Summary: Ruth has taken refuge in the God of Israel and has begun to experience His amazing grace for God's love never fails and He has not stopped showing His kindness to the living and the dead!
“GODISNOWHERE” - Ruth 2:17-23 - March 3, 2013
Series: From Heartache To Hope – The Redemption of Ruth - #6
Let’s try something right here at the outset. I want you to picture for a moment, two creatures that make their homes in desert places. One is a vulture – dark, and foreboding, and let’s face it – downright ugly. The other is a humming bird. In contrast to the vulture, the humming bird is a thing of beauty and awe and wonder. Two more dissimilar birds may be hard to find. Yet both can be found in the desert places.
Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over the desert, struggling to survive – but each sees something different. All the vulture sees is rotting meat - because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colourful blossoms of desert plants.
The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. And they fill themselves with freshness and life. (Adapted from Gordon Curley, www.sermoncentral.com, Illustrations)
And it seems to me, that maybe we as people, aren’t all that different from vultures and hummingbirds ourselves in the way we see the world around us. For the last few weeks we’ve been working our way through the book of Ruth. By now, most of you will know the main characters, but for those just joining us, let me recap what’s taken place so far.
Naomi, her husband Elimelech, and their two sons are living in Bethlehem when a famine comes upon the land. Instead of trusting God to provide for their need, they head out to the land of Moab, the land of God’s enemies, and set up home there. What they’re longing to find is new hope and new life. And really, they become a picture for us of those who seek to find hope and life in the world rather than in walking in faith with God. What they end up finding though, is something quite different than what they had dreamed of. Instead of life and hope, they are overcome by death and despair, because Elimelech and his two sons are all going to die in this foreign land. Elimelech goes first, and sometime later, after each of them has married a Moabite woman, his sons die. So Naomi is left alone but for her daughters-in-law.
As we can well imagine, she is a broken woman. Over the course of the last ten years her life has been one heartache after another, grief upon grief. And it might be that you are here this morning and you look at your life, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, I can relate to that. That’s what my life has been like as well. It’s full of grief and sorrow and shattered dreams. The hurt is very deep and the pain is very real.”
Ruth is one of the Moabite women who married into the family. Like Naomi, she too has experienced grief and heartache for she too, like Naomi, has lost her husband. When Naomi sets out to return to Bethlehem, Ruth makes a life changing decision. Up to this point the God of Israel has not been her God. The people of Israel have not been her people. She is a picture of someone who does not initially know God, but who comes to faith in Him none-the-less. She says to Naomi, “Where you go, I will go. Where you die, I will die. Your people, will be my people, and your God, will be my God.” Hers is a picture of repentance. She is leaving behind the past and looking to the future in faith.
Now Naomi is something like that vulture that we talked about earlier. The last few years of her life have been lived as though in a desert place – it’s been dry and lifeless. As she returns to Bethlehem she confesses that the past has scarred her and made her bitter. And there are many people today feasting on the things of the past who have become prisoners to their own pain and heartache; bitterness has welled up in their spirits and it robs them of hope and joy in the present. Naomi mourns, that years ago when she left her home, that she had gone out “full”; God has now brought her back empty.
You may have noticed that today’s message has an unusual name. You can see it up there on the screen. [“GODISNOWHERE”] I’m not sure what you see when you look at that word but Naomi saw something that looked like this: “GOD IS NOWHERE.” She sees God’s hand of discipline upon her life but she doesn’t see Him working to bring healing to heartache, and hope out of despair. She looks around at her misery and concludes that God is nowhere to be found.