Posted by Pastor Szekely on December 8, 2006
At our church I’ve been preaching recently through the Book of Ruth. Did you know that there are only two Books of the Bible named after women – Ruth & Esther? One was a Gentile who married a Jew [Ruth] and one was a Jew who married a Gentile [Esther], but both were used by God to deliver Israel!
This Book of Ruth, just 85 verses long, holds so many gems and nuggets for everyone. For example, at the end of the first chapter (vs19-22), Naomi and Ruth arrive back in Bethlehem. It had been 10 long years since anyone in Bethlehem had seen Naomi, and when she and Ruth entered into the city, the people looked upon her and said, “Is this Naomi?” (vs19). The 10 years away from the blessings of God and the residence in Moab must have taken their toll on Naomi.
Just imagine what Naomi went through while in Moab…which incidently, God called Moab, “my washpot” (Ps 60:8). Moab was a despised country and people before God because of their treatment of Israel. While in a country where she and her family only went to sojourn [stay temporarily] but ended up continuing [homesteading], Naomi endured the deaths of her husband, Elimelech, and her sons, Mahlon and Chilion. In my first message I expounded upon the fact that God didn’t want them there in Moab…God finally had to deal with his children after Elimelech continued to disobey and turn from God’s leading.
The people in Bethlehem didn’t recognize and couldn’t believe that this was Naomi! Maybe her appearance changed from all that she had gone through…most likely, there was a greater change in her personality! Naomi tells her greeters, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). Naomi means pleasantness, but she wasn’t pleasant anymore. Now she tells them to call her Mara which means bitterness. Instead of making her better, the trials she experienced had made her bitter!
Trials will either make you better or bitter! Losing loved ones will either make you better or bitter. Knowing your limitations will either make you better or bitter. Being humbled will either make you better or bitter. Friends, there are many circumstances of life that we can’t control…but we can control how we respond to them!
Naomi was bitter toward God because of what had happened in her life. She was a woman with empty hands, an empty home, and an empty heart. Because she hadn’t surrendered to the Lord and hadn’t accepted His loving chastening, she was missing what God had intended for her. Hebrews 12:11 says, “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”.
As you read Ruth 1:20-21, Naomi sounds as if God has totally forsaken her…BUT DID HE FORSAKE HER? Bitterness will cause a person to think that. Bitterness brings us to focus on what we do not have, and makes us miss seeing what we do have! What Naomi failed to recognize was that she wasn’t really poor and empty at all!
God gave Naomi some great and wonderful resources. God gave Naomi: LIFE…you know, that precious gift from God that each one of us all too often takes for granted. Naomi thought that life had ended for her, but her trials were really a new beginning in her life!
God gave Naomi: OPPORTUNITY…She was now surrounded by friends and family who cared about her. Naomi may have thought that she was isolated from everything and everyone, but she was back home! NOTE: We miss so many opportunities because of bitterness!
God gave Naomi: RUTH…Ruth was no doubt one of the richest blessings that Naomi had from the Lord. Later on in the Book, God blesses Ruth and uses her because she was a woman who was committed to Him…and Naomi will realize it as well! Who’s a rich blessing unto you? Friends, parents, spouse? Sometimes we dont’ realize what we have until it’s gone. Sometimes we don’t realize what we have because we live in bitterness.
Then finally, God gave Naomi: HIMSELF…God hadn’t forsaken Naomi; on the contrary, by His Grace He spared her and allowed her to return to Bethlehem! Whether Naomi realized it or not, God was at work [see Romans 8:28-31!].
Instead of making Naomi better, her trials made her bitter. Her bitterness lead her to believe that God had forsaken her. Bitterness will cause a person to think that…it will cause us to focus on what we do not have and miss seeing what we do have. Has bitterness overtaken you? Has it taken your eyes off those resources God has given you that makes you full and rich?
Naomi had life / opportunity / Ruth / God! What do you have? Don’t know? It may be because your trials have made you focus on what you DO NOT have rather on what you DO have!