Thursday, August 02, 2007

What an amazing woman.

I got this from my friend Mark Hawkes who is a prof at Summit Pacific College.

I have been working on a sermon for this Sunday, looking at the perspective of Naomi and how she approached the events in her life. While I have been working on Naomi’s perspective God has also been opening my mind to Ruth’s. Man I do love the God I’m serving (ok most of the time!!). This amazing story follows a family from Bethlehem during a period of total moral chaos and confusion. Ruth is about the sovereign work of God in the lives of unassuming, humble people. Out of the gloom, decadence and moral crises comes this refreshing, wholesome love story. In it God is actually working out his blessing in and through this family. However, if one looks in the wrong place it will be missed. This reminds me that so often I look in the wrong place and miss what God is doing.What was it about Naomi’s boy that attracted Ruth in the first place? He was a foreigner and refugee from Bethlehem. He wasn’t rich and he didn’t have a sweet ride! Ruth marries and within a few years, she is left a a widow with no child. She must have wondered if she had made a mistake marrying into this family, especially when her father-in-law and brother-in-law also die. What is that? What would I be thinking? What did these three women talk, how did they explain all their husbands dieing so close together? What were the neighbours thinking and saying? Wouldn’t they possible be thinking the gods have cursed them; there must be something wrong with these women? How can they all be barren, and all their husbands die?When Ruth’s mother-in-law wants to return to Bethlehem, Ruth makes the decision to go with her. What was Ruth thinking? Did she not have any family in Moab? Would she not have questioned a God who would let three men in the same family die, leaving only widows? She must have had many questions. Did she not understand that in moving to Bethlehem she would most likely remain a childless widow? She was still a young widowed woman with no child of her own. Did she wonder if God was displeased with her? Did she wonder what this God of hers was doing? The questions must have raced through her mind. As I read this story, I’m amazed at the situation of this young woman. What was God thinking???Naomi returns to Bethlehem with Ruth, and yet Naomi states “she went out full and came back empty”. How did this make Ruth feel? Ruth must have had great fear and apprehension as she went out to work in the fields. A stranger and a foreigner to boot. How did she just happen to find a field that Boaz owned? How did she choose it (rock, paper, scissors), how did God lead her there? Boaz must have been watching Ruth, he inquired about her, he takes a liking to her, because she is industrious (hard work does pay off) she must have had some looks also. What went through her head when she is given so much food, and she is invited to eat with Boaz? I wondered if she though about Boaz at all? Boaz was a land owner, why was he not already married? Was there something wrong with him; was he too picky, maybe he was not good looking? I don’t know, but he wasn’t married, which does not fit the normality of the day. What had God permitted in his life that would place him in this place at this time? Did he wonder what God was doing.I wonder what went through Ruth’s mind when Naomi told her to go to the threshing floor, find Boaz and at night "uncover his feet" and lie down at his feet. Would you do that if your mother-in-law asked you to, I think NOT!! Had they talked about Boaz before? Did Ruth even like him, he was much older so the text tells us; "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” I wonder if she entertained the thought, what if he doesn’t accept the proposal. What then, would she be the brunt of the jokes, would they call her a desperate woman? I can’t imagine her thoughts and fears as she waits at the threshing floor for all to fall asleep. Then she sneaks through the darkness to where she saw Boaz lie down for the night. She then lies down at his feet thinking “this could turn out really bad. “This God I serve already took my first husband; it couldn’t get any worse, could it?”Boaz awakes and lets her know that he accepts her proposal and wants to marry her. I’m sure she was filled with excitement!! And then the incredible!! Boaz tells her there is another man who has first choice!! FIRST CHOICE, am I a piece of meat that can be bartered on? Boaz tells Ruth to stay the night and in the morning go home and wait until the matter is settled. Wait, wait for what? Did she sleep that night? I know I would not be sleeping at all. I’m sure Ruth must have been thinking, “Naomi when I get home I’m going to kill you. What did I get myself into!!” Can it get any worse??? You bet!! There is the real possibility that she will have to marry this other man, and she doesn’t even know him. Her first husband died, now the man she proposed to, her next possible husband must follow some stupid law which would see her marrying someone else. That has to suck!! If I was in that situation, how would I be waiting?? How would you be waiting?? I think I would take off back to Moab!! This God of Israel sure knows how to screw things up!! Try and tell Ruth that YHWH is working things out, go ahead I dare you!!Boaz does the right thing and he and Ruth marry and they live happily ever after. I almost feel the tears welling up in my eyes. NOT!! A son is born to Boaz and Ruth and the women bless Naomi. Now I’m sure Ruth thought, these people are crazy, they praising Naomi. “The women said to Naomi: "Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! The women living there said, "Naomi has a son." And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth knows she gave birth to this son, and yet the son becomes Naomi’s. We see God working through a person for the good of someone else. And yet that working is not always easy. What did Ruth think? This was her first child and it was a boy!!The events of Ruth happened "in the days when the judges ruled" (1:1). People did what was right in their own eyes. This woman puts me to shame! How did she do what she did? Naomi blames God for the bad things, and then praises him for the good things. We are not told what Ruth thought or said, but she is the one who shines in this story. I have read this story many times, and this is the first time I have really tried to look at it through the eyes and perspective of Ruth. This pagan woman has great faith, and when Israel is doing what is right in their own eyes, Ruth is doing what is right in God’s eyes. Oh God help me to do what is right in Your eyes, regardless of what is going on around me, regardless of what others are doing. And if there are painful events in my life that you design to bless someone else, help me to do what is right in Your eyes regardless of my perception.

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