By DEREK RUMBOL
Wednesday 02 December 2020
At home we are in the second week of readings from the Book of Ruth, a small Old Testament book of four chapters which you can read in an hour – it's so romantic but hits you over the head from verse 1 !! "There was a famine in the land and a man from Bethlehem, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab."
Severe hunger and famine make you do desperate things. It drove Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, into enemy territory in search of food. They left Bethlehem (the Hebrew name means 'house of bread') to cross the Jordan rift valley into the enemy territory of Moab. The Israelites had endured 18 years of humiliation by the Moabites (Judges3:12-14).
Things went downhill - Elimelech died, the two sons married Moabite women, then the sons died. We can only imagine what Naomi was thinking at this downturn of events. What was she to do now? Her only course, once the famine had ended was to return home by herself. Events did not turn out like that. One of her daughters-in-law, Ruth a Moabitess, insisted on accompanying her. "Where you go I will go and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (1:16) I cannot recall where else I have ever read such touching words. Ruth was under no illusions about the sort of treatment she might receive as a foreigner". Neither was that all – follow the story through and you will come across racial discrimination, famine, bereavement, the hardship of widows, the treatment of strangers, mixed marriages, poverty, loyalty, trust, love.
This story written three thousand years ago could well have been in our media today.
Yes, there is a happy ending. Boaz sheltered and then married Ruth and they had a son, Obed, he was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
Follow the genealogy through (Matthew 1) and you will come to: "Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."
'Once in royal David's city' - yes,, Bethlehem – which became once again 'house of bread' was born one who one day would proclaim: "I am the Bread of Life, whoever comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."
And so we sing and pray:
'Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty, hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
Feed me now and evermore.'
And if you can, sing along with Welsh chapel choirs raising the rafters with their harmonic, enthusiastic singing. You Tube Songs of Praise, tune Cwm Rhondda ending with the refrain: "O am aros, O am aros, yn ei gariad ddyddiau foes." I was transported with joy!