The beginning sentence of the book of Ruth places it during the period of the Judges (Ruth 1.1). It tells the story of three characters: Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. Remember, the period of the judges was a cycle of breaking covenant generation after generation. It is pictured in Scripture as a dark time in the life of Israel. Two points can be discerned from Ruth. First, we can make choices to live life to its fullest even when others around us choose to live life in decline. Or, to say it another way, we can choose to live in a different story than the one our culture presents us with. Second, salvation history will not be detoured by humankind’s choices.
SRC="http://gen2rev.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/deadtree.jpg" TITLE="Photo by Free Digital Photos" align="right" width="300" height="166" border="0">Ruth’s story occurs during the period of the Judges (Ruth 1.1). Ruth carries a double punch. First, light in the thickness of the dark: Ruth is set in the shadow of the book of Judges. People in this period of time were infatuated with doing what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it (Judges 17.6). Ruth is truly an oasis in the midst of the desert of the judges. Second, acceptance in the hopelessness of rejection: Ruth was an outsider, a foreigner. but was accepted into the family of Israel. It is a story of death to life.
In the Hebrew Bible the book is found in the Writings. The purpose of this book was to demonstrate how a Moabitess figured in the genealogy of David. While accomplishing this it also was a plea for a welcome hand to be extended to those who came to Israel from outside. Israel’s vocation was to be a light in the world and the book of Ruth plays that scenario out.
Drought in Israel caused poorer families to move toward greener pastures. Such was the case with Elimelech’s family as they moved from Bethlehem to Moab. The church would do well to live in Moab for a while. Becoming “native” helps us learn to communicate God’s salvation history for all.
Moving from one geographic area during a famine may suggest that the condition of Elimelech’s family could not be worsened by the move. This move may indicate that his family was poor. Most likely Orpah and Ruth came from poor families as well. When they married into the family of Elimelech, they became members of that family. The death of the two sons did not release Orpah and Ruth from that fact. Naomi had a legal claim and a part of her responsibility was to find Orpah and Ruth new husbands as the language of Ruth 1.11-13 reveals. She gave them their freedom and encouraged them to return to their homes. She knew that as foreigners they could be rejected if she returned to Israel.
When Elimelech’s family was faced with desperation, they moved. He and his sons died within a ten-year period. Naomi was left by herself in a different nation with two daughters-in-law. She must have felt hollow and lonely. Her family dreams had evaporated. What had been family desperation was now personal desperation. What could she do? This loss was a “bitter pill” (1.13) and she believed that what happened to her was allowed by God. As with all of us, Naomi’s response was her choice.
Ruth’s choice to follow Naomi was a decision that had been made over a ten-year period. When Ruth married into the family, she was under obligation outwardly to worship the God of Israel. Being a part of the family for ten years had apparently impacted her and her own personal commitment toward God. Her dedication to remain faithful to Naomi and God was not spontaneous. Her oath in verse Ruth 1.16-17 was common in the ancient world and was often expressed in very emotional language.
- Think about how you have responded during times of desperation. Did you choose bitterness or some other negative response toward God?
- Think about your dedication to others. How dedicated are you to God, your family, your work? Are you loyal?
Living into the Story
- Choose to respond to God in a positive way remembering that he has everything in control even when it looks out of control and desperate. Pray for God’s peace in the midst of desperation.
- Rededicate yourself to God, your family, wife, children, employer. Pray for the people to whom you are dedicated.