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Ruth: Life, Loss, Love, and Legacy | Orchard Christian Fellowship

Ruth: Life, Loss, Love, and Legacy – Part 5

Ruth—Life, Loss, Love and Legacy, pt. 5
Ruth 2:17-23

 

Naomi begins to see the GENEROSITY of Ruth

Because of Ruth’s desire to find solutions for her problems rather than excuses, she goes to work gathering grain in a field that, in God’s sovereignty, belonged to Boaz. On her first day, her work was so exemplary Boaz invited her to continue as part of his team. At lunch time, Boaz gave her bread, wine and roasted grain to eat. At the day’s end, Ruth beat out the barley Boaz allowed her to keep. She put it in a sack and brought home to Naomi 40 pounds of grain and the leftovers from the lunch. Godly women put the needs of others ahead of themselves (Prov. 31:17-20; 1 Pet. 3:3). Throughout history, God expected adult children or relatives to be the primarily care for elderly family members. Neither the nation nor the church was expected to be a welfare agency but rather to come alongside only the truly destitute (2 Thess. 3:10). If no family was alive, the nation or church could help care for widows who had shown a life of godliness (1 Tim. 5:3-16). Ruth had the character of a godly woman by seeking to help her mother-in-law. The heart of humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less (Phil. 2:3)!

 

Naomi begins to see the GOODNESS of God

Hearing that Ruth met Boaz, Naomi informs her that he is one of their redeemers as a relative through Elimilech. The custom of the day was a levirate marriage, where a relative of the deceased would marry his childless widow in an effort to carry on his name, in order of: brother, uncle, cousin, or clan relative (Deut. 25:5-10). Naomi blesses God when she realizes Ruth ‘happened’ to end up in a relative’s field. This care for a pagan widow is a foreshadowing of the kind of love God has for all people as He reaches out through His own people (Gen. 22:18; 2 Cor. 5:20). The sovereignty of God may be mysterious but it is not merciless. Family was such a priority for Naomi, that before they left Moab she had offered to have more sons for her daughters-in-laws to marry so they could stay together. God cares about female concerns—family relationships, providing as a single woman, dealing with difficulty and pain, future children, living with integrity and modesty at home and in public, and fearing for physical security. In every one of these issues, God has provided for women who love Him. God blesses those who trust in Him and is a stronghold for those seek refuge in Him (Ps. 18:2; 34:8)!

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Ruth: Life, Loss, Love, and Legacy – Part 4

Ruth—Life, Loss, Love and Legacy, pt. 4
Ruth 2:8-16

 

Boaz provides SECURITY

After Boaz asks his foremen about the foreigner in his field, the workers compliment Ruth for her hard work. Impressed by her work ethic, he offers to let her join the other women gleaning the field. This meant she would not just be picking up scraps, but gathering the best of the field. Ruth set an example of being industrious inside and outside her home. A godly woman makes her home a priority and works hard wanting God to be honored there. When she works outside the home, she is not idle, but works to bless her family and those around her (Prov. 14:1; 31:15-20). Hearing Boaz’s offer, instead of being demanding, abrasive or offensive, Ruth is submissive, appreciative and complimentary. A person’s character is assumed in ease, but is exposed in difficulty. Hardship shines the light on someone’s hidden character and uncovers their true colors. Likewise, Boaz assures her protection and doesn’t use his strength, wealth or Ruth’s desperation to take advantage of her but looks out for her best interest. The character of a man shows in how he treats those weaker than him and in how he cares for those who can’t do much for him (Ps. 82: 3, 4; Prov. 14:21; 31: 8, 9). Feminine security exists where masculine responsibility exists.

 

Boaz provides SUSTENANCE

Seeing Boaz’s amazing generosity, Ruth asks why he was being so charitable. Boaz responds that her reputation of kindness to her husband and care for her mother-in-law, Naomi, had preceded her. Hard work known now, pays off in the unknown later. What has been done in the past is a good indicator of what will be done in the future. People can be different than what they say, but people are what they do! Being a blessing in the past can lead to being blessed in the future. A believer’s life is a resume of God’s work. Though Boaz could have been stingy with the production from his field as that was his wealth, he honored God by taking care of the poor knowing the wealth came from God (Lev. 23:22; Deut. 8:17, 18). Those blessed by God should be a blessing to others from God.

Boaz instructs Ruth to drink from the water his young men have drawn further allowing her to be part of the ‘team’. It is the glory of young men to use their strength to bless others in any situation (Prov. 20:29). Where you are is not as important as who you are!

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Ruth: Life, Loss, Love, and Legacy – Part 3

Ruth—Life, Loss, Love and Legacy, pt. 3
Ruth 2:1-7

 

Ruth starts OVER

After losing her husband and leaving her family and friends in Moab, Ruth begins a new life in the foreign country of Israel with Naomi in the small, rural town of Bethlehem. Right away, Ruth becomes proactive, looking to be productive. God steers moving ships! Instead of complaining, becoming depressed and giving up or becoming bitter like Naomi, Ruth shows exceptional resilience. Often, the end of one thing is the start of a new beginning. God loves new (Lam. 3:22, 23; Ps. 40:3; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 21:5)! As Naomi was older and may have been physically unable, Ruth goes to collect food for them. Being a widow and foreigner from one of Israel’s enemies has put Ruth in difficulty. She could allow circumstances to dictate her actions and do nothing and stay home and sulk, start drinking, become a prostitute, or pursue legitimate work. Despite heartache, discouragement, and prejudice, she bravely and humbly offers to do physical labor, picking up random pieces of barley from the dirt behind the reapers. Laziness is unacceptable. The godly don’t produce excuses, they produce results (Prov. 6:6-11; 20:4; 26:13; 2 Thess. 3:10-12). Ruth has become a follower of God, and through Naomi’s encouragement, is seeking God’s plan. A godly woman supports the life of women who desire to please God (Titus 2:3-5).

 

Ruth meets BOAZ

In God’s sovereignty, Ruth unknowingly starts in the field of a man named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi (possibly the nephew of Elimelech). He is a godly, worthy man (Heb. ghib-bore, ‘powerful/chief/valiant man’) and wealthy land owner. Around noon, the first thing she hears from Boaz when he visits his field is a blessing from God to his workers. Men of God are men of God at home, at play, and at work. Not everyone in a believer’s life is a blessing, but God often puts people in their lives to bless them. Though God required Israelites to care for widows and foreigners, because of her situation, it is unlikely Ruth would find anyone allowing her to work or find an Israelite man willing to marry her (Lev. 19: 9, 10; Deut. 24:19-21). But because Boaz is himself a hard worker, and hears Ruth has the same characteristics, he allows her to stay, not offering a hand-out but a hand-up. Empathy doesn’t mean stupidity, empathy seeks the best for the situation.

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Ruth: Life, Loss, Love, and Legacy – Part 2

Ruth—Life, Loss, Love and Legacy, pt. 2
Ruth 1:6-22

 

Naomi leaves EMPTY

Instead of staying near relatives for support or choosing another place in Israel, Elimilech leads his family to Moab and his two sons marry Moabite women. Later, all three men die and are buried outside the Promised Land leaving the three women destitute. Godly leadership takes into account those who are being led (Deut. 11:18-20; Eph. 5:25-28; 1 Pet. 3:7). This decision has life-altering consequences for Naomi, and while in the fields of Moab, she hears the famine is over and decides to return to Israel empty handed. Wisdom on the front end of a decision averts regret on the back end (Prov. 3:4, 5). Believers should patiently wait for God as His answers might be later, but never late (Ps. 40:1, 2)!

 

Naomi goes with SUPPORT

Upon telling her daughter-in-laws she is leaving for Bethlehem, both Orpah and Ruth offer to go. Naomi refuses as she has no way of supporting them or knowing what will happen. So Naomi, being in her fifties/sixties and beyond childbearing, tells them to return to their mother’s homes and gods and get husbands—sadly showing the women haven’t been changed by Elimilech’s time in Moab. Despite disappointment and hardship, the people of God must be the people of God wherever they go. Orpah kisses Naomi goodbye, but Ruth clings (Heb. daw-bak, ‘cling/glue together’; Gen. 2:24) to her, refusing to leave. Ruth then makes a beautiful, life-altering oath to be loyal to Naomi and her God until death. Friends can be closer than blood relatives, as commitment dictates relationship value (Prov. 17:17; 18:24; 27:10; Eccl. 4:10). By going with Naomi, Ruth is losing everything as well, but has gained a relationship with God and an unbreakable sisterhood. The greatest relationships in life come through commitment and sacrifice.

 

Naomi returns BITTER

            Arriving in Bethlehem, her former friends and relatives are excited to see her but when they call her Naomi (‘pleasant one’) she wants to be renamed Mara (‘bitter’). She views her circumstances as a curse from God for her sin. Hard times are not always judgement from God, but even when they are, God’s goodness, mercy, and love show through in time (Num. 4:24-26; Ps. 30:5; Micah 7:18)!

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Ruth: Life, Loss, Love, and Legacy – Part 1

Ruth—Life, Loss, Love and Legacy, pt. 1
Ruth 1:1-5

 

The setting—Israel is in a DROUGHT

            The book of Ruth is a masterpiece of narrative storytelling, unparalleled in ancient literature for its warm and compact yet descriptive way of communicating. The story is told from a woman’s viewpoint—largely characterized by feminine feelings, values, and concerns of family, sisterhood, marriage, work, love, and romance. The background of the story of Ruth takes place c. 1200 BC during the time of the Judges after the nation of Israel had begun their conquest into the land of Canaan (modern-day Israel). During this time, there is a famine that forces many Israelites to move to survive.

 

The scenario—The family is DESPERATE

            Because of the lack of grain, Elimilech (‘my God is King’), his wife Naomi (‘pleasant one’), and his two sons, Mahlon (‘sickly’) and Chilion (‘wasting away’) moved about 80 miles from Bethlehem (‘house of bread’) to a rural area of Moab across the Jordan river. As most famines don’t last 10 years, Elimilech ‘sojourned’ then ‘remained’ then ‘lived’ in a foreign country, turning temporary into permanent. Moabites were pagan god worshippers and often enemies of Israel, yet Elimilech allowed his sons to marry Moabite women, endangering his family’s own godly heritage (Ex. 34:15, 16; 1 Kings 11:1, 2). Life problems should never alter lifestyle priorities.

 

The sadness—Naomi is DEVASTATED

            At some point after settling in Moab, Elimilech dies leaving his sons (probably in their late teens/early twenties) to care for their mother. Eventually, they marry Moabite women—Orpah and Ruth (‘friend/companion’). After about 10 years, the sons die as well, leaving no children of their own and putting the three women in financial distress. With their deaths, Naomi has lost her whole family and means of support as an older widow. Despite the emotional pain of losing loved ones and fear of the future, believers look to God for help and hope in the darkness of despair (Ps. 9:9; 30:5; 34:18; 116: 1, 2). Though Naomi didn’t do anything to bring about her circumstances, she had a choice in how to respond. The choices of others and events of life that are out of a person’s control are moments designed to strengthen faith not destroy it (Ps. 31:23, 24; Prov. 3:5, 6; Is. 7:9). Loss in life should not bring about loss in faith!

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