Blessing God Despite the Bitterness of Life

August 23, 2022

“Blessed be the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer.” (Ruth 4:14)

“Life is hard.” People like Katherine Hepburn, Bob Dylan, John Wayne, and Sigmund Freud all uttered these words. It is a fact we all know too well. Sometimes life is difficult because of the choices we’ve made. An ill-chosen word can bring strain to a relationship. A click on the mouse can lead to a porn addiction. A discontented thought can bring painful bitterness. However, there are other times when troubles find us irrespective of our choices—health problems, job layoffs, or family deaths. No one asks for these things. Yet, in this cursed world, they seem to be thrusted upon us. So, whether it is because of the choices we’ve made, or the result of those we haven’t, life is hard. There’s no getting around it.
The book of Ruth mirrors this point, while also telling us where to turn. The story begins with choices. It was during the days of the judges. That’s code for, things are a sinful mess in Israel. Judges, 17:6—Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. As a result, there was a famine in the land. Ruth 1:1-2 tells us that a man named Elimelech, his wife, Naomi, and their two sons left the Promised Land and went to Moab, which is meant to surprise us. There may have been little food in Israel, but Moab was much worse. There was a spiritual famine in this land. How would Elimelech raise his family in the Lord? Where would they receive nourishment for their souls? Who would give them God’s Word? This was a poor decision, and this bad choice was followed by an awful calamity. While in Moab, Naomi’s husband died. Then, about ten years later, after her sons married Moabite women, a no-no per Deut. 7:3-4, Mahlon and Chilion also were placed in the grave. It was gut-wrenching for Naomi. In fact, upon returning to Judah, Naomi told the people of Bethlehem, her hometown, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara.” (1:20) Why? Her life had become ‘mara’—bitter.
At times, our days may seem like Naomi’s. We make sinful choices every day. We don’t love others well, nor exercise self-control as we should. We’re impatient and selfish. Our private devotions in the Word and prayer are weak, as is our personal evangelism to the lost. Yet, the similarities don’t stop here, because there’s plenty of other troubles as well—sickness, financial downturns, relational challenges, and natural disasters. All these and more can make our lives bitter. What do we do? We remember Ruth 4:14—“Blessed be the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer.” After Naomi’s daughter-in-law, Ruth, married Boaz and they had a child, the women of Bethlehem uttered these words.

They serve as a reminder of where our hope lies. It’s in Naomi’s descendent, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ—God in flesh who came to save. Christ’s cross and empty tomb tells us, as Christians, that nothing can separate us from God’s love, and that includes our sin and our suffering. Life may be hard east of Eden, but two things that should never characterize us is hopelessness and joylessness. In the words of Wesley’s hymn (We’ll sing it and I’ll reference it in the sermon), “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace.” Our fears are charmed. Our sorrows bid cease. Our foulness is made clean. Christ’s blood avails for us. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (Ps. 103:1)

—Pastor Clif