Act 1: The Bitter Pill of God's Providence
BIG IDEA | Crisis creates an opportunity to trust God’s character and capability
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When we experience a crisis or trial, difficulty or pain, it's a lot like walking through smoke. Not only is it nearly impossible to see God’s plan, it blinds us to the properties of God’s very character - who He is and what He’s like. We can lose our perspective completely.
The book of Ruth is the story of two people surrounded by the suffocating smoke of suffering, loss, and disappointment, and the one true God who is working in and through that smoke. It shows us a picture of God’s providence: how He works through all He’s created to insure His good and perfect plan is accomplished.
This is not just true in the story of Ruth, it’s true in our stories as well. God is using every situation, circumstance, and season for good. The problem is, sometimes we can’t see it.
The most important theme of the book of Ruth is this, that God’s plan is always greater than my perspective.
The Crisis (v.1-5)
The story of Ruth begins with a crisis, not just for one family but for an entire nation. God’s people are in spiritual, political and economic disarray. The nation of Israel has rejected God and as a result, God’s judgment has brought famine to the land.
In order to save his family, Elimelech leaves Bethlehem with his wife and two sons and moves to Moab, a pagan nation on the other side of the Dead Sea. Though this decision to move may have been rooted in disbelief and disobedience, God was at work.
Sadly, while living in Moab, Elimelech dies. His two sons marry Moabite women, but not long after, both sons die as well, leaving Naomi in a desperate situation. A widow with no sons in a foreign land meant she had no support and no future.
An Opportunity Seized (v.6-18)
After ten years in Moab, Naomi hears that God has lifted the famine in Israel. She decides to return to Bethlehem with her daughters-in law, Ruth and Orpah. Not far into the trip, she has a change of heart and pleads with the two younger women to return to their mothers and forge new lives for themselves. These girls had shown kindness to Naomi and she wanted more for them.
At first, they both protest, but finally Orpah turns back. Ruth, however, seizes the opportunity this crisis has created. She trusts her heart and life in service to not only Naomi, but to Naomi’s God, even in the face of the crisis He Himself has allowed.
This decision would turn out to be a gift for all generations to come.
An Opportunity Missed (v. 19-22)
Blinded by the smoke of her suffering, Naomi returns to Bethlehem bitter and heartbroken. She only sees the heartache she has experienced; she misses the opportunity to discover God’s plan in the situation.
Through Naomi’s story and response, we learn five providence principles to build our lives on:
1. God is always in control.
God was sovereign over the famine, the death of her husband and sons, and the provision in Bethlehem that motivated Naomi’s return. But Naomi failed to see that God was redeeming her situation for good.
Nothing in this story and nothing in our own lives happens outside the sovereign control of God. While not all of what happens in the world is God’s will, He works in all of it to bring about good.
2. God’s plan doesn’t always make sense.
Naomi couldn’t see God’s plan. She must have wondered, “God, how could you let this happen: How could you leave me with nothing?” We, too, may not see it, get it, or understand it. But we can trust God is doing something!
The most serious times to cling to the sovereign hand of God are the smoke-filled seasons of life.
3. Bitterness blinds us to God’s best
Naomi was right about God’s hand being sovereign over her crisis; what she missed was His heart in it. Her bitterness blinded her to the possibility that God had a plan in her crisis and that His plan was best.
We often fall victim to the same tendency: seeing God’s hand in our crisis but missing His heart.
4. God’s plan is always for my good.
The story of Ruth is an example of God’s commitment to our good in all things. God not only worked out this crisis for their good and the good of Israel, He worked it out for the good of the world.
Israel needed a godly king to unite the people and lead them back to God. Ruth’s great grandson was David, from whose line would come the true and greater King, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He united God’s people and restored us to the God who made us.
God was willing to allow Ruth and Naomi to be broken, so that He could bless them. He was willing to allow them to suffer so we could be saved. Even in pain, God’s plan is good.
5. Trusting God frees me to follow, love, and serve.
Because Ruth trusted God’s character and capability in the crisis He allowed in her life, she was saved and freed to follow, love and serve Him, as well as Naomi.
God calls to us in the difficulties, consequences, and trials He allows. Every crisis – every smoke filled season – creates an opportunity to trust His character and capability.
(Adapted by Diane Rivers from sermon entitled, "The Bitter Pill of God's Providence.)
Question for further reflection:
Where do I currently need to trust God’s good plan for my life?