July 28, 2011

Friday after the Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 26, Ruth 4:9-22, Lk. 11:14-28
Evening - Ps. 32, 36:5, Acts 19:21

Commentary

This morning brings us to the close of the book of Ruth. It is very tempting to spend time on the details of the events in today's reading, but we will instead go right to the major points of the passage.

First, the conversion of Ruth is complete. In the beginning of the book she was a pagan citizen of one of the bitterest enemies of Israel, Moab. In today's reading she is the mother of a child who inherits the property of Elimelech and Naomi, and of their sons. In the beginning she was an alien to the people of God, and to the promises of God given to Israel. Now she is a full citizen and participant in them. She is fully a daughter of the Covenant. So here is a woman, who grew up outside of the Church and without instruction in the Scriptures, who is welcomed into the Church by the grace of God. Thus, it is faith, not background that makes one a child of God. A person who has never yet been in Church is as welcome as those who have been raised in it. They, like Ruth, may freely come to God.

Second, the conversion of Naomi is complete. Naomi is back in the Covenant people, with a grandchild who will carry on the family name in Israel. More than this, she is reconciled to God. At the beginning of the book she was in sin and unbelief. Now her faith is as real as her place among the Covenant people. She, too, is a true daughter of the Covenant and child of God. Naomi was raised in Israel, with all the blessings and opportunities to know God and learn the Scriptures that the Hebrew people enjoyed. Yet she gave only lip service to God, preferring to follow the ways of the world. Many today, having the same opportunities, throw them away as Naomi did. Raised in the Church with countless opportunities to learn the Scripture and know Christ, they fritter away their opportunities in youth, and, in adulthood, form the habit of neglecting the Word and House of God. They may retain a nominal belief in God. They may even try to live moral lives and have great respect for the Bible. But their hearts are not in it. When Christ commands them, "Follow Me," they draw back and ask, "How far?" Naomi was such a person, but in today's reading she has turned to God in true faith. All who have followed Naomi's example away from God may also follow her example back to Him. Those who do will find God as willing to welcome them as He was to welcome Naomi. Draw nigh unto Him and He will draw nigh unto you.

Third, God chose Ruth to be a direct ancestor of Israel's greatest king, David. She was David's Great Grandmother. One of the main points of the book of Ruth is to show the life of the immediate forbearers of David, and to serve as an introduction to the call and life of David as king of Israel.

Fourth, the guiding hand of God is always upon His people. The time in which Naomi and Ruth lived was a chaotic time of rampant sin and open rejection of God. Some Israelites, like Elimelech and Naomi, left Israel to dwell among the pagans. Others simply incorporated pagan ideas and values into the Old Testament faith. Both actions were wrong, and their practitioners paid dearly. But God did not desert Israel, nor did He allow their sins to stop His plan to bring all things together in Christ. He brought David into the world by His providence and grace, and through David's line, the Saviour was born, in "the fulness of the time."