As we begin the new year here at Central, we’re preaching through the story of Naomi and Ruth. There’s a lot to like about the short book of Ruth but, as a preacher, here’s what I love: Everybody can personally relate to almost all of it. Ruth and Naomi lived on the other side of the world nearly 3,500 years ago, but the circumstances they face and the ways they deal with their situations are so normal and typical. They are just regular ordinary people dealing with regular ordinary things. Their story is about family and work, traditions and laws, marriages and death and birth. It’s about moving to a new town, looking for a job, covering up sin, trying to get along with the in-laws. It’s about making poor decisions — Naomi and her husband trade in a famine for three funerals. Some of it is so real and genuine that it’s almost comical. Chapter three reads like a script from an old sitcom: the meddling mother-in-law telling Ruth how to catch a man; go put on a pretty dress and lots of perfume and wait for Boaz to get drunk!
The author of Ruth is not trying to clean this up for anybody. This is real life with real people where real things happen to us every day. And it’s in these regular people and these common things that we see our Almighty God at work. That’s what the Bible wants us to see, that through normal ordinary people in everyday situations, God is making everything new!
Bad things have happened in 2020. All of us have suffered some level of pain and loss. Some have suffered more than others, but we have all experienced suffering. And the suffering isn’t quite over yet. The story of Naomi and Ruth shows us that the situations our God allows, the circumstances he permits to happen in his sovereignty, are the very circumstances through which he acts in love and faithfulness to his people.
While God allows emptiness to come to Naomi, he does so in order to bring her fullness again in an even more significant way that brings salvation to all of Israel for a thousand generations and to the whole world forever. Their sufferings are for reasons that go beyond them, reasons only the God of Heaven and Earth knows. But we see through the course of their lives that God moves their story from emptiness to fullness, from famine to harvest, from bitter to pleasant, from hopelessness to promise, from silence to praise, from devastating death to everlasting life, from no future to an integral link in God’s chain to bring the promised Savior to the whole world.
What God is doing for Naomi and Ruth, he is also doing for you and your family. For us. For your church. For all of creation.
In 2020 we all learned that we are not in charge. Any illusion of control you might have had has certainly been shattered over the past eight months. Now is the time to choose a new direction. Now is the time to trust God, to trust his plans for you and the people you love, to place your faith and your whole life unconditionally in his love and his will and his power to make everything new.
Right now, at the start of the new year, are you more afraid that your life might someday end or that your life will never have a true beginning?