Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Ruth (Background Information) – This book, one of only two in the Bible named for a woman character, has no known author. It was ascribed to Samuel and is set in the period of the judges – sometime between the 14th to the 11th century BC.
Ruth 1 – When the judges rules, there was a famine, Elimelech (a man from Bethlehem whose name meant “my god is king”) and his wife, Naomi (“my fair one”), went to Moab [east side of the Dead Sea] with sons Mahlon (“sickness”) and Chilion (“pining away”). Elimelech dies. The sons take Moabite wives, Orpah (“she who runs away”) and Ruth (“the beloved”). After ten years, the sons are dead too. The women are left together.
Naomi wishes to return to her home in Bethlehem. She tells her daughters-in-law that they can return to their families. One of them does, but Ruth, the wife of Mahlon, loves Naomi so much, she goes with her instead. She urges her not to—Naomi has no other sons for Ruth to marry. The rule was she could ONLY marry “a brother” of the husband per Dt. 25:5? Ruth says the famous lines to Naomi: “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you” (1:16-17).
They arrive back in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. Naomi says, “the Lord has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty” (1:21).
Mark 4:1-19 – Another large crowd near the beach hears him talk about “the sower,” who went out to sow who dropped seed on all kinds of ground—on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns, and on rich soil (4:2-8). Those “outside” the kingdom hear of it in a veiled way—through such stories.
There is a little irony in Jesus’ words here for he says that “the mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to those listening to him—the disciples, but they do not understand his parable any better than anyone else. Jesus’ use of parables also suggests to us that his message and indeed his entire being is only communicable through a kind of discourse that is not the same as everyday discourse. It is imaginative and personal—in the sense that it is opened by a personal response to stories that bear only an indirect connection with the material realities we knock about in.
Here he explains the parable: Each type of ground represents a different set of realities—hearing the word of God and having Satan snatch the seed up before it has a chance to root; those who hear the word and snatch it up but who have no depth to their understanding and so fall away quickly in times of bad weather or tribulation; those who hear the word but wrestle with worldly concerns and get it entangled in complexity; and finally those who hear the word, give it soil to grow in and bear fruit.