Tim Eleanor Jonny and Amanda led today. Tim brought us the word. He was continuing with the Old Testament highlights. Ruth Chapter 1 is the best story in the bible and yet Andrew Lloyd Weber hasn’t even made a musical of it yet.
This a story about three men who lived in the time of Judges, a time of turmoil. Bethlehem, despite it’s name meaning the town of bread, has no crops, there was no bread, famine was in the land. Elimelek swaps the promised land for the land of Moab. It’s a big step here. Don’t forget God placed the family in Bethlehem .
Naomi is caught up in this situation made by men. But then her husband dies, but she still has her sons . (Her sons’ names mean sickness and death!). They find two wives, who become best of friends and a support to Naomi in this strange land. Tragedy strikes, both her sons die and there are no men in her life. In that culture they needed a man to survive. As she grows older each avenue of support is taken away, no children or grandchildren to care for here , a stranger in a foreign land. She finds herself cut off lonely and alone. All these things have their modern equivalent.
God brings in news from Bethlehem that there’s now food. She gets news of this and thinks the only option is to return to her own people. She’d heard the Lord had come to the aid of her people but is still blaming him for what happens.
We need to realise that God sometimes narrows down our options and leads us a new way. Three widows and no children set off. Naomi thinks they’d be better off within their own people. But they insist on coming with her, yet she thinks she’s too old and they’d be too old and foreigners in a strange land. She hits the low point and tells them to go home.
But Ruth has seen a different future. She knows Naomi will not be empty for ever. Hesed is the word to remember here. Doing hesed is modelled by God himself. Extraordinary acts of caring and kindness. The story of Ruth and Naomi is full of this. Naomi prays for hesed for others. Ruth knows …. Ruth pledges this kindness and loyalty to Naomi which leaves her speechless.
When they arrive back Ruth follows quietly but Naomi says don’t call me kindness call me bitter. She blames God yet when she arrives in Bethlehem the new barley harvest is in the widows will be provided for. God has not bought Naomi back empty. Ruth is with her. Sometimes words when things are going wrong are not helpful. When the people of God bring hesed compassion kindness and mercy makes a difference. Ruth does not buy in to Naomi s logic. The loneliness and despair, we’ve been there, but this story teaches us our prayers have been heard, often through people around us without us even realising it. Read it in full. Perhaps there are those here today feeling as empty as a house of bread that has run out of bread. God calls us to act as Ruth does, to bless others with kindness. We have been set free because of what God has done for us. Let us go and deliver hesed to those around us.