Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

He has left behind a blessing 18 May 14

He has left behind a blessing

Compressed into a few sentences is a heart-breaking tragedy that opens the book of Ruth. It is easy to think of this story as a beautiful romance. But it begins with drought, destitution, and a flight to a land with better opportunity for survival. Here are “economic” refugees. But not the greedy, or the opportunistic, but the needy. Elimelech migrates with his family to survive.

And then in the foreign land Elimelech dies. Naomi is a widow with two sons who marry local girls. It seems the migration process has reached the next stage. But then the sons die. Naomi's only family are the extended families of her daughters in law. All local Moabites. She is a foreigner, resident in Moab only ten years.

It is no wonder she wants people to call her by a new name. No longer Naomi (pleasant) but Mara (bitter). Tragedy upon tragedy. Grief upon grief. Sensibly she decides to return home. But she returns bitter and empty.

But with one of her daughters in law.

How wonderful family love can be. Something has stirred in the heart of this young Moabite woman. She clings to Naomi (the same word that is used in Genesis 2.24!). Last week was Mothers' Day. Not all families are happy, and not all “in-law” relationships are smooth. But some are. Here is a young woman who clings to her bitter and empty mother in law and goes with her to what, for the young woman, is a foreign (and potentially hostile) land.

Why? I suppose we need to read the rest of the story to find out. But there is a clue in this first part. Despite Naomi's claim that the LORD's hand has turned against her, Ruth wants the LORD to be her God. Through her husband and mother in law she had come to know something about their God. She wants to have their God as her God.

And rightly so because the LORD has brought Ruth into Naomi's life as a blessing. Amidst the suffering and grief the LORD has left a blessing. And although later on Namoi may see Ruth as a burden (she will have to find her a husband who likes foreigners), she will later rejoice in the blessings.

Many of us can also testify to the LORD's blessings in the midst of grief and trouble. We can say indeed “he has left behind a blessing” (Joel 2.14).



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