Monday, May 16, 2011

Reading with Ruth and Hannah: Virtue, Hope, and Resurrection Life

Naomi with Ruth and Orpah (Chagall, 1960)
I continue to read through the Bible (and have been at least a couple times a year for the last 16 years); I currently am reading in Ruth and I Samuel today. Something that really stood out to me in both of these books (well, a lot has, but this is something quite glaring) is the women of virtue that are highlighted in both books, respectively. These two women epitomize Proverbs virtuous woman in chapter 31. I am thinking of both Ruth, and Hannah. Both of these women, while in different situations, played a very pivotal role in mediating the Messiah of Israel to the Nations (including us). Both of these women were faced with horrific personal situations; Ruth losing her husband, and Hannah having a husband who loved her, but her, herself being barren (something that would have been looked upon as a curse in that culture). The common, and beautiful thread between these two ladies is that in the face of their personal trial they continued to seek and trust the face of Yahweh, the God of Israel. In Ruth's case she chose to follow the God of Israel by choosing to follow her mother-in-law back to Israel (from Moab, which by the way places Ruth in a "cursed" status --- just like Hannah --- because of what God had said previously about Moabites [remember they came from the incestuous relationship that Lot's oldest daughter had with him]). In Hannah's case, she chose to suffer scorn from her counter-part Peninah, as well as from Eli who thought she was crazy for offering prayers in public in the Temple where he ministered. The point, both women fervently sought God, and out of that fervency they both experienced blessing from God that we today are reaping the benefits from. In other words, Ruth became the Great-Grandmother to King David through her Kinsman marriage to Boaz; and Hannah gave birth to Samuel, who then went on to anoint David as God's special and Covenant King to Israel (cf. II Sam. 7) --- and, of course, who was THE type of God's ultimate King, His own Son, the son of David, Jesus! It was through both of these women's utter zeal for God, their child-like trust in Him; that God providentially worked through two women who in their culture, and in their respective ways were both considered cursed of God (Ruth as a Moabitess and Hannah as barren and childless).

Our God, who seems "hidden" in the ways that he works; our God whom the world considers foolish and weak, in fact is the God who is the God of the impossible possibilties. He is the God who takes the unexpected and brings great expectations out of it. He is the God who is able to create something out of what looks like nothing (and often is). He is the God who is resurrection and life, the God of the Great Reversal and Exchange! Both Ruth and Hannah bear witness to this, and through their witness bearing they have been used of God (and blessed of God) to be part of that great mediation that has brought salvation to the Nations (per the promise to Abraham).

Weary saint, don't give up! Do you feel like your plight is mundane, normal, or even cursed? Just remember Ruth and Hannah and how God providentially worked through those circumstances (through their personal circumstances). Don't you think that you worship and follow the same God?