What other story is God telling?
It feels like we are living in the middle of the book of Judges.
If you feel desparing, or downright scared, about our current cultural climate, you would do well skim through the book of Judges. The book of Judges is one of the most disturbing narratives in Scripture, telling stories of some of the most disturbing people who ever lived doing some of the most disturbing things imaginable (This is probably why most churches avoid it). The world of judges is described repeatedly as one in which, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” This is not only true for the enemies surrounding God’s people; it is true for God’s people themselves.
Most of the story of Judges takes place on a humungous-gigantic-jumbo scale with major rebellion, powerful judgments, corrup governments, brutal oppressors with big armies, and over-the-top heroes with over-the-top egoes. Some of the most famous "characters" in the book of Judge become known for some of the most infamous things. And with the death of each hero comes a new cycle of rebellion, a new judgment, and another deliverance by a new "judge". But instead of repenting, instead of becoming more faithful as a result of God’s faithfulness, the people keep getting worse with every cycle and, by the end of the book (400 years), they are more unfaithful, more dirty, and more hopeless than when they started.
The book paints a dark, violent, and wicked picture of the culture. Yet, at the same time as the book of Judges we have this in Ruth 1.1-5:
In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, 5 and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
This is the beginning of what amounts to a love story. It is not just a love story between a young woman and man, but between a God and His people.
The story of Ruth is a story within the story—a glimpse into what a sovereign and good God is doing to accomplish his mission, not despite the sinful choices of men, but in fact through them. The story is not big, it is small; the characters are not amazing, they are very ordinary. It is a story about one small family, and one young non-Israelite widow, serving as light of hope in all of the darkness of Judges who ultimately leads us to Jesus Christ the light of the world. When all things appear hapless and hopeless, God is faithful.
The book of Ruth is a story that reminds us not only that God works visibly through prophets and miracles, but that he is invisibly and mysteriously working all of the time, even within tragedy. It’s a story for those of us who have, are, and will suffer tragedy, loss, or pain. It’s a story for those wondering where God is in the midst of heartbreak upon heartbreak. It is a story for those who will doubt whether God is in control, whether God is good, and whether faithfulness to do what is right is worth it in hard times. And it’s a story for people who question whether all things, including suffering, are in fact purposed for good.
We can all read online the "story" of our current state. But let remain curious as to what other story God is also telling which, in front of such a dark background, will appear brighter than ever.