|A Story of Faithfulness by Jill Morikone|
She rose early as usual. Outside darkness lingered, while she prodded the hot coals and gently coaxed the tiny flicker until it burst into flames. She straightened her back, grabbed a shawl to ward off the morning chill, and slipped out the door with the water pot, careful not to waken the two other women still slumbering on their mats. She would get the water and start breakfast early.
Even the birds seemed hushed as she hurried to the well. Widowhood had devastated her early in life. Still so young, still beautiful, yet so alone. After all, she’d failed to produce sons—no children were born to her and her husband. Her sister-in-law, also a widow, bore the same curse. As the gods would have it, her mother-in-law’s husband had died as well, leaving them nearly penniless and with no hope of another son for either woman to marry, as was the custom in their eastern culture.
Sighing, she filled her water pot. The eastern sky was lightening. Dawn. Her favorite time of day with its rosy hues and all nature welcoming the new day with joy. Today though didn’t hold any such joy. What hope did she have? What hope did any of them have?
There was, however, the startling announcement just the night before. They had been sitting around the fire, the three of them, when her mother-in-law, Naomi, had spoken. “I believe I want to return to my people, the country of Israel. I’ve heard tell that the Lord, Jehovah, has visited our people with bread. The famine is over.”
Her sister-in-law had been excited, chattering eagerly about the opportunities there. She herself had not been too sure. Trade the only home she’d ever known for the scary unknown? What about her gods? Would she leave them here in the land of Moab? A troubled look had crossed her face as she stared into the leaping flames. Just who were her gods anyway? They couldn’t see or hear, and she never knew if they were going to hurt her in anger—let alone answer her prayers. No, she didn’t really believe in them anymore. But what of this Lord—Jehovah—Naomi had called Him. Who was He really? Could He answer prayers? Most of all, would He, could He possibly love her, just a widowed heathen woman?
Naomi had looked directly into her eyes and seen the torment there. “Ruth, my daughter, you can find the answers to your questions about the God of Israel when we get there.”
A noisy group of woman and girls approached the well. She’d better hurry. She’d lost too much time in her dreaming. Lifting her water pot, she balanced it on her head as she rushed up the rocky trail toward home.
A few weeks later found the three women already on their trek back to the land of Israel. Rounding a bend in the road, they paused to rest. Naomi’s hair clung to her in the heat, and her breathing seemed labored. Ruth gently guided her to a large smooth stone by the side of the trail. “Sit down, Mother dear, and rest awhile.”
Naomi smiled gratefully as she patted the rock on either side of her. “Come here, Ruth and Orpah, there’s something I want to tell you both.” Pausing for breath, she continued. “You both should return home to your father’s house. I’m an old woman, I can’t provide you with other husbands, it would be best for you to return home.”
Stunned, Ruth looked out over the rocky outcrops and hills as she realized she could go home if she wanted. But that would mean leaving Naomi! She loved Naomi, but more than that, she felt a responsibility for Naomi’s welfare. In her culture, children cared for their parents, and since she had married Naomi’s son, she was linked with his family even more than her own. What was her duty? Should she return home or continue on with Naomi toward Israel?
Faithfulness—that was her duty—whether it involved starting the fire in the morning, carrying water from the well, or even following her mother-in-law to a strange country. The land of Israel would look different from her home country of Moab; the Israelites would have different customs, a different culture, and a different language. In spite of all that, she would go. She would do her duty. She would be faithful. And, who knows, maybe she could more about their God, Jehovah. Maybe, one day, she could learn to worship, honor, and love Him too.
After Orpah took her leave and returned home to her family, Ruth made one of the most impassioned statements of faithfulness found in the Bible. She said—“Intreat me not to leave thee (Naomi), or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16,17) Ruth was faithful in life, faithful in death. Faithful to Naomi’s God—who one day would become her own God.
I’ve often marveled at the faithfulness of Ruth, shining brightly from the pages of my Bible. Ruth was faithful to her mother-in-law even when she was excused from that responsibility; she was faithful to a God she didn’t even know and hadn’t learned to love yet.
But, more importantly, I see in this story God’s faithfulness to Ruth. Faithful to pluck her, a simple heathen woman and gently lead her to a knowledge of Him. Faithful to His Promise to bring good out of even a hard situation, like that of her husband’s death and her subsequent loneliness and poverty. (See Romans 8:28) Faithful to bring her and Naomi safely to Israel. Faithful to grant her favor in the sight of Boaz, wealthy landowner in Bethlehem and a near kin. Faithful to bless her with a loving husband, to supply her needs, and to grant her a son, Obed, who became the grandfather of King David and through whose line finally came Jesus Christ.
But, more than simply the story, I see God’s faithfulness to take an ordinary woman of ordinary ability, and—through her surrender and faithful service to Him—transform her into an extraordinary woman with an extraordinary story. A story of what God can do in your life or in mine, if we simply trust Him and are faithful.
Have you experienced God’s faithfulness in your life today? Maybe you experienced it in the stretching of your budget to meet expenses, or in His healing touch on yourself or your loved ones. Maybe it was evident in the joy of a marriage restored, a heart mended, a life rescued from the grip of Satan. Maybe His faithfulness burst across your heart as you saw a rainbow of promise hang on a cloudy sky, and you renewed again your faith in the promises of His Word.
Maybe you observed it in the simple things of nature as you watched the sun rise, golden hues of light touching the frosty ground; wondering as you saw it how God helps the flowers push their way up through the earth or how the first daffodil blooms in the woods and you know that spring is coming. Winter cannot last forever. Or, just maybe, His faithfulness has touched your soul gently as when the sun rose after a sleepless night yet you could exclaim: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22,23)
Has God asked you to take a journey? It may be a rocky journey, the path strewn with stones and big boulders. It may be an unknown journey to a place, physically or emotionally, that you have not traveled before. Yet, God’s faithfulness will be like a beacon of hope, a reassurance that He will not leave you to travel alone, He will guide you safely to exactly the place He has in mind for you. He will take your ordinary life’s story, and transform it into an extraordinary story of His grace and mercy. What a faithful, faithful God!
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