2020 has been a year like no other in most of our lives. Personally, all the uncertainties with COVID-19, racial unrest, political discourse, job loss, food insecurities, and social media have me riding an emotional roller-coaster. As I prepare for the upcoming holiday seasons (whatever it may look like), I typically reflect on all the goals I met, set new goals for the upcoming year, and explore habits I want to break and ones I want to start. However, this being 2020, I am re-thinking the questions I ask myself. Instead of asking what I accomplished, what I want to accomplish in 2021, and what I need to change about myself, I am shifting my focus.
During Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon of the Mount, we are called to “seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) I started to think, what does it mean to seek the Kingdom of God?
The origins of the word seek derives from the Greek word zeteo which means to strive after or crave something by thinking and reasoning. It is something we must actively do, it is not a passive activity. When I think of seeking God, I think of the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. I know this a break from the traditional and contemporary writings about Ruth being a story of redemption. I don’t disagree with this but stick with me. I want us to explore how Ruth’s story is also a story of seeking God.
Ruth was a Moabite woman who married into the family of Elimelech and Naomi who fled to Moab during a famine in Bethlehem. After years in Moab, Elimelech and both Mahlon and Chilon died, leaving Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah as widows. Naomi wanted to return to Bethlehem as she had heard the Lord had blessed the land and given them food (Ruth 1:1-7). Eventually, Naomi would convince Orpah to return to her family in Moab but Ruth would not be swayed, she traveled with Naomi to Bethlehem much to Naomi’s attempts to send her back to Moab (see Ruth 1:8-18). There are two verses that stand out to me, they are Ruth 1:16:17…But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” Ruth was actively seeking to be with people who believed in God and she wanted to live and die amongst those believers. Historically, we know at this time, Moab was a city that worshiped false idols and numerous gods and were considered enemies of Israel due to the deceit of Lot’s daughters (see Genesis 19:36-37).
Ruth chose to seek a God she had never known. We will never know why Ruth decided to follow Naomi, was God calling her to do so? Did Ruth see it as an act of love and devotion to Naomi? Did Ruth trust God would provide for her with food and potentially children? Ruth put her trust in God and actively sought Him through her single action of returning to Bethlehem with Naomi. She gave thanks to God and sought to please him through her actions of gleaning and listening to Naomi with regards to Boaz. Ruth consistently praised God throughout all her trials and never lost focus on seeking His kingdom. She was devoted, worked hard, was humbled, not apologetic, about her station in life. I believe God provided for her because of these qualities. She took refuge in Boaz’s kindness and fell on her face seeking refuge in God. These qualities were favorable to God in the Old Testament. God will have mercy on anyone who humbles themselves and seeks refuge under His wings, like Ruth. We know the decision to seek God and His blessings for her and Naomi, would lead to the lineage of Jesus (see Ruth 4:13-22).
Thinking about this, I had to ask myself, “How am I actively seeking God every day?” Yes, I read my Bible, attend worship on Sunday, participate in small groups, but am I still focusing on seeking worldly comforts during the week to ease my worries? What part of my life am I not allowing God to rule over? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I know I have to shift my focus from the I to the almighty. I have to follow the instructions of Jesus to “seek His kingdom and righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). For the remainder of this year, I will be examining these questions and seeking God in the parts of my mind, heart, and spirit which I haven’t let him fully rule over.
How are you seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness as we close out 2020 and think ahead to 2021?