Reading through the Bible together

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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There is no finer short story in the world than The Book of Ruth.  This simple account invites readers to witness God’s providence empowered by love.  Its three main characters go from individual hopelessness to mutual abundance in four short chapters.  It is a jewel of a story.  Tradition tells us that the author was Samuel, whose birth had answered his own mother’s desperate prayer.

The story opens with three husbandless, childless women in Moab.  “Naomi” means “Pleasant,” but Naomi wants to rename herself “Mara,” or “Bitter.”  Like Job she lost family—husband and two sons—but also like Job she does not blame God as Satan would have her do.  Yet the situation leads her to despair, and her conclusion is starkly realistic: she seems to have lost hope for her future, and she tells her daughters-in-law that they should seek their hope somewhere else.  Ruth, though, has caught the faith that Naomi must have displayed earlier, and that faith now comes full circle in her choice to share Naomi’s future, woeful as it seems.  The chapter ends with a hint of what’s to come.  “Bethlehem” means “The House of Bread,” and they arrive “in the beginning of the barley harvest.”  God's love has not changed, and His plan for them is sure.  A small thing to notice is that no one in the story accepts Naomi’s name-change, which she never repeats.

Jan Haluska

Southern Adventist University