Seeing God At Work!

-We Minimize Sin’s Damage!

It seems like one of the most difficult things, for us to discern, is when and where God is at work in our lives!  In our own little world—that we’ve created in our own little minds—we tend to think of God’s work, in our lives, as little more than a “clean-up on aisle 7.”  No harm! No foul! Our sin is just a little “spill” that God cleans up for us! But, in fact, our brokenness & our sinful depravity runs so deep that God’s work, in us, requires major surgery; not, just a little “clean up.” We minimize the extent of the damage that sin has done to us!

-Missing God’s Construction Signs!

It’s part of our brokenness that we’re blinded, by our brokenness, so we can’t even see how badly broken we are! We exaggerate how good we are & how far we’ve come in our faith! So, it’s easy for us to miss the “construction signs” when God is at work in us! He uses your marriage to work on you! He can use your job! He can use medical issues & a lot of other things that we may not think about! That’s what this post is all about— seeing God at work in our lives! Not just in the big things or the obvious places; but, sometimes in the corners of our lives! Places where we wouldn’t necessarily think of Him as working!

-We Need Spiritual Eyes!

If we’re looking at life strictly through the eyes of our human flesh we won’t see everywhere that God is at work! We need spiritual eyes! We need the help of God’s Holy Spirit to remove the blinders from our eyes & unstop our ears to hear what He’s telling us.  Without His help, we cannot see the work that God is doing, in us, through the events in our lives! It may feel, at times, like He’s distant! Like He’s left you on your own to figure things out! But, He hasn’t & He never will! He’s using the difficulties and pressures you face to bring to the surface all the areas of your life that He’s working on in you!

-Signs God Is At Work!

And, I can tell you that He’s at work, in you, every time you’re angry or agitated or you have a heightened sense of frustration! So, take a deep breath! Bow your head & ask Him to show you what He’s doing; and, to support you even as He works! Don’t ever make the mistake of separating out the secular part of your life from the sacred! Let me tell you what I mean by that— don’t ever assume that there’s like “church” & that’s God’s part of your life; but, God’s not involved with the rest of your life! All the earth is Holy Ground! There is no secular! God rules over everything! He’s in all the details!

-God’s Providential Blessings!

And, that’s, in part, what God’s Holy Spirit intends to show us in many of the Old Testament stories! We don’t have all the doctrinal details laid out for us in the same way we do in the New Testament. God’s Spirit intends to help us wrestle with these stories & reveal the truth in a way that might not be obvious at our first reading of the passage. We see how God uses someone’s betrayal, against us, to return us to prayer! The pain of the betrayal, in your life, can be so painful that God may use it to get your attention & get you re-focused on spending time with Him! David experiences the betrayal of his own son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15). Absalom had the appearance of a movie star! In fact, the Scripture says he, “…had a handsome appearance from the soul of his foot to the crown of his head.” When Absalom betrayed David & forced him to run for his life, God used the experience to return David to his spiritual roots of prayer!

It Just So Happened!

-It Was No Coincidence!

So, the Old Testament book of Ruth begins with the sad story of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi. Because of a severe famine, Naomi’s family moves away from Israel, their homeland. But, when her husband and 2 sons die, in a foreign land, Naomi decided it was time to return home! Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, determined to go with her! When it was time to look for work, Ruth found a job gleaning barley for a farmer, who just “coincidentally” happened to be one of Naomi’s relatives!  It reads, in ch.2:3, that “…she happened to be in the portion of land belonging to Boaz, who was from Elimelech’s (Naomi’s deceased husband) family.”

-Speaking Tongue-In-Cheek!

Whenever you come across a phrase like that—  “…happened to be…”— that’s the Bible speaking kind of tongue-in-cheek because there are no coincidences in the universe! None! God is Sovereign & Providential over everything that happens in our lives. So, this is just part of God’s “emptying” of Naomi in order to “make room” for Him. To fill her with Himself! Naomi says this about Ruth’s “chance” meeting of Boaz:  “May he be blessed by the Lord, who has not forsaken his kindness to the living or the dead.’ Naomi continued, ‘The man is a close relative. He is one of our family redeemers” (2:20).  Now, a “family redeemer” sounds foreign to us because it’s not part of our culture; but, it was a provision that God put in the Law of Moses.

-The Family Redeemer!

In the book of Leviticus, the “family redeemer”— or, the “kinsman redeemer” some translations say— was a male relative who had the responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble; or, in danger; or, had an urgent need! So, here in Ruth’s story, Boaz was the family redeemer who steps into Naomi’s life! He redeems or buys back everything she had lost because of her husband Elimelech’s death. That included the land her family inherited when they entered the promised land; and, it also meant he would care for all of Naomi’s needs & he would marry her daughter-in-law, Ruth; and, raise up a family to pass on the inheritance to! That was the law, custom & culture of Israel’s family redeemer!

-Better Than 7 Sons!

So, Boaz marries Ruth; and, they have a child, Obed, who fathered Jesse, who fathered Israel’s King David, who’s genealogy ultimately included our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ! The story of Ruth ends with these words spoken to Naomi by her friends: “Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel.  He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

-God’s Providential Blessings!

At the start of the story, Naomi said she was empty! Then, God emptied her of all the competing loves, in her life, that had become idols. But, God didn’t leave her empty! He never does! He fills her back up! That’s one of the great truths of Ruth’s story—God fills us up through His providential blessings in our lives! He’s always blessing us! Even, like Naomi, when we don’t see it! Sometimes, He has to empty us first of all the competing loves & interests  before He can make room to fill us with His blessings! We see His blessings only after we’ve emptied ourselves of all self-interests and quit making demands of God! When we submit to His Sovereignty & we humble ourselves & admit He knows best, then we are ready to receive His blessings! Only then will we see that Jesus is our “family redeemer” ready & able to save us!

Bitterness Toward God!

-What’s Right In Your Own Eyes?

The opening line in the Old Testament book of Ruth reads like this:    “During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land.” So, Ruth needs to be read, in the context, of the book of Judges. In other words, the events take place at that time when, “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes…” Literally, people did whatever they wanted! They lived by the popular philosophy, of our day, called “moral relativism”; which, means that the famine was about more than a lack of food, water & the necessary provisions of life! There was a famine of “faith” in God & there was a famine of “moral character.” That’s the backdrop of Ruth’s story!

-A Redemption Story!

It’s a story about redemption! That is the overarching theme in Ruth’s story. In the opening verse, of the 1st chapter, we see that the famine prompted a man, named Elimelech, to leave Israel— with his wife, Naomi, and their 2 sons— and, move temporarily to the land of Moab. It appears, from the story, that Elimelech died shortly after their arrival; but, for whatever reason (perhaps because the famine raged on) Naomi continued in Moab & raised her 2 sons, who married Moabite women. Sadly, both her sons died; and, Naomi is left with only her 2 daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. Naomi heard that God had provided for the needs of His people, Israel, and the famine had ended (v.6).

-Wherever You Go, I Will Go!

So, she set out to return to Israel by herself, encouraging her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab. But, Ruth was determined to go with her. In v.16, Ruth speaks those famous words to her mother-in-law, Naomi:  “For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” When Naomi & Ruth return to Naomi’s home town, everyone recognizes her:  “Is that you, Naomi?” But, notice her bitter response:  “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty…” (v.20).

-Struggling With Bitterness?

If you’re struggling with bitterness, over the circumstances in your own life, Ruth is the book for you! If you look at all the junk going on in the world & you want to blame God, Ruth is a good book for you to read. Ruth was bitter with God:  “…the Lord has brought be back empty…” What the story reveals is that Naomi had competing gods in her life! So, God has to empty us of all our competing gods in order to break us & make us willing to bow to Him alone! Left to ourselves, we fill our lives with competing gods, from birth.  And, what are some of our false gods?

-The False Gods We Worship!

We are prone to worship the false gods of “safety” & “happiness” & “leisure” & a “pain-free life.” We worship the “gods” who make our lives bright & cheery; and, become satisfied with those things which will not last! And, like Israel, we choose those temporary pleasure gods & reject the God who offers eternal life! So, God has to remove some of those “other loves” in our life to create the space & capacity necessary to genuinely love Him! To truly worship God, with our whole heart, we have to denounce all the competing loves & interests; and, trust God’s Sovereign providence over all areas of our life! Naomi had some competing gods in her life from which she need to be delivered! At the end of the 1st chapter, they arrive in Israel at the time of the barley harvest. So, Ruth gets a job, working to glean the barley for a farmer who “coincidentally” was a relative to Naomi! Come back next week for the rest of the story!