There are only two books of the Bible named for women, Ruth and Esther. Both tell the stories of brave and faithful women. The story of Esther is for another day. Our Old Testament reading for the sixth Sunday after Trinity tells us the beginning of the story of Ruth.
As it says, a family from the land of Judah, in the south of Palestine, left their homeland in a time of famine for another country. Moab was located next to Judah as Colombia is to Venezuela. There was a father, mother, two sons and the family grew when the two sons married women of Moab.
What a tragedy when the father, Elimelech, died. But that was only the first blow. Then the two sons also died. The only hope for the mother, Naomi, was news of a good harvest in Judah. The women then began walking to Judah. Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each of you to your mother's house: May Yahweh deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of a new husband."
Naomi was trying to say that she had nothing to offer the two in the way of security. She did not have a husband, no children, no home, no job, nothing. The two Moabite women raised their voices and wept. And they said: "Surely we will return you to your people."
Again Naomi said them: "Return, my daughters: why will you go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons; Would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you stay unmarried for them? No, my daughters; for it grieves me much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD is gone out against me."
One of them, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and returned to Moab. The other, Ruth stayed with Naomi. And Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or stop following you, because wherever you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay. 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, if anything but death parts you and me."
Why did Orpah leave while Ruth remained? Not for lack of love for their mother-in-law by Orpah. Both loved their husbands, the sons of Naomi, and both loved Naomi too. In addition, Ruth and Orpah, both understood that Naomi had nothing material to offer them. The difference between Orpah and Ruth was faith in the Lord.
"Your God is my God ... the LORD do so to me ..." Ruth was ready to let the gods of Moab and put her trust in the true God. She was ready for a new life with the help of God.
As I told you, this is only the beginning of the story of Ruth. The rest of the story is rather romantic. The two women returned to the town where Naomi was born. Ruth found a righteous man, was called Boaz, and after some difficulty, they were married and started a new family and lived happily for the rest of their days.
What a charming story! But what does this mean? Why include this story in the Bible? It is a story of ordinary people. We find no miracles, no voice of God from heaven, or great battles. What is the importance of this woman, Ruth?
First, do you remember the name of the town of Naomi and her family? It was a small village, but it is well-known today. As the Christmas carol says:
Si me ven, si me ven, voy camino a BelÚn
This was the same Bethlehem where our Lord Jesus Christ was born. Also, it was the birthplace of King David, the greatest king of Israel. Ruth lived before King David, in fact because Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus Christ, as our Lord was born of the lineage of David.
This is the first lesson for us is, that even an ordinary person can be an instrument of God's will. Ruth trusted God, Who then gave her a new life to be a blessing for generations to come. This purpose was not fully revealed at the time when Ruth lived, but was fulfilled in part on the life of her great-grandson, David, and much later, was completely fulfilled in her descendant, Jesus Christ.
So it is with us. God has a purpose for the life of each one of us to be a blessing to others. Perhaps it is not obvious at this point, but if we trust God, He does wonderful things with our lives.
Even more important, Ruth is an example for us because she was justified by faith. In his letter to the Romans, Paul says eternal life comes through faith, not by works of the law, or by being a descendant of Abraham. Ruth was a foreigner, but was incorporated into the people of God, and more, into the lineage of the Savior, and by faith had the promise of eternal life.
We too, when we receive the forgiveness of sins and the promise of new life in baptism, do so not only for a few years on earth, but forever in heaven. As Paul wrote in our epistle for today (Romans 6.1-11), "Do not you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with Him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. "
Thank you Lord for the gift of faith and new life in baptism, and justification by faith alone because of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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