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Surprised by Hesed … enter, the matchmaker

One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?”
Ruth 3:1

Yesterday, ladies, we left Naomi and Ruth at the gates to Bethlehem, surrounded by the curious women of the city. There the bitter emptiness of Naomi’s soul has fallen into their laps. That she has laid it all at the feet of the LORD is not as recriminating as one might suppose. Rather it is a statement of fact: “It is what it is!” she is saying. 

Today let’s take a closer look at Ruth, the heroine of our story. If you thought Naomi was empty, imagine how Ruth must have felt. Young, vibrant, full of life, married, secure, only to be suddenly widowed, without sons of her own to look after her and no hope of finding a husband in Bethlehem (1:11-13). Not exactly a rosy future.

Yet when Naomi bluntly urges Ruth to return to her mother’s house, she counters with the most amazing statement of commitment to her mother-in-law: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me” (1:16-17).   

Something very personal has been going on in the confines of this little family, despite all the trauma of life. And Ruth has gotten to the heart of it. She has glimpsed the God of Israel and she is not about to let Him go.

The book of Ruth has been otherwise dubbed the book of Hesed by various of the commentators, hesed meaning unfailing love, kindness, mercy. The first words we see of hesed come from the mouth of Naomi: “May the LORD show kindness (hesed) to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me” (1:8). Ruth oozes kindness.

Indeed, one has to wonder how the girl survived the 40 to 60 mile trek with a woman who calls herself Mara, bitter (1:20). But survive she did, and continued to show her true colors. It was Ruth who offered to glean the leftovers behind the harvesters. It was Ruth who stuck with the back-breaking work until the harvest was over. Let’s face it, it would take a lot of hesed to live with anyone in the doldrums, let alone your mother-in-law.  

Imagine Ruth’s great surprise when one day Naomi suggests it is high time she find a home for her where she will be well provided for.    

Nancy P

Surprised by Hesed … running on empty

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.”
Ruth 1:20-21

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab (Ruth 1:1). Seems like a fairly noble thing for a man to provide for his family during a famine. After all, food in neighboring Moab was plentiful. And the sons of Elimelech and Naomi surely were in need, if names bore any significance: Mahlon meant sickly and Kilion meant puny. So off they went from the Promised Land, this little family of four, to live for a while.

Problem was, while there Elimelech died (1:3) leaving Naomi and her two sons alone. Well, not quite alone. The boys married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth (1:4). Possibly, just possibly, Elimelech consulted God before taking his family to Moab. However, we know the Lord didn’t think much of Moab: Moab’s a scrub bucket. I mop the floor with Moab (Psalm 60:8 MSG). Certainly He did not take kindly to His people marrying foreigners (Deuteronomy 7:3).

The little while stretched into ten years, and the two boys also passed away (1:5). In those days it was difficult to be widowed. To lose one’s sons, the remaining source of support, was devastating. Naomi was empty, empty, empty.

Think about it, the spiral from fullness to emptiness strikes all of us just that innocently at one time or other in our lives. A little worldliness here, too full of ourselves there, and lo and behold, we’ve crossed the border into the greener pastures of any old place. Oh we’re not far away from God, yet far enough to miss His voice. Or perhaps you’ve always lived in Moab, never knowing His loving kindness.

Not an auspicious beginning for a love story, but God is faithful. While Naomi may have thought herself at the end of her rope, in the silence of grief she was able to hear that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them (1:6). It took her no time at all to set out for home.

If you’re out wandering ladies, running on empty like Naomi, hurry on home. God’s got a surprise waiting for you.

Nancy P

The Plumb Line

Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.
Psalm 99:5

In the days before HGTV revealed the intricacies of  home decorating, I naively decided to redo the wallpaper in our bathroom myself. Why hire a professional when I could do it, right? Little did I know how tricky it would be to remove the existing paper or how tired I would become before finishing the project

At least I got off to a good start, thanks to a generous friend. Patsy had hung wallpaper before and offered to show me the fundamentals. The most important thing she taught me was to use plumb line, a weighted string, to establish a  perfectly vertical line.

Without that plumb line for a vertical reference, the wallpaper would wind up askew. The end result would be a mess.

Forrest Gump’s mama said life is like a box of chocolates, but I think life is more like hanging wallpaper. To do it right, we must have a plumb line, an infallible guide, to keep us straight. God has given us the Bible to be our plumb line.

When I was a young adult, someone impressed me with the importance of spending time each day reading and meditating on Scripture. I have it a priority through the years.

Looking back, I realize without God’s Word to show me how to live, I would have created quite a mess.

Father, thank you for giving us the Bible to guide us through life.



Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.'
Matthew 7:24

When my grandchildren were little, we vacationed one summer at the beach. During that week I rediscovered the simple joy of building sandcastles.

Every day, armed with plastic buckets and shovels, we marched across the dunes and over the sand to the place where the ocean lapped against the shore. There, just beyond the waves, we amused ourselves for hours filling and dumping buckets of sand until our sandcastle was complete.

However, no matter how big our castle was when we left, the next day when we returned, it was gone. We expected this. Sand is not a permanent building material.

On the other hand, the beachfront condo where we stayed was built with steel and concrete. That material proved its worth one fall when a hurricane hit.

Although 100 mile-an-hour winds shook the condo, and tide surges flooded the first floor, the building stood firm. When the hurricane was over, the structure was still there. It had made it through the storm.

Storms are a part of life, and they come in many forms. Sooner or later each of us will face difficult circumstances that threaten and shake our world.

When that happens, Jesus told us how to stand firm. He said, 'Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock' (Matthew 7:24).

In other words, Jesus advised us to build our lives on His Truth. When our lives are based on hearing and applying God’s Word, adversity won’t wash us away. We won’t collapse because our foundation is indestructible.

Father, we are reassured by Your Word and Your faithfulness.


Second Chances

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

The first time I applied for a driver’s license, the hardest part for me was parallel parking. As time passed, my parking skill didn’t improve. Recently, I was forced to parallel park. It took several unsuccessful attempts before I was finally able to get the car next to the curb. Good thing I had more than one chance to do it right.

Someone once described God as “the God of second chances,” but that doesn’t go far enough in describing His mercy. Actually, He’s the God of multiple chances.

You probably realize I’m talking about more than parking. I’m talking about the times when I let God down, and He gives me a do-over. If you‘ve never heard of a do-over, it’s southern talk for another chance to get something right.

I need a lot of do-overs. I need a do-over when I’m lazy about praying or reading the Bible or when I deliberately choose my way instead of God‘s. I need a do-over when I’m overly critical, ignore someone’s needs, or say something hurtful.

When the Holy Spirit nudges me into painful awareness of my failure, and I think, I wish I hadn’t done that, God offers me another chance. The scripture says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). At those times when I fail, God’s provision is for me to simply, sincerely tell Him I have messed up and ask His forgiveness.

God knows we won’t always get it right, but He wants us to keep trying. When we ask His forgiveness, He wipes the slate clean.

He loves to give us another chance.

Father, I thank You for Your patience with me.