Have you ever thought about the fact that the first time the word “hope” is used in the Bible, it came from a hopeless woman?
Have to admit, it surprised me!
When I started doing a study of the word “hope”, I expected to see it sprinkled throughout the Bible starting in Genesis. Yet in the first seven books of the Bible---nothing. When it appears in Ruth 1:12, it’s coming from a woman who has lost all hope.
“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!”
(Ruth 1:11-13 MSG)
So often we get caught up in the romantic love story of Ruth and Boaz that we can forget about her. Yet the book of Ruth begins with her story.
Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel— there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there. (Ruth 1:1-2)
Should they have left Bethlehem? Were they wrong to move to a foreign country filled with idol worship? Should her sons have married Moabite women? Did she lose so much as a result of this decision?
I’m sure these questions played over and over in her head a thousand times haunting her after tragedy struck. The answers weren’t for her or us to know for sure. Really it didn’t matter anymore. The choices were made and couldn’t be changed, the worst had happened, and all that was left to do was live with what was. That looked pretty grim.
Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. They lived there in Moab for the next ten years. But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now the woman was left without either her young men or her husband. (Ruth 1:3-5)
All alone in a foreign land.
Her assets appeared slim---just two daughter-in-laws, also grieving from the loss of their husbands.
Three women with no way to provide for themselves or protect themselves.
In future chapters we see that Naomi believed God had turned against her.
Grieving and destitute, Naomi decided to return home to Bethlehem to live out the rest of her days until she, too, died. It’s important to understand that Naomi intended to make the trip alone, leaving her daughter-in-laws behind. Only Ruth wouldn’t stay in Moab.
No one really knows why. Personally, I believe that Ruth found a new life serving the God of Israel while she lived in Naomi’s family and her choice was a commitment to follow Him. Others believe that Ruth’s choice came from loyalty to Naomi. Whatever her motives, we can know one thing for sure---Ruth did not follow Naomi to Israel with the hope of finding a husband or starting a new life because right from the start Naomi made it clear that this was ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE.
“But Naomi was firm: ‘Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become your future husbands? Go back, dear daughters—on your way, please! I’m too old to get a husband. Why, even if I said, ‘There’s still hope!’ and this very night got a man and had sons, can you imagine being satisfied to wait until they were grown? Would you wait that long to get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to swallow—more bitter for me than for you.
God has dealt me a hard blow.’”
Is there anything more hopeless than believing that God has turned away from you?
When you believe that you’ve done too much, sinned too greatly, failed so many times that the future is irreparable, where can you find hope?
What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you going through the day? How do you believe for the future?
Obviously, you don’t.
You just resign that this is your miserable life and do what Naomi planned to do---live out the rest of your days without hope.
Thankfully, as we continue to read through the book of Ruth we see that Naomi’s plans were not God’s plans. Although Naomi saw absolutely no hope for the future, God had a redemptive plan that was greater than anything Naomi could ever conceive in her limited imagination.
As we continue to read in Ruth, we see that God’s plan included more than just finding a way to provide Naomi’s needs, but His purpose took Naomi’s hopeless situation and wove it into His divine purpose for redeeming man from sin.
What Naomi didn’t realize in that moment of grief and devastation was that her life wasn’t over---instead, her legacy would go on to include being an heir to the line of King David from which Jesus would ultimately be born.
From Naomi’s story we can see that no matter how hopeless, lost, or devastating our lives may seem, through the redeeming power of Jesus, each of us still has hope.
That’s the most beautiful part of the story of Naomi.
Her help came in the form of a redeemer.
“The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer.” Ruth 4:14
In the Old Testament, the “guardian-redeemer” was a type (a living example) of what Jesus would be in the New Testament. Just as Naomi’s hope was restored by her redeemer, Boaz, so every woman who feels like her life is hopeless can have the hope of restoration through our Redeemer, Jesus.
No life is too far gone.
No mistake is too great.
No one has sinned too much or made too many bad choices that they cannot experience forgiveness, healing, and restoration through the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. Because He rose from the dead, each of us has the opportunity to be a new creation and life a new life in Jesus.
This is the basis for all of our hope.
Perhaps today you can identify with Naomi.
You look at your life and see nothing but grief, hopelessness, and devastation.
Questions of “why” and “if only” are haunting your thoughts filling you with regret.
Maybe you feel like even God has turned against you, and you have absolutely no hope for the future.
Today I want to encourage you to read through the book of Ruth and see that there is hope.
God’s plan for your life is SO much bigger than anything you can imagine.
He sees beyond the grief and pain into His plan to provide, to protect, and most importantly, He has a plan to help you fulfill your purpose in His kingdom plan.
It doesn’t matter that you can’t see the whole plan right now---God can.
As you put your trust in your Redeemer and allow Him to work in your life, God will orchestrate the events of your life to fulfill His plan and His purpose---your ultimate destiny.
God is not against you, He loves you and He has a plan and a purpose for your life.
Through Jesus, any woman can have her sins forgiven, be healed of any bondage in her past, develop a new life in the present, and have hope for the future.
The story’s not over yet----you have a Redeemer.
In this, you can find hope.