Summary: To overcome bitterness, we need to open our eyes to see the personal concern of others and the providential care of God.
Today we are beginning a series of messages based on the book of Ruth. This book as often referred to as one of the greatest love stories in the Bible, if not one of the greatest love stories in all of literature.
When such an observation is made, of course, it is the love relationship between Boaz and Ruth that is being referred to. But I would like to suggest to you that there is another love relationship described here as well. That is the love relationship between God and one of His children who was experiencing the difficulties of life - Naomi.
Perhaps you can identify somewhat with the difficulties Naomi had experienced. Naomi described her experiences as being “bitter” here in chapter one. But as we will see, this book tells a story of how God leads Naomi from bitterness to blessedness; and teaches us some
lessons as to how we might likewise pass from bitterness to blessedness as we struggle with the difficulties we face in life.
In this first chapter, we are told of Naomi’s difficulties. Driven from their homeland of Judah, Naomi, and her husband and two sons, sojourned to the land of Moab. There, further calamity befell Naomi as her husband died. As if this wasn’t enough, her two sons died also.
Finally, when word came that the famine was over, Naomi returned to Bethlehem. She encouraged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah did so, but Ruth chose to stay with her. When Naomi returned to Bethlehem, the people who had known her were shocked to hear about all that had befallen her. “Can this be Naomi?” they asked.
Naomi didn’t seem to be the same as they had known her before.
Indeed, Naomi told them, “Don’t call me Naomi (pleasantness). Call me Mara (bitter). Naomi was a person who had become bitter about the circumstances of life.
How does one recover from such bitterness? That is what the book of Ruth is about. From chapter one, we learn that if we are going to be delivered from bitterness in life, we must open our eyes . . .
1. To see the personal concern of others - vs. 16-17
Naomi seemed blind to the fact of Ruth’s personal concern for her. Even when Ruth made the bold declaration she did about her commitment, Naomi still didn’t seem to recognize the fact that here was someone she could find strength from.
Ruth’s friendship was “hidden in plain sight.”
Often when we have become embittered by the difficulties of life, we will conclude that no one cares. Like Naomi, we become so wrapped up in our self pity that we don’t even recognize personal concern even when it is expressed. Are you feeling abandoned? Forsaken? Who is it that God has placed in your life that may be “hidden in plain sight?”
Now, Naomi did eventually come to recognize Ruth’s personal concern and she was helped by it. In the same way, when we are facing tough times, we must open our eyes and see those about us who are expressing love and concern and allow them to strength us.
Who has God placed in your path to be a friend to you? Who has God placed in your path for you to be friend to?
True friendship is indeed a gift, a treasure from above.
For friendship’s just another part of God’s great gift of love!
Take a moment and poke yourself in the bellybutton (I’d tell you to poke your neighbor, but that might get us into trouble!) Our navel is a constant reminder that we all started life connected to another human being; and that we are intended to live life in meaningful connection with other human beings.
But when sin entered this world, it caused a rift not just between man and God; but between man and man, as symbolized by the fact that Adam and Eve covered themselves in fig leaves and hid from God in the bushes.
But God came to us in Christ to reverse the effects of sin, Through Christ, we not only experience salvation in that our relationship with God is restored, but we also experience salvation through meaningful relationships with other human beings.
That is why, once we are restored to a personal friendship with God through faith in Christ, we are called to indentify and invest in the fellowship of a local body of believers. It is within the context of our being a vital part of a local body of Christ that Paul says: “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.” - 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (The Message)