The Narrative Lectionary brings us to the story of Ruth 1:1-17 this week. We skip Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges. The images below will provide context for the book of Ruth and walk through the opening passage. Feel free to use these in your preaching, teaching, or personal study. Enjoy!
Deuteronomy is Moses’ final speech to the people of Israel before he dies and they move into the Promised Land. Joshua is there to take up the mantle of leadership.
Joshua leads the people into battle and moves into the land of Canaan.
The land is divided amongst the twelve tribes of Israel. They are supposed to follow the Law of Moses and not have a king or single ruler to govern them.
It doesn’t go well.
The Book of Judges records a 300+ year cycle in the life of the tribes of Israel of idolatry, slavery, repentance, deliverance, idolatry…and so on. Each cycle, and each judge who is called to lead them, is progressively more corrupt and further from God’s Law.
It’s a mess.
Then, like the quiet eye in the midst of the hurricane, comes the beautiful story of Ruth. It is a story of covenant faithfulness, from a foreign woman, in a time when the children of Israel were becoming increasingly unfaithful to God.
Famine strikes and the house of bread has no bread (a picture of Judges, perhaps?)
Elimilech, Naomi and the boys become refugees in a foreign country where the relationship between these countries is tense.
The boys marry foreign wives. This is a no-no.
All the men die. This leaves Naomi destitute and the younger women free to remarry.
Naomi has lost everything and decides to return to her home. She tries to convince Orpah and Ruth to return to their homes and hit “reboot.”
Orpah returns to her family. Logical choice.
Ruth 1:16-17 is often read at wedding ceremonies. It is interesting that the original context is a covenant spoken from a foreign daughter-in-law to a mother-in-law. Ruth would rather leave everything she knows to remain faithful to the family and God of Naomi.
This kind of faithfulness is no where to be found in Israel in the time of the Judges.
Ruth means friendship or friend. To be unfriendly or without friends is to be ruthless.
The tribes of Israel were ruthless.
This foreign woman was Ruth.
Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem, where there was now bread again. The rest of the story is a wonderful picture of the Kinsmen-Redeemer.
Ruth had children with Boaz. From them came King David and Jesus. Both from the house of bread. Both a child of the foreign woman.
Jesus took after his great great grandmother. He made a commitment to humanity. The incarnation of God–the Word became flesh–and the willingness to go to the cross, demonstrates God’s covenant faithfulness to us.
This is the Good News.
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