14 Feb

The Greatest of These

Have you ever tried to define love? The song writer describes it: “The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell; it goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell.” (Frederick Lehman) As inexhaustible as the subject of love is, in I John 4:8, John defines love in three words. “He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is Love.” Love finds expression in our service to God and others. “My little children, let us not love in word neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:18)

The book of Ruth is a story of love in action. Love manifests itself in dedication as we find Naomi planning to return to Bethlehem after being in Moab for many years. Her husband and two sons have died in Moab. Both of Naomi’s daughter-in-laws commit to going back to Bethlehem with her. However, only Ruth proves her love for Naomi by her dedication as she promises: “Whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)

After arriving in Bethlehem, faithful Ruth goes to glean corn for food. Little does she know that she is gleaning in the field of Boaz who is Naomi’s brother-in-law. This was no doubt God’s leading. Noticing a new reaper gleaning, Boaz inquires who she is. Finding that she is Naomi’s daughter-in-law, he immediately has concern for her safety and invites her to glean only in his field with the other maidens. He also asks the men to leave handfuls of corn for her to gather. This is love manifesting itself in kindness. Here also is a reminder of God’s love for His children as He leaves these handfuls of blessings for us today.

Since Boaz is the nearest kinsman to Naomi, his love manifests itself in obedience. Boaz accepts his responsibility as kinsman of his dead brother’s inheritance. He asks Ruth to be his wife, and he assumes the responsibility of Naomi.

At the end of the book of Ruth, there is a short genealogy which reveals that Salmon of the tribe of Judah is the father of Boaz. Salmon is married to Rahab the harlot, who is the mother of Boaz. This is the Rahab who hid the spies that came to spy out the land of Joshua. There is indeed a love story here of God’s love for the sinner. Although we don’t know the story of Rahab’s conversion, she does express to the spies that she knows that God has given the land to Joshua and refers to the story of God’s parting of the Red Sea when His people left Egypt. She also says: “The Lord your God is in heaven above and in the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:11) What a marvelous example of God’s love. He redeems a harlot who becomes David’s great grandmother and has her name listed in the genealogy of Christ. What love is this!

In 1 Corinthians chapter 13, Paul reveals the characteristics of love and declares that in considering faith, hope, and love, that “the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) God is the essence of love. Let us declare our love to our God in word and deed. Does God not rejoice to hear us say: “My Lord I love you who loves mankind with an everlasting love?”

For a reading assignment on love, read I Corinthians chapter 13 and the book of Ruth. Your heart will be blessed.

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