It’s a delight to get to share with the Beloved Prodigal community this Monday morning. Thank you for joining me for a look back over our shoulders at the trail we’ve traveled the last six weeks as we’ve studied the Old Testament book of Ruth. It’s really just occurred to me that we’ve sojourned a complete circle in these six weeks from Bethlehem to Moab and back to Bethlehem in the land of Judah.
The circle began with an escape. A family, Naomi’s family, fled the scary unknown future of a land in famine. However, once they planted themselves in the far-off country of Moab, the grass didn’t seem so much greener. In fact, in Moab, their family circumstances only took a downward spiral. I wonder if anyone other than myself can relate to such a circle of events.
Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. Ruth 1:6 ESV
When I look back over my shoulder to the path I’ve personally traveled, rather than a straight line, I see a number of circles. Some of us may remember from geometry class that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line; however, we tend to live out our journey to eternity by traveling in circles. Perhaps God’s intention is not necessarily the shortest distance. What if He rather enjoys the adventurous journey of creating an intimate, trusting love relationship with His bride?
I do believe God’s intent was for His creation to trust His goodness and to accept the boundary He established in the Garden. Full perfection of life and relationship were established by God and enjoyed by Adam and Eve as they lived in dominion over the rest of God’s creation. However, it was in God’s perfect Garden that the circle pattern began.
The serpent engaged Eve in a game of questioning God’s goodness and Eve participated. She allowed the seed of doubt to take hold of her heart and mind. Eve nurtured the lies of the enemy without discussing them with God. Finally, her wrong thoughts about God and His good intentions toward her became an act of treason. Adam joined her in choosing their own way rather than the sanctuary of their Creator. Thus began the circle of all people to satisfy the flesh, come to the end of our own good ideas, cry out to God for help and see He was already on His way to the rescue.*
We sojourned full circle running away to returning home. Full circle from famine to harvest. Full circle from family tragedy to family restoration. We sojourned from self-protection to abiding under the authority of God’s protection. ~Lisa Brittain
Six weeks ago, we joined Naomi, her husband Elimelech, and their two sons choosing to leave their homeland of Judah for a foreign land. We are left to our imaginations as to whether the couple conferred with God about their move. Don’t you wonder how they arrived at the decision to move away?
We can only guess at whether Naomi insisted her husband take their sons away from famine and into a land where they could better provide a life for them. Perhaps it was Elimelech’s choice, and Naomi was forced to go along. We just don’t know.
For the vague details, I’m grateful because the story of Naomi’s family lends itself open-endedly to scenarios we all face in our current day. Without the details, we can avoid the blame game. Rather than being distracted by the people and their right or wrong choices, we are led by Holy Spirit inspiration to focus on the hopeful and life-giving qualities of God.
On our six week journey with Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz, we were continually wooed and awed by God’s goodness. We heard the good news of His provision. He called all of us to come home and take shelter under His Wing of protection. Day by day and week by week, we were invited to the Redeemer’s table to partake of the feast of His Word. And finally, as we witnessed the Lord’s favor for those who seek shelter in Him, we received the assurance He is delighted to redeem us and give us rest in His family.**
Rest is where we ended our study through the book of Ruth. It sounds so good and inviting, doesn’t it? However, I get caught up in the same pattern of circles in which Naomi found herself. Sometimes by my own choices and other times by the choices of others. Nevertheless, my heart’s desire is that I would be ever more attuned to my Redeemer’s voice inviting me to remain with Him – to abide.
But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Ruth 2:11-12 ESV
What I’ve learned about myself as I’ve studied Naomi’s wide circle back around to God, her home, and her people is that my God has never forsaken me. Even on my widest turns away from Him, His arm has never been too short to reach me nor His whisper too soft to prick my ears.
Additionally, my God never wastes a single adventure. Though I’ve tried to solve many issues in my life on my own before crying out to Him for help, there’s always been someone who has been impacted by my story. Other people are always watching us and listening to our words. When we choose to respond to God’s good news for the first time or the hundredth time, another person is likely to come along.
God is so gracious to allow us to participate with Him in whatever He is doing. I pray that you, like me, take great comfort in the truth that God is much more concerned about our growth than arriving by the shortest distance with all the right answers. He delights in traveling with us on our journey home and welcomes us with open arms even when we take a detour. And as our Redeemer, His intentions are always good, honorable and protective.
“I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” Ruth 3:9 ESV
And so His invitation awaits. Have you heard the good news of God’s blessing on His people? Is it about time to head for home? If you’ve lived in a far-off land only hearing about the goodness of God, is it time to tag along with ‘a Naomi’ who can introduce you to her Redeemer?
I’m circling back around to find rest under my Redeemer’s protective covering. How about you? Will you join me on the journey?
Please enjoy this song in a time of worship: I Surrender by Hillsong
*Genesis 1-3 ESV
** Ruth 1-4 ESV