Life Lessons: RUTH: An Unexpected Beginning (Chapter 1)
Beginning Note: This post was scheduled for several weeks out, however, in the midst of what seems to be the world falling apart I think it helps to remember who is in control and the faithfulness of the Lord in the midst of trying times. Ruth's journey is exactly that. As Christians we are not promised a smooth journey. In fact, John 16:33 promises troubles but we ARE promised a faithful God with an ultimate victory.
I love the story of Ruth because it is such a beautiful picture of redemption and hope. The kind of redemption and hope that is still available to us. She’s also a beautiful representation of a wise woman of character as is her mother-in-law, Naomi, so we are going to look at her story over the next few weeks and ponder what a modern Ruth would do.
If you don’t know the background context of this story, let me give you a little information. In Genesis, we see Lot and his daughter’s escape the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Through a chain of sinful events this will eventually lead to the creation of two nations...the Moabites and the Ammonites. This is important to know since Ruth was a Moabite and in Deuteronomy the Moabites are excluded from the congregation of the Lord for many reasons including worshipping their own (read: false) gods. So, how does Ruth end up among the people of God? There was a famine that brought a man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons to Moab in search of sustenance which then led to the sons marrying Moabite women which was expressly forbidden by the Lord.
As we enter the story at the beginning of the book of Ruth we find that Elimelech and his sons have died leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah as widows which at this time in history was an absolute disaster. Women couldn’t just go out and get a job or buy a house. They were dependent on their husbands, sons, brothers or other male relatives to provide them with security. Now, Naomi is stuck in a foreign land with no help and no hope. She’s not confused on how society works and she eventually concludes that she needs to go back to her home country. Don’t you wonder what Naomi must have been thinking? Did she want to move to Moab in the first place? Was she angry at God for the turn of events? Or did she feel that the Lord was being just? Did she still have hope that the future could be alright?
Regardless of how she was feeling, we know that she was concerned about her daughters-in-law. She urges them to return to their families and hopefully remarry so that they will be ensured security and a future. Neither woman initially wants to leave Naomi which I think says a lot about Naomi’s character but eventually Orpah returns to her people but Ruth refuses to leave Naomi. She says, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (1:16-17) So begins Ruth’s journey into the unknown and into her purpose.
Would you have gone or stayed? If I’m honest with myself I would have probably stayed with what I knew and what felt like security at the time. I can’t imagine leaving everything I’ve ever known and moving to a new country with a different culture that does not necessarily include foreigners. That would be hard enough today even with cell phones, Google Translate and road maps so can you imagine leaving your home knowing you will probably never return. Talk about faith!
When we next see Naomi, she and Ruth, have returned to Bethlehem and what a change must have occurred in her absence because all her friends can comment on is what she looks like now! They literally keep saying, “Can this be Naomi?” which begs the question of what happened? Did she look physically worn out or was it her countenance that had changed? Regardless, even Naomi admitted that something was wrong because she asked them to no longer call her Naomi which means pleasant but to rather call her Mara which means bitter. Naomi knew she had changed and perhaps this change of name reflected how permanent she felt this situation had become, however, there is good news for Naomi and Ruth because as they arrived in town the barley harvest was beginning. Those words may seem insignificant but they are literally preparing the way to Ruth’s purpose even though she doesn’t know it yet.
Considerations for the Modern Ruth:
Have there been times when your very being has been so changed that others can see it in your presence? Maybe a job that has worn you down or a relationship that requires your all? Did it feel like the situation was permanent and hopeless? Can you now look back and see where “the harvest began” so to speak? What does that do for your faith?
“Lord, when I’m in the midst of a difficult situation, remind me of your faithfulness throughout my life and the promises you have made to me. Help my faith to grow in moments of uncertainty as I lean on your unmovable arm. Thank you for your continued provisions even when I don’t know what step is next.”