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Ruth Part One

Ruth: God's Surprising Love Story  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  59:29
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Introduction

Main Idea: Suffering and affliction are going to happen. It is how we respond to it that is important.
Are you growing bitter? or are you growing better?
Illustration: Confession. You guys might not think the same about me after this, but you need to know. I sometime like chick flicks. I love a good love story. (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Failure to Launch … lol)
I know why too. At the core, the gospel is ultimately at love story.
We’re going to be looking at the book of Ruth for the next 4 weeks. And the book of Ruth is a love story. (So ladies you’re going to be getting an extra chick flick fix this month).
The book of Ruth is a love story, but its a lot more than that. This little book shows us some amazing things about God, how he works, and what that means for us. Let’s take a look at this story.
Main Idea: Suffering and affliction are going to happen. It is how we respond to it that is important.
Are you growing bitter? or are you growing better?
From Bad to Worse
Ruth 1:1–2 ESV
In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.
This story begins bad. The “days when the judges ruled” was a bad time in Israel’s history. We are told that there was no king or solid government, and everyone pretty much did whatever they wanted (Judges 21:25). It was anarchy and chaos, and God had to keep sending them “Judges” who who bail them out of serious trouble.
There was famine in the land. Even though the name of the town is “house of bread”, there is a huge food shortage.
We don’t know what this is like. We get hangry if we are a little late for dinner. We get frustrated waiting for the microwave.
But famine in the third world is scary—especially in the ancient world. It could mean starvation and death.
Then we meet this guy Elimelech who has some choices to make. And though his name means “God is king”, he decides to leave Israel and travel to Moab.
In his mind, he was probably doing the right thing. “My kids gotta eat right?!”
But let’s ask a question. Did God call him to leave and go to Moab? Not that we can tell. Perhaps he should have stayed and trusted God?
The problem with this decision is that the Moabites were a godless, idolatrous people. The Israelites were not to associate with them and especially not to marry them.
So we see Elimilech providing for his family financially, but in order to do so he was removing them from God’s land, God’s people, and the church.
Side note: Men, it is your responsibility to provide for your family spiritually. Being the head of the house means that we are responsible for the well being of our family—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That means making sure you and they are connected into the family of God.
Side note 2: Don’t name your kids Weak and Useless. It’s not good for their self-esteem
Let’s see what happens next:
Ruth 1:1–5 ESV
In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Ruth 1:3–5 ESV
But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
So even though Elimelech took matters into his own hands, he and his sons end up dead. And the worst part is that his wife and now daughter-in-laws are now in serious trouble.
There was no life insurance policy to help them out. There was no welfare or food stamps they could rely on.
Because of how things were in the Ancient Near East, if you were a widow you were pretty much doomed unless you had family that could take you in. (This is why we see the widow issues in Acts like we did).
So the situation begins bad and gets a lot worse in this story. This is the stage that is set for our main characters, Naomi and Ruth. Let’s read on ...
2. Growing Bitter or Better
Ruth 1:6–18 ESV
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. 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. 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. And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
So Naomi is left in a really, really bad position. Her husband and sons are dead. She is in a real way hopeless.
Even today, if someone losses their spouse and children it is nearly impossible to move on in life. She would have been devastated even today. But now she’s as we used to say, “Up the creek without a paddle.”
So she reaches out to her daughter-in-laws and tells them to jump overboard. “Save yourselves! Forget me, I’m hopeless.” The best for her was going to go beg in her home town-maybe they would help?
They resist, but she explains that they would have a much better change with their family.
No one in their right minds would ever take them into marriage there.
illustration: I can see the E-Harmony profile now: Women from an idolatrous wicked people that began by incest seeking marriageable man who would be willing to take care of her and her bitter old mother-in-law.
One of the ladies takes the advice, the other remains loyal to her (this is a remarkable act of loyalty!)
But they make it.
Ruth 1:19–22 ESV
So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
So they head back to Israel—with little hope. And the journey is several weeks long through dangerous desert lands. This was probably on foot and there wasn’t even United Airlines to take care of them.
But they make it.
Then we see where Naomi is. … She says, “Do not call me Naomi (which means “kindness” but call me Mara (which means “bitter”).
Naomi has grown bitter and angry in the face of all that she faced—and it would be hard to blame her right?
But this is the question I want to face today. HOW DO WE RESPOND TO STRUGGLES, SUFFERING, AND AFFLICTION?
Naomi had a choice and her choice was one of defeat and bitterness.
I’ve met so many people that are exactly where she was. They’ve been burned, they’ve lost so much, and now they are angry about it.
On the other side of this are people I know that are secretly terrified that all that they have pinned their hopes on will fail them. So they live life in fear and frustration.
So we need to ask our selves a question: Does suffering cause us to grow bitter? or does is cause us to grow better?
3. A Proper Theology of Suffering
Naomi makes a theological statement. She says, “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty.”
She is declaring that God, the Almighty, is in control of all things—he is sovereign—and because of this He is ultimately responsible for situation.
Is that true? Let’s question this.
Would God cause a famine in the land of his own people? Why would he do that?
Didn’t this situation result because of Elimelech’s decision to leave the promised land and go to Moab?
Did God kill Elimelech and her sons?
I would say that Naomi’s statement was theologically correct and incorrect at the same time.
First of all, yes! God is sovereign and in control of everything that happens in this universe.
There are over 300 references to God’s sovereignty in the Bible (365)
Yet the Bible is also full of references to the fact that human beings make choices and have responsibility.
WCF: God, from all eternity, did—by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will—freely and unchangeably ordain whatever comes to pass. Yet he ordered all things in such a way that he is not the author of sin, nor does he force his creatures to act against their wills; neither is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (MESV)
In other words, God is absolutely Sovereign but he doesn’t cause sin, isn’t a puppet master, and there is actually cause and effect in this world.
So is God sovereign or are we free, responsible agents? Yes!
Secondly, Naomi is wrong. Notice that she says “God has dealt very bitterly with me”
She is making a theological assumption here. She is assuming that everything the appears to be bad and God just bitterly dealing with her.
Could she trace her own history? What about Sara? What about Joseph? What about _____?
But she cannot see that because she has a theology of bitterness.
“When we have decided that God is against us, we usually exaggerate our hopelessness. We become so bitter we can't see the rays of light peeping out around the clouds.” —John Piper
Illustration: The Horse and His Boy
So We need a theology of suffering that makes us better not bitter.
; peter, James, more.
4. The Gospel Gives Us a Theology of Suffering
Jesus came, lived a perfect life, and died so that we could have peace with God.

Conclusion

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