sweet

It's All a Matter of Perspective

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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

Pleasant Words

A wise person’s heart controls his speech,

and what he says helps others learn.

Pleasant words are ⌊like⌋ honey from a honeycomb—

sweet to the spirit and healthy for the body.

 (Proverbs 16:23-24 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 16:16-24 GW)


An old children’s refrain goes, “Sticks and stones can hurt my bones but words can never hurt me.” The truth is—words can and do hurt. It’s not just about insults and taunts—those are certainly not pleasant words—but many other words can hurt us.

It can be as simple as words unspoken. Many a child, even spouses, never or rarely hear the words, “I love you,” or “I forgive you,” or any apology or admission of wrong.

How about unfair or false accusations? This happens a lot in homes and in workplaces, even classrooms, let alone in politics and social media.

One tactic interrogators and lawyers use is to sow doubt. This was commonly used in prison camps to break the spirit of POW’s. They would say things like, “Your family and country have forgotten you, “ and “No one is going to rescue you.”

Years ago, an assistant pastor told me I didn’t have a “shepherd’s heart.” It stunned me when I heard this and the wound went deep. It wasn’t true for me but it ended up being true of him. Through prayer and encouragement from others—especially my wife and close friends—the Lord gave me an accurate perspective.

The words we echo to ourselves—self-talk—can also be hurtful and damaging. So, yes, words from various sources and in different forms can and do hurt.

The surprising antidote is to hear and utter pleasant and truthful words—”sweet to the spirit and healthy for the body.” It may sound too simplistic but it’s true.

Certainly, the truth can be spoken harshly and be destructive when spoken with the intent to hurt. This is why understanding needs to be applied when speaking the truth.

As said in another place in the Bible, we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It’s not enough to just use nice words, as pleasant as they might be. The pleasant words spoken of here in Proverbs come from a wise person and are helpful not harmful (verse 23).

The foundation for pleasant words spoken with wisdom is the truth of God. The primary source of His truth for us is found in the Scriptures and is revealed to us by His Spirit to our mind and heart.

Whoever gives attention to the Lord’s word prospers, and blessed is the person who trusts the Lord. (Prov 16:20 GW)

This leads to understanding that is useful and beneficial—not only for those who hear pleasant words wisely spoken—but this divinely based understanding becomes a fountain of life for those who speak them (vss 21-22).

Let us be careful with our words—not speaking carelessly but wisely. When we choose to speak pleasant words in a wise way, it will bless and help others and bless us, as well.

Reflection—

The foundation for pleasant words spoken with wisdom is the truth of God, which leads to understanding that is useful and beneficial. Let us be careful with our words—not speaking carelessly but wisely— so we may bless and help others and be a blessing.

Prayer Focus—

In your prayer times, ask the Lord to help you be mindful throughout the day in all your interactions with others, that you would speak wise and pleasant words.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Smoother Than Oil, Bitter As Wormwood

Some advice in Proverbs is pointed. Figurative language is used but the point made is hard to ignore, especially considering the author. King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He knew a thing or two about women (1 Kings 11:3).

Though he was a great king and wise man, his heart was turned away from God to the idolatry of all his wives. He allowed their influence and their desire to rule in his life. So he turned away from the God whom he knew to be true and from the wise truth he spoke and wrote.