Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sweet and Bitter Providence

For the past week or so, I have been reading and studying the book of Ruth in a my personal devotional time. God has used this sweet book in His Word as a precious encouragement to me these past few days. John Piper recently came out with a book entitled "Sweet and Bitter Providence" which is focused on the providence of god seen in the life of Ruth. At this time, I am not able to purchase that book however a sweet and dear friend told me that Pastor Piper preached a sermon series on Ruth and his sermons are free on his website ( This morning, I listened to his first sermon in this sermon and I am so excited to listen to the others in the days to come. I was so encouraged by his exposition of this book and I would like to share his closing thoughts:

Four Summary Lessons
Let me conclude with four summary lessons.

1. God's Sovereign Rule
God the almighty reigns in all the affairs of men. He rules the nations (Daniel 2:21) and he rules families. His providence extends from the U.S. Congress to your kitchen. Let's be like the women of faith in the Old Testament. Whatever else they doubted, they never doubted that God was involved in every part of their lives and that none could stay his hand (Daniel 4:35). He gives rain and he takes rain. He gives life and he takes life. In him we live and move and have our being. Nothing—from a toothpick to the Taj Mahal—is rightly understood except in relation to God. He is the all-encompassing, all-pervading reality. Naomi was right and we should join her in this conviction. God the Almighty reigns in all the affairs of men.

2. God's Mysterious Providence
God's providence is sometimes very hard. God had dealt bitterly with Naomi—at least in the short run it could only feel like bitterness. Perhaps someone will say: it was all owing to the sin of going to Moab and marrying foreign wives. Maybe so. But not necessarily. Psalm 34:19 says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all." Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament promises that believers will escape affliction in this life. But suppose Naomi's calamity was owing to her disobedience. That makes the story doubly encouraging because it shows that God is willing and able even to turn his judgments into joys. If Ruth was brought into the family by sin, it is doubly astonishing that she is made the grandmother of David and ancestor of Jesus Christ. Don't ever think that the sin of your past means there is no hope for your future.

3. God's Good Purposes
That leads to the third lesson. Not only does God reign in all the affairs of men, and not only is his providence sometimes hard, but in all his works his purposes are for the good and happiness of his people. Who would have imagined that in the worst of all times—the period of the judges—God was quietly moving in the tragedies of a single family to prepare the way for the greatest king of Israel? But not only that, he was working to fill Naomi and Ruth and Boaz and their friends with great joy. If anything this summer has fallen in on you to make your future look hopeless, learn from Ruth that God is right now at work for you to give you a future and a hope. Trust him; wait patiently. The ominous clouds are big with mercy and will break with blessing on your head.

4. Freedom Like Ruth's
Finally, we learn that if you trust the sovereign goodness and mercy of God to pursue you all the days of your life, then you are free like Ruth. If God calls, you can leave family, you can leave your job, you can leave Minnesota, and you can make radical commitments and undertake new ventures. Or you can find the freedom and courage and strength to keep a commitment you already made. When you believe in the sovereignty of God and that he loves to work mightily for those who trust him, it gives a freedom and joy that can't be shaken by hard times. The book of Ruth gives us a glimpse into the hidden work of God during the worst of times. And so like all the other Scriptures, as Paul says (Romans 15:4, 13), Ruth was written that we might abound in hope.

I encourage all Christian women to read and study the book of Ruth but especially those who are going through trials and diffculties. I have a feeling that David may have had his great grandmother, Ruth, and his great great grandmother, Naomi, in mind when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write Psalm 34:19, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all."

This sermon has helped me to better see and understand the hand of God at work in the lives of both Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi and in my life as well. To listen to this sermon, go to and click on resources then sermons then by scripture then Ruth. He has four sermons but I encourage you to start with the first one entitled "Ruth: Sweet and Bitter Providence". However, first and foremost, I encourage you to read the book of Ruth. I know you will be encouraged and your soul refreshed!