People live to please themselves. I did that for many years. It was true in the days of Ruth and it’s still true today. I went on a rabbit trail yesterday and as I was reading the book of Ruth, the Lord brought to my memory a poster that once hung on my wall in my little room on Orleans Drive – Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
Ruth was a Moabite, from a nation formed out of a desperate incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter. They were a depraved generation, completely antagonistic, arrogant, stubborn, and rebellious. They lacked impulse control; yet, one woman followed the still small voice of a God she had only heard about and she kept it simple. Out of her obedience came the easy concepts that should drive us all today. Life doesn’t have to be so hard.
Ruth had married into a Jewish family and all the men had tragically died leaving behind her Jewish mother-in-law, her sister-in-law, and herself. God’s grace is sufficient. He offers it in the middle of difficult circumstances.
Ruth 1:3-5 – Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Rule #1 – Goldfish, hamsters, and even the little white seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
Death is inevitable. It’s how we react to it that shows our true character. Naomi allowed it to make her bitter.
Ruth 1:20-21 – “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
This doesn’t just apply to the natural death of a body, but we can also become bitter to the death of dreams, relationships, and even our own spirits. Life can make us bitter or better, pitiful or powerful. In Naomi’s “Woe is me” sate, she begged her daughters-in-law to go away, to leave her alone, to go on with their young lives, but Ruth decided to stick out the bitterness and God blessed her with His perfect example of impartiality.
Ruth 1:16-18 – But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
Rule #2 – When you go out into the world, watch out of traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
They arrived in Bethlehem, Naomi’s home, and Ruth was put to work while Naomi continued to grieve, having forgotten that Ruth’s husband had also died. The fields of Boaz had leftover grain saved for orphans and widow, and in humility, she gleaned what was appropriate and the good Lord provided and also showed her favor.
Rule #3 – Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Ruth 2:15-18 – As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” 17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. 18 She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.
Rule #4 – Share everything.
She could have left with her provisions but she worked until evening anyway. Boaz had already given her enough, but she worked for it anyway. Nothing irks me more than people who take and take and take and never give back. Naomi’s spirits went from nagging and complaining to joy and adulation overnight and a plan was formed for redemption. Hope glimmered on the horizon. Naomi’s wheels began to spin and she realized she had to get up and do something or her and Ruth would die widows.
Rule #5 – Clean up your own mess.
It was a new day to make things right in the eyes of God and man and Ruth rolled with it.
Rule #6 – Be willing to listen to the advice of those older than you. Their knowledge is invaluable.
Because of Ruth’s obedience, Boaz agreed to redeem her, marry her, and give her children…that is, if another man didn’t step to the plate first.
Ruth 3:9-14 – “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” 10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. 12 Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.” 14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.”
He but her back in a place where her character wouldn’t be questioned.
Rule #7 – Put things back where you found them.
When the time for redemption came, every heart that beat in the circumstance fluttered at the mere promise of what was to come, but it had to play out keeping everyone’s character in balance.
Ruth 4:4-6 – I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.” “I will redeem it,” he said. 5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” 6 At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
Rule #8 – Play fair.
The thing is, I don’t have to think so hard and I don’t have to take shortcuts. Even in my depths of despair, God can bring forth blessings. He shows me glimpses of the promises, not to have me in overdrive thinking mode about how I am going to get there, but to show me there is a hope and a reason to keep going. All I have to do is continue to step out in willing obedience and look for Him in every situation.
Rule #9 – And then remember the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.
Look to the word of God for understanding and for proof that even when there seems to be no way, He can make a way, and He ALWAYS gets His way. Boaz was a descendant of the only family of survivors in the siege of Jericho, he was born from the line of Rahab, a prostitute. Ruth was a foreigner from a pagan nation. They became the parents of Obed.
Ruth 4:22 – Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.
Out of this direct line came our Messiah. Don’t over think. Keep it simple. And follow the rules.
To further your reading, and to dive a bit deeper, consider this from 2 Timothy 1:16 – May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.
Even leaders fall on hard times. They stumble because they are human. Are we ashamed of others in our lives that have taken a wrong turn? Or are we taking them back into our loving arms? What would have happened if Naomi or even her people had turned Ruth away because of who she used to be – a pagan? Where we would be today?