The book of Ruth teaches us that what happens on the ordinary family level may have implications for the national and global purposes of God. In dealing with Ruth, God was preparing to put King David over Israel, and King David’s greatest son, Jesus Christ, over the nations.
Over the past decade, a barrage of articles and blog posts have been blanketed across the landscape of the internet–promoting and counteracting the idea of radical and extraordinary Christian service. Those who have emphasized radical Christian service have done so in an attempt to thwart the complacent, materialistic, self-focused, inhospitable, and unmerciful lifestyle of so many in middle and upper class suburbia. Those who react to an emphasis on living radical lives of Christian service have focused on faithfulness in the mundane and ordinary aspects of life. They have fought to remove what they perceive to be undue burdens, subtle self-righteous agendas, and visions of grandeur. Tim Challies has rightly explained that there are downsides to an over-accentuation of aspects of either radical and ordinary Christian service. He writes,
“The trouble with radical is that it can foster discontentment in people who are already living God-honoring but ordinary lives, perhaps unfairly convicting them that suburban 9-to-5 life cannot be good enough for God. It can also foster the works-righteousness of people who are convinced God will be pleased with them to only the extent that they do grander and harder things. Of course ordinary can foster complacency or the notion that God doesn’t much care what we do, what we give, or how we live. As usual in the Christian life, the way is narrow and there is peril on both sides.”
This past week, while reading through the book of Ruth, I was struck with the fact that God worked in an extraordinary way through the ordinary relationships, actions, and interaction of the members of the family of Elimelech. Ruth is the story of Naomi, the recently widowed wife of Elimelech–who, together with her two recently widowed daughters-in-law, decides to return to the people and to the land of God. Naomi is not acting in radical zeal. Rather, she is acting out of desperation, need, and a sense of longing for the provision of God. We read,
“She arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah” (Ruth 1:6–7).