“For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope” (Rom 15:4)
I was reading today the first chapter of the Book of Ruth. If you identify with Naomi, then you can say that life is extremely unfair. Everything that can be wrong happened to her. She was once a happy married woman with two sons. The family went to live ‘abroad’ where the ‘grass was greener’. They had dreams of success, prosperity and happiness. But while living in Moab, her husband and her two sons died. This was a tragedy. She was left with her two pagan daughters in law. A broken hearted poor widow, Naomi hears that God has blessed her country with prosperity. She decides to come back home. Her daughters in law follow her. She discourages them to go with her to the land of Judah. She tells them there is no future for them over there. Orpah weeps and goes back to her people and to her gods. But Ruth ‘clung’ to her. She makes one of the most beautiful speeches in the Bible. She commits herself to be with Naomi even unto death. This is a stronger commitment than marriage which ends ‘until death do us part’.
Naomi saw only darkness and no hope at all. But Ruth sees a ray of light and a faint hope ahead. Naomi complains that God afflicted her. She blames God for changing a pleasant fulfilling life into an empty barren hopeless bitter existence. But to her surprise, Ruth chooses this very God who ‘afflicts’ people. By faith in the same God of affliction, she is not afraid of passing thru darkness knowing that there is light at the end of that tunnel. Ruth’s trust in the God of Naomi is rewarded with a new life. She will soon marry Boaz and has a son. She becomes one of the three foreign women in the line of Jesus Christ. This is a wonderful story of grace.
I have seen this phenomenon in the church. Old believers compromise their faith and backslide internally. They still attend church but they carry a grudge against God. They get disappointed and bitter against the very God they try to serve. Then a new believer comes along full of faith and zeal to serve God. The old bitter believer tries to discourage the new Christian. The new believer tries to encourage the old one. This is a spiritual battle. In the case of Ruth, she won over the heart of Naomi and later Boaz by her simple pure faith in Jehovah God. She made a radical commitment to serve God and His servant Naomi. The God of Israel rewarded her beyond her dreams.
The Word of God says that by reading these ‘old’ stories, we shall find the strength to endure hard times, encouragement and hope. We need to totally surrender our hearts and lives to the Living God. Like Ruth, we need to cling to God and to serve the human delegated authority He had placed over us. We set both our hands on the plow and we do not look back. We chose to die to the past of sin, if it was sweet or bitter. We change natural people for spiritual company. We change natural desires for spiritual ones. We take our cross and follow Jesus! We all need one another. We encourage ourselves so that we can encourage others. Your testimony may be the only hope some people have before committing (spiritual) suicide. Just hold on there! For your sake and for the sake of many! Lastly, we need to remember that God sees and He knows everything. There may be a time of persecution, suffering, loneliness and broken dreams. But God can change any pain into progress and failure into success. Child of God, be encouraged today! I hear the sound of rejoicing in the tents of the righteous! In Jesus name, amen!