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Category Archives: Ruth

The Elephant

Dear God, I’ve been praying through and thinking through these scriptures all week. I’ve looked at Moses on the mountain getting about eight chapters worth of instructions from you. I’ve looked at Peter talking in his second epistle about his experience at the Transfiguration. And I’ve looked at the Transfiguration itself. I’ve also layered on top of it the story of Naomi from the book of Ruth. These are the pieces of quilt I feel like you’ve given to me this week as I’ve prepared to preach tomorrow. So this morning, what I’d like to do is ask you to help me take these pieces and weave them together into the message that your Holy Spirit wants to deliver to the parishioners at the local Presbyterian church in the morning .

It starts, I think, with the old illustration of the blind men who each touch a different part of an elephant and then asked to describe the elephant. One describes the elephant as being a really long stump (the leg). One describe an elephant as an odd snake-type creature or really long, rough hose (the trunk). One describes it as a long smooth spear (the tusk). One describes it as a huge rough wall (the body). Another describes it as a thin, wiggly animal with some hair on the end (the tail). They are all accurate in their description of what they know, but they are wrong. They can’t see what we can see. They cannot see how the leg, trunk, tusk, body, and tail all work together to form one of the most majestic animals in the world.

That’s what you showed me in the story of Moses on the mountain. You were getting some business done with Moses. It was housekeeping time. It was paperwork time. You and Moses needed to spend some time together so that you could give him some marching orders for all of Israel. But the Israelites couldn’t see what was going on. All they saw was the cloud and the fire. For all they knew, you had grown angry with Moses and he was dead. If you would have asked them to explain what was going on they would have had no clue. Not even Moses really understood the whole picture, but you did. You could see what no one else could see.

Then we get the story of the Transfiguration. Another example of you tangibly showing up on a mountain and spending some time with your man. In this case, it was your son, Jesus, and he brought three friends (notably, you brought two friends of your own in Moses and Elijah). You know I’ve thought for a number of years that you did this because Jesus needed it. He was on his way to Jerusalem. He, at a minimum, had a good idea of what was coming if not complete knowledge of his impending future. I think he needed some affirmation and encouragement, and you provided it to him through your personal presence and affirmation as well as whatever he learned from Moses and Elijah. But what were Peter, John, and James doing there? If you asked them in that moment to describe what they had just experienced they would have said that Jesus is really powerful, and they had just gotten to see Moses and Elijah. Yes, Jesus kept talking about his death, but they didn’t really believe that. How could he possibly die? It’s almost like we look at the current stock market. How could it possibly start to lose? The piece of the elephant they could see what very small in the grand scheme of things. They didn’t understand the pressure Jesus was under or what he needed. They didn’t understand what you were doing for them in revealing the reality of Jesus being the Messiah to them through this story. That’s what the verses in 2 Peter are about. Peter, in retrospect, is telling his audience that he knows the Jesus story is real because of what he witnessed on that mountain. He and his two friends didn’t only hear some disembodied voice that could be explained away as a hallucination. They physically saw Elijah and Moses–so much so that it occurred to Peter to put up houses for them. You don’t build houses for spirits.

And then on the way down, they are still trying to make sense of what they had seen. They wondered if maybe seeing Elijah there was a fulfillment of the prophecy about Elijah preceding the Messiah. That’s when Jesus explains to them that they have already seen Elijah in John the Baptist. Jesus showed them just a little more of the elephant.

So why don’t you show us what is going on? Why do you keep us on a need-to-know basis? Why is it that I so rarely need to know? The answer is obvious. If we know any suffering or inconvenience that lies ahead we will most certainly avoid it. If I had known what answering your call to quit my stable job in 2003 would mean to my own discomfort and instability I might not have done it. If I had known some of the pain involved in parenting I might have avoided it. If Jacob had known that his relocation to Egypt would result in generations of slavery he might have let his family die in the desert. And that impoverished widow who Jesus saw put her two coins in the collection never knew that her faithfulness in the midst of her poverty would be a lesson to all of us for thousands of years.

And then there is Naomi. She was convinced you had turned on her. Mara. Call me Mara because God has made my life bitter. When I left I had everything, but now He has taken everything from me. The Lord has sent me nothing but tragedy and made me suffer. (Ruth 1:20-21) But she didn’t know. She didn’t know that you would use her situation and the loss of her husband and sons to bring Ruth to Bethlehem. She didn’t know that she would play a role, through her dead husband’s legacy, in setting Ruth up with Boaz. And she didn’t know that she would end up cuddling and raising King David’s grandfather, Obed. She didn’t know that Obed’s grandchild would kill Goliath and set up the country for its greatest period. She could only see a little piece of the elephant. But you were faithful to her.

What’s one other common thread in these stories. You gave each person affirmations along the way. They didn’t necessarily see them as affirmations. The Israelites didn’t understand that if Moses had just disappeared for 40 days with no cloud or fire they wouldn’t have necessarily believed him when he came back with the rules. Peter didn’t realize at the time that you had given him evidence of who Jesus was through witnessing the Transfiguration. And Naomi didn’t see it at the time, but if she had stopped feeling sorry for herself for a moment she would have seen that Ruth was there for her when she absolutely didn’t have to be. Naomi could have been left for dead, but you were there for her.

Father, help me to reach the level of faith where I don’t need to see what the elephant looks like to follow you joyfully. I don’t know what the lives of my children will look like. I can’t see how a decision they make in this moment will impact the next. I cannot see how my own actions will flow into history. But you have been good to me. You have been better to me than I deserve. I guess my simplest prayer is that I will decrease, you will increase, and I will worship you and do my best to love all of those around me with your love.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

Mothers of the Bible — Naomi (Part 2)

One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.” “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law. After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.” “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.” So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he returned to the town. When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?” Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.” So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.
Ruth 3,4:13-17

Dear God, as a widow in that time, Naomi was really pushing water uphill. She had so few options for herself, and she knew that if Ruth didn’t act soon she would be in the same boat. Did they manipulate Boaz? Yes. Did they use Boaz for his money and position? Sure. But in that system, did she have much choice?

Here’s what I like about this story that is subtle. The name “Mara” (Ruth 1:20) didn’t stick. You didn’t make her life bitter. In fact, through Ruth, you gave her hope. Through her son Kilion (presumably Kilion is the one who married Ruth), you brought this woman into her life who would look out for her. She didn’t know it. Had her husband not died and had her sons not died, they might have stayed in Moab forever. But with those deaths she was forced back to Judah and Bethlehem. She was forced back to what would become the City of David. And why did it become the City of David? Because her daughter-in-law, Ruth, would marry Boaz and have a son. And what did the women of Bethlehem (the future City of David) say to her?

Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to. you that seven sons!”

Not all of us will get to see even that beginnings of what you are doing like Naomi did. We don’t know if she ever saw David born, although it’s certain she never saw him as king or even kill Goliath. But she got to see Obed. She got to cuddle him and care for him. There was nothing about her any longer that fit the term Mara.

Father, my prayer right now is for everyone who feels like their name is Mara because they feel like you have made their life bitter. I saw a man in church this morning who was sitting alone. I noticed some things about him that made me wonder if he was there seeking you from a desperate place. I spoke to him briefly, and he didn’t indicate anything was wrong, but I at least wanted him to know that someone noticed him this morning and cared. I have some family members who are currently struggling. They might feel like the name Mara fits them. Help them to let go of that label. Help them to embrace your love. Help them to look for ways to extend love to others. Help them to take their eyes off of themselves and find ways to serve. And heal their wounds through your Holy Spirit and your presence. And help me to be there for them as well.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2020 in Mothers of the Bible, Ruth

 

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Mothers of the Bible — Naomi (Part 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. 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. Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 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. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband. 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. 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. 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. 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. And they said to her, “ No, but we will surely return with you to your people.” 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? 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, 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.” And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 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. 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.” When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. 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?” 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, 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?” 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

Dear God, Naomi is an interesting woman. It’s great that we get her story and Ruth’s story. Of course, Ruth’s claim to fame is that she ends up being David’s great grandmother, but there is no reason that we should have had this story at all except that someone chose to capture it and preserve it for us. And it all starts with a woman named Naomi and her quickly deceased husband, Elimelech.

There are a couple of things I notice about Naomi in chapter 1:

  • Her daughters-in-law love her very much.
  • She tries to do right by her daughters-in-law, even at her own expense.

She must have been a remarkable woman for Orpah and Ruth to exhibit so much love for her: Then she kissed them and they wept aloud and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.” Even Orpah didn’t want to leave, and I’m sure she was conflicted all of the way home and for the rest of her life. There was something about Naomi that had engendered great love and affection from Orpah and Ruth.

The fact that she tried to send her daughters-in-law away is also evidence of her love for them. She knew that she could not provide for them in the present or in the future. Their attachment to her was likely a death sentence–perhaps not in actual death (although possibly), but certainly in living out the rest of their lives as old widows. But letting go of them meant letting go of two people who might care for her and help her. She would be alone to fend for herself. Her selflessness in this story is remarkable.

Father, as I go through this day, help me to be selfless. Help me to be selfless with my wife, my children, and with those I encounter. Open my eyes to where I might be wrong. Show me how to act in any given situation. Help me to know when the Holy Spirit is moving me to action. Help me to be good about praying for continuously. Help me to love you with all of my heart, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2020 in Mothers of the Bible, Ruth

 

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Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups — The Threshing Floor (Ruth 3:6-13)


The above image is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “Ruth and Boaz (after Ben Zion)” and was created by Ned Bustard. 

So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law. After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.” “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”
Ruth 3:6-13

Dear God, I’ve spent some time looking at Ruth and Boaz, but I don’t know remember spending too much time thinking about Boaz himself. You know, trying to get into his skin. To do that, we have to go back to his introduction in chapter 2. Here are some verses in chapter 2 that are striking me about him and his character:

Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to water they have drawn from the well.” (Ruth 2:8-9)

Not only did Boaz provide food for her, but he also cast a net of physical protection over her. I have been reminded over and over again how vulnerable women are to physical harm. I was talking with a friend yesterday morning about our daughters and wishing we could protect them better. My wife and I have talked about her uneasiness walking in crowds and fear of being groped by an anonymous man walking by. These just aren’t fears that I have, but they are real and legitimate fears for women. In fact, until this morning, I don’t think I’ve ever given much thought to the physical danger Ruth was in by going out to glean in the fields. But Boaz thought about it.  Why did he care so much? What was it about Ruth that got his attention?

“Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” (Ruth 2:11-12)

I think that speaks for itself. So I guess my question is, were Ruth and Naomi manipulating Boaz in chapter 3? At the end of the day, I suppose this was part of the culture at the time. In fact, I don’t know that I’ll ever fully understand this story because I don’t understand the culture of that time and place enough. But I do know that this ended up being part of your plan because these two people became David’s great-grandparents. Boaz did a lot of wonderful things, but he never knew he had done this. He was faithful in what you had given to him to steward, and the results would have been beyond anything he ever would have dreamed.

I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t go back to this image by Bustard and at least say what he had to say about it in his book:

Ben-Zion Weinman (1897-1987) was a sculptor, painter, and printmaker. An emigrant from Ukraine, he came to the United States in 1920 and was a founding member of a 1930’s avant-garde group called “The Ten.” Curing the 1950s he completed several portfolios of expressionistic etchings/aquatints. This print is a reworking of one of those pieces from The Books of Ruth, Job, and Song of Songs portfolio. The Bible is ambiguous about what may or may not have happened that night on the threshing floor: Weinman leaves the way open for either reading of the passage in his visualization of the famous night. He depicts both people asleep under the starlight, the future great-grandmother of King David under a blanket at the feed of Boaz, who snores against a heap of grain.

I looked for the original, and I couldn’t be sure which image was the one that Bustard used as the inspiration, but it’s interesting to consider that the author of Ruth left the events of that night vague. I’d never considered that before. I just took it for what was written on the page. Perhaps I’m naïve.

Father, help me to be faithful this day. Help me to not look to my legacy or my future because I have zero idea how you might be using me. The author Gary Thomas said in one of his books (it might have been Sacred Parenting) that our role in history is to be born, possibly procreate, and then get out of the way. What you do with our lives after that is up to you. Help me to embrace that simplicity and to offer you this one life that I get on earth to further your kingdom and your glory.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Ruth 4:13-17

Ruth 4:13-17 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 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.” Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. 

Dear God, I never noticed it before, but after the baby is born it all becomes about Naomi and not Ruth. The women saw this baby as her guardian redeemer. I am guessing it’s because Boaz was now culturally obligated to care for Naomi because of the child. Regardless, the passage let’s us in on a secret that there was no way for any of them to know. Yes, you cared about Naomi and Ruth, but you had a special plan for one of Ruth’s great grandsons. 

This reminds me of a song we used to sing in church. It’s all about you. I don’t know where all this is going or how it all works out, but even in the midst of tragedy your eyes are moving to and fro throughout the earth to strongly support those whose hearts are completely yours. The support might not look like we expect or want, and we might never know what you were doing. But stories like this remind us that there is so much more to anything happening around us than we can see. 

Father, help me to faithfully live my day. Help me to help those who need you and help me to care for those around me. Help me to do it not for myself, but for your glory, your plan, and because it is simply what needs to be done. 

In Jesus’ name I pray, 

Amen 

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2017 in Ruth

 

Ruth 4:1-12

Ruth 4:1-12 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down. Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.” “I will redeem it,” he said. Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.” Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel. So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal. Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” 

Dear God, I feel like I’ve had a lot of familial duty lately. As a husband, father, brother and son, I have had responsibilities in each area. It has felt good to be able to be here for them, but it has also been stressful. It has been hard to know where to draw the line between helping and getting too involved. 

Father, give my wife and me wisdom to know what you would have us to do, and help us to recognize when we ourselves need help. Be glorified in us and help us to stay squarely in your will when it comes to the role you have for us to play in others’ lives. 

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen 

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2017 in Ruth

 

Ruth 3

Ruth 3:1-18 One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in 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. 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.” “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet! “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” “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. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.” So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.” He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and placed the bundle on her. Then he went back to town. When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?” Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.” 

Dear God, first, we don’t spend enough time reading the stories of the Old Testament. These are just some great reads. Yes, they are dated and tell us about customs that seem weird to us, but they are still instructive and they are also fun to read. 

That being said, everyone’s responses to their situation are very similar to what we would do now. Naomi is trying to solve some big problems for her and for Ruth and she is strategizing. Ruth is being obedient to Naomi as well as being loyal to her. As Boaz says, “All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” Her reputation precedes her. 

And then there is Boaz. He has a good idea he is being used here, but he legitimately sees it as an opportunity to help a good person. He knows Ruth doesn’t mean anything negative by it. It’s the way of their world. But Naomi and Ruth trusted Naomi’s plan because they knew what kind of man Boaz was. 

All the while, unbeknownst to them but knownst to us, this is all paving the way for David and Jesus’s earthly lineage. How cool is that? You took the time to share David’s back story and tell us about. Some good people in a hard time. 

Father, help me to be a good person. Help me to be wise. Help me to be generous. Help me to simply let go of myself and love you. 

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2017 in Ruth

 

Ruth 2:14-17

Ruth 2:14-17 14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her.16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.

 

Dear God, I have a friend right now in financial need, and it is hard to know how to help them. Where do I draw the line between helping and not helping? How do I keep from taking on too much of this friend’s burden? How do I keep from becoming codependent with them? I like to be a hero. How do I keep from falling into that trap, but instead listen for your still small voice as to what I am supposed to do?

Frankly, to help this friend would stretch us financially, and I have mixed feelings about that. One the one hand, I do have the money there and you have been very good to us. On the other hand, there is a part of me that doesn’t want to be foolish with the money in case we need it for something else.

I guess what is really bothering me is to hear how powerless this friend feels in their situation and how someone else in their life is using money to control them and put them in fear. I know people like that. I’ve seen the power they try to exercise over people and there is a part of me that wants to go in and neuter that power and keep them from being a bully.

I think of all of this because Boaz had some decisions to make about Ruth. She wasn’t the only woman gleaning in the field. But he knew her story of not only tragedy but honor. He appreciated it, respected it, and decided to do his best to honor it in a way that Ruth could still have her dignity.

Father, show my wife and me the way forward on this and the other issues that are before us. There are people for us to love. There are people on whom we need to use tough love. There are also situations in which we need to step back and let go. We need to trust you to be a provider for these people in your way. Perhaps that is through us. Perhaps it is through someone else. I think the thing I am hearing in this, however, is that, whatever we do, we need to do it in a way that gives our friend dignity.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2017 in Ruth

 

Ruth 2:1-13

Ruth 2:1-13

Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. 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.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

 

Dear God, there is something to be said for just being a nice guy. There is something to be said for empathy. Boaz didn’t realize it, but his actions in this moment were being recorded for all time. History was watching, and we found him faithful. He is now an example to us on how to treat someone who is less fortunate than us.

Ruth, of course, is an example as well. She didn’t realize history was watching her too. She didn’t know that, 5,000 years later, I would be sitting here on a Sunday morning before church thinking about her faithfulness to Naomi and her perseverance in the face of hardship.

So what will I do today? What kind of an example will I be to anyone who might take note of my life. What kind of servant will I be for you?

Father, give me the strength to remember that every moment of my day counts. That doesn’t mean that I have to be in action every moment of the day to be found faithful, but it does mean that I need to be about worshiping you in my thoughts, words, and deeds. Thank you for the people in the Bible who were found to be faithful to you in their daily lives. I always think of the widow that Jesus saw putting the two coins in the offering. Help me to do all of this, and to do it in the humility that comes from the recognition that I am your grateful servant.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2017 in Ruth, Uncategorized

 

Ruth 1:19-22

Ruth 1:19-22 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. 

Dear God, this story is great evidence that there can be reasons for our suffering other than sin in our lives. In the moment–in the fog of war–we can interpret tragedies in our lives as you abandoning us. But, as outsiders looking in on this story in retrospect, we know that Ruth has a destiny that required this path Israel’s destiny requires Naomi’s suffering. 

I confess that I hate to suffer. I want to be happy. I want to feel secure and safe. And I often choose the safe option instead of the bold option because I want to play it safe. And I also confess that there have been times (and continue to be times) when I don’t understand the suffering I’m experiencing. I’ve been upset with you about my suffering. I’ve gone full-fledged Naomi and complained to others about my suffering. 

Father, Naomi could have used the Serenity Prayer from AA, and I can always use it. Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2017 in Ruth