FROM BITTERNESS TO BLESSEDNESS!

WEEK SIX, DAY THREE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION

WEEK SIX THEMe: LOVE

DAY THREE THEME: LOVE IN ACTION

BOOK OF RUTH – PART B

(The previous post was the Scripture for today, the entire Book of Ruth to take in again and glean from all that God does for His Own. It is a fascinating story of God’s grace and providence to one who feels defeated and bitter. The love story of Ruth and Boaz restores Ruth’s mother-n-law, Naomi, to wholeness and joy. This post will be the “SOAKING IT IN” part of what is normally one post when the scripture is not so long. If nothing else, take time to read the Book of Ruth previously posted or from your own Bible to understand more about God’s unwavering love that sustains us still today!)

SOAKING IT IN: I can remember early on reading portions of the Book of Ruth or the whole story and wondering why it was called the Book of Ruth rather than being titled, The Book of Naomi. Naomi is the tragic character here. She and her husband determine that in the midst of a famine in their hometown of Bethlehem, they need to take their sons and strike out for another land with better resources. Is this their faith talking, or is it their fear, or even their stomachs, talking – to leave everyone else behind and find a way to survive. It makes sense to do all that you can to provide for your family – but some question whether it is their lack of faith in the providence of God that has them striking out on their own for survival’s sake. In either case, within 10 years of settling in a more hopeful place, Naomi’s husband and two sons all died. Her two sons had married Moabite women prior to their death, but had no children. Without their husbands, Naomi and her daughters-in-law – Orpah and Ruth – were destitute. Naomi had no other choice but to return to her people, the Ephrathites. Likewise she released her daughters-in-law to return to their parents home and gods. Naomi was now bitter and hopeless and alone. There was nothing more to do.

Naomi must have been a fine mother-in-law to both Orpah and Ruth – neither one of them were anxious to get back to their own families, but were inclined to travel on with Naomi to Bethlehem and remain family with her. Naomi reminded them that she had nothing to offer them and they would do better to return to their parents and their gods. Orpah reluctantly agreed and went home in grief, but Ruth would not hear of it for herself. In many weddings we hear the words of Ruth at this moment proclaimed between the new husband and wife – but originally they were spoken from an immigrant daughter-in-law to a broken mother-in-law. “Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. WHEREVER YOU GO, I WILL GO; AND WHEREVER YOU STAY, I WILL STAY. YOUR PEOPLE WILL BE MY PEOPLE AND YOUR GOD WILL BE MY GOD. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do this to me and more so if even death separates me from you.”

This beautiful message of dedication and pure love from Ruth does not restore Naomi’s hope nor her joy, but she can no longer protest and they journey on together to the home of Naomi and to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God has not abandoned nor forsaken Naomi in her time of shame and disgrace and loss – God provides a daughter! And God is not finished yet!

The people of Bethlehem are delighted to welcome Naomi back and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, the Moabite. In this instance, Naomi’s boys had sought wives from the Moabite people since that is where they had relocated during the famine. Ruth is now considered Naomi’s family, but nonetheless, she is not a local, she is an immigrant who is accompanying Naomi. Naomi’s reaction to their welcome home remained full of defeat and bitterness. Certainly she was now back with her family and friends, but the loss is too great and difficult to move forward from. Naomi is stuck.

Ruth gets straight to work to go gleaning in the fields for food. Gleaning is a survival tactic from the heart of God that became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor. God constantly reminded Abraham and those after him to take care of the poor by leaving some of the crops behind for them. He also reminded them that they have been immigrants and they should not shun immigrants in the midst. Ruth has no idea where to go, but does anyway and lands in the field of Boaz. Boas takes notice of her right away and makes sure that she is welcomed to glean the entire harvesting season and that she is kept safe from being assaulted by the young men. Gleaning certainly had its hazards for young women, and the watchful eye of Boaz prevented any harm. God is hard at work on behalf of Naomi and Ruth.

Ruth’s gleaning is very successful – also enhanced by Boaz;s desire to take care of Ruth and Naomi, and God has provided greatly for their stomachs and safety. Once Naomi learns that the field that Ruth went to was the field of a kinsman – Boaz – she gets busy working on their redemption. She instructs Ruth when and where to go and what to say to Boaz so that he will become there Kinsman-Redeemer. If Boaz was willing, he could buy the fields of Naomi’s husband and sons and take care of both Naomi and Ruth as family the rest of their days. It was a traditional practice to keep the land and possessions of the “down and out” within the tribe – in this case, the Ephrathites. Boaz is very willing to become their redeemer, but there is closer kinsman who is first entitled to become their redeemer. Boaz is obviously an upstanding citizen and wants to do what is right in their traditions. The elder kinsman says he will buy the land that Boaz has told him about, but when he learns of both Naomi, a widow, and Ruth, an immigrant widow – he cannot see his way clear to follow through with his offer- he has the first right of refusal, but he is not obligated to act. Upon his decline, Boaz is then free to buy the land and take on the care of Naomi and Ruth. They have moved from poor and broken to restored and redeemed. And even beyond that, Boaz takes Ruth to be his wife. He obviously has admired Ruth, and this redemption allows them to marry.

Then, to take the providence of God to its delightful climax in this story, Naomi moves back from bitterness to blessedness. The birth of Boaz and Ruth’s son is an unbelievable blessing and Naomi’s heart is restored from brokenness to joy! She has purpose again in the life of this baby who she is now guardian to, and recognizes the hand of God in such providence. Here relationship with her Heavenly Father is restored. Praise be to God for His mighty works of love and providence and compassion

The child’s name is Obed, and wonder upon wonders, Obed will become grandfather to King David of Israel and is ultimately in the lineage of Jesus. Through the love and compassion of a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law, King David – with a heart like God’s – and Jesus Christ, God’s Son, come forth. What God does is never for just that moment – though that moment is precious. God’s work is eternal for the good of all. Through a poor but loyal immigrant daughter-in-law, the salvation of the whole world is at hand! Naomi never knew who Obed would become and who his children and children’s children would be, BUT GOD DID!

AGAIN, THANKS BE TO GOD!!!

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