The odor of stink bug filled the room. If you’ve never smelled one, there’s a great reason for it’s name. You can tell instantly when one has invaded any spot in your home–it’s rather like running over a skunk with a car: there’s an odor that permeates everything. Move to Virginia when it’s cool weather.
On this particular morning, chores needed to be done. There seems to be a recurring law that laundry, like dishes, accumulates with regularity, and bits of sticks, leaves, and dirt get tracked onto area rugs, while dust seems to penetrate closed windows in spite of the insulation around the edge, and manages to land right on the pieces of furniture that are hardest to clean. (So far, no little elves in green outfits have shown up at midnight, like the Fairy Tales would have you believe!) Realizing the stink bug is hiding out in the living room, and there’s no doubt which room will get the first attention.
Dragging the vacuum cleaner to the spot where “he” seemed to be sending the most pronounced smell was not a chore: it was rather like a cat must feel as he/she sits like a statue, watching a bird a few feet away. The end result will be worth the wrestling with the upright cleaner. Bag empty? Check. Ready to go? Check. And suddenly an “Aha” moment as the vile critter is spotted…in this case, laying upside down, feet in the air, (as well as the smell), having just succumbed to the lifetime granted to him by his creator. Fortunately for him.
Powering up the vacuum, it was touch and go as it was pushed over the bug (still there), returned, run over again, repeated several more times, all to no avail. This was getting frustrating! This was not a cheap, Black Friday deal, or a clearance product from the local home supply store, but a top-of-the-line vacuum, one that the manufacturer claimed had the power to inhale a pile of dirt in seconds, let alone a little stink bug the size of a fingernail! But no such thing was happening. This was unfair! It was getting one’s temper out of sorts quickly, knowing the price + the ability = picking up a stink bug! Taking the vacuum back to the store would have to wait, but the feeling that this whole scenario had been totally unfair was uppermost. After all, how could they make such claims if it wouldn’t do its job?
One finds lessons in so many things, even stink bugs. Suddenly the Holy Spirit softly whispered, “Where did you get the idea that life is fair? Did Jesus get fairness while He was on the earth? Does Scripture say life is fair?” We seem to have accepted the world’s philosophy that everything should be tit for tat: if you have this, I should have it; if Johnny gets a toy, Joe should get one. We’ve let society and materialism infiltrate our minds to the point that we expect things to be just and fair. Wrong. Was it fair for the disciples to be martyred for preaching? Is it fair when people drink, drive, and kill a family? When a child is molested? Life is not fair–but God is still with us.
Picture Naomi for a moment. Surely you know Naomi: she was married, and had two young sons. Her husband, during a famine in Judea, decided to move the family to a heathen country, Moab. Do you think for a moment Naomi was thrilled to leave family and friends? Speaking from personal experience, having moved too many times to count, the feeling of being uprooted, even after a couple of years, is difficult; what must it be like when you’re leaving your homeland? She probably thought, “It’s not fair!” Her life in Moab was not a “happily ever after” either. Her husband died, her two sons married heathen women, and then the sons died. Naomi could have screamed, “It’s not fair!”
Click on the link to the sermon from Thomas Road Baptist Church, http://www.trbc.org/service-archive , for this past Sunday, July 23, and see what the study of Naomi can teach us all. Grab yourself a notebook, curl up in a good chair, and listen to the sermon, putting yourself in Naomi’s place. Afterwards, take a few moments to answer the questions below, as that will cause the lessons to sink deep into your heart. Above all, enjoy the sermon, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and share Jesus with your friends.
Flannelgraph of Faith: Ruth—Everyone Matters Pastor Jonathan Falwell
In almost everyone’s life at some time there has been a woman—perhaps a mother, teacher, or friend—who has made an impact on one’s character. Can you share a memory you may have as you reflect?
We are continuing to examine Bible characters whose lives have left many lessons for us. This week we will concentrate on the book of Ruth, but it will be the life of Naomi, the mother-in-law, whom we will focus on. Her lessons will be as applicable to men as to the women. As we use the old-school visual teaching of the flannelgraph, we will see what we can learn from her life.
Focal Passages: Taken from Ruth 1:1-4:22
Think About or Discuss:
God Uses the Famines of Life to Bring Blessings:
- Can you give a short summary of why this family of Judea lived in Moab, and what occurred in the first several years? If not, go back and read through chapter one, until Naomi begins her trip back to Judea. Can you relate to a lifestyle that seems to bring grief every way you turn, and can you share? If you’re by yourself, write down your answers in a notebook.
- Read Ruth 1:6 & 14. If you were Naomi, would you have made the decision to return to Bethlehem? Why?
- Do you think she saw any blessings in her life during the time she lived in Moab? Why or why not?
God’s Love is Not Exclusive:
- In a moment we will read Naomi’s outpouring of grief at her circumstances; however, how would you explain her relationship with both daughters-in-law that they would desire to go with her?
- Read 1:19-21. How do you envision the heart of Naomi toward God? Can you share a time when you questioned God’s love for you and your faith was shaken?
- Naomi could see only the events that had occurred in Moab; can you think of any scriptures that would have been helpful to her know (both OT or NT)? (There are some cited at the end.)
- According to Romans 8:28, what would God do with her life?
God’s Plan is Greater:
- Can you give a brief synopsis of what happened after Naomi returned to Bethlehem (leaving out the end)? If not, take a moment to read the short chapters from 1:19 to 4:12.
- Read 4:15a. Who were the people talking about? How do you think Naomi felt as she held Obed in her arms?
- List some of the miraculous results that God brought about even though the road had been a very painful one.
One is so focused on Ruth as the main character in this short book that we often overlook the harsh years that Naomi lived through. Her husband (probably) made the decision to move to the heathen land of Moab. Although there is no mention of the age of her boys, they grew old enough to marry while living there. Their marriages to Moabite women, especially after the death of their father, had to have been a trial to Naomi, but we know she must have treated them with tremendous love and respect. Otherwise, they would not have desired to go to Bethlehem with her, although Orpah was, in the end, persuaded to stay in Moab. Although Naomi did not verbalize a bitterness toward God, asking friends in Bethlehem to call her “Mara” (bitter) must have been her heart’s attitude. She could never have imagined that the simple act of bringing Ruth back to Bethlehem would result in her being great-great-grandmother to King David, and Ruth ultimately being in the line of the Messiah, Christ Jesus.
In our own lives, we can sympathize with the times of trouble Naomi experienced. We have days of crisis, with a rare day here and there that is peaceful and quiet. And often our valleys get so low, we question God’s love for us, His presence with us, and His plan to bring good out of our situation. Perhaps this story of Naomi will be one that will inspire you to recognize God’s miracles are not confined by our past, our race, or our heritage, and He is weaving a purpose that will result in amazing outcomes. He will use truly unlikely circumstances to bring about a beautiful end and a deliverance.
Memory Verse: Ruth2:10: So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (NKJV)
Ask Yourself: Do you ever fall down before the Lord, bowing yourself to the ground, and asking Him, “Why have I found favor in Your eyes, that You should take notice of me, since I am a sinner?”
Question 6: Encouraging scriptures: Deuteronomy 31:8; 1 John 4:16, 5:3; James 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:7; Ephesians 5:1; Romans 8:28.
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A big BIG thank you to Kim Dalton for contributing her experience with the stink bug, and the lesson she learned!