A New Home

IMG_0902Ruth 1:22

Sharon and I have moved much in our lives. We stayed in our previous two homes for fifteen and twenty years respectively. When we moved last December, it was a big event for us, one that included downsizing (and hopefully rightsizing) our possessions. Though getting rid of a lot of stuff was tiresome, we looked at the process with joy, since we were moving to a new home. (No, that’s not a picture of our present apartment building. But the view would be great!) We were on our way to a new place with new people to meet and new experiences to share. Though the move was over six months ago, our apartment still feels new to us, and we thank God our Father constantly for what he has given us. In saying this, we realize that some people find moving stressful and unpleasant. Naomi had decided to return to Israel, and her move brought stress to her.

However, someone else besides Naomi came home in this passage (1:22). Her name was Ruth. This verse has a difficult structure, but the word “return” is used of both Naomi and Ruth. So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest (NASV).

In Naomi’s previous words, we heard her say nothing about her daughter-in-law. Naomi had complained in the singular. However, hadn’t Ruth lost her husband, too? Wasn’t Ruth also childless? Wasn’t Ruth also facing a grim future? If Naomi had been brought back empty, then what can be said about Ruth, who was now empty in a foreign land?

Suffering can produce a self-centered outlook. Others are forgotten. What matters are my pain and my anguish and my troubles and my loneliness and my heartache! Yes, Naomi was suffering, and we reach out to others in our grief. But surely she should not have overlooked Ruth, but spoke in the plural, and talked about how Ruth needed friends and help!

However, the Holy Spirit who inspired the writer of this portion of Scripture has not forgotten Ruth! He points out that Ruth the Moabitess had returned. How can this be called a return, since Ruth had not left Bethlehem in the first place? The Spirit of God wants us to know that Ruth has returned to the living God.

By calling her a Moabitess, the Holy Spirit wants us to sense the wonder of her conversion. In this Old Testament book, he reminds of God’s greater purpose. God had said that all peoples on earth would be blessed through Abraham (Genesis 12:3), and he had invited the nations to rejoice with his people in the great song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:43). So then, in the Torah, the old covenant law had excluded the nations from the people, while God also revealed his purpose to include them among his people. It was very unclear to people under the law how those two truths could agree, if they even thought about them. It was a mystery whose solution could only be found in Christ (Ephesians 3:1-13). Ruth stands as one of the firstfruits of that worldwide vision. As God gave more revelation in the Old Testament Scriptures, he would affirm the purpose that would be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. So then, Ruth the Moabitess returned to God and his people! Naomi had not returned empty, because Ruth the Moabitess went home with her! To sum up the story to this point, “when God is at work, bitter hopelessness can be the beginning of some surprising good” (Hubbard).

How can you know that God is at work for your good (Romans 8:28)? You can only know it when you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and righteousness with God. Only then can you know the love of God from which nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you.

Grace and peace, David

On the Move

October 30, 2015 we found an apartment in Devon, PA. So, Dave and I have been sorting, packing and preparing to begin life in a two bedroom apartment. That’s a major downsize from a four bedroom home with two garages plus a study in the church building! There have been a lot of decisions and many trips to Good Will to bless others with what the Lord had given to us.

For twenty years I’ve stood at the kitchen window and reminisced on God’s goodness to us. I’ve thanked Him, made requests for family and friends with my eyes open many times. And I have praised Him, rejoicing in the beauty of the morning, gazing out at my garden alive with color in the springtime, or looking out on people sitting at our picnic table under a canopy of trees in the summer, or watching a squirrel scamper across the yard and birds flock in the trees in on a beautiful autumn afternoon, or looking out at the moon on a clear crisp winter night. I remember the Bible verse, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

In the Bible it also says in that verse that HE will be exalted in the earth! So much of His creation goes unnoticed by many, but HE tells us here that HE will be exalted. We are at the end of autumn, and today the wind was blowing leaves down upon us like rain, as we traveled to Devon to take the measurements in our new apartment. I commented to Dave that humanity is much like the leaves before us on the road. Every so often a gust of wind would send much of them scurrying around. It reminded me of people going along, just fine until something came upon them and caused a flurry of emotion, be it a family squabble, a child’s crying and whining, a friend’s misunderstanding, or a church full of people disagreeing about something at a business meeting.

At any of these times we need to remember that God says, to be still. Sometimes it is all it takes to just sit down and talk with a family member, enjoying their presence, comforting an anxious or tired child in your arms, or taking a friend out for tea and finding out just how the misunderstanding started. The church should be a place where God’s word is heeded and obeyed. So, if HE says to be quiet, then we should!

Oh, there’s times when it seems like life is like a frenzy of leaves when they scurry here and there, but God’s word is true. So, sometimes, oftener than I did in my youth, I stand at the window and be still, still remembering God’s goodness, contemplating HIM, and His characteristics, and then my world gets calmer!

I thought today while wrapping up my dishes in bubble wrap, when December 5 arrives and our boxes are all packed, the house is all clean and we turn in the keys to the parsonage and then to settle into our small apartment, and we will have lots and lots to unwrap! Christmas! We will thank God for sending His son, Jesus, to us so someday we can live with HIM! Now that will be “home sweet home.”

Love, joy, and peace,