Updated: Mar 6, 2021
I have another message to bring from Ruth and it’s one of real relevance for today.
Many of us are going through distressing times because of Covid-19. There is loneliness, restrictions on how we can live our lives, boredom for some and overwork for others, perhaps we are coping with the aftermath of the virus and, for many, there are low expectations or even a real fear for the future. But, the book of Ruth has so much to say to us about all these reactions.
Naomi lost her husband, her sons and the grandchildren she might have had. She wasn’t just grief stricken and hopeless. She blamed God.
She said, “The Lord’s hand has gone out against me.” “Call me Mara (bitter) because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. The Lord has afflicted me, the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
I wonder how many of us might either be thinking that the Lord is not involved in this coronavirus, it’s all man’s doing so not touched by God, or even that he has afflicted us in some way.
But, just a minute, how does the story end for Naomi?
She had a ‘son’ (not the way we’d see it but that’s how society then viewed it). Note what the women said, “Praise be to the Lord ….. He (Obed) will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.” And “Naomi has a son”, 4:17.
Quite a turn around. And through this son, what a legacy! King David was Obed’s grandson and then Jesus himself was one of his descendants.
But to understand fully how God was involved in all of this, we need to understand why it mattered that Ruth was brought into the ancestry of Jesus.
Only 4 female ancestors of Jesus are listed in his genealogy and that in itself is unusual. Women were not normally mentioned at all. Rehab, who was a Canaanite, and Ruth from Moab are the only non-Jews. But the purpose of them being there is to demonstrate that Jesus was not a saviour for the Jews only but also for those tribes who had been declared the enemies of God’s people. By including these women, God is demonstrating physically what Paul writes in Colossians 3:11 - Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
If there had been no famine, Ruth would have married a Moabite. If Naomi’s sons had lived, Ruth wouldn’t have been free to marry Boaz. If Ruth had a son by Mahlon, there would have been a male heir and she wouldn’t have needed to marry Boaz. The only way Ruth could be brought into the ancestry of Jesus was by events working out exactly as they did, beginning with a terrible famine and passing through Ruth’s childlessness and unbearable bereavement to reach God’s plan and purpose.
Was Naomi right when she said that the Lord’s hand had gone out against her and that the Almighty had brought misfortune upon her?
I don’t believe for a moment that God carefully planned to bring disaster and suffering on these women. But he knows the end from the beginning. He knew before they were ever born that this tragedy was going to happen. So he was able, as he planned for the coming of his son into this world to redeem it, to work out his plan and purpose and use the circumstances to bless both the women and, through them, the world.
What does this have to teach us about the current situation?
It wasn’t God who released this virus into the world to wreak havoc with people everywhere and to bring about whatever is happening in our own lives as a result. It was men. But God knew about its coming long before any of us were born. And, just as he did for Naomi and Ruth, he has included what’s happening right now in his plans for each single one of us.
And he does have a plan. He gave Jeremiah a message for the people in exile and that message is true for all of God’s people. “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I had no idea when I prepared this, that Hemi had chosen the same scripture as part of our worship on Friday evening. I don’t believe in co-incidences in God. He is confirming that this scripture is his message to each of us this weekend.
It’s his promise to you and to me even as we go through this pandemic. His plans cannot be prevented by human events but he will use even the current Covid-19 crisis to bring about good for each one of us. Remember: All things work together for good for those who love the lord and are called according to his purposes. All things. Our part is to recognise this and to trust him and not let ourselves be brought low through fear and worry and heartache, but rather be excited about what God is going to work out for the future. In what amazing ways he’s going to use this for future blessing. And remember – it’s not just the future – he can and will help us each single day between now and that planned future. We are in his hands not that of a virus. Expect great things.