I am currently living in the land of teenagers, and within that privileged territory, I get to engage in some lively conversation around the dinner table each night. Shallow topics can range anywhere from food (and the fact that they’re always hungry!) to the latest shoe trends, but hang in there long enough and the theme of relationships almost always rises to the surface. One thing my boys are noticing lately – the seeming lack of loyalty in relationships around them. It’s no secret that changes throughout the teenage years can often result in self-focus, fickle feelings, shifts in friendship groups, and short-lived romantic interests.
Unfortunately, the absence of loyalty isn’t just exclusive to the teenage years.
We live in a world with distorted views on loyalty. From staggering divorce rates, decreasing job longevity, and even a trending lack of commitment to the local church, the priority the world places on personal convenience and fulfillment has resulted in a too-close-for-comfort familiarity with the words predicted in 2 Timothy 3: “Men will be lovers of themselves . . . disloyal, having no natural affection… betrayers…”
That’s why the story of Ruth is so captivating.
In the first chapter – right smack in the middle of personal tragedy – Ruth introduces us to a kind of loyal love that can be a rare find in human relationships. The Hebrew word for this sacrificial, steadfast, unmerited, lovingkindness is hesed, and it’s become for me one of the most precious words in the Bible.
On the road toward Naomi’s return to her homeland, her daughters-in-law must make the difficult decision to stay or to go with the old woman they have grown to love deeply. It would make more sense for Ruth and Orpah to stay in Moab – their family ties were in the place they had called home their entire lives, and their chances for remarriage were greater there. In Israel it was doubtful that the young widows would find husbands, and to be a childless widow during this time was considered to be among the lowest of social classes.
Just when it seemed like their lives couldn’t get any lower…
Orpah ultimately makes the heart-wrenching decision to stay in Moab, but Ruth clung to Naomi as she promised that Naomi’s people would be her people and Naomi’s God would be her God. From the world’s perspective, Ruth had nothing to gain and everything to lose, but bold faith and loyal love often require a pursuit of the road less traveled.
Ruth demonstrates hesed toward Naomi – a loyal, merciful love that is extended to someone weaker – which leads us to the theme of the entire book of Ruth: God’s enduring hesed love for wanderers like us.
As we study the book of Ruth together, be on the constant lookout for the depth of God’s loyal love as He orchestrates events and details in lives as only He can. Chapter by chapter and verse by verse, intentionally look for His grace-filled, ever-present, never-changing, always-staying, fully-redeeming, unconditional love to those who had initially strayed from Him.
And then let’s let God’s hesed toward us change us from the inside out, and – like Ruth – cause us to pass onto others what our loving Father has so graciously extended to us.
This is gospel-living.
This is being Jesus’s hands and feet to the world…
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His [hesed] love endures forever. – Psalm 136:1
At His feet,
*Let’s talk: Who in your life needs God’s hesed today through your gift of lovingkindness?
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