Sunday, February 15, 2015

The "In Between": Encouragement from the book of Ruth

Have you ever wondered where God was when you were in an “in between” time? I certainly do. This Sunday in church (I went to Church of the Shepherd in Grove) the pastor spoke on Ruth 2. It was part of a sermon series he is doing on the book of Ruth called “Unseen Redeemer”.

In chapter one of Ruth we get the background story. A man named Elimelech and his wife Naomi left Israel with their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion because of famine. They went to Moab, where they settled down, and their sons married Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth. The Moabite people were related to the Israelites through Lot. The Moabites followed some of the Jewish traditions and had some of the same holidays, but they worshiped Chemosh the “fish god”.
Then Naomi's life went from bad to worse. Her husband died, followed by her two sons. The grief caused Naomi to changer name to Mara, which means “bitter”. Left alone in a foreign land, Naomi resolved to return to Israel.

Her two daughters-in-law didn't want to leave Naomi alone, so they started to go with her. Naomi stopped them, telling them to stay with their families. At Naomi's urging, Orpah returned to her family. Ruth, however, wouldn't budge. She decided to stick with Naomi, and resolved, “Your people will be my people, your God will be my God.” We don't know if Ruth had started following Jewish religious practices when she married into Naomi's family or not. However, this seems to be her moment of real decision.

Chapter two begins with the two of them having reached Israel. They are very poor, and women in those days women had very few options. Rather than begging or becoming a prostitute Ruth resolved to glean wheat. Gleaning is picking up wheat left behind by harvesters. It's hard work and could be dangerous. Ruth, however was determined to do what work she could. She decided to glean in the fields of Boaz, a relative of Naomi's late husband Elimelech.

Boaz noticed how hard Ruth was working and he made sure she was safe and protected. He ordered his men to drop some of the wheat intentionally. And he invited her to join him and his workers for their mid-deal meal. She was curious why he took notice of her, an impoverished foreigner.

When she returned home that night Naomi was curious about how Ruth had managed to glean so much wheat. When Ruth told her about her day Naomi seems to have her first spark of hope in quite some time. She tells Ruth to continue working in Boaz's fields.

So...that's half-way through the book of Ruth. The first chapter was a lot of bad news. In the second chapter we see that Ruth is a hard worker and Boaz is a nice guy who was taken notice of her. Where is God in this story? Is He at work? He is...but we have to wait to see it.

Are you in an “in between” time? Are you waiting for God to move? Waiting to see Him at work? Read the book of Ruth. When you read how the story ends you realize that God was with them and working for them the whole time.     Updates to come :-)

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