April 20

Ruth, Part 1

Ruth 1:16-17 But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever 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. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.”

Ruth is the best “short story” in the Bible. Its four succinct chapters each carry the story along one step at a time, with occasional moments of intrigue and suspense. Along the way, the narrative paints powerful word pictures and touches on delicate issues until its final picture of unity and restoration. It’s the story of love, commitment, grace, and redemption.

There is more to Ruth’s famous proclamation in vv. 16 and 17 than one simple devotional could cover. But for today, let’s note her stunning profession of faith in the one true God, the God she learned about from her mother-in-law Naomi, and yet move on to focus on another, less commonly addressed, commitment: “Your people shall be my people.”

Ruth was a Moabitess, and hence would be looked at askance when she returned to Israel from Moab. Perhaps others who might have looked past the fact that she was from the avowed enemy of Israel might still have blamed her for Naomi’s wretched condition (see Genesis 19 to see the childless problem associated with the incestuous foundation of that nation). Yet Ruth was willing to consider these people “my people.”

Embracing Naomi’s God is rightly considered a huge act of faith on Ruth’s part, and a model for us all. Yet embracing Naomi’s people was as much of a step of faith—and courage—as becoming a true believer. Ruth didn’t know what she would be facing when returning, and was likely braced for the rejection and negative talk.

We who have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ—have we called His people our people?

It’s popular today to say that we love Jesus and then go on about the trouble we have with His people. There is many a tired quote making the rounds on that very subject. But it’s really trying to bring separation to something that Jesus considered a unity: Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).

Jesus saw a connection here that many of us miss. I John 4:20 is only one of many words on the subject: “If someone says, ’I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

Jesus sees the connection. So did Ruth. Do we?

Lord: You don’t make a separation between our love for You and our love of neighbor. I confess that I sometimes haven’t opened my heart to Your love for my Christian brothers and sisters, and I confess that it’s so much easier to think I’m loving You as I push believers away. Help me to settle the issue in my heart, as Ruth shows us.

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