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Monday, December 16, 2019

#3 Ruth the Redeemed Refugee

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Matthew 1 list 40 generations of Jesus’ males descendants, but only names 5 women—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Today, we will here the story of Ruth the redeemed refugee.
Ruth is a short book. It only takes 16 minutes to read it.  I encourage you to read the whole thing.  I'm going to share much of it today and make some comments as we go through the story.  However, I encourage you to read the whole book.

Ruth 1
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

I just want to point out that the famine was so bad in Israel that this family left their homeland in search of food.  How bad would life have to be for you to move your family out of America in search of food?

Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

Remember, this is a patriarchal (male dominated) society.  Women have no way to make it on their own.  With out a husband or sons, Naomi and her daughter’s in law are destitute.

When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!”

Now, that's the way Naomi thinks.  She assumes the Lord is against her, but that isn't necessarily true.  However, it's easy to fall into this negative thinking when life is hard for a long time.  

14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.

15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

16 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 even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

What we see here is amazing and I don’t want you to miss it.  What we have here is a decision by Ruth to follow God.  Both Orpah and Ruth were Moabites.  Moabites did not worship the God of the Bible.  Moabites worshiped idols and false gods.  But Ruth and Orpah both saw something special in Naomi’s family.  Naomi’s family worshiped the God of the Bible—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And Orpah and Ruth must have saw something special in this family.  There is always something special about people who worship the One True God of the Bible.  And it was so special that both Orpah and Ruth wanted to leave their own people’s ways behind in Moab and convert to Naomi’s people and religion in Israel.

Very often, a person’s decision to follow God is closely linked to the people of God they know.  Most people don’t care that much about whether Christians can quote the Bible or explain the theology and doctrines of Christianity.  What they do care about is how you live.  Does your life embody the Christian faith so that people want to join with you in following God?  Is your life a witness for Christ?  If Ruth were your daughter-in-law, would she see God in you so strongly she would want to leave behind her former way of life apart from God and follow your people instead?

But Naomi explains how hard it will be to follow her home to Israel…  Living as God’s people  is not necessarily easy.  Jesus even taught that you should count the cost before your decide to follow him.  To one man who wanted to follow him, Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)  I.E. Jesus and his followers often must lead a hard life not even knowing where they will sleep at night.

Orpah decides the cost is too high and decides to go back to Moab.  However, Ruth is determined.  She has found in Naomi’s family a life that is better than her former life in Moab.  She would rather face hardship with God’s people than remain in Moab apart from the One True God.

19 So the two women [Ruth and Naomi] went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
20 “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.”
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

Ruth 2
Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.

And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”

Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.

The ancient Israelites had a form of social welfare.  When farmers harvested their fields, the would leave the corners and edges of the field.  Then, the poor, the widows, and orphans could come harvest what was left.  It wasn’t much, but it might be enough that they wouldn’t starve.  Of course, the poor, widows, and orphans were vulnerable and often mistreated (just like they are today; people often treat them scornfully and they have very little recourse).  So Ruth is going to go try and glean enough from the leftover harvest to keep herself and her mother-in-law alive.  Can you imagine being in her situation…

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!”

“The Lord bless you!” they answered.

Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?”

The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”

So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”

11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”

When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. 15 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.  [An ephah is about 30 pounds.] 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.

19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”

Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.

20 “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”

22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”

23 So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

Ruth 3
One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
“I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.
When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet!
“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.”
Boaz was Naomi and Ruth's guardian-redeemer (or family redeemer).  That meant, it was his responsibility to make sure the family line of Naomi's dead husbands and sons did not perish from the earth.  It was his duty to care for. protect, and provide family heirs for his dead kin's surviving family.
Boaz had the power to redeem Ruth and Naomi—to save them from a life of hunger, poverty, shame, and death.  He had the power to save their family name.  But to do so would be costly.  Caring for them meant more mouths to feed, and we've already seen in the story how famine could strike and devastate a community.  Furthermore, redeeming Ruth and Naomi would draw resources from his own family.
Jesus Christ is the Great Redeemer of all humanity.  He redeems us from spiritual hunger, poverty, shame, and death.  His redemption assures our names remain among God’s people.  But our redemption comes at great cost to Christ too--much greater than Boaz's.  Jesus paid for our redemption with his own blood.  He suffered and died on the cross to pay the price for our sins.  His redemption brings us back into the family of God, as heirs of eternal life, forgiven of sin, blessed with eternal life.  His redemption adds our name to the Book of Life.

Ruth 4:13-16
13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Jesus the Redeemer
And David was the great King of Israel—the model for the coming Messiah, The King of kings.  And the Messiah is Jesus Christ—the great, great, great, great… grandson of Ruth, the redeemed refugee from a foreign land.  Isn’t it good to know our Lord and Savior, our Redeemer was willing to pay the ultimate price to redeem us from our sin?  For Jesus Christ laid down his life on the cross of Calvary to pay the price for our sin.  If He was willing to do all that, isn’t He willing to redeem whatever other brokenness or shame or misfortune you face.
But do you trust Him?  Will you put all your faith in Him?  Will you be like Orpah and turn and go back to your false gods and unfaithfulness?  Or will you be like Ruth, who counted the costs and said in Ruth 1:16, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
The choice is yours.

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