Fighting for God's Goodness, Even When Life Stinks2
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.
This week we’re starting a new series called “Out of the Ashes” going through the Old Testament book of Ruth. The storyline of Ruth is an arc from sorrow and pain to God’s beautiful redemption and a legacy that shapes an entire nation—indeed, all of biblical history.
We will eventually end up “out of the ashes” but before we do so, we start in the ashes, the setting of setback, hardship, and heartache. And it starts in the first sentence.
The story takes place “in the days when the judges ruled.” This was a time when Israel was the rough equivalent of the wild, wild west. It was a chaotic time when Israel was completely adrift politically, spiritually, and morally.
And then on top of that, there is a famine in the land. There are times in the Old Testament when a famine is interpreted as God’s judgment and warning on his people. We get no such commentary here, but given how completely disordered Israel was at this point, it wouldn’t be surprising if God was up to something.
In the midst of chaotic politics and a famine, we meet some average people who are trying to eke out a living. They live in Bethlehem and they’re starving. There’s a layer of irony here in that Bethlehem literally means “house of bread.”
So they pack up and leave the “house of bread” to find bread in a foreign country. They have to learn a new culture, a new language, everything is new and disorienting. Desperate times, desperate measures.
In all of our lives, there are seasons where the pain and heartache is more about setting and context and factors outside of our control than anything we’ve done or brought on ourselves. Maybe during that season you’ve had your own experience of making a desperate move of some sort.
In the midst of all of this chaos and pain, what we’re going to see is that God is still on the throne. God is still at work. God is still moving. The characters involved in the story don’t know it yet, but behind the all the noise and veneer of disruption and displacement, is a faithful God who is at work who will redeem all of this and graft it into his plan to bless the nations.
How hard is it for you to trust that God is still good and still in charge when things outside of your control seem be conspiring against you? What might help you to trust him? If you’re in a season now when everything seems to be conspiring against you, take a minute to tell God that you feel a lot like this family at the beginning of Ruth and that you want to trust that he’s still good, even if it’s hard to see it right now.