From the Pastor

in Lament

Responding to Naomi's Grief

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I wanted to share two things with you in response to yesterday's sermon

First up is the quote from Nicholas Wolterstoff, Lament for a Son that ended the sermon:

“Blessed are those who mourn.” What can it mean? Who then are the mourners? The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who ache with all their being for that day’s coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm of peace there is no one blind and who ache whenever they see someone unseeing. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one hungry and who ache whenever they see someone starving. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one falsely accused and who ache whenever they see someone imprisoned unjustly. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one who fails to see God and who ache whenever they see someone unbelieving. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one who suffers oppression and who ache whenever they see someone beat down. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one without dignity and who ache whenever they see someone treated with indignity. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm of peace there is neither death nor tears and who ache whenever they see someone crying tears over death. The mourners are aching visionaries."

Second is a study guide to help personalize what Naomi went through.  Here it is:


Daniel Block, Judges & Ruth, 1999.

Paul Miller, A Loving Life, 2014.

Eugene Peterson, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, 1980.

David Powlison, Good and Angry, 2016.

 Head:  Understanding the Bible

Read Ruth 1:1-5, the background for understanding Naomi’s plight.  Here are some helpful definitions that will give deeper meaning to the verses.

*In the days when the judges ruled— in the days when few believed Yahweh to be King

*Bethlehem— “house of bread” or “storehouse for bread”.  It’s a picture of fullness.

*Elimelech— “my god is King” * Mahlon— “weak”

*Naomi— “pleasant” *Chilion— “frail”

Now re-read the introduction substituting in the above definitions.  What options would does Naomi have at this point?  List everything she has lost.  What does Naomi have to live for?


  2) Who is to blame for this tragedy?  Elimelech?  The husband makes all the decisions.  Mahlon & Chilion?  They married outside of the faith in clear violation of God’s law (Deuteronomy 7:14).  God?  The covenant in Deuteronomy 28:15-68 describe consequences for disobedience which includes drought and famine.  Does the author blame Naomi? 


3) Who does Naomi blame ? (Ruth 1:13)  Do you have the freedom to blame and be blunt like Naomi?  Consider Psalm 10:1, 13:1, 22:1, 88:14-18 or Isaiah 63:17. 


 4) Read Ruth 1:19-21.  What two words are used to describe God?  The Lord, is the covenant name for God, Yahweh.  What do these words tell us about God’s character?

 Heart:  Using the Gospel on Our Affections

 “Naomi’s cry has all the depth of covenantal grief about it.  Sure, maybe Yahweh could be expected to stand against some Moabite girls, but Naomi is an Israelite, a member of his covenant, one of his own children, and yet his hand has persecuted her.  There is deep, ancient, forever-binding covenantal anguish in her complaint.  Yahweh is her God and yet he is against her.  He has not only allowed but orchestrated the min-holocaust of which she is the sole survivor, left destitute and without hope.  That hurts!  You might expect to be treated badly by some stranger on the street, but not by your dad.”                   ~ Libbie Groves1

 5) What’s the difference between lament and complaining?  Is there an acceptable kind of bitterness, done in faith?  Should we raise our fist to God?  Why is this hard to do?


6) Bitterness is a kind of anger.  It is anger mixed with hurt.  And anger in it’s simplest form, according to David Powlison, is: “I’m against that!”2  Father, I needed that!  What are you angry, hurt and bitter about?  What has God taken away from you?  Take time to write them out.


7) Consider Jesus.  What would Jesus have to complain about?  Did he have a life with bitter circumstances?  Read Matthew 26:36-44.  How does Jesus lament?  What about his cry from the cross (Psalm 22:1)?  The gospel teaches us that Jesus’ lonely lament on the cross was the revelation of God’s greatness, power and love (John 12:23, 13:31).  How is that comforting?


Hands:  Applying the Gospel to our Lives

Everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds. - John Newton

8) We must learn to lament.  A lament is an honest cry addressed to the God whose hand seems to be treating us like an enemy.  A lament says, “I am against this, God help me trust you!”  A lament assumes God is sovereign over every detail and is a good Father.  A lament deliberately tells ourselves to move from the misery of our current circumstances and towards the steadfast love of the Lord.  As you write out a lament, preach to yourself the gifts God has promised you in the gospel of Jesus Christ.


 9) Lament should not happen alone.  The Psalms are songs sung together asking God to be faithful.  Who can you talk to about your grief and frustration?  Set up a time to pray together.


 10) Did God leave Naomi alone in her bitterness?  (Ruth 1:16-18)  Does God leave you alone in your bitter situations?  How can God use you to comfort another in their time of lament?


















Learning and Applying the Book of Ruth

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Paul Miller, in his helpful book, A Loving Life, declares that you don't apply the Grand Canyon or a visit to a majestic cathedral.  Stunned by beauty, you can only worship and look in awe.  Ruth is meant to be applied in this way.  So here are some helpful resources to better understand and apply the book of Ruth:

First up is a short video summarizing the teaching of Ruth by the folks at the Bible project.  They tell the story well and connect the dots to Jesus.  Click here for the link.  It's also listed below.

Second, the plan for small groups that will begin in a few weeks is to get together to discuss and apply the sermon texts.  I put together a study guide based on yesterday's message.  I hope you find it helpful:


Iain M. Duguid, Esther & Ruth, Reformed Expository Commentary, 2005.

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Faithful God, 2005.

Paul Miller, A Loving Life, 2014.

Eugene Peterson, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, 1980.

Rebecca Manley Pippert, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World, 1979.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Living in a Pluralistic Society:  Judges, Daniel & Joseph, 2006.


Ruth is a Moabitess, from the land of Moab.  To get to Moab, one would have to cross the Jordan River and go south east to the other side of the Dead Sea, outside of the Promised Land.  Moab can be translated, “Whose your father?!” 

1) Read about Moab’s father in Genesis 19:30-38.  Read the name of the Moabite king and how he was defeated by Ehud in Judges 3.  Then check out the future of the Moabite god, Chemosh, in Isaiah 25:10-11.  Israel called this god, “filth.”   Does the Bible talk kindly about Moabites?  Summarize what it was like to be a Moabite in your own words.  What or who is in your story that you are ashamed of? 


The Moabites repeatedly oppressed and harassed the nation of Israel.  They are simply living out mankind’s obsessive desire for power, to be like God, in order to hide shame and weakness.  It is life outside of Eden.  What do you think you need in order to be respected and liked?  


Reread Ruth 1:1-2.  How bad must it have been for Elimelech to take his family to live in Moab?  And how welcome would Ruth be in Israel as a Moabitess?  Describe what it would be like for Ruth walking into Bethlehem in light of the new information you have about Moab and Israel’s relationship.  This is how non-Christians feel about church.



2) Think like an outsider.  How do we as Christians use words and terms that would unnecessarily alienate outsiders and keep them from being interested in Jesus? 



3) Read Ruth 1:16-17.  What kind of life is Ruth signing up for?  Is there a better confession of faith in the Old         Testament?  How can we honor outsiders?



Ruth takes place in the days of the Judges (Ruth 1:1).   Between the death of Joshua and the anointing of Saul, there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.  There is a downward spiritual and moral spiral for God’s people throughout the book of Judges so that by the time the book ends, Israel looks and acts just like Canaan.  The events that take place in Ruth occur in the midst of spiritual and moral chaos.  There is no agreement on who is God, what He is like and whether or not He has the power to act in history.


4) How is the setting of Ruth, during the days of the Judges, relevant to the church in America today?  What words would you use to describe non-Christians and the culture around us?




5)  What do you chase in order to feel like you are somebody and not just “another bum from the neighborhood? (Rocky) ”  Read the quotes below and consider this question.  What kind of Lord and master is the God who would honor Ruth?  And how does the Lord of the Creation compare with the thing you are pursuing to be somebody?

There are no outstanding, historically prominent figures in Ruth, no splendid kings, no charismatic judges, no fiery prophets; it is a plain story about two widows and a farmer whose lives are woven into the fabric of God’s salvation through the ordinary actions of common life.”  ~Peterson, 77

“Whatever controls you is our lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by the people he or she wants to please We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our life.”   ~Rebecca Pippert




6)   What gives Ruth’s story eternal significance?  How does the ordinary in Ruth being honored bring relief and comfort to you?




The book of Ruth was commonly read out loud during the Feast of Pentecost.  Pentecost was a celebration of God giving the law to Israel on Mt. Sinai after bringing them out from slavery in Egypt.  It took place 50 days after Passover.  Three “nobodies” (Naomi, Boaz & Ruth) are given center stage by proclaiming that their story is part of God’s story.

7) “All things are more bearable if we make a story of them.  And ultimate [tragedies] are made both more bearable and significant when the story is the Ultimate Story.”  ~Joseph Sitler

Who connects Ruth to the Bible’s big story?  (Ruth 4)  Who connects you and I to the Bible’s true story? (Ruth 4, Matthew 1:3-6)


How are we connected to this story?  (Hebrews 11)  Read 1 Peter 2:9-12 to read how God sees you in Christ.