Hey you fabulous women!
Are you ready for round 2? Don't get overwhelmed by the discussion questions. As I mentioned last night we did not have time for all of them. So pick a few and comment on them. We would love to hear from you.
We are going to take some time to focus on Naomi today and we’re going to dive headlong into a subject we all LOVE ‘willful sin’. Our story starts out with the worldly example of what to do when famine strikes…Run to the other side of the fence. The opening act is Naomi and her husband traveling away from Judah to find food in Moab.
Now I get men and their need to provide. I’m guessing Elimelech was desperate to feed his family and like all the other Israelites in the time of Judges, he took the situation into his own hands. Instead of waiting and having faith that God would reward them for covenant faithfulness towards Him, they adjusted their surroundings to fit their needs. Don’t forget that God used famine throughout this word to get the attention of His people.
We love to take matters into our own hands don’t we? How have you done that in your life? When God just doesn’t come through for you? I’ve been there. BIG TIME. A few years ago I had just had it. I had prayed for years over a particular situation…when I mean years I mean SEVERAL and I mean on my face weeping…and God did not come through for me on what I thought would be appropriate timing. So when He finally began to show me He was going to answer my prayer…He had the audacity to answer it HIS way….I mean…I had waited for years and not only did He not respect my time frame…He didn’t even do it the way I asked him. I was fit to be tied. So I…not liking the direction we were going…decided to dig my own path out of the situation and before I knew it I had dug a hole. I was in a self inflicted famine…I was diving into willful sin. So I see Elimelech and Naomi living in Judah and surrounded by people who do what they want. So why not jump on over to Moab where they know there is plenty already...NEVERMIND that this is a group of people that God has specifically told them not to intermarry with…they had 2 boys…what did they think was going to happen? I think the funny thing about this story and in all our stories is…wherever you go, there you are…and no matter how far away you run…God still knows just where to find you. I think that fact about Him is great when we need Him. But when we’re lost on purpose, it gets a little under your skin. You just want to yell…”hey…can I get some privacy for one minute? “
So Naomi has left a famine in Judah only to find herself in the famine of her life. I want to ask you, are you in a self inflicted famine in your life? And if you answered yes, how are you dealing with it?
I have a theory about Naomi…I’m guessing it’s not going to be a popular one. I think Naomi was a little on the selfish side. I think she wanted Ruth and Orpah to leave. I mean desperately she wanted them to leave. I have an inkling it wasn’t as much about their well being as we’d like to think. I can just see her leading the way back to Judah with both women in tow thinking…’Well now it’s REALLY a mess! First we leave to find food, then everyone around me dies, and now I’m saddled with these two girls that are Moabite and if I take them home who KNOWS what kind of scrutiny I’ll go under’. Naomi has a dilemma.
1. Point #1 The only place to find your way out of a mess is succumbing to obedience to God.
This is not the popular route to go. I can’t imagine there are too many people who find themselves in the midst of a mountain of lies who are just so excited to lay it out on the line and let the world know they have been a fraud to the people around them. Or, sometimes we’re waiting on God to change our circumstances and when He doesn’t we do what we can to change it ourselves. Sometimes in the famine of our life we are so desperate for God to create a ‘better’ out for us than what He’s already given us. Or when He say’s WAIT…it’s just too hard. So that is what I think Naomi was trying to do.
Ruth 1:7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show kindness to you as you have shown to your dead and to me” and Ruth and Orpah weep and I bet at that moment Ruth is breathing a sigh of relief. Orpah goes and Naomi realizes Ruth hasn’t left yet. I have this funny vision of when kids like to wrap themselves around your leg…you know…they hold on with a death grip and you just want to shake them off but you can’t. So Naomi is trying to shake Ruth off, and again she says: Go back, your sister is going, go with her. And Ruth, Ruth says: Nope
2. Point #2: When a situation won’t leave you, maybe God actually wants you to deal with it.
So Naomi moves forward, I think not sure how she’s going to deal with it. They come to Judah and the whole town is rejoicing and I think AGAIN Naomi is looking for a way out of her mess and she says: Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara, which means bitter. Don’t rejoice for me, feel sorry for me.
We have a way of trying to dig ourselves out of our own messes. What I’ve learned in my own circumstances is I can either let God have His way with me now…or He is going to have His way with me later. It’s kinda like mom saying, knock it off or when your father gets home…. You can knock it off now or He’ll knock it out of you later. Hebrews 10:31 summarizes it nicely for us: It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”
What we miss a lot of the time during self inflicted hardship is God has a plan even in that.
3. Point #3 is He wants to take our mess and turn it into a Message.
There are a lot of people living without hope to get out of the situation they are in. Don’t miss hear me, I’m not talking about the unexpected storms of life that move you forward. I’m specifically talking about the storm that keeps coming and it’s the obvious one that God wants you to deal with. It’s the one that every time you think about your hands sweat and you just shove it back down because you don’t want to have to go back a failure and admit to someone that you messed up. I was listening on the radio yesterday…there is a show I like to listen to every once in a while, but more often than not I’m switching it to another station because it gets a little inappropriate. The gal had her voice disguised and she was talking about how she had had an affair and she now had children with her husband and she loved him and she would never tell him the truth. And the DJ’s were like, yea yea…it does nothing for him to know….and I wanted to reach through the radio and strangle both of them, but it was what she said that struck me: I wake up every morning thinking about it and I go to bed thinking about it…not because I want him, but because it plagues me and I’ll never be able to forgive myself. I WAS SCREAMING AT THE RADIO….there is HOPE! There is hope…God doesn’t want you to live in your famine anymore than you do, but He can only work with what you give Him. If you’re not willing to give yourself totally to Him, this famine will last and last and last. He wants to take that…mess….and turn it into a message.
What is your famine? What are you trying to overcome on your own that God will freely lift you up and away from? Read 1 Peter 5:6-10
There IS hope. I’m not just throwing out scripture and talking about being in willful sin and you’re sitting back thinking ‘she’s the teacher…how would she know’ um…because I HAVE REALLY REALLY screwed up in the past. The beautiful thing about God is He doesn’t take those things and hold them over my head to shame me…He has turned it into His ministry so that all of you would see that God really can do something with your mess….and more than that…He WANTS to do something with your mess. He doesn’t want you living with the pain of the past anymore than you do. Grab a Godly friend…someone who you know won’t let you get away with anything…and confess…then get some Godly counsel from your pastor or counselor on where to go from there. Don’t let the enemy lie to you and tell you there is no hope…
I hope you are getting a lot out of this study. If you need encouragement and prayer, I would love the opportunity to pray for you and with you. Just grab me anytime or shoot me a message and let me know how and what I can pray for you.
As always, you are near and dear to me
Here are your discussion questions...
1. What was the most impacting moment for you this week?
2. Discuss a time in your life when you were tempted to leave the place God had you in for something easier or more attractive?
3. Turn to the middle of Week One, to the bottom of p.21 and the top of p.22. I loved Kelly’s discussion about her friend “weeping forward.” What do you think that means? Several of you share a season in your life when you feel like you wept forward and several others might consider sharing a season in your life when you wept backward. Most of us have done both at some point in our lives.
4. How has the word Hesed enriched your understanding of love?
5. What’s an area in your life where you’ve had to choose a long obedience in the same direction?
6. What did you learn about the power of words?
7. How does Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi encourage you to show this same type of committed loyalty to a friend or loved one who might not always be the easiest to love?
8. Are there times you have felt like God’s blessing was for everyone but you?
9. Look back at the middle of page 12 where Kelly had us look up Deuteronomy 23 and Judges 3 to get some background on the Moabites. Read Deuteronomy 23:3-5 together. In your small group, I want you to talk about a few things that have happened in your lives that Satan would love to use to curse you. You can think of it conceptually more than literally if that helps. At the end of class today, I want you to claim that fifth verse together in prayer and believe God to turn those curses into blessings!