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Loyalty & faithfulness

The book of Ruth has suddenly become one of my favorite books of the Old Testament.

As I read and study this marvelous book, I received many revelations that I believe can help us build Godly character and progress in life. One of the vital characteristics that I personally learned is loyalty or faithfulness. God rewards loyalty. Jesus is coming back for those who are faithful . Faithfulness is part of the fruit of the Spirit. We should all want to hear Jesus say: "Well done my good and faithful servant..."

So, let's study this book of Ruth.

It begins with a depressing opening informing us of a famine in the land. Famine was a type of judgment of God in the Old Testament. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all had to deal with famines in their life. All three had to also break another curse as their wives - Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel were all barren!
Elimelech and his wife Naomi of Bethlehem-Judah decides to leave for the country of Moab due to the famine.
Elimelech's name means God is king, Naomi's means pleasant and Bethlehem-Judah means the house of bread. Ironic that there was no bread in the house of bread! Because of this, Elimelech decides to take his family to a land full of idolatry.
It is worth to note that the book prior to Ruth is Judges and the last verse states that: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes." In fact four times in the Book of Judges we are told that "there was no king in Israel in those days". Because of no leadership, there was no direction. No leadership means no security.
Elimelech makes a decision to take his family out of Bethlehem-Judah. This is not inspired by God. They did what they thought was right without consulting God. Although his name means God is king, he doesn't respond and act as though God is his king. He is not ruled by God. As Christians, we declare Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, however many times we take our own decisions and do things that are contrary to His will and leadership.
Elimelech and Naomi had two sons, named Mahlon and Chilion. The funny thing is Mahlon means sickness and Chilion means devastation and destruction. Not a very nice name for God is king and pleasant. Something must be happening in their life. At times the challenges of life makes us take bad decisions that will lead to sickness and destruction. Decisions come with a price. Decisions determine direction. Bad decisions leads to bad directions and Godly decisions (based upon the Word of God) leads to fulfillment of the promises of God in your life. Every choice you make has a consequence. God advises and recommends us to choose life (Deut. 30:19).
Elimelech died! Naomi was left with the challenge to raise the two boys by herself - not an easy task and they are still in a foreign country. In this stage of life for a single mother, negative emotions such as hurt, loneliness, depression, insecurity and can make one go in circles. I read a survey report about single-mothers that states two-thirds of mothers said their children wreaked havoc on their personal and social lives, while more than half said they were left feeling "lonely and isolated."
Naomi had to deal with sickness and destruction and they were growing. You may ask why am I stressing this point - well she will eventually change her name to Mara. Mara means bitter. Obviously all these challenges, changes and crisis made her bitter in life. In my own survey, I see many believers bitter because of the cards life dealt us. It wasn't a pleasant hand. We've shuffled and re-shuffled but still we haven't found a winning way. We've taken some bad decisions, looked in the wrong direction and ended up disappointed and in despair.
Naomi's boys grew up to be men and got married. The names of their wives: Orpah meaning deer or back of the neck and Ruth meaning companion, friend and vision of beauty. Sadly, the boys also died prematurely.
She is now left with two Moabites widow. They are her daughter in laws. At times things don't go well between in-laws, although we are not told if that was the case in Naomi's life.
It came to a point where she wanted to go back to her homeland and she heard that the famine had ended. She decided to go alone and told her daughter in laws to leave her as she heads back home. You can imagine the amount of reproach and gossip that may be waiting for her as she enters town. She left with a husband looking for 'green grass' and comes back a widow accompanied with two daughter in laws but no sons!

Let's read what happened next: Ruth 1:11-18

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? 12 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— 13 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!”
14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 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. 17 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. 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
Verse 16-17 is the key verse. In saying what she said, Ruth made a quality decision to follow the God of Israel and leave idolatry. She demonstrated faith in God when she said: "Your god will be my God."
She will be rewarded for her faithfulness and loyalty. Many times we say things but there are no corresponding actions. Ruth meant what she said. She was rewarded as she met a generous, kindhearted man by the name of Boaz who redeemed her, married her and she became the great-grandmother of David the king and she is in the lineage of Jesus the King of kings.
God is looking for loyal and faithful people today. Will you be one of them?

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