THE BEAUTY AND ENIGMA OF GODíS LOVE
R. Satya Ganga Bhavani
Ruth was busy weaving the cloth, sitting at the loom. Her fingers were skillfully moving the shuttle between the warp and filling yarns. Naomi was sitting nearby, watching Obed playing. Suddenly the threads got entangled; Ruth stopped weaving, to untie the threads. When she gazed at her work, the loose threads, unravelled knots and unrelated colours at the back of the cloth appeared very unattractive and clumsy like the unpleasant and difficult situations of her life. All the painful memories of the past started surging into her mind. After these many years, they are still fresh. Ruth is wallowing in her memories...
Mahlon, an Israelite, migrated to Moab along with his family due to a famine in his land. He got attracted to Ruth, a Moabitess, and married her. A sudden illness took him, leaving her as a widow. The word Ďwidowí not only denotes the death of husband, but also connotes ideas of abandonment, loneliness, hurt and helplessness. Ruth is now living with her mother-in-law, Naomi and co-sister, Orpah, who are also widows, each sinking in their own sea of sorrow. Nothing brings people closer than shared suffering; the common sorrow knitted them very closely. These three widows are so inseparable; caring and loving each other. Ruth`s parents wanted her to return to her parents. But Ruth loves her mother-in-law so deeply. She is torn between them, her parents and her mother-in-law. Even though she loved her parents very much, she is not ready to go back to the old life of idol worship because of the peace and tranquility she witnessed in Naomiís life, in spite of her chaotic situations. She had never experienced them in her own family. Naomiís prayer life and personality attracted Ruth so much that she cannot turn her back on Naomi or the truth and faith she came to know through her.
Abomination To God
When Naomiís sons married these foreign girls (Ruth and Orpah), she might have been unhappy because Israelites marrying Moabites is an abomination to God. She might have secretly prayed that God should turn their hearts towards Him. However, Naomi started loving them like the fruit of her own womb. Now she is not only concerned about their souls, but also their well being. She is wishing them to get married again, have the joy of family and children. Without any shadow of doubt, Naomi believes that they can find husbands because these girls are so beautiful and young. If she remains in Kir-Hareseth in Moab, Ruth and Orpah would continue to stay with her, wasting their youth. So she decided to go back to Bethlehem, her native land.
"Good Bye, Good Bye," her voice choked off with grief. "Go back to your mother's home. May the Lord reward you for your kindness to me and to your husbands. May the Lord bless you to find rest in the home of another husband." I will go back to my land and I can be there until I die worshipping the God whom my people are worshipping.
"No, mother," both Orpah and Ruth started weeping bitterly. "Don't go! Please don't go. We will also go with you." Naomi's heart broke at their pleadings. "Why should you go with me?" Naomi said, striving hard to restrain her voice from weeping. "Can I get married again and give birth to sons? Will you wait until they grow up and not marry someone else? No! Of course not! My daughters! Things are more bitter for me than for you because the Lordís hand is against me."
At this Orpah embraced Naomi and said goodbye. But Ruth, out of her self-sacrificial love for Naomi, resolved to go with Naomi and said, "Wherever you go, I will also go with you, your people are my people, your God is my God." Orpah also loved Naomi, but the choice Ruth made was more than human affection, this was divine love. Naomi was shaken by the strong love of Ruth for her and for her God too. Then she stretched her hand to Ruth and these two destitute widows, who were Ďall in allí to each other, trusting in God started journeying across Moab to Bethlehem, not knowing their destiny.
The bitterness of deathís bottomless cup led Naomi to call herself as Mara (bitter) and not Naomi (pleasant). Naomi thought God dealt with her life bitterly. In the past she was like a beautiful tree with all colourful leaves, flowers and sweet fruits, but now she is like a withered tree. When all the leaves faded and dropped one after another and the tree was stripped to the uttermost, a new life is given. The tree started budding up, the spring of tender leaves and bright coloured flowers started blossoming. So often, in celestial gardening, every leaf of earthly joy must drop before a new and divine bloom visits the soul ushering in new creation. Similarly, in Naomiís life, when she thought she was stripped off of every earthly joy, she determined to come back to Bethlehem and delight herself in the Lord. God granted her heartís desires and made her a new creation. God answered her prayers for Ruth, by granting Boaz her kinsman to marry Ruth and blessed her with a grandson Obed, her delight. Her bitterness was turned to blessedness, she is no longer Mara, and she is Naomi again. When God does something beautiful, He will start with difficulties, which is the very atmosphere of miracle. When He wants to do great miracles, He will start with impossible things. The condition is not difficulty, but impossibility.
Now Ruth is a new creation... The lowly, despised, alien widow is newly created as the woman to be praised at the city gates. What an amazing change--for those who are in Christ--the old has gone and all things are made new. When she came to Bethlehem, content to spend the rest of her life serving her mother-in-law and her God, the one choice changed entire history. God proved that "in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (Pro.16:9). God under whose wings she came to shelter richly rewarded Ruth. God gave her a new identity; a new role, made everything new by making her the wife of the noblest and richest man of Bethlehem and blessed them with a son-Obed. What a blessed change! God bestowed on them "the crown of beauty instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair" (Isa. 61:3). The unshaken faith of Ruth kept her on the pedestal, by making her pre-eminent in the genealogy of our Lord. This proved that God is a rewarder of people, who seek Him diligently irrespective of nationality, race, caste, and creed. Even Boazís mother Rahab, though she was an alien, her unashamed boldness, her faith in God, resulted in her name also being inscribed in the lineage of Jesus. Though Mosaic law prohibits alienís entry to the congregation, they became the outstanding women as an evidence for God`s love that "whoever leaves house or father, mother, brother or sister or children or fields for God`s sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life" (Matt.19:29).
Ruthís thoughts came to a halt hearing Boazís voice. Standing in the main entrance he was asking, "What are you doing, Ruth?" She got up from the loom and showed him the cloth which she was weaving. The front of the cloth is so elegant with striking colours and shining letters reading "GOD IS LOVE." She continued, "Oh! Boaz! That's true. It's God's love that renewed and brought great and profound changes in our lives. In the past, life was so unattractive like the back of the cloth with so many tangles. If we can leave all that entangles our life in Godís hands, He will disentangle them and make everything new beyond our comprehension. That's the beauty and enigma of God's love.
Itís not only Naomi and Ruthís, this is my story too. As a Hindu I used to worship many gods and goddesses with fasting, not knowing that they are only idols and they donít have any power to save me. I was a busy wife of a medical doctor enjoying worldly life. In the prime of life, all of a sudden I lost my beloved husband, and my whole world collapsed around me. I felt I was under a lot of debris. When I cried out for help, none of those idols could rescue me. However, the moment I uttered "Oh! Jesus!," God in His mercy and love reached out to me and brought me out of brokenness to blessedness, darkness to light, despair to delight, and hell to heaven. He made His presence real and tangible to me. God started rebuilding me, He Himself becoming the cornerstone of my life. He is still working on me. I'm not finished yet. Glory to God! This is the beauty and enigma of God's love.