After mulling it over for days, it occurred to me this morning why I haven’t been able to get past John 3:3, “…no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The reason is that this is the most important thing of all. Nothing is more important than being born again. No matter who you are or where you are from, it is the most important thing in your life. All the concerns of this world will pass away; each and every one of us will pass away. Where will we spend eternity? We can either spend it with God, worshipping and enjoying him and all he provides us, or we can spend it in Hell where we will live in eternal torment with only our worst memories and thoughts to keep us company. The choice is ours to make.
For me, looking at it from the point of view of an outsider, that raises the following questions:
- What does it mean to be born again?
- Why is Jesus the only way?
- How do I know Jesus is trustworthy?
- I’m a good person, why do I need a redeemer?
- How can Jesus save everybody who ever lived when he is just one person?
- How do I become born again?
It raises many more questions, too, but those are the basics. That is one of the exciting things about really studying the Bible; when you read one passage, so many other questions and things leap to mind. It’s why it takes me forever to get through a book, because I keep going back and searching out other passages and issues that come up while I’m reading.
The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is telling just one story. And it is a love story. A love story about God and mankind, a broken relationship, and how it got fixed. If it were a novel and you were analyzing it for your literature class, you would see all the elements of good storytelling: Introduction, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Resolution. It’s an amazing feat, especially considering it is a collection of 66 smaller books written by dozens of authors in different languages and cultures over a 1,500-year time span.
So, anyway, to get to the point of what being born again means, a good place to start is the book of Ruth. Ruth is the eighth book of the Old Testament. It is a love story—not just a romance, but a love story on several levels. In many ways it is like the entire Bible in miniature.
It is very short, just four chapters. I am going to reprint it here, one chapter a day, for the next four days. My text comes from the American Standard Version, which I am using because it is in the public domain. For full disclosure, I did change the original text’s “Jehovah” to “the LORD,” (which most modern English translations use) to avoid any confusion that this might refer to the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), which it does not. I also changed two or three archaic words to their modern equivalents.
Take some time to ponder this lovely little story, and Enjoy!
The Book of Ruth
1 And it came to pass in the days when the judges judged, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. 2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. 3 And Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. 4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelt there about ten years.
5 And Mahlon and Chilion died both of them; and the woman was left without her two children and her husband. 6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread. 7 And she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each of you to her mother’s house: May the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. 9 May the LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
10 And they said unto her, Nay, but we will return with thee unto thy people. 11 And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should even have a husband to-night, and should also bear sons; 13 would ye therefore tarry till they were grown? would ye therefore stay from having husbands? nay, my daughters, for it grieves me much for your sakes, for the hand of the LORD is gone forth against me.
14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 And she said, Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. 16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; 17 where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death part thee and me. 18 And when she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, she left off speaking unto her.
19 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and [the women] said, Is this Naomi? 20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara; for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty; why call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? 22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, who returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
…Chapter 2 coming tomorrow.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. – Romans 10:9-13