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:

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

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?