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Ruth – the Bible’s true-love-story

“Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He [the baby born to Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law] shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Ruth 4: 14-16 (circa BC 1050)
 

Can you picture this scene in Jersey today? A family from Israel obtains permission to come and live in Jersey because there’s no hope, no bread for them in Israel – but opportunity to succeed in Jersey if all goes well. There are four of them – husband, wife and two teenage sons.

In their Jersey workplace the two sons meet two unconnected Jersey girls (Oprah and Ruth) and get married. Fast forward ten years. Neither Ruth nor Oprah has become a mum – no children in sight, no grandchildren for Naomi and Elimelech. Then disaster strikes – three times over. All three men, all three husbands die suddenly and unexpectedly. All three ladies are widows. Naomi is a foreigner – and ethnically and religiously distinct from Jersey folk.

Naomi the widow decides to return to Israel. She is bitter. Her two daughters-in-law speak kindly to her. They love her. She is a godly woman, a follower of the Lord God of Israel, the God of the Bible.
 
 
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‘Love is the outgoing of the entire nature in self-sacrificing service.’ (W H Griffith Thomas, pastor and writer, 1861-1924)

They want to go with her but she tells them not to - in no uncertain terms. “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband! Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?  Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”

Oprah, having said she will go with Naomi, doesn’t carry it out. She stays in Jersey. But Ruth, well, Ruth has seen something unseen. Although quite young she decides to leave everything behind and to devote herself to her widowed mother-in-law.

Ruth says to her, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

A true-love-story? Not really – not so far. So far so bad. A bad, sad story of bereavement and bitterness. But yes, the self-sacrificing love of a young lady for her widowed foreign mother-in-law…., who is bitter.

But the real true-love-story sees Ruth marry a wealthy landowner in Israel – in Bethlehem, actually. The circumstances which brought that about are an enthralling read. In Bethlehem too, Ruth has a baby boy through her new husband. The whole story is about 3000 years old. That boy becomes the grandfather of Israel’s greatest King – King David – whose kingdom flourished around 1000 BC.
 
 
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‘Love = to live for.’ (Mary Slessor, Scottish missionary, 1848-1915)

The full story takes up only a few pages in the Bible – you can read it here in a recent English translation: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ruth+1-4:22&version=ESV. The Christian bookshop in the Central Market, St Helier, will supply you with a rather wonderful paperback about the Book of Ruth. John Piper’s “A Sweet and Bitter Providence”.

Most wonderful of all is the fact that this young lady – Ruth – is an ancestor of Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem in AD Zero. He was born there because his parents were of the house and lineage of David, the King; Ruth’s lineage in fact. Bethlehem was the place where Jesus’ parents had to register for the census being taken that year, AD 0.

Take a fresh look at the encouraging words (bold above) spoken to Naomi about Ruth’s baby boy. He would be similar to Jesus, his most illustrious descendant: a redeemer; a man of renown in Israel; a restorer of life; a nourisher.

And, have you thought? What kind of God is it who places a love story like this in the Bible record of His Son Jesus Christ?
 
 
Richard Syvret

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