I began reading the Book of Ruth on Monday and had to stop several times because I couldn’t stop crying. I debated with myself whether I could swallow my pride and admit that I, all one hundred percent man through and through, cried reading a chick passage of scripture. At first, I tried to stop, regain my male composure and read on; but I simply couldn’t.
What was the cause of this emotional response from me?
I’m not the kind of guy that cries about anything!
I reminded myself that I grew up in one of the toughest areas of Chicago; a place where it was all about the survival of the fittest. You don’t survive gangs, drugs, shootings, and crime by crying. Back there, crying was definitely a sign of weakness. I learned not to show emotions about anything except one; anger.
People may not understand many things in life, but everyone understands anger. You may not be an angry person, but you know an angry person when you see one. You may not understand why a person is angry, but the brain cells in your head tell you to avoid a confrontation with an angry person. I learned how human anger is intimidating, unyielding, and insensitive. I look back and I realize now that I really didn’t want to be angry, it’s just something I learned to be in order to protect myself. If someone pushed, I pushed back harder; I was never afraid to escalate a situation because I didn’t care about the outcome.
I’m beginning to realize that the Lord has me actually feeling raw emotions now and it is a little unsettling. Actually, it’s a lot more than a little unsettling.
So this is the day that the Lord has made?
What are you saying to me Lord in Your word?
What is it about this story that touches my spirit and my soul so deeply and profoundly?
Last week I wrote about following Christ, and it never occurred to me that I would continue my examination of that subject, but the Lord knew better and chose to surprise me.
I’m certain that most of you know this passage of scripture about Ruth and Naomi, so what I have to say may not be anything new, but I need to share with you my thoughts. Here are my observations of this narrative:
- The family lived in Bethlehem, which means House of Bread. However, there was a famine in Judah.
- The name Elimelech means, God of (the) king.
- The name Naomi means, pleasant.
- The name Mahlon means, sick.
- The name Chilion means, pining, destruction:--consumption, failing.
- The name Orpah means, mane.
- The name Ruth means, friend.
- The name Moab means, from (her [the mother’s]) father.
- Boaz was the son of Rahab the harlot. His name has no known meaning.
“Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.”1
“For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them. So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it.”2
The famine occurred because of Israel’s disobedience to God and the result was the invocation of the curses which Moses and Joshua warned them would occur as a result of disobedience. On the surface, it appears that leaving Judah for Moab was a wise decision by Elimelech, but his family lived in the land of promise (Canaan); yet he chose to leave it. Each tribe was given an inheritance of land by God, yet Elimelech chose to forsake his divine inheritance from God.
Was Elimelech following the will of God?
I thought about how many times when things weren’t going my way, I chose to do something which seemed like the right thing to do at the time; but was so opposite of God’s will for me. I remember wanting a diesel engine car because in my mind it would save on fuel cost. Everything was saying, “Don’t do it”, but I wouldn’t listen. God was trying to get my attention, but all I could see was what I wanted. God told me, my wife told me, even the car told me, but I wouldn’t listen. Even after I purchased the car and it quickly began having all kinds of mechanical problems, my pride wouldn’t let me acknowledge I was wrong.
I wonder if Elimelech ever wondered if he should have left Bethlehem for Moab.
Instead of running away from the just punishment of God, what if Elimelech chose instead to repent and stay?
After his death, both sons married Moabite women rather than women from the tribe of Judah. I have to ask myself if Elimelech sons understood the commandment God gave to Moses and Joshua concerning intermarriage with the people from other nations:
“Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.”3
Did this family, like many in Israel during that time become disconnected from their relationship with God and His commandments?
His sons were given names which possibly identified their health condition at birth. The bible doesn’t identify the cause of their death, but I wonder if they suffered from deteriorating health during their short life span.
It is here that I began to read that marvelous exchange between three women; all three experiencing tremendous grief.
To know grief is to know loss.
Naomi followed her husband (Elimelech) to Moab with optimism and hope for a better life. She left Moab without her husband and her two sons. Life in Moab had not been as easy as Naomi anticipated.
I wondered if Naomi’s identity was placed solely in her role of wife and mother to the exclusion of God.
It is here that I see three changes in Naomi:
- Her view of life changed.
- Her view of herself changed.
- Her view of God changed.
- She had no husband.
- She had no sons.
- She had no life.
I'll talk more on this next week.
Almighty God and Father,
I've read of the loss of these three women, and I cried along with them because I understand the pain of loss. I may not understand it fully, but I understand that loss is painful, that grief is encompassing, and that sorrow leaves a wound that only You can truly heal. Like Ruth, I have no life in the past, I only know what lies ahead is what I seek; I will cling to You Lord. I know that not even death itself can separate me from You; I have put my life in Your hands; do what seems right my Lord and my God. You are holy, righteous, and just. I exalt You as the Lord of all. Your mercy endures forever. Look upon those crying out of their need, they seek Your blessings. Open the door of employment opportunity. Extend Your grace to those whose home may be perilously perched on forclosure. Send forth Your word as a balm of healing to those whose body waits to hear from You. One word from You Lord, is more than ten thousand words from a doctor. The doctor may have already said, "We've done all we could do", but I know You can do so much more Lord. Send forth Your Spirit and heal that man, that woman, that child whose body is failing. Speak life and health into their body, strengthen them, and extend their days. When You answer our prayers and petitions Lord, we won't forget that it was You. We will praise You even more, because You are the God who lives within us. Thank You Father for all Your many blessings in the name of Jesus, who has established an eternal covenant between You and us who believe in His salvation. Amen.
|Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).|
- Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
- Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
- The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
- King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
- The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
- The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
- Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6