Ruth 1: A Glimmer Of Hope
My bible study group has begun a study of the book of Ruth from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). I thought I would post my reflections on this study for you, my readers. I was not all that eager to study a book from the Old Testament. I am more drawn to the New Testament. I want to study Jesus not about the time before Him. I need to study the bible as a whole and not simply the parts I like the most. Yet, a first casual surface reading leads me to see that Jesus is in the book of Ruth too. You see Jesus in Ruth’s insistence on sticking with Naomi. This is the same commitment that we should have for Jesus and His community.
Ruth is written as a story. There are no begets or grand beginnings or generalized statements. Its narrative has an almost once-upon-a-time feeling to it, an urgency to it. You could simply read this as a story on lazy afternoon or you could take a few weeks as my group will be doing and study it for application to our lives.
We had a good talk about what it means to commit to someone, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, wastefully loving someone versus wise stewardship, how we should interact and respond to the homeless among us. Our church is in the middle of downtown so this is an important issue for our church. I say that we should love the person in front of us trying to be the best representation of Jesus to anyone and everyone we encounter. Stewardship while I can see why some would be concerned about this is not something on my radar now. Following Jesus should not just be something we talk about or even something we do but, it should be our core identity. Our identity should be a follower of Jesus loved by God.
Reading the first chapter one can easily imagine that Naomi was sad, hopeless, felt like giving up. Her husband and sons were died, she was increasingly hungry and it was just her and her two daughter-in-laws. How were they to survive on their own? In the ancient times, women had very few rights and on their own they were almost doomed. So, she decides to return to the land of Judah and tells her foreign daughter-in-laws to return to their homes. They refuse. Both want to travel with her. Yet, Orpah eventually decides to return home, but Ruth will not. She commits to go on with Naomi wherever she goes. I hope that if I am ever in Ruth’s position that I too will do the same. I would hope that I would always stand with my friends.
Ruth’s pledge (Ruth 1:16-17) is a pledge of faith. Ruth is committing to being Naomi’s helper, friend, and ally. She is saying I am with you. I am a Jew because you are a Jew. This is radical. Her pledge could be seen as a baptismal confession. My friendships have not been like this. Not anywhere near this. However, relationships should be like this especially the close relationships. It points to how the bible describes relationships—especially Ephesians 5. Normally, we look out for our own concerns before even thinking about the other person or what the other person can give us. We should ask how can I help him/her? How can I be Jesus to this person?
Hope plays a major role in this passage. Hope is extremely important. We need hope. Hope that things will get better that there is meaning to what happens (the good and bad) that even in suffering there is a reason. Hope that in our darkest hours when everything seems lost and no one seems to be on our side that God is with and for us.
I go to Starbucks and get an Iced Coffee. They put it in a plastic cup. When I put cream in it at first it floats gently at the top, then without me touching it swirls to the bottom throughout the entire coffee. As I stir it in more the coffee lightens from black to a musky brown. That is hope! The black coffee is our despair that things will not be OK that things will never be how we want them that we will not be happy. The cream is hope. The stirring is prayer. With just a little hope and some prayer, God will increase our spirits and lighten our burdens.
Hope is dangerous. Just a little hope can drive a man crazy with the assurance that God is good and loves us in spite of ourselves. Just a little hope will alter our lives, always for the better. Hope always has the last word and it says no good thing ever dies.
Without hope, one cannot be a Christian.
There is the hope for life the full and eternal life.
There is the hope that God has not abandoned us or this world and means for something good to happen.
There is the hope that love is stronger than hate.
Hope is important, dangerous, and necessary.
If you have not read Ruth, began with Ruth 1 you will be surprised.
Grace and Peace.