Devotions for Ruth 1:1-17
October 12-18, 2015
Monday, October 12, 2015
“There was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons” (Ruth 1:1).
Bob Warner and Jamal Lefebvre stood side by side looking at the devastation left by the tornado. Both of their homes had been severely damaged—and they were the lucky ones. Foundations were the only remains of several of their neighbors’ homes, and there wasn’t a building in the small community in which they lived that hadn’t been touched by the winds and the rain. Jamal placed a hand on Bob’s shoulder, “Well at least our families are safe,” he said. With tear filled eyes Bob nodded his agreement. The two gazed into each other’s eyes and then fell into each other’s arms. Suddenly all the years of arguing, rivalry and their intense dislike for each other fell away. In the days ahead their working together turned former enemies into lifelong friends.
Moab had been enemies of the Judeans for centuries. Several wars and countless skirmishes had been fought against each other. When Judea was struck with a famine, though, Elimelech had no choice but to move his family to Moab where there was food to eat. Suddenly enemies became friends in the fight for survival. Friends became family when Elimelech and Naomi’s two son married Moabite women.
We go through life allowing petty rivalries, hurt feelings and differing opinions to infect our lives with animosity and hate. Love, care and concern are absent, and our lives are lessened because of it. Sometimes we are “blessed” with tragedy or loss that breaks down the barriers that have arisen between us and love can flow freely again. Why wait for bad times to happen? The barriers between us can be removed through swallowed pride, confession, repentance and absolution. God’s light is able to shine in us and through us once again.
Forgiving Lord, keep us from being content to live our lives with barriers between us and others. Give us the will and the ability to knock down those barriers so that we can live in love and peace with those around us. Amen.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
“Both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband” (Ruth 1:5).
There are times in our lives when things go from bad to worse. That was certainly the case with Naomi. At that point in history women were totally dependent upon men. Without a husband or sons, Naomi had no source of income, no security and was disconnected from society and worship. Things looked hopeless for Naomi.
We have all experienced those times in our lives when things go from bad to worse. The furnace goes out and then we are involved in a car accident. We lose our job or one of our children is injured and needs to be rushed to the emergency room. There are times when things seem hopeless and there are no solutions in sight.
Naomi and her daughters-in-law didn’t see God in their situation. The writer of the book of Ruth allows the reader to sense that God is still in control—even in those darkest of days.
Almighty God, there are times when life overwhelms us and things appear hopeless. Don’t let us lose faith or hope. Even in the darkest times enable us to trust in you. Amen.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
“For she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food” (Ruth 1:6).
In primitive society God is responsible for everything. Thunder and lightning, floods and droughts, sickness and health all are expressions of God’s wrath or pleasure. As society has developed and our knowledge has increased life has become more complicated. Thunder and lightning is caused by moisture and the mixing of hot and cold air. Floods and draughts are caused by weather systems, and bacteria and viruses affect our health. We have taken God out of the picture—and for some people way out of the picture.
As disciples of Jesus Christ we live in the paradoxes of faith and life. These paradoxes include that God is intimately involved in our lives yet at the same time we live in a world of natural laws, forces and happenstance. Another paradox is that the Lord’s hand is upon us, but we also have been given the gift of freedom.
Paradoxes will always be a mystery to us as we seek to live our lives in their tension. In the middle of things we don’t understand, however, we can be assured of God’s steadfast love, unconditional forgiveness and overwhelming grace. These truths can give us comfort and strength.
Amazing Lord, there is so much that we don’t understand. As we live in the mystery of life, be with us and empower us to live lovingly and boldly for you. Amen.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
“The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband” (Ruth 1:9).
Juan and Carlota were faced with a decision. Their congregation was encouraging couples and families to become foster parents because of the great need in the state. Juan and Carlota were a couple who lived in a house with lots of room with no prospects for children. They liked their freedom, though, and to become foster parents meant that they would need to attend several class and then make the commitment to give up their comfortable lives for something a little more strenuous and stressful. It was not an easy decision to make.
Naomi was giving her two daughters-in-law a way out. She was moving back to Bethlehem and Orpah and Ruth didn’t need to go with her. Orpah and Ruth were young enough that they could get married again. Their marriages would give them security, food, clothing and shelter, and offer them the opportunity to raise a family. Staying with Naomi would offer them none of these necessities of life. If Orpah and Ruth left Naomi, though, Naomi would be all alone. She would be an old woman struggling to exist.
Jesus once told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Many times we are faced with the decision to focus on meeting our own wants and desires, or sharing our blessings with others and serving them. They are not easy decisions to make. When we do commit ourselves to live for others, though, we discover that we really don’t lose anything. What we gain is the joy of giving and the experience of living an abundant life.
Gracious Lord, you have called us to deny ourselves. Grant us the ability to do this; to turn away from selfishness and to live generously. Amen.
Friday, October 16, 2015
“Because the hand of the Lord has turned against me” (Ruth 1:13).
Brad stood over the grave of his wife. She was only forty-six years old and had died from a virulent form of uterine cancer. Brad was left with two young children, a ton of medical bills and an overwhelming sense of loss. As he grieved Brad struggled with shock over his loss, anger at God, the world—and even his wife. There were times he slid into the pit of depression and had trouble climbing out. He didn’t, however, blame God for his predicament. During his wife’s illness, Brad sensed God’s presence and experienced a peace and strength that he felt could only have been God given. Though he missed his wife deeply, Brad felt that his relationship with God had grown stronger through the ordeal.
Susan lost her house to a natural gas explosion. There was absolutely nothing left. No one was hurt. The explosion happened during the day when Susan and her husband were at their jobs and their two daughters were at school. Still, Susan was angry—especially at God who let this tragedy happen. Susan stopped going to church on Sunday mornings and stopped attending the women’s group of which she was a member.
Bad things happen. When they do we can choose to be like Naomi, blame God and decide that God has got it in for us. Or we can choose to allow God to embrace us in God’s love, comfort us in our grief and empower us to take the next steps forward. The Lord assures us that nothing will be able to separate us from God’s love. It is up to us, though, whether or not we will live in this truth or deny it.
Faithful Lord, in the midst of tragedies and hardships help us to keep our eyes on you and to be strong in our faith. Amen.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
“But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you” (Ruth 1:16).
The future was uncertain. Naomi was returning to Bethlehem and she didn’t know how she would be received. Neither Naomi nor Ruth knew how they would survive. By leaving with Naomi, Ruth was leaving everything that she had known—family, friends and home. Still Ruth saw Naomi’s need and knew that she was supposed to stay with Naomi. Ruth was willing to make the sacrifices necessary that enabled her to do that.
The sacrifices that we make as disciples of Jesus Christ come in different shapes and sizes. Some are relatively easy—perhaps only a few hours of our time. At other times our sacrifices are like Ruth’s—deep and life changing. The future may be uncertain and blessings are never guaranteed. This, however, is the life we choose as we respond to God’s love and grace. God’s love flows through our sacrifices and God’s grace is shared with others.
O Christ who was hanged on a tree, as you sacrificed for us, may you enable us to sacrifice for others. Amen.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
“Your people shall be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:17).
Anthony and Anita stood before the congregation and proclaimed their love for each other and made the commitment to be husband and wife. The minister proclaimed that they were married and they sealed the occasion with a kiss. That was the easy part. Anthony and Anita loved each other, but when they married they married into each other’s families.
Anthony’s mother was a sweetheart, but his father could be overbearing. Anita had a quirky uncle and a brother who could be a jerk at times. All of them were now family—for the good times and the bad times, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. Anthony and Anita’s love and commitment to each other spread to their families. They loved and were committed to them, also.
When Ruth made the commitment to stay with Naomi, she made a commitment to Naomi’s land, family and God. Most of the time these were probably blessings, but Bethlehem wasn’t heaven. There were times when Ruth wondered what she had gotten herself into. Like Ruth, Anthony and Anita, we make commitments to relationships. Though that commitment may be to one individual we soon discover that it brings with it a lot of baggage and few other people that we may or may not like. Still we make the commitments because commitments and relationships are woven into the fabric of life. Our commitments and relationships also mirror what God has done in our lives and in our world.
Giving Lord, you held back nothing in your relationship with us. Empower us that we may mirror your love, grace and commitment in our lives. Amen.