By Nathan Washburn
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Greenbrier
Focal Passage: Ruth 1:8-17
Everyone loves a good story of redemption. To watch tragedy befall someone, see them endure the hard road set before them, and rejoice when the patience pays off and hope is restored is wonderfully pleasing to us. However, in the middle of the story — after tragedy and before redemption — there is tremendous heartache and doubt. Will this situation be redeemed? Is it even possible for good to come about through this? If so, how in the world could it actually happen?
One problem is that while the story is unfolding, we don’t like to wait for redemption. We want it to happen within a couple hours, like it does in every movie plot. But as God’s work in our own lives unfolds, seldom does redemption ever happen quickly. Instead it takes months, years, or even a lifetime for things to turn out for good. And even then, in some instances, we will only see the good outcome when God unveils His finished work in heaven.
However, the fact that redemption takes a long arc is no surprise to us. Jesus wasn’t born in Genesis 4, after all. Instead, the curse of death, the weight of the law, the string of evil thrones, and the pattern of God’s people abandoning God’s ways created the angst for a Savior in the waiting period. By the time we get to Jesus’ birth, the people of God had all but lost hope for their Messiah. But He finally came.
On a smaller scale, we see this redemptive arc over the course of Ruth’s life (Naomi’s as well) in the book of Ruth. Ruth commits, unwaveringly, during the tough season of her life to hold out hope in the midst of her tragedy. We can learn from her.
Stay committed in the hard seasons. Ruth (and Naomi) had both been through tremendous tragedy (Ruth 1:1-5). They grieved on multiple levels — loss of husbands (whom they loved), loss of means of income (all the men in the family gone), and loss of hope for continuing their families. And yet, Ruth was steadfast in her commitment to the family she’d married into.
Stay committed in the unknown. When Ruth committed to go back home with Naomi (vv. 14-17), she said that Naomi’s God would be her God too (v. 16). It was a big deal for a Moabite to make this transition. And it’s a much bigger deal considering what she knew of Naomi’s God was what she’d seen happen to her family. She had tremendous faith in God, even though He was, for the most part, unknown to her.
Stay committed in the hurt. Upon returning, when Naomi spoke to the people she’d known, she said that she went out full and had come back empty (1:21). Ruth was at her side. It’s tough to think that you were not a part of someone’s fullness, but you are a part of her emptiness. I’m sure Ruth felt tinges of pain everywhere she went as the survivor guilt set in. But she stayed.
Ruth was a woman of steadfast commitment, to her God, her family, and her new people. And as a result, we see her tragedy turn out in triumph and her hurt bring about healing for the world, as she found herself in the lineage of the One who would show us commitment like no other — Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5, 16).