahweh, deal kindly with you. That is, may He show you His loyal, covenant-making love.
Her thought continues, “May your lives that have endured so much in suffering and emotional trauma, may God now show you His favor and grace and restore happiness and peace to your lives.”
What love! What tenderness! What grace!
The covenant-making God is the God of the Hebrews. He is the God who brought Abraham out of Ur and promised to make him a great nation. He is the covenant-making God who worked in the life of Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. He was the God who honored His covenant and brought the Hebrews out of slavery and gave them their own nation.
Naomi is, in a way, making an intercessory prayer for Orpah and Ruth.
She is understandably conflicted about God, but Naomi asks for a blessing from the God she does not understand on these two women.
Naomi truly wants what she sees as what is best for these two women she loves so very, very much. She hopes that God will provide for them in the homes of new husbands, that they will find the happiness of human love and produce children.
But God has another plan. From a strictly human perspective, it made no sense for either of the daughters to go with Naomi to Israel. They were foreigners in a land that didn’t tolerate foreigners well.
She wanted them to go home, to the land of their birth to find new husbands. Not finding husbands was tantamount to sentencing them to poverty. But God had another plan here, as we will see.
In His plan God sometimes tells us to do the thing that on the face of it makes no sense.
We as believers cannot live our lives solely on the basis of common sense and human sight; rather there are times we have to step to the edge of darkness and take one more step. Hebrews 11:1 tells us,” Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The Christian life cannot be lived out entirely without an element of risk.
Faith, in a sense, can be risky.
Perhaps no better modern example of this is found in the actions of five young men who felt called of God to proclaim the Gospel to the Auca Indian tribe in Ecuador. Risky business? Absolutely! The Auca Indians were famous for their unpredictable savagery with the surrounding Indian tribes. People avoided their territory, because to enter it would be fatal.
But these five young men, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian and Pete Fleming made contact with the Aucas on Sunday January 8, 1956. But in the course of the contact, a very simple action, misunderstood by the Aucas led to a terrible, bloody massacre.
One of the missionaries innocently took a photograph of a former tribe member out of his pocket to show to one of the Aucas. The Aucas, who wore only the barest of covering, had no concept of a pocket or a photograph. The simple action was interpreted by the Indians as evidence that the five men were cannibals come to devour them. The men had guns with them, but they agreed previously, not to use them if attacked. Suddenly the tribes-people attacked, stabbing and hacking with spears and knives.
In minutes it was over.
As was later reported by the Indians, when they stood over the bodies of the five men, they began to hear singing from above them. They looked up, over the tops of the trees and saw a large group of people there singing. The Aucas there that day described it as ‘looking like a hundred flashlights.’ Draw your own conclusions; I think they were seeing angelic beings.
Yes it was certainly risky, but the seed these young men planted grew, and through this ministry and the ministry of others this previously violent tribe converted to Christ and His kingdom.
In our faith, if we are going to grow and mature as Christians, there will be times when we simply have to go out on a limb and trust God. That trust is based on what we know of God and His character, not on what we can see in our immediate circumstances.
We have no guarantee, from a strictly human perspective of here on planet earth, that it will turn out well or successful in our lifetime.
Going back to Hebrews 11, verse 39: “And all of these (the great heroes of the faith--some who died horribly), having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised.”
Elliot, Saint, McCully, Youderian and Fleming didn’t receive what was promised in their lifetime. These five missionary men did not live to see the revival that would sweep the tribe, bringing them to Christ and changing their culture from it’s murderous ways. They did not live to see their families befriending the very tribes-people who had martyred their husbands and fathers.
In a society that worships at the altar of the bottom line and the balance sheet the question must be raised: Do I serve God only for my profit?
Do I serve Him only if the matter turns out well for me?
Do I serve only if I am successful as the world around me marks success?
Or do I serve Him because I was created and called to glorify Him, honor Him and serve Him?
We are called to glorify Him, honor Him and serve Him in days of peace and in days of trouble. Our call to do these things is not dependent on our circumstances.
Naomi wanted what she saw as best for these two women that she had grown to love so much. As we are going to see, God’s best and Naomi’s best were different. Often, our best will and wisdom is not God’s best will and wisdom. We do not see as He sees nor comprehend as He comprehends. We read in Isaiah, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9)
Steve Brown tells us that “…God is about the business of putting His children in holes so deep that they can’t possibly get out without His help.” *
Naomi urged them to do the logical thing: go back to your people, your kind. The common sense action is to go home; the God-sense action is to go to the nation that worships the one true God and align with God’s people. That was God's plan.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Have you taken any action for God that might be considered risky by our culture?
Have you ever taken a course of action for reasons of faith that did not turn out well?
Does the fact that there are no guarantees in acting in faith sometimes give you pause?
*Steve Brown, Overcoming Setbacks, 1992 Navpress
Read previous articles in Brian Bailey's Ruth series: