Monday, September 8, 2008

Ruth: Redeeming Heritage

To help us understand another thread of Ruth, we will journey back to the time of Abraham, nearly 1000 years before Ruth. Do you remember the story? God asked Abraham to leave his homeland of Ur and travel to a new promised land. Abraham faithfully set out with his family – his wife, Sarah, and his nephew, Lot. They eventually arrived in Canaan, where they settled with God’s promise.

God promised to make a great nation out of Abraham’s offspring. He promised to bless Abraham and his descendants. This is ironic because at this point, Abraham had no offspring. In fact, Abraham and Sarah were getting older and the prospect of a child grew dimmer with each passing year.

Like Ruth, Sarah was barren and empty.

But let’s turn our attention to Lot, Abraham’s nephew. We are told that Abraham took Lot with him when he headed west for this yet-unspecified land where God was sending them. Lot accompanied Abraham to Canaan and settled there with him.

Lot is described in 2 Peter 2:7-8 as a righteous man, tormented by the lawlessness that surrounded him. Lot followed Abraham because he, too, trusted God.

Lot’s history is important to our understanding of Ruth. Both Lot and Abraham had large flocks of sheep. Eventually their herdsmen got to arguing. I live in wide-open Colorado, where the answer would be easy: just move a few miles down the road and all will be fine. But that’s not the geography of the Promised Land. Instead, these two big herds kept bumping into each other and the herdsmen kept tussling over grassland and water wells.
Abraham didn’t want strife between himself and his nephew. He said to Lot, “Hey, we’re family! We don’t want to be fighting over something like this!”

Abraham suggested that he and Lot choose separate lands. It reminds me of the old adage that good fences make good neighbors. If the herdsmen knew where their territory was, they wouldn’t keep running into the other herd.

Lot agreed and Abraham allowed him to choose first. Lot was perhaps a little greedy in selecting the best land for himself, and the sad part is that his new rich territory included two wicked and well-renowned cities: Sodom and Gomorrah.

Next time: A sad story

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