In case you missed it —
There’s a story about a lone survivor of a shipwreck who washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He cried out to God to save him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but he only got more and more depressed. He eventually was able to build a small hut for protection. But one day, after hunting for some food, he came back to his hut to find that it had gone up in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. He was devastated and cried out to God wondering why God had abandoned him. Early the next day a ship drew near the island and rescued him. He couldn’t believe it. When he came on board he said to the crew, “How did you know I was here?” To which they replied, “We saw your smoke signals.”
Sometimes, a tragedy in our life – ultimately becomes the event that saves us.
It’s real easy to go about your life, every day, feeling like everyone has it all together and that the things you struggle with are unique to you. But then, when you get down to it, it turns out that everyone, every single person you know, is dealing with a difficult or stressful situation. Sometimes its money, sometimes its health issues, sometimes its work or family or relationships.
When we open the bible to Ruth, in the first chapter we learn about this family, Elimalech and Naomi who raised 2 sons. There’s a famine and so the family moves away. The two sons get married to Orpah and Ruth. Then Elimalech, the father dies and within 10 years both sons die. The three women are left widows. The mom, Naomi, whose name means joy, tells everyone to call her “Mara” which means bitter.
So right there in the first chapter we find hard times falling upon these three women. No food, no husbands, no heirs because neither daughter-in-law had any children, and no joy anymore.
Then if we jump ahead to the last chapter, you see that Ruth has married a man named Boaz, the famine has ended – and we learn that Ruth has a child and that Naomi is once again filled with joy.
So how does Ruth go from nothing to everything?
How does Naomi go from being bitter to being overjoyed?
How does Ruth, this woman from Moab lead us to Jesus?
We read these stories written thousands and thousands of years ago and we wonder if they can have any influence our lives today. You know, I had never studied Ruth before writing today’s sermon and I’ve got to tell you, I love this story! Ruth was written to teach us about kindness about determination, about lifting ourselves out of difficult situations when tragedy strikes. About looking for signs of God’s grace when the clouds are so thick we can’t see the road ahead. Ruth faces challenges but keeps her faith. She takes risks, yet still believes that God will provide for her – and he does. I’m so glad that Pastor Jeff asked me to preach about her. Ruth shows us how following God can take us from despair to delight.
So after all the men have died, Naomi decides she is going back to Bethlehem because that’s where she was born. And she tells her two daughters in law that they should go back home – to their mothers and to their religion and gods. Orpah does just that and after she goes — we don’t hear from her again. Orpah takes the easy way path — but not Ruth. She sees something in Naomi’s God. And in verse 16 she tells Naomi “Your people shall be my people, and your god shall be my god.” Ruth has no idea where this journey is going to take her – but she wants to go. I believe that she sees that Naomi is really struggling and out of kindness and love for Naomi decides to go with her to Bethlehem. Ruth puts aside her own feelings and cares for someone else.
So think about your life right now, who do you know that is struggling? Who can you help? Because I can tell you something I know to be true, your despair and grief fades quicker — when you help someone else. It was Zig Ziglar who said “you will have everything in life you want – if you will just help enough other people get what they want”
Ruth and Naomi travel to Bethlehem, and things really aren’t that great. They have no income, so Ruth starts going to farms in the area to pick crops that the farmers leave behind. This was a sort of welfare system. Farmers were supposed to leave part of their crops in the fields for the orphans, widows and the poor. It was called ‘gleaning”. Ruth was not afraid of working hard or moving to a new land. She worked at a back-breaking, feet-hurting job outside in the heat. She did not consider it lowly to pick food with the poor and orphans or to depend on the good graces of others for assistance. One day Ruth came home she told Naomi she was in the field of a guy named Boaz and that he was really nice to her. Naomi realizes that Boaz is a distant relative of her late husband. So Naomi gets an idea — she tells Ruth to wait until Boaz has a little bit to drink and then go over there and flirt with him – and trick him into becoming your husband. Ruth does goes to Boaz, but she doesn’t try to deceive him – She talks to Boaz, she tells him that there’s another man who, according to Hebrew custom, has prior claim to marry her. So Boaz goes to the man and purchases Elimalech’s estate including Ruth from him.
You know, All throughout the story, Ruth is doing what is in her heart and stepping up in faith. She doesn’t take the easy way out. Sometimes, stepping out in faith means taking risks. Ruth takes a risk by following Naomi on a grand adventure to Bethlehem, she accepts Naomi’s God as her own, and she works in the fields after hours to care for herself and Naomi. Is there something that God has been putting on your heart to do – and you haven’t done IT – because you feel it’s too much of a risk, or you’re afraid?Sometimes following God’s plan means stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something we’ve never done before, OR going somewhere we’ve never been before and that may be scary. Maybe it’s time to trust God like Ruth did – and have faith that everything will work out okay.
Boaz marries Ruth but they face another challenge, Ruth had never able to have a child with Naomi’s son. However, Ruth soon discovers that she is pregnant and Naomi is overjoyed, after losing her husband and sons, after moving back to Bethlehem, after thinking that it was the end of their family name – we read about a grandmother filled with joy, holding a little child after a long hard life. – But that’s not the end of the story…
The bible tells us that this child, Obed was the father of Jesse and Jesse was the father of King David and we know from reading Matthew that David’s ancestry leads us straight to Jesus! This little story brings us hope in knowing that the road may be rocky and we may face difficulties along the way – but if we live a life of faith and trust God – he will reveal his glory. This story points us to David and David in turn points us to Jesus.
Throughout the story of Ruth – God is seen everywhere, weaving His purposes through events and circumstances. He uses a famine to bring a Jewish man and his family to Moab, where one of his sons marries Ruth. Then the unexpected widowhood of both Naomi and Ruth, they end up in the Promised Land because they hear that the famine has ended. Naomi teaches Ruth about the things of God and Ruth makes a life-changing commitment to follow God.
Then Ruth “just happened” to find herself in a field that belonged to Boaz. This was no coincidence! God orchestrated the events in order to accomplish His purposes. It was God’s invisible hand that steered her to that particular field on that particular day. Ruth had gone through such hard times, but every difficulty, every question, every uncertainty, every broken heart — became God’s way of doing something better than would not have happened otherwise. You see – We find the beginning of God’s grace when we come to the end of ourselves and we hit rock bottom.
Even when you’re completely unaware of what is happening, or even why something is happening, God is guiding your decisions and actions. He is working everything together for your good and His ultimate glory.
Do you trust that God has a purpose for your life, even when things look bleak?
Have you discovered the glories of “God’s movements” in your life?
The most important decision that Ruth ever made in her whole life when she made her commitment to accept Naomi’s God as her own. That decision changed the whole course of her life and consequently changed her destiny.
God doesn’t care about your past. It’s not a matter to Him if you are a Gentile or Jews, a sinner or saint, a winner or loser, a beggar or a rich man. What’s important to God is your decision to accept Him and trust him and let him take the lead.
God waits for your decision so He can do his part:
He can change your life!
He can erase your past!
He can restore your life!
He can rebuild your family!
He can make you a better person!
He can transform you.
It’s natural to be anxious while going through times of financial stress or health challenges. It’s natural, but it’s not necessary. The truth is, God gives every Christian everything they need — to do everything He expects them to do. Whatever it is you think you may lack, rest assured, you apparently don’t need it for your current mission.
So, the next time all of the evidence strongly suggests that you lack some really important talent or skill in order to fulful your purpose, remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:20, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Because when you have Jesus with you, you have all you need – to do all it is required – in what God calls you to do. AMEN