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Out from the darkness we have been studying, “in the days when the judges ruled,” there shines forth the sweet story of Ruth. In the midst of war and lawlessness and idolatry there were still those, both rich and poor, who feared God and lived virtuous and simple lives to His praise.
The family of Elimelech were evidently among these, though they took the backsliding step of going down into the Land of Moab for succor. The name Elimelech means “My God is King”; and if his faith had been strong enough to depend upon his King, much trouble might have been spared. “There was a famine in the land,” even in Bethlehem, “the House of Bread,” and they went to Moab in search of food, and, as often happens, “they continued there.” Trouble upon trouble followed this downward step. Elimelech died, his two sons married Moabitish women, and then the sons died also.
After about ten years Naomi heard “that the Lord had visited His people in giving them bread,” and she arose to return to her own land, And then follows the memorable choice of Ruth to cleave unto her mother-in-law in following her to an unknown land, and to what seemed a life of privation and toil. When Naomi saw that she was “steadfastly minded” to go with her, she left speaking to her.
There must have been something very beautiful in Naomi’s life thus to win the devotion and love of Ruth, first to herself and then to her God; and it has been well to keep her name, which means “Pleasant,” instead of substituting her suggestion of Mara.
They arrived at Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest, and proved it to be the House of Bread once more. The calm poetry of those harvest fields of Bethlehem, the eager gleaner among the maidens, the reapers, the lord of the harvest,— have all lived in golden sunshine in our imagination from our childhood.
“Her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging to Boaz.” Behind our lives there is a guiding Hand which causes even insignificant things to be fraught with mighty issues.
In Boaz, the kinsman of Elimelech, “a mighty man of wealth,” we have another beautiful character. The simplicity of his life, the courtesy of his behavior to all with whom he came in contact, his generosity, his regard for the Law, above all his constant reference of every event to God, stand out in striking contrast against the dark background of his time.
The Goel. It was to this man that Naomi bade Ruth appeal to fulfill the kinsman’s part. The word used is Goēl, the redeemer, the one whose right and duty it was according to the Law to redeem the inheritance of the deceased relative, and marry his widow (see Leviticus 25:25–31, 47–55; Deuteronomy 25:5–10). As these rights belonged to the next of kin, Goēl came to mean the nearest kinsman. To fulfill these rights was his bounden duty according to the Law of God, and it was the fulfillment of this law that Naomi sought to bring about.
The reply of Boaz was: “It is true that I am a goēl (redeemer), but there is also a goēl nearer of kin than I. If he will redeem thee, well, let him redeem thee; but if he is not willing to redeem thee, then will I redeem thee, as the Lord liveth.”
Then follows the quiet rest of faith on the part of Naomi and her daughter, and the dignified carrying out of the Law in the presence of the elders in the gate of the city, on the part of Boaz.
The next of kin was willing to purchase the land that belonged to Naomi, but he was not willing for what that purchase involved, to take Ruth to be his wife, lest he should mar his own inheritance. This left Boaz free to carry out his gracious purpose; and he bought the inheritance of Elimelech, and he purchased Ruth the Moabitess to be his wife, “to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.”
The Royal Line. “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife; and she bare a son. And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
This story shows how unselfish devotion to God and to duty is rewarded. Orpah, who was content with the outward profession of affection, and returned to her people and her gods, forfeited her place in Israel. The kinsman who failed to fulfill his duty because of his own interests has not even his name recorded in God’s Book. Ruth, on the other hand, who gave up all to follow Naomi and Naomi’s God, and Boaz, who unhesitatingly fulfilled the kinsman’s part, have their names handed down to all time as worthy of praise, and as the ancestors, not only of David, but of David’s greater Son.
The Precision of Prophecy. One of the most marvellous proofs of the truth of the Bible is to be found in the prophecies concerning the birth of the Messiah. Every time prophecy predicts a fresh branch of the family as being the chosen one, a fresh risk, humanly speaking, is involved. But because God inspired the prophecies, the choice is made with unerring precision. Of Noah’s sons, Shem is chosen; of Abraham’s sons, Isaac; of Jacob’s twelve sons, Judah is selected; and the promise is renewed to David. Again, Messiah must have a birthplace. Of three known continents Asia is chosen, and of its many countries the Land of Promise. Of its three districts, Judaea; and of its thousands of villages, Bethlehem is selected. “The prophet puts his finger on one obscure village on the map of the world; but he speaks infallibly, for the Omniscient God was behind his utterance" (Dr. Pierson).
The Kinsman Redeemer. But the Key-note of the book of Ruth is The Kinsman Redeemer. In him we see Christ, who has purchased the Church to be His Bride. “Thirty times in this short book the word ‘kinsman’ is found, or ‘redeemer,’ ‘near kinsman,’ ‘next of kin,’ ‘kindred,’—like words, all having reference to like things… How plainly this book is intended to teach the doctrine concerning Redemption will be seen by examining Ruth 4:4–10. Here the word ‘redemption’ occurs five times in three verses; and in Ruth 4:10, Boaz declares that in redeeming the property he also purchases the widow of Mahlon to be his own wife. Nothing can explain the extreme minuteness of detail here except a typical design on the part of the inspiring Spirit… Our Lord Jesus had to become one with man in order to have the right to redeem. He is therefore our fellow-man; but if He had been involved in man’s fall and identified with man’s sin, He could not have acted as Redeemer. No sinner can redeem himself, much less can he redeem his brother (Psalms 49:7). He is therefore, as the God-man, our Boaz (‘Ability’); by that kinship and strength or ability, “He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him” (Pierson). “The Church which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). “Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”
The Christian Life. For the individual believer the book is full of teaching. First, the definite choice has to be made, the trust placed under the wings of the Lord God of Israel. Then the diligent gleaning in the field, the beating out of the corn and the feeding upon it, which represents the diligent feeding of our souls upon the Word. The soul thus fed has food to pass on to others (Ruth 2:18). The work in the harvest field is also a picture of the wider service of the ingathering of souls in God’s great harvest field of the world, and we may well ask ourselves evening by evening, “Where hast thou gleaned today?”
Union with Christ. Though the union of Ruth with Boaz is typical of the Church as a whole, yet there is for the individual believer the blessed experience of union with Christ set forth under so many figures, such as the abiding of the branch in the Vine. If there has been in our lives any of the failure Israel experienced in Judges, a turning unto our own way, the remedy for us is to seek a closer union with Christ. Lest we be discouraged, God has placed the Book of Joshua and the Book of Ruth on each side of the Book of Judges, as if to show us that the Victory of Faith and the Rest of Faith is the experience we are to look for as followers of an Almighty Savior.
Devotionals from Selwyn Hughes
Bodie Thoene, coauthor of bestselling Christian fiction Zion Chronicles, once worked for John Wayne as a scriptwriter. In Today’s Christian Woman Thoene tells how that opportunity came about. “I was commuting to Los Angeles and doing feature articles on different stunt men and other film personalities for magazines. An article I co-wrote with John Wayne’s stuntman won the attention of the Duke himself. One day he called and invited [my husband] Brock, and me to come to his house. He talked to us as if we were friends, showing keen interest in us as individuals. From that day on, I began writing for his film company, Batjac Productions. We were awestruck. Here was this man who had been in film for fifty years and he takes a young couple with small children under his wing! Once I asked him, 'Why are you doing this? You’re so good to us.’ He replied, 'Because somebody did it for me.’ ” It appears that John Wayne had something in common with Boaz from the book of Ruth--both understood that goodness doesn’t originate in us. We receive and then we give. God is good to us, that’s why we are able to be good to others. Today’s reading illustrates the implementation of God’s “welfare program”: (Today in the Word)
Ruth 1 Always For Us
January 4, 2004 — by Herbert Vander Lugt
If God is for us, who can be against us? —Romans 8:31
Naomi, her husband, and their two sons left Israel and moved to Moab because of a famine (Ruth 1:1-2). One son married Ruth, the other married Orpah. Eventually Naomi’s husband and sons died (vv.3,5), so she decided to return to Israel. But she felt that her daughters-in-law would be better off staying in Moab (vv.6-13). She tried to dissuade them from going with her by saying, “No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!” (v.13).
Was Naomi right in her thinking about God? Perhaps the family had displayed a lack of faith by moving to pagan Moab, but God certainly was not against her. He proved this by wonderfully providing for her and Ruth after they returned to Israel. (Read the rest of the book—it’s short.)
You may be unemployed, terminally ill, have a disabled child, or care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. God hasn’t promised to keep us from such problems. But He has proven that He is always “for us” as Christians by what He did through Jesus (Romans 5:8-9). Nothing, not even death, can separate us from His love (8:35-39).
The Lord is never “against us,” not even when He chastens us (Hebrews 12:5-6). He is always for us!
Our God is always there for us—
Receiving every prayer,
Delighting in our words of praise,
Responding with His care. —Sper
The One who died to save you will never be against you.
Bible teachers have used many favorable adjectives to describe Ruth, the faithful young woman from Moab who became the great-grandmother of David. This fact alone is enough to show why Ruth needs to be included as we discuss God’s preservation of His righteous line. One writer comments that meeting Ruth is like finding a rose growing in the middle of a garbage dump. Another says Ruth “gleams like a beautiful pearl against a jet-black background.” The reason for these and other comparisons becomes clear when we compare Judges 21:25 to Ruth 1:1. The era of Israel’s judges was a time of spiritual unfaithfulness and foreign domination interrupted only by a few brief victories. It was also a lawless time of Israel’s disobedience to the law of God. The last verse of Judges sums up the situation: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. (Today in the Word)
TODAY IN THE WORD We've all been in a sort of “nice conflict” in which two or more people profess their desire to do the nice thing. It can be anything from back-and-forth exchanges of “after you” at a doorway to a mild argument over who will get the honor of paying the check at a restaurant. At some point, most of these kindhearted disputes end with someone saying, “I insist.”
Ruth insisted. Naomi did her best to persuade both her daughters-in-law to stay in their native land of Moab, but Ruth refused. She pledged to remain with Naomi for the rest of both their lives. Ruth didn't even give a reason for her insistence, she was simply adamant that she would go no matter what. As we shift gears from some of the Bible's more negative examples of love stories to a book that epitomizes godly love, it's interesting to note that the word love appears only once in the entire book—in today's verse, which describes Ruth's love for Naomi. Perhaps the secret of Ruth's love was that there was no reason. It was unconditional love in its purest form. That love eventually bore fruit in a man after God's own heart, King David, Ruth's great-grandson.
The road to Ruth's decision wasn't paved with happiness. The circumstances leading up to her pledge of undying commitment were excruciating, especially for Naomi. She lost both of her sons and her husband within the course of ten years. She held out no hope for remarriage, and she carried no illusions about her ability to provide for Ruth. Naomi made a compelling argument that Ruth had nothing to gain from being connected to her. But Ruth was not interested in meeting her own desires.
Ruth's argument was even more convincing. She essentially claimed the role of being Naomi's shadow for the rest of time. Having lost a husband herself, Ruth showed no ill will to the God of Israel. Quite the opposite, she pledged her allegiance to Him and called on His name to punish her if she ever wavered from her commitment.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY Love like Ruth's is rare and desirable. Typical emotional love is often fickle and fraught with selfishness, but Ruth's was selfless and willful. There are times when loving certain people comes easily. Other times, we need to decide to love in spite of our feelings. Make the decision today to love someone who is not always lovable. Love that is rooted in determination of the will and commitment to the Lord can weather any storm. If there is anyone who has shown you that kind of love, thank them for that priceless gift.
A book recently tackled one of life's minor puzzles--how do homing pigeons find their way home? The answer seems to be: we're not sure. One theory is that young pigeons develop an ""odor map"" by smelling odors that are carried to their homes on the winds from various directions. Another theory is that the birds use the earth's magnetic field to determine course and position. Whatever technique homing pigeons use, their instincts are uncanny. They always finish their journeys in the right place… The Bible is filled with stories of people who did and of those who did not finish well. They have much to teach us… The story of Ruth gets us off to a great start. This young woman from Moab definitely finished well. She became the great-grandmother of David. Ruth's name is on a short list of women singled out for special mention in the genealogy of Jesus. She was part of the Savior's royal bloodline and is therefore a background figure in the Christmas story. All of this is an amazing turn of events for a widow from a ""mixed marriage"" between an Israelite and a Gentile. There is no hint in the early verses of chapter 1 that Ruth had become a devoted follower of the God of Israel.
But evidently she had, as demonstrated by her dramatic statement of belief and loyalty in verse 16. Her faith guided her decision to return to Bethlehem with Naomi, even though she apparently had no prospects awaiting her in Israel.
Once Ruth left Moab and identified herself with the true God, her story unfolds as a wonderful narrative of God's guiding hand in the ordinary affairs of life. Ruth's decision to follow the Lord saw her loneliness replaced with companionship, her poverty with plenty, and her obscurity with spiritual fame.
APPLY THE WORD By the time December arrives, most people are starting to focus on the new year and what it will hold. But we have a whole month still ahead of us this year, thirty-one days which will call for many large and small decisions in many areas of our lives. (Today in the Word)
Ruth 1:14 “Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.”
Both of them had an affection for Naomi, and therefore set out with her upon her return to the land of Judah. But the hour of test came; Naomi most unselfishly set before each of them the trials which awaited them, and bade them if they cared for ease and comfort to return to their Moabitish friends. At first both of them declared that they would cast in their lot with the Lord’s people; but upon still further consideration Orpah with much grief and a respectful kiss left her mother in law, and her people, and her God, and went back to her idolatrous friends, while Ruth with all her heart gave herself up to the God of her mother in law. It is one thing to love the ways of the Lord when all is fair, and quite another to cleave to them under all discouragements and difficulties. The kiss of outward profession is very cheap and easy, but the practical cleaving to the Lord, which must show itself in holy decision for truth and holiness, is not so small a matter. How stands the case with us, is our heart fixed upon Jesus, is the sacrifice bound with cords to the horns of the altar? Have we counted the cost, and are we solemnly ready to suffer all worldly loss for the Master’s sake? The after gain will be an abundant recompense, for Egypt’s treasures are not to be compared with the glory to be revealed. Orpah is heard of no more; in glorious ease and idolatrous pleasure her life melts into the gloom of death; but Ruth lives in history and in heaven, for grace has placed her in the noble line whence sprung the King of kings. Blessed among women shall those be who for Christ’s sake can renounce all; but forgotten and worse than forgotten shall those be who in the hour of temptation do violence to conscience and turn back unto the world. O that this morning we may not be content with the form of devotion, which may be no better than Orpah’s kiss, but may the Holy Spirit work in us a cleaving of our whole heart to our Lord Jesus. (Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and evening) (See also Surgeon's sermon on Ruth 1:16: Deciding for God)
THE first girl I ever kissed in public was named Ruth. Several hundred people watched as the Zeeland High School junior play reached the romantic moment between the leading man and woman. After the performance this comment filtered back to me from someone in the audience:
"That was rather a cool kiss."
The biblical book of Ruth, however, is anything but cool. The love and loyalty Ruth displayed for her mother-in-law, Naomi, bathes the story with warmth and tenderness. And the beauty of this Old Testament narrative is all the more striking set against the background of the time of the judges when moral debris cluttered the landscape of Israel's early life in Canaan.
Ruth's love for her mother-in-law is only part of this love story, however. Boaz, Naomi's relative, exercises his right as kinsman-redeemer and takes Ruth to be his wife (chapters 3-4). He brings into focus our Redeemer, Jesus, who purchases us with His blood, takes us into His family, and surrounds us with His unfailing love.
As objects of Christ's redeeming love, we sinners should never be reserved about expressing our love to Him. May it never be said of us in our relationship to Jesus that our love is cold and mechanical.- D J De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Ruth 1:15-22 Managing The Mess
February 24, 2009 — by Joe Stowell
Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me? —Ruth 1:21
When we meet Naomi in the Scriptures, her life is a mess. She and her husband had gone to Moab searching for food during a famine. While in that land, their two sons married Moabite women, and life was good—until her husband and sons died and she was stuck, widowed in a foreign land.
Though honest about her pain, Naomi obviously had a sense of who was in control: “The Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me” (Ruth 1:21).
The Hebrew word for “Almighty” (Shaddai) indicates God’s sufficiency for any situation. The word “Lord” (Yahweh) refers to His faithfulness as the loving covenant-keeping God. I love how Naomi put these two names together. In the midst of her complaint, she never lost sight of the fact that her God was a capable and faithful God. And, sure enough, He proved His capability to deliver her and His faithfulness to care for her to the very end.
If there seems to be no way out of your despair, remember that Naomi’s God is your God as well. And He specializes in managing our messes to good and glorious outcomes. Thankfully, He is both capable and faithful. So, when your life is a mess, remember who your God is!
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last. —von Schlegel
Stand back and watch the Lord manage your mess into a glorious outcome.
One of the most beautiful concessions of love in all of literature is the one Ruth made to Naomi. In vowing to return to Israel with her, Ruth pledged, "Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried" (Ruth 1:16, 17-note). But suppose Naomi had said to herself, "Ruth's just a gold digger. What she really wants is to get into Israel to marry a wealthy Hebrew. I'm just her passport in."
If Naomi had doubted Ruth's good intentions, and rejected her kindness, she would have lost out on blessings she never could have imagined.
But that's exactly what we do when we fail to trust God's goodness. We stop believing He will do what is best for us. And as the saying goes, once the well is poisoned, all the water is contaminated.
James 1:16, 17 (notes ) states, "Do not be deceived … Every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father." Once we doubt God's goodness, some of His best gifts-- like trials that help us to mature-- will seem like bad ones.
Don't doubt God's goodness and poison the wellspring of blessing He has for you. - Haddon W. Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Drink deep of God's goodness, His faithfulness too,
Leave no room for doubting and fear;
His Word is the Water of Life pure and true,
Refreshing and cooling and clear.- Hess
Thought for the Day: We poison the well when we don't think well of God's goodness.
Read: Ruth 1:6,11-18;
Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. —Ruth 1:16
During a television news report on the plight of refugees displaced from a war-torn country, I was struck by the words of a 10-year-old girl. Despite there being little possibility of returning to their home, she showed a resilient spirit: “When we go back, I’m going to visit my neighbors; I’m going to play with my friends,” she said with quiet determination. “My father says we don’t have a house. And I said we are going to fix it.”
There is a place for tenacity in life, especially when it is rooted in our faith in God and love for others. The book of Ruth begins with three women bound together by tragedy. After Naomi’s husband and two sons died, she decided to return to her home in Bethlehem and urged her widowed daughters-in-law to stay in their country of Moab. Orpah remained but Ruth vowed to go with Naomi, saying, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). When Naomi saw that Ruth “was determined to go with her” (v.18), they began their journey together.
Stubbornness is sometimes rooted in pride, but commitment grows from love. When Jesus went to the cross, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). From His determination to die for us, we find the resolve to live for Him.
My life, my love, I give to Thee,
Thou Lamb of God who died for me;
Oh, may I ever faithful be,
My Savior and my God! —Hudson
Love calls for commitment.
Naomi, her husband, and their two sons left Israel and moved to Moab because of a famine (Ruth 1:1, 2). One son married Ruth, the other married Orpah. Eventually Naomi's husband and sons died (Ru 1:3,5), so she decided to return to Israel. But she felt that her daughters-in-law would be better off staying in Moab (Ru 1:6-13). She tried to dissuade them from going with her by saying, "No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!" (Ru 1:13).
Was Naomi right in her thinking about God? Perhaps the family had displayed a lack of faith by moving to pagan Moab, but God certainly was not against her. He proved this by wonderfully providing for her and Ruth after they returned to Israel. (Read the rest of the book—it's short.)
You may be unemployed, terminally ill, have a disabled child, or care for a loved one with Alzheimer's. God hasn't promised to keep us from such problems. But He has proven that He is always "for us" as Christians by what He did through Jesus (Ro 5:8, 9 - see notes Ro 5:8; 9). Nothing, not even death, can separate us from His love (Ro 8:35-see notes Ro 8:35; 8:36; 37; 38; 39).
The Lord is never "against us," not even when He chastens us (Hebrews 12:5, 6-note). He is always for us! —Herbert Vander Lugt (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Our God is always there for us—
Receiving every prayer,
Delighting in our words of praise,
Responding with His care. —Sper
The One who died to save you will never be against you.
TODAY IN THE WORD Bible teachers have used many favorable adjectives to describe Ruth, the faithful young woman from Moab who became the great-grandmother of David. This fact alone is enough to show why Ruth needs to be included as we discuss God’s preservation of His righteous line. One writer comments that meeting Ruth is like finding a rose growing in the middle of a garbage dump. Another says Ruth “gleams like a beautiful pearl against a jet-black background.”
The reason for these and other comparisons becomes clear when we compare Judges 21:25 to Ruth 1:1. The era of Israel’s judges was a time of spiritual unfaithfulness and foreign domination interrupted only by a few brief victories. It was also a lawless time of Israel’s disobedience to the law of God. The last verse of Judges sums up the situation: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”
But then came Ruth, who lived “in the days when the judges ruled” (v. 1). Typical of the times, this great story of faithfulness to God began with an act that expressed little faith. A man named Elimelech from Bethlehem left home with his family to escape a famine. He chose to go to Moab, about fifty miles east, on the opposite side of the Dead Sea.
By doing this, Elimelech abandoned the place of God’s blessing (v. 6) to live among the descendants of Lot’s immoral union with his oldest daughter (Gen. 19:36-37). The child was named Moab, and his people were often hostile to Israel. Later, the prophet Amos pronounced judgment on Moab (Amos 2:1).
What was meant to be a brief time in Moab for Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons turned into ten years (1:1-5), during which time all three men died. Naomi was left alone with her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.
APPLY THE WORD One value of our lessons this month is to remind ourselves that we also come from a spiritual line, people in our past and present who have helped bring us to Christ.
Your people will be my people and your God my God. - Ruth 1:16
TODAY IN THE WORD
The conversion of Nicky Cruz was dramatized in the movie The Cross and the Switchblade. But he had a past even darker than leading a brutal gang. His parents practiced Satanic worship, tormenting and terrifying their young son. He was friendless, since other children were afraid of his family. Despite the overwhelming darkness, Cruz looks back now and sees how God was working: “I do believe that loneliness is the force that drove me into the arms of somebody that I used to hate, and I never knew him. It drove me into the arms of God and Jesus Christ and that was a good pay off.”
We've journeyed through the book of Judges, seeing increasing darkness as Israel rejected God. But as we turn now to study the book of Ruth—which takes place during the time of Judges—we see how God continued to work out the salvation of His people.
This beautiful love story has no parallel with other literature from its time period. There are other short stories from the ancient Near East, but there, unlike the book of Ruth, we have no examples of women as the main characters. In fact, the book is not only named for a woman but a foreign woman! This fact alone should grab our attention—God has included the story of a young, poor, foreign widow in His Word to teach us something remarkable about how He works.
As the story opens, we see that Naomi and her family have chosen to leave Israel and go to Moab. Not only do they leave their land, but the sons marry foreign women, a direct violation of God's covenant with His people (see Deut. 7:3). Then tragedy strikes as Naomi loses her husband and both sons. She decides to return to Judah, but she feels empty and bitter toward God (v. 20).
In contrast to Naomi (and most of the book of Judges!), Ruth models faithfulness by choosing God and His people. This Moabite woman, who was free to stay with her people and idols, chose to accompany her bitter mother-in-law and worship the God of Israel.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
One key theme in the book of Ruth is redemption. God takes tragedy and redeems it into beauty, love, restoration, and salvation. As we study this book, spend some time prayerfully reflecting on your own life. What choices and experiences has God redeemed for you? How have you seen His hand working through darkness? How has He brought restoration and salvation into your life? You may want to record these as a testament to God's faithfulness and an encouragement to praise Him
You are a woman of noble character. - Ruth 3:11
TODAY IN THE WORD In 2004, almost 55 percent of all paperback books sold were romance novels, and the romance category accounted for 39 percent of all fiction sold that year. This broad genre includes classics like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen as well as the pulpy Harlequin novels. The Bible includes the book of Ruth, a beautiful story of romance, love, and faithfulness. While the man and woman meet, fall in love, and get married, Ruth has an even deeper love story. We see the loving-kindness of God lived out in ordinary people. Ruth is set during the period of the judges (Ru 1:1). Circumstances for Elimelech's family changed dramatically in one decade (Ru 1:5). Widowed and without means of social or economic stability, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem after hearing that God was providing food for His people. Understanding the hopeless situation for her daughters-in-law, she urged them to return to their families in Moab. Ruth did the unexpected and extraordinary—she wholeheartedly committed herself to Naomi until death, declaring that in everything she would fully identify with her mother-in-law.
Chapter 2 showcases Ruth's extravagant loving-kindness. Even before the harvest ended, Ruth determined to glean in order to provide food for Naomi and herself (2:2; cf. Deut. 24:19). The field owner was Boaz, the relative of Elimelech. Verse 11 reveals that he responded with astonishing generosity in response to what he had heard about Ruth's sacrifice for Naomi. Her loving-kindness inspired his loving-kindness, and Naomi recognized this when Ruth arrived home with so much food (2:20). In fact, Boaz was so impressed by Ruth that he wasted no time in securing his ability to marry her! (see Ruth 3-4).
Ruth's loyal loving-kindness caused her to go above and beyond expectations. This kind of love and commitment only comes from God Himself. The Lord blessed the faithfulness of Ruth and remained faithful to His covenant promise (Gen. 15:1-7) by continuing the line of Abraham's descendents leading to David (Ruth 4:13-22).
APPLY THE WORD Ruth made a lasting impression on God's redemptive story not because she gave eloquent lectures about the meaning of His loyal loving-kindness, but because she was an extraordinary embodiment of His great love. What would it look like if God's people all over the world exploded with this love above and beyond the expectations of family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors? People expect courtesy and commitment with qualifications. They do not expect to see the sacrificial and devoted love of Christ.
TODAY IN THE WORD Literary scholars define comedy as a narrative that begins with things going well before the characters encounter obstacles of some sort. The story resolves with a reversal of bad fortune and ensuing happiness for the characters. Sometimes described as the U-shaped narrative, it contrasts with tragedy, in which the obstacles prove too difficult to overcome.
Both secular literary scholars and biblical commentators have described the book of Ruth as an example of comedy. For the last few days of this month, we’ll examine comedies of redemption in Scripture, beginning with this lovely little book.
The early days of happiness are briefly alluded to in the beginning of the book; Naomi had a husband and two sons and a life in Bethlehem, but famine struck and the family moved to Moab. There, Naomi’s life fell apart, as first her husband and then both her sons died. Left with two daughters-in-law, Naomi decided to return to her hometown. Upon her return she declared, “Don’t call me Naomi… Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty” (1:20).
Chapters 2 and 3 contain a romantic comedy, in which Boaz and Ruth met, expressed interest in each other, and then had to overcome the hurdle that the nearest relative posed for their relationship. Once Boaz had been approved to exercise the rights and privileges of the kinsman-redeemer, he married Ruth.
This book is more than just a romantic comedy or a story with a happy ending. In addition to its theological themes about God’s lovingkindness and care for His people, Ruth also serves as comedy of redemption. Notice the language at the end of the book. Naomi, who thought she had lost everything, heard this from her friends: “Praise to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer… He will renew your life” (vv. 14-15). Redemption is more than a feel-good tale—it means restoring hope from despair and bringing life from death.
APPLY THE WORD Have you experienced redemption? The world tells us to pursue romance and happiness, but God offers so much more—forgiveness of sin, peace with God, and a transformation from spiritual death to eternal life. This redemption is available to all who trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. He died as the punishment for our sin and was raised from the dead as the firstfruit of our own resurrection. If you want to be reconciled to God and receive redemption, call 1-800-NEED HIM, or talk with a trusted Christian friend.
Wherever you go, I will go; … your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. —Ruth 1:16
The best-known words of Ruth are most often heard at weddings, even though they were spoken by a grieving young widow to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth said, "Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God" (see note Ruth 1:16).
Ruth had no legal or cultural responsibility to Naomi, who also was a widow and had no means of support. No one would have blamed Ruth for staying with her own people in Moab where the chances of remarriage were greater.
Naomi even urged Ruth to stay, but Ruth was determined to go with her to Judah, and to follow her God. Ruth's unselfish devotion was considered worthy of praise. Boaz, Ruth's future husband, told her, "It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband … The Lord repay your work" (Ruth 2:11, 12).
Promises spoken at a wedding are full of hope and meaning, but Ruth's words have survived the centuries because of her unwavering commitment to God and a person in need. She points us to the value of loving sacrifice for the Lord, and to His rich blessing on all who give themselves unselfishly to others. —David C. McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Searching to know life's true meaning?
You'll find it in only one way:
Serving the Lord with commitment
And living for others each day. —Branon
A life filled with love for the Lord and for others is a fulfilling life.
Choices - A friend once told me: "Joe, I’ve come to realize that my life is not made by the dreams that I dream but by the choices that I make."
Count on it: You will have plenty of choices in life. And usually they boil down to a choice between "What do I want?" and "What’s best for others?"
After their husbands died, Ruth and Orpah were faced with a strategic choice (Ru 1:11). Their mother-in-law Naomi told them they should go home. She didn’t want them to feel any obligation to her, in spite of the fact that her loss was far greater. She had lost her own husband and both of her sons.
Orpah and Ruth could either go home and start a new life, or stay with Naomi to help her in a time of great need. They knew very well that the latter choice would probably mean living in a foreign land as widows for the rest of their lives, since few Jewish men would want to marry a foreign woman.
Ruth chose to serve the needs of Naomi rather than to serve herself. Orpah chose to leave Naomi for what she thought would be a better life. Ruth went on to play a significant role in Jewish history and became an ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:5).
Make the best choice. Choose to serve others. — Joe Stowell (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
When we’re involved in serving
And meeting others’ needs,
We’re imitating Jesus
In thoughts and words and deeds. —Fitzhugh
Serve God by serving others.
Johnstown Flood - On May 31, 1889, a massive rainstorm filled Lake Conemaugh in Pennsylvania until its dam finally gave way. A wall of water 40 feet high traveling at 40 mph rushed down the valley toward the town of Johnstown. The torrent picked up buildings, animals, and human beings and sent them crashing down the spillway. When the lake had emptied itself, debris covered 30 acres, and 2,209 people were dead.
At first, stunned by the loss of property and loved ones, survivors felt hopeless. But later, community leaders gave speeches about how local industry and homes could be rebuilt. This acted like a healing balm, and the survivors energetically got to work. Johnstown was rebuilt and today is a thriving town with a population of approximately 28,000.
The Bible tells us that when Naomi despaired over the loss of her husband and sons, her daughter-in-law Ruth refused to leave her. Instead, Ruth focused on God, her relationships, and the future. God rewarded her faith by providing for them and making Ruth an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Mt. 1:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16).
After a tragic loss, we should look at the resources and relationships that remain and trust God to use them. This can inspire the hope of rebuilding a new life. — Dennis Fisher (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Beyond the losses of this life
That cause us to despair
New hope is born within our heart
Because our God is there. —D. De Haan
No one is hopeless whose hope is in God.
Ruth 1:16a Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.
The Book of Ruth stands in striking contrast to the Book of Judges, and especially to the last five chapters thereof. The story which it tells illustrates the truth that God has never left Himself without witness. It is an idyll of faith-fulness amid infidelity. It has, moreover, the value of being a link in the chain of history, showing how God moved forward to the central things of His redeeming purpose through faithful souls. The choice of Ruth, here recorded, in its devotion and in the very manner in which she expressed it, has become enshrined in the heart of humanity. With constant recurrence her language has been employed to express the fidelity of love. The younger woman found her heart closely knit to the older one, and she declined to be severed from her in the pathway that lay before her, choosing to share whatever the future might have in store for the one upon whom her love was set. While all this is true, it does not touch the deepest note. It is patent that Ruth's love for Naomi was created by the new faith which she had learned from her. The deepest note in her expression of devotion was: "Thy God, my God." It is a beautiful illustration of how a quiet, strong fidelity to God produces faith in Him on the part of others. Happy indeed are we, if our life is such as to compel some soul to say, "Thy God shall be my God." This is what Naomi had done for Ruth. This result is never obtained by the witness of the lips, save as that is. vindicated and reinforced by the witness of life. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications)
One of the most delightful and endearing stories in the last decade is Driving Miss Daisy. It’s the story of a friendship that develops over a twenty-to thirty-year period between a man and a woman. What makes the story so touching is that this is a totally improbable relationship! Hoke Colburn is a chauffeur; Daisy Werthan is a woman who does not want a chauffeur. He is black; she is white. He is poor; she is wealthy. He is a Christian; she is Jewish. He is illiterate; she is educated and well-read. He is warm and friendly; she is cold and crotchety. He is “the hired help”; she is “the boss.” And yet by the end of the story, Miss Daisy says, “Hoke, you’re my best friend.” We may be tempted to dismiss such an unlikely friendship as mere fantasy; yet the Scriptures show us that such relationships are possible. Consider the Old Testament book of Ruth. Despite cultural, religious and generational differences, despite economic hardship, tragedy, and the age-old “in-law” factor, these two women--Ruth and Naomi--developed a close relationship marked by genuine concern. A number of factors contribute to their closeness.
First, they spent a lot of time together (Ru 1:4). Good relationships always take time to develop. Second, their relationship was marked by a vital spirituality (Ru 1:6, 8, 9, 13, 16,17, 20,21; 2:20). It is even possible that Naomi led Ruth to faith in Yahweh! Third, the women treated each other unselfishly (Ru 1:7-14; 2:18) and with genuine kindness (Ru 1:8, 19-21; 2:11; 3:1). Fourth, and finally, they were fiercely committed to each other (Ru 1:14, 16-18). So magnificent was Ruth’s statement of her commitment to Naomi that it has been repeated in marriage ceremonies even to this day.
Undoubtedly others watch how we live, especially those in our household. A Christian once asked a Jewish rabbi friend: “When are you Jews going to become Christians?” The rabbi replied, “When all you Christians become Christians.” (Today in the Word)
So she spoke, as many have spoken since, not knowing that God’s ways are ways of pleasantness and all his paths peace, when they are not isolated from the plan of our life, but considered as parts of the whole. We cannot pronounce on any part of God’s dealing with us until the entire plan has been allowed to work itself out. How grieved God’s Spirit must be, who is lovingly doing his best, when He hears these words of murmuring and complaint! Let us lift the vail, and notice the pleasant things in Naomi’s life.
True, her husband and sons were dead; but their deaths in a foreign land had left her free to come back to her people and her God; to nestle again under the wings of Jehovah; and to share the advantages of the Tabernacle.
True, Orpah had gone back. Mahlon and Chilion were both buried in Moab; but she had Ruth, who was better to her than seven sons.
True, she had no male child to perpetuate her name; but the little Obed would, within a few months, be nestling in her aged arms, and laughing into her withered face.
True, she was very poor; but it was through her poverty that Ruth was brought first into contact with that good man, Boaz; and, besides, there was yet a little patrimony which pertained to her.
Yes, Naomi, like thousands more, thou must take back thy words. Thou didst deal bitterly with thine own happiness in leaving the Land of Promise for Moab; but God dealt pleasantly with thee in thy return and latter end. “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in his mercy.” (Meyer, F. B. Our Daily Homily)
Verse 1. Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Beth-lehem-judah went to sojourn, in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
That was a bad move on their part; Better poverty with the people of God, than plenty outside of the covenanted land.
2. And the name of the man was Elimelech,—
“Elimelech? means, “my God is King.” A man with such a name as that ought not to have left the kingdom where his God was King; but some people are not worthy of the names they bear.
2. And the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Beth-lehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.
That is generally what happens; those who go into the country of Moab continue there. If Christians go away from their separated life, they are very apt to continue in that condition. It may be easy to say, “I will step aside from the Christian path for just a little while;” but it is not so easy to return to it. Usually something or other hampers; the birdlime catches the birds of Paradise, and holds them fast.
3, 4. And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.
Which was about ten years too long. Probably they did not intend to remain so long when they went there, they only meant to be in Moab for a little while, just as Christian people, when they fall into worldly conformity, only purpose to do it once, “just for the sake of the girls, to bring them out a little.” But it happens to them as it is written here: “and they dwelled there about ten years.”
5. And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.
That seemed to be her great grief—that she was left. She would have been content to go with them, but she was left to mourn their loss.
6. Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab:
It is often the case that, when our idols are broken, we turn back to our God. It is frequently the case that the loss of earthly good leads us to return to our first Husband, for we feel that then it was better with us than it is now. Naomi had also another inducement to return:—
6. For she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.
Have any of you professors gone a long way off from God? I wish you knew what plenty there is in the Great Father’s house, and what a blessed feast there is for these who live with him. There is no famine in that land; there is plenty of gladness, plenty of comfort, plenty of everything that is joyful, to be found there. You need not go to Moab, and to her false goes, to find pleasure and satisfaction.
7–9. Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah. And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house; the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them: and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
Separation was painful to them, for they loved their mother-in-law, a most unselfish person who, even though it was a comfort to her to enjoy their company, thought it would be for their good, in a temporal sense, that they should abide in their own country.
10–14. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
What a difference there often is between two persons who are under religious impressions at the same time! The one would like to follow Jesus, but the price is too much to pay; so there is a kiss somewhat like that of Judas, and Orpah goes back to her people, and to her idols. But how different was the other case! Ruth was, as it were, glued to Naomi; she “clave unto her,” Stuck to her, and could not be made to go back with her sister,
15–17. And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
That was bravely spoken, and she meant it, too.
18. When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.
That is a striking expression, “When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her.” O you dear young friends who want to be Christians, how glad we are when we see that you are steadfastly minded to go with the people of God! There are so many who are quickly hot and quickly cold,—soon excited towards good things, and almost as speedily their ardor cools, and they go back into the world. Do ask the Lord to make you steadfastly minded. This is one of the best frames of mind for any of us to be in.
19. So they two went until they came to Beth-lehem. And it came to pass, When they were come to Beth-lehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi?
They seemed all to turn out of doors to have a look at these two strangers, and especially at Naomi, for she was so different from what she had been when she went away. “And they said, Is this Naomi? Some said, “Is this Naomi?” questioning. Others said it with surprise as a thing incredible, “This Naomi! How can she be the same woman?” It was very rude of them to turn out, just like people, without sympathy, do on Ramsgate pier, to see the sick passengers land. Nobody seems to have said, “Come into our house to lodge,” but all questioned, “Is this Naomi?”
20. And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi,—
“Call me not pleasant.”
20. Call me Mara: That is, “bitter.”
20. For the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
It was a pity for Naomi to say that; yet I fear that many of us have done the same; We have not borne such sweet testimony to the Lord as we might have done, but have sorrowfully moaned, as this poor woman did:—
21. I went out full,—
Why, then, did you go out?
21. And the LORD hath brought me home again empty:
Ah! but he has brought you home again. Oh, if she would but have noticed the mercy there was in it all, she might still have spoken like Naomi; but now she speaks like Mara,—bitterness. Her husband and her two boys—all her heart’s delight—were with her when she went out; and now that they are gone, she says:—
21. Why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?
Yet it is a sweet thing to be able to trace the hand of God in our affliction, for nothing can come from that hand towards one of his children but that which is good and right. If you will think of those hands of which the Lord says, “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands,” you may rest assured that nothing can come from those hands but what infinite wisdom directs, and infinite love has ordained.
22. So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Beth-lehem in the beginning of barley harvest.
That is, at the time of the passover; let us hope that they received a blessing in observing the ordinances of that time, and that they were thus helped to get back to the only right and happy state of heart. (Spurgeon, C. H)
Devotionals from Selwyn Hughes
When Mark and Jan adopted two-year-old Kwan, they celebrated with a special dedication service at their church. As Mark said during the service, they felt a renewed understanding of God's love for us as His children after going through the experience of adopting Kwan into their family. Adoption is a remarkable picture of God's redemptive love. In fact, the New Testament teaches us that as believers we have been adopted as God's children (Eph. 1:5-note). In many ways, the story of Ruth is like an adoption, because we see a foreign woman becoming part of the people of God. In fact, the Old Testament has many similar examples, such as the Egyptians who left during the Exodus, Jethro, and Rahab
Recall that Ruth married into a Jewish family who had moved to Moab during a famine. Eventually Ruth returned to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi. As it turned out, this Moabitess demonstrated more clearly than some Israelites what it meant to love God with all one's heart and to love one's neighbor as oneself (Deut. 6:5).
In Ruth 2, we find Ruth gleaning in the fields according to the laws that we read about earlier. More important, Ruth is in a field that belongs to Boaz, who is Naomi's relative. Boaz's godly character is evident from the way he greets his workers (2:4), and is further revealed in his kindness toward Ruth. Recognizing the vulnerability of a foreign woman, Boaz gives Ruth both protection and provision. Behind Boaz's actions, we clearly see the hand of God.
As we jump forward in the story, we find out that Ruth was essential to God's plans. The son born to Ruth and Boaz would become the grandfather of David. So without Ruth, there would not have been David. And God promised to David an everlasting family, which eventually led to Jesus Christ (see Matt. 1:5-6). So in the story of God's care for one foreign woman, Ruth, we see His providential care for the nation Israel, and eventually, all the nations of the earth.
APPLY THE WORD Israel was called to be holy rather than to go forth, and in the Old Testament we find numerous examples of individuals, such as Ruth, coming to Israel and believing in Israel's God. After Christ's atoning sacrifice and the coming of the Holy Spirit the church is commanded to go forth. But we are still called to live holy lives as well. Can others see Christ in your life?” Our holy lives of obedience should be radiant examples that attract others to the faith we profess in Christ. (Today in the Word)
Read: Ruth 2:1-11
Why have I found such favor in your eyes? Ruth 2:10
Ruth was a foreigner. She was a widow. She was poor. In many parts of the world today she would be considered a nobody—someone whose future doesn’t hold any hope.
However, Ruth found favor in the eyes of a relative of her deceased husband, a rich man and the owner of the fields where she chose to ask for permission to glean grain. In response to his kindness, Ruth asked, “What have I done to deserve such kindness? . . . I am only a foreigner” (Ruth 2:10 nlt).
When we come to Him in salvation, we are under His protective wings.
Boaz, the good man who showed Ruth such compassion, answered her truthfully. He had heard about her good deeds toward her mother-in-law, Naomi, and how she chose to leave her country and follow Naomi’s God. Boaz prayed that God, "under whose wings" she had come for refuge, would bless her (1:16; 2:11-12; see Ps. 91:4). As her kinsman redeemer (Ruth 3:9), when Boaz married Ruth he became her protector and part of the answer to his prayer.
Like Ruth, we were foreigners and far from God. We may wonder why God would choose to love us when we are so undeserving. The answer is not in us, but in Him. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8 nlt). Christ has become our Redeemer. When we come to Him in salvation, we are under His protective wings.
Dear Lord, I don’t know why You love me, but I don’t doubt Your love. I thank You and worship You!
Gratefulness is the heart's response to God's undeserved love.
By Keila Ochoa
INSIGHT The book of Ruth demonstrates the redemptive nature of God’s commandments. While many Old Testament laws may sound strange to modern ears, adherence to these laws provided food for the hungry, protection for the foreigner, and hope for the childless widow.
Ruth 2:1-12 A Mere Happening?
December 10, 2009 — by Albert Lee
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. —Proverbs 3:6
Huang, a nonbeliever, was a visiting scientist at the University of Minnesota in 1994. While there, he met some Christians and enjoyed their fellowship. So when they learned he would be returning to Beijing, they gave him the name of a Christian to contact who was also moving there.
On the flight back to Beijing, the plane encountered engine trouble and stopped in Seattle overnight. The airline placed Huang in the same room with the very person he was to contact! Once they arrived in Beijing, the two began meeting weekly for a Bible study, and a year later Huang gave his life to Christ. This was not just a mere happening; it was by God’s arrangement.
In Ruth 2, we read that Ruth came “to the part of the field belonging to Boaz” (v.3). Boaz asked his servants who she was (v.5), which prompted his special consideration toward her. When Ruth asked him the reason for such kindness, Boaz replied, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law … The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you” (vv.11-12).
Did the events in the lives of Ruth and Huang just happen?
I know who holds the future,
And I know who holds my hand;
With God things don’t just happen—
Everything by Him is planned. —Smith
A “mere happening” may be God’s design.
Ruth 2:1-12 Safety Zone
May 8, 2010 — by Dennis Fisher
A full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge. —Ruth 2:12
When the horrors of war visited the civilians of Nanjing, China, women were not spared in the mounting violence and many were assaulted and killed. In this threatening environment, Minnie Vautrin took heroic measures to protect Chinese women from harm. Serving as a missionary teacher at Ginling College in Nanjing, Minnie cooperated with Chinese nationals, missionaries, surgeons, and business people and turned the college into a “safety zone,” a place of refuge for thousands of women and girls.
In the Bible, we learn that Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, were in need of some protection too. To survive as widows, they had to glean what they could from the harvested fields. As was the custom, Ruth sought a “kinsman redeemer.” This was a next of kin or close relative to her deceased husband who would marry her to continue the family line. Boaz was just such a man. He was touched by Ruth’s sacrificial care for Naomi and her desire to look for refuge in the Lord (Ruth 2:12). Boaz worked honorably to “redeem” Ruth and to make her his wife. He then provided for her and Naomi.
Our ultimate refuge is in the Lord Himself (Ps. 46:1). Yet He wants to use us as instruments to provide a “safety zone” for others.
Thinking It Over
In what ways can you meet the needs of others? Check with community ministries or a local church to see how they’re reaching out, and join in.
They truly love who show their love. —Shakespeare
Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner? —Ruth 2:10
When I first became a Christian, my friends and I had a way of helping each other memorize portions of the Bible. We would greet one another by asking the other person to quote a verse. Knowing of my poor memory, one friend used to humorously say to me, "Quote John 11:35!" He knew that it would be easy for me to remember this two-word verse.
Although it was a game, we didn't do this just for fun. These greetings reflected our desire to be people of God's Word.
In the book of Ruth, we read that Boaz greeted his workers by saying, "The Lord be with you!" and they responded, "The Lord bless you!" (Ro 2:4). It is clear from what we know about Boaz that he was not a harsh landowner, but a man who genuinely cared for others. The response of his workers revealed their goodwill toward him and their desire for God's blessing to be upon him as well.
As we think about our relationship with Christ and the people God has placed around us, we would do well to consider the importance of our greetings. Are "good morning" and "God bless you" just empty, insincere phrases? Or do our words show that we truly care for those whom we are addressing? —Albert Lee (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Thinking It Over - What is the difference between an empty greeting and a meaningful one? When you talk to someone, how can you communicate genuine love, interest, and concern?
A heartfelt greeting can energize the weary and encourage the lonely
If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm. - Psalm 37:23
Rental centers have been popular for a long time. Many people who cannot afford to buy merchandise, or who choose not to buy it, rent items such as furniture, appliances, and electronic equipment. Now, some centers even rent engagement rings just the thing for people who aren’t sure of their commitment. (Today it seems that) "Commitment" is something a person makes until he or she finds something better. Boaz of Bethlehem offers a refreshing contrast to the shallowness of many modern day commitments. In Ruth 2 he also reveals himself to be a person of integrity and generosity, taking a protective stance toward Ruth and making sure she was provided for in the gleaning and at mealtime. It’s also obvious that Boaz had the spiritual sensitivity to realize and appreciate what Ruth had done in leaving her homeland. He praised her, not just for remaining loyal to Naomi, but also for her commitment to the God of Israel (Ruth 2:11,12).as loyal and faithful as Ruth, a worthy partner for this woman of noble character (Ruth 3:11). Made aware of his responsibility to act as kinsman-redeemer for his deceased relative Elimelech, Boaz wasted no time in pursuing the right course. and there was nothing wrong with that. But, Boaz also had a higher motive, that of securing the property of his late relatives and providing for their widows. this other man had accepted the responsibility, Boaz would have been content (Ruth 3:12-13). along with her, he became a part of the Messianic line, helping to preserve the thread of ’s promise. Would we be willing to pursue an issue to a right and fair resolution, even if it meant personal disappointment for us? Boaz’s favor without his having to resort to manipulation or deal-making. We don’t always know what the pay-off will be for doing the right thing. But we can be sure that God will honor us when He is free to take delight in our way, as today’s verse promises. This is a good verse to memorize today and to live by every day. (Today in the Word)
A 1980s British sitcom called To the Manor Born told the story of a woman living on an estate that had been in her family for generations. The problem was that the lady of the manor was basically penniless, although her financial condition wasn’t widely known. Many of the show’s episodes dealt with the woman’s attempts to keep the manor running and to hold on to her estate on a shoestring budget. This could have been Naomi’s story upon her return to Bethlehem with Ruth. Naomi was penniless, although apparently she was able to move back onto the family property in Bethlehem. That may have included a house and some land, but judging from the women’s financial condition, they had no way to make a real living. That’s where the comparison between the TV show and the Bible story ends. There was one very important difference in Naomi’s situation: God looked upon her and Ruth with favor and arranged circumstances to provide them with a secure future. And in the process, Ruth was introduced into the godly line from which King David and Jesus Christ, the Redeemer-King, would come.
The story begins to unfold quickly once Boaz enters the drama. He was a descendant of Judah (Ruth 4:18-21), which qualified him to be in God’s righteous line. Boaz was a righteous man in his own right, someone who along with Ruth deserves mention as a shining exception to the corruption and spiritual decline of that era. Boaz not only helped accomplish God’s will in his own generation, but he also served as a type or example of the future Redeemer by fulfilling the duties of a “kinsman-redeemer” in his family (v. 20). This included redeeming property that had been sold due to poverty and marrying the childless widow of a dead relative. Many Bible teachers believe this ancient provision was a picture of Jesus, the Kinsman-Redeemer of Israel.
APPLY THE WORD It’s great to read about the amazing ways God provided for His people in biblical times. (Today in the Word)
The Lord bless him! … He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead. - Ruth 2:20
TODAY IN THE WORD
Booker T. Washington was born into slavery, and as a child after emancipation, he worked in coal and salt mines to support his destitute family. Yet he always believed that former slaves and their children and grandchildren were capable of succeeding in education, science, and business, and he went on to found the Tuskegee Institute. He left a legacy of hard work, initiative, and opportunities that has inspired millions of people.
Today we will see another theme in the book of Ruth: initiative. Ruth arrived in Bethlehem having made the choice to leave the comfort of food and family and home. While Naomi proclaimed her bitterness, Ruth showed initiative and got right to work (v. 2).
An interesting little phrase sits in the middle of verse 3; the niv translates it, “As it turned out.” It's almost a little wink from the writer, as if to alert us that something that seemed so random, so coincidental, was really a demonstration of God's direction. When Ruth took the initiative to glean in the fields, she had no idea what would follow. But God blessed that step by leading her to the fields of Boaz.
Boaz models faithfulness in our passage today through his extraordinary kindness to a stranger, a foreign-born widow with a lower social rank than even servants (v. 13). To appreciate fully Boaz's generosity, remember the examples we have just read in Judges.What a contrast to the men of Gibeah who offered no hospitality, generosity, or protection to the visitors in their city! The text also indicates that not all field owners were so kind as Boaz; others might embarrass or even mistreat the women who gleaned (v. 22).
In the dramatic arc of this short story, verse 20 is the turning point. Upon hearing that Boaz is the man showing such kindness to Ruth, Naomi roused from her gloominess. She seemed to recall that indeed, the Lord was good and had not abandoned her. Perhaps her emptiness would not be the end of her story.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Boaz might have felt justified in removing Ruth from his fields. He could have instructed his workers to harass her. He lived in the time of Judges—he could have just fit in with the culture around him and sought to maximize his own gain. But Boaz chose faithfulness, kindness, and generosity instead. We may be surrounded by a culture that promotes greed, self-absorption, and rudeness, but we can still choose to live differently. We can still choose to reflect God's character to those around us.
Ruth 2:1-13; 4:1-21
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. - Isaiah 60:3
TODAY IN THE WORD
When Mark and Jan adopted two-year-old Kwan, they celebrated with a special dedication service at their church. As Mark said during the service, they felt a renewed understanding of God's love for us as His children after going through the experience of adopting Kwan into their family. Adoption is a remarkable picture of God's redemptive love. In fact, the New Testament teaches us that as believers we have been adopted as God's children (Eph. 1:5).
In many ways, the story of Ruth is like an adoption, because we see a foreign woman becoming part of the people of God. In fact, the Old Testament has many similar examples, such as the Egyptians who left during the Exodus (see Dec. 7), Jethro (see Dec. Cool, and Rahab (see Dec. 9).
Recall that Ruth married into a Jewish family who had moved to Moab during a famine. Eventually Ruth returned to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi. As it turned out, this Moabitess demonstrated more clearly than some Israelites what it meant to love God with all one's heart and to love one's neighbor as oneself (Deut. 6:5).
In Ruth 2, we find Ruth gleaning in the fields according to the laws that we read about earlier (see Dec. 10). More important, Ruth is in a field that belongs to Boaz, who is Naomi's relative. Boaz's godly character is evident from the way he greets his workers (2:4), and is further revealed in his kindness toward Ruth. Recog-nizing the vulnerability of a foreign woman, Boaz gives Ruth both protection and provision. Behind Boaz's actions, we clearly see the hand of God.
As we jump forward in the story, we find out that Ruth was essential to God's plans. The son born to Ruth and Boaz would become the grandfather of David. So without Ruth, there would not have been David. And God promised to David an everlasting family, which eventually led to Jesus Christ (see Matt. 1:5-6). So in the story of God's care for one foreign woman, Ruth, we see His providential care for the nation Israel, and eventually, all the nations of the earth.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Israel was called to be holy rather than to go forth, and in the Old Testament we find numerous examples of individuals, such as Ruth, coming to Israel and believing in Israel's God.
After Christ's atoning sacrifice and the coming of the Holy Spirit the church is commanded to go forth. But we are still called to live holy lives as well. Can others see Christ in your life?”ˆOur holy lives of obedience should be radiant examples that attract others to the faith we profess in Christ.
Ruth 2:2 “Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn.”
Downcast and troubled Christian, come and glean to-day in the broad field of promise. Here are abundance of precious promises, which exactly meet thy wants. Take this one: “He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.” Doth not that suit thy case? A reed, helpless, insignificant, and weak, a bruised reed, out of which no music can come; weaker than weakness itself; a reed, and that reed bruised, yet, he will not break thee; but on the contrary, will restore and strengthen thee. Thou art like the smoking flax: no light, no warmth, can come from thee; but he will not quench thee; he will blow with his sweet breath of mercy till he fans thee to a flame. Wouldst thou glean another ear? “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” What soft words! Thy heart is tender, and the Master knows it, and therefore he speaketh so gently to thee. Wilt thou not obey him, and come to him even now? Take another ear of corn: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, I will help thee, saith the Lord and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” How canst thou fear with such a wonderful assurance as this? Thou mayest gather ten thousand such golden ears as these! “I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thy transgressions.” Or this, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Or this, “The Spirit and the Bride say, Come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely.” Our Master’s field is very rich; behold the handfuls. See, there they lie before thee, poor timid believer! Gather them up, make them thine own, for Jesus bids thee take them. Be not afraid, only believe! Grasp these sweet promises, thresh them out by meditation and feed on them with joy. (Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and evening)
Ruth 2:3 - Her hap was to light on the portion of the field belonging unto Boaz.
The home-coming of Naomi and Ruth was to poverty, and they were faced by very practical problems. These were rendered more difficult by the fact that Ruth was a Moabitess. Yet, she it was who faced the fight, and went forth as a leaner to gather what would suffice for immediate sustenance. The human side of things is expressed in these words. But the statement is by no means a pagan one. The Hebrew word rendered "hap" does not necessarily mean that the thing that occurred was accidental, although often used in that way. It literally means, that which she met with, and the statement is that it was that portion of the field which belonged to Boaz. All the issues reveal the Divine overruling. That which she met with, was that to which she was guided by God—if all unconsciously, yet none the less definitely. God led this woman, who had given up everything on the principle of faith, to a man, completely actuated by the same faith. The lines of his portrait are few, but they are strong, and a man of the finest quality is revealed. It is a radiant illustration of the truth that God does guide those who confide in Him and in the most definite way. Some experience is often so simple that we are tempted to say it happened, and to mean that it was a sort of accident. Yet the long issues make it certain that it was no accident, but part of a covenant, ordered in all things and sure. When in loyalty we make the venture of faith in God, we are ever choosing the path that is safe and sure. There are no accidents in the life of faith. In its music, the accidentals perfect the harmony. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible).
Ruth 2:3a "And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field." (C H Spurgeon)
I have now to invite you to other fields than these. I would bring you to the field of gospel truth. My Master is the Boaz. See here, in this precious Book is a field of truthful promises, of blessings rich and ripe. The Master stands at the gate and affords us welcome. Strong men full of faith, like reapers, reap their sheaves and gather in their armfuls. 0 that you were all reapers, for the harvest truly is plenteous! But if not reapers, may you be as the maidens of Boaz. I see some servants who do not so much reap themselves as partake of that which others have reaped.
Ruth 2:3 “She gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.”
Her hap was. Yes, it seemed nothing but an accident, but how divinely was it overruled! Ruth had gone forth with her mother’s blessing, under the care of her mother’s God, to humble but honourable toil, and the providence of God was guiding her every step. Little did she know that amid the sheaves she would find a husband, that he should make her the joint owner of all those broad acres, and that she a poor foreigner should become one of the progenitors of the great Messiah. God is very good to those who trust in him, and often surprises them with unlooked for blessings. Little do we know what may happen to us to-morrow, but this sweet fact may cheer us, that no good thing shall be withheld. Chance is banished from the faith of Christians, for they see the hand of God in everything. The trivial events of to-day or to-morrow may involve consequences of the highest importance. O Lord, deal as graciously with thy servants as thou didst with Ruth.
How blessed would it be, if, in wandering in the field of meditation to-night, our hap should be to light upon the place where our next Kinsman will reveal himself to us! O Spirit of God, guide us to him. We would sooner glean in his field than bear away the whole harvest from any other. O for the footsteps of his flock, which may conduct us to the green pastures where he dwells! This is a weary world when Jesus is away—we could better do without sun and moon that without him—but how divinely fair all things become in the glory of his presence! Our souls know the virtue which dwells in Jesus, and can never be content without him. We will wait in prayer this night until our hap shall be to light on a part of the field belonging to Jesus wherein he will manifest himself to us. (Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and evening)
Batter in the Bowl
Read: Ruth 2:1-12
Please let me glean . . . after the reapers among the sheaves. Ruth 2:7
My daughter and I consider brownies to be one of the seven wonders of the culinary world. One day, as we were mixing the ingredients of our favorite chocolate treat, my daughter asked if I would leave some batter in the bowl after pouring most of it into the baking pan. She wanted to enjoy what was left over. I smiled and agreed. Then, I told her, “That’s called gleaning, you know, and it didn’t start with brownies.”
As we enjoyed the remnants of our baking project, I explained that Ruth had gathered leftover grain in order to feed herself and her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 2:2-3). Because both of their husbands had died, the women had returned to Naomi’s homeland. There Ruth met a wealthy landowner named Boaz. She asked him, “Please let me glean . . . after the reapers among the sheaves” (v. 7). He willingly consented and instructed his workers to purposely let grain fall for her (v. 16).
Every good gift we receive comes from God.
Like Boaz, who provided for Ruth from the bounty of his fields, God provides for us out of His abundance. His resources are infinite, and He lets blessings fall for our benefit. He willingly provides us with physical and spiritual nourishment. Every good gift we receive comes from Him.
Dear God, thank You for the blessings I enjoy! You minister to Your children out of Your limitless abundance. I worship You as my provider.
Our greatest needs cannot exceed God’s great resources.
By Jennifer Benson Schuldt | See Other Authors
God commanded His people to be generous and to allow the poor to gather food from their lands at harvest time (Lev. 19:9-10; Deut. 24:19-22). God is the defender, protector, and provider of the poor, the helpless, and the oppressed (Deut. 10:17-19; Ps. 9:9-10; 146:5-9). Sim Kay Tee
Ruth 2:11-23 Unexpected Blessing
June 21, 2011 — by Julie Ackerman Link
Your daughter-in-law, who loves you, … is better to you than seven sons. —Ruth 4:15
Bible in a Year:
Esther 3-5; Acts 5:22-42
Naomi and Ruth came together in less-than-ideal circumstances. To escape a famine in Israel, Naomi’s family moved to Moab. While living there, her two sons married Moabite women: Orpah and Ruth. Then Naomi’s husband and sons died. In that culture, women were dependent on men, which left the three widows in a predicament.
Word came to Naomi that the famine in Israel had ended, so she decided to make the long trek home. Orpah and Ruth started to go with her, but Naomi urged them to return home, saying, “The hand of the Lord has gone out against me!” (1:13).
Orpah went home, but Ruth continued, affirming her belief in Naomi’s God despite Naomi’s own fragile faith (1:15-18).
The story started in desperately unpleasant circumstances: famine, death, and despair (1:1-5). It changed direction due to undeserved kindnesses: Ruth to Naomi (1:16-17; 2:11-12) and Boaz to Ruth (2:13-14).
It involved unlikely people: two widows (an aging Jew and a young Gentile) and Boaz, the son of a prostitute (Josh. 2:1; Matt. 1:5).
It depended on unexplainable intervention: Ruth just so “happened” to glean in the field of Boaz (2:3).
And it ended in unimaginable blessing: a baby who would be in the lineage of the Messiah (4:16-17).
God makes miracles out of what seems insignificant: fragile faith, a little kindness, and ordinary people.
In all the setbacks of your life as a believer, God is plotting for your joy. —John Piper
Random Acts of Kindness
Read: Ruth 2:8–13
“Why have I found such favor [grace] in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” Ruth 2:10
Some say that the American writer Anne Herbert scribbled the phrase “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat at a restaurant in 1982. The sentiment has since been popularized through film and literature and has become a part of our vocabulary.
The question is “Why?” Why should we show kindness? For those who follow Jesus, the answer is clear: To show the tender mercy and kindness of God.
Lord, what do You want me to do for another today? Lead me.
There’s an Old Testament example of that principle in the story of Ruth, the emigrant from Moab. She was a foreigner, living in a strange land whose language and culture she did not understand. Furthermore, she was desperately poor, utterly dependent on the charity of a people who took little notice of her.
There was one Israelite, however, who showed Ruth grace and spoke to her heart (Ruth 2:13). He allowed her to glean in his fields, but more than simple charity, he showed her by his compassion the tender mercy of God, the One under whose wings she could take refuge. She became Boaz’s bride, part of the family of God, and one in a line of ancestors that led to Jesus, who brought salvation to the world (see Matt. 1:1–16).
We never know what one act of kindness, done in Jesus’s name, will do.
Lord, what do You want me to do for another today? Lead me. And may that person see a glimmer of You.
Share your ideas of how you can show kindness in the name of Jesus today at Facebook.com/ourdailybread.
It’s never too soon to be kind.
By David H. Roper
INSIGHT The command to be kind to others is embedded in the Law that God gave to the Jews fresh out of Egypt. God told them, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18). Today, Christ-followers are to “be kind and compassionate to one another” (Eph. 4:32). And the reasons we are to show kindness have not changed: It is because of who God is and what He has done for us. We are to “follow God’s example, . . . and walk in the way of love” (5:1–2).
In after-days this was a favorite image with David in his wanderings and escapes among those same hills. Perhaps he had received it as a fragrant legacy from the life of his good ancestor, Boaz. At least on one occasion Jesus employed it in saying that He had wished to gather Jerusalem as a hen her chicks.
How warm, cozy, and safe, the chickens are when they have gathered under the wings of the brooding hen! It must be a very heaven for them. The storm may roll through the sky, the heavy raindrops fall, the hawk may hover above, poising itself on its wings; but the body of the parent-bird is interposed between them and all that threatens. What wonder that the Psalmist said that he would hide under the shadow of God’s wings till all his calamities were overpast!
Are you sheltering there? Have you come out of the storm and tempest to hide there? Can you say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust”? If so, remain in happy confidence. God is between you and all evil or alarm. Be still; yea, be still.
If you have not come to trust under the outspread wings of the Cherubim, do as Ruth did. Leave the land of your nativity, the far country of Moab; leave your people and your gods; tear yourself away even from some twin-soul, dear as Orpah; come across the border-line, and glean in the fields of the Gospel. There you will meet with the true Boaz, who will show kindness unto you, and you will become affianced to Him, and live at home for evermore in the house of bread, where you will be blessed indeed. (Meyer, F. B. Our Daily Homily) (See also C H Spurgeon's sermon on Ruth 2:12: Reward or Cheer for Converts)
Many women find themselves in similar situations today. For various reasons, they must care for a family without the assistance of a husband.
So what did Ruth do? She went to work. It wasn't glamorous or easy. She walked the barley fields, picking up grain the reapers left behind. And she met the landowner, Boaz, who would become her husband.
Of course, not all stories of hard-working people turn out as well. Yet what happened with Ruth points out two important principles. First, God wants us to be compassionate. The needs of Ruth and Naomi were met because landowners followed God's instructions to leave excess grain in the fields for the poor and the widows (Dt 24:19, 20, 21, 22).
Second, the Lord rewards those who work (Ge 1:28, 29, 30; 2:15; Pr 22:29; 2Th. 3:10, 11, 12). In this case, Ruth received a special blessing from the Lord (Ruth 2:12).
Both laborers and those who are in positions of authority have obligations to each other and to the Lord. No matter what our situation is, we need to follow godly principles. Any other approach to labor doesn't work. — Dave Branon
Man's work can make of him a slave
And lead him to an early grave;
But if it's done as to the Lord,
His work will bring him great reward. --DJD
Life works better when we do.
Ruth 2:14 “And she did eat, and was sufficed, and left.”
Whenever we are privileged to eat of the bread which Jesus gives, we are, like Ruth, satisfied with the full and sweet repast. When Jesus is the host no guest goes empty from the table. Our head is satisfied with the precious truth which Christ reveals; our heart is content with Jesus, as the altogether lovely object of affection; our hope is satisfied, for whom have we in heaven but Jesus? and our desire is satiated, for what can we wish for more than “to know Christ and to be found in him?” Jesus fills our conscience till it is at perfect peace; our judgment with persuasion of the certainty of his teachings; our memory with recollections of what he has done, and our imagination with the prospects of what he is yet to do. As Ruth was “sufficed, and left,” so is it with us. We have had deep draughts; we have thought that we could take in all of Christ; but when we have done our best we have had to leave a vast remainder. We have sat at the table of the Lord’s love, and said, “Nothing but the infinite can ever satisfy me; I am such a great sinner that I must have infinite merit to wash my sin away;” but we have had our sin removed, and found that there was merit to spare; we have had our hunger relieved at the feast of sacred love, and found that there was a redundance of spiritual meat remaining. There are certain sweet things in the Word of God which we have not enjoyed yet, and which we are obliged to leave for awhile; for we are like the disciples to whom Jesus said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” Yes, there are graces to which we have not attained; places of fellowship nearer to Christ which we have not reached; and heights of communion which our feet have not climbed. At every banquet of love there are many baskets of fragments left. Let us magnify the liberality of our glorious Boaz. (Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and evening) (See also Spurgeon's sermon on Ruth 2:14: Mealtime in the Cornfields and Ruth 2:15 Spiritual Gleaning)
Ruth 2:17 “So she gleaned in the field until even.”
Let me learn from Ruth, the gleaner. As she went out to gather the ears of corn, so must I go forth into the fields of prayer, meditation, the ordinances, and hearing the word to gather spiritual food. The gleaner gathers her portion ear by ear; her gains are little by little: so must I be content to search for single truths, if there be no greater plenty of them. Every ear helps to make a bundle, and every gospel lesson assists in making us wise unto salvation. The gleaner keeps her eyes open: if she stumbled among the stubble in a dream, she would have no load to carry home rejoicingly at eventide. I must be watchful in religious exercises lest they become unprofitable to me; I fear I have lost much already—O that I may rightly estimate my opportunities, and glean with greater diligence. The gleaner stoops for all she finds, and so must I. High spirits criticize and object, but lowly minds glean and receive benefit. A humble heart is a great help towards profitably hearing the gospel. The engrafted soul-saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes a bad gleaner; down, master pride, thou art a vile robber, not to be endured for a moment. What the gleaner gathers she holds: if she dropped one ear to find another, the result of her day’s work would be but scant; she is as careful to retain as to obtain, and so at last her gains are great. How often do I forget all that I hear; the second truth pushes the first out of my head, and so my reading and hearing end in much ado about nothing! Do I feel duly the importance of storing up the truth? A hungry belly makes the gleaner wise; if there be no corn in her hand, there will be no bread on her table; she labours under the sense of necessity, and hence her tread is nimble and her grasp is firm; I have even a greater necessity, Lord, help me to feel it, that it may urge me onward to glean in fields which yield so plenteous a reward to diligence. (Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and evening)
Ruth 2:17-23 Surprised By God
January 10, 2012 — by David C. McCasland
The Lord … has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead! —Ruth 2:20
If Naomi had dreamed about returning to her former home prosperous and successful, entering Bethlehem would have been a nightmare. While living in a foreign land, she had lost her husband and two sons and returned with only her daughter-in-law Ruth and a heart full of sorrow. “Do not call me Naomi [pleasant]; call me Mara [bitter],” she told her former neighbors, “for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20).
But this wasn’t the end of the story. When the discouraged Naomi saw God’s hand in Ruth’s life, she said, “The Lord … has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” (2:20). What appeared to be a dead-end had become a doorway for these two women who had lost so much.
The Old Testament book of Ruth is a wonderful story. The brief narrative is infused with an amazing sweetness and grace as “the Lord” is mentioned time after time.
Through Naomi and Ruth, we are reminded that God works in surprising ways to make His love known and to accomplish His purposes—even during difficult times.
God’s surprises continue so we can take heart. He has not stopped showing His kindness to you and me.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest. —Berg
What we see of God’s provisions teaches us to trust Him for what we cannot see of His purposes.
Read: Ruth 2:13-20
Blessed be the one who took notice of you. —Ruth 2:19
While standing in a checkout line, I was estimating my bill and trying to keep my son from wandering away. I barely noticed when the woman ahead of me shuffled toward the exit, leaving all of her items behind. The clerk confided that the woman didn’t have enough money to pay her bill. I felt terrible; if only I had been aware of her situation earlier, I would have helped her.
In the book of Ruth, Boaz became aware of Ruth’s plight when he saw her gleaning in his fields (2:5). He learned that she was recently widowed and was the breadwinner for herself and her mother-in-law. Boaz saw her need for protection, and warned his harvesters to leave her alone (v.9). He supplied her with extra food by instructing his workers to let grain fall purposely (v.16). Boaz even addressed Ruth’s emotional needs by comforting her (vv.11-12). When Naomi heard about this, she said, “Blessed be the one who took notice of you” (v.19).
Are you aware of the needs of the people around you—in your church, neighborhood, or under your own roof? Today, consider how you might help bear someone’s burden. Then you will be fulfilling God’s plan for you (Gal. 6:2; Eph. 2:10).
Help me Lord, to notice
The hurting, sick, and lost;
Guide me as I help them
Regardless of the cost. —Schuldt
God works through us to meet the needs of those around us.
By Jennifer Benson Schuldt
The Giving Kind - At one end of the truck terminal where H. H. Lee worked years ago was a coal company. Nearby was a railroad, and each day several freight trains passed by. Lee often noticed that the owner of the company, who was a Christian, threw chunks of coal over the fence at various places along the track. One day he asked the man why he did this.
The man replied, “An elderly woman lives across the street, and I know that her pension is inadequate to buy enough coal. After the trains go by, she walks along and picks up the pieces she thinks have fallen from the coal car behind the engine. She doesn’t realize that diesels have replaced steam locomotives. I don’t want to disappoint her, so I just throw some pieces over the fence.”
That’s Christianity in action! The book of Ruth vividly portrays this principle of giving. When Boaz saw Ruth gathering grain behind the reapers in his field, he commanded them to leave some handfuls of grain for her. To her, this was a blessing from the Lord.
In the same way, the people whose lives we touch need to experience God’s love through our compassion and generosity. That’s why we should ask God to make us aware of opportunities to show kindness. — Henry G. Bosch (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Do a deed of simple kindness;
Though its end you may not see,
It will reach like widening ripples
Down a long eternity. —Anon.
Kindness is the oil that takes the friction out of life.
Devotionals from Selwyn Hughes
The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. - Psalm 145:8
In her book Flowers by the Wayside, Beverly Parkin describes a flower that reminds us of Ruth. Parkin says the regal yellow iris “grows in damp places, untroubled by storms and violent winds. There is great strength in its broad, spear-shaped leaves and the flowers bloom regardless of the weather… The iris has great character.” That’s a good illustration of the spiritual strength and character Ruth displayed. Her proposal to Boaz that he become a kinsman-redeemer to Naomi and her was perfectly appropriate in the society of the day. God used the same concept to describe His relationship to Israel (Ezekiel 16:8). This was also an act of faith on Ruth’s part, because she was putting herself totally at the mercy of God and the kindness and generosity of Boaz.
She was in good hands! The psalmist reminds us that we serve a “gracious and compassionate” God who is rich in love and mercy. God had been at work for Ruth’s good--and the blessing of others through her--since she first came into Naomi’s family. And since Boaz was also a person of spiritual integrity, he realized what he needed to do and took the appropriate steps. But why the sudden inclusion of the nearer relative in the story (Ru 3:12)? The drama increases because of this complication. We’re not told how Ruth felt about the possibility of becoming someone else’s wife. It could be that God was giving Ruth and Naomi a test of faith--they had to wait at home for the outcome. Boaz knew Ruth was an exceptional woman who had gained a good reputation in Bethlehem--and she wasn’t even Jewish. Her presence and godly character served as an example to God’s people of what He expected from them. At various times in Israel’s history, God used righteous Gentiles to call attention to Israel’s lack of faith. (Today in the Word)
All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character. - Ruth 3:11
TODAY IN THE WORD
Comedians love to make jokes about intrusive and assertive mothers-in-law. But in our reading today, Naomi demonstrates initiative and action that would have won her a “Mother-in-Law of the Year” award.
We might guess that the prospect of rich provider had motivated Naomi to urge Ruth to immediately pursue Boaz. Actually, the text tells us that quite a bit of time went by between Ruth's first meeting with Boaz until the events in this chapter (see 1:22; 2:23). Ruth and Naomi had ample opportunity to see the character of Boaz and his treatment of Ruth.
Next, we observe commendable action on the part of all three main characters. The last time that Naomi and her family faced a crisis, they pulled up stakes and left Israel. On this occasion, though, Naomi acted on the principle of the kinsman-redeemer that God had set up (see Lev. 25). Naomi's idea was consistent with the Lord's provision for preserving the property and family inheritance of those who had suffered hardship. And finally Naomi acted as though she had some hope in God's ability to provide.
Ruth's obedience and action was in line with what we have seen since chapter 1. Her time in Bethlehem had been long enough to establish a reputation, and her noble character was universally acknowledged (v. 11).
Boaz reacts to the situation in an interesting way. From what the writer tells us, it seems clear that he was attracted to Ruth from the first time they met. And he certainly had paid attention to what sort of woman she was. He even knew about their family relationship. So why had he not acted on the kinsman-redeemer possibility earlier? Given their age difference, it seems that Boaz was uncertain about whether Ruth would want to be married to him (v. 10).
Now that Ruth had, in effect, asked him to marry her through fulfilling the role of the kinsman-redeemer, Boaz expressed his great joy.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
God has provided directions for many of the challenges that we face in life—but like Naomi, we have to know His Word in order to discover His leading. Reading through long passages of Scripture at a time (entire books if possible) gives us context. Digging deep in studying smaller chunks of God's Word gives us greater understanding of particular stories or arguments. And memorizing verses or chapters allows the Word to penetrate deeply into our being where the Holy Spirit will use it to shape and direct us.
Ruth 3:1-11 The Romance
November 6, 2012 — by Cindy Hess Kasper
“There is a [grandson] born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. —Ruth 4:17
Widows in biblical times often faced a life of poverty. That’s the situation Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, were in after each woman lost her husband. But God had a plan to provide security for them while involving Ruth as an integral part of a much bigger plan.
Boaz, a wealthy landowner, knew of and admired Ruth (Ruth 2:5-12), but he was surprised when he awoke one night to see her lying at his feet (3:8). She asked him to “spread the corner” of his garment over her to indicate that as a close relative he was willing to be her “kinsman-redeemer” (v.9 NIV). This was more than a request for protection; she was requesting marriage. Boaz agreed to marry her (vv.11-13; 4:13).
Not exactly your typical romantic tale. But Ruth’s choice to follow Naomi’s instructions (3:3-6) set up a series of events that placed her in God’s plan of redemption! From Ruth’s marriage to Boaz came a son (Obed), the eventual grandfather of King David (4:17). Generations later, Joseph was born to the family, and he became the “legal father” of Mary’s child (Matt. 1:16-17; Luke 2:4-5)—our Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus.
Ruth trusted God and followed Naomi’s instructions even though the ending was uncertain. We too can count on God to provide for us when life is unsure.
Lord, give us humility and sensitivity to listen
to advice from loved ones who know You well.
Show us the right thing to do in our uncertain
times and to trust You for the results. Amen.
Fear hinders faith, but trust kindles confidence
Two words in the chapter call for detailed explanation. The first [is] menuchah. Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home [or place of rest, safety] for you, where you will be well provided for?”
The position of an unmarried woman in the ancient world was both perilous and unhappy. Only in the house of a husband was a woman sure of safety, respect, honor. And consequently the Hebrews spoke of the husband’s home as the woman’s menuchah, or place of rest, her secure haven from servitude, neglect, and license.
In like manner, they regarded a hereditary possession of land as the menuchah, or rest, of a nation. Thus Moses said to the children of Israel, “You have not yet reached the resting place [menuchah] and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you” (Deut. 12:9); they had no haven of repose and freedom, no settled and well-defended inheritance.
King Solomon was the first Hebrew chieftain who could bless God for the gift of complete “rest” to his people. He could thankfully acknowledge that the land had become the secure inheritance of the Hebrew race. And hence, at the opening of the temple, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest [menuchah] to his people Israel just as he promised” (1 Kings 8:56).
The prophets rose to a still higher conception of and use of the word. For them, God was the true rest, or menuchah, of humankind. And hence they predicted that when God came, in the person of the Messiah, Paradise would return and the whole world would enter into its true menuchah, its final and glorious “rest.” When the Messiah came, he invited the weary and burdened to come to him, on the express ground that he was their rest, that in and with him they would find such a haven of freedom and honorable repose as the Hebrew wife found in her husband’s home, such a rest as the Hebrew race found in the Promised Land when it was wholly their own—no, such a rest as the prophets had taught them to look and hope for only in God.
Naomi sets herself, with courage and hope, to find a menuchah, a haven of rest and honor, for the daughter who had clung to her with a love so rare.
The second of the two notable words in this chapter is goel. Like the word menuchah, it has a history in the Hebrew conception of the Messiah. According to its derivation, goel means “one who unlooses”—unlooses that which has been bound and restores it to its original position. Boaz was among the goelim of Naomi and Ruth.
We learn from the Pentateuch that there were three tragic contingencies in which the legal redeemer and avenger was bound to interpose—each of which was of much more frequent occurrence than the case recorded in the book of Ruth.
The Forfeited Inheritance. If an Israelite had sold his estate or any part of it, any of his near kin who was able to do so was commanded to purchase it, but when the trumpets announced the year of Jubilee, it reverted to its original owner.
Of whom can the Israelite alienated from his original inheritance be the type but of fallen humanity? All things were ours, but by our sin, we put them all into the hands of the Adversary, so that through our sin, the whole creation has been brought under the shadows of decay. And who can the Goel be but that divine Kinsman—bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh—who has redeemed and restored the inheritance we had forfeited? All things are made ours by his grace—if we are his—and when the trumpet will sound Jubilee, even the creation will be delivered from imperfection, out of “bondage to decay… into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Ro 8:21-note).
The Forfeited Liberty. To discharge a debt or to save himself from the last extremities of want, a Hebrew might sell himself either to a stranger or another Israelite. If he sold himself to an Israelite, he was treated not as a slave but as a hired servant and became free [in] the year of Jubilee. But if he sold himself to a foreigner, he became a slave, and in that case any of his kinsmen was permitted to interpose and to pay the price of his redemption.
The human race was sold under sin, led captive at the will of an alien and adverse spirit. Our freedom was gone; we were in bondage. And Christ has proved himself our Goel by giving himself a ransom for all, by redeeming us with his own precious blood.
The Forfeited Life. The avenger of blood is the goel who, in virtue of his kinship, becomes an avenger of wrongs.
Even in him who was “gentle and humble in heart” (Mt 11:29), we may find the avenging function of the Hebrew goel. Christ came to destroy as well as to redeem, to destroy that he might redeem. He, of whom the Hebrew avenger of blood was a type, pursued that great enemy of our souls. To avenge the world for all that it had suffered at the hands of evil, to redeem it from enslavement, he disarmed the powers of evil.
One feature of the goel comes out markedly, whatever [his] function—whether redeeming an alienated inheritance, restoring liberty to a captive, or hunting down a homicide. He is one of the nearest kin. Kinship with the redeemed, in short, is an unvarying law and condition of redemption. And this law holds of the divine Goel. No stranger could interpose for us, only one who is our nearest Kinsman. Hence the Son of God became the Son of Man.
In thus speaking of the redemption wrought by our divine Kinsman, it must not be supposed that we are playing with mere figures of speech. Under this image, we have presented to us the truths that have most profoundly entered our spiritual experience. No Hebrew who had been compelled to part with the fields he inherited from his fathers suffered a loss comparable with ours, when, by sin, we had lost the righteousness in which we were originally placed by the Father of our spirits. No Hebrew selling himself for a slave ever endured a bondage half so bitter and shameful as that into which we fell when, sold under sin, we sank into bondage to our own lusts. No deliverance wrought by a Hebrew goel is worthy to be compared to that by which Christ made it possible for us to possess a righteousness more stable and more perfect than that which we had cast away.
With a fervor and a triumph infinitely transcending that of Naomi, we may exclaim, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left us without a Kinsman-Redeemer.” —Samuel Cox
In these words the nobility and faithfulness of Boaz are manifested. It is hardly possible to read the story without seeing that he loved Ruth, and that therefore he was perfectly ready to take the responsibility of the next-of-kin. There was, how-ever another who had a prior right, and in loyalty to the law of his people, he gave that one his opportunity. The action of Naomi in this matter can hardly be characterized as other than doubtful, and on the basis of faith alone, it is difficult to justify it. Nevertheless, the expedient to which she resorted must be judged in the light of her own age. We must recognize that at the lowest it was an error of judgment, rather than a willful disobedience; and the overruling love of God carried it to a beneficent issue. One element, and perhaps the strongest, in her action, was that of her confidence in Boaz. Her appeal should have been made to the next-of-kin, but the whole attitude of Boaz toward Ruth had made it natural for her to look to him. He, however, fulfilled his first obligation to the law, as he gave the first opportunity to the true kinsman. This next-of-kin had a perfect right lawfully to abandon his claim, seeing that another was ready to assume it. Thus again the Divine, overruling to highest ends is seen in the case of those who walk by faith, and in strict obedience to the known law of God (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible).
"Be still, and know that I am God."-- Ps 46:10
PARADISE HAS vanished from our world, as the picture of a landscape vanishes when swept by storm. And our race stands in much the same plight as did Naomi and Ruth in this old-world story. We have lost our inheritance, and the one barrier which stands between us and despair is the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ. But, thank God, we need have no doubt as to the sequel. For as Boaz claimed back the estate for Ruth, so may we be confident that Jesus Christ will never be at rest till this sin-stained and distracted world is restored to her primitive order and beauty, as when the morning-stars sang for joy.
Jesus is our near Kinsman by His assumption of our nature. He is the nearest and dearest Friend of our race, who stooped to die for our redemption. And the fact that He carried our nature in Himself to heaven, and wears it there, is an indissoluble bond between us. Sit still! do not fret! He will never fail, as He will certainly never forsake!
Let us seek the quiet heart in our prayers. Prayer must arise within us as a fountain from unknown depths. But we must leave it to God to answer in His own wisest way. We are so impatient, and think that God does not answer. A child asked God for fine weather on her birthday, and it rained! Some one said, "God didn't answer your prayer." "Oh yes," she replied, "He did, God always answers, but He said No!" God always answers! He never fails! Be still! If we abide in Him, and He abides in us, we ask what we will, and it is done. As a sound may dislodge an avalanche, so the prayer of faith sets in motion the power of God.
In times of difficulty--be still! Thine enemies are plotting thine overthrow! They laugh at thy strong confidence! But hast thou not heard His voice saying: "This is the way, walk ye in it"? Then leave Him to deal with thy foes from whatever quarter they come. He is thy Rock, and rocks do not shake. He is thy High Tower, and a high tower cannot be flooded. Thou needest mercy, and to Him belongeth mercy. Do not run hither and thither in panic! Just quietly wait, hushing thy soul, as He did the fears of His friends on the eve of Gethsemane and Calvary. "Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him." "Be still, for He will not rest, until He hath finished the thing this day."
PRAYER - If this day I should get lost amid the perplexities of life and the rush of many duties, do Thou search me out, gracious Lord, and bring me back into the quiet of Thy presence. AMEN. (F B Meyer. Our Daily Walk)
Ruth 3:18 The man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
Boaz had many good traits — his religious demeanor and speech, his courtesy in greeting his servants, his refusal to take advantage of Ruth’s trust; but none are more satisfactory as an index of a noble character than this well-known and acknowledged promptness of action, when he had once taken in hand the cause of the needy. From of old, Naomi had recognized this quality in her kinsman, and knew that he was a man of his word, who would assiduously complete what he had undertaken to perform.
It is a characteristic that we should do well to cultivate. Let us not arouse hopes, and finally disappoint them; let us not make promises to forget them. Our words should be yea, yea. Those who commit their cause to us should feel perfectly at rest about our executing what we have promised.
How true this is of Jesus! If we have put our matters into his hands, we have no further need of worry or fear, but may sit still in assured trust. For Zion’s sake He does not hold his peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake He will not rest. He has undertaken the cause of the Church, albeit that it is so largely composed of Gentiles, and He will not be in rest until the marriage-feast is celebrated. He has made Himself responsible for thee and me; and He will not rest until He has played the part of a Jail to the furthest limit, and accomplished our redemption. When we have fully yielded ourselves to Him, and have tasted the joys of complete rest, we may assuredly say with the Apostle, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (Meyer, F. B. Our Daily Homily)
Devotionals from Selwyn Hughes
Every great story has a great ending, and Ruth’s story has one of the best. The writer doesn’t reveal the “punch line” until the last few verses, where we read that God blessed the romance and marriage of Ruth and Boaz by placing them in the line of the Messiah. Their son Obed was the grandfather of David. But to reach this point, one more dramatic scene was necessary. Boaz had to find out whether his other kinsman was willing to give up his right to assume responsibility for the property of Ruth’s late husband and his right to marry her. At a solemn meeting in the town gate, where such business was usually conducted, the other relative passed the right of redemption on to Boaz. Now it was time for wedding bells. The elders of the city pronounced a blessing on Boaz and Ruth. From this anointed union, Obed was born. Naomi was overjoyed, and may have sensed something special about her new grandson. Although David was still two generations away, God’s favor was on this family. Because the writer of Ruth took the time to record a brief genealogy of this portion of the godly line, let’s take a look at it. What we discover is the grace of God at work again, using all kinds of people in various situations to accomplish His will. We need to begin with the last part of the blessing the elders gave to Boaz. “May your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah” (Ru 4:12).
We have already met Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah (see the July 11 study). Perez was one of the sons born to Tamar after her affair with Judah. God did not overlook Judah’s sin, but he did bless the family line. Ruth 4:21 says Salmon was Boaz’s father. Matthew 1:5, in the genealogy of Jesus, reveals that Salmon’s wife, and Boaz’s mother, was Rahab. She was the Canaanite prostitute who hid the Israelite spies in Jericho (Joshua 2:1ff).
APPLY THE WORD We can’t get away from the reality of God’s grace this month. The fact is that the story of the Savior’s line is saturated with examples of God’s grace. (Today in the Word)
TODAY IN THE WORD One popular dramatic technique for creating a sense of romantic tension involves placing two characters in a social or religious system of rules that prohibit them from being together. You can undoubtedly see it employed by more than a few television shows and movies available for viewing on this day that is considered a celebration of romance. By defying the oppressive system that threatens to keep the two apart, the love intensifies as the rules are shattered.
By that standard, Ruth and Boaz's love story is a bit ho-hum. Ruth and Boaz each followed the rules of the culture explicitly. They offended no one. They deceived no one. They broke no social codes. Theirs was a nice story, and despite the lack of scandal, it's possibly the most enthralling love story in the Bible.
Today's passage begins with Boaz doing due diligence in extending the responsibilities and opportunities of kinsman-redeemer to the nearest eligible relative. Boaz loved Ruth and wanted to marry her as kinsman-redeemer. But rather than hide the matter, he dealt with it immediately and directly. Boaz presented the kinsman-redeemer, unnamed in the story, with the option of purchasing Naomi's land and acquiring Ruth's hand in marriage, and the man balked at the prospect of including Ruth in the acquisition.
With that, Boaz had the right to pursue marriage to Ruth. Boaz retained his integrity and his allegiance to God. Had the couple skirted the rules and put their own interests ahead of their responsibility to honor God, they would have cheapened their love. Instead, they preserved it with honor and glory to God.
Boaz and Ruth's love for each other affected generations in both directions—Naomi received honor beyond measure with a new grandson and a restoration of family. The generations to come received a king in David, and the world was given the King of Kings in his descendant, Jesus Christ. In those days when everyone did as they saw fit (Ruth 1:1; Jdg. 21:25), at least one family loved and obeyed faithfully.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY Not everything done “in the name of love” is automatically justifiable, even on Valentine's Day. If you want to show meaningful love to someone today, do so within God's guidelines. You could show love to a superior in the form of respect and compliant service. You could show love to coworkers by refraining from inappropriate flirtation. You could love someone who is suffering by praying for them and writing a note of encouragement. It might not be the stuff greeting cards are made of, but obedience honors God!
During the American Revolution, the British Crown offered General Joseph Reed a bribe. He replied at an August 11, 1778, meeting of the Continental Congress by saying,
"I am not worth purchasing, but such as I am, the King of Great Britain is not rich enough to do it."
Boaz was rich enough to take Ruth as his wife. As a close relative of Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, Boaz paid the price out of duty, but apparently he also loved Ruth. The Old Testament redeemer had to be a near relative, be willing, and be able to pay the price. Although love for the redeemed was not a requirement, it sometimes motivated the redeemer. More important, God Himself redeemed Israel because He loved the people.
Roman law added an obligation to the rules of redemption: The redeemed had to repay the ransom price. Redeemed people were in debt to their redeemer until they cleared the liability. Like Joseph Reed, we were not worthy of being purchased, but God loved us so deeply that He bought us with His Son's life. And we can only repay the Redeemer by offering our own lives in return. (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
So this exquisite idyll, which began with three deaths and famine, ends with marriage rejoicings. Shall not all God’s idylls end thus? Shall it be left to the dream of the novelist only to make happy for ever after? God has eternity at his disposal, as well as time. Only trust Him; “thy darkest night shall end in brightest day.”
It is impossible not to read between these lines and see the foreshadowing of another marriage, when the purchase of the Church shall issue in her everlasting union with the Son, in the presence of God the Father. Let us, however, apply these words to ourselves as individuals.
The Lord Jesus has purchased us to be his own, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with his precious blood.
He has also won back our patrimony; this earth is his; and shall be yet rid of all intruding evil, to shine as the brightest jewel in his crown.
He has received the shoe, the symbol of dominion and authority. He is not only our lover, but our Lord.
He waits to take us to Himself, in a love that shall not cease, and compared to which all the love we have ever known is as moonlight compared with sunshine. (Meyer, F. B. Our Daily Homily)
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. - Matthew 1:5-6
TODAY IN THE WORD
On their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1992, Thomas and Ann Johnson recalled how they met and married. “I'd had my eye on Ann for about a year but I was nervous to ask her out. When I heard I'd be shipped out to the war, I found Ann in the library and just asked her to marry me! Turns out she liked me, we got married a week later, and here we are after fifty happy years!”
Boaz would have understood; once he found out that Ruth was willing to marry him, he wasted no time. As in all good stories, an obstacle emerged—another man who was actually a closer relative had the first opportunity to buy the land … and to marry Ruth. The dramatic tension builds in verses 4-6: now that Boaz and Ruth want to be together, will another relative stand in the way?
To understand the extent to which Boaz modeled faithfulness it's helpful to note that no one was obligated to take the role of kinsman-redeemer. In Leviticus 25, the provision is simply that a relative may do this. In Ruth, the nearest relative preferred not to be inconvenienced, but Boaz accepted the responsibility.
As we conclude our study, let's look at the larger picture. First, Naomi had come full circle. Through the selfless acts of loyal love by Ruth and Boaz, she was restored to fullness. Second, even in the dark days of Judges, God was working to provide Israel with what they needed—godly leadership. The child born to Ruth and Boaz became the grandfather of King David, a man after God's own heart.
Finally, God's salvation extends beyond the borders of Israel. Ruth, a Moabite, is part of the royal line. And a descendant of David reigns forever, Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer. He paid the price to redeem us from sin, and God has exalted Him above every principality and power (see Phil. 2:6-11). He is our Lord, our gracious Judge and Deliverer.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Praise is an appropriate way to end our study this month. To begin, you could focus on praising Jesus as Judge, Deliverer, and Kinsman-Redeemer. You could praise God for His acts of faithfulness, provision, and mercy. You could do this in an extended prayer time, through singing, or even in focusing your thoughts and heart on what God has revealed about Himself in our study this month. As Psalm 92:1 says, “It is good to praise the Lord.”
Ruth 4:13-22 Compete Or Converge
April 10, 2007 — by Joe Stowell
[Ruth] bore a son… They called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. —Ruth 4:13,17
Walking through campus one day, a seminary professor came upon a custodian reading the Bible during lunch hour. The professor asked what he was reading. “Revelation,” the custodian said. “I’m sure you don’t understand what it means,” said the professor condescendingly. “Actually, I do,” he replied. “It means Jesus wins.”
In the face of life’s challenges, it’s important to remember that ultimately God always wins! And since His plans are always in the victory lane, it’s infinitely wiser to converge with His will rather than compete with it.
In the story of Ruth, God providentially set the stage for Boaz to rescue Ruth and Naomi from a life of poverty and the shame of not having an heir. Ruth could have been bitter about her status as a young widow, and Boaz might have thought that as a foreigner Ruth was not worth his time. But they recognized the hand of God in their circumstances and converged with His plan to provide for her needs. The best part is that their story doesn’t end there. Salvation for the world was yet to come through their descendants—first David and then Jesus (Matt. 1:5-16).
We can compete with God’s plan and pursue our own agenda. Or we can converge with God’s plan and join the winning side. The choice is ours.
Choose not a path that God can’t bless,
For it will end in sure defeat;
But choose God’s path of victory
And with His plans you won’t compete. —D. De Haan
God’s plans always lead to victory.
Read: Ruth 4:13–17
He has not stopped showing his kindness. Ruth 2:20
“How can you be so kind if you don’t even know me!”
By making some wrong decisions, Linda had ended up in jail in a country not her own. For six years she remained in prison, and when she was set free she didn’t have anywhere to go. She thought her life was over! While her family gathered money to buy her ticket home, a kind couple offered her lodging, food, and a helping hand. Linda was so touched by their kindness that she willingly listened as they told her the good news of a God who loves her and wants to give her a second chance.
Dear Lord, thank You that You let us begin again and again.
Linda reminds me of Naomi, a widow in the Bible who lost her husband and two sons in a foreign land and thought her life was over (Ruth 1). However, the Lord hadn’t forgotten Naomi, and through the love of her daughter-in-law and the compassion of a godly man named Boaz, Naomi saw God’s love and was given a second chance (4:13–17).
The same God cares for us today. Through the love of others we can be reminded of His presence. We can see God’s grace in the helping hand of people we may not even know well. But above all, God is willing to give us a fresh start. We just need, like Linda and Naomi, to see God’s hand in our everyday lives and realize He never stops showing us His kindness.
Dear Lord, thank You that You let us begin again and again.
God gives us second chances.
INSIGHT Placed in the same time period as the book of Judges, the book of Ruth complements the bleak tone of Judges with a hopeful focus on God’s unconditional faithfulness. The most central character in this book is Naomi, who receives renewed hope after her own resources are gone. The concept of “redemption” in Ruth refers to the practice of a “guardian-redeemer.” The redeemer restores losses due to tragedy for a close relative. The guardian-redeemer’s role might involve some self-sacrifice, for restoring the relative’s inheritance or family line meant the possibility of not creating his own family line. In the book of Ruth, after the death of Naomi’s husband and sons, Boaz chooses to restore Elimelek and Naomi’s family line through marrying Ruth and considering her child as Naomi’s. But “redemption” also had a deeper meaning for Israel, pointing them to their hope of God restoring them (often portrayed as redemption; see, for example, Ex. 6:6–8; Isa. 43:1). Ultimately, it was God, not Boaz, who restored Naomi (Ruth 4:14). And from Ruth’s family came David (v. 22) and eventually Jesus, who restores all believers into relationship with God. When have you, like Naomi, experienced God’s restoration despite feelings of despair?
The women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative —Ruth 4:14
A wise person once told me, “Never be quick to judge whether something is a blessing or a curse.” The story of Naomi reminds me of this.
The name Naomi means “my delight.” But when bad things happened to her, Naomi wanted to change her name to match her circumstances. After her husband and sons died, Naomi concluded, “The hand of the Lord has gone out against me!” (Ruth 1:13-note). When people greeted her, she said, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ru 1:20-note).
Rather than judge her circumstances in light of her identity as a follower of the one true God who had proclaimed unfailing love for His people, Naomi did what most of us tend to do: She judged God in light of her circumstances. And she judged wrongly. The hand of the Lord had not gone out against her. In fact, Naomi had a God-given treasure she had not yet discovered. Although Naomi lost her husband and two sons, she was given something totally unexpected—a devoted daughter-in-law and a grandchild who would be in the lineage of the Messiah.
As Naomi’s life shows us, sometimes the worst thing that happens to us can open the door for the best that God has to give us. —Julie Ackerman Link (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Loving Father, help me not to judge Your love for me
on the basis of whether today brings good news
or bad. Help me remember that You desire to use
my circumstances to make me more like Jesus. Amen.
God’s purpose for today’s events may not be seen till tomorrow.
LIFE ON LEVEL ONE - In an ancient form of Chinese drama, plays were often performed on a two-level stage. On the first level, the drama would unfold in the natural sequence of the script, while on the second level the last act of the play would be acted out simultaneously. This gave the audience a distinct advantage—they knew how the story would end. In fact, it was not uncommon for the audience to yell to the actors on level one, warning them that their attitudes or actions were threatening the good outcomes of the final act of the play.
Life is a lot like living on “level one.” When life on level one is in the dumper, it’s easy to forget that the unseen hand of God is already at work to bring the last act to His glory and our good.
It was like that for Ruth and Naomi. Their “level one” was not a pretty picture. After the unexpected death of her husband and two sons, Naomi was left with her two daughters-in-law as a marginalized immigrant in Moab. In an age when men were the sole providers for their families and sons were a badge of honor to a woman, this was no small problem. The level-one cry of this destitute widow is understandable. “The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ru 1:21-note).
In Naomi’s excruciating pain, God was at work. Through Boaz’s noble response to Naomi’s destitute need for a kinsman-redeemer, God was in the process of designing a powerful picture of the rescuing work of Jesus to redeem our lives from hopelessness. It was also in God’s providence to place a Moabite woman in the line of Christ to prove that all, regardless of race or background, could be included in His saving grace (Matthew 1:5). How did He get a Moabitess to Bethlehem where she could marry into the line of Christ? He sent Naomi to Moab to bring one back! Without her knowing it, God was positioning Naomi to be greatly used of God.
So here’s the lesson. When level one is not a pretty picture, remember that God is the manager of all that plays out in our lives. We are not left to the winds of fate. I love the fact that He never wastes our sorrows and that His hidden hand is working to turn our sorrows into significance. Romans 8:28 assures us: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” So, chin up! The God who works on level two guarantees a good and glorious ending.
YOUR JOURNEY…Read Ro 8:28 (notes); Ro 8:29 (notes). According to verse 29, what is God’s purpose for my life? How does that affect my view of what is “good” for me? What challenges am I facing on level one right now? How does it help to know that God already knows what level two will bring? If my life were divided into acts like a play, what act would I be in right now? What act has been played out with an outcome that proved to be good for me? Adapted from an article originally written for the Our Journey devotional guide. (Our Daily Homily)
The story ends with poetic simplicity and beauty. "Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife." Naomi at last was comforted indeed. The women of her own people spoke words of cheer to her which unquestionably were full of comfort, as they set forth the praises of the one who had chosen to share her affliction, and had become the medium of her succour. There is a stately simplicity in this story of the issue. It constitutes a record of the Divine movement in the history of the chosen people, for thus the kingly line is ordained, m the midst of infidelity, through faithful souls. All the period of the Judges was characterized by the failure of the people to realize the great ideal of the Theocracy. They had no king because they were disobedient to the One King. Presently we shall hear them clamouring for a king "like the nations," and one will be appointed by whose reign of forty years they will learn the difference between earthly rule and the direct government of God. Then the man after God's own heart will succeed him; and that man will be David, descended from these souls who, in dark and difficult days, realized in their own lives the Divine ideal, as they walked humbly with God. But this Book flings its light much further on. After centuries had run their course, there sprang from this union of Boaz and Ruth in faith and love the Man of Nazareth, Jesus, the One anti only King of men, because He was not only a Child born to Mary, descended from these, but also the Son of God in all the fulness of that title. God, in love and might, ever moves on through human failure, in co-operation with human faith. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible).
- Devotions by Woodrow Kroll (Copyright Back to the Bible. Used by permission. All rights reserved)
Ruth 1:1 Desperate Times by Woodrow Kroll
Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
Desperation can drive us to many extremes. Comedian Woody Allen characterized our times when he said, "We stand at a crossroads. Down one road is despondency and despair, and down the other is total annihilation. Let us pray that we choose the right road." This kind of desperation sometimes even plagues God's people and causes them to make poor choices.
Elimelech was facing desperate times, and he needed to make some difficult choices. He was struggling to feed his family. A wife and two growing boys needed nourishment, but a famine gripped the land. Famines were often God's way of bringing His people to the point of submission. They were not simply to punish Israel, but to get them to turn from their sins. Yet without clear guidance from God, Elimelech chose to run away. Instead of facing the Lord's judgment on the land and trusting God to provide, he moved his family to a pagan land and raised his children in a society that did not know the God of Israel. He even broke God's law by allowing his sons to marry pagan wives (Deut. 7:3-4). It is very tempting to look for the easy way out of our problems. But any choice that takes us away from God is, in the long run, the wrong way. Elimelech's choice ultimately brought death to himself and his two sons. No matter how desperate the situation, it is always better to face what God has allowed and trust Him than it is to run from our circumstances and go it alone.
If you are experiencing difficult times, make your choices based on clear direction from God. Don't allow a feeling of desperation to steer you in the wrong direction.
Desperate choices are seldom the best choices.
Transient or Tenant? by Woodrow Kroll
The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion?Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. Then Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years.
Transient or Tenant?
Time has a way of slipping by quickly. Perhaps you've heard of the fellow who said, "You know, I'm 56. I'm middle-aged!" His wife brought him back to reality when she replied, "How many men do you know who are 112?"
Time slipped by for the family of Elimelech as well. Ruth 1:1 indicates that Elimelech moved his family to Moab with the intent to "sojourn" there. The word sojourn carries the idea of a temporary stay. Elimelech hadn't intended to remain in the land?only to visit a short time until the famine was over. But verse 4 reveals that before they knew it, they had been in the land for ten years. The sons who had gone there as young men had grown up, married local women and eventually passed away, as had their father (v. 5).
Sometimes we intend for situations to be only temporary. We think, Just as soon as the kids are through college, we'll start tithing again. Or perhaps you reason, As soon as I get through this busy period at work, I'll get back to having a daily quiet time. But days turn into weeks, weeks into months and before you know it, circumstances that were only going to be temporary have become a way of life.
Have you allowed something that was intended as transient to become a permanent fixture in your life? Have you been waiting for a more convenient time to do what you know you should be doing now? If time has slipped away for you, don't linger another day "in a distant land." If you're not where you should be, this is the day to do something about it. Don't expect time to stand still just because you do.
Ruth 1:3, 5
Never Alone by Woodrow Kroll
Then Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.
Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.
A man took his elderly mother out to the cemetery to decorate graves for Memorial Day. After placing a bouquet of flowers on her husband's grave, she wandered among the other gravestones marking the resting places of other family members who had gone to be with the Lord. Finally she stopped, looked her son in the eye and with a wistful smile asked, "What have I done to deserve all this overtime?"
Perhaps Naomi felt the same way. She had left Israel with a husband and two sons; now only she was left?alone, and yet not alone. God had brought into her life two compassionate daughters-in-law, one of whom would follow her all the way back to Israel. Even though Naomi intensely felt the loss of her loved ones, God had not deserted her. He provided, even in a foreign land, those who would love and care for a forlorn widow.
God never really leaves us alone. When He removes those whom we expect to love and support us, He always provides another way for this need to be met. While you may experience the pain of separation, you never need to feel totally abandoned. Sometimes God grants you an unmistakable sense of His company. Other times He uses people around you to be the instruments of His love and comfort. In either case, His compassion never fails and His presence never falters.
Perhaps you have lost the one dearest to you. Maybe you have moved far away from family and friends. Let God fill your life with His presence in whatever way He chooses, and rejoice that He never forgets nor forsakes. Be assured that even though there may be an empty place in your home, there can be a fullness in your heart.
You may feel lonely, but you need never feel alone.
Heading Home by Woodrow Kroll
Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread.
A Christian man took his eyes off God and committed a crime. He was arrested and served a seven-year sentence in a penal institution. Through an encounter with a Barnabas-like pastor, however, this man was led to know the restorative power of the blood of Jesus Christ. On the flyleaf of his Bible he wrote, "The soul that comes to Jesus through failure, shame, or pain, by His wondrous love and mercy may soar as high again."
The famine that God sent on Israel had brought a great deal of pain. It had been the primary motivation for Elimelech and his family to migrate to Moab. But for those who remained in the land, this tribulation apparently accomplished its purpose. The people repented of their sins and turned to God. For His part, God graciously restored their food supply. As the reports of Israel's recovery reached Moab, Naomi's desire was turned back toward her homeland. Although God still had work to do in her heart, this decision was the first step in her restoration to Him.
When we have sinned and turned our backs on God, the Lord often sends chastening events into our lives. As our hearts are brought to the breaking point, we sometimes wonder if God will receive us back. Is it possible for someone who has dwelt in a distant land for many years to come home again? The answer is always yes. Even though our sins are like scarlet, they can be washed white as snow (Isa. 1:18).
Have you wandered away from God? Have you been away too long? Do you fear what His response will be if you return to Him? Take heart. Jesus said, "The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). Confess your sins, place them under the blood of Christ, and turn yourself toward home.
Repentant sinners always find God has the welcome mat out.
Thy Lovingkindness by Woodrow Kroll
And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each to her mother's house. The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me."
The great American novelist Henry James, in saying good-bye to his nephew, Willie, said something the boy never forgot. As they parted, he put his hand on the young man's shoulders and remarked, "Willie, there are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind."
Naomi's daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, apparently had learned that lesson well. As she prepared to part from them, Naomi praised them both for their kindness. They had been kind to her sons, their husbands. And even after they were widowed and no longer had family obligations to their mother-in-law, they continued to show kindness to her. In the midst of a pagan land that practiced a cruel form of worship?even sacrificing little children?God had so moved on the hearts of these two women that their spirit of kindness set them apart from their fellow Moabites.
Kindness should be one of the distinguishing marks of a Christian as well. Frederick W. Faber observed, "Kind words are the music of the world. They have a power that seems to be beyond natural causes, as if they were some angel's song that had lost its way and come to earth. It seems as if they could almost do what in reality God alone can do?soften the hard and angry hearts of men. No one was ever corrected by a sarcasm?crushed, perhaps, if the sarcasm was clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never." We must never forget that more people have been won to Christ through kindness than fiery sermons or learned arguments.
Who needs to feel the warmth of your kindness today? Do you know someone who has a special need that you can meet? Let your life be set apart by your deeds of kindness. Identify a need. Picture a face. And show your kindness to that person today.
Kindness is love in work clothes.
So Right, Yet So Wrong by Woodrow Kroll
But Naomi said, "Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?"
So Right, Yet So Wrong
When Egypt first conquered a land called Nubia, a regiment of soldiers was sent across the desert with an Arab guide. The men suffered extreme thirst. Suddenly, they saw a lake in the distance. It seemed logical to head right for the lake. Although their guide assured them the lake was not real, the soldiers were convinced that it was. It had to be; they could see it. The soldiers decided to kill the guide and then set out to reach the lake. But to their dismay, the water turned out to be only a mirage. Every soldier perished.
What seems logical isn't necessarily right. Naomi presented a very logical argument. It was not possible for her to bear sons to replace Mahlon and Chilion; and even if she could, Orpah and Ruth would not want to wait until these boys were old enough to marry. The obvious conclusion was that her daughters-in-law should return to their Moabite families. That sounded reasonable, so Orpah did. As a result, though, she eventually perished without knowing the God of Israel. Ruth, on the other hand, rejected the logical argument and ultimately found herself drawn into the family of God.
God often doesn't follow the dictates of human logic. That doesn't mean He's illogical, but that His logic transcends ours. The way God does things is not always the way we do things (Isa. 55:8-9). While we are limited in knowledge and power, God is omniscient and omnipotent. While we are trapped in time and space, God is eternal and omnipresent. Our logic reflects our limitations; God's logic reflects His unlimited ability.
Take care when following human reasoning?it may seem right at the time, but "its end is the way of death" (Prov. 14:12). Always trust God's logic; it's the way of life. To know God's logic you must know His will, and to know God's will you must read His Word. That's where you must begin today.
Logic is only as good as its source.
Super-glued by Woodrow Kroll
Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
A number of years ago a new glue, characterized by an unusually strong holding power, was introduced on the market and sold under a variety of names. Advertisements for this product showed such unusual feats as a car being lifted with a crane while attached only by means of this glue. On another occasion, a full-grown elephant was lifted into the air after having its harness glued to a hoist. The message came through clearly: this super glue bonds in an extraordinary way.
That's the way Ruth bonded to Naomi. Certainly her old life had a pull on Ruth's heart. She was not insensitive to her old customs, her familiar haunts or her Moabite family. But the glue that bound her spirit to Naomi was even stronger. It simply would not let go. She "clung" to her mother-in-law with the tenacity of a super glue. Ruth was committed to a whole new life, not just a change of jobs or a change of scenery. Turning back and separating herself from Naomi was not an option.
This same bonding takes place when we receive Christ as our Savior. The Bible says that there is One who "sticks closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24). The apostle Paul asks, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom 8:35). He answers his question a few verses later: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39).
If you are feeling abandoned today, at loose ends with everything around you, rest in the assurance that Jesus sticks with you. Christ will cling to you with a tenacity that would put even a super glue to shame. He will never let you go.
When you're glued to Christ, you're glued for good.
Follow Me by Woodrow Kroll
And she said, "Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law."
Husbands are notorious for not asking directions. One wife said that her husband and she left a wedding to go to the reception. Not knowing how to find the reception hall, her husband chose to follow one of the other wedding guests rather than ask directions. After numerous twists and turns, the car ahead of them finally pulled into the driveway of their own home. As it turned out, these guests had not planned to attend the reception.
Where a person is going should influence whether or not we want to follow him. Naomi urged her daughter-in-law Ruth to follow the way Orpha, her sister-in-law, had taken. But Orpha was headed in the wrong direction. She was going back to her people and her gods. Orpha had been exposed to the God of Israel while she was a part of Elimelech's family, but when the final decision had to be made, she chose to return to her old way of life. Fortunately, Ruth chose not to accompany her.
Many people are seeking others to follow them, but they're headed in the wrong direction. When we cut through all their assurances and promises, we discover that what they're really offering is to lead us back to enslavement to the world. The apostle Paul urged the Corinthians, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). The same applies to us today. Choose to follow only those who have chosen to follow Christ.
Be careful whom you allow to be your leader. Take time today to make sure you're following someone who honors the Lord. Anyone who is not headed in the same direction as Christ is not headed in a direction you want to go.
Before you follow, know where you're being led.
Important Choices by Woodrow Kroll
But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me."
A sign on the door of a classroom in a junior high school in Kansas declares, "We are not born losers, we are born choosers." How very true. Each day we are faced with choices, some of which have the potential of changing our lives forever.
Ruth faced such choices. She had to choose whether to return to her people with her sister-in-law, Orpha, or to follow Naomi, her mother-in-law. She chose her mother-in-law. She had to choose whether to identify herself as a pagan Moabite or throw her lot in with the people of Israel. She chose the people of Israel. She had to choose to worship the idol Chemosh, which involved the sacrifice of children, or to put her trust in the living God, who gives life instead of taking it. She chose Jehovah. These were important choices, and she made them with a determination that changed her life.
Like Ruth, we are all born outside of God's family. But God graciously gives us the opportunity to make choices that can give us eternal life. Instead of continuing in Satan's kingdom of darkness, you can choose to change your allegiance to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13). You can choose to continue in the deeds of darkness or walk in the light (Eph. 5:7-10). You can choose to search for fulfillment in the world or place your trust in Jesus, who has promised to meet your every need (Phil. 4:19). Like Ruth's, these are crucial decisions and, when made with determination, can change your life.
What decisions have you made? Choose rightly. Choose life. Choose Jesus Christ as your Savior. This is the most important decision of your life.
You always choose best when you choose God.
Angry at God by Woodrow Kroll
So 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, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?"
Angry at God
A growing problem in the United States is "road rage." Between January 1, 1990, and September 1, 1996, the American Automobile Association counted at least 10,037 incidents of road rage resulting in 218 deaths. An additional 12,610 people were injured. This is a terrible price to pay for foolishly venting one's anger. Yet it's far more foolish when we become angry at God.
When Naomi returned to her homeland, it was obvious she was angry with God for the losses in her life. When her friends called her Naomi (which means "sweetness" or "pleasantness"), she in-structed them instead to call her Mara (which means "bitterness"), because "the Almighty has afflicted me." She lamented that she left Bethlehem with a husband and two sons, but returned "empty." She was angry at God because of what He had allowed.
In God's plan, however, Naomi was actually at the beginning of the most fulfilling time of her life. Soon Ruth would meet and marry Boaz and bear his child. That baby, Obed, would become the grandfather to Israel's greatest king, David, who would establish the lineage of the Messiah, Jesus. What God had allowed to be taken away from Naomi would be replaced with blessings beyond her wildest imagination.
When you experience the grief of losing a loved one?a husband, a wife, a child?it's easy to become bitter and lash out at God. You think it's all His fault. He allowed it to happen. Yet the God who loves you is also the God who sees the end from the beginning. He knows what He is doing. Trust Him. What has begun as a heartache for you will ultimately result in overwhelming blessings.
Sorrow is the garden in which God grows our blessings.
Just in Time by Woodrow Kroll
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
Just in Time
According to Business Week, time technicians at the National Institute of Standards & Technology recently switched to an atomic clock based on the vibrations of cesium atoms. It will take 300,000 years to gain or lose a single second. But NIST scientists are working on an even better model: a single mercury ion will be trapped in a vacuum by laser beams and cooled to its lowest possible energy level. The atom's oscillations will then be so stable that the new timepiece should be accurate to within one second in ten billion years.
Yet God's timing is even more accurate than that. He brought Naomi and Ruth back from Moab just as the barley harvest was beginning. This had a twofold significance. By God's good timing, they returned at a season when food would be available for a destitute widow and her daughter-in-law. The law of gleaning (Lev. 19:9; 23:22) allowed the poor to follow the harvesters and gather any stray stalks of grain. In fact, the corners of the field were to be left deliberately unharvested so the less fortunate would be provided for. But it was also perfect timing because, most likely, it was only during the harvest season that Boaz regularly visited his fields. This provided an occasion for Ruth and Boaz to meet and develop a relationship.
God's timing is never off. We may get in a hurry or lag behind, but God is the Master of time. His plans always take place in the "fullness of the time" (Gal. 4:4). Never a moment too soon or a second too late, but at the appropriate time He brings about His perfect will.
Trust your time to God. He is a billion times better than an atomic clock. At the right time, He will open the way for you.
God is never in a hurry because He is in control of time.
Real Riches by Woodrow Kroll
And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech; his name was Boaz.
John Jacob Astor, one of the world's richest men, was a passenger on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic. When the ship hit the iceberg and it turned out that there was a shortage of lifeboats, the multimillionaire gave up his chance for safety and went down with the ship. His body was eventually found dressed in a blue suit, with $2,500 in his pocket. But on that fateful night, as he faced eternity, it mattered little what he possessed.
God provided a rich relative for Ruth who had more than possessions; Boaz had honor as well. The word translated "wealth" in Ruth 2:1 is often translated "might" or "valor" in the Bible. It reflects Boaz's strength of character as much as his financial portfolio. He not only had land and houses, but he also was a man of spiritual valor, a mighty man of integrity, an upright man who had placed his trust in God.
God wants all His children to be rich?but not necessarily in material possessions. When the apostle Paul reached the end of his life, all he owned was an extra cloak and some books (2 Tim. 4:13). Barnabas sold his land and gave the money to the needy (Acts 4:34-37). But these men weren't really paupers. In their poverty, they had a richness of peace and joy that many who are wealthy only dream about.
What keeps you up at night? Worry over your stocks and bonds, or agonizing over the souls of those who are lost? What are you striving for? Material wealth that will one day be left behind, or a spiritual wealth that will last for eternity? Make the right choice and then set the right priorities.
If all you have is money, then you have nothing at all.
Finding Favor by Woodrow Kroll
So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter."
Sometimes we try to buy people's favor?and even God's favor. We're like the little girl who won five dollars for her memory work in Sunday school. Later when the pastor's wife congratulated her, the girl proudly announced, "And I put it all in the morning's offering!" "My, how wonderful!" the pastor's wife exclaimed. "I'm sure God will be pleased." "Yes," the child replied, "now maybe He will let me do some of the things I want to do!" This little girl was looking for the wrong kind of favor in the wrong place.
Ruth was also looking for favor?but not the kind you buy with money or flattery. She wanted to come by her favor honestly. She trusted God to bring her to someone's field who would accept her as she was. Even though she wasn't an Israelite, she hoped someone would allow her to glean what was left in the fields. The favor she sought would be the result of the gleaner's grace, not Ruth's glory.
This is the kind of favor God offers. Nothing we possess or do can influence Him to look with favor on us. We cannot buy His favor or manipulate Him by our behavior. His favor comes because He loves us, even while we are yet sinners (Rom. 5:8). Through His Son, Jesus Christ, God has made it possible for our sins to be forgiven (Eph. 1:7). God's favor is given because of who He is, not because of who we are.
Have you found favor in God's sight? You can, right now, right where you are, by confessing that you are a sinner and asking Jesus Christ to be your Savior.
God's favor can be neither bought nor sold, but it can be enjoyed.
Not by Chance by Woodrow Kroll
Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, "Whose young woman is this?" So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, "It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab."
Not by Chance
Nothing happens by chance. Take, for example, the blue whale. Longer than three dump trucks, heavier than 110 Honda Civics and with a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, this magnificent creature requires four tons of krill a day (that's three million calories) for its sustenance. Even a baby blue whale can put away 100 gallons of milk every 24 hours. When a blue whale surfaces, it takes in the largest breath of air of any living thing on the planet. Its spray shoots higher into the air than the height of a telephone pole. How did such a creature come into existence? Not by chance, you can be sure, but by a sovereign Creator's plan.
Neither did Boaz by chance come to his fields just in time to meet Ruth. He certainly didn't come with any intentions of finding a wife, but that was God's plan. Ruth, too, was simply doing what she needed to do for survival. In fact, until she spoke with Naomi, she wasn't even aware of Boaz's relationship with the family she had married into (2:19-20). But in God's plans nothing happens by chance.
Sometimes our circumstances seem to come about by chance. We think, If I had made this decision instead of that decision, my life would be different. Or, If I'd been here instead of there, this wouldn't have happened. While we cannot use this as an excuse for making poor decisions, we can have the confidence that nothing happens by chance. Take care of your responsibilities in a way that honors God, and He will work out His plan through you.
If you are struggling with the "what ifs" of life, put them aside. Be assured that God is working out His plan for you, and it won't be by chance.
Since God is in charge, nothing is by chance.
No Free Lunches by Woodrow Kroll
"And she said, 'Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.' So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house."
No Free Lunches
There's a delightful story about a king, many years ago, who called his wise men together and gave them this commission: "I want you to compile for me the wisdom of the ages and put it in book form so we can leave it to posterity." The men left the king and worked hard. Sometime later they returned with 12 volumes. The king looked at the imposing volumes and said, "It's too long and I fear people will not read it. Condense it!" Still later the wise men returned with only one volume. Again the king said, "Condense it." They then reduced the volume to a chapter, then to a page, then to a paragraph and finally to a sentence. When the king saw the sentence, elatedly he announced. "Gentlemen, this is truly the wisdom of the ages." The sentence simply said, "There are no free lunches."
Ruth recognized that sage truth as well. She did not wait for someone to come along with a handout; instead, she worked from "morning until now." She was diligent in her labors and made a very favorable impression on the other harvesters.
God expects those who bear the name of Christ to honor Him through their work. Paul taught that "if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). He also reminded the Christians at Thessalonica, "Nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you" (v. 8). A slacker is not only a disgrace to himself, but he brings shame upon the Lord as well.
Consider your job a blessing, not a burden. No matter how menial it might seem, see your work as an outlet to honor the Lord. Approach it every day with enthusiasm and dedication. After all, even the ability to work for a living is a gift from God (Eccl. 5:18-19).
Work can be worship when you do it for God.
Bite by Bite by Woodrow Kroll
Then Boaz said to Ruth, "You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women."
Bite by Bite
Nebraska, where I live, has a lot of cattle ranches, and every once in a while a cow wanders off and gets lost. If you were to ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, chances are he would reply, "Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass. After it finishes that one, it looks ahead and starts nibbling on the next one, and then it nibbles on some grass right next to a hole in the fence. When it sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, it nibbles on that one and then another one?and the next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself lost."
Boaz knew how easy it was to drift into danger. His fear for Ruth was that she might wander into the field of some unscrupulous person who would take advantage of her. Therefore he admonished her, "Stay close by my young women." In other words, don't stray from the company of my female workers and you'll be safe.
Sin works on the same principle. Seldom does Satan open a big hole in the fence for us to dash through into sin. He always begins by tempting us with a little "tuft of sin," and that's followed by a bit bigger one, and another one, until we lift our heads and realize we have nibbled ourselves far from God. Bite by bite, we have wandered away until we're lost.
If you find yourself in that situation today, do two things. Stop right were you are and look around to see where God is. Then, take comfort. The One who loves you more than anything else in the world has come to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Admit that you have wandered and confess that you have sinned, and He will help you find your way home again.
Be careful where you take the next bite.
Divine Protection by Woodrow Kroll
"Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn."
An Alpine mountain climbing team came to a perilous gap in the ice. The only way to get across was to step into the outstretched hands of the guide who had met them on the other side. The first climber hesitated a moment as he looked into the gloomy depths below, where he would certainly fall to his death if anything went wrong. Seeing his hesitancy, the guide said, "Don't worry. In all my years as a guide, my hands have never yet lost a man!"
With this same assurance, Ruth placed herself in Boaz's hands. God provided someone who would protect her. Boaz took steps to keep her morally safe by commanding the young men not to touch her. He also provided for her physical protection. Under the hot Mediterranean sun, the danger of heat stroke was a very real possibility. But his young men brought jars of water to the field, and Ruth was free to refresh herself whenever she wanted. In Boaz, Ruth found a safe haven from the dangers around her.
God offers the same to all His children. There is never a moment when we are excluded from His divine protection. That does not mean we can never be hurt. It doesn't mean we will never die. But God's divine protection extends to our ultimate safety?the protection of our souls. These can never be harmed. They are safe in the care of Jesus.
Rejoice in God's divine protection. Be confident that you are safe in His care, no matter how difficult your circumstances might be. God is the keeper of your soul.
Life can hurt us but it cannot ultimately harm us.
A Good Report by Woodrow Kroll
So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" And Boaz answered and said to her, "It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before."
A Good Report
When Jim Wright, the former speaker of the House, resigned, he quoted Horace Greeley: "Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow; only one thing endures?character."
When Boaz justified his kindness toward Ruth, he did not say that he had heard of her great beauty or her brilliant intellect. No mention is ever made of these things. But what spoke volumes to Boaz was what he had heard about Ruth's character. He had heard about her relationship with Naomi and Ruth's willingness to leave her own family and country in order to take care of her widowed mother-in-law?even though she was a widow herself. It's not surprising that Boaz was impressed with Ruth. He knew that a woman with this kind of character was rare and precious.
God is not interested in our fame or fortune; He cares nothing for our popularity or wealth. What God cares about is our character. The trials that He allows to come into our lives?even the loss of loved ones, as Ruth experienced?are for the ultimate perfection of our character.
What do people hear about you? Do you try to impress others with your financial portfolio, your athletic abilities or your great intellect? These are all gifts from God, so where's the brag factor? What about your character? That's what God is looking for in us. Strive to be known for what you are, not what you do. Character counts.
Concentrate on your character; everything else will take care of itself.
Under His Wings by Woodrow Kroll
"The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge."
Under His Wings
Birds use their wings for many purposes other than flying. In times of danger, a mother bird's wings provide a feathered canopy of protection. When darkness falls and the temperature drops, it is under their mother's wings that young chicks find the warmth they need to make it through the frosty night. As the rain plummets to the earth, these same wings provide dry shelter. For those who are young and vulnerable, the wings of their mother promise the safety and security they need.
This is the safety and security Boaz alluded to as he assured Ruth that her kind and unselfish deeds would not go unrewarded. When she abandoned the security of her homeland to care for her mother-in-law, Naomi, Ruth may have wondered about her future. She had left everything that spelled safety, but she found something even greater?a refuge that exists only under the wings of the God of Israel. The word translated "refuge" means "to flee for protection." Under the shelter of God's wings, Ruth found the protection she needed.
God never abandons His own. In times of danger and distress, He spreads His wings of protection and comfort over us. Enveloped by His pinions, we do not need to fear the difficult circumstances of life. Personal storms may rage around us, but we are safe under the canopy of God's constant care. The psalmist assures us, "He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge" (Ps. 91:4).
If you are going through painful times, nestle yourself under His wings. Take comfort in the fact that God's protection is spread over you. Nothing can touch your life without His express permission. Nothing can threaten you without His express protection.
God's protection is more than a match for our problems.
More Than Enough by Woodrow Kroll
Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, "Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar." So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back.
More Than Enough
In 1949, Mr. Jack Wurm was broke and out of a job. One day as he walked along a San Francisco beach, he came across a bottle with a piece of paper in it. The note was the last will and testament of Daisy Singer Alexander, heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune. It read, "To avoid confusion, I leave my entire estate to the lucky person who finds this bottle and to my attorney, Barry Cohen. Share and share alike." In one fell swoop, Mr. Wurm was transformed from a penniless indigent to the possessor of over $6 million dollars in cash and Singer stock. Suddenly, he had more than enough.
Ruth experienced the same. As a destitute widow, she hoped to glean enough barley to provide a few morsels of food for herself and Naomi. Suddenly, because of the kindness of Boaz, she had enough to eat and even some to take home to her mother-in-law. She moved from bare necessities to an abundance she could never have dreamed of.
When we encounter Christ, the same is true for us. We come to him with nothing to offer. Isaiah says that "all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). We are morally broken and spiritually bankrupt. However, in a moment of time, as we open our hearts to receive the Lord, we are forever changed. We are washed clean, and we are filled to overflowing with the eternal riches of Christ. We are changed from spiritual paupers to coheirs with Christ.
Don't count your wealth in terms of dollars and cents. As a child of the King, you have more than enough to be forever satisfied.
Only One who is Himself more than enough can truly satisfy.
Abide With Me by Woodrow Kroll
And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, "It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field." So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.
Abide With Me
When travelers visit a foreign land, they are often issued a visa. A visa, in essence, is an agreement with that government that you will stay no longer than a set number of days or months. If that time expires, you must either renew your visa or leave the country. A visa is not for those who plan to live in a country; it's only for those who plan to visit.
Ruth did not have a visa. When she followed Naomi back to Israel, she had no intention of ever returning to Moab. The Bible says she "dwelt" with her mother-in-law. This verb implies establishing a permanent residence. She was not just there for a visit; she was there for good.
When we come to Christ, it should be with the idea of taking up permanent residence. We do not come to sample the weather and see if we like it. Having tried everything else, we don't "try Jesus." Instead, we come as those ready to surrender allegiance to all other "countries" and to make Jesus our permanent home. Jesus said, "Abide in Me, and I in you" (John 15:4). The consistency and permanency about our relationship set it apart from a mere visit. Furthermore, this commitment is reciprocated as Jesus promises to do the same for us. He abides in us, as we abide in Him. Only then can we bear much fruit for God's glory (v. 5).
Do you want to enjoy life to the fullest? Then walk consistently with Christ. Be regular in your prayer times and Bible reading. Be faithful to your local church. Let it be obvious that you're not a visitor, but have taken up residence in Christ.
Those who abide in Christ don't need a visa for heaven.
Waiting for Instructions by Woodrow Kroll
"Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do."
Waiting for Instructions
A few years ago, a $100,000 mistake was made because someone failed to wait for complete instructions. As reported in Entrepreneur magazine, a dispatcher for a cement company was instructed to send a fleet of trucks to Portland. For some reason he failed to wait for the rest of the message. The result: eight trucks of cement went to Portland, Oregon, when their real destination was 3,000 miles away in Portland, Maine.
Naomi wisely cautioned Ruth to wait for instructions?complete instructions. Ruth was to approach Boaz after the festivities at the threshing floor. Uncovering his feet was not an improper flirtation. As a Middle Eastern custom, it was a way for a woman to ask that she be taken into the man's family as his wife. There was nothing improper here. Afterwards, Naomi prudently advised her, "Don't hurry. Don't try to second-guess what Boaz might have to say. Simply wait, 'and he will tell you what you should do.'"
God also promises to give us complete instructions. The psalmist said of the Lord, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye" (Ps. 32:8). The God who knows the beginning from the end, who holds the past, present and future in His hands, wants to communicate His total plan for our lives. But it seldom comes all at one time. Instead, God reveals a little bit, and then we wait. He reveals a little more, and again we wait. But through this process, we become aware of God's complete instructions for our lives.
Are you eager to know God's plan for your life? Don't rush ahead of Him. Be patient and wait for Him to reveal His instructions. Then go only so far as He reveals. When you no longer know what God would have you do next, stop and wait for Him to tell you more. Give Him time; God will make it all clear.
Waiting for God's instructions is time well spent.
In the Dark by Woodrow Kroll
Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet.
In the Dark
Most crimes take place in the dark. In the dark of the night a thief slips into a home to steal. In dimly lit parking garages assailants lurk about for their next victims. In the blackness of alleys gang members hatch their plans.
Depraved men love the darkness because it hides their wicked deeds (John 3:19). And here was a perfect opportunity?a man alone with a woman in the dark. No one would have noticed; it was midnight and everyone was sound asleep. Nor probably would they have cared, had they taken note. Ruth was a foreigner and, worse yet, a Moabitess. Since the days of Moses when Moabites refused to allow passage through their land and even hired Balaam to curse the Israelites, no love existed between these two nations. Furthermore, Boaz was wealthy, and everyone knows that the rich take what they want. But Boaz was a man of honor and integrity?even in the dark.
God expects you and me to behave in the dark the same as we do in the light. It makes no difference if no one is watching. It doesn't even matter that our misdeeds will never be discovered. There is still One who knows and cares. The psalmist reminds us, "the darkness and the light are both alike to [God]" (Ps. 139:12). The darkness is not the time to take a chance; it's the time to show your character.
Make sure God can trust you in the dark. Ask Him to give you the consistency of character that is unaffected by your circumstances. Be as faithful to the Lord when your actions are hidden as when they're out in the open. Someday, you'll be glad you did.
What a person is in the dark is what a person truly is.
A Virtuous Woman by Woodrow Kroll
"And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman."
A Virtuous Woman
Blaise Pascal, a 17th-century philosopher and theologian, declared, "The virtue of a man ought to be measured, not by his extraordinary exertions, but by his everyday conduct."
The people of Bethlehem had noticed Ruth's daily conduct, and that earned her the reputation of being a virtuous woman. She lived during the period known as the Judges, an era of Israel's history when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judg. 17:6). It was a time of loose morals, and, as she approached Boaz in the dark of night, her good intentions might have been misunderstood. But Boaz knew her reputation for virtue, and he had seen her conduct as she gleaned among the reapers. Based on this information, he had no question about her motives and no qualms in agreeing to do all that she requested.
God wants His people to live virtuous lives no matter what the rest of society does. Peter admonished, "But also for this very reason [the corruption of the world], giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue" (2 Pet. 1:5). In the midst of a society that appears to enjoy wallowing in the pigsty of immorality, it is imperative that we live with virtue. Why? Because virtuous living keeps us in close fellowship with God. In addition, it sets us apart as a witness to the cleansing power of Jesus Christ. At a time when once again "every man is doing what is right in his own eyes," you and I need to be distinguished as people of virtue.
Make sure your daily conduct reflects faith and virtue. In every respect, deal honestly with those around you. Keep not only your actions but also your thoughts from impurity. By doing so, you'll build for yourself the best reputation of all?not of shrewdness or business acumen, but of virtue.
A life without virtue is a life without value.
Do Not Go Empty-Handed by Woodrow Kroll
And she said, "These six ephahs of barley he gave me; for he said to me, 'Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.'"
Do Not Go Empty-Handed
Recently the Barna Research Group announced its findings that the number of evangelicals in the United States is only about 6 percent (decreasing from 12 percent in 1992). An earlier study indicated that as many as 40 percent of Americans have no religious affiliation and another 31 percent are Christians in name only. That means that at least 71 percent of the U.S. population are living in spiritual poverty. It's obvious we have a vast mission field right in our own backyard. As we send and support missionaries overseas, are we overlooking those in spiritual need nearby?
Many people in Israel lived in physical poverty, and Boaz was known for his generosity. But in his concern for those elsewhere, he didn't overlook those in need in his own backyard. One of those was his own kinswoman, Naomi. As Ruth prepared to go home from her labors in the field, he gave her six ephahs (approximately five bushels) of barley to take home to her mother-in-law. Out of the compassion of his heart, he was burdened that the young Moabitess who gleaned in his fields not go home empty-handed.
Spiritually needy people are everywhere. The majority of Christians, however, are neither able nor called to leave their occupations and homes to serve on foreign mission fields. But that doesn't mean that our neighbors must go home empty-handed. All around us are people living well below the "spiritual poverty line." Next door, around the corner or in the apartment across the hall are men, women and children who need to know about the Savior. The fields are there, and they're ready for harvest.
Make sure your friends and neighbors don't go home empty-handed. Be alert to opportunities to pass on the Bread of Life. Prayerfully ask God to lead you to someone with whom you can share your spiritual bounty. And then be like Boaz: give away what your friends need most.
If you're content to go to heaven alone, you may not be going at all.
Sit Still by Woodrow Kroll
Then she said, "Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day."
American culture is built around the oft-quoted phrase, "Don't just stand there, do something!" As a result, our lives are filled with busyness. We rush from meeting to meeting. We chauffeur our children from hockey practice to tennis lessons to shopping at the mall. We pull in to the nearest fast-food drive-through, place a quick order, and then we're off again. It's no wonder we can identify with Blaise Pascal, who said, "All the troubles of life come upon us because we refuse to sit quietly."
Naomi knew better. Her advice?sit still, stay quiet?was filled with the wisdom of experience. Ruth had come to Naomi and told her all that took place at the threshing floor. It was obvious to Naomi that God was at work. How things were going to turn out, however, she didn't know. But she did know that this was not the time to rush here and there to find the answer. Instead, it was the time to sit quietly and listen intently for the Lord's response. At the right time, God would bring everything to pass.
When much is at stake, do you have difficulty sitting still? If you will remember to wait patiently, you will see a number of positive things happen. In stillness you'll discover God in new and deeper ways (Ps. 46:10). You'll also be able to hear God when He speaks to you in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). Furthermore, you'll have the wisdom and strength to act when the time is right (Isa. 30:15).
Sit still and let God work in your life. Trust Him to accomplish what is best for you in His own timing. Listen quietly and you will hear His answer.
While you rest, God will work.
Nearsighted by Woodrow Kroll
Then Boaz said, "On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead on his inheritance." And the near kinsman said, "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it."
Myopia is an eye condition in which visual images come into focus in front of the retina, causing distant objects to be blurred. We commonly call this being nearsighted. We can see things close up but not far away.
People also can be nearsighted in their understanding of God's plan for their life. The relative who was closest to Naomi and Ruth turned down the opportunity to redeem Naomi's land and marry Ruth because he feared it might jeopardize his own inheritance. He could see clearly what he had; however, he failed to discern what might be in the future. He chose to protect his current possessions, and thus missed the opportunity to be the grandfather of a king and the ancestor of the Messiah. Consequently, he passed off the scene without even a mention of his name.
Many individuals today do the same. They pour everything they have into this life?all their time, talent, energy and money. Yet they fail to invest in eternity, as Jesus instructed us to do (Matt. 6:19-20). They clearly discern what they have, but they fail to see that there's something even more in store for them. They focus on the present and neglect the future. They give up all the wonders of heaven for the temporary security of earthly treasures. And when the winds of history pass, even their names are forgotten.
Don't suffer from spiritual myopia. As a good steward, take care of what God entrusts to you today. But don't let today's possessions blind you to eternity's possibilities. What lies ahead is worth far more than anything you hold in your hands today. The best is yet to come.
Don't let what is good rob you of what is best.
Twice Owned by Woodrow Kroll
And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, "You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, from the hand of Naomi."
A father and son built a toy sailboat. Before launching it, the father tied a string to its stern to keep it from sailing too far. The boat performed beautifully, but before long a motorboat crossing the lake cut the string, and the sailboat drifted out of sight. The boat couldn't be found anywhere. A few weeks later the boy passed his favorite toy store and saw his lost sailboat in the window. He ran inside to claim it. The store owner replied, "You may have been its maker," he said, "but as its finder, it now belongs to me. You may buy it back for fifty dollars." The boy was stunned at the cost, but he set about earning the money.
Months later he walked into the store and handed the owner $50. As he left the store, he held the boat up to the sunlight. Its colors gleamed. He mused, "I once owned you, but I lost you. Now I've bought you back. That makes you twice mine.
The land that Naomi's husband owned had been lost, perhaps sold to provide food during the famine. According to Jewish law, the nearest relative to her was responsible to buy back that land if possible. Boaz agreed to be that redeemer after the nearest kinsman refused.
This is a picture of what Christ has done for us. As our Creator, He made us and owned us, but by our rebellion we sold ourselves into sin. It took Jesus' death?an unbelievable price?to buy us back. Thus, for those who receive Him as Savior, we are twice owned.
We do not belong to ourselves; we have been bought with a price. That price was the blood of Christ. Rejoice at the willingness of Jesus to buy us back. With gratitude, give your life to Him in worship and service.
To be twice bought is to be forever owned.
The Path to Fruitfulness by Woodrow Kroll
"May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the Lord will give you from this young woman." So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.
The Path to Fruitfulness
Fruitfulness doesn't just happen by chance. Some time ago, an agricultural school in Iowa reported that the production of 100 bushels of corn from one acre of land, in addition to the many hours of a farmer's labor, required four million gallons of water, 6,800 pounds of oxygen, 5,200 pounds of carbon, 160 pounds of nitrogen, 125 pounds of potassium, 75 pounds of yellow sulfur and other elements too numerous to list. It takes a lot of elements working together to produce fruitfulness.
Ruth discovered the same truth. Her life in Moab had been empty. The years of marriage with Naomi's son had been barren. But when she committed herself to the God of Israel, her life began to bear fruit. By faith she left her homeland and God gave her a new home. In simple trust she went out to the harvest fields, hoping to find someone who would allow her to glean after his reapers, and she found favor in the eyes of Boaz. Seeking to follow God's leading, she married Boaz and bore a son through whom the Messiah came to redeem the world. From a life of barrenness, God brought her, through faith, to great fruitfulness.
Faithfully trusting the Lord is still the only pathway to true fruitfulness. Jesus promised, "He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." The world offers other options, but none result in lasting fruit. Only as we place our faith in Christ for daily guidance will we bear fruit for eternity.
Begin each day with reading God's Word. As He reveals His mind to you, faithfully obey everything you understand and ask for more wisdom when you don't. That's the way to bear fruit that will last forever.
Fruitfulness is the natural by-product of faithfulness.
Better Than Seven Sons by Woodrow Kroll
Then the women said to Naomi, "Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him."
Better Than Seven Sons
A popular magazine carries a section in which it offers its readers the opportunity to send pictures of their part of the country and tell why they think it's the best. Month after month, people send in beautiful photos from all over the United States, and invariably someone will comment about their particular area, "It can't get any better than this."
That's what the women of Bethlehem were saying to Naomi. To have a son was wonderful. It was the responsibility of a Jewish son to care for his mother when his father passed away. He was her security and companion in old age. But these women agreed; Ruth was better than seven sons. She had done all that any son would have done and more?she had borne Naomi a grandson, the assurance that she would be taken care of in her latter years. It couldn't get any better than this.
This is also what Christ has done for us. Through His blood He has cleansed us from our sins. The past is forgiven. Through His Word we have the wisdom to live day by day. And through His Spirit we have the power to be His witnesses wherever we are. Through His resurrection we have the assurance that we, too, shall be raised beyond the grave to spend eternity in heaven. Everything is taken care of?past, present and future.
Have you thanked Jesus yet today for meeting your every need? There is nothing that can be added to what He has done and will do for you. It just can't get any better than this.
Only a complete Savior can make us complete.