Naomi – A Portrait of Enduring Faith Mother’s Day, 2009 Gages Lake Bible Church Pastor Daniel Darling Intro: I’m honored to speak and to preach on this great holiday, Mother’s Day. I think it’s wonderful that America still has the decency to set aside a national holiday to honor its mothers. As a father of two children, I’m more keenly aware of the impact, the hard work, the sacrifice, and the powerful influence of a mother. I happen to think I’m married to the best mother in the world. I also happen to think that God richly blessed me with a mother who cared for me, loved me, led me to faith in Jesus Christ, and raised each of us with distinction and care. A Little History of the Holiday In the United States, Mother’s Day was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe (who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic) as a day dedicated to peace. Howe organized Mother’s Day meetings in Boston every year. In 1907, Philadelphia’s Anna Jarvis campaigned to establish a national Mother’s Day. Jarvis persuaded her mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia, to celebrate Mother’s Day on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the second Sunday of May. By the next year, Mother’s Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia. Jarvis and her supporters wrote to ministers, businessmen and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother’s Day. It was successful, and by 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the official announcement proclaiming Mother’s Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the second Sunday of May. Ideals and then Reality As we set aside this day to honor mothers, a lot of preachers wrestle with the best text to preach. Because while mother’s day can be a wonderful holiday, it can also be bittersweet. Some of you have not had the blessing of being mothers. Others of you have lost mothers recently and you’re still feeling that pain. And still there are some here who have had complicated relationships with their mothers. Perhaps the most popular text on what it means to be a good mother and generally, what it means to be a woman for God, is Proverbs 31. Proverbs 31 has long been used as a pattern for woman seeking to please the Lord. In fact, bestselling books have been written on this passage of Scripture. Entire ministries have been founded promoting its ideals. And many Christian women have used this as inspiration. But quite often Proverbs 31 can be discouraging for woman, because unless you’re a perfect women, you fall short. In her book, Amusing Grace, Rhonda Rhea writes, “Oh let’s get real. The only place we’ll find Super Mom is in the comics-unless, of course, we’re talking about that incredible Proverbs 31 super hero, Virtue Woman. That virtuous woman has long been a wonderful inspiration, a super motivation, and a great frustration for those of us who feel we can’t measure up. While the Lord has used her to send me in the right direction more than once, I have to confess to never having actually arrived at the destination. The destination, as you might guess, has been to become Mrs. Proverbs Perfect-Martha Stewart, Mother Teresa, June Cleaver, and Wonder Woman all rolled into one strong, industrious, benevolent lump of creativity. If you see an “S” on my shirt, it’s most likely a stain and probably means I’m having another bad laundry day. But if I were labeled a heroine, the “S” would have to stand for something more like “Survival Woman”! The basic goal for Survival Woman is to keep my five children in relatively clean underwear (in case they’re in an accident), make sure they don’t run with any sharp objects, and raise those children without misplacing any of them. What the Lord has for your ministry may not be exactly the same as the Proverbs 31 Woman (you can now breathe a great sigh of relief). You don’t have to do everything she does to be successful (another sigh). True virtue is becoming a woman who loves, serves, and honors the Lord. If you honor your God and love your children, then you are Super Mom. And Super Mom still keeps her finger in Proverbs 31. Save the superhero syndrome for the comics.” Now you mothers out there can breathe a sigh of relief! From Super Mom to Real Mom One of the things I love about the Scriptures is that God not only put in there passages like Proverbs 31, which stand as a goal, an ideal, but the Holy Spirit also saw fit to include in the pages of our Bible the stories of real-life characters. Sinners like you and me who had hearts for God but who often failed and were human, weak, and sinful. In fact, some scholars have said that 70% of the Bible is story, narrative. It is one of these narratives I want to discuss today. The story of an often overlooked woman named Naomi. Naomi played a major role in the unfolding story of the Scriptures: God’s plan of redemption that began with Adam, went thru Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the Hebrew people, thru David’s family, and on into the lives of Mary and the person of Jesus Christ. Naomi’s story is often overlooked. She’s seen as a mere footnote to this beautiful loves story in the Old Testament between Ruth and Boaz. And when people do sit up and take notice of her, many have criticized her as a woman of small faith and a bitter disposition. But I think Naomi has been unfairly targeted. In fact, if you look at her life closely—as we intend to do—I think you’ll see a pattern of enduring faith in God. You might even call her the Job of the Old Testament. The Scriptures are full of stories of inspiring women. The reason I chose Naomi was because I think in her story you find the stories of many woman we know. She represents a mother who has lost children. She represents a mother who has lived in poverty and struggled to raise her children. She represents and She represents mothers-in-law. She represents widows. Naomi’s life represents the gritty endurance required by woman who follow after God. Her story is proof that God is a God of grace, that mankind is a fallen creature, and that there is a reward to hanging on in faith when our circumstances are bleak. I’d like to invite you to turn in your Bible’s to the book of Ruth. Joshua, Judges, Ruth. If you get to 1 Samuel, you’ve gone too far. I’ve basically divided Naomi’s life into four sections, which you see there on your study sheet. We’ll consider each one and what they say to women today in the 21st century. 1) A Happy Mother The beautiful love story in the book of Ruth is set in a time of absolute turmoil in the nation of Israel. It’s the period of the Judges. In fact, if you read the last story in the book of Judges, it is tragic story of immorality, violence, and greed. Four separate times in the book of Judges it characterized the character of the people this way, “They did that which was right in their own eyes.” Let’s read the first of Ruth, chapter 1 and get a sense of this family. 1 Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. 2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. Ruth 1:1-2 (KJV) So here we have a family. From all appearances this is a god-fearing family. The name of the husband is Elimelech, which in the Hebrew means, “God is King.” In the midst of Israel’s idolatry and immorality, there was a family who feared God. What a great testimony. It reminds me of Noah’s family. If you read the book of Genesis, it describes the world in Noah’s day. Same as in Elimelech’s day. Noah and his family feared God and so did Elimelech. Even though everyone else in Israel bowed their knee to false gods, this family said, “God is King.” Two spare thoughts before we continue: Romans 5:20 says, “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” When you look around, you see the increasingly sexualization of our culture. You see the shifting in attitudes and conscience about God. You see the church losing its influence. But don’t despair. Because God always has a remnant. He always has a people. And God always is in charge. Be that person. Don’t give in to the culture, be the person that is different, righteous, marked. Other families may abandon God, but can your family say, “God is King?” I hope so. But we see here that something happened. There was a famine in the land of Israel. It is likely that this famine was a direct result of God’s judgment on Israel. This was one way God got people’s attention. Years later, God would use a famine to judge Israel, in the days of Elijah. Now it’s hard to wrap our minds around what a famine is, because we here in America are blessed. Very few, there are some who go hungry, but few experience such poverty that there is no food available anywhere. In those days, there were no social safety nets. The famines that Israel experienced were often severe, some lasting for years (Gen. 12:10; 41:27; Jer. 14:1-6). During famines, starving people resorted to eating such things as wild vines, heads of animals, garbage, dung, and even human flesh (2 Kings 4:39; 6:25,28; Lam. 4:4-10). So Elimilech took his children from Israel and went 50 miles to Moab. Now a few thoughts on this move. Most preachers, commentators, authors I’ve studied feel this was a bad move on the part of Elimilech. He should have trusted God, they say. Israel was where God called his people and they should have stayed there. We do know that Moab was not one of God’s favored places, by any means. Moab fathered by an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters. The descendants of Moab were a wicked people who worshiped false gods, who conquered Israel for a time. In fact, in Psalms 108:9 it is said that God called Moab his “washpot.” A few thoughts about this move: Now, I’m not entirely convinced that going to Moab was a sin. Just like I’m not entirely sure that Abraham sojourn to Egypt to find food was a sin either. It’s easy in hindsight to say that they should have stayed and trusted God to find them food. But if you’re starving and your family is literally starving, I do believe that survival is important. As a man, it’s your job to provide for your family. These men took it seriously. We should trust God, but God also gives us a brain and feet and hands. For instance, God promised to protect David and make him king, but was David foolish to run when Saul tried to kill him? I don’t think so. Is it foolish to lock our doors here at the church? Is it foolish to have a security system in your home? Is it a lack of faith to have health insurance and other safety nets? No, I believe those things, if readily available, can be the means God takes care of us. All that being said, as we will see, this family’s move to Moab wasn’t a successful one. Elimilech died and the two sons died. Which brings up some very practical points about today: Your faith in God is tested in a time of a famine. I see people get all fired up about faithfulness to God, but the first trial that comes, they bolt for greener pastures. They begin missing church because of this reason or that reason. It’s like they can trust God to a point, but faint in the time of trouble. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I once heard a man say, “the grass that’s greener on the other side maybe artificial turf.” That’s good. o It’s too easy to bolt a difficult marriage. But a second marriage may not be any easier. o It’s too easy to quit a job that’s hard or a boss that’s too tough. But that next job may not be any better. o It’s too easy to quite on a church that doesn’t quite meet all of your perceived needs. But that new church may not be any better. But I want to get back to the main character of our message today. Here is Naomi. And up until now, her life is idyllic. She has a wonderful, God- fearing husband. She gave birth to two boys. Everything a woman could want. Her name meant, “pleasant or cheerful.” And right now, you can see why she was pleasant and cheerful. But life was about to get much, much tougher. A Heavy-Hearted Widow Let’s continue on in this story. 3 And Elimelech Naomi's husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. 4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years. Ruth 1:3-4(KJV) Naomi already had moved her family to a new country and a new culture. Don’t’ discount how hard this was. They had to assimilate and live out their faith in an entirely foreign land. Now, her husband dies. Now we don’t know when her husband died. Was it right after they moved? Was it a few years later? It seems that her husband died and then her sons grew older. So stop and think about how hard Naomi’s life was until this point. She’s a foreign lady with two young children. How does she raise money? How does she feed her children? There were not a lot of options for women to work in those days. There wasn’t a social safety net for widows. And yet Naomi raised her children in the Lord, in a culture and an environment that was against her. She likely lived in poverty. This tells me that God has his hand on single mothers. We know the ideal family situation is a mom and a dad at home, but we don’t live in an ideal world, we live in a fallen world. And so you single mothers, you have it hard, but God can work thru you to raise your children in the Lord. God is with you and watching over you. I salute you. Then her sons grow up and they marry Moabite woman. Now it wasn’t expressly forbidden in the Levitical law to marry Moabites, but a woman who wasn’t Jewish would not be allowed in the camp of Israel for ten years. It certainly wasn’t encouraged by God. Somehow Naomi managed to raise two sons who grew up and got married. But life would just continue to get harder for Naomi. A Hopeless Woman Let’s continue our story. It’s a single line, a single verse in your Bible that you easily pass over to get to the good stuff of this romantic story of Ruth. But to Naomi it was devastating. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband. Ruth 1:5 (KJV) You have to know something here about Naomi’s situation. The culture back then was such that women had rights and privileges and opportunity only thru the men in their lives. Wives were identified by their husbands. And if the husband died, it was their sons who would take care of them. A woman longed to have a son, because a son would ensure that the mother was taken care of the rest of her life. But Naomi lost both of her sons. Do you realize what this meant to her? She had no way to make a living or support herself. There was no social security or life insurance. She was past childbearing age, so there was no hope of future sons. Often widows had to take to the streets, to sell themselves, just to survive. Naomi was left with nothing. I can’t imagine for a minute the pain of losing your children. There is an old saying that you’re children are supposed to bury you and not the other way around. I had the privilege of attending the Lake County Prayer Breakfast on Thursday. The speaker was former Illinois Attorney General, Jim Ryan. I was touched by this man’s courage and faith. He and his wife lost two of their children. One was due to a brain tumor. The other suicide. He spoke movingly of the pain and the numbness he felt when he heard those words. He said, “when the hospital chaplain came in, I saw his word’s move, but I almost didn’t believe it. It was surreal.” Some of you have experienced that pain. You’ve lost children. I want to say to you today, that God’s Word speaks to your situation. God knows the pain and He feels is as acutely as you do. He lost his son. I want you to see in Naomi the key to enduring faith in those hard times. In spite of all that happened to her, we see that she never lost faith in God. I’m sure it was weak at times. I’m sure it was tested at times, but she kept her eyes on God. 4) A Heartfelt Surrogate So here is Naomi. She left Israel with a full life and she is about to go back empty. But life isn’t over for her yet. It’s just beginning a new season of faith and hope and ministry. I want to show you five keys to Naomi’s enduring faith: 1) She kept her eyes on the Lord. 6 Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread. 7 Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah. 8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. 9 The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. Ruth 1:6-9 (KJV) Did you notice that she kept saying, “The Lord, The Lord.” Even though she lived in a land of false worship, she didn’t’ succumb to the pressure to give up her faith. I’m sure friends told her to abandon Jehovah, but she never did. Her words and her speech, in the midst of her grief, spoke of an gritty reliance on Jehovah. She returned to Israel. Why? Because she heard that God was blessing his people again. She wanted to return to the place God intended His people to be. The place of blessing. I want to say this to you. The best place for you to be when your suffering from loss or a trial is where God’s presence is. And that place is the church, the body of Christ. Many are tempted to run from the church when it gets hard. But we need to run to the church. 2) She considered others before herself. See, Naomi knew that her daughters-in-law needed to stay in Moab. Why? Because they could still marry and be taken care of. But if they left and went to Jerusalem, they’d be outcasts. They were Moabite woman. No man would marry them. This was selfless advice. Often in a time of trial, we use it as an excuse to be selfish. You’ll hear people say, “Hey, you deserve to be selfish now, you’ve been selfless too long.” 3) She had a real faith that was visible to others. 14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. 15 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. 16 And Ruth said, Intreat 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: 17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. 18 When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her. Ruth 1:14- 18 (KJV) Now Ruth made a courageous decision here. She decided to go with Naomi to a land where she might very well be considered an outcast. But we often miss a big, important point here. Why is it that Ruth wanted to go with Naomi? She said, “Your God is my God.” Apparently, Ruth saw in her mother-in-law a glimpse of God. Let’s remember that Ruth was a Moabite woman who worshiped the false god. But Naomi’s faith was apparently so strong that it caused Ruth to come to faith in the one true Jehovah God. It was a faith expressed in the midst of a great trial. A faith that endured the worst life has to offer. And she came out with her faith intact. It was so strong it had a powerful impact on her daughter-in-law. I want to say this. The faith of a godly woman has a tremendous impact on the world around her. I think of my mother-in-law’s faith. She is a woman very similar to Naomi. She’s endured some of life’s worst challenges. And yet I see in her a gritty, determined faith. Is she perfect? No. Was Naomi perfect? No. Could you find flaws in her life? Sure. But on the whole, she trusted and loved the Almighty. 4) She had a rock-solid trust in the sovereignty of God. Let’s look a little closer at Naomi’s faith. In verse 6, she automatically credits God with bringing Israel out of the famine. She didn’t say, “Yeah, the crops are really good this year” or “Wow, they found a great way to produce in Israel.” No, God did it. o You can look at your life and give everyone else credit: The stock market was up that year. Business was good. We worked hard. Or – God did it. In verse 9, she tells the two daughters-in-law that it will the Lord who will determine their fate in Moab. Do you tell your children this, mothers? Or do you say, “Make your own way” or “Get a good education?” You should say, “I pray the Lord deals kindly with you.” Her own personally story is anchored in God’s sovereignty. Let’s read: 19 Sothey two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? 20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? Ruth 1:19-21(KJV) o Most people read this and say, “Wow, what a bitter old lady.” But that isn’t entirely fair and true. Let me explain: Notice she says, “Call Me “mara””. Which means bitter. But what she is saying is this. I’ve had a really hard, tough, life. But this is God’s doing. The Almighty has dealt with me. In other words, I don’t’ understand it. But God is sovereign and I trust him. God gives and God takes away. o You see, this is real-life faith. People think the Christian life and faith is an endless series of smiles and cartwheels. People think that if you’re not wearing a goofy, Ronald McDonald smile in the midst of tragedy, then somehow you’re not godly. o No real joy, godly joy, is the deep-down sense that God is in control, He is allowing these things to happen and he’s in charge of my life. That is faith. It’s barely hanging on. o You will have some bitter moments. Life won’t always be “Naomi” - pleasant. Much of it may be “Mara” or bitter. But if you keep your eyes and heart on God, you’ll get thru it. 5) Lastly, Naomi poured her life into others. Naomi was a widow, a childless woman, a single woman—all wrapped up in one. Her sorry was untold. And yet she didn’t let her status stop her from impacting God’s kingdom. The story of Ruth and Boaz is one of the most enduring romances in history. You know the story, because it has cosmic implications. But this wonderful story, of a Moabite woman, who represents us, the sinner being bought and paid for by Boaz, who represents Christ—this story wouldn’t have happened were not for a faithful woman named Naomi. We know the story, so I won’t repeat it here. But a few thoughts: a. She used her life as an example of faith. Ruth became a woman after God simply by watching the life of her mother-in-law. i. Woman, single, widowed, divorced, you can do this. You may not have children, but you can be an example and witness to many children and many young women. b. She used her tragedy to motivate her to better the life of others. She was left without a husband as was Ruth, so she was determined to make sure Ruth had a husband. i. You may not have children, but you can help those young women who do and give them advice, help them, and be their support. c. She used her influence to help build the Kingdom. Because of Naomi’s faithfulness, Ruth married Boaz and thus was grafted into the line of Jesus Christ. She was the most unlikely member of God’s royal family. It is a demonstration of God’s grace. i. Women, I want to challenge you. Whether you’re a Naomi or not, you can have a powerful influence that can bring others into the Kingdom of God. ii. I think of our Awana workers. I think of their tireless effort. I believe their will be hundreds of young kids in Heaven because of their love for God. I’d like to share a few thoughts about Moms before we begin our message today. I get a lot of emails throughout the week and this was one I thought was appropriate for today: You Know You're a Mom When ... 1. Your feet stick to the kitchen floor .... and you don't care. 2. When the kids are fighting, you threaten to lock them in a room together and not let them out until someone's bleeding. 3. You can't find your cordless phone, so you ask a friend to call you, and you run around the house madly, following the sound until you locate the phone downstairs in the laundry basket. 4. You spend an entire week wearing sweats. 5. Your idea of a good day is making it through without a child leaking bodily fluids on you. 6. Popsicles become a food staple. 7. Your favorite television show is a cartoon. 8. Peanut butter and jelly is eaten at least in one meal a day. 9. You're willing to kiss your child's boo-boo, regardless of where it is. 10. Your baby's pacifier falls on the floor and you give it back to her, after you suck the dirt off of it because you're too busy to wash it off. 11. Your kids make jokes about flatulence, burping, pooping, etc. and you think it’s funny. 12. You're so desperate for adult conversation that you spill your guts to the telemarketer that calls and HE hangs up on YOU! 13. Spit is your number one cleaning agent. 14. You're up each night until 10 PM vacuuming, dusting, wiping, washing, drying, loading, unloading, shopping, cooking, driving, flushing, ironing, sweeping, picking up, changing sheets, changing diapers, bathing, helping with homework, paying bills, budgeting, clipping coupons, folding clothes, putting to bed, dragging out of bed, brushing, chasing, buckling, feeding (them, not you), PLUS swinging, playing baseball, bike riding, pushing trucks, cuddling dolls, roller balding, basketball, football, catch, bubbles, sprinklers, slides, nature walks, coloring, crafts, jumping rope, PLUS raking, trimming, planting, edging, mowing, gardening, painting, and walking the dog. You get up at 5:30 AM and you have no time to eat, sleep, drink or go to the bathroom, and yet...you still managed to gain 10 pounds. 15. In your bathroom there is toothpaste on the light fixtures, water all over the floor, a dog drinking out of the toilet and body hair forming a union to protest unsafe working conditions. 16. You buy cereal with marshmallows in it. 17. The closest you get to gourmet cooking is making rice crispies bars. The ORIGIN OF MOTHER'S DAY gives a brief historical overview of what has been our nationally recognized day for nearly a century. I think it is q good thing to corporately recognize mothers, especially in these days of severe feminism and anti-traditional family by a vocal minority. In my opinion, mothers may not be unappreciated as much as under appreciated. The cliché, “more is caught than taught” is certainly true of mothers. They communicate by how they live, —Amusing Grace, Rhonda Rhea. Pages 49-51 Resilient MOTHER'S DAY One afternoon a man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house. His three children were outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard. The door of his wife's car was open, as was the front door to the house. Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door. He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she may be ill, or that something serious had happened. He found her lounging in the bedroom, still curled in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, "What happened here today?" She again smiled and answered, "You know every day when you come home from work and ask me what in the world did I do today?" "Mhmmm." She answered, "Well, today I didn't do it."
Pages to are hidden for
"MOTHER DAY"Please download to view full document