Gleanings of Wheat: A Blog dedicated to cooking, kids, and Christ

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reflections on Ruth 1

I haven't posted one of these in so long! I'm still working my way through the Old Testament at a snails pace (usually one long chapter or two short chapters a day) so I'm only in 1 Samuel right now. I did take a break for a couple weeks and hopped around the New Testament before starting Judges, though.

Anyway, I read Ruth a couple days ago. Have I mentioned that I love Ruth? She's my favorite woman in the whole Bible, and besides Christ and Paul she's my favorite person in the Bible. I read her story at least twice a year, and am reminded of it even more than that. My familiarity with her story, however, does not keep me from learning new things in it. I'm grateful that even after digging into her story so many times God is still showing me new things, still teaching me.

Here are a few things that struck me this time around:

When Naomi decides she is going to return from Moab to Bethleheme she tells her daughters in law to "return each to her mother's house." This is highly unusual. She tells these girls to return to their mothers when the typical way to give this kind of instruction would to tell them to return to their fathers - we see this with Judah's dealings with Tamar in Genesis 38. I don't really have any ideas why this may be, but it did strike me as strange.

Next, I've long held the belief that Naomi, her husband, and her sons left Israel in an act of unbelief/ unfaithfulness/ sin. They left during a famine, and famine was commonly understood to be a judgment from God, so rather than staying and dealing with the famine and any sin that might be in their hearts the family flees to Moab. Naomi's husband dies, the boys marry and then also die.

Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am to old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me. (Ruth 1:12-13)

It would seem that Naomi understood that the hand of God was chastising her during this time. She understands how her sin has effected those around her and it justly grieves her. Likewise should we be grieved when we sin. Firstly we sin against God, but how often does our sin effect others? Our sin may not cause other people to become widows, as in Naomi's case, but our sin dishonors God and often will be used as an excuse by unbelievers to not repent and trust God.

Naomi's daughter in law, Orpah, heeds Naomi's advice. I cannot help but wonder if she ever wondered about the God of her mother in law, surely she was exposed to some attributes and truths of the Lord and yet we see in her a heart unregenerated. She returns to her old life; now only Naomi and Ruth are left.

And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return though after thy sister in law. (vs 15)

Naomi is returning to Israel, but it almost seems as though her heart remains far from God in this. She's returning to the land, but not the God of the land. If this were not the case, why would she so persistently encourage the girls to return to a way of life that will lead to their destruction? I have no doubt Naomi loved these girls, why then would she want any less than the best for them? Why would she be content to send them back into falsehood? She still isn't trusting God, she doubts His goodness, and because of her sinful doubt she cannot loudly proclaim the mercy of God...His mercy becomes abundantly later on in the book.

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go: and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. (vs 16-17)

Despite Naomi's distrust of God, despite her lack of faith, God saw fit to save Ruth. Somehow in the midst of their daily lives Ruth caught a glimpse of God's goodness and it was enough for her to be willing to forsake all she knew in order to cling to the person who had brought news of Him to her. This is encouraging to me, to know that God can use me in spite of my sinfulness, to bring someone to faith in Him. This, of course isn't a license to sin - but a comfort in knowing even our sin cannot keep those away whom God has chosen.