Ruth 1: Hesed love in a culture where feelings are god

My best ideas for blogging come from the time I spend immersing my heart and mind in the truths of God’s Word. This Sunday I am going to begin preaching through the book of Ruth. With that said, my plan at this point, is to write a blog post for each chapter in the book of Ruth.

Ruth 1: Hesed love in a culture where feelings are god

Hesed=Loyal Love

Early on in the book of Ruth we are introduced to an amazing woman by the name of Naomi. Naomi had expectations for how life would turn out just like the rest of us. Get married, have some kids, settle down, and enjoy life. We are introduced to her husband, Elimelech, and her two sons. But very quickly we discover that life does not end up going as Naomi had hoped. There is a famine in Bethlehem. Which is ironic because Bethlehem means “house of bread.” So Elimelech and Naomi pack up their belongings and move to the city of Moab.

bethlehem to moab

At first glance this move to Moab might seem like the wise thing to do. If there is no food in Bethlehem why not get out of town? The problem with moving to Moab is that God is the one who brought them into the Promise Land. This is where God wants them to live, it is their home. Furthermore, Moab is not a good place for God’s people to live. The city of Moab had originated from an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter. In the past, the people of Moab had been a stumbling block to the Jews because they had led them to worship false idols when they were in the wilderness. It seems pretty clear to me that Moab was not the neighborhood that God wanted Elimelech to move into.

So at this point in the book of Ruth we are confronted with a powerful, counter-intuitive truth. Instead of running from the pain that comes from unmet expectations in life, we need to allow God to use the difficulties to mold and shape us into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

I wonder how often we do the same thing as Elimelech? Instead of honestly dealing with our pain, or unmet expectations, we take some kind of shortcut that we hope relieves the pain we are feeling.

How many times does this happen in marriage? We all have expectations when it comes to marriage and then, well, you get married. Things are much harder and more challenging then we ever imagined. So what do we do? Too often we look for shortcuts out of our difficulties and into some type of temporary pleasure. Sports. Shopping. Fixing up our house. Advancing our career. Fitness. Social media. Food. Alcohol. Porn. An inappropriate flirtatious relationship. Something, ANYTHING, to alleviate the pain we are feeling.

Let’s just say that the move to Moab did not go well for Elimelech and Naomi. Elimelech died and so did both of his sons. Naomi was stranded in Moab with her two daughters-in-law. Things went from bad to much worse. Isn’t this what running from our pain does? The escape we are seeking only multiplies our suffering.

The story then begins to show us what real love looks like. The kind of love that can sustain us when life does not meet our expectations.

We discover hesed love in both Naomi and in Ruth.

Hesed love is opposite of the spirit of the age, which says we have to act on our feelings. Hesed says, “No, you act on your commitments. The feelings will follow. Love like this is unbalanced, uneven. There is nothing fair about this kind of love. But commitment-love lies at the heart of Christianity. It is Jesus’s love for us at the cross, and it is to be our love for one another. -A Loving Life by Paul E. Miller

In Ruth 1:8 Naomi says this to Ruth and Orpah (her other daughter-in-law), “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.”

This is an extraordinary display of love. Hesed is translated as “kindly” in this verse and Naomi is showing this kind of love to her two remaining family members. Think about it for a moment. What do you think Naomi’s feelings were telling her to do at this point in her life? Most likely her feelings were telling her that she should keep these two women as close as humanly possible. She had no one else. Instead, she goes against her feelings and encourages her two daughters-in-law to leave so that they can remarry and start their life over again.

Naomi neither suppresses her feelings nor is trapped by them. So she determines to love her daughters-in-law no matter what it costs-even if it intensifies her anguish. That is hesed, pure and simple. But maybe you are saying, “I’m not sure I want to love like this.” The only alternative is some form of self-love. And even that has a cost-it destroys your soul. -A Loving Life by Paul E. Miller

Here is another powerful lesson that goes against “the spirit of the age.” Our feelings are not always reliable when it comes to living the way that God wants us to live. Our culture tells us that self-fulfillment is what life is all about. The gospel tells us that true love (hesed) is not looking to satisfy one’s self, instead it is looking at how it can sacrificially be a blessing to other people.

So let’s begin to make some connections with how this relates to everyday life.

  • Imagine how this kind of hesed love could revolutionize our marriages today.
  • Imagine how much deeper our relationship with Christ would become if instead of running from the pain of unmet expectations we patiently waited for what God wanted to do in our lives.
  • Imagine if we abandoned the lie that love is merely something we feel and rediscovered that love is a deep, lifelong commitment that reflects the way that God loves us? How would this impact our society? Our churches?
  • Imagine how this kind of love could strengthen relationships in, and outside, the church.

Can you see any other ways that Ruth 1 applies to everyday life?

Looking forward to sharing thoughts with you from Ruth 2-4 in the coming weeks.

ruth and naomi
Naomi demonstrating hesed love by telling Ruth and Orpah to return to their homes. Painting by William Blake



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