Monday, July 21, 2008

Ruth: turning back to abundance

Naomi was determined to be angry with God. In our study of Ruth, we’ve examined her difficulties. She lost her husband and sons. She was returning to Bethlehem, limping in and feeling pretty bruised.

Here are a few more instances of how the book of Ruth deals with shub, the idea of returning or turning back from a chosen path.

Ruth 1:21 "I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?"

Here is where the complaints begin, as Naomi enters Bethlehem. She returns empty and that’s God’s fault. But she returns. Remember that she left Moab because she heard of the abundance in Bethlehem, but in her return, she’s in a bitter mood.

Ruth 1:22 So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Notice that the two women both returned. Ruth is identified with Naomi. They are as one, so to speak, both returning to their homeland.

Ruth 2:6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, "She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab.

In case we miss the point, our author repeats it when Ruth goes to the harvest fields. Ruth returned. She is bonded with Naomi and has come to her adopted homeland. It’s an important point, one the author underlines for us.

Ruth 4:3 Then he said to the closest relative, "Naomi, who has come back from the land of Moab, has to sell the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech.

Boaz, in discussing redemption opportunities with kin, reminds him of Naomi’s homecoming. Naomi came back from Moab, thereby also reminding him and other listeners of Ruth’s land of origin as well. Otherwise, how could he explain this young Moabite woman who is bonded to Naomi?

Ruth 4:15 "May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him."

Now the women, who heard Naomi’s complaints at the gate when she returned to Bethlehem, remind Naomi that God has returned to her life and offspring. Our author turns the concept of return around, showing how God has returned to Naomi what she thought he had ripped away.

Naomi returned to God’s fullness in Bethlehem, convinced of his bitter hand against her. Because of that return, she experienced restoration as God returned to her that which was lost. Her return, done begrudgingly, opened the door to God’s abundance.

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