I remember, some years ago, preaching a sermon on Ruth....about the wheat famine in Bethlehem, her moving away, and upon hearing rumour of their being a harvest due, she returns to Bethlehem (literally, the House of Bread) with her new family. My colleague preached on the passage a few weeks ago and it brought it to mind.
I remember reflecting on the fact that we often find ourselves in parallel with the situation of Ruth. There can be seasons of barrenness spiritually...in our lives and in our churches. And that barrenness often can produce the sort of 'back in the good old days' sort of talk....times of hampering back to when things we alive, fruitful and blossoming. The rumours of God's presence...a lot like you'd imagine that there would be rumours of bread in a place that had none.
I recognise that in myself too in years passed. There can be a lot of chatter that goes on around cold ovens...a yearning for His presence but not an active pursuit of it like we see in Ruth's case as she moves away from breadless Bethlehem. You see, not everyone, like Ruth, moves away from the barrenness to find provision elsewhere. They stay. I can't figure out whether that's faithfulness or lack of faith. You know, people stay because thats where they think they belong, they can't see anything else. Some people stay believing for the day that will come, even if they might never see it. The reality is that they had run out of bread in 'The House of Bread.' I wonder to myself how many become so malnourished by the lack of nutrition that it wipes them out altogether. In some of our situations, are we Houses of Bread with no bread? Do we have the presence of God, the aroma of God, the 'bread' of God amongst us? Or do we just have rumours of His presences....lingering aftertastes of his Glory? What is the response we should make? Should we hang around the cold ovens or should we seek provision elsewhere?
The point I made those years ago is that when the rumour hit Ruth that there was a harvest due to come in, she didn't hesistate to go back to Bethlehem. The place of her home, where she felt she belonged. Where she had heritage, heart and history. And there, she finds someone waiting to provide all that she needed to make life possible in the form of Boaz, her 'kinsman redeemer' and restore to her the future that had been robbed by famine and death. It strikes me that God provided for her away from home as much as He did when she returned. Even through the pain of separation, God provides. I can draw parallels in my own life and experience. Can you?
The spirit of Jesus is so present in that story. He is written all over the pages of it. He is the One who is the opposite of the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy and instead comes to imbed hope, life, redemption and most of all, the bread of his presence where there has been fallow ground for so long. In the 'teshuvah', (returning to, repenting,) Jesus is there to provide and restore the future. We, at every stage, have the invitation to return our attendion to the Bread of Life, Jesus. Ruth's future was so important...her line of descendants leads all the way down the years to Jesus himself. Our future is important...he appoints us to bear fruit for Him and he will not have anything stand in the way of that. Neither height nor depth, angels or demons, death nor life so Paul reminds us.
There is something wonderfully missional in Ruth too. Ruth, a Jewess, goes with her husband and sons to a foreign land, they end up with foreign gentile wives...people far off. She loses her soul-mates, her husband and sons, those closest to her, and yet she is blessed by these two foreign daughters in law who want to be faithful to her and to her God. God's eventual blessing in the provision of Boaz, her kinsman redeemer, becomes a blessing for the gentile daughters in law too. This is the grace of God who whilst we were so far off, loved us and gave His son for us, made provision for our redemption to usher us back into the presence of God through himself.
Praise God that it his word we can find all the hope and promise we need. Whether you are chatting around cold ovens, searching for provision elsewhere or returning home to where you belong, I pray that in everything you'll know Jesus as your all in all.