Kindness begets kindness

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you gather grain today? Where did you work? May the one who took notice of you be rewarded!” So Ruth told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked. She said, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be rewarded by the Lord because he has shown loyalty to the living on behalf of the dead!” Then Naomi said to her, “This man is a close relative of ours; he is our guardian.” Ruth the Moabite replied, “He even told me, ‘You may go along beside my servants until they have finished gathering all my harvest!'” Ruth 2.19-21

The verses this month shall be about kindness. Ruth was a Moabite who had married Naomi’s son. After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi decided to return to the land of Judah. She encouraged Ruth to return to her parents’ home in the hopes of being able to find another husband. However, Ruth insisted on going to Judah with Naomi.

After their arrival, Ruth went to the fields to gather grain. She worked in a field that belonged to Boaz, who was a kinsman of Elimelech, Naomi’s husband. Boaz told Ruth to stay in his fields and work alongside his female workers. When asked by Ruth why he was treating her with kindness, he assured her that he had been told how she had accompanied Naomi back to Judah. She had shown kindness to Naomi.

The story continued with Boaz marrying Ruth and having a child who was Obed, the grandfather of David, who would later become king of Israel. Kindness shown to others can bring about results that we can not begin to imagine.

#risingjoy #Ruth #kindness

Diligence In Loyalty

The book of Ruth has always been one of those Bible stories that has touched the hearts of the romantic and raised appreciation in the godly. It is a story of diligence in loyalty. We live in an age self-serving action. We are loyal only so long as it pleases us. In all too many cases, contractors fail to perform, husbands and wives fail in faithfulness, employers and employees are disloyal to one another, children continuously violate their parents trust, face book backstabbing is a daily (sometimes hourly) occurrence. Loyalty is hard to find.

Then, there are the misplaced loyalties. Some will lie, cheat, even break the law for their friends. Some demonstrate against the very constitution and country that give them the freedoms they enjoy. Long lived family feuds have been carried on without real consideration of right by either side. Too many Christians will allow almost anything to cause them to disobey and ignore the God of their salvation to please themselves in relaxation, recreation, vacation, family, schoolwork, etc.

Ruth is the opposite of this. The loyalty of both of Naomi’s daughters in law are obvious from their faithfulness to their husbands and also after they died: “And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people” (Ruth 1:10). After accepting Ruth’s persuasion to remain with their own family, one of them left her. But Ruth uttered her statement of loyalty at this time: “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or 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 they God my God” (Ruth 1:16). She diligently remained loyal when they were without food, diligently gathered food, diligently was loyal to Naomi’s advice.

I leave you with this thought. Look once again at your commitments. Are you loyal to God first with His standards of right living and right worship, then family, then friends, then other trivial pursuits? Let’s determine that we are going to be diligently loyal.

Mike Glenn

#diligence, #loyalty, #ruth

Mother’s Day

Once each year there is a recognized day that all honor and call “Mother’s Day.” It is a day when the “fairer sex” mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters (who are mothers) are honored for the work of being a mother. A female is truly honored when she is loved and cared for, just as she has given her love and cared for the children (including the husband) in the home.

In a recent study I have been doing from the book of Ruth I have taken particular notice of Naomi. Naomi was the mother-in-law to Ruth, a woman of Moab. Naomi suffered devastation in her life that, in so far as I am aware, not a single one of us have experienced. Her husband and sons died, and now there was only her and her two daughters-in-law. She was on the verge of complete devastation. (The males in Israelite society took care of the females; when there was no male in the family it was the female who lived a destitute life.) This is what Naomi had in front of her as she prepared to make her way from the land of Moab back toward Israel.  To complicate the matter before her, she now had two daughters-in-law for which she felt some obligation.

We know the story, but Naomi did not know, at all, what she was going to do; but once she determined to do it, with a heavy heart she set out back to her homeland.

The story in the book of Ruth is not about Naomi, but she is a prominent character who plays a significant role in the life of her daughter-in-law, Ruth. If it were not for the quality of person that Naomi was, to what would Ruth have attached (cf. Ruth 1:16-17)?

There are some lessons to think about along this line. First, Naomi heritage was crucial because it was this heritage that taught her about the one true God. Though she felt the hand of the Lord was against her (Ruth 1:13), in truth, it was the Lord who saw to her well-being. Second, that heritage in which she was brought up taught her values that allowed a young lady (Ruth) to attach when her own heritage was nothing but that which was connected to idolatry and emptiness. Third, it was the counsel of Naomi that encouraged Ruth to commit herself to doing what needed to be done by such a vulnerable young woman. Ruth was devoted to her mother-in-law and she was determined to take care of her, but it was Naomi that gave her the counsel and wisdom to know where to go when she had to move. Good lessons to learn whether are not anyone of us is a mother.

#mothers-day, #naomi, #ruth

RUTH: The True Near-Kinsman

In the book of Ruth, Boaz was a near-kinsman or close relative to the family of Elimelech. Although there was one who was more closely related than he, Boaz was given the opportunity to buy back the land of Elimelech and raise up an heir for him (through his marriage to Ruth). Boaz gladly played the role of redeemer in this wonderful story of love. I would like to suggest, however, that Boaz as a near-kinsman is an Old Testament shadow or type of the true near-kinsman, Jesus the Christ.

The Hebrew term goel, rendered as close relative or near-kinsman in the book of Ruth, is used approximately one hundred times in the Old Testament. About 20% of these usages are found in the book of Ruth. The word goel has been translated in a variety of ways. Note the following examples: “relative” (Num. 5:8), “redeem” (Psa. 119:154), “redeemer” (Job 19:25), “ransomed” (Isa. 35:8-10), “purchases” (Lev. 25:33), “claim it” (Job 3:5), and “avenger of blood” (Num. 35:19-27).

The usual emphasis in the word goel is on redemption as being the privilege or duty of the near-kinsman or close relative.

In our study today, we will look at the near-kinsman’s duty in three ways and note how Jesus has fulfilled every part of this position, making Him the true near-kinsman (in the spiritual sense). It is recommended that you open your Bible and read the passages listed below to more fully appreciate the points being made.

1. FORFEITED LAND
If an Israelite had to sell any of his land, his near-kinsman was to buy it back (i.e., redeem it), if possible, in order to keep the land in the family (Lev. 25:23-25).

In the spiritual sense, all men have lost their first estate. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23; cf. Gen. 3:22-24). Christ is the Redeemer of our lost estate (Titus 2:14; cf. Rev. 22:1-5).

2. FORFEITED LIBERTY
If an Israelite sold himself into slavery to a foreigner, a near-kinsman was to buy him back, if possible (Lev. 25:47-55).

In the spiritual sense, we have all sold ourselves into sin (cf. Rom. 6:16-18). Christ is the Redeemer of slaves to sin (I Pet. 1:18,19; cf. Hos. 13:14). His blood has the power to free us!

3. FORFEITED LIFE
When a person was slain in Israel, the pursuit and execution of the slayer was the duty of the near-kinsman (Num. 35).

In the spiritual sense, we have all been slain by Satan with sin (Eph. 2:4,5). Christ is the avenger of blood (cf. Col. 2:11-15; Rev. 20:10).

Jesus Christ is the true near-kinsman of mankind! He is the Redeemer of our lost estate. He is the Redeemer of slaves to sin. He is the Avenger of Blood. Or, more accurately, He is all of these things to those who will allow Him to take them under His “wing” (cf. Ruth 2:12; 3:9). Jesus described in Matthew 12:49,50 what it means to be closely related to Him and what it requires – “He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.'” Is Jesus a close relative of yours? Is He your near-kinsman or redeemer?

#ruth

RUTH: A Love Story (Part 8)

“And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders said, ‘We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman'” (Ruth 4:11,12).

As Boaz followed through legally with redeeming the land and taking Ruth to be his wife, the townspeople pronounced a blessing on the couple (giving evidence to the accuracy of the assessment Boaz had made about Ruth at the end of 3:11). This was a great honor for the couple.

“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, ‘There is a son born to Naomi.’ And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David'” (Ruth 4:13-17).

Jehovah blessed the marriage of Ruth and Boaz by allowing a son to be conceived. However, the congratulations went to Naomi in 4:14 since the redemption was ultimately for her and Elimelech (even though she chose not to marry and encouraged Boaz to take Ruth under his wing).

It is not surprising that Naomi helped to raise the son who would be called Obed (i.e., the serving one). Obed would serve Naomi by continuing the name and the family of her husband. Naomi’s shame is now gone (cf. 1:20,21)!

The book of Ruth closes with some genealogical information. “Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; Hezron began Ram, and Ram began Amminadab; Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David” (Ruth 4:18-22).

This portion of the genealogy is the same as Matthew’s although there are likely some omissions in both records. However, it is beyond the scope of this lesson to attempt to identify or explain such.

I have referred to the book of Ruth as a love story, and I believe this description to be accurate on several levels. Throughout the book, we see the love of Ruth toward her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth was willing to leave her family and homeland for Naomi. She was willing to labor in the fields and do what she could to provide for them both. Her love for Jehovah is also seen, though not as clearly. She left the gods of her family and embraced the only true and living God and His law. The third relationship where love is seen abundantly is between Ruth and Boaz. Their love begins blossoming toward each other in chapter 2.

Let us conclude our study of the text of this inspired book by noting three important lessons:

1. Jehovah accepts all who put their faith and trust in Him regardless of nationality. The fact that Ruth was a Moabite woman did not change the fact that God loved her and wanted her to love and serve Him. This was true even under the Old Covenant where the Hebrew people were God’s chosen ones. The Lord accepts anyone today who fears Him and works righteousness (Acts 10:35).

2. A good reputation is the best kind of introduction. Ruth had earned herself a good reputation by her virtuous actions toward Naomi. Boaz was familiar with the help Ruth had given Naomi and, in turn, gladly helped Ruth greatly. The wonderful way in which their relationship began was due in part to Ruth’s solid reputation. It is still true today that a good reputation is the best kind of introduction we can have.

3. Jesus Christ is the true near-kinsman (or close relative) for man. We will spend our time together tomorrow elaborating upon this fascinating theme.

#ruth

RUTH: A Love Story (Part 7)

“Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, ‘Come aside, friend, sit down here.’ So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, ‘Sit down here.’ So they sat down. Then he said to the close relative, ‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’ And he said, ‘I will redeem it.’ Then Boaz said, ‘On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.’ And the close relative said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it'” (Ruth 4:1-6).

At this point in Israelite history, the business transactions were generally conducted at the gates of the city. Thus, Boaz traveled to the city gates to tend to the important business at hand. After he found the closest relative of Elimelech’s family, Boaz opened a legal court session by gathering ten of the elders to witness the discussion between himself and the man (cf. Deut. 25:5ff).

Boaz began by mentioning property that Naomi had evidently sold at one time. It was the duty of the closest relative to buy back that property, if possible (to keep the land in the family). The man was willing to redeem Naomi’s property. However, Boaz then went on to explain that a foreign wife was included in the redemption. The closest relative may have understood that Naomi was past the age of bearing children and that therefore the marriage law of Deuteronomy 25 would not have applied to him. He initially did not understand that for him to play the role of redeemer for Elimelech’s family he would have to purchase their land and raise up an heir in the name of Elimelech. In this case, Ruth would naturally be the one to be married since Naomi had indicated earlier that she was not considering marriage for herself.

The closest relative then changed his mind after learning that there was more to the situation than merely redeeming land. He was interested in the land but not in the responsibility to raise up an heir for his deceased relative. He feared that he would ruin his own inheritance in so doing. This closest relative understood that if he acquired the field by redemption it would be his own permanent property since there was no male heir of Elimelech to receive it. Thus, this purchase would benefit him by increasing the amount of land he and his family possessed. However, initially, he didn’t figure that he’d have to raise up an heir for Elimelech through Ruth. If this was part of the redemption, it wasn’t a good deal for him anymore. In fact, he would actually lose money (i.e., part of the inheritance that would go to his sons). This is the case because if he redeemed Elimelech’s property and bore a son through Ruth, then that son would be the heir of that land and the money the closest relative spent to redeem it would leave his family forever. It is sad that the man was not willing to do the right thing for his relatives because it would hurt him financially. However, in this case, it was for the best because it would permit Boaz himself to buy back the land and marry Ruth.

“Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel. Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, ‘Buy it for yourself.’ So he took off his sandal. And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chillion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day'” (Ruth 4:7-10).

#ruth

RUTH: A Love Story (Part 6)

After Ruth asked Boaz to take her under his wing, he responded by saying – “‘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. Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you–good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning.'” (Ruth 3:10-13).

Boaz referred to Ruth as his “daughter.” Obviously, this is not the case literally, but it may be an indicator of their age difference and perhaps the reason why he was reluctant to pursue his romantic concern for her. Additionally, the fact he mentioned that Ruth did not seek a younger man proves that Boaz considered himself to be significantly older. It likely also indicates that Ruth had, in her youthful beauty, an appeal which would have attracted such suitors had she desired them. Boaz stated that Ruth had shown great kindness to him by making this request of him instead of pursuing a younger man closer to her age.

Boaz made an oath–“as the LORD lives”–to fulfill his obligation if he could legally do so. The law imposed the duty upon the closest male relative to marry the childless widow and raise up a son for her dead husband. But, the law also allowed him to renounce this responsibility if he would take upon himself the disgrace connected with such a refusal (Deut. 25:5-10). Since there was a man who was a closer relative to Elimelech’s family than Boaz was, that man would be legally given the right to take Ruth under his wing, if he so desired. Boaz would only be able to fulfill her request if that nearest relative forfeited his right in this matter.

“So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, ‘Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.’ Also he said, ‘Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.’ And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city. When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, ‘Is that you, my daughter?’ Then she told her all that the man had done for her. And she said, ‘These six measures of barley he gave me; for he said to me, “Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.”‘ Then she said, ‘Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day'” (Ruth 3:14-18).

Both Boaz and Ruth are up before daybreak to insure their reputations. Boaz doesn’t want any rumors spreading. This precaution would not have been as significant had Boaz been the closest relative to Elimelech’s family. For Ruth to be seen carrying a load of gleanings at that hour would not have looked suspicious. This gift of barley to Ruth (and Naomi) showed Boaz’s wisdom in helping her return home as well as his thoughtful kindness.

When Ruth returned to Naomi, she detailed what happened. Ruth was instructed by her mother-in-law to “sit still”. Was Ruth nervous, fidgety, and full of excitement? Most likely this was the case, and there was nothing more they could do at that time except wait.

#ruth

RUTH: A Love Story (Part 5)

“Then Naomi [Ruth’s] mother-in-law said to her, ‘My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.’ And she said to her, ‘All that you say to me I will do'” (Ruth 3:1-5).

It is in this chapter that Ruth makes an appeal to Boaz because of Naomi’s advice. Naomi’s intent was to seek physical security for her daughter-in-law. At that point in time, Ruth was a foreigner in Israel with no one to provide for her other than herself. She had no husband or father to care for her. She was vulnerable consequently. Naomi desired to help her daughter find more stability. She wanted Boaz to become the provider and protector of Ruth.

Naomi’s plan was simple. She knew where Boaz would be that night. She intended to send Ruth to Boaz at a time that wouldn’t interfere with either his work or eating. This would ensure that Ruth would find him undistracted, content, and hopefully receptive to her message. Ruth would wear her best garment, after washing and anointing herself, in an attempt to make the most favorable impression.

For Ruth to lie down quietly at Boaz’s feet was an acceptable way for her to make a claim on him as her near-kinsman (or close relative). It should be understood that Naomi, by law, had the first claim which was to be exercised upon the closest relative. But, in her sending of Ruth she rejected the claim for herself and transferred it to her daughter-in-law. It will be learned later in this chapter, however, that Boaz was not the closest relative to these women. This fact would complicate the situation.

“So she [i.e., Ruth] went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. 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. Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, ‘Who are you?’ So she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative'” (Ruth 3:6-9).

Boaz was startled in the middle of the night; perhaps he sensed someone’s presence with him. Ruth was patiently lying at his feet. Some would like to read sexual immorality into this incident, but there is nothing here but purity. There is no indication that there was any bodily contact at all. He did not wake up from an attempt on her part to make an immoral advance. She was still lying at his feet when he woke up, and she remained there until morning (3:14). Additionally, Boaz referred to her in 3:11 as a “virtuous woman”. It is difficult to believe he would make such a claim if they were involved at that time in illicit activity.

Ruth entreated Boaz to take her under his wing (i.e., under his care and protection). In other words, she wanted him to acknowledge her claim and take her in as his wife since he is a close relative (cf. Deut. 25:5ff).

#ruth

RUTH: A Love Story (Part 4)

“Now Boaz said to her [i.e., Ruth] at mealtime, ‘Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.’ So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back. And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.’ So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley” (Ruth 2:14-17).

As a gleaner, Ruth was not one of Boaz’s employed workers; she had no right to eat and drink with them in the field. However, he invited her to join himself and the reapers when it was time for a meal. When parched grain was offered to her, she ate what she needed and was thoughtful enough to save some to share with Naomi later that day. Boaz instructed his men to make it easier for Ruth to gather plenty of grain. Even with all of the favors of Boaz, Ruth did not let up in her work. She continued gleaning and, by the end of the day, beat out about a bushel of barley.

“Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied. And her mother-in-law said to her, ‘Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you.’ So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, ‘The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.’ Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!’ And Naomi said to her, ‘This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.’ Ruth the Moabitess said, ‘He also said to me, “You shall stay close to my young men until they have finished all my harvest.”‘ And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.’ So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law” (Ruth 2:18-23).

Naomi gladly received the grain and offered a blessing for the giver even before she knew who it was. Naomi believed that God, through Boaz, was now showing kindness to the living and the dead (i.e., to Naomi and Ruth as well as their deceased husbands). Naomi identified Boaz as a close relative (or “near-kinsman”). Naomi instructed Ruth to obey Boaz and glean in his fields only.

The chapter closes with Ruth doing what she was told throughout the barley and wheat harvests. During this time period, there is no doubt that Boaz continued to treat Ruth with kindness and generosity, as she provided for Naomi.

#ruth

RUTH: A Love Story (Part 3)

“There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I might find favor.’ And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech” (Ruth 2:1-3).

The second chapter begins by introducing Boaz, a wealthy man who was related to Elimelech’s family. Ruth desired to go find food for them via gleaning (i.e., by gathering that which was left or missed by the reapers). The law of Moses restricted the owners of the fields from having their own lands gleaned. Instead, that right was reserved for the poor (Lev. 19:9; Deut. 24:19). By chance, or–more likely–by God’s providence, Ruth ended up gleaning in Boaz’s field. The text indicates that Ruth came to the field as one ready to work. She was not sitting, waiting for someone to do the work for her. Nor was she too proud to submit herself to the task of menial labor. She was not concerned about what others might think of her if she got her hands dirty in honest toil, nor was she seeking sympathy or attention. She was there for one purpose–to gather food for her mother-in-law and herself.

“Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, ‘The LORD be with you!’ And they answered him, ‘The LORD bless you!’ Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘Whose young woman is this?’ So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, ‘It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, “Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.” So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house'” (Ruth 2:4-7).

Boaz obviously cared about his workers and shared a good relationship with them. He wished them well when he arrived and they returned the favor. Boaz also took notice of Ruth and inquired about her. The man in charge of the reapers told Boaz all about Ruth. She was the Moabite woman who had come back with Naomi, and she was also a hard worker.

“Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field when they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.’ So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’ And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.’ Then she said, ‘Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants'” (Ruth 2:8-13).

Boaz’s kindness toward Ruth is commendable. He gave her protection, drink, and food (cf. 2:14). She asked why he gave her these favors. He told her that he was aware of her circumstances and current condition. He pronounced a blessing upon her for the loyalty she demonstrated to Naomi and Jehovah. It is likely that Boaz was attracted to Ruth romantically at that time. However, he was probably reluctant to pursue her for a reason explained later. She overflowed with gratitude toward him for his compassionate help.

#ruth

RUTH: A Love Story (Part 2)

“And she [i.e., Naomi] said [to Ruth], ‘Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.’ When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her” (Ruth 1:15-18).

Naomi believed that if Ruth remained in Moab, like Orpah, she would return to the Moabite gods. It seems reasonable to suggest that when Orpah and Ruth married Naomi’s sons the entire family worshipped Jehovah, the God of the children of Israel. There is no evidence that Mahlon and Chilion forsook the Lord for Chemosh or any other Moabite idol under the influence of their wives. I believe during that span of ten years that Ruth, in particular, was influenced strongly by the beliefs of Elimelech’s family, and it shows on this occasion.

Ruth’s words here demonstrate her love for Naomi as well as her faith in Jehovah–faith that Elimelech’s family had cultivated. The love seen here is not the sensual type shared by husband and wife. No, it is the love of sacrifice and dedication. Ruth’s choice to stay with Naomi meant leaving everything behind–her people, her land, and her family’s religion. She promised that nothing but death would separate them, and even then, she did not want to be brought back to Moab for burial. Certainly Ruth’s decision was based in part upon her love for Naomi, but the fact cannot be ignored that her desire to please God must have also factored in to this decision. She believed in Jehovah to the extent that she wished for Him to punish her if anything except death separated her from Naomi. Ruth’s commitment to Naomi and to God is commendable. May all married couples today develop this type of selfless love–a love that is fully dedicated to the Lord and each other!

“Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ But she said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?’ 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 at the beginning of the barley harvest” (Ruth 1:19-22).

The two women arrived in Bethlehem at the time of barley harvest (about mid-April) and Naomi was quickly recognized. She desired to be known by her condition instead of her actual name. The name Naomi literally meant pleasant. However, she considered the term bitter to be a more accurate description presently. It would seem that Naomi believed she had suffered greatly at God’s hand for leaving Israel originally for a pagan land. Nevertheless, she would not remain bitter for long as the following chapters unfold.

#ruth

RUTH: A Love Story (Part 1)

Over three thousand years ago, the events of the Old Testament book of Ruth unfolded in Bethlehem of Judah and the land of Moab. It is our intent to study this wonderful book of God’s word over the next couple weeks and glean what we can from it (cf. Rom. 15:4). I believe that this inspired work is among the greatest love stories recorded in the Scriptures.

The book begins as follows – “Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion–Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. Now they took 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. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband” (Ruth 1:1-5).

Bethlehem (in the territory of Judah) was typically known to be very fertile land. Interestingly, the text doesn’t indicate the specific cause of the famine. The natural assumption would be that a drought had afflicted the region harshly, and even the areas known for good crop production were struggling. However, it could very well be the case that this famine was not inflicted by the weather but by the Midianites (cf. Jud. 6). The author indicates that the narrative took place during the period of the judges which makes this view quite possible.

Elimelech moved his family to Moab for relief from the famine. However, moves of this nature were often more dangerous than they were helpful. He took his family into a pagan country, and his sons were of marriageable age. There was the danger of their marrying foreign women who could turn their hearts away from Jehovah, the only true and living God (cf. Deut. 7:1-4; I Kings 11:1-13). After the father died, the sons did in fact marry Moabite women. They lived in the land of Moab for about ten years. Then, both sons passed away also.

“Then she [i.e., Naomi] arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the LORD had visited His people by giving them bread. Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.’ So she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, ‘Surely we will return with you to your people.’ But Naomi said, ‘Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go–for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters, for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me!’ Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her” (Ruth 1:6-14).

Once the famine was over in Judah, Naomi had no reason to remain in Moab any longer–especially since her husband and sons were all deceased. She wished the two young women well and encouraged them to return to the homes of their mothers. It is obvious that both Orpah and Ruth loved Naomi dearly, for their initial desire was to go with Naomi to Judah, even after she encouraged them to remain in Moab to remarry.

Naomi’s words in 1:11-13 seem to imply that she believed that there was only one way that these women would ever get married again if they came back with her to Israel–that is, if she herself had more sons for them. She recognized that this simply was not going to happen. She considered herself too old to marry again. Essentially, Naomi wants Orpah and Ruth to understand that following her back to Judah would most likely mean a lifetime of widowhood for them. She does not expect any Israelite man to marry these foreign women in the land of Judah.

Orpah was persuaded to go back home. She kissed Naomi, left, and there is no further record of her activities. Ruth, on the other hand, was resolute. She chose to remain with Naomi. Here is where the love story begins!

#ruth

Studies in RUTH

I haven’t yet completed my daily posts for Judges, so we’ll go on to RUTH and then come back soon.

#ruth

God’s Kindness

The kindness of Boaz to Ruth is certainly like the kindness that God has shown sinners in sending Jesus, his son, to die for sins.

When Ruth was gleaning in the fields, Boaz saw her. The harvesters had told him she had been working hard all day. Boaz went to her and said, “Stay right behind the young women working in my field. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And, when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well,” (Ruth 2:8-9 NLT).

Thanking him, Ruth asked what she had done to deserve this kindness since she was a foreigner. Boaz said, “Yes, I know. But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband,” (Ruth 2:11 NLT).

Before we obeyed Christ, we were also foreigners, weren’t we? The apostle Paul wrote, “So, now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family,” (Ephesians 2:19 NLT).

What have I done, Lord, to deserve this kindness? “You are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people.”

Thanks be to God for the great gift of his son.

#boaz, #kindness, #ruth