"In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband."
Our church has recently started a new series on Sunday mornings going through the book of Ruth. I appreciate the way that it is being taught. It's a book that is often misunderstood. Some see it as a simple love story - a biblical tale of heartache that ends with love and a future. Some see it as a story for women - "be a woman of faith and obedience like Ruth not a bitter woman like Naomi chasing after worldly comforts never really seeking God". But neither of these outlooks are really right and neither of them capture what the book is truly about.
Over and over through out the Bible we see stories revealing the elaborate beauty of redemption.
The book of Ruth is that.
A tale that starts with a woman who has lost all hope... so much so that she chooses to go by a different name, a name that captures all that she believes her life holds: bitterness. As the story unfolds, we learn that Naomi has lost just about everything. She is living in a foreign land. Her husband and sons have died. Her only companions are two Moabite daughters in law. In every sense, her situation truly was bleak.
But that's really just the beginning. It's the backdrop. If this was really a story that was supposed to teach us a lesson about how "not to be Naomi" - it seems like that would have been the climax of the story not the start of it. And if this was really just a simple love story between Ruth and Boaz, it seems weird that we would have so many details about Naomi and how Naomi felt. After all, what good romantic story starts out talking about a mother in law who moves to a foreign land, loses everything, and changes her name to a word that means bitter? No, this story is bigger than either of these explanations.
In the coming weeks, I will be writing more about this story and some of its takeaways. For now, I will leave you with this: often times, it is easy to separate what we know theologically and doctrinally with the way we see the world and how we interpret and react to things. But theology isn't supposed to be a thing we study and compartmentalize and put away when a certain conversation or class is done. It should be something that makes an impact on us. We may know the theological concept that our God is the God of redemption, but does that affect the way we see the world? Is that a lens we use as we read the Bible? Does this foundational theological truth change the way we see hardships? Does it change the way we see good things? Does it change the way we see brokenness in the world and our response to it? It should.
Today, let us remind ourselves again: we serve the God of redemption and there is great hope to be found in that.