Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ruth's Story

The third woman in the lineage of Christ I am studying is Ruth. Her story began with Naomi and Elimelech, who were living in Bethlehem during a time that Israel was under God's discipline. Apart of God's discipline was a severe drought, so they decided to move their family to Moab, initiating a season of grief for Naomi. She grieved the loss of a familiar home, a familiar culture, and extended family. They moved because the rains had ceased, thirsty plants wilted, cows starved, and there family was experiencing hunger they could not fill and thirst they could not quench. They went to a green fertile place in Moab, which was steeped in pagan worship. While there, Naomi's husband died and her two sons married Moabite women, killing her hopes of ever returning home. 

Within ten years in Moab Naomi had buried her husband as well as both of her sons. Her grief became unbearable and she found herself once again longing for home. In her pain, she had come to believe the hand of God had come against her personally. She told her daughters-in-law to return to their families and to their gods so they could remarry. At first, both women protested. But when she reminded them she was too old to bear sons who could become their husbands, Orpah rose to return to her family. But, Ruth stood her ground, refusing to leave Naomi, declaring allegiance to her and to her God. Maybe Ruth believed that by holding on to Naomi she could hold on to the memories of her husband or maybe she had grown to love her and didn't want her to travel the dangerous roads alone. Whatever her reason, Ruth knew she might not be accepted in Judah and that she could possibly live the rest of her life as a widow in the midst of a culture she knew would never accept her. 

The two women arrived in Judah just as the barley and wheat fields was ready to be harvested. When the women in the community recognized Naomi they greeted her fondly, but Naomi asked to be called Mara, which means literally means "bitterly dealt with." I love her honesty and know there have been times I could relate to her feelings and wish I had been that honest with those around me instead of trying to cover up the pain I was feeling.

Ruth soon went to the barley fields to glean what the reapers left. She ended up gleaning in Boaz's fields. When Boaz saw her, he asked about her. Upon hearing she was the daughter-in-law of Naomi, he instructed her not to leave his fields and to stay with the women who were working for him. He provided her with water and with food and instructed the workers to pull grain from their bundles and leave it for her to find so she would have ample grain for Naomi and herself. He treated the young foreign widow with the upmost respect and protected her as she gleaned. This was important because a woman in her position was vulnerale to being mistreated or assaulted. 

When Ruth told Naomi about the grace and the kindness Boaz showed her, Naomi realized that her God had not forgotten her. She explained to Ruth Israel's provision for widows through a kinsman redeemer. At Naomi's instruction, Ruth bathed and anointed herself with perfume and went to the threshing floor and uncovered the feet of Boaz and laid there. He awakened and she asked him to be her kinsman redeemer. Even in the darkness of the night with a woman lying at his feet, Boaz integrity was impeccable. He listened to her and treated her with godly respect. He knew there was a closer rleative with the right of redemption, and he wanted to be able to legally take Ruth as his wife. As soon as it was light enough for her to go home safely, he sent her on her way, protecting both her reputation and her purity. He asked for the right to marry her from the relative nearer than he and it was granted. I love Boaz and his heart. He was the son of Rahab (the harlot) and Salmon (the founder of Bethlehem) and they raised him in such a way that he was a compassionate, loving, man of integrity who did everything he could to be loving and to show Ruth honor and favor. 

I love this story because it is an honest account of woman who had suffered a great loss and for a season experienced deep grief. It is also an account of a woman who in spite of the grief she was experiencing was able to rise up and choose to love her bitter mother-in-law well. And it was that love that led Ruth to follow Naomi to Judah and enabled her to leave her own culture and her pagan gods and embrace a new and different culture and the great and mighty Jehovah-Jirah.

Maybe God placed Ruth in the family line of Christ to show us the importance of being tenacious followers of God. Ruth was so tenacious she didn't let Naomi's desire to isolate deter her from walking her to Judah. She didn't let Naomi's bitterness deter her from choosing to love and care for her. She didn't let Naomi's tainted view of God deter her from fully trusting Jehovah to be her God. She was so tenacious that she didn't let Naomi's sadness or her status as a foreign woman deter her from trying to provide for her. 

Maybe God put Ruth in the family line of Jesus to show us God cares for those who are suffering in the aftermath of loss. It doesn't matter whether the losses are people, possessions, the sense of security, one's health, or one's dreams--the pain of loss is very real and our God fully understands it because of the cross. We would do well to remember though our losses cause pain, they are not proof that God doesn't love us. Nor are they proof that He doesn't care about the pain we are experiencing. Just as Ruth's losses were what propelled her from a place of poverty to a place of wealth, our losses have the potential to open up new things in our lives. Ruth's loss also propelled her to be in the place she needed to be to become the great grandmother of King David and to be a part of the family line of Jesus.  

Maybe God put Ruth in Christ lineage to show us how leaning into Jesus in faith during loss can provide us the opportunity to see God work the things that are happening in our lives out for our good and His glory in ways that we can't even imagine. God saw her faith and her heart and He honored it in the sweetest and most inclusive way. What might be the hidden treasures in the darkness we are experiencing right now?  

Maybe God put her in the lineage of Christ to show us that "God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him." (Acts 10-34-35) This means He is an inclusive God. He doesn't discriminate on our gender, on what we believed before we came to know Him, on what family we grew up in, on the sin with which we struggle, on the race we were born into, or what country we come from. Jesus' invitation is for whoever will believe on the name of Jesus. He placed Ruth in Jesus' family line to remind us that in His family there are no outsiders and there are no second class citizens.
Maybe He put her in the lineage of Christ to show us that we don't need to compromise our integrity to have our needs met. We can trust a God who was willing to die for us to meet our needs on a daily basis. We don't have to manipulate or lie to get what we need. He will provide.

Ruth being in the lineage of Christ reminds us Jesus understands our grief. He understands the pain parents feel standing over the grave of a child lost too soon. He understands the pain a widow feels as she watches her spouse slip into eternity. He understands the grief that comes when a marriage ends and the grief an infertile couple feels every month. He understands the grief of watching houses burn to the ground or floods washing away crops and animals. He understands the loss experienced when a family member is injured and forever changed. 

I can't help but think that there is significant meaning in this story of a Israelite man marrying a Moabite woman being set in Bethlehem, which means "The House of Bread." I can't help think that it taking place just as the barley and wheat are harvested is no coincidence. This would be taking place during the feast of weeks and in Leviticus 23 we see that God had instructed Israel to bring two wave loaves made of flour and baked with leaven to be the first fruits to the Lord. Could the two loaves of bread possibly represent the faithful disciples in both the old and new dispensations? Could they represent the two separate, but now fused races of people who comprise the church--the Jews and the Gentiles? How neat for Ruth to not only be a forerunner of the Savior, but a reminder to every gentile that they, too, have been fully fused into the family line of Jesus. 

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!