Today’s Readings: Ruth 3 and John 6:5-16
If you have been following FDR daily, like me, I suspect you are grateful that the book of Judges finally came to an end; difficult reading where the temptation was to close the book and not continue reading about the heart wrenching, soul destroying period of a people lost in the depravity of their own behaviour. And so Judges ended with that very sad verse, summing up the hearts and minds of the people.
‘In those days there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes’ Judges 21:25
But O how refreshing, that out of the depths of despair and desperation, we find ourselves in the oasis of Ruth; a love story involving a number of significant characters which is all about ‘character’. Even in great loss, personal tragedy and under extreme hardship, Ruth honours God, and stays true to her commitment; to do what was right …. by God.
‘Wherever you go, I will go …. your people shall be my people and your God, my God.’ Ruth 1:16
Ruth’s character is evident from the start; her faithful commitment to Naomi her mother-in-law; to leave all that is familiar to relocate to a foreign place and amongst a foreign people.
‘So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem ….’ Ruth 1:22
As we read, we are caught up in a culture very foreign to our own way of thinking and way of life. Re-marriage; for Ruth as she embraces Naomi’s faith, a duty to ensure Naomi is cared for; property and a legal system of inheritance and ownership through birth right …. all going to the male ….
And so in Chapter 3 of Ruth, we find ourselves with Naomi guiding Ruth; directing her actions and decisions; setting Ruth on a path in anticipation that it would open up a future for both of them. But it was risky and required great courage and trust on Ruth’s part, as it could end in rejection or compromise. Again, more of Ruth’s character is revealed.
‘And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet and lay down.’ Ruth 3:6-7
The cultural interpretation of placing herself at Boaz feet in this way, meant she was putting herself in a position of submission … and the location Boaz had selected to sleep was secluded, so what would happen as Boaz awoke, to find himself in such a situation??
Boaz response, woken out of a deep sleep, could only be described as an automatic and natural reaction to what he had observed and heard reported, about the way this beautiful, vulnerable young woman had conducted herself.
Then he said, ‘Blessed are you of the Lord my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.’ Ruth 3:11
What a significant statement to make to and about someone. What had not been lost on Boaz was not just Ruth’s concern for Naomi’s future, but also her high level of integrity. Surely it would be expected that given her youth, Ruth’s desire would have been to re-marry a man more her own age, rather than a man old enough to be her father.
But at a time in history where inheritance and security was tied to lineage, it was important Ruth not only marry in the line of her dead father-in-law, but whoever it was she married would need to purchase back (or redeem) the family property, in the knowledge that if Ruth produced a son, the son he would inherit the land …. a kinsman-redeemer.
As we hold our breath to see what would unfold, Boaz reply was one of gentle encouragement, for if the closer relative chose not to take up this responsibility, Boaz would fulfil this duty. As the words are read, there is certainly a tenderness which would not have been lost on Ruth and certainly bought much comfort.
‘But if he does not want to perform this duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the Lord lives!’ Ruth 3:13
It is so tempting to continue the story (or even finish reading the story), knowing what is to unfold … but that wouldn’t do justice to tomorrow. Ruth is a special book to stop and reflect, particularly in light of the period it was written; a period in society dominated by men but never lacking in God’s love for his people (created in his image; male and female). But the significance of both Naomi and Ruth is that this is a love story where faith and trust played a part in preparing for the Saviour.
So what is your story? Do you or have you faced heartache that has left you in a place of brokenness and even hopelessness? Take heart. This was certainly Ruth’s story (to start with), but it ends triumphantly; because she didn’t allow herself to become a victim of her circumstances, but rather she committed to making decisions that would reveal God’s plan and purpose for her life.
‘ Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might he increases strength‘ Isaiah 40:28-29
Do you know this strength that shapes character? Have you personally experienced what it means to look back and reflect on God’s hand on your life because you were willing to be obedient to trust a trustworthy God? Are you willing to walk into your future like Ruth simply because … God is God?