December 14, 2016
Message Summary: Today, remember the story of Ruth and Naomi, these distant great-grandmas to our Savior. Determine to overcome any trace of bitterness you may be dealing with by God’s grace.
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“Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth” (Matthew 1:5). “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God'” (Ruth 1:16).
Yesterday we came across a thoughtful story on Paul Heil’s “The Gospel Greats” newsletter. It may at first seem “tasteless” but it’s got a good message.
He paused, “Lord help us to realize when life gets hard, when things come up that we don’t like, whenever we don’t understand what You are doing, that we need to wait and see what You are making. After you get through mixing and baking, it’ll probably be something even better than biscuits.” Amen.
What kind of “ingredients” are mixed and baked into your life? Let us consider this question in regard to our genealogical background. We all have genetic ingredients although we tend to consider it primarily in regard to the ancestors we knew. But a lot of people make up our genealogical ingredients going all the way back to our mutual grandparents, Adam and Eve.
Today we look at the third woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ which is Ruth (Matthew 1:5). Apart from the book that bears her name this is the only mention of her in the entire Bible. The book of Ruth could have been a narrative of two women, Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, who fought bitterness. Instead it is a delightful account of the remnant of true faith and goodness. It is a picture of loyalty so esteemed by millions who have read the account that wedding ceremonies, past and present, are often built upon the theme of loyalty as seen in the person of Ruth.
Ruth is a Moabitess belonging to a people who were ancient enemies of the Israelites. The story is set in the time of the Judges characterized by a period of religious and moral decadence. But the story of Ruth reflects a temporary time of peace between Israel and Moab, unlike the dark picture that otherwise accounts for the evil period of the Judges. She had married an Israelite who earlier had moved to Moab with his family during a time of famine in their homeland. How many of you know his name?
In time her husband died and she became a widow, along with both her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. What deep heartache these women surely experienced. When Naomi decided to return to Israel after the famine lifted, Ruth, with great courage and loyalty, insisted on going with her and thus the classic statement of faith in our daily text; “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
Over time things went well for Ruth. She married an Israelite and bore a baby son who was a delight to her mother-in-law and a distant great-grandpa to Jesus.
Now Ruth had surely faced one of the greatest enemies of our spiritual progress. We are specifically told that Naomi had fought with bitterness (Ruth 1:20,21). When we have gone through tough times we can grow bitter. It can eat at our spiritual life like a deadly cancer as we torment ourselves with questions like “Why me?”, “It’s not fair”, etc.
But God takes our brokenness and builds a bridge of great compassion and comfort to those whose hearts are willing to trust Him. Today, remember the story of Ruth and Naomi, these distant great-grandmas to our Savior. Determine to overcome any trace of bitterness you may be dealing with by God’s grace.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
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“Two Children” Video Steve & Annie Chapman An excellent song regarding two siblings raised in the same family with an alcoholic father. One grew sour and bitter, the other found peace and joy. We make the choice of the way we view life, no matter our ingredients or circumstances. When writing this message I asked Brooksyne if she could think of any songs on bitterness and she suggested this one. When we listen to this song various people come to mind through our over 40 years of ministry and we have seen this dynamic of contrasting forgiveness and bitterness.
Today’s photo of a winter sunrise over Lake Huron was taken by our friend Howard Blichfeldt, a committed Christian and professional photographer, from the Pittsburgh area. More samples of his photographs are on his website. We are supposed to get a blast of cold weather here in our area later this week but so far have not had a lasting snow.
Additional study note on today’s message: As I ponder this account it occurs to me that biologically Naomi was not the baby’s grandmother (since Ruth was her daughter in law through marriage to her deceased son). However this didn’t keep her from taking the baby, placing him on her lap to lovingly care for him (Ruth 4:16). In fact the bond was so great that the women living there said, “Naomi has a son” (v.17). In overcoming bitterness we often have to see God’s hand in blessing us in ways other than the normal pattern.
Initially Naomi did deal with bitterness “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season.
“In Remembrance of Me” pdf This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services over the years. We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling. Here’s a great Communion Hymn for Christmas (Video)
“When Christ Was Born” pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of “How Great Thou Art”. It’s a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with and love the tune.
We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).