Hope In Bleak Times
Bleak times are not a phenomenon of the year 2020. Here, Corrine March reminds us that Ruth experienced bleak times but trusted in God.
The Sad Book of Judges
In perusing through the Book of Judges the other day, I was astounded at how sad this book is. The oft repeated phrase, “and the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” captures the darkness of the period. Time and time again, the people turned away from the God who had miraculously led them out of slavery and into the Promised Land.
The Israelites and Idol Worship
Not only is idol worship a quite common occurrence among the Israelites in the Book of Judges, but a few specific examples show the depravity of the nation at this time. Samson, a judge himself, seemed far more devoted to women than to God. This ultimately cost him his eyes and his dignity (Judges 13-16).
Mica, of the hill country of Ephraim, stole money from his mother, who had been hoarding it away. When he restored the money, and reconciled with his mother, she has the audacity to create a metal idol from the melted silver, and “dedicate it to the LORD”. Later, Mica ordains a traveling Levite to be his personal priest. Then a group of Dannites show up, steal the idol, and set it up, presumably for their own personal worship (Judges 17-18).
An Act of Macabre Hopelessness
In the following chapter is the horrific story of a Levite and his concubine (Judges 19). While staying at a house, he was accosted by strangers, who violate her to the point of death. In an act of macabre hopelessness, he commits an act in Judges 19:29, that brings pause to many. The people pronounced, “such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.” (Judges 19:30) Perhaps this was the rock bottom that all of Israel needed.
The Book of Ruth & Bleak Times
Amidst all this depravity, I find it particularly interesting how the very next book in the Bible is the book of Ruth. Here we have the story of a family, displaced to Moab from Israel due to famine. The sons marry Moabite women. After the men in the family have died, the matriarch, Naomi, encourages her two daughters-in-law to stay. One stays. The other, named Ruth, insists to follow Naomi.
“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
Ruth would go on to glean in the field of a rich man named Boaz, who was soon made eligible to act as a kinsman redeemer to Ruth, providing a family and inheritance to Naomi. Ruth would later become great-grandmother to King David (Ruth 4:17), thus ancestor to the line of kings of which would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Ruth and Judges
The most intriguing point about the Book of Ruth is that it also takes place during the time of Judges. Yet unlike the Book of Judges, we have such a heartwarming story of loyalty, love, and faith. In Judges, there were many instances where the people of Israel turned away from God to their foreign idols, while the Book of Ruth tells how a foreign girl turned away from her native land, to the One and Only God.
The world looks very bleak during these times. Some tout that, much like the Book of Judges, in the world today the people do “what is right in their own eyes.” It may be true that, much like the Book of Judges, many of us fall into a cycle of godliness during despair, only to turn our eyes away from God after he rescues us from our misery.
Uncertainty abounds with the onset of the coronavirus that is now plaguing the world. Nobody knows how long this virus will continue to wreak havoc upon the masses. Nobody knows the extent of the damage. Nobody knows when we can see our friends and loved ones once again. Loneliness has become a common problem, and it is amplified among those who were already living alone. Some with valid, and perhaps serious health concerns are afraid to see a doctor, in order that our health care systems are not further overwhelmed. Many are out of work, causing worry about food supplies and support for families.
God Is Working In This World
Yet God is still working in this world. There are many during this bleak time who, like Ruth, will turn and accept the Lord and come to a saving knowledge of him. For Christians, we need to keep spreading the good news of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, and resurrection to new life, for those who will hear it. Despite the uncertainty, panic, and fear that has gripped our world today, God has allowed this to happen for a reason. Families are together now, and we are no longer burdened with our dangerously busy lifestyles. There is much time for personal reflection. The world as it is now may seem full of panic and despair, but God is working still. His hand remains outstretched to those who would come to know that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.
She is a stay-at-home mom, who spends most of her time homeschooling their three children.
She attends Scottlea Gospel Chapel in St. Catharines, ON, where Stephen serves as an elder.
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Images courtesy of:
Berlin Railway Station – Morgengry
Baal Idol – Louvre
Ruth & Boaz – Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld