Is There Still Hope For Me
Ben Patterson in his book entitled, “The Grand Essentials of Work and Worship,” tells the story of an S-4 submarine that was rammed by a ship off the coast of Massachusetts. It sank immediately. The entire crew was trapped in a prison house of death. Every effort was made to rescue the crew, but all ultimately failed. Near the end of the ordeal, a deep-sea diver, who was doing everything in his power to find a way for the crew’s release, thought he heard a tapping on the steel wall of the sunken sub. He placed his helmet up against the side of the vessel and he realized it was the Morse Code. He attached himself to the side and he spelled out in his mind the message being tapped from within: “Is…there…any…hope?”
· Friendship, many of you have come into this place this morning, after having been rammed and find yourself in a sunken marriage, trapped in Holy matrimony. Your heart is beating the Morse code asking, “Is there still hope for us?”
· Some of you have sunken into financial bondage where your money is funny and your change is strange. Your pay has decreased and the bills have increased. While suffocating in debt you are wondering, “Is there any hope for me?”
· Some of you have been rammed by life itself, you have sunken into sex, drugs, and alcohol. For others, it might even be the pursuit of power, position, and pleasure. And on the inside you are close to the edge, in your mind you are thinking that it is like a jungle sometime, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under. And you ask, “is there any hope?”
· Some of you are silently sinking in situations and circumstances that you wouldn’t dare tell anyone. Not by cell phone, via email, text messaging, but your body language is speaking loud and clear, you want to know, “is there still hope for me in this mess I am in.”
· I know you say that you are blessed, and from head to toe you are dressed, but written all over your face is the truth, you are stressed. Tired of being rammed; tired of feeling trapped; tired of fighting; tired of scraping and scratching just to survive; You want to know, “Is there still hope for me?”
You come to the right place God has the answer for you in this morning.
IS THERE STILL HOPE FOR ME?
MAIN IDEA: GOD IS CONCERNED ABOUT YOU
The text says that this happened in the days of the judges. We know that as the last verse in the book of Judges tells us, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This family lived in Bethlehem, which means “place of bread,” but there was a problem in Bethlehem, there was no harvest, therefore there was no bread. A famine was in the land of Bethlehem. So the text says, “a certain man,” named Elimelech decided that he was going to solve the problem by moving his family temporarily to Moab. A place where false gods were worshipped and a people, according to Deut. 23 who were not welcome in the assembly of the Lord. But Deut. 23 verse 6 also says that the Israelites where never to seek the peace and the prosperity of the Moabites. So instead of seeking God’s guidance and obeying God’s commands, he took matters into his own hands. Perhaps there were other families who did the same but the text does not tell us that and just because somebody else chooses to disobey God does not make it alright for you. Elimelech whose name means, “my God is King,” decided that the king was out to lunch, he and his family was hungry, the place of bread was empty, so disobedience must be the right choice to make. After all, if a man does not care for his own, he is worst than a infidel. When you make a decision to disobey God, you have just placed your life, your hope, and all your dependence on someone or something other than the One who holds all things together by the power of His might. You are outside the will of God. That’s the position that Elimelech put his family in by moving to Moab.
They moved, they got settled in, he his wife and their two bouncing boys. Everything seemed like it was going to be alright. Then verse 3 says, Elimelech, Naomi’s husband died. The one who is supposed to hold the house together; the one who is the provider and the protector of the family; the spiritual leader of the family, he is now dead. I’m sure that they had a time of grieving and mourning but life went on. For Naomi, there was still hope. She still had her boys, who were obviously old enough to take care of her because the text says, they took wives. But not just wives, Moabite women. According to Deut. 7 they were not permitted to intermarry with the other nations. The spiritual head is gone, the boys are at an age where they refuse to listen to the advice of their mother. Plus, they have put in a position that is outside the will of God. And often one bad decision breeds another. But life goes on, their temporary stay has now turned into about ten years. But then the text says, both Mahlon and Chilion also died. The text did not just say they died but it says that they “also” died. Which means that this was not suppose to happen. We don’t know how old Elimelech was when he died but somehow it seemed expected by Naomi. But never in her life did she expect to lose her baby bouncing boys. This was her means of protection and provision, her source of care and comfort after losing her husband. But more than all of that, this was the heritage of her husband’s name and now it is all gone. No husband, no sons, just two daughter-in-laws. All her hope is gone.
And the next 17 verses describe the hopelessness that Naomi feels. Naomi is mad. No Naomi is angry. No Naomi is bitter. Bitterness comes from something that has gone from the head to the heart and has been sitting there for a while because it is something that is difficult or distasteful and hard to accept. Naomi is bitter toward her daughters-in-law. Now preacher, how in the world due you get that from this text. If you ask me, it seems that Naomi is concerned about them. She strongly encourages them to return their mother’s house. She releases them to take on a new husband. She even says a prayer over them, verse 8, “May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me.” And she cries with them. But they still want to go with Naomi. Then it seems that Naomi is still concerned for them by getting them to see the situation rationally. I have no more sons. I’m too old to have another husband and even if I did, would you really wait for them to grow old enough to marry. That makes sense to me preacher, so how can you say that Naomi is bitter toward her daughters-in-law. Look back with me in verse 4. It says that after, her sons had married these Moabite women that they lived there about ten years. So, in ten years they had not produced an offspring, in particular a baby boy, to continue on the family heritage. Naomi saw them as being useless to her. That’s why Naomi was talking about her having children and not them. They had not produced in ten years, so she saw them as more of a burden than a blessing. They were a reminder of her pain. They were a reminder of her disappointment. They were a reminder of her hopelessness.
But Naomi is bitter toward God. Now I am glad that Naomi does not respond like Job responded when he lost all his children and all his wealth. Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Because while Job’s response is real, Naomi’s reaction to what has happen to her is just as real. And there are people in the family of God that are on both extremes. Those who respond by blessing God and those who respond by blaming God. I’m so glad that God is big enough to handle both. But the difference is, Job’s response is based upon belief and Naomi’s reaction is based upon perception. What’s the difference? I just told you. Response is based upon belief but reaction is based upon perception. Naomi perceives that the hand of the Lord is against her. Naomi perceives that it is God’s fault for her emptiness. It is God to blame for her hopelessness. It is God who has caused her to become bitter. Why does Naomi have this perception? Look if you will in verse 6, the reason Naomi was returning back to Bethlehem is because while she was in the land of Moab, “she had heard” that the Lord had visited His people in giving them food. This word “visited” is also translated “concern.” It is the same word that is used in Exodus 4:31, when the children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt, after about four hundred years of affliction, Moses and Aaron gathered the elders and brought the news that God was concerned about them and had seen their affliction. And He was going to move on their behalf. Naomi hears that God has moved on behalf of His people by giving them food. God has provided for them what they needed. Naomi is seeing that their famine for food is being satisfied but her famine for family is unsatisfied. But more than that, Naomi is saying and thinking and feeling, I’m I not “His people.” What about me? Am I not His child? Sure she is, so why has He not come to see about her. We sing the song, “What He’s done for me, What He’s done for me. I can’t forget what He’s done for me. Not what He’s done for you but what He’s done for me. So Naomi’s perception is what about me, Lord. I’m hurting; I have no family; I have no means of provision or protection. My source of security is gone. What about me? Is there still hope for me, Lord?
In 1999 when online trading was becoming more popular, and companies like E-trade allowed the common folk, the non-experts, to get online and assume the risk for their own financial investing. Some people where leaving their jobs and making this there full-time focus. I remember doing a little bit myself, but I was not a big risk taker. I had work too hard to get what I had and I was not about to lose it all in a matter of seconds. But a 44 year old man in Georgia lost more than $100,000 in over a 15 day period. So he decided enough was enough, the pain and suffering of being financial empty was more than he could bear. So he chose to make one last trade, and that trade was giving them five minutes of pain in lieu of what deemed as a lifetime of pain. He killed his wife and his children. Then he went into two different trading offices and shot two different people. Then as the police caught up with him, he took his own life. But back in his apartment he had left several notes. On one of the notes, he writes, “ I have come to hate life and this system of things. I have come to have no hope.” I pray today that when you examine the loses that you have suffered in your marriage, the loses that you have suffered in your finances, the loses you have suffered on your job, the loses you have suffered with your children, that you would not come to the conclusion that there is no more hope. Because is that not what the gospel is all about, hope.
· Adam and Eve, after committing sin, received judgment, was given hope and not death when God slew an animal and covered them.
· Noah built an ark for 120 years because of the hope that God had given him that it was going to rain when there had never been rain before.
· Abraham let his own country and family because God has given the hope of blessing him with a child and making him into a great nation
· Moses went back to Egypt with hope and assurance that God was with him.
· Andrew, Peter, James, and John left their fishing business with the hope that they would become fishers of men.
· The woman with issue of blood was led to touch the hem of His garment because of hope.
· Jesus came because we were a people with no hope. And now as Col. 1:27 says we have “Christ in” us, “the hope of glory.”
But where is Naomi’s hope in this story? I am glad you asked. Look in verse 14, it says that Orpah kissed her mother-in-law but Ruth clung to her. Orpah showed affection and respect by kissing Naomi but Ruth showed love and commitment by clinging to Naomi. Orpah decided that Naomi was right and life was too short so she went back to her people and her gods. But Ruth, even after Naomi told her one more time to go with her sister-in-law, she still was persistent on staying. The difference between Orpah and Ruth is that somewhere back in Moab the God of Naomi had revealed Himself to Ruth and she had received Him by faith. Because she no longer identified herself with her people and her gods like her sister-in-law. But she identified herself with the people of Naomi and the God of Naomi. Orpah loved Naomi but it was not “agape” love like Ruth. How do I know, because Ruth’s love was willing to take the ridicule and insults and still stay with Naomi. Ruth’s love was not able to be persuaded to turn back despite her situation or circumstance. Ruth’s love was willing to assume the risk of being rejected by a people she did not previously know. Ruth’s love was willing to be a sacrifice for the unlovely. That’s love. But you still say where is Naomi’s hope. Well you have to hear the rest of the story. In chapter 2, Ruth risks her life to care for her mother-in-law by gleaning in the fields. Ruth meets Boaz and Boaz is heads over hills after seeing and hearing what kind of woman she is. In chapter 3, Naomi after learning about Boaz’s special treatment of Ruth and knowing that he is a close relative coaches Ruth on how a young woman lets an older man know that she has interest in him. In chapter 4, Boaz negotiates skillfully for Naomi’s land and Ruth’s hand. But you still ask, where is Naomi’s hope? In chapter 4:12, it says, that Boaz and Ruth got married and when they consummated the marriage that the Lord “enabled her to conceive and she gave birth to a son.” And the next thing you know is that you find Naomi holding her hope. Obed, who names means “worshipper.” Because of what took place at his birth. Naomi worshipped God because He had show concern about her and restored hope. But not only was this Naomi’s hope but it was also our hope. Because this is linage of King David which is the linage of the Messiah. King Jesus. So if there was no Obed, then there would be now Jesse, and if there was no Jesse, then there would be no David and if there was no David then there would be no Jesus, and if there was no Jesus then there would be no hope. But because there is an Obed, there is a Jesse, there is a David, there is a Jesus and because there is Jesus we have hope. Hope of overcoming our fears, hope of having a better marriage, hope of not losing a child to gangs, hope of being financially free, hope of a better job, hope of having children when we’ve tried so many other times, hope of being healed when the doctor says otherwise, hope of living a holy life in a hellish world, hope of finding the right mate, hope of getting out of prison, hope of getting off drugs, hope of getting your education, but more than all of that is the hope of knowing that you are eternally secure for life. Jesus is our hope.
Exposition: The narrator provides us with the reason for Elimelech moving his family to Moab; and introduces the family members; (vv. 1-2)
Crisis: Elimelech dies, leaving Naomi and her sons (v.3)
Rising tension: Her sons marry Moabite women and then Naomi’s sons die after about ten years. Now Naomi is left alone with only her two daughters-in-law. No provisions, or protection, and apart from her own people. (vv. 4-5). Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem after hearing that God has showed concern for His people by supplying their need. (vv 6-7). Naomi sees no future for herself and certainly not for her daughters-in-law in they remain with her. (vv 8- 13)
Resolution: Orpah left but Ruth clung to Naomi.