Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Ruth 1:8-21

Naomi said to them, “Each of you go back to your mother’s home. May the Lord show kindness to you as you have shown to the dead and to me. 9 May the Lord grant each of you rest in the house of a new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly.

10 They said to her, “We insist on returning with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi replied, “Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters. Go on, for I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me to have a husband tonight and to bear sons, 13 would you be willing to wait for them to grow up? Would you restrain yourselves from remarrying? No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.”

14 Again they wept loudly, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. Follow your sister-in-law.”

16 But Ruth replied:
Don’t plead with me to abandon you
or to return and not follow you.
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.
17 Where you die, I will die,
and there I will be buried.
May the Lord punish me,
and do so severely,
if anything but death separates you and me.

18 When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped talking to her.

19 The two of them traveled until they came to Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, the whole town was excited about their arrival and the local women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” 20 “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

The Original Intent

1) What names of God does Naomi use and what does this tell us about her faith? (verses 8, 9, 13, 17, 20-21)

If you read Naomi’s story closely, two things become exceedingly clear, she is deeply grieved and she relies faithfully on the character of God. There is never a point where she rails against Him angrily, she simply understands as a base line foundation that Yahweh is God, she is not, and He holds all sovereign authority. The way she speaks of God helps us understand how she views Him.

First, we note that each time she speaks of the Lord, she uses either “Yahweh” (written as LORD in our Bibles) or “šadday” (written as Almighty in our Bibles).

Yahweh is His personal name that He chose for Himself when He appeared at the burning bush to Moses right before He would bring His people out of slavery. (Exodus 3:14-15) The Lord gave permission for His people, the Israelites, to use “Yahweh” (I AM; meaning “to be” as in “self-existent”) in relationship with Him as a marker of His sovereignty and His close fellowship with them. He is the self-existent one and, though He needs no one, He initiated a relationship with Israel.

“Sadday” (perhaps you’ve seen or heard it as “El Shaddai”) is used 48 times in Scripture and all of them refer to God as the ALL-mighty one. He holds all power, but, interestingly, Sadday is also used when there is an extreme obstacle from a human perspective and the Almighty intervenes with astounding, divine compassion. Sadday depicts God’s compassion (Genesis 28:3), power (Job 11:7), authority (Job 13:3), justice (Job 8:3), kindness (Job 6:14), and satisfaction (Job 22:25-26).

For Naomi to use these names of God speaks of how she viewed herself under His sovereign rule as well as how she believed she was held in relationship with Him. She carried “both and” of protection and judgment under His name. (Psalm 91:1)

The Everyday Application

1) What names of God does Naomi use and what does this tell us about her faith? (verses 8, 9, 13, 17, 20-21)

How we talk about someone reveals much about our view of them. When gossiping tongues start up conversation, our word choices put our true hearts on display. If we use our words to slander, belittle, mock, or sarcastically demean, our beliefs about that person are made plain for all to know.

Our words and actions paint the truth about what we actually believe in our hearts. If you’re up for a challenge, consider writing down some things you know are true about God. Take as long as you need and maybe even add to it throughout the day as you think about the Lord. When you’re ready, take your list to the Lord and ask Him to help you reflect on your real, everyday, wake up, do the things, go to bed, life.

Does your life reflect your self-stated beliefs about God? Do your words? What about the way you interact in relationship with your spouse, children, coworkers, friends, and extended family? For a deeper challenge, consider asking a couple of friends to make their own list of what they think you believe about God.

Compare the lists and take them to the Lord; be intent on saturating yourself in His Word and asking the Spirit to lead and convict you as you study His character and how that impacts your system of lived-out beliefs.

Perhaps there is an aspect of the Lord you want to learn more about! Our Journey Themes of Character, He, and Known are great resources to help you explore! Invite a friend to study these together and determine to know the Lord more fully!

The more your practice speaking of the Lord and the way He has shaped you, the easier it will become! When you consider the goal of letting the Lord’s goodness fill your mouth, take small, intentional steps forward and watch what the Lord will do in and through you!

The Original Intent

2) What was the impact of Naomi’s faith on those around her? (verses 8-9 and 16-17)

Naomi, her husband, and two sons, moved out of Judah to the neighboring territory of Moab when the famine hit. Moab was the closest reasonable location for relocation, but it was also a foreign land with foreign gods. Idol worship, divination, and practices that were detestable to the Lord God were common place. Every aspect of living in Moab would have been an immense culture shock for the Jewish couple and their two boys. Regularly practicing their faith would have kept them ostracized in their new land and culture.

Despite their long stay in Moab, it’s clear from Naomi’s word choices that she wasn’t pulled into worship of false gods; she remained faithful to the Living God, the self-existent One, Yahweh. When she instructs her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to return to Moab and release her to go to Judah alone, she mentions Yahweh twice and tells them of His character, “May the Lord show kindness to you as you have shown to the dead and to me. May the Lord grant each of you rest in the house of a new husband.” (verses 8-9, emphasis mine)

She believes Yahweh to be provider, to be kind, and the giver of good things like satisfaction, delight, and rest. She understands all of these good things are well within Yahweh’s character and power to provide and she speaks a blessing over the young women while she tells of her God.

The fact that she spoke Yahweh’s name at all and incurred His blessing over them at this critical juncture reveals much about how she had surely lived her everyday life among them all these years. Naomi could have easily been tolerant of their idol worship practices and told them that their “god” would bless them if they returned home.

The Everyday Application

2) What was the impact of Naomi’s faith on those around her? (verses 8-9 and 16-17)

If we take time to reflect on our words in everyday life, I wonder what others might surmise about our beliefs about God. Does His name ever cross our lips? Do our tongues tell of His character and goodness? Are our voices lifted in audible praise only on Sunday mornings in church or when we are alone? Can others see, hear, and testify of our stalwart faith in the Living God?

Naomi could have thrown her beliefs aside and begun to worship the gods of her culture, having decided Yahweh wasn’t worth her time or her worship.

But she didn’t. Instead, I’m guessing based on the blessing she spoke over Orpah and Ruth, that speaking of the Lord God and His goodness and character of kindness was often found on her tongue during all those years in Moab. Based on Ruth’s full surrender of commitment to Yahweh for herself (verses 16-17), it seems incredibly likely that Ruth had grown to trust Naomi’s God because of Naomi’s regular display of faith in everyday life, which was reflected even in how she spoke of the Lord God.

Let’s be honest, talking about our faith and relationship with the Lord can feel awkward and out of place. Speaking of the Lord in everyday conversation requires prayer and practice. Is there someone in your life you can learn from who models this well?

For me, I learned to speak more easily of Jesus when I heard my dear friend speak to others of God’s goodness. She easily took ordinary opportunities to simply praise God aloud, even if the other person wasn’t a believer. Her authenticity and boldness challenged me and I began doing the same. Naomi’s example of a faith that speaks up in everyday life can encourage each of us to “[…] exalt His Name together!” (Psalm 34:1-3)

The Original Intent

3) Did Naomi blame God for her pain? (verses 20-21)

Naomi suffered significant loss in leaving her homeland, becoming impoverished during famine, leaving behind friends and family, and burying her husband only to lose both of her sons a decade later. (Ruth 1:1-5) She describes the agony inside her heart as “much too bitter to share”. (verse 13)

It would be easy for us to miss how her words reveal her view of God, instead, inserting ourselves with our mindset into her story and decide she also hated God and blamed Him for her suffering. But this wouldn’t be fair to Naomi, her faith, or her legacy.

Our first glimpse tells us the whole reason Naomi decided to leave her only two remaining family members was because she’d heard of Yahweh’s provision. (verse 6) She didn’t doubt His existence and neither did she doubt His care. Providing food for His people after a famine was perfectly aligned with what she knew to be true of Yahweh’s character.

Being in a foreign land that worshipped false gods of rain and crops, she could have caved to peer pressure and changed her belief about the Lord. She could have attributed the abundance that was now in Judah to a foreign deity, but she refused to give up what she knew to be true of Yahweh.

She acted on her belief, and chose to re-arrange her life, again, as an older woman, directly because of the Lord’s care as a giver. (verse 6)

While it’s true, Naomi stated, “The Lord’s hand turned against me” (verse 13) and “the Lord has brought me back empty” (verse 21), we must not overlook that it still required faith to believe He was the ALL-mighty Sadday. Naomi was honest about her grief and her loss, but she recognized the sovereignty of the Lord and returned to her homeland as an act of faith, choosing to entrust herself to His care.

The Everyday Application

3) Did Naomi blame God for her pain? (verses 20-21)

Naomi’s faith to return to the Lord in Judah despite her suffering, which she knew had come through the hands of the Lord, reminds me of King David.

The king had sinned against the Lord and David was permitted a choice for his punishment.
David could choose either three years of famine, live on the run from his enemies for three months, or suffer a plague in the land for three days. (2 Samuel 24:10-13) In anguish, David quickly responded, “Please, let us fall into the Lord’s hands because His mercies are great, but don’t let me fall into human hands.” (1 Samuel 24:14, emphasis mine)

David knew he was safer under the judgement of Yahweh than under the control of others, even if that meant suffering.

The prophet, Hosea, also expounds on the understanding Naomi had of the Lord and His sovereign, purposeful reign that was inextricably tied to His goodness, mercy, and love. Hosea implores rebellious Israel, “Come, let’s return to the Lord; for He has torn us, and He will heal us; He has wounded us, and He will bind up our wounds.” (Hosea 6:1, emphasis mine)

Hosea recognized the Lord’s good purposes behind suffering and called Israel to come back to the Lord in faith, trusting His character. David knew that hiding in the shelter of Sadday was better by far than running from Him. (Psalm 91:1)

Though Naomi had suffered immensely, and she knew with confidence that it was the Lord who had allowed her suffering, she still chose faith. She chose to return to Him. She chose the safety of Sadday and His goodness, even if she couldn’t feel it or understand how all the pieces fit together for her good.

This kind of faith doesn’t come overnight, neither is it easy, but when we experience the goodness of God for ourselves and are convinced of His authority and love, our faith grows strong enough to cultivate hope in the midst of suffering. (Romans 5:2-5)

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