Summary: Naomi and Ruth discover that God is a faithful God.
A. For the past two weeks we have been trying to develop a deeper appreciation for the faithfulness of the God we serve.
1. The Bible declares that he is characterized by faithfulness.
a. In Exodus 34:6, God says of himself, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
2. Scripture also reveals the fact that God is faithful to his promises.
a. Joshua told the people of Israel, “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled…” (Josh. 23:14)
3. In today’s lesson I hope that we can reinforce the lessons we have been learning over the past few weeks by looking at the story of God’s faithfulness as told in the book of Ruth.
4. The story of Ruth is told in a small, four chapter book sandwiched between Judges and 1 Samuel in the OT.
B. I want to begin by drawing our attention to a striking phrase in our Scripture reading from the book of Ruth - "The Lord came to the aid of his people" (1:6).
1. The King James Version puts it: "The Lord has visited his people."
2. I think that it is fair to say that all of us have known the problems as well as the joys of life - and they come at all stages in life’s journey.
3. During those times, have you ever been tempted to ask: "Where is God?"
4. When faced daily by more deadly news from Bagdad, or the death toll and destruction from the hurricane Katrina, we wonder – Where is God?
5. The matter becomes even more pressing when we are faced with our suffering and losses in life?
C. There’s nothing like a story to bring to life the issues of this tension between God’s way and the way of the world, of searching for the pathway of faith in times when evil seems rampant and life seems unmanageable.
1. A practical example of God in action can be of enormous benefit in sustaining the believer and enabling him or her to cope with the uncertainties and apparent meaninglessness of much of what we experience.
2. I trust that each of us will be able to identify with the Bible story of Naomi and Ruth in some personal and practical way.
3. Whatever our circumstances, I believe that all of us can benefit from their experience with a faithful God.
4. The book of Ruth has been called "the most beautiful short story in the world."
5. In many respects, it deals with ordinary people and unimportant matters.
6. Yet it deals with them in such a way as to show that God is active in the affairs of human beings.
7. God works his purposes out and blesses them that trust in him.
8. If its message had to be summarized in one word, it could be the word "faithfulness", in the sense that God is there - God cares, God rules and God provides.
9. Faith in such a God is the common factor to all the incidents in the book.
10. As we look at the experience of Naomi, we will be able to trace the work of God’s faithful care.
D. The story occurs during the time of the judges of Israel, when the cycle of disobedience, defeat, and deliverance happened over and over again.
1. God’s people happened to be in a period of defeat.
2. Verse one tells us there was a famine in the land.
3. So, Elimeleck decides to move his family from Bethlehem to Moab, east of the Dead Sea.
4. Looking back over the years, Naomi must have deeply regretted the decision that Elimeleck, her husband, made when he decided that he’d had enough of life in Bethlehem.
5. Certainly, life was not easy in Bethlehem, but it was going to get a lot worse after they left their homeland.
6. Why were things bad in Bethlehem? God had withdrawn his blessing from the land because the people of God, in their obsession for prosperity, had departed from the true religion as had been revealed to them.
7. They had begun following the ways of the corrupt Canaanite nation, embracing its degrading fertility-cult worship on their hilltop shrines.
8. No wonder that God’s blessing was withdrawn and they were left to reap the wild oats they’d sown.
9. God had promised prosperity, but it was linked to responsive obedience to his known will.
10. The lure of the other gods was too strong so, instead of plenty there was famine in the land; instead of security there was danger and devastation.
11. "Why?" they must have asked themselves.