Like Sheep Without a Shepherd



Have you ever noticed two groups of people who hold God’s attention? You wouldn’t think an impartial God would have specific categories for certain people, but amazingly, He does: orphans and widows. You’re right; they’re not the groups anyone wants to join. There’s no line to sign up, which is precisely why God keeps a keen eye on these two flocks. Yet surprisingly, He promises to be their Father and Husband. Not only do we find Him sharply protective, but He’s moved with tremendous compassion. So much, that it overflows into the everyday lives of you and me. We can’t help but want to go the extra mile in helping the child without a dad and the woman without a husband. They look just like us, but when learning of their plight, we soften. Our hearts touched by God’s finger for our involvement.

It was that way for my dad. His father died when he was only nine, making his already orphaned mother a widow in her early 30s, and he and his brother fatherless. It couldn’t have come at a worse time. America was just crawling out from the rubble of The Great Depression and everything was scarce. Everything, but God’s endless pavilions of provision. Despite their destitution, He provided for them. He touched people’s hearts and caused others to open their homes and dinner tables.

“A father to the fatherless and a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely.” (Psalms 68:5-6a)

God makes it known that He protects the weak. Weakened only by circumstance. Perhaps you’ve never considered that one as busy as God has time to be concerned with the small details of the fatherless child. It is here we see His sterling character sparkle yet again. It’s far too easy to think the Lord’s uninvolved with our struggle; hasn’t got the time or interest for those that society’s forgotten. Yet look how He taught His disciples by the widow’s mite or the boy willing to share his fish sandwiches with 5,000 men. It moves God. Deeply. Passionately. Protectively.

“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

It bears repeating, “Like sheep without a shepherd.” Notice, they were distressed and dispirited. Did my dad, uncle, and grandmother struggle? Yes, we have tribulation in this world. But were there people that rose to the occasion, allowing their hearts and hands to be an extension of God’s? Absolutely. Despite hardships, my dad remembered a happy childhood filled with people willing to pause for involvement. Mentors available to lead and point when my grandfather’s voice was silenced.

Perhaps you know a child in this very predicament. Perhaps you are that child. Perhaps your dad is living but you still feel fatherless. Grown or young, the void is there. I would encourage all to step up and make a positive difference in the fatherless around us. It doesn’t have to be earthshattering. My father recalled the kindness of being given oranges after going months without fresh fruit; a simple candy cane at Christmastime, or a street vendor’s hot baked potato on a snowy winter’s night. Small acts of love confirm our heavenly Father’s goodness, and the tangible proof He cares and works through people. This is the religion that Jesus’ brother James wrote about as being pure and faultless … to look after widows and orphans in their distress. It’s a loving embrace received by the child whose hair is no longer tousled by an absent father.

How like God. No matter how much love we give away, He’s ensured we’d never run out. This Father’s Day, let’s remember to thank God for being our Abba Father and keeping us from being spiritual orphans. And let’s relentlessly search for that one who’s whispered prayers for fatherly love and kindness.

Copyright © May 24, 2013, by Susan M. Watkins. Used by permission.

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Ruth: The Widow Who Found Redemption

By Ben Godwin – May 26, 2019

Ruth and Esther are the two Bible books named after women. Benjamin Franklin was so fond of Ruth he pulled a prank on his cronies in Paris as the Ambassador to France. He often attended the “Infidel’s Club,” a group of intellectuals who read literary masterpieces but spurned the Bible. He told them he found a piece of ancient literature worthy of their consideration. Then he read them the Book of Ruth but changed the names and locations so they wouldn’t recognize it. When he finished, they raved that it was one of the most touching stories they’d ever heard and begged him to print it so the public could read it. He grinned and said:

“It is already in print, it is a part of the Bible you ridicule.”

Ruth opens in a dire situation. Elimelech and Naomi fled from Bethlehem to Moab due to a fierce famine. It was only about 30 miles away, but distance in the Bible isn’t measured in miles, but by how far it takes someone from God. Bethlehem means “house of bread,” and is a fitting type of the church which should nourish the needs of hungry humanity. There they worshipped the one, true God—Yahweh. Moab, however, served the false idol Chemosh, to which human sacrifices were burned along with other pagan practices. (Moab was the son of drunken Lot by incest with his daughter when they fled the fire of Sodom—Gen. 19:30-37). Moab, an enemy of Israel, represented all that was evil. We see a picture of people backsliding, leaving the church (Bethlehem) for the world (Moab).

Ten years out of God’s will took a terrible toll. Their two sons married Moabite women and disaster struck. Elimelech died first, then his two sons also died, leaving three destitute widows in a quandary about what to do next. When tragedy strikes, we all have the same three options of how we can react:

    1. Naomi—the grieving widow: We can be like Naomi who became so bitter in her grief that she blamed God for her misfortunes and insisted that her friends call her Mara (“bitter”) instead of Naomi (“pleasant”—Ruth 1:19-21). She complained how she went out full, but God brought her home empty. Her perspective was distorted by her pain.
    1. Orpah—the leaving widow: Or, we can be like Orpah who kissed her mother-in-law goodbye and went “back to her people and to her gods” (idols), thinking that changing her situation would somehow remove her problems. Running from our problems never solves them.
    1. Ruth—the cleaving widow: The third option is to cling to all we know is right and good even when life isn’t fair or doesn’t make sense. Naomi told Ruth to turn back to Moab like her sister, but she clung to her instead. Then she spoke the most inspiring lyrics of love and loyalty that are still used in weddings as vows, “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17, NKJV).

Back in Bethlehem, Naomi and Ruth began to rebuild their broken lives by gleaning in the fields of a rich landowner named Boaz. This was no mere coincidence. Albert Einstein said:

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

This was the obvious hand of Providence, because Boaz was a kinsman of Naomi’s late husband, Elimelech. Boaz’ name means “in him is strength” and he is a fitting type of Christ, our heavenly bridegroom and strong Redeemer. In eight of the nine times the word “kinsmen” occurs in Ruth (KJV), it is translated from the Hebrew word gaal which is rendered “redeem” or “redeemer” in other places. It means “to redeem (according to the Oriental law of kinship), to be the next of kin (and as such to buy back a relative’s property, or marry his widow), avenger, deliver, (perform the part of near, next kin), kinsfolk, purchase, ransom, revenger.” Under Mosaic law, it was the duty of a near kinsman to marry his relative’s widow, to protect and support her and raise children with her so his relative’s name would live on in posterity.

Boaz feared God and favored Ruth and gave her the protection and provision of his reapers.

“And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her’” (Ruth 2:15-16, NKJV).

When Ruth made overtures toward marriage, Boaz hesitated because there was another closer kinsman who had to be considered. When he waived his rights to Elimelech’s estate, Boaz was free to marry Ruth. He rescued her from a lonely life of poverty and elevated her to the status of a treasured spouse, mirroring what Christ has done for His bride—the Church. So, what kind of man was Boaz before he got married? RUTHless! (Sorry, I can’t resist a good pun.)

Perhaps the reason Boaz was so sympathetic to Ruth’s plight as a poor, Gentile widow was the fact that his mom had a similar story. You see, Boaz’ mother was Rahab, yes—the Gentile harlot who was spared the judgment of Jericho and then married one of the spies she hid named Salmon (Mt. 1:5). Amazingly, their son wed Ruth who conceived and birthed a son named Obed, who later had a son named Jesse, who sired a son named . . . you guessed it—David! So, in a series of miracles, a childless, destitute, Moabite, heathen widow, became a worshipper of Yahweh, the wealthy wife of Boaz, the esteemed great grandmother of King David and one of only four Gentile women (along with Tamar, Bathsheba and Rahab) to be an honored ancestor of Jesus Christ (Ruth 4:21-22, Mt. 1:5). No wonder the women of Bethlehem said:

“Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel!” (Ruth 4:14, NASB).

Only God could turn such a terrible tragedy into such a tremendous triumph. Ruth could declare like Job:

“I know that my Redeemer lives!” (Job 19:25, NIV)

Now, if God did all that for Ruth, what will He do for you?

Goodsprings Full Gospel Church
P.O. Box 3161
Jasper, Alabama 35502
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Ben Godwin is the author of four books and pastors the Goodsprings Full Gospel Church. To read more articles, visit his website at and take advantage of his 4-book bundle for $25.00.


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