29 Jun Ruth – A Story of Loyal Love
I worshipped the god of Moab, but with a lot of questions –
‘Did Chemosh create this beautiful world? Then why do we need to make him?
Does he hear when I pray to him? Then why doesn’t he answer me?
Does he even know that I worship him? Do my sacrifices make any difference?’
Sadly, there were no answers.
An Israelite family came to live in my town. ‘There is a famine in Bethlehem’ they said. ‘Doesn’t Bethlehem mean ‘House of Bread’? I wondered. ‘We will work here and earn our bread’ was their humble request. Our Moabite elders allowed them to stay. Elimelech and Naomi – How sweet they were! ‘Sweet’ was the meaning of her name, and his name meant ‘God is my King’. This sounded true, as I saw the sweetness in their family was surely different from our Moabite families. ‘Does worshipping a different god make them different from us?’ My curiosity about their ancestry and their god mounted. I used to peep through their windows to get a clue of some idol or altar, but never saw any.
It was a sad day when Elimelech died. By and by, their son Mahlon and I got married. I now discovered that they had no idol for their god. “We worship the God who made heaven and earth” Naomi used to say. “So we don’t make him.” It made sense.
I loved their times of family prayers, and enjoyed learning about their festivals. Naomi would tell us amazing stories about the faith of their ancestor Abraham, how God promised to bless him and his descendants, how miraculously He delivered them from Egypt where they were slaves! “Promises fulfilled to his descendents? That is such great faithfulness!” I was totally amazed. “He is a covenant-keeping God” Naomi explained. Covenant was a new word Naomi taught me – a beautiful word. So was ‘khesed’, which means loving kindness and faithfulness, which described the character of the God of Israel whom I had begun to love and follow.
But another very sad day arrived. Tragedy struck our family. My husband Mahlon and his brother both died. What terrible anguish it was! Naomi wept inconsolably. She changed her name to Mara, which means ‘bitter’. “God is so angry with me! Why did we ever leave the place He gave us?” She wasted no time to pack her belongings and said goodbye to us – “Go, find a home and family for yourselves. There is no hope in staying with me now.” My co-sister Orpah went. But I could not even imagine life without her. “I will hold on to you, and to your God – all my life.” This was my ‘covenant’ with her, and with her God.
We walked the long miles of pain and loss; but together, we leaned on the Unseen Arms of the God of Israel. His covenant with Abraham gave Naomi the courage to face the future, and I prayed He would extend the shadow of His Wings to me also, a foreigner who was coming to Him for refuge. He did.
I saw His answer in the fields of Boaz where I went to glean some grains for us. I not only got a lot more grains than I had expected, but Boaz also offered me cooked food, cold water drawn from his well, and assurance of safety in his fields. I was treated with so much more kindness than I deserved as a gleaner that I felt loved and accepted like never before. “May the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done” Boaz blessed me. I knew for sure that God has heard my prayer, and extended the blessing of Abraham even to me, a Moabite. What an exhilarating joy to belong to the living God!
Naomi’s faith revived too. She selflessly looked out for a permanent home for me. It was Boaz again! I followed her instructions to ask Boaz to take me as his wife. “I will” he said, “if the nearer relative whose right to redeem you comes before mine, denies it.” He righteously held on to his limits – social as well as marital. He refrained from touching me before marriage even when we alone at night; and then wasted no time in redeeming me. Righteousness and kindness met perfectly in Boaz, so much like God Himself!
“As a rich Israelite, did you not feel ashamed to marry a poor gleaner in your field, a Moabite widow?” I later asked him. He said, “You left your relatives and land and lived here among complete strangers… you are a virtuous woman, full of loyal love for your family. I understand what it costs a foreigner woman to put her trust in the God of Israel. My mother Rahab did the same. Your faith is precious in the sight of God, and so in mine.”
Lo! How blessed I was under the shadow of the Almighty, as He turned a gleaner into a mistress, a Moabite into an Israelite, a childless widow into a mother in Israel! In His ‘Khesed’ which extends to thousands of generations of His faithful servant Abraham, He blessed Boaz and me with a son, Obed! And I know that He will continue to be faithful to His covenant, lavishing His unfailing love even to our generations to follow!
Note: Ruth was the grandmother of Jesse and the great grandmother of King David. In Matthew 1:5, she is also named in the genealogy of Jesus, the son of God.
Her story exemplifies ‘khesed’ (translated as ‘faithfulness’ / ‘loyal love’): a word God used to reveal His own character to Moses in Exodus 34:7. It teaches us to show ‘khesed’ to our families, and to all in the family of Faith. It challenges us to love each other even through hard times, and do whatever we can, even humbling tasks, to take care of each other. It also encourages us to look forward to the eternal rewards that God will give to everyone who trusts in Him, regardless of race, gender, caste, ancestry and backgrounds.
Preeti Khristmukti is UESI Staff based in Nadiad along with her husband Arpit, State Secretary UESI Gujarat, and two children Jason and Susan