Jim Partridge, elder
So after a whirlwind tour - through about 300 years depicting the downward spiral from conquest and entrance into the promised land to spiritual apostasy among the Israelites – we ended with the sad commentary “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The biblical narrative now lands in a beautiful oasis in the wilderness: the book of Ruth. Here we encounter the classic love story of the Bible and a superb work of narrative art, set in the context of the aforementioned downward spiral, and yet one that has powerful themes with enduring relevance.
In four short and compact chapters that read like acts in a play, we learn a story that weaves together the lives of a broken widow, her bold young foreign daughter-in-law, and a man like no other in scripture (pointing to “The Man” like no other in scripture). As a result, we see a sovereign and good God working behind the scenes in a particular place and time in ancient Israel to show His character and redemptive work through people. This foreshadowed the person and work of His Son about a millennium later.
The biggest theme of the book of Ruth 1 is that of “steadfast love” or “lovingkindness”, or more simply, “kindness”. These words are used in this book and throughout the OT to describe a key concept in biblical Hebrew called “hesed”. It first appears in the text in 1:8 (“deal kindly”), and then in later verses such as 2:20 and 3:10. Hesed love is not based on feelings, but on commitment and sacrifice, which ties it closely to the biblical idea of covenant. This love is displayed beautifully in the story, especially by Ruth in her stubborn commitment to Naomi, as well as the actions of Boaz toward Ruth (and Naomi by extension). These characters and their actions reflect the hesed love of the Lord for His people.
Reflect: Think on the nature of love and the contrast between how it is described and displayed in our popular culture as opposed to the scripture. Which conception of love is most seen in your life? How can you better fulfill Jesus’ greatest commands (Matt.22:36-40)? Ask for the Spirit’s help to become a better hesed lover.
Connect: Read and meditate on the NT unpacking of biblical hesed love by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.
I Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1cf.“A Loving Life” by Paul Miller for a superb feast on the meaning and application of biblical love as found in the book of Ruth.
This blog is part of the ministry of City Reformed Presbyterian Church. Unless otherwise noted, the entries are written by Matt Koerber. This is part of a project that our church is doing as we read through the narrative sections of Scripture between early January and Easter 2020. New entries will be scheduled to drop automatically at 5:00 am on the scheduled day.