Summary: The disappointment which Naomi has at being a widow becomes the event God uses to bring His wondering child back home. For Ruth the road to redemption starts very unexpectedly.
“The Long Road Back.”
The word immediately brings to mind all sorts of situations … doesn’t it.
We have organising a project and all sorts of people make a commitment to give help, or support, or be part of a project. Then, when it comes to the crunch, they don’t turn up and prove to be unreliable … and that can cause great disappointment.
We planned a special social event … a party of a family get-together. Everyone one is excited by the idea but only a few are able to fit the plan into their schedule, because they are busy doing something else. It is disappointing.
We have personal goals and plans for our life. Then we try and put them into action and find ourselves struggling to achieve. We compare who we want to be … to what we really are … and we are disappointed.
Disappointment. The outcome was not what we expected. The process was really difficult. The people didn’t act as we had hoped. The organisation was not to our liking.
Disappointment. It is a real part of life.
And, in our text today, Naomi is clearly full of disappointment as she takes the long road back to Bethlehem.
Let’s read about it in Ruth 1:6-22
You may remember from last week that we had a look at the spiritual shortcut taken by Elimelech when he moved his family to Moab because of the famine.
For the first time in the book we hear what Naomi thinks as she reflects on the last 10 years.
She is a widow … indeed she is a widow with no living sons.
She is carrying the pain of three deaths … and her family hovers on the brink of extinction.
She just wants to go home.
As she makes her way we get a real sense of exactly how she feels.
The LORD’s hand has gone out against me (1:13).
I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.
The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (1:21).
“My life is trash and it is all God’s fault. I am really ticked off with God and His ways which are supposed to be so good for me”.
She is hurt, angry, and confused.
She is challenging God and questioning God’s integrity.
She lacks trust in His ways and is sarcastic about any clichés that people might want to use to bring her comfort.
Basically she is disappointed with God.
When you are disappointed with the aspects of this life you can often find ways to move forward.
You try again. You go to a different place.
You reorganise plans. You lower your expectations.
Often you can move forward. But what happens when you get disappointed with God?
You see that is the right question to ask isn’t it.
Because it is easy to look at a passage like this and say, “That is all very well to throw the blame at God but Naomi shouldn’t feel like that or talk like that. If they had of stayed in Bethlehem and trusted God more, she wouldn’t be in that situation.
It is easy to look at the lives of people around us and hear the words that they are using and say, “Yes, but you shouldn’t say that!”
Really? You’re going to decide what others should and should not say.
Have a look at these words, they are a testimony of someone who believes God.
I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help,
at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.
Why, God, do you turn a deaf ear? Why do you make yourself scarce?
For as long as I remember I’ve been hurting.
I’ve taken the worst you can hand out, and I’ve had it.
Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life.
I’m bleeding, black-and-blue.
You’ve attacked me fiercely from every side, raining down blows till I’m nearly dead.
You made all my closest friends and neighbours dump me.
The only friend I have left is Darkness.
Can you talk to God like that and get away with it? Well what I have just read is The Message version of Psalm 88:13-18. This Psalm of disappointment is in the Scripture.
God let it be put there – he could easily have made sure it wasn’t, because no one talks like that to God.
But there it is, and has been, in the Scripture for over 2500 years.
We can say, “People shouldn’t talk like that.”
But that doesn’t change the reality. People do talk like that.
What happens when they do? Well we encourage them to see anew the God who is walking with them on the long journey home.
That is what this text is about.