Posted in theology

Job vs. Naomi: How do we respond when circumstances take a downturn?

By Elizabeth Prata

Even if you don’t read the Old Testament much, most believers know the story of Job and his friends. God initiated a conversation with satan, where God called Job “a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:8). God asked satan if he had noticed that. Of course satan had, and pouted that of course Job loved God because he lived on easy street, but if satan could just get his hands on him, he’d prove that Job only loved God for what he could get out of Him. God said, OK, go, do it.

We know that the rest of chapter 1 and chapter 2 records horrific events, all against Job. Job never sinned with his lips, though. He maintained his devotion to God. Job’s faith was separate from his circumstances. He never blamed God. (Job 2:10).

Job’s friends heard about the utterly disastrous state to which Job had been reduced, and came to commiserate with him. The theology of the time, then and right up until the time of Jesus’ incarnation, was a literal you reap what you sow. If you were rich, prosperous in all things, and healthy, you were righteous. If you were sick, poor, crippled, enduring tragedy of some sort, you were being punished for sin. (Luke 13:1-5, John 9:2). They thought that outward circumstances were a reflection of inward spirituality and standing with God.

Job’s friends, after a good start of showing empathy and giving comfort in silence, then began to hammer Job with their theology, charging Job with secret sin. They kept on, and on, and on. Job got sick of it and said they were miserable comforters! (Job 16:2). But the point was, Job’s circumstances didn’t alter his faith. He loved God for who He is, not for what his life was like moment to moment.

We are also probably familiar with the story of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi was from Bethlehem in Judah. She married and had two sons. However, there was a famine in the land, so when they heard there was food in Moab, they moved there. Her husband died. The sons married Moabite women. The sons died. Naomi was left without husband or sons, and saddled with two other widows to boot. These were dire circumstances for a woman of that time. With no way to gain income or to work hard enough in the fields to support herself and her two daughters-in-law, Naomi became disconsolate.

She heard that the LORD was moving in Judah and now there was food. Naomi resolved to go back to her homeland and re-settle in Bethlehem, and urged her two daughters-in-law to go back to their parents’ home in Moab. Naomi was bitter. She was pouting because she had no husband or sons, was too old to get more sons, and actually said her lot was worse than her daughters-in-law, (who had lost their own husbands and were grieving too!) Naomi actually said “The hand of the LORD is against me.”

Ruth resolved to stay with her mother-in-law, to help and comfort the woman. When they got back to Bethlehem and people said ‘Naomi’s back!’ Naomi actually replied,

And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:19-21).

Naomi felt she had lost everything. She’d been hungry, widowed, and her children died. She blamed God numerous times. Her faith was bound up in her circumstances. She was the opposite of Job.

Is your faith bound up in how prosperous you are or what you’re feeling at the time? Do you praise God when things are going well but blame satan when things take a downturn? Or worse, blame God? Or is your faith steady no matter what is going on around you? That’s harder, especially if, like Job, you have friends who insinuate that your circumstances are due to judgment or sin or punishment.

Strive to be a Job when things turn “bad.” Or if you’re in a prospering season, strive to be a Ruth and encourage someone else who is having a hard time. Ruth’s constant loyalty and kindness to Naomi was a standout feature of the book of Ruth, while Job’s friends’ spiritual harangues and moral indictments were a standout feature of the book of Job.

One of the hardest things to do is praise God in joy when trouble comes. (Philippians 4:11-13). It was something Paul had to learn. But we can learn it too.

Posted in theology

Observable Character: Ruth

By Elizabeth Prata

We’ve all had to deal with bitter and negative people. Even when the nicest thing happens, these people turn it into a gloomy object of sadness, or exhibit a woe is me attitude. Such a woman was Naomi in the book of Ruth. Naomi was Ruth’s mother-in-law, which sometimes complicates matters, as every daughter-in-law knows, lol.

When famine came to the Bethlehemite family of Elimelech and Naomi and sons Mahlon and Chilion, they decided to sojourn to Moab, where conditions were better. Sadly the verses in Deuteronomy 7:3; 23:3 forbid the Israelites from associating with the idolatrous Moabites, but the family went anyway. Settling down, the sons intermarried. In due time, the sons died, as well as Naomi’s husband. Three widows fending for themselves…the outlook didn’t seem good.

So Naomi decided to return to her former hometown, now that the famine had passed. She urged the daughters-in-law to remain in Moab with their own people. Orpah did, but Ruth’s devotion to her dead husband’s mother was solid. In good conscience, could a family member let an aged woman travel alone, facing uncertainty upon her arrival, even if it was her hometown? Decades had passed. Who knew what awaited Naomi.

No, Ruth made her famous statement, ‘where you go, I will go, your people will be my people, your God will be my God’. Such loyalty and devotion Ruth had! Ruth could have cut ties at that point, rationalizing that bitter and negative Naomi should be left to her own devices. But Ruth’s character overlooked it, and by God’s grace, she loved Naomi all the more…

While in Bethlehem, Ruth was gleaning in Boaz’s field. When the two met, Ruth-

fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. (Ruth 2:10-11).

Ruth was humble upon meeting Boaz. She flung herself to the ground, in deference to him as landowner of the field from which she was gleaning, and in acknowledgement of her alien status.

Throughout her life, Ruth demonstrated loyalty and humility. She displayed diligence (“She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” Ruth 2:6b).

When speaking to Boaz, Ruth was gracious – “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:13).

Let’s go back to Boaz’s statement, “Fully reported to me.” Ladies, what we do and who we are can’t be hidden. We saw major glimpses of Ruth’s character before she arrived in Bethlehem, and since arriving, her character shone all the more. Ruth was known as a good woman. People knew this because they were watching. Our character is noted and reported, whether we like it or not.

The deeds of Ruth were an extension of what was already inside of her. It was the bundle of different positive qualities in her that made the reports and observations of her deeds so Godly.

When my deeds have been fully reported to friends, church members, my family, or my employers, will that report be good, or bad? Will the characteristics the Spirit desires to grow in me be evident? Is the fruit evident? I hope so. I pray so.

How about you? As your deeds are fully reported to others, what would the report say?

In the end, there is one full report that none of us will escape. On the Day of the Lord, the books will be opened, and we will account for what we said and did post-salvation. (Romans 14:10–12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Though it is not a judgment for us believers, it’s a reward ceremony, still, we will be called to account. The full report will be there, laying before the King and before His subject, each one of us in turn. Are we mindful each day that what we do on earth reflects on His Great Name? We will discover to what extent, when we get there.

ruth

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Further Information-

Part 2 of Observable Character series: David

Part 3 of Observable Character: Dorcas

Trivia: Did you know that Oprah Winfrey’s name on her birth certificate is Orpah? However when people pronounced it, it was constantly spoken as Oprah, so that is the name that stuck.

Commentaries: Challies’ recommendations on Ruth

Best Book Series: Nate Pickowitz on why Ruth is the Best Book in the Bible (one in a series of 66, also, this link is to the cached version, the live version has gone dead).

Overview of the Book of Ruth: John MacArthur’s overview and introduction