In the midst of election and inauguration season, we hear the word freedom thrown around in conversation and social media daily. But what do we really mean by freedom? I got curious and decided to look it up. Two definitions popped on my screen:
- “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”
- “absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.”
The way we have been discussing freedom–the way we are inclined to perceive it–is typically the second. We consider freedom to be the lack of governing power over us. Yet today I will pose that by focusing solely on that freedom, we miss a greater, more fulfilling freedom. We miss the freedom captured by the first definition: the freedom to act without hindrance. We miss the freedom our God desires for us.
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But Ruth said, “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.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
(Ruth 1:16-18 ESV)
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If you would like some context, check out last week’s post, But God… An Introduction to Ruth’s Story
You see, Ruth was living in a time where women had very little physical freedom. She had two choices. She could go back to her native land and live under her birth family’s reign. With this decision, she could go back to her home, her familiar territory and basically start over. She could marry again and enter into a life where she is comfortable.
She could follow Naomi. There is not much knowing what that would mean. You could pretty much guarantee that she would not marry again, however. You could pretty much guarantee it will be the harder path.
She decides to follow Naomi.
She chooses to put her hope in an unfamiliar God, but one who someone she loves dearly is clinging to in this time of sorrow. One who is in a covenant relationship with His people. Her ability to make this difficult decision, one that she knows little about, demonstrates three kinds of freedom that I find it hard to grasp: freedom in path, freedom in faith, and freedom in death.
Freedom in path…
“…where you go I will go…” Let us not forget that Ruth was Moabite–not Israelite. She was unfamiliar with the terrain on which she would not walk. She was unfamiliar with the land in which she would plant her life. And yet she was confident enough in God to walk down that path freely.
If you are in a transitional phase, you may relate to Ruth. You are unaware of what exactly God has for you at the end of the path you are being called to go down. It is unfamiliar, rocky, and winding. Take heart, sweet sister. Whether it is a new home, a new relationship, a job, a calling, embrace this path as Ruth does. He promises us that although we do not know what the road may entail, our Father will be standing with open arms at the end of it.
Freedom in faith…
“…and your God my God…” This blows my mind, sisters. Ruth had seen the harshest side of God. She saw every man in her family die. She watched her sister leave to go back to a land where everything seemed better. Yet the freedom she saw in her mother-in-law and in God gave her the will to stay and serve a God who she did not know much about. She only knew one thing: no matter the hardship she faced, something made people go back to Him. He must be faithful.
In the same way, He is faithful in our own lives though floods and fires may come. Though we may lose what we hold dearest, we are promised that “He works all things together for the good of those who love Him.” Let us today, this week, this life freely choose Jesus even when sorrow overflows.
Freedom in death…
“…where you die I will be buried…” People’s number one fear in every single study you will find is death. We are terrified of the process if not the means if not the ends. Ruth’s confidence in this decision demonstrates a conquering of that fear. She is willing to walk the path, to trust the God, to commit although death may creep at the door. After all, has she not already seen death take the men she loved most in the world?
I wonder if we have the same kind of hope that casts out fear. I wonder if we fall under the category of people who fear the end of life on this earth more than anything else. If that is the case, how can we be free at all? How can we live without hesitance? How can we say yes to our Father when He asks us to live in an uncomfortable region? A dangerous life? How can we say yes when we are so scared of a people coming into our land and “destroying our livelihood” that we lose our excitement to share the Gospel with other peoples?
Christian, I have a fear. I fear that we value our national freedom far more than we value our freedom in Christ.
Christian, I have a hope. My hope lies in the fact that Jesus has overcome that struggle already.
He has given us examples like Ruth and Naomi. These examples test us to the very core because here’s the thing: these women are not some kind of Biblical superhero. They are people with flaws and pains and questions just like us. They are people who have lost everything, and yet they have complete freedom in the God of Abraham. They know little of Him. They cannot read. They can only trust what they’ve been told by men. And how much more do they walk in freedom–freedom not hindered by anxiety or fear–than we do each day? How much more do they put one foot in front of the other although they do not know the end of the story. How much more can we follow in this example set before us.
I love how John Piper puts it in a 1984 sermon:
“Finally, we learn that if you trust the sovereign goodness and mercy of God to pursue you all the days of your life, then you are free like Ruth.”
God may call us to move away from all we know. Can we find freedom in that?
God may call us into a relationship that scares us. Can we find freedom in that?
God may call us to share our faith in an uncomfortable situation. Can we find freedom in that?
Can we find freedom in walking away from the sin in which we feel encased?
Can we find freedom in persecution for the sake of Christ?
Can we find freedom in grief?
In the unknown?
“When you believe in the sovereignty of God and that he loves to work mightily for those who trust him, it gives a freedom and joy that can’t be shaken by hard times. The book of Ruth gives us a glimpse into the hidden work of God during the worst of times. And so like all the other Scriptures, as Paul says (Romans 15:4, 13), Ruth was written that we might abound in hope.” –John Piper
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