A time of suffering
Ruth and Naomi lived centuries ago but faced the same suffering we see in the world today.
Individuals and societies have cycles of faith, decline, consequences, repentance, and blessing.
Choices have consequences. We live in a world where we face the consequences of good choices and bad choices. We face the consequences of our choices and choices of others.
It has been said that in times of faith and prosperity are the seeds of the next decline. People forget the work and attitudes that brought them prosperity. They become independent and lose their ties to God and each other. And slowly things begin to change. Crime rises. People care less. And eventually they begin to notice. Then something grotesque happens and everyone is shaken.
Life among the Jews after Joshua died and before the kings reigned was like this.
It may go against our notion of independence but we are not in this world alone. What we do and what others do affects us all.
The suffering of Naomi and Ruth
Naomi’s husband made the difficult choice to leave his homeland in a time of famine. They live as strangers in Moab, a country that had previously been hostile to the Jews. (Ruth 1)
When he died and his sons died, his wife and their wives became widows. The wife of one son stayed in her homeland but Ruth chose to stay with her mother-in-law. Naomi made the decision to return home when she heard that the famine was over. Ruth went with her.
Naomi had no community when she left her homeland. Ruth left her community to go to Naomi’s home.
Faith in times of suffering
Ruth’s faith is obvious. She leaves her homeland and declares that Naomi’s people will be her people and Naomi’s God will be her God.
Another faith is often overlooked. Ruth made her decision because of what she saw in Naomi and her family. This is how she saw the life of faith in the God of the Jews. Naomi’s faith is often overlooked but it was very real. She consistently saw God working in her life. (Ruth 1-4)
What three things saved Ruth and Naomi from their suffering?
Ruth and Naomi acted faithfully.
Secondly, the community in Bethlehem supported them. Boaz, an affluent relative of Naomi’s dead husband, allowed the poor, including Ruth, to harvest from the grain left after his harvesters worked the fields. When he heard of Ruth’s faith, he told her to stay at his fields and provided for her in ways beyond those required in the Law of Moses. He also married Ruth following the provisions of the law for widows.
Finally, Naomi saw God’s provision in the way her needs were met. God worked through these circumstances. As the narrator concluded the story he reminded us that from this family, on the brink of extinction, came King David. This is also the family of David’s descendant, Jesus, the Messiah. (Ruth 2-4)
People of faith can live in difficult times
The book of Judges records a depressing cycle of belief, unbelief, consequences, and rededication. Each cycle seems worse than the one before.
However, good people lived during these times. People like Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz were good people. They were not immobilized by their depressing world.
Faith without community is very difficult, often impossible. It is also usually not necessary
We often abandoned our communities of faith when we need them most. We are ashamed of a failing or face a difficult problem that we believe we must face alone. We often drift for a long time before we realize what we have lost.
In addition to the faithfulness of God, we find strength to face each day in our personal faith and in the faithful communities that support us.
Questions for consideration:
Have you ever stayed away from a supportive community during a time of hardship?
How do relationships like marriage, family, church, community, and nation, help and hurt us as we live each day?
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