Monday, August 4, 2008

Ruth: the dawn's coming

When purpose is lost, powerful emotions surge through our veins. We are angered, numbed, stricken. The loss may possess our waking moments, consuming us in the passion of reconciliation. Or we may buckle under the weight, crushed by the hopeless of recovery.

For ancient Israel, the concept of the blessing was a powerful one, wrapping them in a warm cocoon of protection. From the time of Abraham, they had trusted in two parts of the promise from God: land and offspring.

God came to Abraham with a promise and a blessing. In Genesis 12:2, God promised to bring a great nation from Abraham’s line and to bless all the people of the earth through Abraham. This great pledge sustained the people who descended from Abraham. Their greatest desire was for offspring. Their children represented their greatest yearning for God’s purposes and blessings.

The land was closely linked to offspring. God, after his tremendous blessing in Gen 12:2, made a second amazing promise: I will give this land to your offspring. Thus came the dual promise of land and offspring. They were linked through God’s promise to Abraham.

Imagine Naomi. She was an empty woman who had lost all of God’s promises. Her family had left the land during the famine and now she returned, without family and without land. She was barren, a widow in a culture that treasured land and offspring, not old used-up women.

The author of Ruth weaves those two desires – for children and offspring – and pulls the threads tight in his story. Naomi accused God of failing her, of forgetting his promises. She left Bethlehem with the land barren. Now she returned, barren herself. We are to understand that the lack of seed forced her to leave Moab and she returned to Bethlehem with lack of seed – or offspring. However, she failed to notice that the land is no longer barren, a foreshadowing of the fertility coming.

Notice the number of farming or harvest words that appear in chapter 2. From the second verse, where we see “field” and “glean” and “ears of corn,” to the end of the chapter, we see a wealth of harvest terms. This is no accident.

Read chapter 2 of Ruth and notice all the harvest words you see there.

Next week: the abundance of the land

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