Embracing Hope in Bitterness because of God’s Providence

Dustin Folden July 28, 2019 Ruth 1
Outline

Psalm 31:24 - Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 39:7 - And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.

Psalm 42:5 - Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.

Psalm 71:14 - But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.

Psalm 146:5 - How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God…

Romans 5:1-5 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 15:13 - Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4:31-32 - Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

1. Facing the reality of bitterness

2. Avoiding the pitfalls of sinful bitterness

Proverbs 14:10 - The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.

Deuteronomy 29:18 - …so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood.

Hebrews 12:11 - All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Hebrews 12:12-13 - Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Hebrews 12:15-17 - See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

Romans 15:4 - For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

3. Embracing the hope in bitterness

I. When Facing Bitter Circumstances, Carefully Evaluate the Way You Think and Speak About Your God

“…the loveliest, complete work on a small scale.” Johan von Goethe

“What Venus is to statuary and the Mona Lisa is to paintings, Ruth is to literature.” John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, Introduction to Ruth

A. Important background

1. The days of the judges

Judges 21:25 - In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

2. The country of Moab

“Playing with fire.” John Piper, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, p. 31

3. Extremely bitter circumstances

Ruth 1:5 - Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” AW Tozer.

B. Naomi clearly believed in the sovereignty of God

Ephesians 1:11 - …also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…

1. regarding the initial famine

Leviticus 26:3-4 - If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.

2. regarding the return of food in Bethlehem

Ruth 1:6 - Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited His people in giving them food.

3. regarding her statements to her daughters-in-law

Ruth 1:8 - And 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.”

Ruth 1:9 - “May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.

C. Yet Naomi’s theology was frighteningly incomplete

1. Her focus was on the provision she could see at the time

2. Resulting in suggestions that were absolutely blasphemous

Ruth 1:9 - “May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”

Ruth 1:15 - Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

3. She failed to see God’s fundamental goodness, love, and mercy even in the midst of bitter circumstances

Ruth 1:13a - It is harder (literally – more bitter) for me than for you…

Ruth 1:13b - …the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me…

Ruth 1:20 - …the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me…

Ruth 1:21 - …the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me…

Genesis 50:20 - As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

“The problem with Naomi is that the story of Joseph has not gotten into her bones...Joseph too went into a foreign country. He was sold as a slave. He was framed by an adulteress and put in prison. He had every reason to say, with Naomi, ‘The Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.’ But he was never embittered against God. God turned it all for Joseph’s personal good and for Israel’s national good. The key lesson in Genesis 50:20 is this: ‘As for you [Joseph says to his brothers], you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’ Naomi is right to believe in a sovereign, almighty God who governs the affairs of nations and families—and gives each day its part of pain and pleasure, as the old Swedish hymn says. But she needs to open her eyes—the eyes of her heart—to the signs of his merciful purposes.” John Piper, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, p. 38

D. The hope is in Ruth’s sweet, sincere faith

Ruth 1:16 - But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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.”

Ruth 1:17 - “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

II. When Facing Bitter Circumstances, Carefully Evaluate the Way You Think and Speak About Yourself

A. What word defines you?

Ruth 1:20 - She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”

B. Don’t exaggerate the blessings of her past

Ruth 1:21 - I went out full…

C. Don’t fail to recognize the blessings of the present

Ruth 1:21 - …but the Lord has brought me back empty…

III. Understand that God is Probably Working behind the Scenes in Ways You Do Not Yet Understand

Ruth 1:22 - So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

- one of the many reasons to choose to develop and cherish a relationship with God is because of the hope we find in Him…

- this hope is a frequent refrain in the Psalms, the worship hymnal for the children of Israel…so we read verses like:

  • Psalm 31:24 - Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

- there is a kind of strength and courage reserved for those who are learning to find their hope in the God of Scripture…and this verse shows how we should speak to one another in these terms…and at other times, make such expressions directly to the Lord Himself like in…

  • Psalm 39:7 - And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.

- what a great expression of honor and trust when we can honestly make such an affirmation…at other times we have to wrestle with our own thinking about this issue [“talking to yourself” if you will]…

  • Psalm 42:5 - Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.

- do you have conversations like that…with yourself…as you renew your mind as part of the process of Christian growth?...leading to affirmations like…

  • Psalm 71:14 - But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.

- one of the final Psalms even points to the blessedness that comes from this approach…

  • Psalm 146:5 - How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God…

- an interesting side-note here is that the Psalmist here speaks of God as the “God of Jacob”…as opposed to the God of Abraham…

- and one reason that matters in relationship to the series we’ve been doing this summer is that regrettably, one of Jacob’s sons goes on to become the poster-boy for bitterness and a lack of finding his hope in God…what was his name?...Esau….whose approach to life was the opposite of what this Psalm would later say…

- he seemed to believe – how blessed is he who finds immediate gratification of his cravings…whose hope is in a helping of red-stuff…even if he has to sell his birthright of hoping in God’s plans and promises…

- in the NT – we see this theme emphasized even more prominently because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ…in Him, we can have reliable and powerful hope…

- the apostle Paul explained that to the Romans when he said…

  • Romans 5:1–5 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

- that is so true for a follower of Jesus Christ that we can even think of our God as “the God of Hope…”…which is why Paul said later in the book…

- Romans 15:13 - Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

- as I mentioned, we’ve been studying the topic of Growing by Overcoming Bitterness this summer…

- these two subjects are related because the more reasons you have for biblical hope in your heart…the less likely you are to become sinfully bitter…

- that’s not to say that we won’t have bitter circumstances…the Bible is clear that in this sin-cursed world, living as and among sin-cursed people…we will all face disappointments, and hurts,, and trials, and abuses of all shapes and sizes…

- but even in the verse we just mentioned – it is possible in the midst of that tribulation to find hope that doesn’t disappoint…

- that means we don’t have to cross the line into sinfully bitter expressions of heart and life…

- we can Ephesians 4:31–32 - Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

- now, this is our 7th week in this study…and we have studied some challenging and sometimes surprising ideas from the Word of God together this summer…

- but here’s what it’s time to do…it’s time to put all of this to the test…

- it’s just like the many engineers or engineering students will tell you…

- after you design a new piece of equipment or software or whatever you’re working on…

- at some point – you put it through a stress test…you try to “break it” as some people have explained it to me over the years…

- that’s what we plan to do for the next three weeks with the key principles we’ve been learning about bitterness from God’s Word…

- we’re going to run them through a fascinating case study found in the OT book of Ruth…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to that delightful book in the Word of God this am….page _______ of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- we’ve divided this study into three main sections…we started with…

1. Facing the Reality of Bitterness

- this was when we looked at the inevitable aspect of bitter circumstances…

- that’s part of what it means to live in a sin-cursed world as and among sin-cursed people…

- that’s not necessarily your fault…you didn’t necessarily bring that on…

- which is why it’s so important to learn the art of biblical lament…and even shedding bitter tears…

- all of that can help us from crossing the line into sinful expressions of heart and life…

- we called that…

2. Avoiding the Pitfalls of Sinful Bitterness

- this is where the Esau story came into full view…

- so one day he had both an empty stomach and a scheming brother…

- and he valued immediate gratification over God’s plan and purposes…so he demanded a helping of that red stuff…right then and right now…and he willingly traded his birthright to get it…

- and the end of the passage makes it abundantly clear – he despised his birthright…

- everything his father and mother and other relatives may have told him about the power and glory of God meant nothing to him in the midst of that seemingly mundane trial…

- and eventually he’s letting out a bitter cry as he begs his father Jacob for a final blessing…and when he doesn’t receive it he spews out the lie he’s been formulating in his heart that his brother stole the birthright…and soon after he’s even planning in his bitter heart to murder his own brother just like wicked Cain

- that’s what happens in your heart when you don’t process trials and temptations through the eye of faith…which is why Proverbs 14 tells us…Proverbs 14:10 - The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.

- lest we think this isn’t that important, Moses makes a fascinating statement just prior to the children of Israel entering the Promised land – he warns them in Deut. 29 about allowing anyone with an unbelieving heart to remain in their midst…

- those are people during the wilderness wanderings who became bitter with God, or bitter with Moses and wanted to go serve other gods who would give them immediate gratification…

- just like the unbelief that led Esau to demand his helping of red stuff and sell off his birthright…

- Deuteronomy 29:18 - so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood.

- what’s amazing and instructive is that all of these themes converge in Hebrews chapter 12…because that is another group of men and women who are on the verge of succumbing to unbelieving bitterness…

- they left their Jewish families…and their Jewish temple worship…

- and embraced Jesus Christ either genuinely as Savior and Lord…or maybe just socially because they were following other friends or family to this new approach to knowing God…

- but it wasn’t working out for them…there wasn’t enough red stuff…Jesus wasn’t sufficient for them…so they were thinking about leaving the church and going back to the temple…

- and in that book we find some of the strongest warnings as anywhere else in the Bible…

- and in chapter 12 – the writer brings all these themes together through an extended study of the issue of God’s discipline…

- there are all sorts of reasons why God might bring uncomfortable, bitter circumstances into your life…

- and he even affirms -- Hebrews 12:11 - All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

- see, in the heat of the moment of God’s discipline – there may not be a lot of immediate red stuff…but there’s plenty of potential “birthright”…

- which is why we’ve said repeatedly – often the very thing we become bitter at is what our sovereign God is seeking to use to conform us to the image of His son…

- that’s why we should Hebrews 12:12–13 - Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

- and then we have another incredible warning where all these strands come together…Hebrews 12:15–17 - See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

- that’s why we then spent time studying topics like a bitter lifestyle, and even a bitter tongue…

- so where’s the hope in all of this?...

- well, the God of hope has given us a Bible that is filled with stories…narratives…some scholars even suggest that as much as 75% of our Bibles are comprised of such literature…

- but whatever the exact percentage, we know that the Lord blessed us with such material for a reason…Romans 15:4 - For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

- that is why we want to conclude this series with a study of Ruth’s mother in law, a woman named Naomi – organizing our thoughts around…3. Embracing the Hope in Bitterness

- and for our purposes this am…Embracing the Hope in Bitterness because of God’s Providence…with that in mind, let’s read our verses together…read Ruth 1:1-22

- we’re talking about Embracing the Hope in Bitterness because of God’s Providence and with the time we have remaining…let’s look for 3 steps to find hope when times are hard.

I. When Facing Bitter Circumstances, Carefully Evaluate the Way You Think and Speak about Your God.

- it’s hard to overstate the beauty and importance of this particular book of Bible…

- the renowned German literary critic Johan von Goethe said the book of Ruth was “the loveliest, complete work on a small scale.”

- John MacArthur – “What Venus is to statuary and the Mona Lisa is to paintings, Ruth is to literature” (MacArthur Study Bible, Introduction to Ruth)

- the first verses give us some very…

A. Important background

1. The days of the judges

- this was clearly one of the low points in the life of God’s chosen people…

- in fact, you only have to look back a page or two to the end of the book of judges, to the very last verse, to see why…

- Judges 21:25 - In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

- that’s why if you study that book, you see this hopeless cycle of the people falling into sin, the people experiencing God’s judgement, then they cry out in repentance for a leader whom God provides in the form of a judge (or a leader) who eventually dies and the entire cycle starts over again…

- of course all of this points to the need for an eternal king who will some-day establish a literal kingdom for 1000 years on this earth in complete and literal fulfillment of all the OT promises and prophecies about the coming messiah…

- that’s getting ahead of ourselves although this book ends on that note in ways that are absolutely breathtaking…

- but in this book, and in this chapter – Naomi is functioning as a person the way Israel was functioning as a nation…[repeat the verse]…

2. The country of Moab

- so the book tells us that there is a famine in Israel…amazingly, in the little town of Bethlehem…[that town comes up later in the Bible, doesn’t it?]…

- so a Jewish man and his wife leave Bethlehem…which by the way, means “house of bread”…and they go to the other side of the dead sea to the country of Moab…

- in his commentary on this book, John Piper calls that – “Playing with fire” (A Sweet and Bitter Providence, p. 31).

- that’s because the country of Moab was an arch enemy of God’s chosen nation…

- it actually started as a result of Lot’s incestuous relationship with one of his daughters and they worshipped the pagan god Chemosh – which is why Moabites were forbidden from entering the Jewish tabernacle [Deut 23:3]…

- this book is silent about whether it pleased the Lord for Naomi’s husband Elimelech [whose name means, my God is king]…to take his wife and their 2 sons to Moab…but as Piper’s title points out – at best it was playing with fire…

- now there’s no question about this…they in turn faced…

3. Extremely bitter circumstances

- it is fascinating how succinctly this part of the story is told…

- Ruth 1:5 - Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.

- whatever else we say about this book – let’s not minimize the terribly grinding affliction this dear woman was experiencing…

- she is now in another country, as a result of facing a famine, and both her husband and her sons have passed away…

- the parallels here to the life of Joseph are also very important to note…

- back at the end of the book of Genesis…God allowed another one of his children to face harsh and grinding affliction in a foreign country…Jacob’s son Joseph – and his story would have been well known to this family….

- now, it’s very important for us to note this – everything we’ve said thus far is not the most important aspect of Naomi’s story…

- I do not want to minimize this for a moment – nor would we ever want to minimize the bitter circumstances you might be facing right now…

- but the focus here is on what these circumstances revealed about Naomi’s theology…her view of the Lord…

- several weeks ago we quoted What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us – AW Tozer.

- and what we read here about Naomi is clearly a very mixed bag…[and I hope running in the background of your mind for you right now is – what does my response to trials reveal about the nature of my view of God?...]…

B. Naomi clearly believed in the sovereignty of God

- she could have agreed with the apostle Paul who said Ephesians 1:11 - also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

1. regarding the initial famine

- she would have thought that about the initial famine -- Leviticus 26:3–4 - ‘If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.

2. regarding the return of food in Bethlehem

- it’s clear when she receives word that they have food in Bethlehem again…the explanation is… Ruth 1:6 - Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited His people in giving them food.

3. regarding her statements to her daughters-in-law

- she very graciously said… Ruth 1:8 - And 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.

- and this is very important – she used the name of the God of the Bible…the LORD in all capital letters…the God of the Bible…Israel’s God…

- she said it again in verse 9… Ruth 1:9 - “May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.

- so this was not a woman who became bitter because she had no faith…

C. Yet Naomi’s theology was frighteningly incomplete.

1. Her focus was on the provision she could see at the time.

- do you see the string of arguments she makes beginning in verse 11?...

- do I have sons left in my womb?...I don’t have a husband…

- even if I had a husband tonight…do you want to wait 18 years until I have a boy who is old enough for you to marry?...

- that’s not biblical faith at all…that’s taking an inventory of what you can see at the time and limiting God to what is happening at the moment…

- and it’s also one of the fastest routes to a bitter heart and life there is…

2. Resulting in suggestions that were absolutely blasphemous

- think back to verse 9 again -- Ruth 1:9 – “May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”

- Go marry a Moabitess man…who undoubtedly would worship the pagan god Chemosh…

- and lest there be any question about that being the core of the theology in her heart – look what she said to Ruth after one of the daughter’s in law did return to Moab -- Ruth 1:15 - Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

- those words ought to take our breath away…

- that’s’ the poisonous root of Deut 29…that’s the bitter root of Heb 12…

- the God of the Bible let me down…He’s not who He says He is…He can’t be trusted…so any old god will do…

- maybe yours will give you more red stuff than mine is giving me…

3. She failed to see God’s fundamental goodness, love, and mercy even in the midst of bitter circumstances.

- the great hymn-writer William Cowper [Cooper] said…

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But Trust Him for His grace

Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face

(God Moves in a Mysterious Way, William Cowper)

- that was not part of Naomi’s thinking…

1:13a – It is harder (literally – more bitter) for me than for you

1:13b - …the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me

1:20 – the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me

1:21 – the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me

- all of these words are absolutely embarrassing…in light of what’s about to unfold in the rest of this story…

- and I realize you might say – but I don’t know what’s about to unfold in the rest of my story…

- so what do you believe about the fundamental nature of the Person who does?...

- do you remember the old hymn “Day by Day”….

Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here;

Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure, gives unto each day what He deems best—

Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.

(Karolina W. Sandell-Berg, “Day by Day”)

- one of the ways to think about this chapter is to compare it to how Joseph responded to the grinding affliction he faced…it wasn’t any less focused on the sovereignty of God…but it was balanced by a strong belief in the Lord’s fundamental goodness…

- Genesis 50:20 - As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

- that’s what kept Joseph from becoming bitter – or from deserting the Lord and choosing the easy path of simply worshipping one of the gods of Egypt…

- John Piper said - The problem with Naomi is that the story of Joseph has not gotten into her bones...Joseph too went into a foreign country. He was sold as a slave. He was framed by an adulteress and put in prison. He had every reason to say, with Naomi, ‘The Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.’ But he was never embittered against God. God turned it all for Joseph’s personal good and for Israel’s national good.

- The key lesson in Genesis 50:20 is this: ‘As for you [Joseph says to his brothers], you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’ Naomi is right to believe in a sovereign, almighty God who governs the affairs of nations and families—and gives each day its part of pain and pleasure, as the old Swedish hymn says. But she needs to open her eyes—the eyes of her heart—to the signs of his merciful purposes. (A Sweet and Bitter Providence, p. 38).

- now, I realize you might say – well, where’s the hope in all of this?...what’s the answer to that?...

D. The hope is in Ruth’s sweet, sincere faith.

- Ruth 1:16 - But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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.

- and that’s certainly not because there was any red stuff on the horizon…

- Ruth 1:17 - “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

- and you might say – I don’t know very much theology…

- or I’ve been swimming in bitterness for years…

- there’s no hope for me…

- oh yes there is…in the power of Jesus Christ, there is nothing stopping you from developing simple, yet profound – Ruth-like faith…

- if you don’t know Christ as savior and Lord – this book is pointing directly to a Messiah who stands ready to be your king…

- and yes at this period of time there was no king in Israel, and everyone did that which was right in his own eyes…

- but God in His grace worked in the hearts and lives of all sorts of people, including this young Moabitess…to scream a lesson about the power of the coming king…

- and if you have trusted Him as Savior and Lord…we would invite you to do so today…

- Christian friend – what does your response to biter circumstances about your working theology?...

- are there any Naomi like tendencies?...

- it’s time to park the Naomi car – and hop in this far superior model…where you go, I will go…where you lodge, I will lodge….your people shall be my people…and your God, my God…

- that in turn will affect…

II. When Facing Bitter Circumstances, Carefully Evaluate the Way You Think and Speak about Yourself.

- can I ask you this morning…

A. What word defines you?

- you may know that in a book I wrote several years ago entitled Putting Your Past in Its Place, I told the story of a woman I named Jill who was a former counselee who actually co-wrote that portion of the book with me…

- she was one of the most extreme cases of depression I’ve ever had the privilege of counseling…

- and I remember asking her one day to complete the simple sentence – I am _____

- in other words, what summarizes your life-story, what defines you today…

- her almost immediate response, though she had said she was a Christian was, I am depressed….

- in her mind, that is what defined and summarized her…

- and thankfully she came to eventually learn that as a child of God, that wasn’t even close to being true…

- well, we know that answer for Naomi, don’t we?...

Ruth 1:20 - She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

- and do you see how that wrong view-of-self caused her to…

B. Don’t exaggerate the blessings of her past

- Ruth 1:21 – I went out full…

- if you are in the habit of writing in your Bible – you might want to circle that phrase, and then go back to verse one and circle the phrase “there was a famine in the land” and draw a red line between the two…

- it’s that same kind of exaggeration that led to the bitter roots of unbelief during the wilderness wanderings…

- do you remember how the children of Israel would talk about their time of Egyptian enslavement…”where we sat by the pots of meat and had bread to the full”…

- I remember once when my grandma told me – you know those good ole days everyone talks about?...they weren’t that good…there’s a lot of wisdom there…

C. Don’t fail to recognize the blessings of the present

- one of the most amazing and offensive statements was when Naomi said…

- Ruth 1:21 -…but the Lord has brought me back empty

- you have to wonder the impact that must have had on Ruth…

- especially since her name means “friend”…

- and the lesson from this particular detail is – bitterness will cause us to neglect to see and appreciate all the blessings that come from the hand of our good God…even during times of bitter circumstances…

- if you know Christ – there are always reasons to rejoice, even in the midst of great sadness…

- in the next two weeks, the truth of this point will come screaming forth, but perhaps we should do to one another what the writer originally did to his readers…

- this is so much like Hebrew and ancient near eastern literature…a teaser right at the end….

III. Understand that God is Probably Working behind the Scenes in Ways You Do Not Yet Understand

Ruth 1:22 - So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.


Dustin Folden

B.S - Electrical Engineering, Purdue University
M.Div. - Faith Bible Seminary

Pastor Dustin Folden and his wife Trisha joined the Pastoral Staff in 2010. They have two children, Mackenna & Sawyer. They enjoy playing board games, cooking together and going on hiking adventures. Pastor Folden shepherds the 9:30 worship service, oversees the Adult Bible Fellowship ministry, the Wednesday evening Faith Community Institute as well as serves in Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries.

Read Dustin Folden's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Folden to Faith Church.