RUTH: WEEK TWENTY-ONE
The Wedding (Part One)
(Click here to listen to the fifth Ruth teaching)
The last scene of our story left us hanging. Would Boaz come through? Would the unnamed mystery man block the hopeful outcome of Ruth and Boaz’s love story?
As Ruth and Naomi wait back home with baited breath, Boaz hurries into town like a man on a mission. With cunning planning, he sets up the scene, using all the powers at his disposal to influence the outcome.
First, he politely petitions the close relative to take a seat and chat a while. Before the conversation is allowed to develop into a contractual dispute, Boaz wisely nabs ten of the leading men of the city to validate the transaction. Only then does Boaz bring up the relative’s opportunity to redeem Elimelech’s land. Just as the unsuspecting man is about to sign on the dotted line, Boaz throws a fast one. “By the way, you’ve got to marry Ruth if you acquire this particular piece of property.” That little piece of information jolts the relative back to earth in a hurry! A wife is the last thing he needs at this point in his life - he hands over his right to purchase the land to Boaz with a sigh of relief.
Somehow everyone comes out satisfied with Boaz’s solution. Naomi gets her money, the relative keeps his freedom, Ruth secures her future, and Boaz, with titillating glee, surrenders his bachelorhood to his bride. Even the onlookers join with our characters to pronounce a blessing on the young couple as they pledge their lives to each other.
This week, we’ll look a little closer at some of the customs of the day whose meaning alludes to us as we read through the story. We’ll delight together in Jesus’ choice of us as His bride, find ourselves further in love with Boaz as he mirrors our Lord to us, and delight in how He sets us up to accomplish more than we ever dreamed. And more than anything else, we’ll be reminded that our God is luring us into relationship with Himself. It is intimacy He is after - that closeness you and I long for with all our hearts.
Revel in His love this week, my dear friend. Be amazed at the grace that saved a wretch like me!
The Wedding (Part One)
Verse of the Week
“THEREFORE, MY BELOVED BRETHREN, BE STEADFAST, IMMOVABLE, ALWAYS ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD, KNOWING THAT YOUR TOIL IS NOT IN VAIN IN THE LORD.” 1 Corinthians 15v58 NASB
More Words from the Father
1 Thessalonians 1v2-10
From my Heart
“But Moses’ Hands Were Heavy…”
Moses was wearing out. His job was overwhelming, impossible, too much for one man to bear. For months now he’d lived with dissatisfied, contentious people. Trying to love them was like embracing a porcupine. He’d felt the sting of their criticism one too many times. Their quarreling and grumbling were finally turning his own heart cold and angry. Right when he felt about ready to explode, the final straw came. A group of foreign invaders chose just that weak moment to attack their seemingly safe camp. A fierce battle ensued. His people turned from tearing each other apart to engaging the enemy in a fight for survival. And now those who had been increasingly critical of Moses were desperately dependent on him to help them win the war.
Have you been there? Do you find yourself faltering? Do you sometimes feel as though your life is on an emotional roller coaster and you are hanging on for dear life? That if you let go of control for one moment you will go hurling into who-knows-where? That the people you most love are the very people who most hurt? That your soul is weakening, and like Moses, your hands are heavy?
The Bible has one answer for your dilemma - one solution to your impending meltdown….
“Be ye steadfast.”
I know that’s the last thing you want to hear right now. What you really want is sympathy, and maybe permission to blast away at those who hound you, to just release all that irritation and let ‘em have it. And they deserve it. I’m sure they do. Just like Moses’ people deserved to be wiped out by the enemy who had snuck in while they were busy lambasting Moses.
But just as God expected more of Moses, He is asking more of you.
“Okay, okay, but how?” you ask. “So far, I’ve tried to just knuckle down and grin and bear it, but that hasn’t worked very well. I’ve stuffed all that frustration and plastered a smile on my face, but even I can feel the anger seeping out of my pores. How in the world do I be steadfast?”
As always, the Scriptures are imminently practical, making the impossible possible for even such weaklings as you and I. And, as is often the case, God provides an example of someone who did what He asked and thrived in the process.
In Acts 17, we read a story of a group of “prominent women” who heard the Gospel explained and expounded on by the Apostle Paul. For three weeks, they absorbed his teaching and their hearts embraced the truth. Then their husbands, friends, co-workers, and families drove Paul out of town in a fit of rage. Later, we read his letter to them as he encourages them in their new faith. In his opening lines, Paul praises them for their “steadfastness of hope” (1 Thessalonians 1v3). In Paul’s outpouring of encouragement to these persecuted people, I think we can find some clues as to how they maintained that steadfastness of hope which we long to experience.
First of all, the hope which held them steady was not some kind of Pollyanna prudishness claiming that everything would work out hunky-dory in the end. That kind of hope leads to the opposite of steadfastness as soon as we wake up to the realization that the circumstances and relationships in our lives do not always resolve themselves in our favor. Divorce happens. Children choose their own way. Economies collapse and health is a precarious gift. The hope that held these new believers steady was hope in God. They were able to look beyond the crabbiness of their husbands and the conflicts in their families to find their needs met in His presence. Their world was not stable, but their God was. That’s what got them up in the morning. That’s what kept them strong.
And they knew their purpose.
These women, (okay, there were men in the group too!) knew in their deepest beings that God had a specific purpose for them. A task to accomplish. A role to play in His Kingdom. They were keenly aware of “His choice of you.” To the Ephesians he wrote of the “good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” These people woke up every day with that energizing realization that they mattered immensely.
Are you aware of His choice of you? Are you figuring out His plan to accomplish those tasks custom designed by God for you?
Of course, these women sometimes faltered. Steadfastness does not mean perfection. Sometimes they struggled to see God in their circumstances just like you and I. Sometimes they felt overwhelmed and their footsteps slowed to a crawl. And undoubtedly, there were times when their own chore lists superseded God’s task sheet for their kingdom role. But in those times, these women had a hidden treasure that they had discovered to keep them going when the going got tough. Not only did they hope in God, not only were they keenly aware of their choice by God, these women had something else which kept them steadfast:
They had each other.
We cannot do this alone, my dear sisters. If we try to be strong and independent, always with the got-my-act-together façade firmly in place, we’ll fail. Like Moses who had his friends Hur and Aaron on either side of him holding up his arms when he grew weary, we need intimate relationships with a few other women to help us stay strong. Not the kind of friendships we so often fill our social calendars with; those connections based on common interests or compelling personalities. We need a few friends who will hold us up before the Father when we falter. We need the kind of friends who will interrupt our sad soliloquies, place their hands on our shoulders, and pray that our hearts will align with His. We need the kind of deep friendships that will do whatever they have to do to keep us from segueing into that kind of dreary complacency which characterizes so many women of faith.
Paul saw this in these women when he thanked God for “the love of each one of you toward one another,” which he noted “grows ever stronger.”
These kinds of friendships don’t happen by accident.
They rarely fall in your lap unexpectedly. You and I will have to go after this kind of love with all the determination with which Ruth went after Naomi’s friendship. Naomi wasn’t easy to love by any means. Yet when Ruth needed her the most, she held her up, helped her wait, and kept her heart steadfast.
So, if your hands are growing heavy and your soul weary, don’t give up. Don’t buckle down and “try harder.” Don’t hold all your frustrations in ‘til they threatened to burst. Instead, follow the leading of these women of faith who hoped in God, who delighted in their specific roles in the Kingdom, and who tucked a few close friends around them who would hold them up when their faith faltered.
Hanging on steadfastly with you,
From my heart,
The real estate market in Canaan
Putting your house up for sale in ancient Israel was not as simple as it is today. In fact, the house itself wasn’t worth much. The wealth was in the land.
In the days of Joshua, God had instituted a unique system of land management which revolved around individual tribes or extended families. The assigned land belonged to its respective clan forever. When an individual fell on hard times, and needed the cash the land could offer, he could sell it only within his own clan. As if that was not limiting enough, every fifty years, in what was called the year of Jubilee, the land legally reverted back to its original owner. So if someone bought the piece of property two years before the designated year of Jubilee, he had to hand it back free of charge no matter how many improvements he had made to it.
When Boaz declared that Naomi was selling the piece of land which belonged to Elimelech, he was presenting the nearer kinsman with first rights of refusal. Since the land had to be sold within the clan, Boaz was next in line to buy it. The man refused on the grounds that being expected to take care of Ruth along with the land would somehow add unwanted burden to his own estate.
Everyone benefited from this transaction. Boaz acquired the land, and with it, a wife. Naomi was lifted out of dire poverty into independence, living off the proceeds of the sale. Ruth had a husband to provide for her, and the tribe of Judah kept their piece of Bethlehem within their borders.