Three sisters, ages 92, 94, and 96, live in a house together. One night the 96-year-old draws a bath. She puts one foot in and pauses. She yells down the stairs, “Was I getting in or out of the bath?”
The 94-year-old yells back, “I don’t know. I’ll come up and see.” She starts up the stairs and pauses. Then she yells out, “Was I going up the stairs or down?”
The 92-year-old is sitting at the kitchen table having tea and listening to her sisters. She shakes her head and says, “I sure hope I never get that forgetful.” She knocks on wood for good measure. She then replies, “I’ll come up and help both of you as soon as I see who’s at the door.”
I love this joke. I don’t know who wrote it, but thank you.
I am not as old as these ladies, but I feel this way about this blog sometimes. I don’t know which direction I am going. I wonder where I’ve been and where I am going with it.
Am I alone?
I love doing because I believe God gave it to me as an assignment. So, I am praying for direction and focus. I will keep writing while I wait for Him to answer.
My posts may bounce around like ping pong balls. God can do whatever He pleases with them. My job and every Christian’s job is to be obedient.
Here I am, Lord. Don’t know whether I am getting in or out of the tub, or going up or down the stairs, or if I should answer the door or not, but I will keep pushing these keys till you tell me to stop.
We begin in verses 1 and 2 with Elimelech moving his wife, Naomi, and their two sons to Moab from Bethlehem to avoid a famine.
But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.
These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years,
And both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Then, in verses 6 and 7, Naomi heads back to Bethlehem with her two daughters-in-law, but after they start out Naomi has a change of heart.
But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.
The LORD grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.
In verses 10 through 15, the girls resist leaving Naomi, but she pleads with them to go. So, Orpah turns back, but Ruth clings to Naomi like glue.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
We see in verse 19 they journey on and when they arrive in Bethlehem the whole town is in an uproar over them. Naomi says:
She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
In these passages, what seasons do you see in Ruth’s life?
How does Ruth embrace these seasons?
What role do you think Naomi’s walk of faith played in Ruth’s conversion and ability to trust in LORD?
What was the difference between Orpah and Ruth? What allowed Ruth to see beyond her disappointments and setbacks to the God she had come to love through Naomi’s testimony?
In these verses we are taken through three seasons: marriage, childlessness, and widowhood.
In verse 4, Ruth marries into this Israelite family. She left her Moabite heritage and embraced the Israelites and their God. Naomi says that Ruth was kind to her husband in verse 8. The name Mahlon, Ruth’s husband according to Ruth 4:10, is mostly believed by scholars to mean “sickly or unhealthy.” He may have been so when she married him. We can speculate that in kindness she took care of him until he died. His sickliness may have been the cause of her barrenness.
Ruth may have thought her first marriage to a Hebrew was the start of the best of times; it turned out to be the worst of times. Could Ruth have left and gone back to her Moabite family? We don’t know, but what we do know is that she remained faithful to Mahlon and the God of Israel. Ruth embraced widowhood with that same faith and commitment; she displayed love and loyalty to Naomi and Naomi’s God.
Naomi must have taken Ruth under her wing and discipled her, teaching her about the God of Israel. That would account for Ruth’s fierce loyalty to Naomi and her willingness to leave her country and pagan gods and follow Naomi and the one true God of Israel. In this brief narrative notice the things Naomi says about the LORD.
Verse 8: Naomi believes it is God who provides.
Verse 9: She believes God will bring families together.
Verse 13: Naomi believed as Isaiah did.
Isaiah 45:7: I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the Lord, who does all these things.
For Naomi said: Verse 13: “The hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”
Verse 20: The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
Verse 21: I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty … The LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me.
Naomi has said the LORD is against me, dealt very bitterly with me, emptied me of everyone I loved, He has testified against me and brought calamity upon me. Notice what Naomi doesn’t do. She doesn’t complain about the LORD doing this. She doesn’t try to blame others. She doesn’t deny what is happening. She never tries to defend herself. She acknowledges Him as sovereign within His rights to do as He pleases. She also doesn’t run from Him, but is making her way back to Judah and the LORD. She journeys within the Providence of God, knowing He is in control of all things.
What made Ruth travel on and Orpah turn back?
Ruth was a true believer and Orpah wasn’t. Orpah means “back of the neck”. She turned her back on the LORD and Naomi. Ruth followed both. In her response to Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” she is declaring her allegiance not only to Naomi and Israel, but to the LORD. Notice especially verse 17:
“Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Ruth is committing herself for life to Naomi, her people, and the LORD. She swears an oath that invites death if she violates it. She has totally put her life in the hands of the God of Israel.
Ruth embraced these seasons in her life by love and loyalty to family and God. She was not half way in, but she was fully committed. Ten years of a childless marriage, the death of her spouse, and the journey to a foreign land with a destitute mother-in-law display not only her loyalty and commitment, but her faith in the sovereign God that Naomi shared with her.
God was providentially working all things for Ruth’s good and the good of His people, which we will see more clearly in the last chapter.
What are some ways you can embrace the challenging seasons of your life?
During the non-challenging seasons, how can you prepare for the changes you know will come?
Naomi would have taught Ruth the LORD’s commandments, especially Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:34, which her descendant, in the flesh, Jesus, quoted when asked what the most important commandment was.
Jesus said the two most important commands were:
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
Ruth’s words and actions reflected the embracing of these two commandments which gave her strength to not only embrace the good seasons of life, but the sorrowful ones as well.
We see in Naomi’s and Ruth’s lives Titus 2:3-8 being played out: older women training younger women. Ruth had a mentor, role model, a confidant, and someone to hold her accountable.
Whose life are you pouring into? Who are you learning from?
Find an older woman to learn from, and a younger woman to teach. Disciples make disciples
And have fun doing it.
This Christian walk isn’t meant to be a single path.
I am starting a Bible study on the book of Ruth. In addition to this Introduction there will be 2 or 3 additional lessons. I hope you will join me. The Big Idea details my goals for this endeavor. Grab a cup of coffee with me and let’s see what Ruth has to say.
The Big Idea
What I hope we take away from this study is that God is bigger than any of our circumstances and through the obedience of faith, relying and trusting totally in the sovereign God who holds all things together by the power of His word (Heb. 1:3), we can walk though all seasons of life with steadfast confidence that God truly does work all things together for good for His people (Romans 8:29). Ruth’s faith was amazing. Because she believed in the same sovereign God Naomi did, she was free to embrace whatever He brought into her life.
Most people view Ruth as a refreshing (if they have just read through Judges) love story. Ruth’s “No, I won’t leave you” speech is quoted by unbelievers as well as believers. And who isn’t swept away by the romantic love story of Ruth and Boaz? So, we tend to read Ruth with rose-colored glasses, and we don’t stop and really look at her life before she married Boaz. It was extremely hard.
Ruth was a member of a pagan society that worshiped a false god named Chemosh who required human sacrifice. She married a foreigner who was sickly and died, leaving her childless, so she threw her lot in with her bereaved mother-in-law, traveled to a foreign country, and had to work sun up to sun down gathering grain so they could eat. Then she had to do the proposing to get a husband. Not so glamorous.
However, when we get to Chapter 3 and 4 Ruth’s life takes a turn. We are introduced to Boaz, a godly man, who is a close relative of Naomi’s. He could redeem them and Naomi’s family’s land (the land by buying it and Ruth by marrying her). According to Naomi’s instructions, Ruth approaches Boaz one night and asks him to redeem her and Naomi from their destitution. He agrees and we see the great and awesome picture or type of our Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who redeems His people and will one day redeem the whole earth.
The book of Ruth is a beautiful story of love and redemption. Ruth is an example of God’s ideal woman. Woven through her story, we see God’s kind providence, often hidden in her hard times and shown through the kindness and protection extended to her through others.
Our purpose in this study is to investigate the seasons of Ruth’s resilient life and see how she embraced them and how we can apply what we learn to our own lives.
What are seasons of life?
Webster’s Dictionary says: a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature a suitable or natural time or occasion
Seasons can be life events: such as, marriage, child-rearing, career development, widowhood, to name a few. They can also be emotional/spiritual/physical seasons, such as: long times of sorrow, joy, despair, hope, energy, and lethargy.
Gordon MacDonald in his book “A Resilient Life” identifies them as decades in our lives. In each season we are concerned about different things.
MacDonald says that you will talk about very different things to an 80 plus person than you will to a 20+ person. The 80 year old is concerned about end of life issues. Death is a hot topic. How will it come? Will I have pain? Will I be afraid? Will Jesus grant me grace to get through it as my Pastor says He will?
The twenty year old would run like crazy from that conversation. They are interested in school, careers, marriage, what is the latest cool video game.
As we examine Ruth’s responses to the seasons in her life let’s remember as she did, that God has a plan and His loving hand is shaping our lives through His Spirit and His providence, as He did Ruth’s.
For our sanctification is not a straight highway. It has ups and downs, twists and turns. When we look forward, we see those ups and downs, twists and turns, but when we look behind us, we see God has made them into a straight highway heading us toward home.
How do you embrace each season of life and persevere with your faith intact? How do you maintain a steadfast assurance that no matter what happens, God will get you safely home?
These are the questions we will be answering in the lessons to follow. See you next time.
You asked me about my time with Jesus. So, here is a quick answer to your request. There is more detailed information in the Scriptures, but I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts.
We walked shoulder to shoulder with Him. It was a journey of a lifetime although it was only three years. What was it like? Did we believe He was the Messiah?
Sure we did, but at first, it was our version of the Messiah. You know the one who would free us from the Roman yoke and lead us victoriously to defeat all our enemies. We thought the Messiah would be a man God raised up as in the days of the Judges, and when we had great kings like David. We were looking for one who would rule over and deliver us from the Romans.
We should have known He was more than that. We missed so many clues.
I remember when he called me to be a fisher of men. I got up and followed him. No questions asked! I didn’t consult anyone about it, not even my wife. I just did it. Maybe, you can understand, I was compelled to leave all and follow Him. I had no choice.
Then there was the first miracle. When He turned the water into wine at the wedding, we all gaped! We were amazed – there is no other word for it – amazed. After that there was miracle after miracle …so many. You can’t imagine what it was like seeing desperately sick and dying people coming to Him, some dragging themselves with their last bit of strength, some were carried, and He went to some. All received His compassion and mercy. I saw the lame walk, the blind see, the demon possessed freed, and even the dead raised!
But, it wasn’t until He asked me, “Whom do you say that I am?” that I knew, really knew. He’d asked us who other people said He was. We told Him people thought some pretty wild things, like John the Baptist back from the dead, or one of the prophets. Then He looked directly at me and asked that famous question, one we all have to answer at some time, “Whom do you say that I am?”
My answer came effortlessly, but with great light and conviction.
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
It was as though I wasn’t answering, but someone else. Jesus told me God the Father revealed that to me. I knew then that this was no mortal man. This man I had walked shoulder to shoulder with, shared campfires with, even had in my home on many occasions, who had healed my mother-in-law was not just a good man, a gifted teacher, He was who He said He was – the Son of God!
It was after that change of heart that I began to notice that He never did anything wrong. The anger we saw in Him was justified anger. The Pharisees made Him angry and He made them angry! I have to admit sometimes I was afraid of them and then other times I wanted to jump them and beat them up. Of course, Jesus wouldn’t have liked that. You see, my anger was not righteous as His was. It was right to be angry with them, but my anger was selfish and vengeful. It was confusing sometimes because I knew the few times He was angry He wasn’t sinning, but when I got angry, I was. But, it was more than that. He was never irritable, He never complained, He was never mean, or bitter, or unhappy. In fact, there was always this deep-seated joy in Him. He kept telling us we would have His joy. We didn’t understand until later what He meant. So, what I am trying to say is He never sinned. I have looked back over my entire time with Him and there wasn’t once I could say He did anything that was sinful. His mother, who should know, said the same thing. Of course, He had to be sinless to die for our sins. He was the God-man without sin. I kept hoping it would rub off on me. But, you know, it didn’t.
He was so good to me, so patient and I … I deserted Him. When I should have stood by Him, I ran out on Him. And even worse I denounced Him to others. He told me I would, but I didn’t believe Him. Oh no, not me, maybe others, but not Peter! He told me before the rooster crows I would deny Him three times. I did and when I heard the condemning sound … well, I can’t tell you how I felt … there are no words. If I hadn’t been such a coward, I would have cut out my own tongue right then.
We thought it was over. Our dream of freedom from Rome – gone. You see our unbelief? He had told us what would happen, that He would be killed, buried and on the third day He would rise again. He had plainly told us. Even when John and I went to the tomb and found it empty, not only empty, but His grave clothes neatly folded – it was too much to comprehend. I think John understood before I did. The women saw Him. He appeared to them first and not me. I had a hard time with that, but then the memory of my betrayal would come rushing in on me and I thought if He is alive, I am the last person He would want to see. I had forgotten the Messiah’s forgiveness. I had lived with it for three years, yet my sin and guilt was so overpowering, I forgot His compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. Or maybe, I don’t know, maybe, I thought my sin was too great for Him to forgive. Maybe, I thought I had crossed the line, that all I deserved was hell.
After the resurrection, when I saw Him on the beach – the risen Lord, what was He doing? Cooking us breakfast – still serving us. I was trembling. I longed to have Him turn His pure, sinless eyes upon me, to clasp me as a brother once more, but I was so terrified until He said, “Peter”. There it was. I knew I had been washed by His blood. Those drops that fell in Gethsemane and were shed at Calvary were for me and all my horrendous sins were forgiven. But then, He kept asking me if I loved Him. What could I say? Oh I did love Him, but not like I should. Would I betray Him again? I hoped not, but I was no longer the self-sufficient, self-confident braggart that I had been. I knew only by His power could I be obedient and faithful. I told Him I loved Him, but only He knew how much. And then He said the last thing I expected. He said, “Feed my sheep.” Me, the betrayer, He gave the awesome duty of feeding His sheep.
So, I am about His business by His grace and for His glory.
What was it like being with Him for three years? If you are His follower you know. You don’t need me to tell you.
The Grand Canyon is a very big place. Most people don’t get past the rim or a few hundred feet in the canyon. I’ve made it to the bottom and back twice … in my late forties. The last trip we not only went down to Phantom Ranch, but up and over to Phantom Creek. My husband described this hike as straight up, some contouring and straight down. That sums it up nicely.
Going up was hard. The trail was really more like a goat trail and looking up, you could not see the top of the tonto let alone the top of the canyon. Standing on the trail and looking straight ahead you could see dirt … the mountain in front of you, that was all. You took it one step at a time until the pianos. These were massive boulders shaped like pianos near the top. They were my favorite part of the trip.
To say the trail down to Phantom Creek was steep is like saying the Canyon itself is a small dip in the landscape. This was the hardest physical thing I had ever done in my life, with the possible exception of giving birth. If you looked ahead, you couldn’t see the bottom or even the trail. The trail itself was loose gravel and earth that gave way with every step.
My pack was too heavy for me and a bit loose. It shifted with every step. I just knew it would throw me off balance and I would fall head long to the bottom, ending my trip and my life. I fell twice, once I landed with my arms pinned under me and my poles in the air, but neither time was I really hurt. As soon as my husband unpinned me I jumped up and laughed it off, but it was getting to me. He kept trying to tell me we were almost there and tried to show me the goal, but when I would look my heart would sink within me. It was so far and so straight down and I couldn’t see the trail, let alone a route that could possibly be safe.
Then suddenly, I could do nothing but cry. I told my husband to give me a minute to sit down and cry and then I could go on. I did just that. It was really less than two minutes, but it was enough to clear my head and renew my courage.
I stood up and looked at only the trail in from of me. I kept saying to myself, “I can only do what is in front of me. I can only do what is in front of me …” over and over. Just a few steps at a time. Then I could truly see the creek at the bottom and the campsite that would be my rest. It was so close … I could finish this thing.
I had known all along that the creek was there, that it was only a matter of time and energy before I got there and could rest. But, I couldn’t see it coming down. It was overwhelming. It was impossible. I could only do what was in front of me. But, that rest was waiting right there for me all along.
I’m struggling now. Life is full of hard, heart breaking things when you are the parent of adult children. All I can do is pray … all I can do is what’s in front of me. God keeps bringing this descent to my mind when I cry out in pain to Him. I want to count it all joy, but at this moment, all I can do is sit and cry. I know I’ll have to get up in a minute and keep going. I know there is rest waiting for me and it will be wonderful. But, all I can do right now is what is in front of me.
My God has been with me through the hardest things in my life. I know He is there for me now. He is holding me up or I would be crashing down the mountain. I’m not saying He makes it easy. I don’t think sanctification is easy. It’s very hard. Just like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, He has taken my burden at the Cross … but, I feel it sometimes. Like it will tip me over and make me fall. I have to sit down and remember that I no long carry it. And I know He has me, He’s with me, He’s holding onto my hand, has me in His arms and is often carrying me.
He’s prepared a rest for me and it’s waiting for me. There is the joy.