Ends and beginnings and faith
Peter Leithart writes about faith:
Ruth begins with death – the death of the land in famine, the death of exile, the death of Elimelech, the death of Naomi’s sons, the death of Naomi’s future. Naomi goes out full, and comes back empty. Ruth 1 is a perfect tragic story, a story of endings and emptyings.
But it is chapter 1, and the author wants us to realize that this series of deaths is not an end. The end of chapter 1 is a beginning, as Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem “at the beginning of the barley harvest” (v. 22). The author makes his point with a touch so light as to be nearly imperceptible, but the import of that “beginning” is as weighty as anything in Scripture.
“In the beginning” and “once upon a time” make rational sense as the beginning of a story. But recognizing a beginning on the other side of an end is an act of faith.
Mark Dever makes a similar point in his treatment of Ruth. To human eyes, all is despair at the beginning of this book. But the writer of Ruth gives us a glimpse of what a sovereign and good God is planning and working behind the scenes. You can listen to Dever preach on the whole book of Ruth, and also on Ruth chapter 1 specifically.
See also William Cowper’s hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way.