Hope Church- where I pastor- is studying the Book of Ruth during the season of Lent. I love Ruth because it is short (4 chapters), yet in it we see many modern issues that allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us in powerful ways. You can listen to the sermon from week 1 here. (Unfortunately, there were technical issues that prevented week 2 from being recorded.)
The back story of the book of Ruth is a famine. It threatens Elimelech and Naomi’s livelihood to the point that they uproot and move from Bethlehem for the foreign nation of Moab. Once there- Elimelech dies, his two sons marry Moabite women; ten years later, both sons are dead- leaving Naomi with two foreign daughter-in-laws in a time when they needed a husband to offer protection and provisions.
Naomi decides to go back to Bethlehem (where the Lord has again brought food), where she has extended family and hope. She urges both Orpah and Ruth to go back home to Moab to re-start their lives there. Orpah decides to go back. Ruth stays.
When Naomi and Ruth come to Bethlehem- Naomi describes herself as bitter. She has experienced famine, the loss of a husband and two sons. She tells her family, friends, and community that she has come back home empty handed (never mind that Ruth is there) and that it is the Lords doing that she is empty.
What do we do with tragedy? With Trials?
What do we do with death? Unemployment? Getting behind in our rent/mortgage?
In Naomi, we see someone who is wrestling with bitterness. She has lost her husband, two sons, and now is starting over in life. She will have to let go of bitterness in order to take hold of the life God has for her.
How often do we face trials and tragedy that leave us filled with bitterness or anger? How many grudges are we holding onto? Are we struggling with unforgiveness? Are the things we are holding on to keeping us from experiencing the life God has for us?
My prayer for the people of Hope Church- and for you reading this- is that regardless of what life has brought us, that we would let go of anger and bitterness; leave those things behind and walk with God in the life God desire to give us.