Ruth And I – Setting The Scene

I love the story of Ruth the Moabite woman in the bible. The story starts with a man from Bethlehem in Judah moving his family from Israel to Moab, because there was a famine in Israel. He figured that his family would do better in Moab than in Israel, instead of trusting in his God. The man’s name was Elimelech and his wife’s name was Naomi. Israel was dealing with a long time famine. God’s promised land was having problems because God’s people were not faithful, so God was withholding the promised blessings to show His people who He was. They were promised a land flowing with milk and honey, but it was no longer a land that was prosperous and green, it was brown and desolate. He wanted to draw His people back to Him by proving that they couldn’t do life without Him, it was not by their own hands that they were successful, but by His. Well Elimelech decided to circumvent his need for God and left his country and went to live in the country of his enemy. They settled there. It doesn’t say how long they lived there before he died, but you get the idea that he did not live to a ripe old age. Things didn’t pan out as he had planned.

So Naomi was left with only her two sons to provide for her, we don’t know how young they were when their father died. Her sons eventually married women who were Moabites. In the Israelite culture, they were not supposed to marry women from other cultures, it was a big no-no. But they did it anyway. These women were called Orpah and Ruth. After 10 years of marriage these men, Naomi’s sons died, the widows were childless, so there was no heir to carry on the line, and no reason to stay connected with their mother in law.  It was around this time that Naomi heard rumors that God was blessing His people again, and she made the decision to humble herself and go back to her people, because she had no one left to take care of, or anyone left to take care of her.

Naomi must have been a phenomenal mother-in-law, because her widowed daughter in-laws wanted to go with her. She told them basically that she couldn’t offer them anything, that she would not be able to provide for their needs, or give them a new husband. She told them to stay with their people and find new husbands. Orpah stayed with her people, but Ruth begged to stay with Naomi. Ruth said to Naomi “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” Naomi saw that Ruth was determined, and I’m sure touched by Ruth’s promise of dedication to her and her God, and she relented. Ruth and Naomi traveled back to Bethlehem in Judah, it was a very different journey for Naomi than the one she took leaving Israel. When Naomi and her husband left, she had her man, and her boys, life was good. Now she had nothing, no man, no boys, only herself and her son’s Moabite widow.

Talk about news to gossip about. The whole town was excited to see her and hear what had happened, and I am sure willing to talk about it down at the local well. I am sure the word humiliating was what Naomi would say her situation was like. It seems like she was barely recognizable, they wondered if this was the same woman who had left many years earlier. In reply Naomi said “don’t call me Naomi (a name meaning pleasant), call me Mara (a name meaning bitter) For the Lord has made life very bitter for me.” They arrived at harvest time.

I believe that the beginning is the story of how if you go against God’s will and turn away from Him, He takes His hand of blessing away. God was punishing all of His people, trying to turn them back to Him, but Elimelech, instead of turning to God, walked farther away, trying to do life on his terms, it was like he was saying to God that he didn’t need God’s help. I know that God would have been very angry at the thumb of the nose (a gesture that means openly showing contempt or a lack of respect for someone or something) that Eimelech gave Him by his actions. God took His hand of provision and blessing away from him and his family. Elimelech died too early, his son’s married outside of their culture, meaning that they had adopted the Moabite culture whole-heartedly, and most likely worshipped their false gods. God withheld the blessing of an heir to carry on his lineage.  Even Elimelech’s two sons died tragically early, leaving his widow with nothing and no resources. His widow had to return to her people humiliated. Things were bad. There was hope though. God never gives up on someone completely. God wants to bless His own, that is in His nature. He won’t put up with disobedient children, but as soon as they turn back to Him, He immediately starts in motion incredible, surprising blessings. He takes a horrible situation and makes it good. He never leaves pain void, He always turns it around if you let Him. He uses it to show His glory. After Naomi returns home, God flips her story upside down.

I am amazed that Ruth stayed with her mother in-law. There must have been something that compelled her to stay.Ruth was willing to leave everything behind to go with her mother in-law. I am sure that Ruth was well aware of the responsibility that Ruth was taking on. According to the culture as a widow with no children Naomi would have been taken care of by the community, probably not well, but she would not have been left to fend for herself. She would have had at least the basics. However, because Ruth came with her, Naomi had a child, a daughter in-law. Ruth willingly took on the role of provider, but because she was a woman, a widow and a foreigner, there was not many options left to her to provide.

Naomi must have been something special for Ruth to cling to her. If I was to hazard to guess, I believe that Naomi didn’t want to leave her people in the first place, otherwise she wouldn’t have gone back, knowing the gossip she would be facing, the judgement. I also believe that her belief in God never wavered. Even though she lost everything, she  still believed in God, she may not have liked God in that particular moment, but she still had faith, she knew that God was sovereign, that God could bless or curse as He desired. I think that Naomi held fast to her faith and her customs even though it seems as if her husband and her sons had chosen not to. I think it was through Naomi’s example, that Ruth wanted to be a part of what Naomi had, she wanted to stay, she wanted to be a part of Naomi’s family, she wanted to be a part of Naomi’s people and she wanted Naomi’s God for herself. Because of that faith and commitment God blessed them both.

There are not a lot of women that are highlighted by the Scriptures. God saw fit to include and highlight Ruth’s story and also include her in His Son’s lineage because of her faith and obedience.She is one of the giants of faith in the Scriptures. Ruth became part of the people, and blessed by the God that she wanted to follow.

Unfortunately hard stuff happens to us all, some of us seem to get hit harder than others, but you never know what the other person has gone through. The hard stuff can either drive us away from God or it can drive us towards Him. God is good all the time! I have learned that over my lifetime. I strayed as far away from God as you could, I even practiced Wicca for a time. I refused to believe that God was good, because He let some abusive stuff happen to me and let my father die, my dad was the most important person to me. He loved me no matter what. I was an awful teen, into drugs, drinking and partying. I was abusive to my mom. I loved everything that I was pretty sure that God disapproved of, even to the point of denying who He was. I was taught the truth and grew up in the church, but through some unfortunate things, I grew angry at God. My dad’s cancer and subsequent death just sent me over the edge, so I left my parent’s God and followed my own, and that was not good. I ended up in some very dark places. I was raped at 17, I didn’t want to live, and so tried to commit suicide a few times. I had already had suicidal thoughts before my dad died, my dad broke down our bathroom door to stop me from downing a bottle of pills while he was fighting cancer. I tried slashing my wrists at school, but there were way too many people using the bathroom that day, so I didn’t. I was in trouble with a drug dealer, so my parents switched my school, and the school that I had been at disciplined the person who I got my drugs from, so I was afraid for a while. Life was really hard for me then, but most of that was because of the choices that I had made. I chose to go to the party that I was raped at, against my mom’s wishes. I chose to use drugs, even though I didn’t have money to pay for it. I chose to quit school, to be abusive. I chose to go my own way. God, because He is good, had other plans for me. I guess there was a tiny seed of faith in me. I saw my dad’s faith lived out through his battle with cancer, I remembered the stories that my grandma told me about God, and the songs that she sang. I grew up in church and I knew about all the bible stories that children are taught in church. I just didn’t feel like they were for me.

Little did I know that God had other plans for me. Through my kids, I turned back to Him. I wanted better for my girls. I wanted them to know the faith that my dad had, what I had witnessed through his battle with cancer. In my dad I saw incredible strength and unwavering faith. I asked him once if he was afraid to die, he told me no he wasn’t, that  he was not afraid to die, but that he was worried about leaving us. He knew what I was like, and he knew that my mom and I had a turbulent relationship. My dad’s faith was steadfast, he knew that God was good all the time, even when life was hard. My dad’s faith spoke volumes to me, although I didn’t acknowledge it at the time. I stored it in the back of my mind, and it surfaced later as I had children. I wanted what my dad had for my kids. I had messed my life up royally I thought. I figured it was too late for me, because I had rejected him for a false goddess. I thought that was the unforgivable sin. I have now come to the conclusion that the unforgivable sin is refusing to believe in God. If you turn back to God, He wipes your slate clean and welcomes you with open arms. This is the truth. It is the truth in the story of Ruth and it is the truth in my story, and even in the story that is Cam’s.

I came to know God after my daughter Stephanie was born, she was my catalyst. I finally knew what eternal love looked like. I knew I was once again loved no matter what, it was a love that I could trust. That trust was tested after our second daughter died of SIDS after only 12 weeks of life. I was so angry at God, I think I even hated Him. He took all the words I spewed at Him and didn’t strike me down because of them, I think He understood my pain, He had lost a Son once too. I found out that God is big enough to take my anger. He is also sovereign enough to refrain from having to account for the death of my daughter and answering the questions I asked Him out of my pain. I learned a lot about God within that next year. I found out that God is incredibly close to the broken-hearted. That He never left me alone, that He was a God of blessing, even if it was just in the gift of sleep. I found out that I could just curl up in His lap and cry, when no one else seemed to care or want to listen, He did. My faith grew stronger that year, and I discovered the faith of a desperate woman. I felt God, He was undeniable. I discovered the faith that my dad had through his battle with cancer. It is an incredibly surprising faith that comes through adversity. It is weird that my faith grew so much through tragedy. I saw it in my dad and now I see that it was in me too.

I think that this is what faith looked like in Naomi, and this is what Ruth saw and wanted for herself. I think that Ruth knew the truth that God was the only one that she would find that kind of unwavering faith in. She knew that her Faith in God would grow stronger, even through her tragedy, and maybe because of that tragedy. I know for myself that without God, I couldn’t have lived. I wanted to die that year, It was so hard to live knowing I had lost my child. I can say that God was the only reason that I survived till now. God blessed me with the gift of unwavering faith. I had the tiniest seed of faith till God proved Himself within my tragedy. I am grateful that He did not let my pain have no meaning, He didn’t leave it void of blessing. It was then that I truly got to know my Savior. He truly is my Savior. My dad was like Naomi to me. I wanted what he had, I wanted his faith and I wanted his God. I also relate to Naomi, I relate to her faith even in the face of tragedy. God makes this life of mine worth living. I will be like Ruth, I will follow God where ever He goes. He is the one that I will serve willingly.

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