Ruth | Day 1
Reading | Ruth 1
The story of Ruth is a fairly well-known Bible story, especially for those of us who grew up attending Sunday School. Christian women love this story – it’s the story of a girl who marries Bethlehem’s most eligible bachelor. But it’s so much more than that. It’s the picture of a committed friendship, the comfort of God’s provision, and the beauty of kindness.
Before diving too far into the book of Ruth, we need to get an idea of the cast and setting. Ruth starts out with a famine in the land of Judah, specifically the town of Bethlehem (Bethlehem is a pretty significant town in the Bible, so hang onto that). Because of the famine, a man named Elimelech packs up his wife, Naomi, and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, and leaves town. He doesn’t just leave Bethlehem, though; he sets out to Moab, a traditional enemy of the nation of Israel. Here’s where the irony starts to kick in: Elimelech’s name means my God is king. Leaving your home (God’s people) hoping to find provision in the home of an enemy doesn’t really reflect that Elimelech is living by the meaning of his name.
You don’t start as a Bears fan and become a Packer’s fan. That’s not how it works.
So, Elimelech heads to Moab with his family. During this time the Israelites were living relatively at peace with the Moabites (which wasn’t typical), but Moab still wasn’t the place a Hebrew family would want to settle down. Moabites followed the god Chemosh, a god who most likely required human sacrifices and promoted prostitution and adultery. Basically, what happened in Moab stayed in Moab. Not really the place for some of God’s people to dwell, but Elimelech settles down there anyway.
At some point after settling in Moab, Elimelech passes away. Instead of packing up and heading back to Bethlehem, Mahlon and Chilion take wives, Orpah and Ruth. Okay, more irony here: Mahlon means sickly and Chilion basically means dying, and sure enough, both men die.
What does that leave for Naomi? Nothing. Her husband is dead as well as her two sons, and in that time, a woman’s survival was dependent on her husband. She’s now living in the antithesis of her Hebrew culture with absolutely nothing. There’s really no other option but for her to return to Bethlehem. In her desolation, she feels betrayed by God, so she changes her name from Naomi to Mara. From beautiful to bitterness. From agreeable to sorrow.
Would A Rose by Any Other Name Really Smell As Sweet?
There’s a difference in the cultural importance of names based on your heritage. In America, we tend to name our children based on names we like or in honor of people in our family. Typically, there’s not a lot of thought about what the name means in our culture, but we still hold a tiny bit of superstition when it comes what someone is named. In fact, our hurricane system is on a six-year rotation, but if a storm is particularly devastating or catastrophic, we won’t use that name anymore for fear of bringing that destruction again.
In Shakespeare’s most well-known play, Juliette says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” She’s basically saying that she doesn’t care what family Romeo is from; he’d be just as hunky regardless of his last name. But is that really true? Are the names we give things so interchangeable that it wouldn’t make a difference if they were changed?
According to Scripture, a name could be an indication of what a man was (1 Samuel 25:25). Essentially in Jewish culture, your name is your brand. It’s an indicator of your potential and the possible future you have in front of you. In renaming herself, Naomi has chosen to leave behind the beauty and grasp onto the bitterness that she sees stretching before her.
How We’re Identified Through Christ
Naomi’s name changed memorialized the moment when her life flipped upside down. She could no longer identify with the name she was known by. Likewise, when we accept Christ as our Savior, we can no longer identify by the names we once held. Unlike Naomi, though, our new names are wrapped in righteousness and glory. How awesome is it that you have been renamed by choosing to follow Christ?! You are no longer identified as a slave to sin or as a person without love. Instead, you are known as being fully accepted in Christ. Here are a few new identities we have as Christians:
A Child of God and Heir with Christ (John 1:12; Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7)
By believing on the name of Christ, we have become children of God. By becoming children of God, we have become heirs with Christ. We are fully accepted by God as His children, blessed with the same inheritance as His true Son.
A Friend of Jesus (John 15:15)
Once we choose to follow Christ, we are no longer treated as slaves. Instead, we are treated as friends. A slave doesn’t know what his master is doing; he is simply expected to follow commands and keep his mouth shut. But Jesus desires to have a close, personal relationship with each one of us.
More Than Conquerors (Romans 8:31-39)
Because of the power of Christ that dwells inside us, we are more than conquerors. We don’t just have victory over the things of this world, we have an overabundance of victory.
Free (Romans 6:6; Romans 8:1-2; Galatians 5:1)
Our old, sin-enslaved self was crucified with Christ. There is no condemnation we need to fear because we’ve been set entirely free from sin’s hold on us. His death completely liberated us so we could live free!
Chosen (Ephesians 1:4)
God chose us before the foundation of the world. Before He set time and material into motion, God chose you to have an eternal relationship with Him.
Redeemed and Forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
Not only are we completely forgiven for any past, present, or future sins, but Christ lavished grace upon grace over us. While consequences because of sin are necessary, God holds no condemnation against us. His grace has completely and utterly covered us.
Complete (Colossians 2:10)
You have been brought to completion by your faith in Jesus Christ. While we live on this world, we will never be perfect. We’re still humans; we’ll make mistakes and messes. But we are enough. We should always strive to become more and more like Christ, but there is nothing we need to add to ourselves to be enough for Him.
Alive (Colossians 2:11-15)
Before Christ brought us out of our slavery, we were dead in our sin. A dead person can’t feel anything; they have no idea that their body is rotting and decaying. But Christ made us alive. We have been given a new life, a new awareness of who we are and what we mean. In the words of Taylor Swift, our old selves can’t come to the phone right now . . . because they’re dead.
(I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist. #teamtswift)
When Your Name has to Change
A little over a month ago, a dear friend of mine legally changed her name from Lydia to Jasmine. While legally changing a last name happens all the time, I don’t know many people who have changed their first name. But Jasmine’s journey has been truly amazing to watch unfold.
While our situations were different, Jasmine and I both grew up with the same conservative, fundamental religious ideology. After living a life dictated by following a set of rules and trying to please an impossible standard of what Christianity “should” look like, Jasmine finally stepped away from that suffocating culture. Her view of God had been distorted into something opposite of the loving Father that He truly is.
Stepping out onto uncertain territory allowed Jasmine to rediscover just how loving God was. By taking this path of faith, she decided to fully embrace the new identity she was creating for herself. Jasmine. Shockingly, she chose Jasmine because of the definition on Urban Dictionary: “an honest and loving person who isn’t afraid to speak the truth.”
What is truly beautiful is how Jasmine is striving to live the life God has called her to live. She is learning to speak and act upon what truth and love are. This is a huge change from the life she once lived under her parents, a life of being unable to speak openly. With the help of her husband (who is a pretty fantastic guy, if I do say so myself), Jasmine is learning what unconditional love looks like. Love speaks truth, love waits on God, love believes the best, and love trusts that’s it’s never too late for whatever needs to happen to happen.
While God may not call you to change your name, we are all called to live new lives radically different from our old ones. Your new life may be difficult. God may lead you on a path you’re not sure you can handle. But He’ll continue to show up. He’ll continue to fight for you. I pray that you are able to step out of the identity of sin and slavery and embrace your new identity of being loved uncomprehendingly by Jesus.
✌️ – Tonya
- Which new identity encourages you the most?
- Your name is your identity. Are you living in light of the new identity you have in Christ? Are you letting it define who you are, or are you still holding on to your old identity?
- The song “No Longer Slaves” always reminds me of who I used to be and who I am now. Feel free to listen below if you need an extra dose of encouragement:
I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below or send me a message here.