An R rated Easter Story

“In the days when the Judges ruled……” Ruth 1:1

My husband tells me nothing gets his High School Bible History students opening up their bible faster then when he begins to describe the lewd acts described in the Old Testament book of Judges. Rape, incest, child sacrifice. It’s a bloody and brutal book. This time in history that also holds one of the best Easter stories never told on Easter Sunday.

I can’t imagine a pastor in the world that will recall the story of the Levite and his concubine recorded in the book of Judges on Easter Sunday. We want the victory story, we want the sermon short so we can get to our family gatherings, and easter egg hunts. This is not time for ugly. I can’t imagine a pastor in the world that would tell the one, the one where a Levite is traveling with his concubine and needs a place to stay for the night. The one where a hospitable older man invites them in and he provides dinner and drinks. The one where they are having a lovely time and a sudden loud pounding is heard at the front door.

“While they were enjoying themselves (eating dinner and visiting..) some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old many who owned the house, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.’ Judges 19:22

Disgusting.

But it gets worse.

“The owner of the house went outside and said to them, ‘No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this disgraceful thing. Look here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don’t do such a disgraceful thing.” But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. Judges 19: 23-26

Everything about this makes me want to cry. The request of the evil men. The apparent ease at which the virgin daughter and concubine are offered as a replacement to satisfy the sexual hunger of these men. The detail that we see in the events of the night – so brutal it left the woman dead on the doorpost. It is frightening to think that women and children today are still caught in industries that sell their bodies for sex.

It’s in the middle of all this mess, the middle of all this pain, destruction, idol worship that we find my new, favorite Easter Story. OK – some might say its not an Easter story – which typically deals with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and all the events surrounding it. But without this story….. there would be no other. I’m pretty sure you will not hear about this in your Easter Service. And it starts right here….

In the days when the Judges ruled….

At the beginning of 2023 I was looking for a bible study resource. A friend suggested a reading plan that would guide me through the entire bible in one year – something I have never done. It is simple. Read 3-4 chapters a day and listen to a 5 – 8 minute podcast summing up the chapters. I am a podcast junkie so I was in. It was this new practice that revealed those most amazing words.

In those days when the Judges ruled…

I couldn’t wait to get through the book of Judges. As evidenced by account of the Levite and his concubine that I have shared, its a brutal, bloody, heart wrenching book. Tara- Leigh Cobble author of The Bible Recap ( the plan I am following) says it is a clear picture of life lived apart from God. When we stop seeking his wisdom, stop receiving his grace, stop looking for his direction… the lifestyle of the people of Judges is where we would all land. It is depressing and sad. How glad I was to turn the pages to a sweet little book that I knew well… Ruth.

I’ve read the story of Ruth dozens of times. I’ve studied it. I’ve taught it. I’ve heard sermons on it. I’ve acted out parts of the narrative with my children during our evening family devotions when they were young. Never in all my years though did my heart leap like it did when I read those opening lines.

In those days when the Judges ruled…

This story of an unassuming, bitter widow knocked down by life and her loyal daughter in law – equally deserving of sympathy with her shared title of widow is tucked in the middle of one of the ugliest times in Israels History. “In those days Israel had no king and everyone did as they saw fit.” Judges 21:25. These two women -Namoi an Israelite and her daughter in law Ruth a Moabite, were lost and without hope. Their husbands were dead and the land of Moab where they were living did not have a plan in place to provide for widows like Naomi’s home land of Judah. It was decided that they would return home to Bethlehem. Despite Naomi’s encouragement for Ruth to stay behind with her parents – Ruth insisted on going. Ruth was a foreigner and Naomi was concerned with how she would be received.

“But Ruth replied, ” Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me. ” Ruth 1: 16

The rest of this story reveals a beautiful account of restoration and redemption. In God’s goodness he leads Ruth to a field to gather the scraps left behind after harvest to provide for she and Naomi. Ruth works hard with one desire – to provide for she and her mother in law. She is noticed by the owner of the land who then instructs his workers to drop extra for her when they are harvesting and to not touch her. Through the most fascinating turn of events – the land owner named Boaz and Ruth marry. He is kind, he is loyal to God’s law, he is respected among men. He is everything I didn’t know existed in the time of the Judges. You will really want to read all the details of this story yourself. Oh it’s so good!

If this story ended with the marriage of Boaz and Ruth and the birth of their son it would have been good. This little sentence would have been the pretty bow to tie up this sweet package. “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.” Ruth 4: 13. It would have offered hope that not all the world had gone crazy in the time of the Judges.

But it doesn’t. The last verses, the zingers, the ones that I wish would be spoken on Easter Sunday because my goodness… I need to know that in our world that feels so hopeless some days, we still have reason to hold on.

The book that opens in the middle of a mess, ends with the reminder that God worked, can work, is working, will work… in the middle of ours.

“And they named the son Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the Father of David.” Ruth 4: 17

The David. King David. The ancestor of Jesus. Jesus Christ. The one who lived, died and rose again. The one we celebrate on Easter. The one who removes our guilt and shame and points us to a better future.

Ruth, the Moabite widow and Boaz the land owner that chose to live a God fearing life in a culture that did anything but that, gave birth to the son that lead to the birth of the next son and next son and next son that eventually led to the baby born in the manger… Son of God and Son of Man.

It’s hard to imagine that there can be good in the middle of evil. When our minds can only see bad news it feels impossible to believe that God is working behind the scenes in the messy middle. It’s hard to believe that God can take our messes, our mistakes, our poor choices and redeem them all.

But He Can.

But He will.

But HE is.

He IS.

Because He is Risen… Risen indeed.

4 thoughts on “An R rated Easter Story

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