“Hope in a Hopeless World” - Ruth 1 – Pastor Scott
When you feel hopeless, God brings hope.
Wow, what a world with COVID-19 and shelter-in-place since March. Shopping has turned into a challenging experience. Schools are all operating via Zoom. People are scared to leave their homes in fear of being too close to other people and now we are reminded of the horrible injustice with the tragic death of George Floyd and many others throughout our country. Their deaths are reminders of the pain in our world and the hurt especially in our black communities. This all leads to more hopelessness. Most law enforcement officers are out there trying to do the right thing. They want to protect the people and they also know that police brutality is wrong. Good police officers do not want to hurt anyone. But there are some who take advantage of their power and hurt people. But the fact that we even have to talk about this is a sign that many people have a sense of hopelessness. For the past week, in addition to sheltering in place, we’ve had to worry about looters and rioters. If we ever lived in a world without hope, it is now.
Hope. Hope is powerful. Hope lifts us open. Hope opens opportunities. Hope refreshes us. When we have hope, there’s nothing we cannot accomplish because, well, we have hope. Doubts can come but when we have hope, doubt has no power. Fear doesn't stand a chance when we have hope. Hope is so important. Hope is essential. Having hope can have mental, emotional, physical and spiritual benefits. But when we lose hope, it makes life that much harder.
It seems like we are living in a hopeless world. So…how can we find hope? Praise God that Scripture is not empty of days like these. We see many examples of hopeless times throughout the Bible. Like in Ruth. Ruth sadly begins with similar feelings of hopelessness and despair. It was in the time of judges where the Bible says “everyone did as they pleased.” It was a dark and horrible time. Then there was a famine so Elimelech and his wife Naomi headed east to Moab. Naomi’s husband and both sons die. She’s in a foreign land. She doesn't know what to do. She seems hopeless. But then in verses 6-7, she decides to go where the LORD is.
1) When you feel hopeless, follow the LORD. God gives you hope when you follow Him. It is about 50 miles from Moab to Bethlehem. Not an easy trip. It would have taken them 7-10 days to travel. But she is convicted by a single fact – she heard the LORD was there and that was good enough for her! Being a widow now is tough. But back then, there was nothing worse than being a widow. Widows usually lived alone and in poverty. They were often either taken advantage of or ignored. God’s law said that the nearest relative of the husband should take care of the widow. But Naomi had no relatives in Moab and she was not even sure she had any in Israel. But while she was in the fields in Moab, she “heard” that the Lord was feeding people back in her home town. She headed west towards God.
When we feel hopeless, we can follow the Lord. Where is God leading you today? It may not be a short and smooth ride. But no matter how hopeless life may seem, God gives you hope when you follow Him! When you feel hopeless, God brings hope. What else can you do when you feel hopeless? What choices do you have when you feel like you have no hope?
2) When you feel hopeless, you focus on others. Look for ways to help others. When we take our eyes off our own fears and worries, it helps us focus on positive things instead of our own problems. In these verses we see this in Naomi and Ruth. For Naomi, it would be easier to stay in Moab with her daughter in laws. Or even accept them coming with her. But Naomi is willing to travel far by herself. Why travel over 50 miles by foot or by camel or some animal? Why give her daughters-in-law an opportunity to leave? Because she was focused on their well-being more than her own.
Ruth and Orpah had stronger family ties locally than they had with Naomi. Naomi encourages them to remarry and not worry about her. She does this knowing that she would be alone. This is a huge sacrifice on her part. She is basically choosing hopelessness over hope. Leaving her daughters-in-law in Moab would mean never seeing them again. All ties would be gone, but, she thinks first of their well-being. She does this in three parts: #1 - v. 8 – She gives them her blessing. “May the LORD deal kindly with you…” #2 - v. 9a – She provides a good argument for why they should stay by convincing them to remarry and find rest. Not just a spouse to love and have a family with, but someone to help take care of them.
#3 - v. 9b – She kisses them. This is a sign of true love and affection. Together they lifted up their voices and wept.
Naomi was fully thinking of their well-being. And so was Orpah and Ruth. They both said they would stay with Naomi. And after more solid statements of why they should stay and get remarried, Orpah agrees to stay in Moab. So, she kisses Naomi but in verse 14, it says Ruth clung to Naomi. Clearly Ruth is committed and thinking about Naomi’s well-being. Who will take care of her? How will she survive? So, Ruth wants to stay. Naomi and Ruth both show what to do when things seem hopeless. They take the focus off their own worries, their own problems, their own troubles and find ways to help others.
When you feel hopeless, remember to follow God and also focus on others.
3) You accept the blessings. Accept the good things that God brings into your life. When you are down and losing hope, accept what blessings come your way. If God placed it before you, He wants you to have it! God does not want you to be hopeless. He wants to fill you with hope, not take hope away!
(v.15) At first Naomi is not accepting Ruth’s help. And then Ruth says one of the most famous and beautiful lines in the Bible. (vv.16-17), “Your God will be my God.” Ruth was willing to turn away from the Moabite gods she grew up with to follow the One True God. Ruth looked at Naomi’s life and her relationship with the LORD. She saw that Naomi lost her husband and two sons and even believed it was all her fault due to her disobedience. Yet she still honored and loved the LORD. People in our lives should look at the way we live our lives – especially in tough times. The way we trust Jesus and can see the light in the darkest of times will be like a beacon of hope to those around us.
Naomi’s commitment to follow Jesus caused Ruth to want to do the same. And Ruth wants to bless Naomi by going with her. And Naomi says, “OK, fine. I see you are determined to stay, so okay.” Finally, Naomi was able to accept the blessing. Had she not, her life would have turned out very different, as well as Ruth’s!
Life was hopeless for Naomi. She lost her husband. She lost her two sons. And life as a widow especially in that time period was as close to a hopeless situation as there could be. In the same way, mankind had no hope beyond the grave. For some, life is about the 20-50-120 years we live on this earth and that’s it. It’s over. But Jesus brings hope in that He makes a way for us to live beyond the grave, to live forever in a paradise called heaven, where there is no fear, no pain, no tears and where hope, love, and joy are abundant!
If you feel hopeless, remember you have hope in Jesus. God promises He will never leave us. He will always be there no matter how hopeless life seems. Do you want to have hope? Do you want to know that no matter what happens, you have someone in your corner who is in control of everything? You can live each day worrying about what will happen. Or you can give your worries to the only One who knows the future. You can give in to your sinful nature and do things you will feel sorry for. Or you can make the one decision that you will never ever regret. You can choose to live in this world, for this world and all about this world. Or you can choose to live for Jesus who has a better plan for your life. These days it is hard to see a lot of good. It is hard to remain hopeful. But God brings hope. If you come to Him.
Songs of Praise: All Who Are Thirsty, O Come to the Altar, Give Me Jesus, Christ Our Hope in Life and Death, Doxology.