Summary: Exposition of Ruth 1:6-22
Text: Ruth 1:6-22, Title: A Tale of Three Widows, Date/Place: LSCC, 4/30/06, AM
A. Opening illustration: talk about weddings and the words of Ruth in v 16-17
B. Background to passage: After forsaking God and country and moving to Moab, as we saw last week, the hand of the Lord was against Elimelech and his family. After all the tragedy, we are left with the three widows helpless and alone. But life goes on, they realize that they cannot sit by the graves of their husbands forever if they want to survive. And after having heard of the Lord’s provision in Judah, Naomi knows that she must return the land of promise. So they begin the process of deciding what each will do with very different logics, motivations, and outcomes.
C. Main thought: in this text we will see the testimonies of these three women.
A. Naomi: Bitterness and Self-Pity (v. 8-13, 20-21)
1. God had left Naomi with no options in Moab, so she felt compelled to return to Israel, which is always God’s design for people who fall away from God. She had heard of God’s supernatural provision for the people that stayed in Bethlehem, therefore going back sounded pretty good, at least the clan might help her. But even in the fact that she is returning, we don’t see a confession of sin. She is still seeking after bread alone. Throughout the passage, we see her hopelessness, not faithless, but hopeless. She maintains a faith in an absolutely sovereign God who harden whom He will and has mercy upon whom He will to accomplish His purposes. In fact she invokes His covenant name as a blessing upon the daughters. She is convinced that she is the enemy of God. In her self-pity and pain, she begins to make poor decisions. She decided to cut herself off from all blessings by sending her daughters-in-law home. She is designing their deliverance for them. It’s a page right out of Elimelech’s playbook. It is possible that she was trying to hide the sin of her time in Moab. But think about the spiritual desert that she was sending them back to. The logic was good, impeccable. She really was kinda mean to them. She never even acknowledges Ruth as being there in Bethlehem. She is constantly dwelling on her loss, and not on her blessedness, and therefore becomes very bitter. Think about her two prize possessions: the Living God who exercises hesed, and Ruth whose womb is full of promise. Remember that from God’s perspective, Naomi was in a great spot, richly blessed, and full of potential.
2. Heb 12:11-15, Phil 4:8, Rev 3:7, Ps 34:13, 37:8
3. Illustration: the woman who always gave the preacher a list of all the bad things each week, “You know, young man, when God sends tribulation, He expects you to tribulate!” after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal Artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it." It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain, let bitterness take root and poison the rest of our life. Bruce Goodrich was being initiated into the cadet corps at Texas A & M University. One night, Bruce was forced to run until he dropped—but he never got up. Bruce Goodrich died before he even entered college. “I would like to take this opportunity to express the appreciation of my family for the great outpouring of concern and sympathy from Texas A & M University and the college community over the loss of our son Bruce. We were deeply touched by the tribute paid to him in the battalion. We were particularly pleased to note that his Christian witness did not go unnoticed during his brief time on campus.” “I hope it will be some comfort to know that we harbor no ill will in the matter. We know our God makes no mistakes. Bruce had an appointment with his Lord and is now secure in his celestial home. When the question is asked, ‘Why did this happen?’ perhaps one answer will be, ‘So that many will consider where they will spend eternity. Scottish preacher George Morrison used to say “9/10 of our unhappiness is selfishness, and is an insult cast in the face of God.”
4. If you are under the chastening hand of God, practice true repentance. Don’t go back simply for the blessings, but go back for your relationship with the Lord. Even though her motivations were probably good intentioned, she was not thinking them through. Guard yourself from making major life-changing decisions in times of intense pain or grief. God’s plan and purpose for our lives is not always logical. And so don’t plan your own way out, let God open the doors. Guard your speech in times of distress. Bitterness and anger can be a reaction to intense pain in our lives. We become angry at people about their decisions, but really our anger is a God for allowing this to happen in our lives. Forsake anger, kill bitterness. Don’t focus on what you lost, but upon what you have. You must train your mind to focus on God and blessings. Trust in an absolutely sovereign God who has the best plan for you. You may not be able to choose your circumstances sometimes, but you can always choose your attitude.