by Marsha Gaulden
Women's Ministry Leader
It was one of the darkest 400 years in Israel’s history. During the time of Judges, God’s people, who were to reflect His glory, were becoming like their enemies, worshipping their gods and practicing their sins. Judges 21:25 sums it up, “every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
While the Hebrew people were fickle, God was faithful to discipline them and call them back to obedience and worship. However, the cycle continued, while many of the judges who were supposed to lead them in godliness were leading them into apostasy.
Oh little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Tucked into the middle of this egregious time period is the story of Ruth. The book of Ruth depicts a simple Hebrew family from a small agrarian community called Bethlehem. God has brought famine to the land because of Israel’s sin and this family leaves Israel to seek food and shelter in an enemy land - Moab. Elimelech, his wife, Naomi, and two sons struggle in Moab for ten years. The sons marry Moabite women. Then, Elimelech and his sons die, leaving Naomi a widow with two Moabite daughters-in-law. You know the story - the way Ruth clings to Naomi and pledges to follow her back to Bethlehem and claim Naomi’s God as her own.
Upon returning to Bethlehem, Naomi, the widow, and Ruth, also a widow and a foreigner, were not met with judgment and rejection, but with empathy, encouragement, and hope because of the leadership of one godly man, Boaz. His godly influence in the community creates an environment for redemption, restoration, and grace. This Boaz becomes the Kinsman Redeemer for Ruth and Naomi, but it is more than a marriage and perpetuating a name through a child. The child born to Boaz and Ruth is in the lineage of Christ! It is because of this lineage that Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for the census.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2
On Wednesday nights this Fall, over 100 women gathered to study the book of Ruth. The resounding themes of discussion were faithfulness, courage to obey, reconciliation, and trusting the loving hand of God when we experience loss, suffering, and disappointment. It was a beautiful experience as women in small groups shared their personal stories and supported one another through prayer, tears, and listening with compassion.
In our times, in our church, we need leaders like Boaz who engender faith, love, and courage to follow Christ in godliness and commitment to serve one another. We need people like Naomi, who teach, direct, and lovingly encourage those who are younger or weaker in the faith. And we need to be like Ruth, clinging unreservedly to God and faithful to the relationships God has placed in our lives.
Finally, the story of Ruth is the story of one ordinary family, but inside their little story we know there is a much larger story. Ruth, a Moabite widow became part of the lineage of Christ. And this small community of Bethlehem became renown! Your story, too, may seem ordinary. While we are humbled by the fact that we have been redeemed because God put on flesh and demonstrated his love for us by dying on a cross (Romans 5:8), we can also rejoice because our singular story of redemption is woven into God’s amazing story through the ages. Your world is the microcosm around you. Your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors are your Bethlehem. We together at SCCC are Bethlehem.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.