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The God of All Comfort

Ruth  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:01
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Before I read our Scripture lessons this morning, I want to review where we have been in this series. Two weeks ago in a message entitled, “Naomi, the Unsung Heroine,” I argued that it was Naomi’s faithfulness to the covenantal call to be a faithful witness that God used to bring Ruth from the darkness of paganism to the light of Biblical faith. Last week, in a message entitled, “From Famine to Feast” we learned how God’s providence can lead us from “Famine to Feast,” even in the “bitter” things in life. This morning, I want to show you how God did this in Naomi’s life and how He can do it in yours. I want to begin by reading a short New Testament passage which inspired the title of this sermon.
2 Corinthians 1:3–4 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Now, our main text:
Ruth 1:6–18 ESV
Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where 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. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
In this passage, as well as the one that follows, we find Naomi focused on the “bitterness” of her life. More importantly, she sees God as against her, rather than for her. This is a very dangerous place for a believer to be in. It is not just a distortion of reality; it is a distortion of God. Reality is not determined by what we see or feel, rather, reality is determined by God’s Word and God’s Word says that for “those called according to His purposes…God is for them” (Romans 8:28 and Romans 8:31).
It is not uncommon for believers, even mature believers to lose touch of reality when they are undergoing extreme stress. Job is the classic example of this, although he did not sin with his lips and charge God with wrong doing, he like Naomi believed the hand of the Lord had gone out against him. I stand by my claim that Naomi, just like Job, is a heroine of the faith. One of the most important things you can take home with you today is the lesson that even the strong can be brought down by the circumstances in life. That is why I am making the focus of this message on God, not on Naomi and not on Ruth. Too much preaching of biblical narrative ends up being a call to be like the hero or heroine, rather than a call to trust in God. So it is God, the “God of all comfort and the father of mercies” that we will focus on in this morning’s sermon; and the first thing we see God doing is:

God Comforts Us by Reminding Us of His Faithfulness

We find this in Ruth 1:6. Naomi heard that the Lord “had visited his people and given them food.” Throughout the Old Testament, we see this pattern again and again: The people sin, God disciplines them by making their life bitter and then He renews His covenant mercies to them. The beloved hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness is based on Lam 3:22-23, which reads:
Lamentations 3:22–23 ESV
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Jeremiah penned these words after the Babylonian siege and destruction of Jerusalem. The horrors Jeremiah witnessed and the suffering he endured cannot be overstated. Few, if any, events in human history match the evil of those days, yet as the smoke was still lingering in the air, God inspired Jeremiah to write those famous words.
My friends, these words are still true. God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8)! His covenantal love and faithfulness never cease. His mercies never come to an end and if we would but open our eyes and hearts we would discover new examples of them every morning!
In a time like ours, what a powerful, life changing truth this truth is. The rays of God’s mercy can brighten the darkest of days if we would but view the world with eyes of faith!
Let me briefly share with you three ways we can do this:
Regularly read and study God’s Word.
Fill your life with thankfulness and prayer.
Place yourself in the fellowship of other believers.
This last suggestion leads us to the second way God comforts us.

God Comforts Us with the Comfort of Others

In the book of Ruth, God uses Ruth, Boaz and the women of Bethlehem to comfort Naomi.
The journey back from the darkness of depression and bitterness most often begins with a small step. When Naomi heard that “the Lord had visited his people and given them food” (Ruth 1:6), a chain of events began that brought Naomi back to the place she needed to be, both spiritually and emotionally. Moab was a dark and ungodly land, Elimelech made a foolish and sinful decision when he chose to take his family to the land of Moab. After his death, this was compounded by the decision of her two sons to remain in Moab and take Moabite wives. They were cutting themselves off from the fellowship of the saints.
This is a deadly error, because as we heard from our reading from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, God comforts the saints by and through the comfort we give each other. We have a beautiful example of this in our Scripture lesson from Ruth. As I argued in my first message in this series, Ruth most likely came to faith through the faithful witness of her mother-in-law Naomi. This was a great comfort to Ruth, for there is not greater comfort than moving from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light.
As Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws were drawing closer to the border of Israel, Naomi urges them to return to their own households and find new husbands. Orpah reluctantly takes her mother-in-law’s advice, but Ruth refuses saying:
Ruth 1:16–17 ESV
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where 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. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
The next verse tells us that Naomi said no more, but it is not hard to image that her heart was filled with comfort and joy! What Ruth had done for her mother-in-law did not go unnoticed, it was the talk of the town and at the end of the story the women of Bethlehem said of Ruth, “she loves you and is more to you than seven sons” (Ruth 4:15)!
Again, there are several very clear applications for our own life, the first being we must not cut ourselves off from the fellowship of the saints and if we have, we need to return. In the book of Hebrews we read:
Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The second application is that we have a great motivation for faithfulness. Naomi was faithful in her witness to Ruth and as a result, Ruth became a great comfort to Naomi. God is not shy in promising us a reward for our faithfulness. The Apostle Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
As the story of Ruth continues to unfolds, we discover a third way God comforts us.

God Comforts Us with a Redeemer

So far, we have not look much at Boaz. Boaz plays a pivotal role in the book of Ruth. Until Ruth just “happened” into Boaz’ field to glean, Naomi and Ruth’s situation was “bitter” and if something did not change, would only become worse. As widows, without a family to care for them, they faced a life of poverty, abuse and very likely death.
They needed someone to save them and give them hope, and this is exactly what God provided for them in the person of Boaz. Boaz was a close relative of Naomi’s deceased husband Elimelech. As such, he was in line to become Naomi and Ruth’s kinsman redeemers. A kinsman redeemer was a close relative of a deceased man, who would take his widow as his wife, so as to provide an heir for the deceased man and to provide for his widow. The practice is described in Deuteronomy 25:
Deuteronomy 25:5–6 ESV
“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.
As the story line of the entire Bible unfolds, it becomes clear that this Old Covenant law was designed to foreshadow and point us to Christ. Jesus redeems for Himself a bride (2 Cor 11:2, Eph 5:25-27), in order to provide children and heirs for God (Rom 8:16-17). This my dear friends, is our ultimate comfort. This is the comfort by which we can comfort others with.
The book of Ruth is not a fairytale that ends in “happily ever after” bless; Ruth, Naomi and Boaz still lived in the “time of the judges” and those who know the story of the Bible know that the “time of the kings” ends in a Babylonian exile. However, in those dark days of the kings of Israel, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, giving him this message:
Isaiah 40:1–3 ESV
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
In three weeks the first Advent Candle will be lit. Advent is a time in which we reflect on both the first and the second comings of Christ. We are reminded where our real comfort comes from. We are still waiting for that Day on which “every tear will be wiped away,” but until that Day, never forget God is the God of All comfort and the Father of mercies. He renews His covenantal mercies and faithfulness with us every morning. He has provided for us the comfort of Christian fellowship. Most importantly, He has given us a Redeemer, His own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ!
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