March 10, 2015.
Daily Reading: Ruth 1-4.
Background: The book of Ruth details a story of two widowed woman, a mother and her daughter-in-law, in the time when Judges lead Israel. The book was likely composed or finalized during the time of the kings, specifically during the reign of David or immediately following, judging from internal clues in the book. Ruth reveals a positive story that shines a faint light on the mostly immoral actions that went on during the time of the Judges (see Judges 1-5).
Concepts and Connections.
1. Tragedy: Though the majority of this story is filled with hope and success, it starts out in tragedy. A man by the name of Elimelech and his wife Naomi had two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. Within the first few verses we learn of Elimelech’s death, and then not but a couple of verses down do we learn of Mahlon and Chilion’s death (though ten years had passed). All of this was in the midst of a famine in the land, apparently which had gone on for a long time. The tragedy had taken so much of a toll on Naomi that when she returned to her home town of Bethlehem and the people were surprised to see her, she told them to no longer call her Naomi (which means ‘pleasant’), but rather Mara (which means ‘bitter’) since the Lord had dealt bitterly with her. Things would indeed turn around for the family as the story goes on, but it certainly begins in tragedy. Let us not lose heart when tragedy comes upon us, but let us rather cling to the Lord as our hope and guide.
2. Ruth’s Loyalty: A very interesting aspect of the story of Ruth has to do with her committed loyalty to Naomi and even Naomi’s people and culture. Ruth’s loyalty is revealed in the first chapter as she clings to Ruth without wavering, even though Ruth tries to send her daughter-in-laws away to their home country so that they can live full lives with their own people. Orpah eventually heeds Naomi’s words and returns, but Ruth refuses. She tells Naomi that she will go wherever Naomi goes, take Naomi’s people as her people and take her God as her God. The loyalty of Ruth is phenomenal, as Boaz would point out in 2:11-12, calling the Lord’s blessings on her for all that she has done. We can look to the loyalty of Ruth and set her as an example in this to follow, putting our loyalty to the Lord and living loyal lives before men, true to our word.
1. Gleaning: In chapter two, we find Ruth asking Naomi to let her go glean in the fields of Boaz in order to find favor in his sight. The children of Israel were commanded by God to not harvest their full crop, but rather to leave some of it behind so that the sojourner and the poor could glean from it to gather food to eat (see Leviticus 19:9-10). This principle was set forth by God in order to protect and provide for the poor, as well as to teach Israel to love their neighbor as their self. Naomi and Ruth were certainly poor after all that had happened to them, thus it would have been a logical step to glean from the fields to find food. Gathering food, however, did not seem to be Ruth’s primary goal.
2. Driven purpose: Like her loyalty mentioned above and her characteristic of humility before Boaz mentioned in this chapter, there is yet another attribute that Ruth possesses that makes her a good model for us to aspire to be: her drive. When she asks Naomi to go glean in the fields of Boaz at the beginning of this chapter, she doesn’t say about Boaz, “to see if I find favor in his eyes,” but rather “in whose sight I shall find favor.” This sounds a lot like a driven purpose. Ruth was in need of a redeemer, and she knew that Boaz was a kinsmen of Naomi. Thus, she set out with a purpose to find favor in his eyes. And her drive would certainly pay off. Boaz indeed took notice of her in the field and told her to stay with his young women, so that she would be protected. He ordered that none of the men should touch her. Then Ruth continued to glean in the field of Boaz until the end of the harvests of both barley and wheat. Ruth’s drive was not only present at the beginning of her mission, but it carried through with steadfast endurance, waiting for her redemption. When we are to do something for the Lord, let us put on the driven purpose of Ruth so as to make it happen and see it through to the end. Let us, too, remember the words of Paul when he said to do everything with our whole heart, as for the Lord and not for men (see Colossians 3:23-34).
Taking action: Climbing to the climax of the story, we see here that Naomi bids Ruth to take action. Ruth has been gleaning in the field Boaz with the young women throughout the harvest. Namoi tells Ruth that it is time to make something happen. Thus she instructs Ruth to go and cover the feet of Boaz after he went to sleep of the threshing floor. This would indeed be a bold move on Ruth’s part, but she did all that Naomi had instructed her to do. When Boaz woke up in the middle of the night to find a woman at his feet, he asked who she was. Ruth told her who she was and asked him to redeem her. She had taken the matter into her own hand to produce an effect. And it worked. Boaz was pleased with what she had asked, but he knew that there was a redeemer closer than him who should have the first option to redeem Ruth. Now it was his turn to take action, which he would do in the following chapter, bringing up the problem to the closer redeemer and forcing a decision, for he knew that he would redeem Ruth if the closer redeemer would not. Too often do we sit around and wait for things to happen instead of taking the actions necessary to produce the effect. Let us take the encouragement of Naomi and example of Ruth here to stop waiting and take action.
The kinsman-redeemer: Finally the pivotal moment in the story has come as we see Boaz set up the meeting that would determine Ruth’s redemption. In the presence of elders, Boaz bring up the fact that Naomi is selling the land that belonged to Elimelech and tells the man that he is the closest kinsmen, thus asking if he would redeem it. The man at first agrees to buying the land, but when Boaz reminds him that he too will have to redeem Ruth and raise up an inheritance for her late husband and the family of Elimelech, the man realizes that he cannot redeem her, lest he mess up his own inheritance. Thus, Boaz agrees in the presence of the elders to redeem the land and Ruth, which was confirmed by the man removing his sandal and giving it to Boaz, an interesting insight to the customs of Israel during the time of the judges. Boaz and Ruth then go on to be in the lineage of David, and further to the lineage of Christ, the Messiah (see Matthew 1:5).
If this were all there were to the story, it would indeed provide a light in a time of darkness, and it would tell an inspiring story of the life of the great grandmother of King David. This story, however, provides yet more, as it is an archetype of Christ, our kinsman-redeemer. We can draw wonderful parallels between Boaz and Christ, as well as parallels between Ruth and us today. Ruth was in darkness, the midst of calamity, in need of redemption. So, too, were we before we were washed in the blood of Christ. We were in desperate need of a Redeemer who would come bear our sins. Ruth was also in need, just as we are, of a protector and a provider. In the story, Boaz possess three characteristics that parallel that of the Christ. First, Boaz was wealthy and honorable. This is seen through the man power he had during the harvest and his financial ability to redeem Ruth. Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, crowned with glory and honor (see Hebrews 2:9, 3:3, II Peter 1:17 and Revelation 4:9-11, 5:12-13). Secondly, Boaz was willing to redeem Ruth, so much so that he brought up the matter that had seemed to have gone ignored by the closer redeemer. Christ made it abundantly clear that He willingly laid down His life for His sheep (see John 10:7-18), and humbled Himself to the will of the Father, even unto the cross (see Philippians 2:5-8). However, if Boaz had only been wealthy and willing, this would not have been enough. He also had to be worthy. He is called a worthy man in 2:1, but what made him worthy to redeem was the fact that the closer relative was not worthy and could not redeem Ruth. Thus, Boaz became worthy. Christ was He who was worthy to bear our sins on the cross, living a sinless life to make a ransom for our souls. The first chapter of Hebrews talks about the worthiness of Christ, above the angels, to purify our sins. As John peered into heaven to see the majesty set before him, he writes of elders, living creatures and myriads upon myriads of angels “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (ref. Revelation 5:11-12). Christ our Redeemer is indeed worthy. Let us praise God for His gift to us, and the wonderful archetypes of Christ He as revealed to us through the scriptures.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 27-29.
Praise God for our redemption!