Read Ruth 1:1-6
Let’s play a little game. I’ll mention a place and you notice your immediate reaction to it. What if I say, “Beverly Hills” or “Edina.” What image pops into your mind? What about “Andover?”
Think about your emotional response to those names. Think about the faces and types of people that immediately popped into your mind when you read those names.
Now, what if I say, “Hennepin Avenue,” or “East L.A.?” What if I say “Coon Rapids?”
Think about your emotional response to these names. What people pop into your mind?
There are two things that are true about most people. First, most of us are from somewhere or identify with a particular place that is “our people.” Second, most of us have “that place” where the people are very different from us and either scare us or disgust us.
There is a running theme throughout the Bible. God usually surprises us and uses someone from “that place” to challenge all of our ideas about who is righteous in God’s eyes.
The story of Ruth is like that. Ruth is from “that place.” She is a Moabite. Go back and read Genesis 19:30-38 to find out Moab’s story. Moab is the son and grandson of Lot, the guy from the Sodom and Gomorrah story. You read that right. He was Lot’s son and grandson because Moab’s mother got her father drunk so that he could get her pregnant. I’m not making this up.
So, Moab began from that dysfunctional family system and never got much better. The Moabite people lived east of the Dead Sea and their land had more water than most others. When famine hit Bethlehem, Naomi and her family headed to Moab to find food. Naomi’s sons married Moabite women. Enter Ruth.
We will see over the next two weeks that Ruth is the heroine of this story. She is the one who demonstrates faith in God and faithfulness to her family, even in the most desperate times. Naomi, the “good and pleasant” Israelite, is plagued with bitterness, while this woman from “that place” is the faithful one.
Let’s be careful not to judge people too quickly. God usually uses the people we label and discard to be the very ones to shatter our ideas about God and show us the real Gospel.