My wife bought the Album “Music Inspired by the Story” the other day. And we have listened to it pretty much nonstop since. Several well-known Christian artists perform songs written to represent various characters in the bible.
The one we hear on the radio all the time is “I’m with You” by Amy Grant and Nicole Nordeman, a musicalization of Ruth and Naomi. Lovely song. But upon hearing the whole album I realize that it is all good. Just a splendid album.
What I like most about it though is that music demands an emotional response. And I think we often lose that factor in reading the bible. I mean, take a look.
1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
We hear the book of Ruth preached and taught almost yearly between sermon series and Sunday school. And the story is excellent, the relationship between Ruth and Naomi is wonderful. The symbolism of Boaz as kinsman redeemer brings us right back around to a picture of Christ. We even come to realize that Boaz and Ruth will be ancestors to David.
But we lose the emotion. I’m not saying that faith is emotion, or that we need to focus on emotions at all times. But in these times of making the Bible “relevant” wouldn’t it makes sense to find those emotions that we have in common with the players in scripture? Wouldn’t this provide an amount of relevancy and connection between the Bible and modern day readers of scripture better than a sermon series on Gilligan’s Island or Fear Factor?
In these five verses we have a man taking his wife and sons on a journey to a place where they are strangers. The famine is too great so they leave the familiarity of home to try to make a living somewhere else. Is this not relevant to a nation in a recession? Doesn’t this strike a chord with a generation who find themselves moving in with family and moving to places they didn’t know existed in order to find work? People who are giving up the comfortable and familiar life they knew in order to try to provide for their families.
This was surely no small trip, but since it is only a verse in the exposition, we choose not to consider it. The same with Elimelech and his sons. They are far from “home” and then they all die. First Dad and then the two sons. So the sons are able to provide for Mom for a time, but then they die as well. Leaving not only Naomi, but Ruth and Orpah in the lurch as well.
If you consider this situation and put yourself in the shoes of the survivors you can’t help but make a relation to the life you are living. Imagine the worst loss you have experienced in your life. But imagine that this loss means you are 100% destitute. Naomi is far from the land of her family, she has no husband and now no sons.
Ruth and Orpah have places to go, but Naomi’s only course is to pack up and leave. So imagine the deep emotional moment it must have been when Ruth said, “I’m going with you.” The scripture tells us that this was a hard moment, that the women wept and didn’t want to part. But Naomi sends them away to their homes since they have nothing to gain by being with her. Naomi has an uncertain future, does not want to part ways, but doesn’t want to transport these girls the way she was, with no guarantee that she can care for them.
But Ruth insists on going with her anyway.
I don’t think I have a grand smash bang finish to this post. I just hope that as we read the bible we will stop to consider moments like these. In today’s age, if there isn’t a 3 page description of Elimilech fighting cancer, our hearts aren’t tugged. Don’t let the straightforwardness of the scripture distract you from the humanity of the characters in it.
Relevance is found in how we relate to people who lived thousands of years ago. How we see them interact with God in the same ways we do. How we see them face the same struggles and trials that we see today, but in a different context.
Naomi and Ruth hadn’t read the end of the book when this journey started. They did not have the perspective of how God would come through and use them. But they are faithful and God does work in their lives in a big way.
Though you can’t see it now. Perhaps someday, someone may look back on your life and say, “Look how God used that experience for his glory!”