I was a new believer in Messiah, and was so incredibly excited about the trip to Israel. It was my first trip, and we packed bags of humanitarian aid in old suitcases that we were going to donate. The bags bulged with baby clothes, socks, toothpaste, aspirin, and feminine products. We just couldn’t bring enough, and we were giddy with excitement! We traveled on El Al, and during those years they would play Haktikvah as the jets encircled the plane, and we prepared to land. I turned to my husband and wept as we landed.
My trip to Israel consisted of a trail of tears everywhere I went. Every historical site that we visited, I wept at. During that visit, I fell in love with the land, the people and with the God who blessed me to be able to see Israel with my own eyes. The trip came to a close quickly, and before I knew it, I was on a bus back to the airport. I cried on the way to the airport, and tried to convince my husband to move to Israel. My husband had a very nice trip to Israel, but wasn’t having the same intense feelings that I was going through. On the plane going home, I vowed that I would come back to Israel, and the Lord was gracious to have me visit again two years later.
On my second trip to Israel, things were different. During my first trip, the air was clear, the streets shimmered with gold and the Israelis I met were sweet and God’s cherished people. This trip, the streets were filthy, cigarette butts were everywhere, the air was thick with smells that weren’t pleasant. The people were rude, pushy, sweaty (where was their deodorant?), and unlike the first trip, I couldn’t wait to go home.
When I returned from my second trip, my pastor’s wife asked me to speak to a women’s bible study about my recent trip to Israel. I tried desperately to decline, because it had been such a terrible trip. I didn’t understand why I had felt so differently this past trip. My pastor’s wife was not releasing me from speaking at the bible study so I went to the Lord, asking Him for something positive to say about my trip. As I prayed the Lord led me to Romans 9:1-3, “I am telling the truth in Messiah, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Messiah for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh”. At this time in our lives, my husband had just started being interested in ministry, and as I read these verses, I knew that they were for me. I knew that the Lord wanted me to share this burden that Paul was speaking about. The burden for the salvation of His people. Even though I had not been brought up in a Jewish household, they were to be “my brethren” now. It wasn’t just going to be my husbands ministry, it was to be mine also. The Lord wanted me to commit to minister to His people, even though they weren’t perfect, even if they were difficult, and even if my life was in jeopardy. As I prepared to tell these women what the Lord had shown me I knew that they probably wouldn’t understand, but I knew that just as Ruth followed Naomi, I was following my husband in the call to minister to God’s people.
In those two trips to Israel that the Lord had orchestrated for me, they had prepared me for being involved in the Messianic movement. The first trip wooed me to love the people, and the land of Israel. The second trip helped me to see the people with all their flaws and imperfections. If I had come into the Messianic movement with the mindset of my first trip I would have idealized the people. Jewish people are not perfect. They are chosen, loved by God but they are not perfect people!
Many times people that come into the Messianic Movement have an idealized notion of what Jewish people will be like and what coming into a Messianic congregation will be like. We must have a clear concept as we come into the Messianic movement, so we can really have a “heart of Ruth”. Before we read the famous statement that Ruth made to Naomi, remember that she had lived with this family for ten years! Living with people for ten years allows you to really get to know them with their strengths and their weaknesses. They had prospered together, suffered the loss of the father, and then the loss of both sons. They were in financial ruin and saw no future for themselves. Actually, Ruth probably may have had a better future staying in Moab then clinging to Naomi, her mother in law. Let’s take a look at this life changing statement in Ruth 1:16-17, “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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 I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”’ These verses hold the key for having the “heart of Ruth”, so let’s look at them:
- “From following you” – Notice that Ruth is not leading, she is following. We must surrender as Ruth did when we join ourselves to the Jewish people.
- “Where you go”- Ruth does not have an agenda. She is willing to go wherever Naomi wishes to go. She doesn’t want to control or manipulate Naomi’s plans.
- “Where you lodge”- Wherever you make your home it will become my home. As a Moabitess there was a great prejudice against her, yet she was willing to come with Naomi to Bethlehem.
- “Your people” – Ruth is leaving her family, her country, her traditions to become one with the Jewish people.
- “Your God”- The Moabites worshipped Chemosh who required human sacrifice. The god Chemosh was called “the detestable idol of Moab” (1 Kings 11:7). When Ruth chose the God of Israel, it was a pivotal point in her life, because she was leaving the god of her youth and she was choosing the “living God and the everlasting King”.
- “Where you die” – Ruth was making a vow to Naomi that her intention was serious. She was committed to this vow and nothing but death would separate her from Naomi.
After my second trip to Israel the Lord helped me see what an authentic heart of Ruth needed to be. It is not an easy path, but it is a path that delights our Kinsmen Redeemer! May the Lord strengthen you as you walk this path.