A Season Filled With Hope

barley_fieldIt seems fitting that I’ve been studying the first chapter of the book of Ruth this past week, since she’s the great-great-great (and quite a few more greats) grandmother of Jesus.

The chapter opens describing the events that led Ruth, a Moabite and an enemy of God and his people, to Bethlehem. Because of a great famine in Bethlehem and the land of Israel, Ruth’s in-laws, Elimelech and Naomi, moved their family to Moab and settled there. Their sons, Mahlon and Chilion, married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. After ten years, Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion had died, leaving the three women as widows.

Because Israel was a patriarchal society, or the kind in which only men could inherit land from their parents, the fact that Elimelech and his two sons had died meant the three women were in trouble. With no male heirs in the family, all of the land that belonged to Elimelech’s family could be taken away. Naomi knew her two daughters-in-law were in an empty, hopeless situation, so she told them to go back home to their families so they could survive. Orpah went home, while Ruth, defying logic, opted to stay with Naomi and move back to Bethlehem with her. Ruth made one of the most famous and most loyal promises in the Bible to Naomi:

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17, ESV)

It’s amazing to think God chose Ruth to be the direct ancestor of his son Jesus. God created the universe and could have chosen anyone he wanted to be in the direct line of Jesus, right? So why didn’t he only choose perfectly pure, queen-like women to be the ancestors of Jesus? Well, it seems that God caused a great famine, leading some Israelites from Bethlehem to move to Moab so one of them would bring Ruth back to marry his great-great-great (and quite a few more greats) grandfather. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves by talking about Boaz.

You see, God saw something he loved about this poor Moabite woman named Ruth. He saw incredible kindness, and since God the Father is the most kind person in the universe, he saw a beautiful reflection of himself.

And so Naomi returned to her hometown of Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth. Although their situation was seemingly hopeless, the last sentence implies that there is yet hope. For see, they arrived in Bethlehem during the most hopeful season of the year.

“And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.” (Ruth 1:22b, ESV)

Of course, we know what happened in Bethlehem. It was bigger than a barley harvest. It was bigger than a Moabite woman and her mother-in-law surviving and holding on to the land. It was about a gift. God knew that mankind, like Ruth and Naomi, needed a rescuer. Our relationship with God was broken because of our sin, and we could never find our way back to him on our own. Hundreds of years after Ruth showed her kindness toward Noami by moving to Bethlehem, God showed his kindness toward us by sending his Son, Jesus, born in Bethlehem. Because of that gift, we now have hope!



photo credit: Moldova_field via photopin (license)

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About Chad Young

Chad Young works in full-time college ministry, serving as Cru Global’s national director over the southeast region, leading the ministries in FL, GA, AL, and MS. He has served on the staff of Cru for fifteen years. He is the author of Authenticity: Real Faith in a Phony, Superficial World (InterVarsity Press), a discipleship-training manual, and magazine articles for Worldwide Challenge and The Collegiate. He frequently speaks at retreats and conferences and regularly writes devotionals for his website, Chad, with his wife Elizabeth, travels the country to speak at churches and train church leaders how to make Biblical disciples. Chad currently resides in Atlanta, GA, with his wife Elizabeth and their four young children, Wyatt, Clark, Evelyn, and Josilynn. His hobbies include cheering on his kids in sports, following college football, and laughing with family around the backyard fire pit.
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