Day 4: Where Is Your Identity Found? (Ruth 1:2-5)
Today’s Passage: Ruth 1:2-5
“Tell me about yourself!” It was a question I often started with when people came to me as a Pastor.
They would lead with their question, or concern, or problem. I would respond with, “First, tell me a little about yourself.”
Why? Identity. How we each perceive our identity affects us in so many ways. From self-worth, to our interior thoughts, to how we will interact and engage with each other.
One person once led with the description of themselves as “a fighter, I stand up for myself”. Can you guess how they engage with people when there is an issue, problem, or concern to address—especially if they are that concern?!
To the Hebrew mind, to know a persons name is to know something about them. For example, their character. In fact, some Bibles are filled with footnotes about people and their names.
In the Book of Ruth, some characters are named, and some are not—a little detail that is significant.
Consider: Elimelech means My God is King, and Naomi means Pleasant/Lovely.
We have less information about the meaning of their son’s names, but the name Mahlon, at its root, means the idea of sickness. Similarly, Chilion seems to be connected to the idea of failing or pinning. (The Message of Ruth by David Atkinson)
In addition to names, people also get their identity from the tribe and family they are a part of. For example, I am part Irish and I am from the family of Collum.
Some family names immediately denote honor or importance. Elimelech is described as an Ephrathite. Again, while we cannot exactly say what this name reveals, it is used in places that suggest there is a special dignity, possibly with the family.
As families grow, they often morph through marriage. An Irishman marries an Italian woman, and their kids are Irish-Italian.
The Jewish people, in fact the Bible, is wildly specific about inter-marriage. With some groups, such as the Canaanites, it is forbidden. And while not forbidden with the Moabites (Dt. 7:1-3), after intermarriage, they are not allowed into the worship space (Dt. 23:3).
Why? Because Moabites do not worship YHWH. They worship Chemosh, a god to whom human sacrifice was apparently made. (2 Kings 3:26-27).
I am trying to get a picture of what has happened to Naomi. Could it be that she was married to a man from a noble and honorable family…who find themselves having to leave their homeland…then facing the death of this husband…her two sons marry foreigners whom her faith system cannot fully accept…and after 10 years and no grandchildren…her two sons die?
If I was Naomi, I might just wonder, “Who am I? I have lost so much." I offer these remarks because our identity is bound up in our idea of God.
The best answer to the question, “Tell me a little about yourself” is, “I am a child of the Living God!”
I will ask you to hold onto this question about how Naomi perceives her identity…but for now, do you, as your primary identity, perceive yourself as “a child of the Living God”?
If not, what would it take?