On a whim “take this, destroy that, enslave, aggress, pollute, ravage”… .the commands of a capricious Moabite deity, Chemosh. For more than a decade, it was the atmosphere of Naomi’s world; a world where she and her family had retreated to feed a physical hunger in time of famine. Ruth, also, lived in this world of a masculine god inciting war and requiring blood. As a Moabite, there was no wooing, no kindness, no gentleness or sweetness, no mercy or covering the wounded. Ruth was drawn away into the husbanding arms of an Israelite raised on the milk of Yahweh’s teaching. Yahweh had warred but He did not rush into it. Yahweh required blood, but as a measure of human justice and never, never ever, from a human life. In all His doings, Yahweh pursued shalom and taught His people to pursue shalom as well. In the arms of an Israelite, for less than one wedded year to Naomi’s youngest son, Ruth had come to know shalom….
Oprah brushed her mother-in-laws cheek with a kiss and remounted her donkey to follow the road home. She waited. Ruth stared long at the embittered elderly widow before her. Naomi had become hardened, sometimes relationally unbearable. Ruth stiffened her very slender muscular frame and pointed her steely grey eyes right through Naomi’s countenance. Quite and undetectable as single grain of sand, Ruth was still not one to be reckoned with at this moment in Israelite history. “I will not go,” she stated stolidly. Naomi threw her arms out and waved her hands about like a flustered ostrich, “Child!” she scolded, “Your sister-in-law is returning to her people and her gods! I have nothing for you! No sons! No husbands in my womb! No affections! I am a well dried up! Go! Go! Go! Return to your family who may have a heart and material goods to give you!” And Naomi covered her face with her hands in a motion of immense stresses, praying that when she removed them, her daughters-in-law would be gone and with them all her memories and worries. Naomi would die alone in Bethlehem when her broken heart gave up it’s grief.
“Ya! Ya!” Naomi heard the lumbering clap of donkey’s feet, let out a deep sigh and uncovered her eyes. “Ohhhh,” her mind ached and surrendered as her old, blurred vision beheld, not a child, but a strong matron empowered by an ancient love. Oprah’s donkey made the only sound for a lengthy moment in a slow fade behind them. “Do not urge me to leave you or return from following you,” Ruth broke the silence with steady words. Wisdom and fervor poured from her instructed thoughts. This old woman before her had been drained by grief and knew not her own heart, but, Ruth knew it. She clung graciously and steadfastly to the memory of a God not moved by whim, but by mercy, and the memory of a mother-in-law celebrating Yahweh like a liberated Jewess. Ruth carried the words of an Israelite husband in her Moabite blood and, through suffering or a stinging elderly tongue, she would not depart from this heritage, nor this broken woman. Her cool eyes danced with a compassionate fire, “Naomi, where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. You people will be MY people, and your God MY God.” Naomi closed up her tongue. She had nothing to give, but nothing to say as well to this proclamation. Ruth 1:6-18.
Capricious gods behind, the unknown before, two women mounted their donkeys toward Bethlehem. There is a lot of story here… .stories of the heart. The heart of Naomi has lost it’s Yahweh and it’s shalom. The heart of Ruth, despite her loss, will not relinquish it’s Yahweh or the shalom it has come to know. In the land of whim, Naomi had suffered perceptually. Was Yahweh also a whimsical deity? Through Ruth, Naomi will meet her Goel….
For Yahweh is not a whimsical diety…