Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ruth: return

The idea of homecoming, or returning, is an essential part of Hebrew texts. “Return” means to movement to an earlier state.

Jacob, after fleeing his homeland to escape his irate brother, returns with a family and a future. It was at Bethel, on that return journey, that Jacob wrestled with God and received God’s renewed covenant promise to care for him. Centuries later, his family had become a nation while in Egypt. They returned to their Promised Land, led by Moses. God remembered his promise to Abraham and allowed the nation to return.

Genesis tells the story of people returning to dust upon death. We yearn to return to the pre-sin Garden of Eden. To repent is to return to a state of favor with God.

In Ruth the word for “return” used 19 times in 13 verses. Not all Bible translations use the word “return” every time, but the original Hebrew text selects shub for all 19 occurrences. Shub occurs most often as Naomi prepares for her Bethlehem homecoming.

The word shub primarily means to physically return or go back to a place. However, several times in the Old Testament, shub means to return from exile. In those cases, there is the sense of God reclaiming those who have walked away from him. There is a strong sense of repentance, of turning away from past sin and returning to God.

. All of us wrestle with return. Where do we go? Do we return to God? Do we return to a former way of life? Do we return to the dreams we once abandoned. There are many possibilities.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a closer look at the idea of return

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