The Background - Introduction
Updated: Sep 8, 2019
Every story, every history, every ending - all had a starting point. In writing Great Is His Faithfulness, I quickly found that the beginning of Ruth is kind of skipped over. By all accounts whoever wrote Ruth did this for good reason: to get to the heart of the story, which is one of the few accounts in the Bible where women are central to the story, central to the lesson, central to the promise. This, of course, raises the question: why was the beginning skipped over?
So we must dig deeper. Get to the background. And there is a lot of background to cover. So, this will be separated into several parts.
Part 1: Location
Part 3: People
Location is important here because of the transition from Bethlehem in the land of Judah to somewhere unnamed in Moab. In our modern world, do we truly understand the significance of the move from one place to another, and even the move back during that time in history? Culture is important because both countries and peoples were different in many ways, which doubtless presented unique challenges for all the people involved. By today's standards, in our American society, can we even begin to imagine the struggles these people faced because of the driving forces of their cultures? The people are important because the relationships that were bound to location and culture drive the message of Ruth. Why is Ruth important to the message of the Bible?
Before we move on to the background of Ruth, let me take a few minutes to share why I think digging into the history and culture is so important.
In several of the devotionals (largely opinion-based) and theological studies done on Ruth (that I have had the opportunity to read through), there are two very diverse schools of thought. The first is that Ruth is all about the Kinsman-Redeemer. In Patriarchal fashion, the hero is Boaz, and he saves the day. The second is that Ruth is a singular statement for feminism in the church in that the book is driven by the leading females, and they themselves save themselves, an actual slap in the face to the male driven cultures of both the Israelites and the Moabites. Both have merit, but because neither is really addressed, they are still merely speculation. Speculation can be very dangerous because we often speculate on something using what we know to be true, but we fill in the blanks based on our own imaginings, which are very rarely objective. (This is my reminder to you that my retelling of Ruth is exactly that - an idea of what I think happened in the gaps based on a mix of research and opinion. I encourage you to pray over this fact. Plus, if you read something here on this blog, or later in Great Is His Faithfulness that does not sit just right, compare it to the truth of Scripture, pray over it, and ask for the Lord's wisdom and discernment.)
and yet... While speculation can be dangerous, it can also be enlightening. Because of the research I've done, bits and pieces of knowledge about the places, the history - both Biblical and secular, the cultures, and the people, filling in the gaps helps draw a picture of what life was like for all the people involved. We can begin to empathize, maybe sympathize, and even understand the motives behind Elimelech's decision to leave Bethlehem, or later Ruth's decision to follow Naomi. We can begin to see characteristics unfold and develop that we can relate to, despise, question, admire, and so on.
For that reason, in the next three blog posts, I want to take you on short little journeys into the background of Ruth.
Are you ready?
Food for thought:
1. Have you ever been told about an event, drawn your conclusions, and then later found out that what you had been told had been shared out of context? Had you been given the context, would your conclusions have been different?
2. Have you ever made a decision regarding your interaction with someone based on the way other people felt about that person, only to find out later that your decision was wrong? (Think along the lines of prejudices and stereotypes, or gossip among friends and neighbors, or even first impressions when someone new walks into your church.)
3. Have you ever been taught a "truth" that you have clung to and believed, but then you discover for yourself that the "truth" was much more complicated than you thought? Upon discovering the complexity of that "truth" was your belief strengthened or shattered? Digging deeper: Was that "truth" an actual Biblical truth, or was it a subjective "truth" based on tradition, culture, Denomination, upbringing, etc?
Lord Jesus, throughout your Word, you encourage us to seek truth and wisdom. Lord, we ask that you grant us wisdom to see the truth of every lesson within the Word. Lord, we ask that not just in our studies of your Word, but also in our daily lives, that You grant us wisdom in how we take in the world around us. Teach us to seek the truth, and in seeking the truth, help us cast off our prejudices and stereotypes so that we can better see the person or the event for what it really is. In seeing the truth of things, we then ask that you guide us to reflect your love and light and that you allow us to be beacons of truth in a world of half-truths.
Thank you for joining me as I continue to research and learn about Ruth. I hope you will return as I continue sharing what I am learning and as I continue to write Great Is His Faithfulness.