From Bitterness to Blessing

I remember a hot summer day when I waltzed into the kitchen to get a cool, refreshing drink from the refrigerator. When I opened the door, the appealing choice was apple juice, so I poured a glass. As I took the first gulp, I was in for a shock; instead of the sweetness of apple juice I had a burst of bitterness. A closer look at the jar revealed its contents–apple vinegar !

Has life given you some sour mouthfuls of bitterness? This shocks the system. We usually assume that since God is a loving God, and we are His children by faith in Christ, that surely life will be a sweet experience right? But not on this side of Eden!

About 3,200 years ago Naomi, had a strong dose of disappointment. The book of Ruth describes how she had left the land of Israel with her husband and two sons during a famine. They settled in Moab, where eventually the two sons married Moabite women. Sadly the father and two sons died and all three women were left as widows. The classic story describes the way God showed His faithfulness to Naomi, in spite of her heartaches.

Upon returning to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth, Naomi greeted her old friends:

“… ‘Do not call me Naomi [Pleasant]; call me Mara [Bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20,21).

This little book describes the romance of redemption. God turned Naomi’s despair into delight, and Ruth’s emptiness was turned into fullness.

Why not read the book of Ruth again, or for the first time? It richly rewards personal study.

Virtues God cultivated in Ruth:

1. Her faithfulness

“But Ruth said [to Naomi]: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever 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. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.'” (Ruth 1:16-17).

2. Her initiative-2:2,7

3. Her humility-2:10

4 Her trust-2:13

5. Her consideration-2:14,18

6. Her teachability- 2:1-5

Virtues God cultivated in Boaz:

1. His kindness-2:8,9

2. His edification -2:11,12;

“And Boaz answered and said to her [Ruth], ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.'”(cf.3:10,11).

3. His generosity-2:14-16; 3:15,17

4. His diligence -3:18

5. His integrity- 4:1-4;

6. His commitment-3:12,13; 4:5-10

God’s blessings on the family:

1. Providing bread in Bethlehem-1:1:6

2. Providing salvation for Ruth, a gentile-1:16,17

2. Providing Ruth for Naomi-4:15

3. Providing a field for Ruth to glean in-2:2-6,15,17,23

4. Providing Boaz, the kinsman redeemer

“Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!’ And Naomi said to her, ‘This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives. [goel] ‘ (Ruth 2:20) The Hebrew word “goel” indicates one qualified to buy back a family member from slavery and their land from outside ownership (Lev 25:25-28;47-49). This is a marvelous type of Christ our redeemer! (Rom 3:23-26).

5. Providing an heir–Obed, the ancestor of King David and the Lord Jesus 4:13-22 (cf. Matt, 1:5,6,16)

God will cultivate virtues in us as we abide in Christ. He is “Jehovah Jireh”–The LORD will provide (Gen. 22:14)

F. B. Meyer commented on the way this story illustrates God’s continuing work of redemption.

“Paradise [Eden] has vanished from our world, as the picture of a landscape vanishes when swept by a storm. And our race stands in much the same plight as did Naomi and Ruth in this old-world story. We have lost our inheritance, and the one barrier which stands between us and despair is the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ. But, thank God, we need have no doubt as to the sequel. For as Boaz claimed back the estate for Ruth, so may we be confident that Jesus Christ will never be at rest till this sin-stained and distracted world is restored to her primitive order and beauty [following the Second Coming], as when the morning stars sang for joy [Job 38:7].[1]

Fellow believer, do you find yourself feeling a bit like Naomi after her losses? Take encouragement from the story of Ruth, God is our faithful redeemer. Even when we encounter affliction, we can trust Him to accomplish His plan. The final chapter of our life’s story will be written when we are face to face with Christ. (2 Cor 4:17,18). He intends to replace our bitterness with joy now and forever!

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom 15:4).


[1] Our Daily Walk p.159.

Copyright (c) by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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Copyright, John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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