Hope and Switch Defeated

The world is continually attempting to deceive people by promising that what it offers is truly satisfying. Then, when the promise is believed and the offer is accepted, the hope quickly turns to  bitterness and disappointment. This tactic is what I referred to in an earlier post as “hope and switch.” Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, fell prey to the world’s offer of provision. He doubted God’s covenant and struck out on his own. But the book of Ruth gives an example of one who did not fall for the world’s deceptive ploy. Ruth was still a young woman when she came to Israel with her mother-in-law, yet she was devoted to Naomi and served her, in spite of Naomi’s bitterness. She became known for her noble character. Boaz made this observation about her:

This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. Ruth 3:10-11 (NIV)

Ruth could have fallen for the world’s lie. She had already done a good thing by bringing Naomi back to her homeland. She could have thought that now it was time for her needs to be met. She could have gone after the young men. However, she continued to serve her mother-in-law. This devotion to Naomi was the fulfillment of the pledge she had given, both to Naomi and to God:

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17

Ruth’s commitment dominated her life. Even though she was a foreigner, she lived a life of commitment to God’s covenant and his covenant people. So Ruth turned away from the world’s tempting offers–to find security by pursuing young men. She entrusted herself instead to the God of her mother-in-law, and she became his servant. It is important to focus on Ruth’s commitment. On the surface, there appeared to be little reward for Ruth in this commitment. She went to the fields and worked. She kept herself pure and did not pursue the young men. She faithfully obeyed her mother-in-law. Yet these seemingly small things were noticed by those around her. She became known as a woman of noble character. Where Elimelech wavered in his commitment to God, Ruth was unwavering. And Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David, a member of the line of Christ. God foreshadowed, through Ruth, how his genuine offer of salvation would reach the whole world.

The story of Ruth provides a powerful life lesson about following God. It is a wonderful illustration of what it means to make a commitment to God in the form of a profession of faith. This profession is not something that is done for the moment – it is done for life, and it is to dominate a person’s life. Elimelech turned his back on his commitment to God. He thought the pagans could provide for him and God could not. Ruth, however, did not turn aside. This example is what you want to teach your children, whether they have made a profession of faith or not. Making a commitment to follow God is not something you do for the moment or to gain immediate favor from others. Following Christ and his ways is a lifelong pursuit of obedience to God.

Parents, perhaps this is a good time to consider your own commitment to God. Have you wavered from time to time in that commitment? Ruth provides encouragement for you to trust God even when things do not appear to be going well. Ruth lost her husband, followed her mother-in-law to a new and hostile land, worked in the fields without regard for her own well being, and cared for Naomi in the new land. In the face of such overwhelming circumstances, by putting aside what might have seemed best for her, she found the goodness of God.

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