Monday, January 9, 2012

Ruth 2-4

Welcome. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year. Next week at Coffee you will have a great time discussing how you kept Christ in the holidays. If you would like more time to socialize come about 15 min. early, we will start core at 7:30.
When we discuss the book of Ruth, most women remark how they enjoy the tender love story. Almost like Cinderella, the hero rescues the poor widow from her life of back breaking work. We have to believe God had a greater purpose for this book in relationship to the coming of the Messiah. Let’s look at the historical and religious significance of the book of Ruth.
The book of Ruth was written during the time when Gideon was Judge and may have at one time been included in the book of Judges.  By New Testament times, Ruth was included with 4 other scrolls called the Five Megilloth to be read aloud during Jewish Holy Days in this order: Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. Ruth was read aloud publically at the Feast of the Harvest since most of the story was set during the time of the harvest.
Ruth the Moabitess, a Gentile, is one of four women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. She was a descendant of Terah, Abraham’s father. The last chapter in the book of Ruth documents the “seed of Abraham” passing to David, the ancestor of both Joseph and Mary.
Even the setting of the book of Ruth, Bethlehem, is significant in the fact that Jacob’s wife Rachel died here and now, Boaz, the descendent of Jacob’s other wife Leah, will marry a young Moabite widow and preserve the line of the promised Messiah. The story of Boaz and Ruth is a beautiful picture which foreshadows Boaz as a prophetic type of Christ and His Bride, the Church.  Jesus is our kinsman redeemer, coming to Bethlehem to redeem us as his gentile Bride.  LET US PRAY.
Open your bibles to the book of Ruth.
THE HESED OF GOD-Uncommon love giving sacrificially without thinking of self.
·        Naomi
·        Ruth
·        Boaz
The principle of hesed is pictured by all three leading the characters in the book of Ruth. There is no one English word which can adequately explained the full meaning of the word hesed. Kindness, mercy, loyalty, unfailing love, Hesed is a strong Hebrew word which sums up the ideal lifestyle for God’s people. The “Love your neighbor as yourself” commanded by Jesus. Hesed is driven not by duty or legal obligation, but by a deep commitment-a loyal, selfless love that motivates a person to do voluntarily what no one has the right to expect or ask of them. Hesed is the gospel lived out in our lives. Hesed is something you do, not merely a good intention.
Memories of my childhood replay in my head, on Sunday we usually had fried chicken. Not a package of breast as I buy now, but a cut up chicken with the neck and the liver and the gizzard. What piece did your Mother eat? I can remember the grappling of four girls for the choicest pieces. My mother almost always ended up with a back or a wing. Mom never complained and seemed quite content. She was showing hesed for her family. Self sacrifice was her way of life. I think a mother’s love is the closest thing on earth to the hesed of Christ.
Naomi is the first to show the principle of hesed through her loving sacrifice. Naomi prays for her daughters-in-law in an unselfish desire to release them of the expected duty to her and urges them to return home.
Ruth 1: 8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. 9 May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
Orpah responds logically and returns to her family house. Ruth however shows hesed to Naomi by denying herself the comfort and familiarity of home. Ruth continues with Naomi.
v. 16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”  What a beautiful display of self-sacrificing love for the benefit of another!
It was Naomi’s life and faith in God that was a catalyst for Ruth’s conversion and Christ-like love.  What an great influence she must have been to this Moabitess.
It is no coincidence that Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem in time for the barley harvest. Barley is more drought-resistant than wheat. While it is Ruth who suggests gleaning as a means of support for the two widows, it is no random incident that she is in the field of Boaz.
V.3 As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.  This, my friends, is the providential dealing of the Almighty God.
Notice how Boaz, a man of wealth and good character, greets his workers and their response.
4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you!”
   “The LORD bless you!” they called back.
This is no accidental meeting of Boaz and Ruth. The next words of this wealthy landowner are regarding a poor foreign woman gleaning in his fields.
 5 Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?”  
Boaz calls her my daughter, when he encourages her to stay in his fields and glean nowhere else.  He is providing hesed above and beyond the requirements of the law, as he offers her protection among his own servant girls and a ready supply of water whenever she is thirsty.
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”  Ruth is humble and gracious to her benefactor. Boaz acknowledges Ruth’s hesed (sacrificial kindness) to Naomi.
 11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.
Boaz had heard good things about this young widow who returned with Naomi from Moab. He asks the LORD’s blessings on her.
12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
Gleaning has got to be back breaking work. Compare it to picking up toys or clothes off the floor or the bending to pull weeds-you know how that feels. Not only has Ruth been working from morning until evening, but she also has to thresh the barley.  Ruth returned to Naomi with an ephah (about a bushel or more than 7 gallons) of barley and also leftover roasted grain from her meal. Naomi must have been home worrying all day about the safety of Ruth, and now she peppers her with questions.
19 “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”
Naomi turns from bitter “Mara” to pleasant, loving Naomi as her name states. Through this kindness of Boaz, she is realizing that God has not forgotten her or withdrawn His HESED.
 20 “The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.”
In v.22 Naomi remarks it is good for Ruth to stay with the servant girls of Boaz because she could be harmed in someone else’s field. It was brave of Ruth to go out into the fields and work until evening. She was in potential danger and could have been shunned and ostracized as a foreigner, especially one from Moab.
In the book of Ruth, the most frequent references to God are found in the prayers of God’s people.  Look carefully to find a prayer in every chapter. Prayers asking God to be present, to bless, to guide, to reward, to prosper with family and with fame. These prayers underscore the conviction that God is paying attention, that he notices acts of kindness, that what they do matters to Him, that he has it in his power to act or in Naomi’s case to allow suffering to come.
In our lives, as in Naomi’s, some pain must come. If we were able, as God is, to see the beginning of time as well as the end, then we could know the divine plan in our suffering and how it fits is God scheme of things. Our pain and disappointments may, as in Naomi and Ruth’s life, be an unseen piece of the puzzle. If Naomi had not brought Ruth back with her from Moab, Ruth would not have conceived a child who would an ancestor to King David. And Jesus would not be born in Bethlehem.
My life is but a weaving between my God and me,
I do not choose the colors; He works so steadily.
Oft times He weaves in sorrow, and I in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper, and me the underside.

Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly,

Will God unroll the canvas, and explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful in the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.
God in His hesed had a plan for Ruth and he has a plan for you.
Boaz displays hesed (goodness) beyond the responsibilities of the land owner. He has taken a special interest in Ruth.
 Naomi begins her match making in Chapter 3. Custom requires the father of the bride to negotiate a marriage. In lieu of a father, Ruth must approach Boaz. Harvest lasted about seven weeks and the men are celebrating with much feasting and drinking.  It seems Boaz is already smitten. He just needs a little push to remember his obligation to the widows.
1 One day Naomi, her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home[a] for you, where you will be well provided for? 2 Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. 3 Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
Some believe Ruth was dressed as a bride, which could be possible. She most likely is throwing off her widow’s garb. Uncovering Boaz’s feet was to let the cool air awaken him. When Boaz is jolted awake, Ruth is in a submissive posture at his feet. She is quite bold to ask him to, “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.”  Ruth is letting him know she is through mourning and is available for marriage.  
Boaz’s response is somewhat surprising; instead of rebuking her for coming to him in the night, he offers praise.
10 “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.
Ruth as a bride has little to offer from society’s standpoint. She has no wealth, no dowry, no political standing. Ruth is a barren, impoverished, foreign widow.
When Ruth asks Boaz to spread his cover over her this was a symbol of commitment. A custom that is still common among some Arab cultures.
12 Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
Again all three players in this event are selflessly seeking the best for one another.
·        Naomi was seeking a husband and a home for Ruth. Naomi surely knew the closer relative, the one who legally could redeem the property of Elimelech. Naomi’s plan was not about redeeming the land. Her hesed put her daughter-in-law’s happiness before her own.
·        Ruth is appealing to both the levirate and the kinsman redeemer laws. She proposes to bear a child to carry on Naomi’s family name, what a bold act of faith.
·        Boaz realizes there is a closer kinsman. He honors Ruth by keeping her safe and pure during the night. Boaz a man of integrity and standing in the community will bring this matter before witnesses.
Although in all likelihood Boaz did not cover Ruth, committing to marriage. He does send her home with a substantial amount of barley, perhaps a bride price.
In chapter four, Boaz carefully words the duty of the kinsmen redeemer before ten elders. The nearest kinsman refuses to risk his own estate by fathering a child with the widow, said to Boaz “buy it yourself” and took off his sandal to legalize the transaction. Boaz accepts.
The elders and those at the gate wish blessing on “the woman who is coming into your home” to have many sons and build up the house of Israel.
The blessing of the women of Bethlehem was to Naomi and they predict that the name of Ruth’s first born will be famous. The author of the book of Ruth carefully lists the lineage.
14-15 “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
God is the true hero in this story. His boundless love provided a kinsman-redeemer for us. Jesus redeemed us and gave us life and a future.