Summary: The story of Ruth is proof that love is not what you say. It’s what you do.
Frederick William 1 ruled Prussia in the early eighteenth century. He was said to be an eccentric man who stood on no ceremony. He would walk the streets of Berlin unattended, and when anyone displeased him he frequently beat them with his walking stick. It’s no wonder that Berliners often dove for cover when they saw him coming.
One time, as Frederick was pounding down one of the streets, a citizen saw him but it was too late. The man was spotted trying to slide quickly into a doorway. “You,” Fredrick barked. “Where are you going?”
“Into the house, Your Majesty,” replied the trembling man.
“Is it your house?” the king demanded. The man nervously shook his head. “Then why are you going in?” The king glared.
Fearing that he might be accused of burglary, the man confessed, “I was afraid of you and was trying to avoid you, sire.”
Furious, the king raised his walking stick and commenced to beat the man. “Afraid of me!” shouted the king. “You’re supposed to love me, you scum!”
What is love? Is it spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual, or all of the above? Can it be required? Or, can it only be requested? And what about loving God? How can a person actually love such an infinite and omnipotent entity as God? And this love for God that we’re told to pursue, does such love just suddenly happen or does it have to be nurtured like a seed planted in the ground? Or both? Today we’re reflecting on the “Book of Ruth”; arguably one the greatest love stories in print, and yet, the word “love” is never mentioned.
• The Book of Ruth is proof that love is not what you say. Love is what you do.
The “Book of Ruth” reveals the power and passion of a love that’s stronger than death; stronger than racial hatred; stronger than religious prejudice.
The “Book of Ruth” is a portrait of loyalty itself. It’s the 8th book in the Bible, and in Jewish numerology, 8 is the number for “a new beginning” because
• Our God is the God of new beginnings.
Every 24 hours there’s a new day. Every 8th day begins a new week. In Jesus Christ, you become a new creature. 1 Peter 1:3 says that, “By his great mercy (God) has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . . .” By your faith, God has given you a new name and the promise of everlasting life in the New Jerusalem.
The “Book of Ruth” is a rose in God’s garden of His inspired Word. I want you to listen to this story because you’ll find yourself in it many times. Let’s review, for a moment, Ruth 1:16,
“Ruth said, ‘Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.’”
• The message of Ruth is the romance of God’s redemption.
The story begins with a prodigal family. A man named Elim′elech, which means “God is King”, lived in Bethlehem-Judah, which means “the house of bread and praise,” but because of a famine, he took his family to the land of Moab. In short, there was no bread in the “house of bread.” Given that there was a famine, and given that he had a family to care for, it seems very reasonable for a man to seek his livelihood wherever the opportunities arise. But was it the right thing to do? Sometimes the most obvious solution isn’t always the best. God wants us to walk with Him in our daily lives, but that means we must consult God for His direction. In the case of Elim’elech, was he seeking God’s way or man’s way?
I believe there’s a message for us all in this seemingly passive segment of the story. Consider, if you will, that the land Elim′elech left was the land which God had promised to the Israelites. In a very real sense, Elim′elech left more than God’s “promised land.” He also walked away from God’s promise and into an ungodly land . . . the land of Moab.
Who were the Moabites? They were the hated enemies of Israel. Moab was born in the incestuous relationship between Noah and his daughters while Noah was drunk. The descendents were pagan Gentiles who hated the Jews. They were a cesspool of racial hatred and religious bigotry. For Elim′elech to live among them would’ve required him to blend into their customs and cloak his heritage or even deny any faith in the God of Israel. The fact that his two sons took Moabite wives is a strong indication of just how far he was willing to compromise his faith.