“We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ For that diagnosis has already been given. Rather we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?’”

John Stott

TODAY’S READING: Ruth

The events in the book of Judges transpired over a 400-year span. Spun together, the tales make it appear as if this period was constantly chaotic. The reality was that in the middle of the wars and intrigue, there was much normal, daily, boring life. After having lived for almost three decades in the Arab world (Mauritania after civil war, Sudan during the Islamic regime, and Egypt during a revolution), my family is often asked what it was like to live in such volatile places. The question always reminds us that 99.99 percent of the time it was just normal daily community life with only a very few days of panic in all those decades. The story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz took place right in the middle of the era described in Judges. In this book, we take a collective breath and enjoy a romance. We remember that crops were planted and harvested, deals were struck at the city gates, marriages were celebrated, children were born and raised, and tears were shed at funerals. Immigration took place, and Israelite civilians traveled to Moab and intermarried. Life was 99.99 percent normal. Volatility as an excuse for not obeying the missionary call is doubly flimsy. First, globally, life goes on quite placidly 99 percent of the time, and second, we are still told to go even if it’s dangerous.

Paul York reminds us:

Ruth is a small but amazing book, and it is also a great poetic love story. Even the number of words are counted and balanced artistically in the Hebrew text…. Ideas are balanced, names have meaning, vivid language is used, and wordplays make the writing beautiful. However, there is more to Ruth than beautiful writing. The theology of the missio Dei is also present…. Ruth the Moabite widow made a powerful declaration here about her faith in God. She wanted the God of Naomi the Israelite to also be the God of Ruth the Moabite. Ruth was considering the kingdom of God and wondering if her nation could be blessed as well.[1]

Is it not amazing that the same God who said He didn’t want a Moabite in His sanctuary for ten generations (Deut. 23:3) is the God who goes out of His way to bring a Moabite home to Israel, link her to a sad widow, and marry her to an older, shy bachelor? God twinkles through Ruth, sparkling with His inclusive nature. John York writes: “In Ruth, the narrative looks toward the Davidic kingdom through the historical lens of a kinsman-redeemer acting on behalf of a Gentile woman…. In this way, Judges and Ruth are connected to both their Genesis antecedents and the Davidic kingdom that follows.”[2] Christopher Wright explains, “The go’el, then was a near kinsman who acted as a protector, defender, avenger or rescuer for other members of the family, especially in situations of threat, loss, poverty, or injustice. Such action would always involve effort, often incurred cost, and sometimes demanded a degree of self sacrifice.”[3] How beautiful are the redemptive themes of the gospel scattered through Ruth: The book ends by listing all kinds of foreign women in the bloodline of Jesus: Syrians, like Rachel and Leah, Canaanites (and a prostitute) like Tamar, and Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 4:11–12). God is the great Kinsman-Redeemer who sacrifices Himself to bring all the nations home.

By bringing a foreigner home, sharing life, food, and fellowship with her, Naomi’s actions were a microcosm of God’s actions, for she in effect brought home the Messiah. How ironic for Naomi to wail in bitter agony, “I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty (1:21),” when by bringing home Ruth, Naomi brought us King David, the most beautiful psalms, and ultimately the King of Kings! In the grand scheme of things, a husband and two sons were a small price to pay on that return. Many have sacrificed much—much more for much, much less. I do not denigrate the pain of being a widow, and no pain is greater than when parents bury children. I am only saying that Naomi’s pain became the joy of the world, and it all came as a result of bringing a Moabite widow into the family. What might happen in our time, then, if we bring the Azeri into our homes?

[1] Paul York. A Biblical Theology of Missions. Springfield, MO: Africa’s Hope, 2008. 64.

[2] John V. York. Missions in the Age of the Spirit. Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 2001. 38.

[3] Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006. 267.

Prayer Focus: Azerbaijan (24 UPGs)

Today’s Unreached People Group: Azerbaijani, Azeri Turk
Population: 288,000
Language: Azerbaijani, South
Primary Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.15%
Estimated Workers Needed: 6

[Source: Joshua Project]

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