“Is it really you?”

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I want to begin this blog-POST with a story of a businessman and attorney by the name of H.G. Spafford.  He was a wealthy lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife and four daughters and a son.  He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures [a man after my own heart].

At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Ana, suffered a tragic loss of their son.  Shortly thereafter, on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Mr. Spafford had.

In 1873, Horatio scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much-needed vacation and time to recover from the family tragedy.

He also decided to join Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England.  So he sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago, taking care of some unexpected last-minute business.

Several days later he received notice that his family’s boat had encountered a collision.  The note read, “SAVED ALONE.”  All four of his daughters drowned, only his wife had survived.

The H.G. Spafford’s story, I believe, parallels the story in Scripture; the story of NAOMI found in the Book of Ruth.

Naomi was a pleasant woman.  In fact, that was the meaning of her name.

She was well-loved, and a woman who other women admired.  She was well-known in her community, and recognizable by her cheerful attitude.

But a FAMINE came upon the land.

Her husband, feeling the responsibility for his family’s welfare, decided to uproot them and move them to a more prosperous location instead of depending on God to see them through.

Sometimes, we husband’s have found ourselves in a “FAMINE” of a different sort. A reduction  in income, an unexpected loss of employment [been there] and we decide to figure it all out by ourselves!  [done that before!]

So Naomi said her goodbyes to her BFF’s (best friends forever) and, along with her 2 sons, did what wives do today [my wife can testify to this], followed her husband to a far and distant land [In my case, from San Diego, California to the State of Washington.]  In this case, it was Moab.

Wives, have you ever found yourselves in a MOAB destination?  Well, maybe not Moab.

Her husband’s choice of location was not soundly made.www-St-Takla-org--Bible-Slides-ruth-687  

MOAB was a land settled by the descendants of Lot.  Although relatives of Abraham, they were not part of the “promised people” of God, the Israelites.

Moab was to be placed under a CURSE for their idol worship.

Isaiah 25:10 Amplified Bible (AMP):

For the hand of the Lord shall rest on this Mount [Zion], and Moab shall be threshed and trodden down in his place as straw is trodden down in the [filthy] water of a [primitive] cesspit.

Elimelech had left the land of BLESSING for the land that would be trampled on.

After some time there, he died and Naomi was left with her 2 sons and later, married Moabite women, which was not acceptable to God.

Deuteronomy 23:3 (AMP):

An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation their descendants shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord forever.

After 10 years both her sons died, leaving her with 2 daughter-in-laws.  She must have felt alone.

Then the GOOD NEWS reached Naomi–the FAMINE had ended!

So, Naomi and her 2 daughter-in-laws packed to leave and to return to her homeland.  But as they traveled toward Judah (some 40-50 miles), she decided to send them back.  She thanked them for their loving kindness, she blessed them, she kissed them goodbye, and she wept with them.

At first, they both refused, but after some sound discussion…she convinced one to leave.  The other clung tightly to her.  This one was RUTH.

When Naomi saw Ruth’s determination she allowed her to go.

The Homecoming!

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I love Homecomings;  School Homecomings, Family Homecomings, past-attended Churches’ Homecomings!

Ruth 1:19-20 The Message (MSG):

[19] When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was soon buzzing: “Is this really our Naomi? And after all this time!”

[20] But she said, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow.”

I find it somewhat interesting in this story that the entire town is excited about Naomi’s return.  It had been more than 10 years since she left, but that pleasant, cheerful, smiling woman was not forgotten.

Now here she is and they can’t believe it.  “Is it really you?”

But maybe they ask because there’s something different about her.  Maybe the smile has been replaced with a frown.  Maybe they sense a coldness in her they have never seen before.  The circumstances and the years have changed her–she has become “bitter.”

What lead her to this noticeable place of bitterness?  At certain times in our lives, how can we arrive at the same destination?

Personally, and unfortunately at times, I have found myself alone on the Island of Bitterness.

The symptoms may not be obvious at first, but they are there.  Withdrawing from those around you.  Becoming indifferent to the problems of others.  Thinking of only yourself.

Naomi only concentrated on her loss.  She gave no thought to Ruth who had loss of her husband to death with no children to comfort her.

Naomi blamed God for the acts of her husband.

She in her faithfulness, followed her husband to a foreign land:  “God made me bitter.  God brought me home empty.  God caused me to suffer.  God has sent tragedy on me.”  (v. 21)

But it wasn’t God who sent her to a land where she would lose everything, where she would suffer, where tragedy would strike.  It was the CIRCUMSTANCES of Life that did so.  What she didn’t give credence to was her statement she made,  “but the LORD has brought me home.”

God’s GRACE in our lives is such a blessing in the midst of our CIRCUMSTANCES.

Jesus’ half-brother James writes “Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations”  (James 1:2 AMP).   

Note, he doesn’t say be “wholly joyful FOR, but “wholly joyful IN” your circumstances.  That’s God’s GRACE at work in your life through your spirit.

Jesus said “In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]!  For I have overcome the world…”  (John 16:33).

Through His GRACE He has given us the COMFORT OF KNOWING in all trials and sorrows that we will become VICTORS.

God protected Naomi by giving her a loving companion in the form of RUTH.  But in her bitterness she rejected His GRACE.

In doing so, she also rejected His PEACE.  She couldn’t see beyond her BITTERNESS to the possibilities of God’s plan for her life.

During my detective investigation into God’s word, I couldn’t help think of the words of Job in Scripture:

“Whereas another man dies in bitterness of soul and never tastes of pleasure or good fortune”  (Job 21:25).

BITTERNESS erases all the good times that you had in your life.  

NAOMI had forgotten her friends’ loyalty and love, although, they in turn had clung to those wonderful memories of past years that God had so richly BLESSED.

She couldn’t remember the dedication of a daughter-in-law that wouldn’t let her suffer alone.  All she focused on was her “bitter poverty.”

Naomi could have been siting and questioning God right alongside of Job when he said  “I AM weary of my life and loathe it!  I will give free expression to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul”  (Job 10:1).

She wasn’t REJOICING in her returning home.  

Others were happy to see her, but she was disgusted with her life and felt like it was her duty to COMPLAIN.

Did you know that God is in the name changing business?  That’s what “Whitestone” ministry is founded on– “helping others discover their victory and true identity in Jesus”.

God changed ABRAM (high father) to ABRAHAM (the father of many nations).  He changed JACOB (the deceiver) to ISRAEL (God contended) and SIMON (God heard) to PETER (rock).

But here, we find a person changing who God has called them to be, to a name reflecting their own self-pity; from”pleasant” to “bitter”.

H. G. Spafford could have gone down the path of bitterness.

He could have been bitter in losing his wealth and his daughters.  He could have tried to get even with the owners of the French steamer by filing a lawsuit.  He could have got mad at God and shook his fist at Him in defiance and all of the above, together!

Instead, at the very place where he lost his daughters on the open sea, Mr. Spafford wrote a song.  The words are as follows:

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way;

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot,  Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul.

It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL
IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

 

 


CREDITS:

H. G. Spafford Story:  Share faith – It Is Well With My Soul, the Song and the Story.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.

Commentary:  Jesus plus nothing,  A Bible Study:  Book of Ruth Chapter 1 “Counting the Cost{” by I. Gordon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Replies to ““Is it really you?””

  1. One of my favorite old hymns is “It is well with my soul.” Spafford’s attitude was not of bitterness as was Naomi’s. Your comparison of the two most inspiring.

  2. Totally love the story of Mr. Spafford. It’s astounding when we see/read of those who really live out what they believe. A real challenge to believers today who often choose to complain, accuse and lash out instead of trusting the One who will never fail us. Thanks for reminding us all of this, Mel!

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