Archive for February, 2021

A true love story with a divine twist; Boaz and Ruth. Chapter 2.1-7

February 27, 2021

“There are no accidents” said Master Oogway

Before we start let us talk about Boaz.  One commentary said that Boaz was probably a judge from Bethlehem.  Indicators for this could be that he owned land, he had lots of servants and he was a respected leader.  This story is not about wealth though, I think it is more to do with faith in God and duty to God and his close relatives.

Before we begin let us read Ruth chapter 2 first and then we can go into the text and start to interrogate it reverentially

1 Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favour.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”

Here we learn definitely who Boaz was; He was a kinsman of Naomi’s husband from Jerusalem and he was wealthy.   In verse 2 we have the opposite; Naomi and Ruth who have nothing and destitute.  Ruth would have known this, and she would have also known that Boaz’ field was the safest due to Naomi being a close relative.  Ruth shows complete obedience to Naomi her mother in law when she asked permission to go and glean so that they could have a meal.  Naomi gives her blessing for this enterprise, so she went to glean. 

We need to be careful when we read this story not to read into it the American dream.  It has nothing to do with the American dream and all to do with God’s love for those who are his.

3 So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the LORD be with you.” And they said to him, “May the LORD bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. 7 And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus, she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.”

Verse 3

Ruth did not know Boaz when she was gleaning at first.  It says she “happened to come” by chance on Boaz’ field.   This was part of the divine plan.  In the divine plan there are no accidents such as these. 

Verse 4-5

Boaz was not a selfish man and he was a God fearer.  We know this because he is fulfilling God’s law by allowing the poor and needy on to his property to glean and have some food as it says in the Torah

19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. Deuteronomy 24:19

All three are represented in Ruth. Naomi was a widow and Ruth’s mother in law.  Ruth can be considered an orphan because she gave up her parents to follow the God of Israel and she was a foreigner.  Boaz acted on this commandment.  He was a righteous man and everything about him was righteous.  He had pure motives. 

Verse 5-7

Boaz wants inside knowledge of the people in his field.  He finds out that Ruth was gleaning and was the daughter in law of Naomi a close kinsman of Elimelech her dead husband.  He found out that not only did Ruth Glean but she gleaned for the whole day and was weary and tired.  Ruth was a hard worker who also had good manners.  She didn’t just come onto his property, but she asked the helpers if she could.   This is a beautiful romantic divine love story that shows God’s caring hand in it. 

Boaz and Ruth! Ancestors of King David.  We are now into the second chapter and already God is doing something wonderful.  God knows who are his own.  Although Ruth is a Moabitess, she has an eternal destiny and as long as this story is told of her she will always be remembered.

Boaz and Ruth are not only important for the Jewish faith but also for the Christian faith. 

5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Matthew 1:5

32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, Luke 3:32

Matthew mentions the women as well who were in the genealogy whereas Luke only mentions the sons. 

We started with Kung Fu Panda and the quote that there are no accidents.  We can believe that in this story of love it was no accident. We can go further and say that if we love and trust God our lives are destined to go on that exciting journey to be with the Lord Jesus for eternity.

How loyal are you to loving God and your neighbour? Ruth shows true loyalty to God and her neighbour and she will not be forgotten by the passage of time. Ruth Chapter 1.14-22

February 20, 2021

Before we start; let us read this section of Ruth.

14 And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

19 So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

22 So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth 1:14-22

Commentary

So we saw that Naomi was dedicated to the Lord.  Although her future seemed completely destroyed God was active and at work on her behalf and Ruth’s behalf as she had great faith in the face of adversity.   So Orpah cried, kissed her mother in law and left back to her people.   Ruth clung onto Naomi and it is in the perfect form.   As Orpah was leaving Ruth was clinging and it is in the cal perfect 3rd person singular.  Ruth was already determined to stay with Naomi even before Naomi tried to discourage her from going to Bethlehem with her.  Still Naomi was trying to persuade Ruth to go back to the old life.  Naomi said look your sister in law has gone back (cal perfect).  Orpah is gone and she is not coming back, that’s what the cal perfect means here.   but Ruth did not, on the contrary what did she say?

16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus, may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

This is packed with information about the determination of Ruth. Ruth is clinging and this clinging is a symbol of staying around way into the future.   Then when Ruth speaks it is in the imperfect with will.  The imperfect carries the idea that it is not a completed state but rather takes Naomi into a future relationship.  She hasn’t left like Orpah this is a continual state and into the future and Ruth will die as a true Jew worshipping the Lord.  The story continues in the imperfect into verse 19 when the villagers ask if this is Naomi.  They were excited.  Naomi was really sad and she says a few things in the perfect as if this was the end of the situation;

20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” NASB

From Naomi’s point of view there was disaster from the Lord and the destiny of Elimelech’s name was going to be cut off.  She is thinking in the perfect.  The men died (Perfect); Orpah left her (perfect). The Lord has acted bitterly towards her (Perfect).  Naomi’s personal world had collapsed and in her soul, she was a broken woman (on the surface of things.)

Verse 22. 

The return was a real thing and these verbs are in the perfect.  It looks like Naomi and Ruth’s situation is now going to start to change for the better.    The reason I say this is because Deuteronomy tells us about the widow, orphan and foreigner. God will fight their case.  Rabbi Sacks made this point in a you tube video where he talks about Ruth and Naomi.

Deuteronomy 10:18 says,” 18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the stranger by giving him food and clothing.”

These are indicators from the Torah.  Naomi is a true widow.  Ruth is a true foreigner.  God says that they will not be abandoned. Ruth also has no family as her family is Naomi.  Naomi has also come to a place of the first beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.  God will step in, there is no question about tha

The Dire Situation of Naomi; Ruth 1;6-13

February 14, 2021
Photo by Haley Black on Pexels.com

Let us begin by reading verses 6 through to 13

What can we learn from verses 6-13

6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the LORD had visited His people in giving them food. 7 So she departed 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. 8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, but we will surely return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.” Ruth 1:6-13

In Chess a knight might move back to make progress.  Life can be like that.  A family went out and the vestiges of a family returned.  Naomi and Ruth.  The future looks quite bleak.

Naomi heard that the famine in Judah had finished and that there was food.  The bread winners for the family were dead in Moab.  Even when Naomi returns who says they will have any security?

Verse 7

Naomi being the head of the house released the two daughters in law to return to the families they came from so that they could find new husbands.  Naomi would return then to face her shame of failing to get an heir for her husband.

Verse 8.

If this was a worldly situation there would be no hope because on the face of things Elimelech’s name would soon be forgotten.  But something amazing is happening; Naomi is trusting God. She is not trusting herself. May the Lord deal kindly and May the Lord grant…  Most verbs in this chapter are in the Hebrew the active form. The imperfect is not a completed action the story keeps on moving forward.  Here in verse 8;

 h6213a. עָשָׂה asah; a prim. root; do, make:– 

(From Olive tree Bible software.)

This root verb here in the story takes on the perfect form. In other words a completed action.

The women had kept to their duty to the dead and Naomi.  There duty was ‘complete’.  They were now released from their obligations and were free to go back to Moab and find new husbands.  This is a very serious situation in Judaism; the cutting off of a line of a Jewish family.  Naomi would have to live with this until she died and then she also would be forgotten in the annals of time.  However, Naomi never spoke against the Lord.  She was completely faithful and devoted.

Verses 9-13 goes back into the active story mode. She tries to put her daughters off from following her.

Even though things have gone against her and she is suffering with these two ladies, it looks like a hopeless situation.  At the end of verse 13 she says, “the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.” 

She is stating fact about her situation, but she is not blaming God.  The Lord in the Old Testament is moving and living.  Brueggemann shows this in his writings and how the verbs are used.

When things go against you; How do you as a believer deal with the situation? Naomi is sad and upset about the situation, but she has not lost her faith.  Her faith is being tried out as if in a furnace.  She is a tough lady of faith and will accept whatever the future throws at her alone before her Lord. 

Reflection

As a teenager all those years ago, I heard a preacher talk about this in a prosperity mode.  Although blessing is involved, it is not the main point of this story.  This is about our devotion to God and for this Jewish family it is God’s covenant devotion to the family.  Even in dire situations God is acting for the good of his people.  We sometimes cannot see the good, but it is a relationship of quiet worship and trust.  The Lord Loves Naomi and what looks like on the surface a broken situation that can never be fixed.

This inner spiritual strength is not her doing but it will be found in the greatest king of Israel in the Old Testament; King David.

Is there a future after destruction?

February 11, 2021

Let us start by reading the first few verses from the book of Ruth

Naomi Widowed
1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 4 They took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband. Ruth 1:1-5 NASB

So, the story starts from this very old town in Bethlehem.  It was at the time of the Judges.  Joshua had defeated most that lived in that land in fair combat.  After the main wars a time of peace and prosperity must have entered the area.  Unfortunately, the text says that there was a famine in Bethlehem. 

As we found out in the book of Genesis God made Joseph second in command over the whole of Egypt to protect life and the lives of those who belonged to Jacob.

This man made the decision to leave the area and go to Moab.  Obviously, he took his wife and two sons.  The American dream forced on him and his family because of necessity. If we were in the same situation of Elimelech, we would certainly be tempted to move away from the small town of Bethlehem. 

The names of this family also have meanings.

“  The realistic nature of the story is established from the start through the names of the participants: the husband and father was Elimelech, meaning “My God is King”, and his wife was Naomi, “Pleasing”, but after the deaths of her sons Mahlon, “Sickness”, and Chilion, “Wasting”, she asked to be called Mara, “Bitter”.[4]

Taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Ruth

Elimelech and Naomi were G-d fearing.  ‘My God is king’ and ‘Pleasing’.  The father died and their boys married foreigners.  The father probably would not have liked these marriages to those outside of the faith.  Anyhow the boys died.  Naomi is left devastated.   This is a very serious situation for Naomi and her tradition.  Elimelech’s name seems to be getting blotted out.  Elimelech whose name means G-d is my king is going to be forgotten in Moab.  Naomi’s integrity seems to be thrown back in her face as the pleasing one has inherited a very displeasing situation.  These Ephraphites (fruitful) through the two sons of Sickness and Wasting  have become very unfruitful.   This is a dire situation:

How will God start to change this dire situation?

There are two interpretations for the name that I know of.

  • Bethlehem means house of Bread
  • Bethlehem means the house of Lahmu.
  • Beth-lahm  in Arabic means house of meat.

In the ancient Middle East visiting various ‘houses’ was not uncommon as these houses were usually temples.  So its original meaning for me would be the House of Lahmu but after the area passed into a monotheistic religion the name ended up as a place name that is easier to say for the local people. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lahmu

Reflection so far

Everyone faces a crisis situation sometime.  We have plans for the future, but something happens, and our future seems to be ruined.  How do we deal with this situation?

The socially rejected woman who can teach us a lesson or two about faith and how to live.

February 6, 2021

The book of Ruth is a jewel of a book after Judges and before Samuel.  No one has claimed to be the writer of this book.  My own opinion is that it was written during the time of King David or after king David had died.  My reasoning for this is that the Book itself shows that Ruth the Moabitess was in the genealogy of King David.  She was a great woman of faith.  

A friend of mine when I was 16, Edith Heaton gave me a tape with the following song on it.  It is a Lullaby, but it talks about the faith of Ruth.

This was sung by Nancy HoneyTree: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Honeytree

When I think of this song I think of Edith.  She used to pray that God would allow her to walk again but she never did.  She had a deep evangelical faith from the AOG Pentecostal tradition.  She said to me that being in a wheelchair was a way to reach a lot of people with the Gospel, people who were also in her situation. 

The Gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ. Paul said;”If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your hear that God raised him from the dead, You will be saved!” (From memory) Added to this the word Gospel ‘euangelion’ has a history. When armies returned from a successful battle it was good news. This was from an Old commentary I read on the Gospel of Mark. (From Memory) Later on if I remember we can look at this.

Anyhow at the moment I am doing some background reading for this lovely book and next week we can start to look into it deeper.