SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
The Indwelling Christ Helps Us Overcome Grief
Ruth 1:3-8, 14-18.
Key Verse: “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” – Ruth 1:16
Naomi’s story is familiar to all of us. Death reduces a family to loneliness and sorrow. Joy is displaced by sadness and laughter by tears. Faith is weakened by bitterness. Bewildered and broken, grieving souls wonder if there really is a God, especially a loving God.
All too soon Naomi is a widow, left to raise two sons alone by the death of her husband, Elimelech. Ten years later both her sons are dead. All Naomi has left are her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.
Hearing that times are better back home, Naomi decides to return to the land of her birth. She had left in a time of famine. Now bread is scarce again. So, bitter and resentful, Naomi turns her despairing heart toward home.
The scene is heartbreaking. Assuming she may never see them again, she bids a sad farewell to Orpah and Ruth. All three women embrace, weeping aloud. Then the unexpected happens. An emotional Ruth insists on going with Naomi. She will not let go of her mother-in-law.
Her speech has become a classic. Her words have been recited or sung at countless weddings despite the fact that Ruth was not talking about marriage. She was offering her rationale for refusing to part company with Naomi. What we have is another example of words being used out of context. Yet we all think they are lovely, so who cares!
The next time at a wedding you are moved by Ruth’s tender cry of affection, try to remember she was not addressing her husband when she said:
“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.”
One striking thing about the little Book of Ruth is the role of God in it. God is seldom mentioned. Ruth apparently has no personal relationship with God, but speaks of Him as Naomi’s God. She does imply that she wants “your God” to become “my God,” and that is good.
The ending of the Book of Ruth is surprising. It makes us aware of the Big Picture. This is not simply a story of grief and loyalty. It is a part of God’s Story, his plan for the salvation of the world. We see the large role that God is playing behind the scenes when the writer offers a stunning conclusion.
Ruth marries Boaz. They have a son and name him Obed. Naomi becomes Obed’s nurse. And who is Obed? He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. For awhile we think this is the story of Naomi and Ruth, or of Boaz and Ruth. Then we discover that it is much more; it is one small chapter in the Greatest Story Ever Told!
One more thing we should notice since this is a lesson about how God helps us with grief. Naomi could turn to God for help. We can do more. We can turn to God in Christ. We can turn, as believers, to the Christ who indwells us. That Naomi could not do.
Though our knowledge is limited, we know so much more about God than Naomi did. We know that God is like Jesus. We are aware of the tender love of God for his sorrowing children, for He has made that love known in His Son who walked among us.
In the days of the prophets, the Jews believed the coming Messiah would be like a shepherd, gently caring for the lambs. Then Jesus came and that hope became a reality. The Good Shepherd walked among us and we beheld His glory! We know that God was in Christ, reconciling the world and also revealing to the world His true nature.
The God to whom we turn is a loving Father, a concept barely known to Naomi and her kin. We have a hope, a living hope, much greater than Naomi’s for our hope is “built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
When sorrows “like sea billows
roll,” we are held steady by the unseen Hand of our Savior. He gives us blest
assurance that “it is well with my soul.” Transformed by the living Christ, we
can stand “on
“When I shall reach that happy place, I’ll be forever blest,
For I shall see my Father’s face, and in his bosom rest.
Filled with delight my raptured soul Lives out its earthly day;
May we who know the Savior never forget the kindness of our God. He allows us to walk in this life with Jesus, buoyed by the hope that when our battle is over and the race is won, we shall “in Jesus’ presence reign through ages without end”!
+ + + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)