Sunday, October 16, 2016

Good Father

Good Father
October 17, 2016
Ruth 1:20  "'Don't call me Naomi,' she told them. 'Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.'"

The Lord your God is a good Father.  What does it mean to be a Good Father, if He truly is a Good Father?  Will your life always be filled with rainbows and roses and butterflies?  Of course not; no one believes this, not even the most positive, glass-half-full Christian.  But can you still say He is a Good Father when things go horribly wrong, the opposite as planned?  It's easy to sing about His goodness on a Sunday morning or in the car on the way to work, but can you say this when the chips are really down?  Naomi couldn't.  You remember Naomi, right?  If not, here is a fast version of her story.

Things were going well for Naomi; she had a respected husband, two boys, and a relatively comfortable lifestyle.  Then famine struck in Bethlehem.  Because they could afford to move their household elsewhere, she traveled with her husband and kids to where the money was to be made and the food was plenty.  But then disaster really struck.  Her husband died.  It was OK, her sons, now men, could take care of her and continue in the family business.  But then bad went to worse.  Her two sons also passed away.  Soon the money ran out and she didn't have a way to support herself or her two daughters-in-law.  She recommended her daughters-in-law go and fend for themselves, finding new husbands any way they could.  One kissed her and wished her well, the other, Ruth, stayed.

Naomi and Ruth traveled back to where Naomi's family and friends survived the famine, which was now over after many years.  Everyone recognized their friend, as Naomi, but Naomi asked them to call her by a different name, to call her Mara, which means bitter or bitterness.  The name Naomi meant happiness, yet she, in her sadness, had become bitter and hard.  Naomi helped Ruth find a husband and Ruth was able to find happiness in the arms of another man, Boaz.  Thankfully, Ruth and Boaz took Naomi in, taking care of her as she aged.  But Naomi, now Mara, was never able to remarry nor was she able to find happiness again.  The story ends with Ruth and Boaz having a baby, and Naomi spent her final years helping to rear their son, Obed.

The story certainly stinks for Naomi, and one can  understand why she became bitter.  But I don't know if Naomi ever praised the Lord after the disaster was over.  I don't know if Naomi was ever able to proclaim that God was still a Good Father.  Scripture never says she changed her name to Happiness again.  My guess, and this is not recorded in Scripture, but I imagine there was a small degree of happiness at least when she held Ruth's little baby, smelling his head after a bath, seeing him smile, or hearing him coo when she tickled his belly.  That baby, though she would have no way to know it, would grow up to become the grandfather of King David, and one of a few to be named in the human lineage of Jesus.  Naomi held the human seed that led to the earthly father of Jesus, yet she called herself bitterness.  It was only after the famine and her great personal loss that the story of Jesus started and yet her name no longer meant happiness.  She was saddened by her tragedy but did she ever proclaim that He was, and is, still a Good Father?  Her friends had to help her with that.  Apparently Naomi was struggling to praise the Lord in the end; her friends encouraged her, helping to do just that, helping her to give the baby his name, Obed, which meant servant worshipper.

We can learn from Naomi's story and realize there is Someone at work in our story, even in the midst of tragedy.  That Someone has the name of Good Father.  He is a Good Father when things go well and He is a Good Father when things make you want to quit and throw in the towel.  God is good, all the time.  He is still sovereign, and is always on His throne.  He knows what He is doing and is crafting your circumstance right now.  I promise you, no one knows your bitterness more than Noami, except she is standing in Heaven right now, next to Jesus, next to Obed, rejoicing in the goodness of the Father.  I know you don't understand why it is you might be experiencing Naomi's story, but choose today not to become Mara.  He is a Good Father.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 41:51-52, Ruth, Ps 136:1, Matt 7:11

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