Sunday, July 31, 2011

Naomi's Example of Evangelism - July 31st, 2011

“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.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The LORD do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
Ruth 1:16-17

History and Context:
The author of the book of Ruth is not identified by the text, but it is traditionally attributed to Samuel the prophet. Ruth is set in the time of the judges before kings ruled over Israel, it was also a time of famine. The famine caused many Israelites to flee Israel to surrounding countries. This was the case for Naomi, her husband and two sons who fled to Moab. It was there that Naomi's sons found wives, Orpah and Ruth, but then all three men died, leaving the women to fend for themselves. After the death of her husband and sons Naomi decides to go to her homeland and she tells her daughter-in-laws to return home. Orpah, after much insistence, leaves, but Ruth refuses and the above is her response. This book, in Jewish tradition, was always read at the feast of Pentecost.

The Text:
Ruth decides in this passage to follow Naomi and in doing that Naomi's God. The interesting thing is that it is not God that she is clinging to, but Naomi. Yet throughout the Bible Ruth is mentioned in important places. She is the great-grandmother of King David, the greatest king in Israel's history, and she is also one of only three women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus in the book of Matthew. She is known in both Jewish and Christian circles as a faithful, godly women. It seems clear through the story of Ruth that God didn't care that she initially followed Naomi, only that it led her to Him. The other thing that is interesting is that Naomi never preaches to Ruth and tells her to follow the one true God. In fact Naomi insists that she return home "to her people and to her gods", but Naomi's relationship with Ruth was enough to cause Ruth to follow Naomi and to follow Naomi's God.

The Challenge:
The focus is always given to Ruth and her faithfulness to Naomi. But to me it is amazing to see Naomi's affect on Ruth. We don't hear much about how Naomi related to Ruth but it was clearly powerful, as it caused Ruth to give up her home, her gods, and her people. It wasn't done through words or persuasion, but through love and relationship. It clearly took a commitment. Even Orpah was ready to follow her but turned back only on Naomi's insistence. We need to take every opportunity we can to build this kind of relationship with people. Especially if someone is getting tired of hearing your preaching, stop preaching and start loving. Care for the person. Naomi is a perfect example of the power that can have.

The Prayer:
Lord, help me to show your love to people in my everyday actions. Help me to build relationships that go deep with people. Relationships that you can also use for your glory. Thank you Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!

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