For many years, here in America, we have lived in a predominately Christian culture. Most of our neighbors shared our Judeo-Christian worldview. When you told people that you were a minister they responded with respect.
Times have changed. Now when I tell people that I am a pastor they ask why I’ve given my life to promoting fairy tales. The prominent worldview is now a secular naturalism. Our culture is increasingly eschewing our Christian values and instead doing what is right in their own eyes.
As the moral fabric of our nation begins to unravel, many Christians are becoming quite fearful. We wonder what it will mean for the church to be persecuted. It feels as if we are losing the battle for souls.
As a result of this unraveling many fearfully speculate about the type of world our children and grand-children will live in. And we wonder how the Christian faith will survive this latest onslaught. I believe the answer to both of these questions if found in Judges and Ruth.
The Answer in Judges
Judges is a picture of what happens when everyone does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). The book of Judges is a downward spiral of increasing debauchery. As the story unfolds the heroes become less heroic and the villains become even worse. It ends with a woman being mercilessly raped, sawed into parts, and FedExed to the entire nation of Israel.
The book of Judges answers the question of what happens when humanity turns away from a God-centered worldview. In as much as we embrace this turn from the Lord we can expect our culture to increasingly reflect the downward spiral of Judges.
But Judges doesn’t answer our other question. How will faith survive in such a climate. For there, I believe, we need to turn to the book of Ruth.
The Answer in Ruth
The story of Ruth is set during the time of the Judges. Hard times have fallen upon Elimelech, Naomi and their sons. They have to move to Moab where things only seem to get worse. Naomi loses her husband and her sons. Eventually she sojourns back to Bethlehem with her widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth.
As the story progresses Naomi’s bitterness is turned into blessing as she holds baby Obed in her arms. Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Yes, it would be through this miraculous story of redemption that King David would be born—and eventually the ultimate Redeemer would be born.
But it tells us more than just how God worked to give us David. It is also a story of how God-centered faith survived during the time of the Judges. I believe Hill and Walton are correct:
The Judges period that provided the setting was notorious for apostasy and covenantal ignorance and offense; faith was at a premium. How did the faith of Israel survive? We suggest that it survived in the families of common folk such as Elimelech and Naomi. The overall picture was grim, but there were faithful individuals. (Hill and Walton, 251)
This provides an answer for our second question. How will a God-centered faith survive when the pervasive worldview is a godless naturalism? It will survive through the families of common folk like Elimelech and Naomi.
While I believe it is a worthwhile effort to fight for cultural change, I don’t believe we should put all of our eggs in the basket—or even a majority of them. The gospel will survive even in the darkest of times and under the most severe opposition. But it likely won’t survive through political leaders, military commanders, or the intellectual giants that the world esteems. It’ll survive through ordinary moms and dads grabbing hold of Jesus and sharing the lowly gospel with their children.