Saturday, September 20, 2014

When We Make Bad Decisions

Not sure if this is just me.....but I have a tendency to sometimes make bad decisions.  Bad decisions fall into two categories;

1)  Knowingly doing something stupid/inappropriate/harmful/irresponsible/etc.  It is common to "know" what one should do, but then doing the opposite.... There is no excuse for this...but we all find ourselves in this camp from time to time.

2)  Decisions that are good decisions, but, end up badly.  For example;  Choosing to take an unsinkable ship across the Atlantic for its maiden voyage...falling in love with a young woman, and giving her your spot on a floating door....In general, none of those decisions were necessarily bad...but why Jack, why??? 

Regardless of how we end up where we end up, our natural reaction is to say, "Why me??"  For a Christian this can be quite a challenge because we wonder why God would have allowed "this" to happen to us. 

The book of Ruth is an interesting story snuck into the early books of the Old Testament.  On the surface it is not a historical narrative detailing the exploits of heroic patriarchs of Israel, heck, the main character isn't even Jewish in the first place! 

The story starts with a fellow named Elimelek who gets worried about a famine in Israel so he runs off to Moab.  A couple of important points to this; 1)  Famine in the promised land is generally tied to Israel's sin.  We know this was during the time of the Judges, which is a period in which Israel was constantly turning their back on God.  So, instead of dealing with the consequences, Elimelek runs away.  2)  This was the PROMISED LAND!!!  Even today Jewish people contend for their place there.  But Elimelek chose to not trust God and ran away.  3)  The Jewish people were not to intermarry with the pagan nations surrounding Israel.  We see in the first chapter that Elimelek has his sons marry Moabite women(one of them being our main character Ruth).

In a nutshell, the background of the story of Ruth is; A man choosing to run from God, not trust God and sin by breaking fundamental rules God laid down for his people.  Yet here it is.  A whole book of the Bible dedicated to telling the story of a non-Jewish woman who shouldn't have even been around if Elimelek had simply honored God and trusted Him. 

But there is more.  (SPOILER ALERT)  Ruth goes on to marry a Godly man named Boaz back in Israel and she is part of the line that brings us King David and....JESUS!!!   

Elimelek knowingly and willingly made bad decisions.  And, he had bad things happen to him(he and his sons ended up dying in Moab) yet Ruth is one of the most significant people in scripture and was used by God in a miraculous and beautiful way.  We cannot miss this!

God does not MAKE bad things happen to you.  Whether by our individual choices(running from God), or, the fallout of the collective fallenness of creation that has produced a broken world that bad things are sadly common(death), bad things happen because this world is broken.  And in the midst of the tragedy and heartache God stands over it and works all things towards His promise, and, our ultimate hope. 

In the midst of things outside of her control what does Ruth choose to do?  Go to God and God's people.  Her sister-in-law chooses to go back to Moab after the death of her husband, and we never hear about her again.  Ruth chooses to follow her mother-in-law back to Israel knowing that choosing Yahweh over what she was familiar with did not immediately lend itself to a whole lot of definitive "hope" for the future. 

Our lives are shaped by bad choices and bad circumstances every day.  And in that moment of hurt and frustration we have a choice.  Either, we run from God and towards worldly comfort, or, we run towards God and eternal hope.  And the most amazing things about the hope that is found through Christ is that even our tragedies can become our crowning achievements when they are laid down at the cross.  Everything that brings us Ruth was a series of terrible choices and circumstances, but it is exactly because of these things that Ruth is a testimony to God's faithfulness and ultimate promise. 

People like to say "everything happens for a reason".  And there is SOME biblical truth to it.  But we abuse it.  All of these things can happen to us that are terrible, and the only way they can have a truly beautiful "reason" that recreates them into something meaningful is when they are given new life through the only one who can give life to that which was once dead. 

What choices will you make?

If you know it, you love it!

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