Summary: Upon Naomi's return home she said, "Don't call me Naomi [Pleasant] anymore. Call me Mara [Bitter]" This sermon examines her bitterness, now destructive bitterness is and how to deal with the trials in life.
From Pleasant to Bitter
July 28, 2013
TEXT: Ruth 1:19-22 – “So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? 20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? 22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.”
Illus. – I had an relative who claimed to be a believer. Her husband died when they were in their 50s. They had been looking forward to retiring in about 6-7 more years.
But after he died, she discovered that he had left her in a terrible financial state. He never had been a good money handler, but because he handled all the finances for the family, the extent of his malfeasance only became apparent after his death.
She became furious with him for leaving her in a condition that made her have to work later in life and not be able to retire when she had planned. She had years of loans he had made without her knowledge she had to pay off. He had medical insurance, but there were thousands of dollars not covered by his insurance because he had made a foolish choice in the insurance he chose.
This anger at him turned into a seething resentment against him, which in time turned into bitterness—first against HIM, and later against GOD. I heard her say several times, “Why did God do this to me? It’s not fair.”
That relative, who has since died, was a modern day illustration of the danger of doing what Naomi did in our story—blaming our circumstances on God and not dealing with bitterness. Let’s look at this in this passage of Scripture in Ruth:
I. NOTE FIRST THAT GOD HAD ALLOWED SOME BAD THINGS TO HAPPEN IN NAOMI’S LIFE
Verse 3 says, “And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.” Look also at verse 5 – “And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.”
There are a number of reasons God allows trials in our lives.
• First are what I would call “consequential trials,” that is, those that are the harvest of our own actions.
Paul said in Galatians 6:7 – “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” This not necessarily God’s judgment or special hand on a person.
It’s simply that life’s decisions have consequences based on certain moral laws God has set in place.
For instance, if you are sexually immoral, you will have at least a guilty conscience, and you may get a sexually transmitted disease. This isn’t God’s fault, or in any way a direct action on His part. If we make wrong choices, we will experience the natural consequences of those choices. We can hardly place the blame for these things at God’s feet since we are the authors of our own autobiographies.
• Second, are trials that I would call “corrective trials,” that is, trials God allows as discipline to correct a sin or wrong habit in our lives.
If we do not take care of sin or sinful habits through confession, God wants to put us back on the right road, and He does so by disciplining us.
Look with me at Hebrews 12:5-7 – “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”
God loves us too much to allow us to continue in actions that will hurt us, so He lovingly allows trials in our lives to cause us examine ourselves and take actions to change our behavior and attitudes. What is the result?—Look at verse 11 – “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
• Third is what I call “constructive trials”—trials God allows in our lives to make us better Christians, to build His character in us or to make us be more dependent upon Him.