blame

It's All a Matter of Perspective

Ruth-devo-header-stories of redemption-2.png

They happened to enter Bethlehem just when the barley harvest began. Ruth 1:22 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

Basically, there are three ways to see things in life—our own outlook, the viewpoint of others, and the way things are in an objective sense. Only one person sees all three perspectives—the Lord.

When we or others view people, life events, or whatever else, we see things subjectively. Each of us have our own biases. How we see the world and all that’s in it—including ourselves and others—is viewed through our beliefs, emotions, experiences, and values.

We can claim a sense of objectivity but that’s all it is—a sense. Only the Lord sees things in the truest objective way because He is eternal. When God reveals His perspective, as in the Scriptures, we still tend to see it through our own biased lens.

3 Perspectives

This final vignette of this first chapter of Ruth gives us a glimpse of all three perspectives—Naomi’s, the viewpoint of other people, and the actual situation.

The arrival

After Ruth’s declaration of commitment to stay with Naomi, they traveled from Moab to Bethlehem in Judah—a journey of at least 2-3 days by foot.

As they enter Naomi’s hometown, everyone is excited to see her and the women wonder at Naomi’s presence with a young Moabite widow and no husband—Can this be Naomi?

Naomi’s response is telling. It reveals how she sees her situation and why it happened. Not only is it subjective, it’s somewhat typical for most of us.

Naomi’s outlook

Let’s consider each of Naomi’s three statements.

  1. Don’t call me Naomi…Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.— Naomi’s name can mean both pleasant or sweet and Mara means bitter. It’s a play on words to describe both her inner state and her outlook on life. And she holds the God responsible for her situation.

  2. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.— Do you see how she puts the blame for her situation on the Lord? Naomi sees her life’s misfortunes as God’s hand against her and uses a play on words to make her point. Her statement about going out full but coming back empty is her view now but it will change by the end of the whole story of Ruth.

  3. The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.— It’s pretty clear Naomi is playing on the sympathy of others as a victim of circumstances though it was her husband and her choice to leave Judah ten years before. She only returns because things have reversed—they left because of a famine and she returns because of God’s provision for Israel. Her answer may be posed as a question but it’s rhetorical—the answer is clear—the Lord is the cause of her problems.

When things go wrong, most if not all of us are quick to find some reason it happened and someone else to blame. Many people blame God for all the problems in the world. Somehow He’s responsible for everyone’s choices and all the bad and evil things that happen.

Here’s our conundrum—we want God to intervene when and where we think He should but don’t want Him to interfere with our own choices and pursuits. It’s as if we want to be in control of God. This is one of the many consequences of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.

A full circle

Ancient writings followed the common literary structures of their time. Some of the literary devices are more obvious than others. The use of contrasting words and concepts is one of the most common.

Chapter one of Ruth begins with a famine but ends …as the barley harvest was beginning. The scope of the book starts out with a timeframe of ten years but telescopes down to one day and a pivotal meeting in the last chapter.

The heart of the story begins in the next chapter where Ruth becomes the main character in this story of redemption. Even this first chapter ends with a redemptive focus—going from famine to harvest and coming from a far country to home.

Naomi can’t see this for now but she will in the end.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Reflection—

When things go wrong, we tend to blame something or someone else rather than ourselves. We’ll even blame God because of our own expectations in life. We don’t see things from a clear and objective perspective.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself shifting blame to someone other than yourself and not facing your own responsibilities, ask the Lord to show you His perspective of your situation. Ask Him to help you learn a better way to handle things.


devo Scripture Text

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. (Ruth 1:19-22 NIV)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

The Challenge of Bitterness and Blame

Ruth-devo-header-stories of redemption-2.png

“No, my daughters. My bitterness is much worse than yours because the Lord has sent me so much trouble.” Ruth 1:13 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

I’ve called these devotional studies in the Book of Ruth, Stories of Redemption, because of the many turns in the larger story of Ruth.

The story of Ruth the Moabitess is a glimmer of light in the midst of the national darkness Israel went through in the periodic leadership of the Judges sent by God.

The theme of redemption runs throughout Ruth but looks ahead in a prophetic way to Jesus—the Redeemer of all humanity.

The bitter goodby

In this story, Naomi plans to return to her homeland with her two widowed daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth. As they prepare to head to Judah, Naomi realizes how difficult the travel and transition back home will be for all three of them.

The two Moabite women would be outsiders back in Judah and Ruth expresses her own bitterness about her situation and blames God for it. Naomi urges Orpah and Ruth to return to their own people, land, and gods, then speaks a blessing over them.

As she kisses them goodby, Orpah and Ruth weep out loud and insist on going back with Naomi. But Naomi tries to reason with them—she doesn’t have anything to offer them and they’d be better off in their own familiar homeland.

There’s an obvious bond between these three women forged by time and shared hardships. Each of them is without husband or children. They’ve grieved together in their life together.

At this point, Naomi shares her heart in an honest and open way—

No, my daughters. My bitterness is much worse than yours because the Lord has sent me so much trouble.

Once again, they erupt with loud grieving with the realization a choice needs to be made and Naomi tries to clarify her self, her decision, and the inevitable separation.

Orpha kisses Naomi goodby but Ruth clings to her.

This is a redemptive turning point. It may not seem so at first glance but it is a significant event as the story unfolds. It’s a choice with future impact seen later in the larger story.

Grief, separation, and choice

Imagine the bond between these three women. They were family and they shared common memories and grief. The two Moabite women seem to have a sense of hope and shelter in Naomi’s God.

Saying goodby and moving far away brings the reality of separation into clear focus. It is often preceded and followed with grief. It was especially so in those days. Once they separated, there would be no going back to see one another either way.

Our freedom to travel from one place to another now was unknown even a century ago except for the very wealthy. Only those looking to find a new life in a new place would risk this kind of separation. Even so, it isn’t without its own often immeasurable costs.

The missionaries who set out for distant lands in years gone by knew the grief of goodbyes and separation from loved ones and their homeland. Many knew they would never return. They either didn’t have the resources or knew they were destined to die while on mission.

Even now, cross-cultural missionaries have a lot of goodbyes to say. Some are much harder than others. Every missionary experiences this not just when they leave but while on the field. You need to learn to say goodby often as people come and go in your life.

When we left our family and friends, our home culture, and home church to move to the Philippines, we also left our oldest son to finish school. That was the hardest goodby and the roughest year for us as a family on the field.

It was difficult when we said many final goodbyes as we brought our ministry to a close several years ago. But each goodby came because of a choice we made.

There are some goodbyes where other people leave and we remain. Some separations are not our choice but the result of circumstances beyond our control.

Where’s the redemption in all this?

Redemption can come when we make the choice to say goodby and move on because we see beyond the separation and grief of those goodbyes. Sometimes it’s a matter of faith to see beyond the situation. Other times God’s grace and comfort help us move forward in faith.

Naomi only saw her own situation from her point of view. She was bitter and blamed God. Orpah realized the logic of Naomi’s choice to go back to her homeland and people. So she chose to stay in her homeland with her people and her gods.

But Ruth saw beyond her situation by faith. She trusted in Naomi’s God and had hope. As the story continues, we’ll see how pivotal a figure Ruth becomes in these stories of redemption, even the redemption story for all humanity.

Reflection—

Times of separation and grief are also times of choice. We can choose to hang on to the bitterness they bring or let it go of it. We can choose to blame or trust God. We can see only loss or look forward by faith beyond the loss.

Prayer Focus—

When you face a difficult goodby or separation, ask the Lord for grace to handle it well, comfort to endure it, and faith to see beyond it.


Devo Scripture Text

With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband.

Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them?

No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. (Ruth 1:7-14 NIV)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

Corrosive and Disruptive Words

Without wood a fire goes out,

and without gossip a quarrel dies down.

⌊As⌋ charcoal fuels burning coals and wood fuels fire,

so a quarrelsome person fuels a dispute.

The words of a gossip are swallowed greedily,

and they go down into a person’s innermost being. (Proverbs 26:20-22 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 26:13-28 GW)


Gossip is disruptive talk and it soon becomes corrosive to us. It’s seductive yet destructive.

Gossip—by nature—is in reference to someone other than the people engaged in either speaking or listening to the gossip. It’s seductive and destructive because it’s passing on personal, intimate, or sensational information about someone else at their expense.

Think of how many TV shows, IG and FB posts, print and online magazines—across all forms of media—focus on inside scoops and dirt about celebrities, athletes, or even ordinary people. It’s mass voyeurisma prying observer who is usually seeking the sordid or the scandalous.

Why are we so consumed with knowing all this personal information about everybody else?

Perhaps it’s a bit of FOMO. Somehow, missing out on what others may know matters to us. But think how long you or I have lived without knowing whatever it is we think we’re missing out on. In the end, it’s extraneous info—useless and unnecessary.

by Vixent for FreeVector.com

by Vixent for FreeVector.com

Darker and deeper

I think the reason we’re seduced by gossip goes deeper than that. It’s a lot darker and more destructive. Consider what these few verses tell us.

Without gossip a quarrel dies down. Just as a fire needs combustible material (wood) to keep burning, gossip fuels quarrels and stirs up strife and grief. Gossip can be defined as a rumor or report.

Every time there’s breaking news all sorts of rumors and reports begin to circulate. Often, they’re unsubstantiated but they keep cropping up and circulating even after the truth dispels them. Some people still say the holocaust or the 9-11 terror attacks were hoaxes. But then, some people still think the earth is flat.

A quarrelsome person is no different. Long after an argument is settled or dismissed, a quarrelsome person finds a way to keep it going. This is seen everyday on news talk shows—regardless of your political bent—on the Twitter-sphere, not to mention FaceBook…sigh.

A pastor friend has posted the following for over 80 days straight—

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. (2 Tim 2:23)

We would all do well to heed this admonition.

Perhaps the darkest side of gossip is when it’s …swallowed greedily … into a person’s innermost being. This unneeded and destructive personal info gets buried in our hearts and corrupts us.

It will cause us to see certain people in a bad light—destroying them in our eyes and corrupting us like cancer eating away at whatever is good and healthy in us.

Why do we want to find fault or place blame? Somehow we’re deceived into thinking it makes us better than others. It doesn’t. It never will. When we put others down, it doesn’t elevate us, it does the opposite. But we’ve been doing this since the beginning of time.

What can we do to stop swallowing this verbal junk food?

Refuse to listen or believe gossip. Instead, lay whatever horrid or sordid thing is said, lay it at the feet of the Lord and leave it there in prayer. As it says in more than one place—

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. (Prov 10:12 NIV) [also see– Prov 17:9 and 1 Peter 4:8]

It’s obvious what we need to do about generating gossip and quarrels. Shut our mouths. Just. Don’t. Pass. It. On. It’s really that simple. And, oh yeah—love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends (Prov 17:9 NIV).

Reflection—

The reason we’re seduced by gossip goes deeper and is darker and more destructive than just a few words. It’s passed on at the expense of others and corrupts us like cancer eating away at whatever is good and healthy in us.

Prayer Focus—

If you find it too easy to listen to gossip and pass it on, ask God’s help to repent of this. Ask the Lord to help you shut your ears to gossip and quarreling, and to shun such corrosive and destructive thoughts and words.

©Word-Strong_2019


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

An Antidote for Hate

Hate starts quarrels,

but love covers every wrong. (Proverbs 10:12 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 10:1-12 GW)


The book of Proverbs begins with personalized encouragements, admonitions, and instruction from a father to a son. The first 9 chapters also include parables that contrast wisdom with foolishness in general.

But starting in Chapter 10, various topics are addressed more specifically—mostly with contrasting couplets and comparisons. Proverbs 10:12 is a great example of contrasting statements very relevant to our present time. Here it is in another version—

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. (Prov 10:12 NIV)

Hatred is defined in various ways—extreme dislike, disgust, ill will, resentment, prejudiced hostility, animosity—you get the idea.

Hate is often expressed by finding fault or projecting blame or making false accusations. Sound familiar? There's way too much of that going around! Regardless of its motivation or source—it stirs up strife...conflict...quarrels...even war.

Hatred doesn't have to run too deep to accomplish this. Think of the many times "I hate you!" is hurled by one person at another. It's pretty common among siblings in childish fits of anger and all too common between spouses. Sadly, I know this from experience.

But love is a powerful antidote for hate!

We have historical examples of love "covering" hate—Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, and of course, Jesus who said this as He's crucified—Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).

But examples are only valuable to us if we learn from them and follow what they model. These couplets of wisdom are intended to be useful and practical for daily life. How can we apply this bit of practical wisdom?

The next time someone throws some flaming words your way or tries to start an argument—extend kindness and conciliatory words. Don't answer with a bitter barb of your own—extend forgiveness and grace.

It will take some practice but it could change the world—at least your own sphere of it. Who knows, if enough of us keep extending love for hate, the world just might change much faster than you or I can imagine—one opportunity at a time, one relationship at a time.

Reflection—

When someone throws flaming words your way or tries to start an argument—extend kindness and conciliatory words—don't answer with a bitter barb of your own—extend forgiveness and grace.

Prayer Focus—

Prayer is much needed to extend love for hate in the process of daily life, so ask for God's help often—even throughout the day. The Lord is an expert at extending grace and mercy and love to people who don't deserve it—people like you and me.

©Word-Strong_2018


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

I Will Remember

It's easy to blame God when things are not going well. We pray and it seems our prayers are going up into an empty sky. Questioning God when He seems far away is common and this psalm echoes that.

A great beauty of the psalms is the open, honest expression of prayer seen throughout the collection of 150 songs of prayer and praise. Sometimes the honesty is surprisingly raw, and it may make us feel uncomfortable when we read them.