Guitar Instruction by Paige

Coffee, The Bible, and Paige…. Ruth ch1

Can also be heard on Spotify…Ruth ch 1

 

Bible Devotionals… and me.

Doing a daily Bible devotional has been the best thing that I’ve done for myself.

My time in the Old Testament only proves to me again and again and again that the heart of man is deceitfully wicked above all things. When I’m reading the New Testament, I read it within the context of when Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Reading in the New Testament is just an expansion of one of those two thoughts.

Those are the two lenses through which I think with my mouth open as I read through the Old and New Testaments.

We’re moving from judges and we’re going to go into the book of Ruth. I didn’t finish the entire book of Judges, but stopped at the story of Samson as he was the last Judge described and are moving on to the story of Ruth.

I love the story of Ruth.

The one thing I want you to realize, though, that this book of Ruth, while it’s really about what happens with her, obviously it’s got her name on it, this also contains an equally, if not more important story of her mother-in-law, Naomi, who experiences the sovereignty of God in the valley of that experience.

Introduction to Ruth

This book is named after one of its main characters, a young woman of Moab, the great-grandmother of David, and an ancestor of Jesus. The story is set in the time of the Judges, a time characterized in the book of Judges as a period of religious and moral degeneracy, national disunity, and frequent foreign oppression.

We experienced that when we went through the book of Judges, didn’t we – how Israel was fragmented and how they continued chasing after other gods and falling into disobedience and immorality.

In Ruth, the importance of faith, love, and human relationships among God’s kingdom is powerfully underscored. The author focuses on Ruth’s unswerving and selfless devotion to Naomi, her mother-in-law, and on Boaz’s kindness to these two widows.

He presents striking examples of lives that embody in their daily affairs a self-giving love that fulfills God’s law. Such love also reflects God’s love in a marvelous joining of human and divine actions. In God’s benevolence, such lives are blessed and are made a blessing.

In fact, though Ruth has her name in the title, this is really Naomi’s story. It is a story of Naomi’s transformation from despair to happiness. Naomi moves from emptiness to fullness, from destitution to security and hope.

This is a story and a perfect picture of the salvation of God.

It may seem surprising that the one who reflects God’s love so clearly is a Moabitess, named Ruth, who demonstrated complete loyalty and total devotion to the Israelite family into which she’s been received by marriage. This marks Ruth as a true daughter of Israel and a worthy ancestress of David – even though she is not of Jewish blood.

She strikingly exemplifies the truth that ”participation in the coming kingdom of God is decided not by blood and birth, but by the conformity of one’s life to the will of God through the obedience that comes from faith.”

This is probably one of the most important sentences I will say during this entire journey through the book of Ruth.

Let me read that again.

“Ruth strikingly exemplifies the truth that participation in the coming kingdom of God is decided not by blood and birth, but by the conformity of one’s life to the will of God through the obedience that comes from faith.”

I’ve been saying all along that to me, one of the themes that I see in the Old Testament beyond the hook that “man’s heart is deceitfully wicked above all things”, is that God saved Israel to be His special people, but he did not save Israel to be his only people. There has ALWAYS been a seat at God’s table for Gentiles (i.e. non-Jewish). There are people outside the fold of Israel that play an important part in God’s story of salvation and redemption. Rahab the harlot and Ruth, a Moabitess, neither of which were of Jewish extraction, are perfect examples of this  principle. Both non-Jewish, yet both in the bloodline of Jesus the Messiah. We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that Israel being chosen by God that doesn’t give Israel exclusive access to God’s plan of salvation and redemption.

Rahab and Ruths’ place in the ancestry of David signifies that ALL nations will be represented in the kingdom of God’s Son.

That’s the significance  to Ruth.

All right, let’s get started and let’s go into the first chapter.

Chapter 1

“In the days when the judges ruled, there was famine in the land.

So a man from Bethlehem and Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelech. His wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Melon and Kilian.”

Why would Elimelech and Naomi move their family away from Israel to Moab?

Moab is down in the lower part of and just east of the Dead Sea.

Why would they move from Bethlehem to Moab?

Well, first of all, he heard that there was food in Moab.  but as the two names of his sons could be indicative of their general health, he would do as any father would do i.e. take care of his family.

And if there was no food around Bethlehem, if people were starving, if people were hurting, he would want to go where the food was to take care of his wife and children.

Perhaps his sons weren’t healthy enough to have made it through that famine.

We don’t know.

But in those times and in that culture families would sometimes assign names to their children that would indicate something about their children. So perhaps he and Naomi’s sons were sickly, and he made the decision to go where the food was to ensure the family’s survival.

So he takes his family and moves to where there’s food, traveling to Moab. So they leave Bethlehem, which is just south of Jerusalem, and to the west of the Dead Sea. Come south to Hebron, and then you see Beersheba, and then somewhere between Beersheba and Hebron is Bethlehem.

So they go from Bethlehem into Moab, because that’s where there was food.

“Now, Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth.”

Now, in the book of Numbers, God condemns the Moabites for their worship of false gods and sexual immorality.

God also chastises the Israelites for intermarrying with the Moabite women. Nevertheless her two sons they marry two Moabite women.

So they do something that God had frowned upon.

I don’t know what kind of conversations that would have generated in that household, but that’s what happened.

“After they had lived there about 10 years, both Melon and Kilian also died and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.”

One of the things that has given me great comfort through the years has been the thought that God is the “God of ALL my circumstances.”

There’s a name that kind of reflects that.

God is called El-Roi by Hagar, when He found her in the wilderness, as she’d been kicked out of Abraham and Sarah’s family. She had a child by Abraham and she and her child were kicked out into the wilderness. God shows up and takes care of her, and she calls him El-Roi, which means the God who sees.

He sees me.

That’s the God of all my circumstances.

He sees me.

He knows me.

And since he knows me so intimately well, he will orchestrate events in my life that will accomplish the purposes he has in my life.

That’s my view of the sovereignty of God. That perspective (to me) means all the bad and all the good are ALL part of God’s plans for me.

Naomi was experiencing the hard part of the sovereignty of God. Her husband had taken her and their sons into a foreign country  – Moab – that same country God had chastised Israel for having anything to do with… but she followed him there.

And her sons married two Moabite women, again doing something that God frowned upon, and then her sons die.

And here’s Naomi, a Jewish woman with two Moabite daughters-in-law, all three of them now widows.

She is experiencing the valley of the shadow of death  – a hard part of the sovereignty of God.

“Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them.

She and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home to Israel from there.

With her two daughters-in-law, she left a place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. So they leave together.”

I don’t know what the conversations would have been like on that road, but they all start out together, and it reaches a point where Naomi says to her two daughters-in-law, 

“…go back, go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

So she was willing to part with her daughters-in-law, and it sounds to me like there’s tenderness here. She wasn’t opposed to them. She loved them, and she wants what’s best for them.

And you know, that’s a powerful thought.

She loved them, and her expression of love was realizing what would be best for them = to stay in their country in the presence of their countrymen. To stay where they would have a chance to get remarried and have children. Israel would not be the best place for them – Moab would.

I’m a huge fan of “Little House on the Prairie,” a TV television show about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family growing up. There was an episode of that show where their family friend, Mr. Edwards, helped take care of a young blind woman. He fell in love with her, and she with him.

She loves him for who he is.

He loves her.

But he is significantly older than she is, and she was pretty helpless in that frontier town, her blindness greatly inhibiting her in that frontier world.

The more he thought about it – the more he dealt with that issue, he realized that what was best for her was more important even than how he felt about her.

What was best for her was that she had family back east and she could go back home to and go to school and learn how to live in society as a blind woman. That would not happen were she to stay with Mr. Edwards. Mr Edwards knew that because he loved her, he had to do what was best for her.

And though it hurt him, his love for her was demonstrated in his sending her back East to her family and to a life that would not include him.

So he sacrificed his feelings for her to give her what was best for her. If you read 1 Corinthians 13, you will find that to be the very definition of Agape love.

Could he (Mr Edwards – significantly older man) give this (significantly younger)  young lady like that a life where she could become independent in that small frontier town?

Could he give her a sense of normalcy? A tough call. He made that tough call – because he loved her, he put her needs ahead of his own and sent her home to a place where she would thrive.

What I see here in Naomi is that she loved her daughters-in-law. But at some point in the journey back to HER home, she says to Orpah and Ruth – and I’m paraphrasing – I want what’s best for you.

You have a chance to find a husband back home.

Now that you’re widows, you can find another husband and have a home.

And so she was willing to give up these two young ladies that she loved because of what was best for them.

She wanted what was best for them.

So she said to her two daughters-in-law, 

“…go back, each one of you to your mother’s home.

May the Lord show you kindness as you shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me.

May the Lord grant that each of you find rest in the home of another husband.

She kissed them goodbye, and they wept aloud and said to her, we will go back with you to your people.

But Naomi said, return home, my daughters.”

To come with Naomi to Israel have been problematic for them. There’s a possibility that life for them back in Israel and Bethlehem would not be pleasant for them because they were Moabite women because of the way Israel felt about Moab.

But she said, 

“…return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me?Am I going to have any more sons who could become your husbands?

Return home, my daughters. I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there were still hope for me, even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons, would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, no, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.

At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpa kissed her mother-in-law goodbye.

But Ruth clung to her.

Look, said Naomi, your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.

But Ruth replied, don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.”

This next statement is found its way into so many weddings.

“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.”

Ruth, a non-Israelite, swears her allegiance and commitment to Naomi in the name of Israel’s God.

And in essence, acknowledging Jehovah as her God.

“And when Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”

This classic expression of loyalty and love discloses Ruth’s true character.

Her commitment to Naomi is complete, even though it holds no prospect for her except to share in Naomi’s desolation. At this moment (in my eyes) Ruth becomes someone incredible. In fact, Ruth, a non-Jewish woman, would become an ancestor of Jesus.

This really touched me because Naomi was not going to have another husband. She was going to spend the rest of her days as a lonely old widow… and Ruth, who had relationship with her, would not let go of that relationship.

And in so doing, she embraced Naomi’s God.

Isn’t that amazing?

A non-Jewish person could be adopted into the family of Israel.

“So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem.

And when they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them.

And the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them.

“Call me Mary, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.

I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” 

Now I know she was angry and she was bitter at her situation, but God is the “God of ALL her circumstances” and this is part of that. He is El-Roi – He sees her.

I’ve said it before – everybody in their life is going to have times of sorrow, sadness, loss, despair, defeat. It’s part of the human experience.

And for myself there is no comfort in any other truth, except this one – I follow after El Roi, the God who sees me. He is the God of all my circumstances.

And all of my circumstance – good, bad, happy, sad, disaster, victory – all of that together – is part of his plan to turn me into the person that I am. It is all part of God molding me into the image of his Son.

So when I experience something sad or bad or horrific, I say he is the God of all my circumstances and “this is part of that.”

Naomi was empty.

Naomi had gone from fullness from a husband with two sons and eventually the promise of two extended families.

And now she comes back – empty. It’s just her and a daughter-in-law, both widows.

And… Ruth was a Moabite woman. In Israel. What were her chances of finding a Jewish husband? She was from Moab. Just think of THAT for a moment. When Ruth tied herself to Naomi, she walked away from the familiar into a potentially hostile and unfamiliar world.

But she had joined herself not only to Naomi but also to Naomi’s God…the God of ALL her  circumstances … to El Roi…and “this was part of that.”

“Why call me Naomi?

The Lord has afflicted me.

The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.

So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving at Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was beginning.”

This ends chapter one.

Oh my goodness – this is an amazing story.

The stage has been set for one of the most amazing demonstrations –  to me anyway – of the mercy of God, the plan of God and an amazing representation of the sovereignty of God.

He’s the God who sees.

He’s the God who knows me.

He is the God of all my circumstances.

I remember reading this story years ago, thinking that Naomi was depressed and she probably was, were crying out loud.

And I saw her comments like 

“Call me Mara because the Almighty has made my life bitter.

I want away full.

The Lord has brought me back empty.” 

She places it all at the feet of the Lord, her condition, her situation. She WAS full… and now she is empty.

And she’s totally within her right to say this – it is an honest assessment of where she was in her life at that moment.

But remember, Naomi – 

He is the sovereign Lord. And he is the author of your life. And… “this is part of that”.

Remember I said our life is like a book? And in that nook/story there’s going to be loss, gain, victory, defeat, humiliation, pride.

There’s going to be exultation.

There’s going to be weeping.

He knows who we are – He’s written our story. He knows the beginning, middle, and end all at once.

And he knew Naomi’s story, beginning, middle, and end all at once. And in the middle of her story is all this devastation.

But – he is sovereign God. He is the God of all her circumstances. And “this is part of that.”

So I no longer look at her statements and shake my head saying “Oh, she just doesn’t see the power of God.” Maybe she didn’t. At least not at THAT moment. But that did not change the fact that He is El Roi – He sees her.

But she was totally and completely honest in her estimation of what was going on.

And she put it at the feet of God.

“I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.

The Lord has afflicted me.

The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

That’s true.

But she doesn’t know the end of her story yet. Stay tuned, Naomi. El Roi is not finished with your story just yet.

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Guitar Instruction by Paige

Written By:

Paige Garwood

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