Vol. 8-06 – 02-05-23 – God and Miserable People
Love or Fury?
So, they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and He became impatient over the misery of Israel . –Judges 10:16
I pastored a small mission church in Amish country near Lancaster PA. It was my first church to pastor.
I met some Amish folks and invited them to church. None came. Then I invited them to send their children to our VBS. They came. And on Friday night several families came to watch their children present what they learned during VBS. While the adults still did not come to church, I gained a hearing in their homes.
In one conversation, one of the Amish women asked me what I believed about the OT. I told the group the OT was part of God’s Word, so we need to teach it, for it is true and for our benefit. I quickly asked what they believed about the OT. One elder in the group, their bishop, said that the OT was an allegory to teach what God expected. Most of the OT was simply stories, not true events.
I asked why he thought that. His response was that there was too much wrath (fury) when the God they know is a God of love.
God’s character displays many things: love, grace, mercy, patience, kindness, jealousy, and even wrath. The Amish had a box they fit God into and would not allow Him to have a grand list of characters as I spoke of. So, I asked the elder if he brought up his children to respect his expectations. I then asked him what he did when his child violated his expectations. He simply stated that his child would be punished. I responded that it sounds like the God of the OT.
I then moved ahead with the other characters God displayed in the OT and asked the elder to respond to how that would work in his family. Love. Grace. Mercy. And the rest. He agreed with me that there were examples in the OT of those characters. I then asked a double-pronged question: Are these character pictures simply stories, or, are they intended to shape our hearts toward a holy God?
After that meeting, it was not unusual for Amish men to stop by the church to see if they could do something for the church. I knew they were hard-working people, but I also knew that the reason they stopped by is that they had some questions to ask. So, while they worked together, I did some work with them so that they could ask their questions.
Several were miserable. We will explore that a little in the next section.
In the prior verses, God exclaimed: You have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore, I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress. –Judges 10:13-14
In God’s anger, He teaches the Israelites a lesson. All these dead gods they were worshiping have no beneficial power, no love, no mercy, no grace. In your foolishness, you are relegated to misery.
Your daughter-in-law who loves you . . . is more to you than seven sons. –Ruth 4:15
What is the first thought that comes to your mind with the following words:
Pastor’s wife Father-in-Law
Do words like bossy, nosey, interfering, helpful, or encourager work? What else might work?
Since moving south, I have heard the word “peach” used. One word I have not heard is “prune.” The Book of Ruth seems to have a number of descriptives. Ruth married into a Jewish family—not what she grew up with. She was welcomed into the family. But, can you imagine the difficult adjustments? Clothing. Foods. Names. Culture. Family structure. And more.
Then, tragically, the family patriarch died.
Naomi is now dependent on her children and their in-laws. Then Naomi’s sons die. Guess what Naomi, whose name is pleasantness called herself following these tragedies. Mara. The word means bitter. A good descriptive today would be miserable.
Would you like to live with her? Think about Ruth. Her husband is dead (one of Naomi’s sons). She has no children; therefore, no support. All she has is a heartbroken, bitter mother-in-law.
And her faith.
So, what does she choose to do?
- Ruth honors her mother-in-law. Do you think they agreed on everything? No. Yet her faith taught her that God placed them together.
- Not only does she honor, but she also loves her mother-in-law. Ruth proceeds to go with Naomi back to the homeland. She commits herself to doing whatever it takes to provide for both of them.
- Ruth listens to her mother-in-law. Even though an adult woman, Ruth listens to the counsel of Naomi, asking for a blessing on her plans for work.
There is more to the story; much for the reader of Scripture to learn. You ought to do that. Read the Book—it is only four chapters.
Read how what could have been a miserable life is turned to be a life that is God-honoring. And the story beats the miserableness of deciding what color to paint one’s nails, or which fishing lure to purchase.
Stop for a moment and go look for one of those legal pads in your assortment of office supplies. Take the pad and draw a line down the center (top to bottom).
- On the left side list, the concerns you have. Then list how God filled them on the right side.
- On the left side list, the miseries you have. Then list how God filled them on the right side.
- On the left side list, the prayers you have prayed. Then list how God answered them on the right side.
- On the left side list, the relationship difficulties you have with that first list we dealt with. Then list how God changed that relationship.
You get the picture. What are you going to do with it? My suggestion is that you review what you have written on the right side each month. That way you can thank God for His provisions and for growing you in faith.
Do not get discouraged that the changes might come slowly.
Honor the person connected with the miseries and you will be amazed at what He will do.