The Gleaning (Part Two)
(Click here to listen to the third Ruth teaching)
Verse of the Week:
“FOR JUST AS THE HEAVENS ARE HIGHER THAN THE EARTH, SO ARE MY WAYS HIGHER THAN YOUR WAYS AND MY THOUGHTS HIGHER THAN YOUR THOUGHTS.” Isaiah 55v9 NLT
More Word from the Father:
From my Heart:
A Test and a Task
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55v8, 9
God didn’t just sweep in and rescue Ruth. He didn’t “heal” her. Instead, God gave her a task to do. A test of obedience.
A job to accomplish.
And that’s so often the way He works.
We want healing; He gives enabling. We want answers; He asks questions. We yearn for guarantees, signs, wonders; He waits for faith, yielding, and surrender. His ways often perplex us, usually confuse us, and always satisfy us in the end.
God knew what He was doing with Ruth…and she didn’t have a clue. She didn’t need to and she wasn’t supposed to.
And that, my dear friends, is just the way it is…
From my heart,
A bite to eat…
They were two hungry women without income, without land, and without a provider. Their city had no welfare office to request assistance. There were no women’s shelters, no soup kitchen. What were they to do? While Naomi twiddled her aching thumbs, Ruth came up with an idea. Gleaning. Where she heard of it, or how she thought of it, is unclear. The practice was uniquely Jewish.
Like many countries today, most of the Middle East relied on subsistence agriculture to feed their people, barely. Trade was nearly non-existent, and generosity might well jeopardize the well being of the giver’s dependents. All this left two widows without resources in dire straits.
Gleaning, however, was God’s idea. First mentioned in Leviticus 23:22, and then reiterated in Deuteronomy 24:17-22, the Israelites were commanded to leave a little behind when harvesting all kinds of grains, grapes, and olives. That enabled the poor to provide for their basic needs through their own hard work. And gleaning was indeed hard work! Bending over for hours on end, pulling and cutting the grain, battling flies, rodents, snakes, and people who prey on the disadvantaged, this was not for the faint of heart.
For Ruth to stoop so low (pardon the pun), she had to have been desperate. No wonder she felt the need to ask for Naomi’s permission before she set out. When she “happed” (that’s the quaint King James wording) to land in the field of Boaz, who happened to be a distant relative of her father-in-law, who also happened to be a kind and God-fearing man, even the soured and cynical Naomi did a little jig for joy.
Gleaning became Ruth’s task, Naomi’s blessing, and God’s rescue.
What Did They Eat?
Since the earliest of days, God’s people have celebrated His abundance with feasts and food. It was His idea, after all! As a means of remembering His goodness, He instituted a series of holidays throughout the year, all of which involved good food. But what did they eat? Where did they get it? How was it harvested?
Historians and archeologists have found a plethora of evidence indicating just what the Israelites ate in the Promised Land. Let’s take a look at what filled their larders.
Seven crops dominated the farm land of Canaan:
Wheat- mostly ground to make bread.
Barley- also ground for bread and other baked goods, sometimes eaten raw.
Grapes- primarily red grapes were grown for wine, to eat fresh, to make vinegars and raisins. Raisin cakes were used as a favorite “fast food” which could be taken on a journey.
Figs- figs ripened in June and then again in August or September. The first crop was generally eaten fresh, and the second picking was dried to eat during the winter months. Figs were also used in the making of special wines.
Pomegranates- juice and wine were made from fresh pomegranates harvested in the hot Judean summer months. The seeds were eaten fresh or dried for later use.
Olives- harvesting the olives during the months of September and October gave the Israelites plenty of rich olive oil for cooking and baking. The oil was also used as a medicine, a lotion, lamp oil, and for anointing kings to their thrones. There is, however, no record of the Hebrews eating olives in Old Testament times.
Honey- some scholars believe that the honey referred to throughout the Old Testament is actually the juice produced by the date palm tree. The juice was extracted from the trunk of the tree and used as a drink, either fresh or fermented.
There were other, less plentiful foods available as well. Apricots and nuts (such as almond, pistachio, and walnut) were cultivated. Legumes were grown, including beans, lentils, chick-peas (we know them as garbanzo beans), and peas. Eventually garlic was planted, as well as onions and cucumbers.
And of course, the shepherds of the land kept the people well supplied with the meat and milk of sheep and goats as well as the by-products thereof, such cheese in many forms.
The Promised Land was indeed a land overflowing with abundance. With hard work and God’s blessings, the people of Israel need never have suffered a moment of real hunger. They could trust God to feed them from the abundance of His hand as long as they kept their covenant promises with Him.
“The Lord will make you abound in prosperity…in the offspring of your beast…in the offspring of your ground, in the land…The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, The heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand…” Deuteronomy 28v10-12
Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things…” Deuteronomy 28v47-48