Spirit and Ruth Filled

This article is based on a talk given on Pentecost Sunday 2021.

After downing half a glass of milk, a little girl declares “Look daddy, I am an optimist, the glass is half empty”. Her daddy replies: “Looking at the glass as half empty is a sign of pessimism, sweetie.” The little girl smiled and corrected her daddy: "No daddy, it's not if you don't like what's in it!"

What are you filled with? Being filled is often seen as a positive thing, but as this little girl correctly identifies, it’s not always the case. Sometimes empty is better.

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In the first chapter of the Book of Ruth, we are introduced to a widow called Naomi. When there was a famine going on in Bethlehem, her family moved to a place called Moab where they thought there would be more food. It turned out not to be such a great move after all. Her husband and two sons died, and now she was returning back to Bethlehem, in a worse state than when she left.

And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”
But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

Ruth 1:19-21 (NKJV)

We don’t exactly know what Naomi means when she says she went out full. We were told that there was a famine when she left, but perhaps they left more out of fear of the future than out of actual lack. Or perhaps she is just counting the number of family members she left with and how many she is coming back with. Either way, even she probably knows deep down that it wasn’t the Lord that did this to her.

As we read the rest of the book of Ruth, we also find that the one family member she does bring back with her, her daughter-in-law Ruth, ends up more than making up for the three family members she lost.

So just because Naomi says something, doesn’t make it true. The writer of the Book of Ruth, most likely the Prophet Samuel, seems to make a point of this in verse 22. After Naomi says that she wants to be called Mara, Samuel says “So Naomi returned” and from that point on he always refers to her as Naomi and not Mara. We have a choice about whether we accept what we hear as truth and whether we repeat it or ignore it.

Naomi did not come back empty because God willed it. She came back empty because God gave her, her husband and her two sons free will and they chose to move out of God’s perfect will for their lives. We all have free will and we can all make bad choices. We can also make good choices.

Naomi probably didn’t have a huge amount of choice in the matter and was just doing what her husband told her to do. God will honour women who obey their husbands, even when their husbands make stupid choices, and God can and will bless those who move back into His perfect will for their lives, or choose for the first time to follow God’s will, as Ruth has done.

Even if they don’t know it yet, Naomi and Ruth have positioned themselves perfectly to receive blessings from God, and God will never pass up an opportunity to bless those who are ready to receive.

He wants to fill us with his blessings. But if we want to be filled with blessings, then sometimes there is something else God needs to have us be first, and that is empty. At least, we need to be empty of anything that gets in the way of being completely full of God’s blessing.

God doesn’t want to share us with anyone. We can’t fully receive from God if we still want to do things our own way. That is being double minded and we are told in James 1:7 that if we are double minded, we shouldn’t expect to receive anything, at least not until we start being single minded about it.

There is a great moment in the first chapter of Acts after Jesus tells his disciples to wait for the promise of the Father. He then tells them what is coming:

You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

After that Jesus is then taken up into heaven. Remember, the only thing Jesus told them to do is wait, but very soon they get tired of waiting and try to figure out what they need to do to get things moving.

Peter tells the other disciples that he has been reading the scriptures and has come to the conclusion that because Judas killed himself, they need to nominate someone new to be one of the original top 12 disciples. He quotes a few scriptures, prays a prayer, flips a coin, and Matthias is chosen.

But that wasn’t what Jesus told them to do. This was completely unnecessary. You have to have some sympathy for the poor guy who wasn’t picked. But God never told them to start picking new disciples in the first place, so it had nothing to do with him!

When we move out of God’s will, people can get hurt, and then people blame God, when God had nothing to do with it. All for nothing!

Thankfully, God is patient with us as we work out our double mindedness, and it doesn’t look like Peter’s double-mindedness caused too much trouble on this occasion. As Peter clearly demonstrates, it is difficult to remain stable without being filled with the Holy Spirit, so often God has to be patient with us until we have exhausted all other options and then come to him empty.

Part of being stable is reminding ourselves constantly of what God has told us to do and regularly casting out anything else that is making us double minded, then we can be ready to receive, and we might avoid some pain and heartache.

So as the little girl reminds us, it’s not always as simple as full is good, empty is bad. It all depends on what you are filled with.

Be stable and stay blessed.
 

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