August 13, 2014

Loss and Loyalty

Photo by annaER
Last Sunday John started a new sermon series on the book of Ruth. He's never preached on the book of Ruth. Ever. I don't know that I've heard of other preachers speaking on the book of Ruth either.

So what's so great about this little book? There's no miracles, no great godly teaching, no laws given, nothing special. It's just a story. So why is it even in the Bible?

Because faithful, covenant love is held up as the ultimate virtue.

The Hebrew word "hesed" is repeated throughout the book of Ruth (and throughout the Bible). It is difficult to interpret into English, but it has been known to encompass faithfulness in covenant love, mercy, loving kindness, steadfast love, and loyalty.
Here's how the story goes...
During a famine,  Elimelech took his wife Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, from their home in Bethlehem to live in Moab. After their father's death, the sons married Moabite women named Orpha and Ruth. They lived in Moab for about 10 years until both Mahlon and Chilion died, leaving their mother Naomi to live with her daughters-in-law.
When she heard the famine was over in Judah, Naomi decided to return to her home, and told her daughters-in-law to return to their own families in Moab. Weeping, Orpah left Naomi to return home. Ruth refused to leave Naomi and said,
 "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16).
Naomi and Ruth created a patchwork kind of family. They were of a difference race, not blood related. But they made it work by copying God's faithful, covenant love. 
  • Naomi needed support. She was past marrying age and well passed child bearing age. She had no one, except her two daughter-in-laws. She could have kept them with her as she returned to Judah and lived with their support, yet she was willing to sacrifice her safety net because she loved them as her own. 
  • Ruth could have gone back to her parent's home and been supported by them. She could have remarried and had a family of her own, yet she was willing to sacrifice her future for the family God had given her in Naomi. 
Both Naomi and Ruth practiced "hesed"...faithful, covenant love. They found a place of belonging in each other.

In this world of turmoil and loss, we need to find a place of belonging. And it can be found in the One who loves with an everlasting love...a faithful, covenant love. And it can be found in the family of God...the church, His family on earth.

May you find hesed this week as you look to the One who holds your heart close to His in faithful, covenant love. 

**Notes from John Ketchersid's sermon August 10, 2014.

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