The book of Ruth: you can’t rush the beginning
Devotional readings of Scripture are always a work in progress but I love talking them through with others. My aim is to post a few thoughts each Wednesday. At the moment I’m reading through the book of Ruth, so I’ll be sharing a few words on Ruth in the weeks to come. These posts will be short and unpolished! Let me know your own thoughts on the book of Ruth in the comments; I’d love to hear your encouragements from God’s Word. If you’re looking for a commentary on the Book of Ruth, try this great book by Barry Webb, * covering several of my favorite Bible books.
The book of Ruth: it starts dark
The start of the book of Ruth is like a litany of every nightmare I could have. And the nightmares have come true for Naomi.
- political instability
- times of famine (and she’s trying to raise hungry boys)
- her husband leads her family, but it’s away from God’s people
- her husband dies (I can’t imagine)
- her sons marry women from outside the people of God
- then both her sons die (grief upon grief)
“The women was left without her two sons and her husband.” So bleak.
Sometimes in the past I have judged Naomi for her bitterness. (If she hadn’t moved to Moab…if she had trust God’s sovereignty in her life…if she had counted her blessings…) I think I was naive. This time I feel more the horror of her situation. She must have been so afraid. She must have felt so alone.
Grace breaks in
Now Naomi has to do something. She has to take action in order to survive. And she hears while she is “in the fields of Moab that the Lord has visited his people and given them food.”
I’ve been thinking a bit recently about the role of food in the Bible, and once you start seeing it, it’s everywhere. I love this verse – it is such a tender way to describe the comfort, intervention and provision of God for His people. He visited his people and gave them food.
Naomi hears about it – this breaking in of hope and light and grace . It comes from the Lord, it comes from His land, and it is real. It’s food and they are hungry. So Naomi leads her family home, and the story starts to feel like it’s heading in a hopeful direction.
So why does Naomi try to send them home?
Her family looks different now – Naomi and two daughters-in-law. Her speech to them surprised me: why does she try to send Ruth and Orpah home? Back to their mothers’ homes, rather than going with her to Naomi’s home town? If I were so alone, I would not be so selfless. “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me?”
She seems worried she has nothing to offer them, but in fact the Lord is going to bless Naomi, Ruth and all His people more than they can ask or imagine. I suppose Naomi doesn’t know this yet. I take it she’s returning to Bethlehem in faith, but it is a little fragile.
Grace at the beginning of the story
The book of Ruth starts dark, but the breaking in of grace is there even in Chapter 1. But it’s just the beginning of the story; it will take time to unfold and to come to fruition. I am not a very patient person; I like all the loose and difficult ends in life to be tied up and sorted out quickly. But when I think about it, Naomi had been suffering for years. We see grace breaking in, we know Naomi will be blessed beyond measure and us with her. But you can’t rush it; you can’t get to the end before the beginning. It takes faith to be patient.
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