We All Come from Someplace

“But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16, ESV)

Ruth did not know our God — not like an Israelite would know him, anyway. She was a daughter of Moab, and thereby a stranger to the covenant of Israel. Whether or not her late husband who was an Israelite instructed her in the ways of God, I do not know, but since he married a pagan instead of a nice Jewish girl, he was probably participating in some kind of covenant-lite (you know, same basic heritage, thirty percent fewer laws). Additionally, his parents did not have enough desire (or sway) to stop the union, so they were probably not effective teachers either. But in spite of all this, this woman Ruth — and a pagan no less — had great faith.

True, its immediate focus was on Naomi and not on God per se — but it was faith enough for her to leave her kindred and her people, faith enough to live in a strange land, and faith enough to adopt a strange God. Was Naomi a God-fearing woman whom Ruth admired, or did God just reach into Ruth’s heart and plant something there? We do not know. It was probably a little of both. But, whatever the cause, not only did Ruth have faith, she had enough to walk in it… and by walk, I mean literally.

Ruth had no expectations for greatness when she left Moab for Bethlehem, and in this, we see a hint of true biblical faith. True faith, that is raw faith, has fewer attachments than we might think. Sure, it is appropriate for people of faith to also have hope. What faithful person does not hope for good things for themselves, their family and friends? But to understand faith correctly, we must first strip it of all attachments and analyze what is necessary to it. Faith has expectations, but they are not a necessary part. Faith has love, but this too is not a necessary part. Faith has feet…and those are necessary parts (James 2:20). Faith is where belief goes when it is too good to remain just belief. Faith is belief with feet — and in this case, feet marching to Bethlehem.

Did God reward Ruth’s faith? Certainly. God injected her into the messianic bloodline! This pagan — this outsider to the covenant — became King David’s great-grandmother. Every so often God lets Israel know that although they are important to him, they are not necessary to him. Our sovereign God does what he wants. He is full of surprises! And the Bible has plenty of examples of God extending mercy beyond his chosen ones.

God doted on Israel — and often at the expense of other nations — yet he would reach right into those nations and pluck out the occasional hero of faith. Our Ruth is today’s example, but Rahab of Jericho is another (Joshua 6:25). Not only was she a foreigner, but a prostitute! Yet she too fell into the messianic line. Even Jacob’s wife Rachel, a mother of the nation Israel, grew up as a pagan girl. Hey — she stole her father’s idols on the way out the door! (Genesis 31:19)

But those histories are incidental, because we all come from someplace, and our histories cannot be changed. The question is, where are you going, not where have you been. No matter what your background, you are not spoiled for faith. Faith is of the spiritual realm. It overcomes the temporal (1 John 5:4), and that is where your history resides. Besides, these illustrations show that God has a history of rewarding the earnest seeker (Proverbs 8:17) in spite of pedigree.

What was Ruth’s first step of faith? She glommed onto Naomi — and few people have ever shown a greater determination to take a step toward God. Ruth only knew him as Naomi’s God — and that was enough for her. She exercised faith before she had a clear picture of him… and don’t we all? I surely have a clearer picture of God now than when I first came to faith. True, I want the clearest image possible, but a clear view is not necessary for faith. So, whether your way is to wrestle with an angel (Genesis 32:22-32) or glom onto a saint, start walking toward your Bethlehem today. Let God surprise you.

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