The Rest of Ruth

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When Hope Seems Lost – Ruth 4
Naomi at the beginning of Ruth acts as if she has no hope. She knew she wouldn’t have more children and had nothing to offer Ruth. She was bitter and would rather go back to her homeland to live out her days as a jaded widow. However, this was not at all God’s plan and we can see God’s redemptive plan in 3 major areas. The first starts with Ruth. She is adamant in her conviction to stay with Naomi—God had captured her heart in Moab and he was able to work out his redeeming plan for Naomi’s family through her. Secondly the preserving of Boaz for Ruth shows God at work. In an online article on Ruth from desiringgod.org the author states, “But all the while God is preserving a wealthy and godly man named Boaz to do just that. The reason we know that this was God’s doing is that Naomi herself admits it in 2:20. She recognizes that behind the “accidental” meeting of Ruth and Boaz was the “kindness of God who has not forsaken the living or the dead.” Lastly, Ruth was previously married for 10 years and bore no children. In God’s redemptive work once Boaz and Ruth were married he opened Ruth’s barren womb and she bore a son. In some of the most hopeless situations God chooses to work mightily for his glory and to make himself known. So many pieces had to align in this account that we see God’s hand at work. Make sure to be fervent in prayer over hopeless situations. You never know how God is planning to work—His ways are higher than our ways!
Lineage of David – Covenant Blessing
Family is very near to God’s heart and has been an integral part of the Jewish culture since antiquity. In the earliest prophecies we see allusions to lineage such as “the seed of the woman” in the first messianic prophecy in Genesis. The Abrahamic covenant is a blessing pertaining to the descendants out numbering stars in the sky and sand in the sea shore. Then we see the importance of the birthright blessing between Jacob and Esau. God works through families and heritage and blessing being passed through the family line is a very important aspect to Jewish culture. For this reason Naomi thought her line had ended and that she also had no immediate hope of being cared for by her family. However, God blesses this faithful and righteous family by including them in the line of David. The last verses of Ruth 4 may seem like an after thought but it is a monumental indication of God’s favor. We find that the child of Ruth and Boaz is the grandfather to David, one of the greatest kings of Israel and ultimately in the line of Christ—the awaited Messiah and Savior of the world. What an honor to be included in the line God chose to keep his covenant with Israel and the world! We may not be part of the lineage of Christ but we can be part of the family of God. As we continue pursuing God we are co-heirs with Christ to the coming kingdom of God. This hope and blessing to come has the power to keep us rooted and grounded in love, steadfast in our perseverance as we await the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
-Shelby Upton
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Provision, Patience and Perseverance

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Ruth 3:14-23

In the first half of Ruth 3 we find that Boaz responds favorably to Ruth’s advances and proposition. However there was an obstacle keeping them from moving forward in their relationship. Boaz explained to Ruth in verse 12 that even though he is her kinsman there was another relative closer in line that would have a stronger claim to her hand.  When Ruth is leaving Boaz after sleeping at his feet, under his cloak on the threshing floor Boaz tells to bring him the shawl she was wearing. When she holds it out to him Boaz takes 6 measures of the barley that he had been sleeping on the threshing floor protecting and gives them to her. He remarks that he doesn’t want Ruth to go back to Naomi empty handed, most likely as a sign of his acceptance of Ruth’s advances and to continue providing for them. I love how Boaz consistently takes up this role and responsibility as a provider in the way he takes care of both Ruth and Naomi. In many ways love relationships really do mirror Christ and the church — especially in the way God loves and cares for His people.
When Ruth returns to Naomi and tells her everything that happened — her first response is that they must wait. Naomi is sure of Boaz’s intentions and that he will move forward in settling the issue of another kinsman closer in relation to marry Ruth. We can see Ruth, Naomi and Boaz acting faithfully with patience and perseverance in this passage.  Ruth was patient — not making her requests known to Boaz until the time was right as was Naomi. Boaz too made sure to go through the right channels to pursue Ruth and who knows how long he had patiently been waiting for a woman to be available that had her character.
Is there an area in your life or situation where you aren’t trusting God’s leading and patiently waiting for his provision?
Shelby Upton

 

Strategic Righteousness

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Ruth 3: 1-13

The third chapter of Ruth has always been a little strange to me. Culturally I didn’t understand what Ruth was doing when she went to Boaz. Furthermore, I wondered was this action a little scandalous or was it appropriate for Ruth to go to Boaz in the night and lay at his feet?
In Ruth’s interactions with Boaz we can see Naomi’s hope is being restored. She is no longer focusing on the sadness of their past but making plans for the future.  We can boldly act on our hope with strategic righteousness because we know God fights for us and He does not withhold good from us.
After doing some research on Naomi’s instruction and Ruth’s following actions it became clear to me that all she did was with meaning and appropriate. When Ruth went to Boaz and lay at his feet this was an acknowledgement of his duty as their Kinsman, which also means he is a likely option for her as a husband.  In a commentary on Ruth 3 it explains, “She has gone willingly and now she takes the initiative to make clear to Boaz why she is there. “You are next of kin.” Or literally, “You are the redeemer: the one who can redeem our inheritance and our family name from being lost. I want you to fill that role for me. I want to be your wife.'”
As Ruth went boldly to Boaz he also responded to her with boldness saying in verses 10-11, “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.”
Ruth, Naomi and Boaz all act righteously but are bold in their actions toward one another and their requests to God. What we can institute in our own lives is to truly run after God and not have a spirit of fear or timidity. God has given us a commission to pursue holiness with a bold spirit.
2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
-Shelby Upton

Thankfulness and Greater Blessing

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Ruth 2:13-23

Ruth exemplified a beautiful thankful heart in the beginning of this passage. She recognizes that she is being blessed by the customs of a culture where she really has no right to reap (pun intended) the benefits. Ruth thanks Boaz for treating her with such kindness, tells him that he has put her heart at ease and hopes that she will continue to find favor in his eyes. He immediately responds to her humble heart with greater blessings that are above and beyond the custom. He invites her to eat with him — a prominent and wealthy man — as well as indicating to his servants in verse 15, As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up and don’t rebuke her.”
When Ruth returns to Naomi with the fruit of her labor, Naomi can tell that she had been truly blessed in her work and that someone had shown her great kindness. Here we see that Boaz is actually a close relative and Naomi and she determines that he is being kind and gracious due to the familial ties.  Naomi blesses Boaz for taking notice of Ruth and encourages her to stay with Boaz’ female servants as she knows no harm will come to her while she works in his fields. I believe the most important aspect of this passage that we can take away is thankfulness and humility.  Ruth is a hard worker who also shows great thankfulness in how she speaks to Boaz.  Not in every situation are we returned greater blessing when we have a thankful heart but we are called to be thankful to God. Ruth is really living out her faith by being grateful. Take a moment to search verses in the Bible on thankfulness. The Psalms especially are riddled with praising God and being thankful to him! One way to love God more deeply is cultivating this spirit of thankfulness and gratitude. In prayer today really thank God for who HE is and what HE has done — especially through Jesus to provide a way for salvation and our hope in the coming Kingdom of God.
Praise the Lord, all nations!

    Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord! (117:1-2)

-Shelby Upton

God’s Blessings

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Ruth 2:1-14

Ruth saw an abundance of God’s blessings as she followed him. In the Jewish law it was custom to let the poor and widows glean from the edges of the field in Israel. Ruth, abiding by this custom went into fields where Boaz had authority. When he saw her he asked who she was in Ruth 2:5. When the other workers commented on Ruth’s heritage and her work Boaz was impressed. He could see by her actions, the dedication and devotion she held to God and her family to protect and care for Naomi.
In response to this realization Boaz heaped a blessing on Ruth. He encouraged her to stay in his fields under his protection and gave her drink although she was a foreigner. By her loyalty Ruth was blessed by Boaz in very tangible ways.
Ruth 2:8-13 says,
“Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Don’t go and gather grain in another field, and don’t leave this one, but stay here close to my female servants. See which field they are harvesting, and follow them. Haven’t I ordered the young men not to touch you? When you are thirsty, go and drink from the jars the young men have filled.” She bowed with her face to the ground and said to him, “Why are you so kind to notice me, although I am a foreigner? ” Boaz answered her, “Everything you have done for your mother-in-law since your husband’s death has been fully reported to me: how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and how you came to a people you didn’t previously know. May the Lord reward you for what you have done, and may you receive a full reward from the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”
Ruth’s dedication to her family and God was seen very clearly by Boaz. In response to her actions he was moved to protect her and care for her. In these ways today our dedication to God can invoke such respect and provision. As we pursue God it is not beyond the realm of expectation to see God working in our lives especially as we make sacrifices to love and serve him. Have you seen God or others bless you as you have made sacrifices and commitments to serve him?
-Shelby Upton

Loyalty in the Family of God – Ruth 1

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In the first chapter of Ruth we see a beautiful example of Ruth choosing her allegiance wisely. Some may think at the surface level, Ruth stayed with her married family for provision and protection. However, Naomi was a widow—poor, needy and vulnerable in the culture. Especially during the time of a famine in a foreign land. The most advantageous move Ruth could have made would have been to weather the famine, stay in Moab and remarry therein ensuring her safety and security. Naomi even encouraged her to do so in Ruth 1:8-9. However, Ruth remained steadfast in her loyalty to Naomi and the God she had come to know when she became one with her husband and family so many years before. Ruth makes a bold declaration after her sister in law Orpah leaves saying to Naomi,
“But Ruth replied: Do not persuade me to leave you or go back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May Yahweh punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”
‭‭Ruth‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭HCSB‬‬
Ruth returned to Bethlehem as a Moabitess. She faced the possibility of being rejected and ostracized in a culture where she is not of the same heritage in Israel. Ruth takes this risk to lay hold to her loyalty to her family and God no matter the outcome as she goes alongside Naomi—who has lost all provision and security. What we can take away from Ruth’s example in this first chapter is the willingness to forsake all else as we follow God. Today it is common that we may have to renounce titles, friendships, status, position etc as we pursue a dynamic relationship with God. We are called to live differently and that is not without sacrifice. What may God be calling you to renounce as we die to self and commit our lives to knowing Him more deeply and allowing Him to love us fully?

Bitterness

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Happy Tuesday and thanks for sticking with me this far!

I’m leading a Bible Study this summer on the book of Ruth using the study guide Ruth: Discovering Your Place in God’s Story by Eugene H. Peterson. One of the reoccurring themes that has come up during our discussions has been Naomi’s role in the story. If you are not familiar with her story, I encourage you to go ahead and pick up a Bible and read at least the first chapter of Ruth before finishing this post.

There are different ways one can read Naomi’s character. Some people within my group thought of her as sympathetic, down on her luck, trying to make the best of a bad situation. Others, like myself, view her as more selfish, bitter, and self-centered. Regardless as to how one chooses to read her, there is no denying the fact that in the first chapter, she is a complainer.

She complains:

“Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow.  I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my     back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t. The Strong One ruined       me.” Ruth 1:20 & 21 MSG.

Bad things happened to Naomi. She lost her husband and then both her sons. But there are lots of people in the Bible who had bad things happen to them, yet, they did not turn on God, nor were they led to believe God had turned on them. Take Joseph, Jacob’s son, for example. His whole story was one whole roller coaster ride of ups and downs, trials and triumphs, yet he never stopped trusting that God had a plan.

Naomi’s story presents us with a different sort of Biblical character. She believes God no longer cares for her. All the while, right in front of her, God has left her with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Eventually, because of Ruth and the kindness of a man named Boaz, Naomi’s faith in God is once again restored. In the second chapter she declares: “God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!” (2:20 MSG).

Here are the two takeaway lessons from Naomi. One, Naomi is an example of how our bitterness can keep us from seeing God’s blessings – even when they are directly in front of us. God never forgot or abandoned Naomi. He had a plan. He gave her a loyal daughter-in-law and orchestrated events for her to meet Boaz. The second lesson we can learn is that even when we complain and are bitter, God doesn’t give up on us. Even when we are fickle and only trust God when things are going well, like Naomi appears to be doing, it doesn’t make us tarnished. God’s grace covers us, liked it covered Naomi.

-Emilee Ross