God’s love in action
The book of Ruth has something to say about life in lockdown, finds Alison Gray
I wonder if there are certain biblical passages or stories that have struck you in a new way during this period of lockdown? I know it shouldn’t still surprise me, but I am constantly amazed at Scripture’s power to speak afresh into our lives at different times and in various places. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can sometimes read biblical texts with sharper vision because of what is going on around us, or Scripture might suddenly help us to ‘read’ the situation around us in a different light. That’s one of the things I hear in the famous verse from the letter to the Hebrews: ‘The Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword … it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12) Here are some reflections on the book of Ruth, from the perspective of lockdown, which have come to mind over the past few weeks.
In the first week of lockdown, I suddenly found that I was short of any fresh vegetables that my son would actually eat. As we were shielding, I plucked up the courage to text my newly formed neighbourhood WhatsApp group, to ask if anyone would mind dropping off a cucumber for us. I felt rather silly and vulnerable in an unfamiliar way, and was aware that I didn’t want to ask for too much. Within minutes, someone had responded. A few hours later, there was not one but two cucumbers on my doorstep, and with them a large bar of chocolate! It made me smile at the kindness of a stranger, giving more than twice what I had asked for. I felt blessed. It helped to overcome my initial fears of being a burden on my neighbours because I could no longer go out and shop for myself, and my anxiety about not being able to source food. It spoke powerfully to me of God’s love and provision.
This little example, and numerous others since, have reminded me of the story of Ruth. At different points in this novella, the main characters, Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, pray for one another and for God’s provision and blessing. If you look carefully at how the story unfolds, they end up providing the answers to their own and each other’s prayers. They bless one another by their actions of kindness and generosity and thus show God’s love in action…
Alison Gray is Tutor in Old Testament Language, Literature and Theology at Westminster College, Cambridge
This is an extract from an article that was published in the June 2020 edition of Reform