I have always enjoyed the book of Judges. I know what you might be thinking right now. Enjoy is such a strong word for such a dark and tragic book. But I do enjoy it. I used to read the book with an incredulous spirit. I simply could not understand how God would let them continue in their rebellion. The Israelites were idolatrous, wicked people--and yet, God allowed them to live.
And then conviction hit me straight between the eyes.
How could God forgive me? How could God let my idolatrous, wicked self live? The sinfulness of Judges doesn't seem so foreign when placed next to the deceitfulness of my own heart. So I continue to go back to this book, reminded that God is a long-suffering and gracious God who does not give us what we deserve.
But there is more to the story than just comparing myself to the rebellious Israelites. Laced within the book of Judges is the truth that this cannot be all there is. And that is why I like Ruth, too. Ruth, unlike Judges, is the stuff women's bible studies are made of. In college, Ruth was the women we all aspired to be. She was a servant. She was submissive. And she got the man in the end. But I think that we can't truly understand Ruth without first understanding Judges.
The book of Judges ends this way:
"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).
Ruth, while it ends well, starts very bleak. Not only is it in these dark days of Israel, but it also is in the midst of dark days for this particular family. The entire narrative feels like light beginning to break forth at the end of a long and wearisome tunnel. And isn't that how God works? In the midst of our darkness, pain, and even our sin God is doing unfathomable things for our good. We cannot always see what he is doing, but we can trust that he has not turned a blind eye to us--even when we have been faithless towards him.
While the book of Judges ends with a judgment on a kingless people, Ruth ends with the promise of a coming king. In the midst of all of the sinfulness of the period of the Judges, God was working to bring forth the greatest king of all--King Jesus. When the Israelites (and all of humanity) deserved eternal condemnation, God was setting forth the plan for rescuing sinful people like you and me.
This is good news for us today, dear Christian. Whatever our circumstances might be, whether gloomy or bright, we can trust that God is in the middle of all of it. He has not left us. He has not forgotten us. And he will always work for our good, both in this life and in the one to come.