Ruth 2:18

A Heart-Stopping Discovery

Read:

“. . . her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. . . .” Ruth 2:18

Reflect:

We see God clearly when circumstances become spiritual. In heartaches, trouble, and disillusionment. When the spirit speaks into the issues of our life, struggles which had remained a mystery are understood in a new light. Try as hard as we may to gain insight into adversity, the only possibility of comprehension is found in the light of the Spirit. 

It’s one of the moments in the story when things shift in Naomi, a new possibility rises to the surface. Naomi is energized by hope and is suddenly able to see, not only her circumstances, but God Himself in a new light.

In the kindness of Boaz, Naomi sees the kindness of God and realizes she is the object of it all. The grain Ruth brings home to Naomi is a foretaste of better things to come. Naomi’s heart is re-awakened, she dares to hope again. For the first time in a long time, Naomi feels joy again. 

Naomi’s view of God, up to this point in the story, has been bitter, negative, and passive. She had resigned herself that her life was as good as dead. But now, through Boaz and Ruth, she has found God to be kind. God has begun to bring about a change in her own life. Once she was dead, now she lives because God has had mercy on her.

Behind all the events that work for Ruth and Naomi’s good is the kindness of God. God seeks them out in their need and provides for them. Ruth and Naomi make the wonderful, heart-stopping, surprising discovery that God has been seeking them.

The lesson is one we should commit to memory. Whether in our circumstances, no matter how difficult and unthinkable, we attempt to trust like Naomi did, no matter how feeble or lacking the energy and desire to believe at all; or like Ruth, whose strong, rugged trust was in God, they both find that God has been seeking them and that He’s been there all along.

Respond: 

The Spirit opens our eyes to see what we couldn’t perceive on our own. There in the field, and in the fields of our life, God as placed a treasure. There stands amidst the hard cases of our life, a Redeemer – a symbol of the astonishing kindness of God.

Ruth 2:1

Righteous Freak Show

Read:

“Now Naomi . . ."Ruth 2:1

Reflect:

Are you perfect? Of course not, probably far from it. And we know we are not. Who are we kidding? We don't have it together. And yet we carefully cultivate our image to present to the world.

But people are touched, moved and changed not by our perfection, but rather from a place of brokenness and humility – not pointing out our goodness, but pointing to His graciousness.

Perhaps the people in our lives who remain distanced from the Lord are unresponsive to the gospel because they look at us and see the life we are pretending to live and conclude that Christianity is only for the up and comers, only for the blameless. They think to themselves, Christianity must just be for the perfect people, but I'm not, therefore, He can't be my God.

Marrying into Naomi's happy Hebrew family didn't convert Ruth. It wasn't until Naomi became humble, honest and transparent. She confessed she struggled to believe God was good, she wasn't sure if God was kind. Naomi screamed out, I'm so bitter, I can hardly stand it! That's when Ruth said, your God shall be my God, because I can relate to that kind of raw openness. 

When will we ever learn there's no need to put up a front or put on a righteous freak show. When others can see that you and I are real – that we have weaknesses and vulnerabilities which the Lord is working out in us, then they will be drawn to follow Jesus with us. 

When we can come out of hiding and say to those around us, "I'm flawed, I hurt, I have problems, difficulties and struggles, and weakness, scars and hurts. I spend days mad at God and sometimes life sucks!" But there is One who is perfect, One who redeems. There is One who is all loving and always available.

Respond:

Find one person you can be real with today, let them know how knowing Jesus has helped you in the realness of life.

Ruth 1:21

The Mathematics of Sin

Read:

"I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. . . ." Ruth 1:21

Reflect:

There are hungers, longings which blind us to the peace of God. It's not a deep, dark, disgusting sin. It's an appetite for an unhealthy solution to our needs. More than once we have come face-to-face with our unholy monster, we've seen this strange god we've given ourselves over to. 

We should have given it up long ago, but we didn't. Every time we thought the monster was going to take us down one last time, we made it through by the skin of our teeth only to discover we weren't free from the struggle. Without a Savior, sin will always win.

This verse should be highlighted in the Bible of every believer. It contains the timeless principle of choice and consequence. Whenever one leaves Bethlehem-Judah – the house of bread, the place of praise – and wanders off into Moab, one will always leave full and come back empty.

Sin always brings sorrow and sadness. The new testament equivalent of Ruth 1:21 is Galatians 6:7-8, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, this shall he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption, . . ."

Naomi went through ten years of hell on earth and would carry the scars of the long, hard season for the rest of her life. Her bent, broken and travel-worn, weary body tells the story of her battle with pain and loss. All because she left the land of the living God. Carrying the cares of this world have a way of wearing us down. So great were the struggles of Naomi, that when she arrives, her neighbors don't recognize her. 

In the gathering crowd that day were women who had attended Naomi's wedding, there were men who were friends with Elimelech, there were young men who, as boys, had played with Mahlon and Chilion. The townspeople are all around two weeping women. It's a bitter moment.

Sin has its own mathematics. Sin adds to your sorrows, subtracts from your energy, multiples your troubles and divides your loyalty. 

Respond:

If you knew the outcome of your decisions, would you have done it? 

Ruth 2:4

At the Line

Read:

". . . May the Lord be with you. . . ." Ruth 2:4

Reflect:

There’s no neat way out. There will be a painful, inevitable crisis regarding the crucial choices we make that will bring us up to a line every time. Spiritually there is a line that divides Moab from Judah in our soul. Every disciple will have to decide which land they will continue to journey within. 

There is Moab. It's been tried and found empty and unhappy. There is Judah, with all its provisions and blessings. And here are Ruth and Orpah, and now, in their journey, the two sisters must separate.

Orpah goes back to her people and her superstitions. Back to her old safe ways of doing things. How tragic to get so close to the will of God, then hesitate and turn back. There can never be peace standing at the line and not crossing it to follow God. Stay long enough at the line and, eventually, one goes back.

Back to self-indulgence, worldly distractions, carnal gratification. It may be back to business, greed and excessive work. It may be back to infidelity, unbelief and conflict. It may be back to open hostility to the Lord and hurting those who follow Christ. It may be back to hardness of heart. Whatever it may be, we go back. 

Ruth has to say goodbye to Orpah unless she can be drawn away. Also, as long as she stays there at the line, there will be more trouble, more temptation. When you walk with God, some people will not support you. You will have to bid them farewell. Oh, yes, there will be tears, but you are better off moving forward with God than going back to your old ways.

At the line between Moab and Judah is a call; where we give ourselves wholly and without reservation to God. Where I give up all that is contrary to God and His ways for my life. At the line is confession; we give our full allegiance to the God who is infinitely tender towards a returning soul. At the line there is need for a consistent life; God waits to give us strength to live the life He has called us to. At the line, a new life lies before you.

Respond:

Have you stepped over the line to follow Jesus?

Ruth 2:2

No Matter What

Read:

". . . in whose sight I may find favor. . . ." Ruth 2:2

Reflect:

God is on a rescue mission. We've seen the picture countless times over the last few weeks. The waters rapidly rising, fiercely taking possession of one’s belongings. There stands an individual stranded on the roof of their house, out of options, and out of hope, confronted with the inevitability of loss.

When suddenly a rope drops from above, a rescue helicopter has arrived, a voice from above shouts, "We are going to get you out!" A first responder descends to harness the soaked individual into the safety apparatus, and now in the embrace of the rescuer, the distance between despair and deliverance has been shrunk. At once, they are pulled from danger and brought to safety. 

This picture reminds us that God keeps His promises. That nothing can separate us from the powerful reach of God. It makes no difference how real or how intense adversity may be, God will get to us where we are.

What we are facing is not imaginary, but dangerously real. We are facing things we would rather not face. But God assures us, we will get through it. Not because of our creativity, ingenuity, strength, or faith. None of these things affect our relationship with Jesus, nor the promise God has made to us.

What can get between us and God’s love? Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, hunger, or homelessness, not even our worst decisions. None of it fazes Jesus’ love for us – nothing today or tomorrow, nothing high or low, thinkable or unthinkable, absolutely nothing, gets between us and God’s love, because He has descended from above on a rescue mission to save us.

In adversity, no matter how exhausting, it will not separate us from Christ. In affliction, when everything around us screams God is a lie, God’s love continues to hold us. In anguish, He is more than enough. 

Nothing is told of Ruth and Naomi's events along the road back to Bethlehem. Considering that the terrain was treacherous, behind the curves and hidden in crevasses, thieves lurked. But they made it. God accompanied them. And you will too.

Respond:

Take a moment of silence and let your heart become aware of His powerful love.

Ruth 2:1

Troubles

Read:

". . . Naomi had a kinsman . . ." Ruth 2:1

Reflect:

Troubles always make us look to God. The rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous. Christians go through floods, they lose precious things. Christians get displaced and dislocated. They are forced to reside in shelters. We all go through tough, tough seasons because we are all living on the same battlefield. Believing in Jesus doesn't exempt us from tumultuous times. No matter how many things are pressing in, press on, fight through it.

We must be determined to keep our view of God righteous. Don't get distracted with the mirage of thinking God is against you or that He is punishing you. This kind of thinking becomes a hindrance to trusting in God fully. As circumstances continue to be more chaotic, narrow your focus in your heart, mind and body. When the enemy comes in like a flood, God is faithful. Simplify your focus, look only at Jesus.

We are never free from the recurring waves of adversity. The concerns of food, shelter, clothing, money, friends, family, when any or all these things come flooding in, we must lift up Jesus over our thoughts and emotions. Jesus knows our circumstances better than we do. No matter what you’re battling, continue to keep your relationship with Jesus first. What will today, tomorrow, next week or next month hold? We do not know, just keep looking at Jesus.

Upon return to Bethlehem, Naomi asked that her name be changed. Her reason was that God had made her life bitter. Naomi had allowed her circumstances to define her concept of God. She blamed God for all her loss, struggle, and heartache. She believedGod was showing displeasure with her because of the misfortunes she had encountered. 

We must guard against circumstances determining our view of God. When the waters rise, my faith in Him will continue to rise. With the problems weighing on you, look to Jesus, and then you will see Him there, standing in the midst of the storm saying, "peace be still," and the peace of God will be your guard. Lay everything before Him – all your confusion and sorrow, and there you will find He is good, He is kind, He is there and He is faithful.

Respond: 

Thank you Lord, for being in this mess with me.