“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
I like peace and quiet. I am, in my natural created state, an introvert so I need time alone to process and regain my energy. I am perfectly happy with a good book, a cup of coffee or tea and a good-sized chunk of time. Throw in some rain and a blanket and I could stay there indefinitely. But life doesn’t offer that too very often. The pace and unpredictability of life has the potential of throwing a wrench into my peace-and-quiet-loving heart. So if I’m not careful and watchful, I can walk around for days not realizing that there is unrest and chaos stirring up all sorts of anxiety in my heart. There are always problems and issues to deal with; no one is immune to trouble.
I’ve been studying through the book of Ruth so her story has been fresh on my mind lately. I’m increasingly blown away by her humble courage and peaceful trust as I continue to study the book. Her story is set during the time when the Judges ruled Israel, when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” There was plenty of unrest and chaos going on around her and I’m sure that peace was not easy to find for her heart. So how did she brave going to a foreign country, the very real danger of evil men (…for a glimpse into the evil times, see Judges 19) and the reality that she and Naomi were on their own and it was up to her to provide food or they would starve? She simply trusted and followed her God.
In chapter one, Naomi had lost her husband and sons and was left to find some means of survival. So she pleads with her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, to go back to their Moabite families since she had nothing but uncertainty to offer them. Then she prayed over them: “May the Lord [Yahweh] deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” (Ruth 1:8-9) This was a prayer for comfort, peace, protection and rest—in other words, a home. Naomi pleaded with her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab because she knew it would take a miracle for them to find a home in Bethlehem. She just had no such thing to offer and it seemed that Yahweh’s hand had gone out against her (but take note that she still turned to Yahweh to pray for Orpah and Ruth. And little did Naomi know when she prayed for them that she would play a big role in God’s answer for Ruth in chapter 3.)
Ruth’s reply to Naomi—her first recorded words—are the famous: “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17) Ruth wasn’t going anywhere. She knew that she could not find comfort, peace, protection or rest with anyone other than with Naomi’s God, whom Ruth had come to trust (in spite of all the suffering she, Orpah and Naomi had been dealt). The Moabite god, Chemosh (who was cruel and known to require human sacrifice) was no longer an option. So she was determined to go with her dearly loved mother-in-law. She would go to the Promised Land and follow Israel’s Covenant-Keeping God.
That Covenant-Keeping God is still a place of refuge…a home for the weary and troubled. He has revealed Himself more clearly these days in His Son, Jesus, who says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) So what do I do when I feel that unrest and chaos growing in my heart? I go to Him like Ruth did and find peace and rest for my soul. He has not changed. Peace still runs deep in Him.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6: 24-26