Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 15 2019 - Ruth 1 – Naomi and Ruth

The Book of Ruth is set in the time of the Judges, a chaotic and anarchic period in Israel's history. It was a time when Israel's frequent disobedience resulted in the withdrawal of God's blessing. Maybe it was at such a time, when Bethlehem (the 'house of bread') was facing famine, that Elimelek ('My God is king'), decided to take his wife, Naomi, and his two sons to live in Moab. In that foreign land the two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, married Moabite women and there, after a number of years, Elimelek and his two sons died. All of this is told without any moral judgments.

Meanwhile, the Lord had begun to bless his people in Bethlehem – had there been a turning back to the Lord in worship and in prayer? When Naomi heard the news, she decided to go back to her home town and her two daughters-in-law decided to go with her.

On the road, Naomi seeks to persuade her daughters-in-law to return to their own land and find new husbands for themselves. Naomi feels that the Lord has brought trouble and misfortune upon her. Later she refuses to be called Naomi ('pleasant') but wants to be called Mara ('bitter' – see Ruth 1:20). Why should her daughters-in-law continue to share her misfortune?

Orpah sees the sense in what Naomi has to say and so she kisses her mother-in-law and turns back for Moab. Ruth however responds by saying, "Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God" (1:16).

Ruth's words are a wonderful expression of love and loyalty. Whatever Naomi may face in the days ahead, Ruth will face it with her. But perhaps there is more going on here. Naomi may feel that the Lord has brought misfortune upon her, but in all of her troubles she has not ceased to have faith in God; the God of Israel is still her God. Her plan to return to Bethlehem is testimony to her continued faith in the Lord and in his promises. Ruth has witnessed Naomi's unshakable trust in her God and wants this God to be her God also.

I am sure that all of us have had to face times of trouble in our lives, including, perhaps, the loss of people whom we love and to whom we have looked for direction and support. How do we respond to such times of trouble? How do we act when we are hurting? What do others learn from our lives, our words and our behaviour at such times? Have others around us at such times ever said, "I want your God to be my God also"?

This will only happen if we know that our God is a faithful God; he never abandons us. And if we remember that Jesus who died for us is ascended to God's right hand in heaven and is always ready to help us.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

We need to develop a spirit of dependency upon God and confidence in his sufficiency to meet our needs in any and every circumstance we may face. We need to trust him and hope in him.

Father God, things do not always turn out the way I would like. Help me, like Naomi, to trust you in the difficult times as well as in the good times. Help me, like Ruth, never to turn back from following you. May my life and witness be used of you to draw others into your kingdom and to know your unfailing goodness.

Apr 15 2013 - Luke 17:11-37 – Thankfulness and praise

Jesus healed ten lepers who had pleaded with him to have mercy on him, but only one returned to give him thanks. The one who previously stood at a distance ran right up to Jesus and fell at his feet in thankful worship. This incident is recorded by Luke to prompt us to continual thankfulness and praise. And we have so much for which to be thankful; we just need eyes to see it. Yet all too often we are so preoccupied with small woes that we fail to enjoy our very many real blessings and to acknowledge the one who pours them out upon us day by day.

In a striking passage in his book, Soul Survivor (pp. 46-47), Philip Yancey points out that we are surrounded daily by wonderful things for which we should praise God:

I have stood in the mist of Iguaçú Falls in Brazil as gorgeous tropical butterflies, winged bearers of abstract art, landed on my arms to lap up the moisture. I have crouched beside a bay in Alaska as a pod of feeding beluga whales made shiny crescents of silver in unison against the dark green water. I have sat under a baobab tree in Kenya as giraffes loped effortlessly under sunset clouds and a line of half a million wildebeest marched single file across the plain. Above the Arctic Circle, I have watched a herd of musk oxen gather in a circle like settlers' wagons to protect the mothers and their young (who, in winter-time, must adjust to a 130° F drop in temperature at birth). I have also sat in hot classrooms and listened to theology professors drone on about the defining qualities of the deity – omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, etc. Can the One who created this glorious world be reduced to such abstractions? Should we not start with the most obvious fact of existence, that whoever is responsible is a fierce and incomparable artist beside whom all human achievement and creativity dwindle as child's play?

We need eyes to see the wonder of the world God has given us and a sense of thankfulness for the life we possess. As Chesterton remarked, "The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank."  Why not stop for a moment and write you’re your own list of things that you have seen that fill you with wonder and prompt you to praise God.

In this morning’s passage Jesus also speaks about the coming judgment. He reminds his listeners of God’s grace in rescuing Lot and his family from the city of Sodom. But, as fire fell from heaven upon the city and the family fled, Lot’s wife turned back and, we are told, was turned into a pillar of salt. Instead of being thankful she looked back with regret at the home and city life she believed she was losing. We are urged to “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). We have so much for which we should offer God thanks and praise, but particularly for the salvation we have received through Jesus Christ. Why continually look back with regret on the past when we have so much for which we ought to praise God now, and so much more still to come?

Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like thee His praise should sing?

Heavenly Father, you pour out blessings upon me day-by-day: a world of beauty and abundance; blessings of family and friends. Lord Jesus Christ, you have had mercy upon me; you have rescued and healed me. Spirit of the living God, open my eyes to see the wonder of your goodness, generosity and love that I might be filled with a spirit of thanks and praise. I praise you now.

Peter Misselbrook