Love Letter From God: The Hesed John 3:16, Ruth 1

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-dxh6s-96a329

**NOTE – the message from Judges had significant technical difficulties. I will re-record at another date**

 

Transcript for this week’s message: Ruth

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

Ruth 1

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilionalso died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-lawprepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”

At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

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 even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

There is a prayer that is cited to St. Francis of Assissi, although it may well have been an anonymous prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

And in many ways, this is the best summary of the book of Ruth there is. I have read to you the first chapter, which is the devastating story of loss, but coupled with it, we see Ruth’s commitment to being an instrument of God’s love to her mother-in-law, although it costs her much.

Ruth is leaving her homeland behind, going to the land of her enemies, and believing that all Naomi has told her of God. We see desperation and loss and tragic circumstances, and we hear Naomi say that she is bitter and sad. Yet, Ruth comes alongside her and walks with her.

This book is different from the ones that come before it. It speaks of God in a new way – not as an active interventionist – although God is certainly still active, but as One who works through those who believe.

God does not speak in this book as in prior books, to judges or prophets or through bushes or directly to those who would do things – rather, God speaks through others who move and do what God would have them do, not because they get a divine message, but because they are living out their faith in response to the circumstances around them.

Naomi and Ruth are not supernatural characters. They don’t have some sort of underlying power that we don’t know about – they are simply women who love each other and loved the same people and are grieving and leaning in to what God has for them – even though God doesn’t directly tell them anything. God doesn’t do wonders and signs in this account, but this is God’s work through the ordinary people who need each other.

Listen to how this account of Ruth and Naomi’s life together closes out:

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Ruth is better to Naomi than seven sons – she has loved well and given everything over for her mother-in-law and she has been rewarded with God’s blessing: not only is she the great-grandmother of a boy who would be King of her nation, but she is now in the lineage of the King of Kings – King Jesus, who would redeem us all. Ruth’s love for Naomi opened up blessing to Naomi, too, and made it possible for Naomi to shed the bitterness she once knew and exchange it for the kind of joy that only comes from being loved well.

The Hebrew text uses a word: hesed to reflect this beautiful version of God’s love. It is the work of God’s loving kindness through the hands and feet of the people who believe in God.

Hesed is what we are called to be to one another, through Christ. It is HESED that brought Jesus to us as a man and God. It is HESED that should be our life of holiness in every place and movement as we live Christlike lives.

We should be praying St. Francis’s prayer as our plea for God’s infusion of HESED in us that will give us the power and possibility to live out what God has called us to.

Ruth’s story is proof that God can and will use us if we are willing to be used.

This week, I urge you to think of the person who is in greatest need of seeing God at work in their lives, the person you know and work with or live near – someone who needs help to exchange their difficulty and hard attitude with the joy and peace that only comes from being loved as Jesus does. Give yourself away to them. Find one thing you can do, one thing you can say, one way you can love them. One way you can hesed:

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like him.

God loved us enough to want us to live like Jesus – and abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loved us enough to still let us choose our destiny.

God loved us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

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