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Sometimes, There's an Exception to the Rule!

Read: Ruth 1-4

 

Usually, if something becomes tainted with a bitter taste, it can't be fixed. Here's an example from a few weeks ago. Chocolate milk. That's what I wanted. So, I mixed the cocoa and sugar in a cup and poured in the last of the milk. Stir, stir. Now, it was time to savor the flavor. Except it was terrible. The milk had turned bitter, and even if I had emptied 1/2 cup of additional sugar and followed it with lots of additional Dutch processed cocoa, it wouldn't have been fit to drink. Sadly, bitter things can't become sweet. Or is there an exception to that rule? Yes, there is, and we find a sweet example of it tucked into Ruth's story, Ruth 1-4.

 

Before Israel asked for a king, judges were in charge over God's people. It was during this time that Ruth's story as related in the book that is named for her, took place. The story began with a famine in Israel and the decision that was made to move to Moab. So, Naomi and her husband, along with their two sons, left Israel. Both sons married Moabite women. That's where Ruth entered the picture since, along with Orpah, she was one of them. However, sadly during these years Naomi's husband died, and so did her two sons. She and her daughters-in-law were left alone. One day, Naomi heard that the famine had ended in Israel; so, she and the two other widows made ready to go back home to Naomi's country. It was Naomi's wish that her daughters-in-law remain in Moab. They should go back to their mothers' homes and their Moabite gods. She was embittered and ready to leave everything behind in Moab. However, Ruth wouldn't hear of it. She wanted to be with Naomi. That's sweet, but even Ruth's loyal love didn't tamp down Naomi's bitterness. She spoke of the Lord having dealt bitterly with her and even told the women who came to greet them on their return that she had gone away full but had come back empty. She no longer wanted to be called by her name that meant pleasant. Instead, her desire was to be called bitter since the Lord had dealt bitterly with her. Ruth's love was there, but Naomi's bitterness and brokenness kept it from being a soothing balm. We can understand why the deaths of three loved ones had removed the light from Naomi's eyes and how the bitterness could have set in. Thankfully, the sweetness of Ruth wasn't tainted by the sadness that surrounded her. In fact, perhaps we see her doing the wisest thing of all in response to Naomi's words. As far as what we have in the Bible, Ruth said nothing at this time. She didn't try to point out her own love for Naomi as a picture of God's grace. She didn't tell her to count her blessings. She merely stayed with Naomi and didn't give up on blessing her. In short, she neither was embittered by Naomi's words nor did she withdraw from her mother-in-law.

 

In Ruth 2, we find Ruth going into the fields to provide food for them. Here she picked up sheaves. The provision God had made for those who were in need, Leviticus 23:22. This was the beginning of the emptying out of the bitterness Naomi was living with so that it could be replaced with the sweetness of God's grace and provision. We don't know exactly how many days passed between the end of Ruth 1 and the beginning of chapter 2, but in Ruth's second chapter, we see the providence and favor of God being poured out on Ruth and Naomi. We have a bird's eye view as Ruth who had come under God's wings, Ruth 2:12, began to see His favor showered upon her and Naomi.

How beautiful it must have been for Ruth to come home to Naomi. Not empty handed but carrying God's provision; yet, even sweeter than that it surely must have been to see Naomi's excitement and happiness. The joy of seeing the bitterness begin to melt away, replaced by the realization that God's care in the lives of both those who had died and those who were still alive hadn't ceased. The Lord's love hadn't been withdrawn after all. Instead of seeing the Lord as having opposed them, Naomi was, once again, able to see His hand.

 

The remainder of the book completes this story. There is a wedding and a sweet baby boy. A true happy ending. There's even more. This baby whose mother was from Moab and whose grandmother was an embittered Israelite appears in Matthew 1 in the lineage of Jesus, Matthew 1:3-6. He is the One Who will someday take away all that still remains of bitterness and replace it with unending joy, Psalm 16:11. He is the One Who opened the eyes of the Moabite woman and gave her the strength to stay with Naomi and turn to the One True God.

 

In Ephesians 4:31, the Lord calls His children to get rid of some things. Among them is bitterness. How can we do this? Ephesians 4:32 provides the antidote. It is the gracious and on-going forgiveness and full redemption that Jesus has secured for us through His death on the cross. The reminder that one day, all that has been so wrong will be made right.

 

Naomi and Ruth had the provision of grain, and we have the unending provision of grace. The love of God that He freely pours into our hearts through the provision of the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, we aren't charged to get rid of bitterness or anything else through our own power. No, it is only through God's enabling us, His children, John 1:11-12.

 

 

 

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