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May 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 22, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, and welcome to RefleXion.  May the Lord be with all of you!

You are all so smart!  What most people mean when they say that is that we’re using our intellect (the capacity for reason, understanding, and figuring things out).  Is intellect our intelligence?   What is intelligence?  In the old days, we took IQ tests, and that was how we knew about our intelligence, but since then there are all these theories of our multiple kinds of intelligence, such as emotional intelligence, social intelligence, creativity intelligence.

Our brain relies on neurons; there are about 86 billion neurons in our brain!  And our gut has about 500 million neurons, and our heart has about 40 thousand!  Each neuron, wherever it is found, has a capacity to store, to remember, to inform us, and the capacity for neuroplasticity.  So, is our intellect our only way of perceiving, of knowing?

I quote Chuck from last week here, “No science can account for the soul or what goes on in the mind” (unquote).  Science is very important, but it is but one lens, one way of perceiving, knowing, and responding.  One example: I just read an article about by a theoretical physicist who said, “There’s a distinction between curiosity and wonder.  Curiosity is an intellectual outlook, but wonder suggests there is something in your soul that compels you to know more about the world.”  If we could, as Chuck suggested, incorporate some practices like creativity, might we awaken capacities that our brain simply isn’t best at?  Many of think we need to rely heavily on our intellect.  Our body has been created with left and right brain hemispheres, multiple neurons throughout heart and gut, and the abilities of instinct, insight, imagination, and inspiration; and different parts of us are designed for different ways of engaging life.  Contemplation and creativity are ways of awakening our God-given capabilities.  We’ve heard of out-of-body experiences; how about developing whole-body experiences?  If more of our God-given capacities were working together, we might feel more fully alive.  Maybe this might be a part of recovering the art of being human?

Today marks the day we remember the Ascension of Jesus, 40 days after His Resurrection.  As the disciples watched Jesus ascend into the clouds of heaven, Jesus blessed them; they worshipped. Do you think they were just curious as they watched Jesus ascend into the clouds, using their intellect; or do you think they were in wonder?  I’ll bet that was a genuine, whole-body experience!

Let’s pray to our God of Wonder:

Gracious God who causes us to Be and to Become.  Finish the work in us as you promised.  We are looking forward to the finished work; and, meanwhile, we are leaning in here and now to your work for us and in us, so that You might flow through us.  Awaken us, bring us to wholeness, for our sake, for Your sake, and for the sake of the world.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Today’s Talk: chuck smith, jr.

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 Ruth 1:1

Intro: With these words, we walk through a gate and into what may be the most enchanting story in all of scripture
– but because it took place long ago and in a strange culture far away,
• we need some help orienting ourselves
• when, where, what, and who occur in the first verse and set the tone and create atmosphere
– notice that a solid connection is made with the days of the Judges
• not long after Israel entered the land, they lost their identity
◦ they could not maintain loyalty to Yahweh for very long
◦ even their God-appointed leaders made serious blunders
• it was a period of religious confusion and ludicrous politics
◦ the last story is so bizarre it is unpleasant even to read
◦ a simple explanation is given several times and at end of the book of Judges:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Jdg. 21:25 – not a good thing, as in De. 12:8)

By way of contrast to Judges, Ruth is a lovely story
– and that is because Ruth is a lovely person
• there are other contrasts between Judges and Ruth
◦ Ruth makes no mention of any supernatural activity: Spirit, angel, or prophet
• on the other hand, there are frequent references to Yahweh
◦ even though he doesn’t intervene directly until the last chapter
– Bethlehem seems to have become a God-fearing town
• although its name means “house of bread,” the plot is set in motion by a famine there
◦ so story starts with a negative tone of hardship and desperation
– into this dark time, the storyteller brings four people
• they have packed whatever belongings they can carry,
◦ said their good-byes, set out into the Judean desert,
• and travel east to Moab, where they will sojourn (this suggests it is a a temporary arrangement)
◦ wait out the famine in Moab, and then return to Bethlehem

(Please read verses 2-5) Until verse two the family is anonymous

There is nothing strange about this in the Scriptures
– now, all four family members are named – is there a reason?
• perhaps it’s a way to maintain their identity in a foreign land
◦ “Ruth” is a name that is foreign in Bethlehem, but the locals see her as
the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi (2:6 & 4:5)
• we notice a lot of naming in these verses
Elimelech: God is king – Naomi: pleasant or sweet
◦ the meaning of the other names is sketchy
– all the important characters in Ruth will be named
• this is rare – we are not given the name of lots of important people in Judges
◦ having names makes them more familiar – real people
◦ we feel more involved with them, more empathy for them, and a stronger response to them

Their time in Moab did not turn out like they had hoped

First, Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with just her sons
– both of her sons died after marrying Moabite women
so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband
• the image that the childless widow this evokes is universal in its effect – we all feel it
◦ like a photograph of a widow in a refugee camp, bereft of her children
– what the storyteller has left out, is that Naomi she still has two daughters-in-law

(Please read verses vv. 6-14) We see that the plot takes a sudden turn

The world is not all at once bright and cheerful, but there is a ray hope
– at first, Naomi gets up to leave Moab, without us knowing why
• then comes the first bit of good news
◦ she heard in the fields of Moab there was food in Israel
◦ but what was she doing in the fields of Moab?
◦ perhaps the same thing Ruth will do in fields of Bethlehem; glean whatever grain is dropped by the harvesters (Ruth 2:1-3)
• in the first two chapters, the plot turns in a specific location: the fields or field
◦ these turn out to be a place where good things happen that change the mood of story
◦ in the third chapter, the location will be a threshing floor, and in the fourth chapter a city “gate”
– Naomi begins her return journey with her daughters-in-law,
• but before they get far, she has second thoughts
◦ the journey and her life in Bethlehem would be more difficult without them,
◦ but once she was back home home, she would have nothing for them
• even now she has nothing to give them but her blessing
◦ and here is another one of the beautiful features of this story,
◦ in every chapter there is at least one blessing
In chapters 2 and 3, Boaz and Naomi bless others in the name of Yahweh
In the last chapter, others bless Boaz and Naomi

So the three women stand by the highway crying, hugging, and kissing each other
– given Naomi’s thoughtfulness, we see why her daughters-in-law don’t want to leave her
• in her motherly way, Naomi reasons with them
◦ Naomi feels sorry that she brought pain into their lives
• notice she uses the word “bitter” to describe what she feels
“As if it is not hard enough that Yahweh has struck me, but it is even worse that you have become collateral damage”
◦ although it hurts to say good-by, Orpah knows Naomi is right and she heads back home
– Ruth did not leave Naomi’s side, but clung to her
• the Hebrew word translated clung means to be joined to, to form a bond with
• we cling when frightened, desperate, or do not want to be abandoned
◦ we cling to what we love the most – to what we cannot live without
Robert Alter, “The whole story turns on four key words”; namely, “return,” “go,” “cling,” and hesed “kindness” (mercy, compassion–the word has several layers of meaning)

(Please read verses vv. 15-18) Naomi tells Ruth to follow Orpah’s example

I have a question that I have to ask, though I know there is no answer given for it
– why was Ruth so attached to Naomi?
• in v. 8, Naomi told her to return to her “mother’s house”
• why did Ruth want to be with Naomi more than with her own mother
– with her mother, Ruth would have been guaranteed survival
• were there untold problems in Ruth’s home? was she happy to get away from her mom?
◦ what did Ruth see in Naomi that made venturing with her into the unknown worth the sacrifice?
• what is apparent to us is Ruth’s fierce loyalty and devotion

Ruth’s famous vow – there is nothing I can add to enhance it
– we simply have to listen to it and hear its poetry and passion
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.
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.

– surprisingly, Naomi “said no more”
• either she was deeply moved,
• or else she gave up trying to get rid of her

(Please read verses vv. 19-22) The homecoming

Bethlehem was stirred by Naomi’s return
– immediately, women began talking
• and this is where the first chapter will end, with women talking
• it is also where the book of Ruth will end
◦ but the talk at the end will be nothing like the talk here
◦ here the mood is bitter despair, at the end it will be festive joy
– when Naomi heard them say her name (and perhaps its correct Hebrew pronunciation)
• it was all too painful – in her response to them, her words are poetic
◦ in scripture, a person’s identity or destiny was wrapped up in their name
• the name-game gets really interesting:
◦ she gives herself two names and she refers to God by two names – one of them is ancient
I am [Yahweh]. I appeared to Abraham . . . as God Almighty, but by my name [Yahweh] I did not make myself known to them (Ex 6:2-3)
– the poetic form of Naomi’s response is a chiasmus
(to say the same thing in two parallel lines, but in the reverse)
Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara
the Almighty has . . . and Yahweh has . . .
Why call me Naomi

Yahweh has . . . and the Almighty has

Naomi stayed with God–
– if her life had become sour, it was sour with God;
– if she returned back empty, she was empty with God

So the first chapter began with a famine and a departure
– and it ends with a return and the beginning of a harvest

Conclusion: What will we take from this?

Regardless of whatever enters your life, do not change your name – do not stop being who you are
– do not stop clinging to Jesus, whatever else you may lose
• the temptation comes when facing life’s greatest challenges and hardships
◦ terrible times do change us – I once found my identity in being a husband and a dad
◦ then an unwanted divorce ripped that from me, and for a good while I was lost
◦ but I discovered that had not been my identity, but was a temporary persona that was meant to last for a season
• we want personas to be forever; that’s why we beg our toddlers not to grow up
– when we find our true self in Jesus – that identity never changes
• our identity is permanent, because it is anchored in God

When the big loss hits, double-down with God
You are not lost – God knows exactly where you are
The world may become darkened with chaos and nations may crumble
So, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near (Lk. 21:31)

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