Friday, April 29, 2011

I'm Going Where You Go (Part 4)

Note: I want to thank God and each of you for sharing insights and thoughts on chapter one of Ruth. Reading many of the comments, I realize how challenging it is to understand scripture. I wish I could say, "I've learned so much in my studies", but the truth is I realize how little I understand. I have admiration for those who have invested years of their lives in the daily study of God's word.



Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem

Each of us who’ve trusted in Christ as our savior made a commitment much like Ruth. Naomi heard Ruth’s confession, but she wasn’t the only one:

God Himself bore witness to Ruth’s commitment; He also bears witness to our commitment.

Everything I think, say and do in my life reflects my commitment to Christ. My life is clearly visible to God in all aspects; nothing is hidden from Him.

God was not only a witness to the life of Ruth, He witnessed Naomi’s life as well.

So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival.Is it really Naomi?the women asked.1

Two women traveling between Moab and Bethlehem; this could not have been an easy journey. Each step reaffirmed Ruth’s commitment, while each step seemed to cause Naomi to reflect on what she no longer had.

…in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.2

How simple it is to appreciate the blessings of God, giving Him the thanks and the praise when His blessings flow in my life. But God wants me to appreciate Him when I go through the desert and wilderness as well. I can choose to focus on Him rather than my circumstances or I can choose to magnify my circumstance so that the presence of the Lord appears miniscule.

Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem and the women of that city cannot believe this is the same woman who left years earlier. She left with a husband and two sons; her cup was full. Years later, she returns and time has not only passed, it has aged Naomi with adversity.

“’Don’t call me Naomi,she responded.Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?’”3

It seems strange to me when I read these words of Naomi. Is she is blaming God for the adversities she has faced, or indicating that the Lord has allowed these events to occur in her life? Certainly God is sovereign, He can choose to intervene in my life and He can choose to abstain. In each instance, He is holy, right, and just. Naomi looks over the span of her life and sees a life that has transformed from pleasant to bitter.

Does Naomi recognize God bearing witness to her words?

Naomi talks as if God isn’t present in the circumstances of her life. She gives a personal assessment of her life to the women of Bethlehem, but Naomi talks as if God is someone still in Moab, or a far distant galaxy. For many of us, life can seem like this at times. We ask ourselves:

Where is God when I need Him most urgently?

Why does God seem so far from me?

"Why is God silent in my struggle?"

In spite of Naomi’s circumstances, God was with her, bearing witness to her life and her words. It’s only now that I recognize how God strives with me.

God bears witness to my life because God is at work in my life.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.4

I believe Paul is saying that God not only bears witness to my life, He’s invested and involved in my life. Through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ, God has invested a new covenant in the life of each believer. God is involved in ways which my human eyes cannot see; my human understanding cannot fathom the things God is doing on my behalf. Even though I cannot truly grasp what God is doing for me, He tells me to thank Him just the same.

My thanksgiving is the method by which God bears witness that I recognize His presence in me.

When God sees that I am thankful and grateful to Him despite the circumstances in my life, He goes to work on my behalf; causing all things to work together for good. We can see God at work in both Naomi and Ruth in totally different ways. Ruth is grateful and obedient, Naomi is bitter and hurt; yet God is at work in both their lives. Looking back, it’s easy to see this now, but when one looks ahead, things are not always visibly clear. One might say, “It takes faith”, but where is Naomi’s faith?

I do not question Naomi’s faith; she believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Despite this knowledge, Naomi was unable to exercise her faith to move her from the place of bitterness to that pleasant place where she once was.

We all have a tendency to want to go back to the place where things were once so good, but there is no going back in the life of a believer.

Despite my words, despite my thoughts, despite my actions, God has a purpose for me; and He will bear witness to me and my purpose by causing all things to work together for good.

Father God,

You overwhelm me with Your steadfast love and kindness. You watch over our lives with tender care. You genuinely care about us even when our thoughts are clouded with doubt. How I must seem to You when I question Your love for me, when I ask, "Why are you silent to my prayers Lord?"

But You are here! Living, completely in me. Your Spirit breathes with my every breath. You are in my thoughts, my words, and my ways; I cannot escape Your presence. I don't want to escape You Father. I run to You that I may be in Your presence; sheltered by Your holy grace and mercy. I cannot escape Your love for me. It is a love that sets no boundaries. It is infinitely beyond my unerstanding. I cannot measure the height, depth, breath, and width of Your tremendous love.

You are causing all things to work together for good; You are totally invested in me. Why do You value me Father? I do not understand it. I have decided to not trouble my feeble thoughts with grasping things beyond me; I will just keep thanking You for everything You do on my behalf. Thank You for Jesus and The Holy Spirit. Thank You for grace and salvation. Thank You for blessing my life above all I could ask or think. I praise You with my whole heart in the name of Jesus, by whom we have a covenant with You. Amen.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays

Footnotes:
  1. Ruth 1:19, NLTB
  2. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, NASB
  3. Ruth 1:20-21, NLTB
  4. Romans 8:28, NASB
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  4. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  5. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  6. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  7. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6


17 comments:

My way said...

Welcome to my blog

http://my-way-here.blogspot.com/

MTJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MTJ said...

My Way: Thank you for leaving a link to your blog. If you read my profile, you must realize that I'm a Christian. While I realize that there are many religions and philosophies that humans embrace, I am not searching for a religion or philosophy; I have found faith in the salvation of Jesus Christ.

I don't use my blog as a forum to debate the validity of Christianity, or to explore (what I consider) the falacies of human reasoning.

There is a time and a place for everything. This is neither the time nor the place for me to debate Islam. I can say nothing regarding Islam that would convince you to embrace Christ Jesus. Your belief can offer me no words to alter my conviction and faith in Christ.

What we both can do is earnestly seek the face of God (the one whom you call Allah). I have come to realize that it's not about who of us is right and who is wrong, the truth is that Allah is right, and we are wrong.

If Allah, Jehovah or any of the hundreds of names we humans use to refer to Him is really God, then I must believe that He is beyond my definition of what a god must be. That being said, I must surrender my stubborn and inflexible way of thinking and ask Him to reveal His truth to me; only God can reveal truth.

Since you and I cannot equate ourselves with God, we have no capacity to reveal truth. We can give our opinion, our point of view, but what is that compared to the revelation of truth? It is nothing.

I am not threatened by the presence of a Muslim visitor to my blog; I welcome you. I encourage you to continue to seek the face of Allah and the revelation of truth. You see, I don't believe that God or Allah restricts His revelation to those who genuniely seek truth.

If God be Allah and Islam is truth, He will prove it to me beyond a shadow of doubt; and there is nothing that you or I can do to stop or expedite it.

If faith in the salvation of Jesus Christ is true, I cannot nor will I waste my time considering a substitute form of thinking. How could I explain to God that I'm seeking truth from another source?

I've said all this to point out that it's nice to think we know something others don't know. It makes one feel good and privileged. But the truth is that I am just a man whose many failures remind me how often I don't measure up to the righteousness of God. I depend upon His love, grace and kindness each day, and even then I still manage to fall.

I have nothing of my own to offer you. I cannot compliment your beliefs or pat you on the back. I can only pray that you and I both meet at the intersection of truth.

Stephen Phillip Porter said...

Hello MTJ,

I've enjoyed your series of posts on Ruth and Naomi. In this post in particular, I wanted to comment on the God works all things for the good part. I once heard someone say that God will use any means necessary to transform you into the likeness of His Son. I can't remember who it was, but I did a study on the idea of that, and came across Deut 30:1-3. After going through all the blessing and the cursing of the law, Moses tells the Israelites:

"So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.

I haven't really developed the idea to much, but God's use of adversity in our lives is something that's been circling in my brain lately, and your post brought it back up.

Kim @ Stuff could... said...

I have enjoyed these lessons also. I agree and believe in gratefulness, thankfulness!

Patti Hanan said...

It is encouraging to read how God worked through the lives of Ruth and Naomi. Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite verses. God indeed works all things out for good to those who believe in him and are called according to his purpose. Blessings!

Sharon said...

MTJ - You have spoken about many of the things that have been on my own mind and heart the last couple of weeks.

I have to believe - I will choose to believe - that His ways are perfect. And so, when things happen in my life that aren't "good" - then His ways are better than mine, His definition of good is higher than mine.

So, I pray that God will continue to move me away from any fear or bitterness, into the place of faith - and that He will enable me to stand strong.

GOD BLESS!

Judy said...

Hi MTJ,

I found your comment to your Muslim visitor interesting. However, as Christians I think we need to be a little bit more forthcoming when sharing the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to forcefully change his mind but to share the truth of Christ for who he is and what he's done for mankind. And then trust God to water His word and cause the increase. As you probably know, the word Allah is the Arabic word for God, but Allah is not equivalent to the God of Christianity. Allah could never reveal truth, because he is not the true and living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Anyway, just thought I share my thoughts. :-)

Blessings,
Judy

Charlotte/For Such A Time As This said...

I've enjoyed reading your series on Ruth. You shared a lot of insights I hadn't thought about.

Joan said...

MTJ - I have often though of Naomi and her bitterness. Like you, I'm not sure whether or not she blamed God. It would seem as such, but perhaps she was only stating the truth that everything dear to her had been taken away. She willingly followed her husband, who made a bad choice, and now suffered the consequences.

But as the story of Ruth unfolds, it shows that, no matter what mistakes or bad choices we make in our lives, God can turn them for good. (As you pointed out in Romans 8:28). I've always found it interesting that when Matthew gives his account of Jesus' geneology line, he names five women, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. With the exception of Mary, all of them had either a sordid past, committed adultury, or came from a bloodline other than from Israel.

But God redeemed them and through their blood line, Christ came into the world. It shows that salvation for the gentiles is not just a New Testiment concept. God had it in His master plan all along.

Blessings,
Joan

Charlotte said...

Thanks for sharing your insight into these scriptures. There is so much to be learned from the story of Ruth.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Mari said...

Wonderful post! Like I tell my husband always, we must thank God for everything and always, even in hard times, especially then. When we go through testing that when we can proof our faith and gain knowledge through our mistakes.

God bless :)

Judy said...

Hi MTJ,

I think I understand what you are saying. I agree that no human can claim to know all there is to know about God, and that He cannot be defined or confined by mere human words. God does exceed any words we might use to describe Him, but what we believe about Him and who we believe his is (through the revelation of the Father) will determine our eternal destiny.

So yes, you are right in that God has to reveal Truth to everyone walking the earth, and it is up to that person to believe it or not. He gives us a choice. Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you say I am?" And when Peter said 'you are the Christ, the son of the living God,' Jesus said he was right and that no one revealed that to Him except the Father in heaven. So, yes the revelation of truth must come from the Father. Hallelujah!

You may be right that if that person was truly seeking God, she would not have left a link to a Muslim blog. But who knows, maybe that person is seeking God, but the Truth just hasn't been revealed to her yet. Also remember, unbelievers walk in darkness. The devil blinds the minds of unbelievers so that they do not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

In these instances, we ought to pray for the blinders to be removed and share the revelation of Christ the Father revealed to us with them.

But I hear you ... I, too, don't like to debate or argue about God's Word, the Christian faith, with anyone. Been there, done that. It's useless. You can't argue anyone into the Kingdom.

God's word is too precious and wonderful to argue over. Jesus said don't cast your pearls before swine. And he meant it. :-)

Blessings,
Judy

peggy aplSEEDS said...

thank you for sharing your inspiring reflections. many of the words you wrote echoed in mine.
a blessed Easter season!
peggy aplSEEDS

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

These are some great scriptures, thank-you.
Blessings,
Ginger

Pamela said...

It does seem that trials can produce bitterness. It takes a big person to count blessings in the middle of them. Using Naomi as an example, God is forgiving of our reaction in times of pain. Of that I am very thankful.

Pamela

Angie @ www.ourjoyfulliving.com said...

You have a nice blog
come over for a visit
www.ourjofulliving.com
I AM HOSTING A GREAT GIVEAWAY AS WELL