Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ruth 1-God cares for widows

Irena Sendler, a non-Jewish social worker, led the rescue of 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto, during the Holocaust in World War II.  Irena and her network assisted in hiding these children and then placing them into the homes of Polish families or concealing them in convents and orphanages. She made lists of the children's real names, put the lists in jars, and then buried them in a garden. Later she would dig up the jars and locate the children to tell them of their real identity. October 1943 Irena was arrested. During her time in prison she had her legs and feet fractured, unwilling to give information on the team she was sentenced to be shot. The Polish underground bribed a guard to release her, and she went into hiding.
 For many years Irena-white-haired, gentle and courageous - was living a modest existence in her Warsaw apartment. Her achievement went largely unnoticed for many years. Then the story was uncovered by four students who wrote a play Life in a Jar about the heroic actions of Irena Sendler. Winners in 2000 of a Kansas state history competition, their presentation, popularized by National Public Radio, C-SPAN and CBS, have brought Irena Sendler’s story to a wider public. This unsung heroine passed away on Monday May 12th, 2008. However her story is memorialized through a website, Hallmark movie and a book.
My usual resources were pretty harsh on Naomi. Elimelech and Naomi  condemned for running away during the famine to in a Moab, instead of waiting on the LORD. Naomi is accused of trying to hide the fact that her sons married Moabite women by trying to discourage her daughter-in laws from returning with her to Bethlehem. In her bitterness, they claim, she blaming God for everything. Since chapter one is the focus of the lecture I felt compelled to explore Naomi circumstances as a widow at that point in history.
Last week we listed all the women with angelic birth announcement and also the barren women in the bible.  Tonight I will focus on Naomi in Ruth 1.
God has a special place for women in His Kingdom. He is our hope.
Let us pray.  Lord tonight help us learn through this study of RUTH that true fulfillment can be found only in God. Although we may seek completion through family and position, we find it only through knowing the One who created us. Our hope is in Christ alone! Now Father, Guard the door of my mouth, and let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you. Oh LORD my strength and my redeemer. In Jesus name I pray. Amen
Ladies you may want to open your Bibles to the Chapter 1 of Ruth
Day five of our lesson compares the attitude of Naomi to that of Job in chapter 1. (The book of Job has 42 chapters. In chapter 1, his troubles were just beginning.) While Job is praised, Naomi is pictured as bitter. The biggest distinction in this comparison is Naomi is a female in a culture where a woman’s place in society is secured through marriage and motherhood. As a man, Job did not lose his land or his stature in the community, but Naomi did. Plus Naomi was a widow in a foreign country when her tragedy struck. Not a safe place to be with no male family. Naomi was far from Bethlehem and her God.
Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
Carolyn James informs us that the Hebrew word for widow almanah shows her low rank in the ancient patriarchal culture. Alem mean “unable to speak”, the widow or “the silent one,” had no voice, no legal rights and no recourse against injustice. This fact is verified by Jesus accusation that the religious leaders of his day of “devouring widows houses” in Mark 12 and Luke 20.
Another reference can be found in Proverbs 15:25 The LORD tears down the proud man’s house but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.
 Ruth 1:3 Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Naomi is indeed a bereaved woman finding herself widowed and ten years later no sons to provide for her.  In a pagan country, many dangers could threaten her. She may be bitter but Naomi does have the faith to return home to her people and her God.
Deuteronomy 10:18 assures us God “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow,
Possibly she felt like a prodigal returning to Bethlehem after seeking refuge in Moab and living there, ten years long enough for Naomi’s sons to marry forbidden foreign women.  Add to the shame she returned accompanied by a “strange woman,” Ruth, her daughter-in-law.
Ruth 1:19-21 When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”  20 “Don’t call me Naomi” (which means pleasant or sweet) she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 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.”
Most of us can sympathize with her sorrow, her deep despair, her sense of hopelessness. Yes and even bitterness. How many of us have had the devastation of losing a spouse? Widowed or divorced we share a similar sense of loss.
·       Loss of male companionship, protection, and emotional support of a spouse
·       Change in finances and possibly the loss of your own home
·       Change of  your status in the community
o   Half a couple, uncomfortable with being the odd number in the group
o   Single women may be seen as threat-I take special care to avoid even the appearance of evil when around married men.
o   The loss of your husband’s influence in the community or church
Friends and neighbors are watching your response to the tough times in your life. Don’t give up hope. Turn to your Heavenly Father who is there waiting with arms opened wide to receive you. He will be your kinsmen redeemer.
 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
 A dear lady I know went through radiation several years ago. She never complained or reacted to her plight with bitterness. In fact, she was an encouragement to me when I was down. Through her multiple weeks of treatment, she witnessed to other patients, offering them hope and a smile. She continues to serve the LORD through her mercy and compassion to others.
God has a special place for women in His Kingdom. He is our hope.
 Proverbs 31:20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
Naomi's husband and two sons die in the first few verses of Ruth. Now Naomi and Ruth are the main characters in the story. Though Naomi returned home bitter, she didn’t stay bitter. We will see how she nurtures and encourages Ruth, and even orchestrates the relationship between Ruth and Boaz to provide a husband for Ruth and a kinsman redeemer to preserve the lineage of her husband, Elimelech.
There are 103 references to widows in the NIV bible. Deuteronomy provides specific laws for the protection of widows and orphans.  God’s prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zachariah, and Malachi warn against forsaking the plight of the widows and fatherless.
Jesus honored the widows mite in Luke 21: 3 “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.
Jesus shows compassion to a widow Luke 7 a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” …“Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Biblical scholar Bonnie Bowman Thuston notes “When Jesus raises this man from the dead, he is in fact, giving life back to two persons in the community; the man and his mother.”
He has proven through his scriptures that women and widows have a have a prominent place in the Bible. Consider the widows who provided food and shelter to the prophets Elisha Kings 1 and Elijah in Kings 2.
God used women many times in the Old Testament to save Israel. We saw the role of Rahab by giving refuge to Joshua’s spies. Deborah was one of 15 judges, not a bad ratio. Judges 5:24  “Most blessed of women be Jael… for her bravery in the killing commander of the Canaanite army.
Our LORD not only cares for women but he cherishes us as his children.  From Genesis when God created Eve as a helper for Adam to Revelation where the church is called the Bride of Christ, God has blessed the union of men and women. God uses women in a unique way for the furtherance of His kingdom.
Remember at the foot of the cross, John 19:26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” Charging John with her care.
The women came to the cross when the other disciples hid. Women were also the first ones at the tomb.  Mark 16:9 He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, She received the honor of telling the disciples she had seen Jesus; He was alive!
Nothing that happens to us can disqualify us from God’s purpose for our lives. My divorce, devastating as it was at the time, equipped me as a school teacher to comfort and empathize with single mothers the difficulty of raising children alone over issues with discipline, homework, and lack of funds. Even now in my position as TD, God has proven my unmarried status affords me time I need for to serve Him fully.  
God has a very special place for women in His Kingdom, even me.
Whenever the Bible highlights a widow or barren women you can expect something extraordinary to occur. Ruth was brought into the kingdom through the influence and godly life of her mother-in-law. Even as she urges Orpah and Ruth to return to their mother’s home, Naomi is showing unselfishness and true love. Yet as Ruth clings to her, Naomi relents. Walking back to Bethlehem alone would have been a lonely and arduous journey. Ruth exemplifies a special love for her mother-in-law by leaving her home and family to care for Naomi in verses 16 & 17. 
16And Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. 17Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried; the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me."
Ruth and Esther were honored to have books named after them. Ruth, faithful and devoted, even though she is of foreign birth will be in the lineage of the Messiah.  Esther was placed in the palace of a king to save her people from extinction.
In Acts 9: 32-39  Peter visit the saints in Lydda to find Tabitha (Dorcas) who was always doing good and helping the poor became sick and died, All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made. 40 Peter sent them out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning to the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man (or woman) who falls and has no one to help him up!
Titus 2:3-5 Paul instructs the older women to teach what is good. train the younger women to love their husbands and children,
1 Timothy 5:10 Give a list qualities of faithful widows  SHE is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
We have a sainted widow in my church. One of my greatest opportunities is to study every week with my friend and mentor, Miss Nellie. This is one time during my busy week where I can sit and enjoy the pleasure of her wisdom and her seemingly endless knowledge of the history of Cramerton. After losing most of the vision in her eyes, she can no long read and has little interest in television. It is my joy to read and discuss our Sunday lesson with her. Sometime I just sit and listen and chuckle to her anecdotes. She explains historical terminology to me, like counterpane and hoe cake. Nellie told me her uncle would be working out in the field, he would carefully clean off the hoe he was using and cook hoecakes right there over an open fire. She will burst out laughing, reminiscing about some the mischief the neighborhood lads had done. She is dearly loved by her family, neighbors, and church family. Though she rarely makes into the church building, Miss Nellie is a prayer warrior and, with the assistance of her loving daughters, she has a card ministry. She loves to phone encouragement to those the homebound and sick.
God has a special place for women in His Kingdom. He is our hope.
I want to challenge you retired ladies to consider mentoring some younger women and younger woman to find some way to minister to the homebound and widows. There are many ways that God can use you.
Will you allow God to use you in His Kingdom?     
Let us prayer.
Lord thank you for the blessing of women who by sharing their lives with us double our joy and halve our sorrows. But let us know true fulfillment comes only through YOU.  In Christ our hearts find a home and hope and peace. Amen.