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The Story
Ruth

This morning we are going to take a break from the brutality of Joshua, and Judges.  To do a little love story.  This morning we are in chapter 9 of the Story.  This is the story of Ruth.

Ruth is a bit odd amongst the other books of the Bible.  It is not big... like the Red Sea or the Ten Commandments or the Fall of Jericho. 

--It is a small story of 2 women who experience tragedy. 

--It is a love story of an old guy and a young woman. 

--It is fundamentally not a story of an Israelite. It is a story of a foreigner who is woven into the Story of God’s people and, perhaps, expands the definition of God’s people.

First, I will tell the story of Ruth with some color commentary added to make it more... colorful.  Then, I am going to ask a question... Why does the story of Ruth get a whole book called... Ruth?  Why is this book in our Bibles?   

First, the story.  Then the Why.  Let’s get moving.

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A family moves from their hometown to a foreign country because of a famine.  Elimelech and his wife Naomi and their two sons are in fear of starving to death.  In a bold move, Elimelech decides his family has a better chance of survival in the foreign land than of Moab.  He picks up his family and moves the 40 or so miles from Bethlehem to Moab.  

The first tragedy strikes not long after arriving... Elimelech dies.  The two sons both marry Moabite wives. Then, about 10 years later, tragedy two and three strike; both the sons die.  Naomi decides Moab is not a pleasant place to retire.  The famine is over back home.  Naomi decides to return to Bethlehem.

She packs up her belongings and her less than fond memories of Moab and begins going home.  This leaves her two daughters-in-law with a dilemma.

--Stay with their mother-in-law or return to their Moabite families.

--They make different decisions... Orpah kissed Naomi and said goodbye.

--But, Ruth stays with Naomi.

We have one of the more poignant statements in the Bible.

Ruth 1:16-18 But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where 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. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you."  And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.  

Ruth goes with Naomi back to Bethlehem.  Upon returning Naomi’s family is thrilled and makes a big deal of her return.  But, I suspect, they aren’t quite sure about Ruth. 

Ruth 1:19-22 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, "Is this Naomi?"  She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?"  So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Naomi becomes Mara. Ruth becomes THE Moabite.  Both have new names; new identities. 

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Now, our story is setup.  Here is where, I suspect God, sneaks in making something happen.

Ruth 2:2-3 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, "Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter." So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.

A couple color commentary points here...

--Ruth, the Moabite, volunteers to go glean in the grain fields.  I suspect this is dangerous.  She is this exotic foreign woman.  She has no man to protector her.  These field hands are much like construction workers today... maybe worse.  Ruth is brave to step up and go to work.

--She is not stealing.  She is not really even begging.  She is following the Law of Moses. 

Leviticus 19:9-10 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.  And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

The edges of the fields and the parts that fall off the wagons are to be left for the poor and foreigner.  Ruth is both. 

So, Ruth happens to go to a field that belongs to Boaz.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Here is where the love story happens.

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Boaz, the good guy in our love story, comes to check on how the harvest is going, to make sure his workers are, when he sees this woman he does not know gleaning in his field... love at first sight?  Maybe.  I think not.  Boaz finds out that this is Ruth, the Moabite.  Watch the conversation.

Ruth 2:8-12 Then Boaz said to Ruth, "Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn."  Then Ruth fell on her face, bowing 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?"  But Boaz answered her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!"

“YHWH the Elohim of Israel under whose wings you take refuge”; remember this.  I think it might be a clue to the why question we are going to ask in a moment. 

Anyway, Boaz, at first, just wants to show his appreciation for what Ruth did for Naomi. Naomi may not have even made it the 40 miles home from Moab alone.  Boaz blesses Ruth with a blessing from YHWH. 

Here is where the plot thickens and gets a bit confusing.

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Ruth goes home all excited about what has happened.  She shows Naomi all the grain she has.  They are not going to starve.  Ruth tells Naomi about this dreamy, older guy she met... Boaz. 

Naomi sees an opportunity.  “It could work.  Boaz is single.  Boaz is one of our redeemers.  Quick get a blanket and do what I tell you.”

Later that night, at the harvest festival, when everyone has had plenty to drink, Ruth stalks Boaz until he finds a place under the stars to go to sleep.  Ruth sneaks up and...

Ruth 3:7-9 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet!  He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer."  

A couple of more color commentary points... This Redeemer thing is complicated.  It involves two different Law of Moses components. 

--First, there is property redemption.  Land was important to their society.  Land was passed from father to sons down through time. It needed to stay in the family. If there were no sons to pass it too, then, a close relative could buy the land to keep it in the family.

--Second, there is levirate-marriage.  If there were no “sons” to pass on the family name, then a close relative would marry the widow to give her sons to keep the name going.

--Both of these practices were in play for Ruth.  They needed to have a redeemer to buy the land and to take Ruth as wife to keep Elimelech’s land and line in the fam. 

--Here is the rub.  Boaz was a close family relative, but he was not the closest.  There was another guy who had first dibs on the land and on Ruth.

So, Boaz comes up with his own plan.

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When he sees Ruth under the cover of his wings, he decides that he wants to marry her.

Ruth 3:10-11 And Boaz said, "May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.”

The next day, Boaz goes to the city gate.  This is where all the old guys hang out.  Boaz approaches the guy who has first dibs on the Land and Ruth.  The guy is excited about the land... “Yes! More property. More profits.  More food.”

Ruth 4:5 Then Boaz said, "The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance."

“Hold on a second. The Moabite is package deal with the Land? No, thanks.” The guy crawdads out... “That is not going to work for my family.”

Then, Boaz gives him a sandal... what?

Ruth 4:7-10 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So, when the redeemer said to Boaz, "Buy it for yourself," he drew off his sandal.  Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, "You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech... Also, Ruth the Moabite... I have bought to be my wife... You are witnesses this day." 

The Land is redeemed and Elimelech gets an heir when Ruth has a baby.  Unlike most of the stories of this time of Judges, everyone lives happily ever after.

That is the Story. It is a nice break from all the killing.  Now, let’s ask our why question. 

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“Why?”  A clue to answer of why the book of Ruth is in the Bible is at the end of the book of Ruth.

Ruth 4:14-17 Then the women said to Naomi, "Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!  He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him." Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, "A son has been born to Naomi." They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Now listen to the same point in the Gospel of Matthew...

Matthew 1:5-6, 16 ...and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah... and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

Wait a second.  Note two of the women in the lineage of Jesus are Rahab and Ruth.

Rahab, a Canaanite, and Ruth, the Moabite, both end up being mentioned as ancestors of Jesus.  And this happens in Bethlehem of Judea where David and Jesus are born. 

Wow... that is why the book of Ruth is in the Bible. Ruth is the great-grandmother to King David.

But wait, I think there is more.

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Boaz is a foreshadowing of THE Redeemer...

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, (Canaanites and Moabites and Americans) training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Jesus is Boaz.  We are Ruth.  We are redeemed from the poverty of the world to be a people of God!  Just as Boaz covered Ruth with the shelter of his wing, Jesus covers us from all sin to purify us. Sin is covered by our Redeemer!

This is an amazing picture of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  The cross is a covering of sin.  We are sheltered by his wing from lawlessness.  Our sin is hidden so that we can grow up to be God’s people.  God’s people who can be made up of Canaanites and Moabites and even Americans.  I love this picture of Jesus as my Redeemer. Jesus takes me under his wing to be my redeemer, to bring me into the family of God!

That may be the bigger reason why Ruth is in our Bibles.  Listen to Ruth’s great-grand-kid praise YHWH for this.

Psalm 103:1-5 Of David. Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

It is nice to catch a glimpse of Jesus as our Redeemer.

Tim Stidham

March 11, 2017

Los Alamos Church of Christ



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