Just finished an online study of the book of Ruth with the Love God Greatly Community. As has happened with studies in the past, there was so much to glean from this little book that I wanted to go back through it again on my own. Here goes!
Before examining the subject of this story, Ruth, a little contextual history may help in the understanding and application of this account of LIFE. Life with all its complicated nuances of expression, meaning and responses. Life is more than breath in your body – it is LIVING for a purpose, with meaning and intention. I assert that life is a gift given to us by our creator God. Not happenstance. But, whether you believe in God or not, there are still practical principles to be gleaned from this ancient history.
The very first sentence of this book of Ruth is a reminder of the importance of a good foundation. Be it in our individual, personal realm or the realm of community to include governing. This setting takes place at a time “when the judges ruled in Israel.” Ruth 1:1
A short declaration easily read over, put aside as a boring piece of info not to be thought of again. However, it is a crucial matter in the whole scheme of things. In that statement is shown the state of the nation of Israel at that time. (Time?-approx. 1400-1050 BC or BCE whatever you fancy. It is a real event in real history.)
The state of the nation of Israel is a factor in the explanation of the circumstances they find themselves in during the time of Ruth. “…a severe famine came upon the land.”
So what? you say! That’s just a part of life, a weather pattern. Things happen.
But there is so much more to it.
CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES.
In a nutshell: Israel is a nation formed by God to be His witnesses to surrounding nations of His goodness and provision for His people. (Exodus 19:4-6; Exodus 4;22 & 5:1 )
Through the descendants of one man – Abram later to be called Abraham – a nation was born and nurtured by God. A nation who would be considered great and through whom “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
To this nation God revealed His truth and gave His commandments as their governing foundation. ( Exodus 20: Deuteronomy 4:12-14; Deuteronomy 5 )
Consequences: If followed the result would be blessings, life and good;
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, “In that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply…” Deuteronomy 30:15
if rejected the result would be cursing, death and evil.
“But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…Deuteronomy 30:17
THE CHOICE was theirs to make. Blessing or cursing. Life or death. Good or evil.
BUT He says – choose life!
God, knowing all things, knew there would be times they would gladly embrace His way as well as times when they would reject it. Through it all, He would be with them and have compassion on them.
“Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you,
All that to bring us to the setting in Ruth described as ‘the days of the Judges’. One of those times when Israel turned away from the solid foundation of God’s truth and governing choosing their own ways instead. There is also a book in the Bible titled ‘Judges‘ which records that Israel repeatedly ‘failed’ to do as God said; ‘would not’ do as God said; would ‘not listen to God’; chose to ‘worship false idols above’ their God; all of which gave grief to God because of their misery.
The wrong choices of his people grieve God! as they do today.
The book of Judges ends with this statement: “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” Judges 21:25
And the next sentence is the opening statement of Ruth:
‘In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land.’
FAMINE. A consequence of Israel turning away from God’s truth, God’s way, God’s governing design, God’s firm foundation. Choosing to do what is right in their own eyes.
A principle which holds true today. Choose God who is life and good; turn away from God and there is death and evil-a drastic shortage of life and goodness, i.e. famine.
The sad backdrop of this short story which by the grace of God has a beautiful ending.
God IS good and can bring good even from a time of famine.
Hope you’ll return to continue this study through Ruth.