THIS MESSY LIFE: ADOLESCENCE - PART 1
FINDING OUR PLACE
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Ruth 1:1-17, Mark 3:33-35
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
“During the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land” (Ruth 1:1). The days when the judges ruled are days repeatedly characterized by the common refrain, “In those days there was no king and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”
This season in Israel’s life is what I am identifying as a shift into adolescence. They have learned the basics of what it means to be God’s people. They have been set free from slavery in Egypt. They received the law at Mt. Sinai. They struggled through the wilderness and eventually settled in the land God promised to them. Like a 5th grader who has navigated all of elementary school and feels like they are the king of the mountain, so Israel has now become a big fish in a small pond. They have conquered. They are in control. But for all they think they know, they are not very good at using their power and privilege responsibly. The book of Judges shows us time and time again how far Israel strays from the lessons they learned in their childhood. As they shift into adolescence, they are not yet a fully developed nation. There is no king and they struggle to fully recognize the authority of God as their king. Just like children at this age think they have outgrown their parents, so Israel thinks they are ready to handle things on their own. By the time we get to the end of Judges, it is clear, they haven’t learned much at all.
During this time, we read, there was a great famine in the land. The crisis had gotten so bad that families some families had to leave their inherited land behind and move to Moab, a pagan land that had often been at war with Israel. And yet it is here among foreigners that we find one woman who shows us what it truly means to live as a child in God’s household. She, her sister-in-law, and her mother-in-law are all left as widows. She has nothing left. Her sister-in-law Orpah makes the sensible decision to go back to her mother’s household but Ruth refuses to return home. In one of the greatest statements of family solidarity in scripture, Ruth declares to her mother-in-law Naomi that she will stay with her no matter what. “Your people will be my people,” she says, “and your God will be my God.”
There was no obligation on her part to make such a commitment and no guarantees that they would even survive, let alone thrive as a family of widows in the wilderness. Through this act of faith and loyalty, God not only redeems Naomi and Ruth, but through her, God raises up a son named Jesse and a grandson named David. The rest is history. When God’s children had gotten so low they were forced to abandon their land and find refuge among the foreigners, God raised up a foreigner to show them once again what it meant to be part of God’s family, and through her and the line of her grandson David, the doors of our Father’s household were opened to every tribe, tongue and nation for all time. We were all foreigners and strangers, gleaning and struggling to survive on the margins of God’s household, but God sent his firstborn son out into the fields like Boaz to invite us into a home we never knew.
Credit for the excerpt on Ruth goes to Dr. Sandra Richter. You can watch her extended video on Redemption here: