This thought rolled over and over in my mind this morning as I was standing in line at the post office. I was in the process of sending out certified letters to the parents of some of our teenage patrons who have decided that they are above the list of rules that my library has set forth and insist on breaking them time and time (and sometimes time and time) again. Some have been kicked out for extended periods of time, only to be allowed back in and kicked out again for another extended period.
In my conversation with the gentleman who was waiting on me at the post office and to a friend I ran into who was curious as to what I was doing (and how much time it was taking—2 individual forms for each letter that I was sending multiplied by 6 letters…you do the math), I made this statement: “These kids are going to have to learn some day that the actions that they choose to take have consequences attached to them.”
Actions….consequences….for the most part, when we hear these words together, we think negatively. If I steal, I will go to jail. If I cheat, I will get caught. If I lie, I will be found out. I am sure that all of us, myself included, have been impacted by someone else’s actions.
But, after hearing Pastor’s sermon on Lot’s great-granddaughter, Ruth, on Sunday, it is apparent to me that actions can have positive consequences as well.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Ruth. She was the daughter-in-law of a woman named Naomi. Elimelech and Naomi were husband and wife. Together they had two sons. The Bible tells us that they journeyed together in the country of Moab because of a famine in their homeland. Remember that the Moabites were descendents of Lot, and that they had been disowned by God for their worship of idols.
At some point in the story, Elimelech dies, leaving Naomi and the sons in the country of Moab. The sons eventually marry women of Moab; Orpah and Ruth. Their names have an interesting meaning. Orpah is derived from the Hebrew word “oreph” meaning “stiff-necked”, “stubborn”, “doubled minded”. Ruth is derived for the Hebrew word “reut”, meaning “friend” or “wonderful sight”.
Fast forward to ten years later. Ten is an interesting number, as it is the number of testing. And what tests they have endured. The sons have both died and Naomi is left with her two daughters-in-law. She decides that she will return to her homeland of Bethlehemjudah (Bethlehem meaning “place of bread”, and Judah meaning “praise”). We have to assume that her reason for returning is family, either hers or her husbands’. Additionally, she is returning also to the God of Israel, refusing to follow the gods of the Moabite people. She is returning to her original source of “bread” (the Word) and the source of her praise.
Naomi entreats each of the women to return to their homes and families. She is grateful to them for the way that they have treated her and her now-dead sons. While the daughters-in-law both initially agree that they will journey home with Naomi, it is Orpah who turns “stiff-necked” and “stubborn” and decides to stay with her old ways, her familiar gods, her home and family in Moab.
Ruth (remember her name means “friend”), however, is another story:
Ruth 1: 15-18“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. 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 even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”
This is where my initial idea of actions and consequences fits in. Ruth’s action? She chose to abandon the gods of her fathers and stay with her mother-in-law. Think about leaving a comfortable life and family, comfortable surroundings, and journeying into an unknown land. It speaks loudly of Naomi’s faith in her God and her strength of character that Ruth was willing to give up all of this and journey home with her.
Action was taken…and what were the consequences? Ruth returns to Bethlehemjudah with Naomi; through her, she meets and marries Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer (a deliverer, rescuer, protector). Her consequence? She ends up smack-dab in the middle of the genealogy of the greatest kinsman-redeemer that the world has ever known, Jesus Christ!