God’s Hand or Unintended Consequences

Perhaps my Forum comments should be called “Deeper Thoughts” (at least for me), because I write these thoughts after writing the Bible commentary and lesson. I can’t seem to keep from thinking more about the Bible lesson after I write it.

At the end of about ten years in Moab, Naomi summed up her experiences with these words to her daughters-in-law, “It has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the LORD has turned against me” (Ruth 1:13). Was the hand of the LORD really against Naomi? Whether it was or not, that is the way she felt, and sometimes we may have felt that same way. If we haven’t felt that way, some people have and still do.

I think Naomi suffered more from unintended or unexpected consequences rather than from the hand of the LORD being against her. Let’s look at some possibilities.

For example, when Christian missionaries go to a pagan land, they expect some opposition, at least from the evil spirits that live there. All Christians face spiritual warfare; that’s why God has given believers armor to wear. In Ephesians 6:11-12, Paul wrote, “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Christian missionaries and evangelists go out with faith in the Lord Jesus and because the Lord has called them to go and minister to others in that place. They have support from the Holy Spirit and people of prayer.

In sharp contrast, Naomi, her husband, and her sons left Bethlehem to escape a famine, apparently brought on as part of the LORD’s discipline of His people—to turn them back to Him. They left for Moab during the period of the Judges—a time of sin, discipline, repentance, and renewal. We have no indication that the LORD sent Naomi and her family to Moab for missionary work, though the LORD used them to at least lead Ruth to true faith in Him.

It was perhaps an unintended, but not an unexpected consequence, that her sons married pagan wives. We do not know the causes of death for her husband and sons. They could just as easily have gotten food poisoning in a land that did not prepare food as carefully as the Jews living in Judah. They could have eaten uncooked pork that had been offered to idols. In a pagan society, where malevolence and increasing violence is always a result of a culture having turned away from God, they may have been killed by bandits or simple murderers. We have no indication from the Bible that the LORD took their lives as punishment for their sins or for their lack of faith in moving to Moab—a known enemy of Israel where Lot’s ancestors had turned from the LORD and worshiped idols instead.

In sharp contrast to Naomi’s belief that “the hand of the LORD has turned against me” (in Naomi’s words), the LORD graciously watched over Naomi. The LORD blessed her with two loving daughters-in-law, who both wanted to return with her to Bethlehem until Naomi’s feeble faith convinced Orpha to return to her home and her idols to find her security in a husband. The LORD was always with Naomi, caring for her, giving her loving daughters-in-law, and trying to strengthen her feeble faith through many unnoticed blessings. The LORD was so much with Naomi that Ruth came to believe in the true God and told Naomi that she would be with her until death parted them. Ruth showed that she had turned from paganism to Judaism when she declared that Naomi’s people would be her people and Naomi’s God would be her God. In God’s providence, Naomi and Ruth experienced what the Holy Spirit promised true believers in the LORD; in Romans 8:28, we read, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” In God’s providence, Ruth became an ancestor of King David and King Jesus—the long expected Jewish Messiah.

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