This morning, we are going to continue our Great Women of History series as we take a look at another story of another incredible woman in history. week, we talked about Esther and the way that she was a part of God's plan to save his people. How God worked through her and she was a blessing to the people around her, just by being willing to be a part of what God was doing.
And this week we are going to meet another Great Woman of History, two of them actually. This morning we meet Naomi and Ruth (STILL SHOTS OF CHARACTERS IN MOVIE). And when their story begins, their lives were hard; you see, Naomi and her husband and two sons had been driven from their homeland of Israel because a famine had struck. So they left and had settled in Moab, and their sons had married women there, Ruth and Orpah. But even in Moab, life was not easier. Naomi's husband dies. Neither Ruth nor Orpah are blessed with children after ten years of trying. And then famine comes to Moab as well and things start to go from bad to worse.
Both of Naomi's sons die, leaving her, Ruth and Orpah without any means to support themselves. They will starve if they remain in Moab, and so Naomi makes the hard choice to head back to her homeland, back to Israel, and she wants to leave Ruth and Orpah in the care of their own families once more. Let's watch as Naomi tries to explain this to Ruth and Orpah
2:30 VIDEO with SUBTITLES
Ruth has no reason to stay with Naomi. She could have gone back to her own family, been taken care of and looked after, even married again. but she doesn't. She sticks with Naomi. She holds on to and binds herself to Naomi, no matter what that means for her. It seems like a simple act, but that is an incredible thing.
There's a word in Hebrew here that gets used in this story to describe the relationship between Naomi and Ruth. And that word is Hessed. Really get your throat into it when you say it. Hessed. It gets translated a lot of different ways in the Bible, but I think that "steadfast love" is a good way to read hessed. You know, that kind of love that doesn't give up, that keeps on going even when it would be easier to give up, to check out, to run away. The kind of love that keeps a married couple bound together through thick and thin for decade after decade. The kind of love that makes parents carving out room in the budget for kids' activities or has them watching Frozen for the 29th time this week. Hessed. It's that kind of love; not the flashy romantic comedy love that burns hot in the pan and dies out when the lines are no longer scripted. It's the love that endures. That's what Naomi and Ruth have for each other. Hessed.
And so this love that binds these two women together brings them back to Israel, where they take up residence on Naomi's old land. But with no husband or sons for either of them, they are forced into a life of poverty, relying on the generosity of others for their daily needs. Ruth goes to the fields of a land owner, and picks up what is left behind by the harvesters, gleaning from what remains on the edges.
2:00 VIDEO with SUBTITLES
And this is where our story takes a turn. Boaz, who is a relative of Naomi, sees Ruth working in his fields and is instantly captivated by her. He goes out of his way to care for her, giving her plenty of grain—extra even—and inviting her to eat with him and extending her protection. He tells her to work with his workers and not for anyone else. He knows her need and why she has come; he desires to help her in any way he can. But Boaz's care for Ruth catches Naomi's attention and she begins to think. A plan begins to form.
Ruth 3:1-4 - One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a homefor you, where you will be well provided for. 2 Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.3 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. 4 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.”
This seems like an odd plan, doesn’t it? A bit scandalous even. Uncovering his feet and climbing into bed with him? Oooo boy. But there is more going on here than we understand with our modern eyes and ears. You see, in doing this, Ruth is making a request of Boaz, a request dictated by Jewish law. She is asking Boaz to play a very specific role on behalf of her and Naomi; she wants him to be the kinsman-redeemer of their family. And in taking that role, he would take Ruth as his wife and Naomi into his household and care for them. He would redeem the land that would have been lost with no children to inherit it and keep Ruth and Naomi from poverty. But there is a wrinkle in the plan. According to the law, there is another man, a closer relative to Naomi than Boaz, who has the right to be the kinsman-redeemer first. And so Boaz hatches his own plan. He gathers the elders of the city along with the relative that would come before him and goes to work.
Ruth 4:3-6, 8-11 Then he said to the KINSMAN-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. 4 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[b] 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[c] dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”
6 At this, the KINSMAN-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
8 So the KINSMAN-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.
9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”
11 Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.
Boaz comes to the rescue of Ruth and Naomi. He redeems their land and takes Ruth as his wife so that their house and line might not come to an end with her. And God blesses them. He gives them a child, even though Ruth had not been able to have children before then. And that child is a blessing to them, to Boaz and Ruth and to Naomi and they love that child as they love each other.
In fact, this child, named Obed, will go on to have sons of his own. And his sons will have sons. And one of those sons is none other than David, a man who God calls after his own heart. And their lineage that was saved from extinction goes on to be the very lineage that leads to another incredible event in the city of Bethlehem hundreds of years later when a census is called and everyone returns to their hometowns in order to register and a man named Joseph travels with his pregnant wife to that same city.
So what can we learn from this story? What can we learn from the great examples of Naomi and Ruth? I think there are two main lessons that we can take away.
Ruth and Naomi reflect the love of God. - The love and care that these two women demonstrate for each other is incredible. It's that hessed love, the love that doesn't give up, doesn't quit. Love that keeps going when it doesn't make sense, but holds on. That love is also reflected between Boaz and Ruth too. Boaz doesn't have to marry Ruth; because she's a foreigner from Moab, it's kind of a step down for him. But he does. He becomes their kinsman-redeemer and brings their family back from the brink. He shows what hessed is all about in doing this, in taking this step, he reflects the love of God.
God has no reason to love us the way that He does. We separated ourselves from Him by sinning, driving a wedge between us. But God shows his hessed for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. HE could have given up, destroyed the world and started over again. But he didn't. He redeemed us with the blood of His Son, Jesus and we are healed.
Everyday life matters to God. - The story of Ruth is not an exciting one. Really, it's not. It is about the everyday struggles of a family as they try to survive. A mother and daughter-in-law look for help from a relative: no wacky hijinks or adventures or dramatic reveals. The story ends with the birth of a child, a momentous event to be sure, but one that happens each and every day all around the world. This story is just everyday life. And that matters to God.
There is a disease in our culture today. The disease of grandeur. We think that in order to matter, in order to make a difference, we must do big things. That we must be a part of something, that we must be praised, earn accolades. That those things are what pleases God or our family or our friends. And so we try to make our lives fit into that mold. Our little things don't matter, and so we try to pump them up into big things. And I think one of the best examples of that is online. I want you to watch this video and see if it seems familiar.
1:00 VIDEO 0:00 - 0:56 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxVZYiJKl1Y - fade out
This guy is faking it. his everyday life wasn't exciting, so he tries to pump it up a bit. But in faking it, he's missing the point. Those everyday things that we don't think are exciting, that we maybe don't want to do—those are the things that matter to God. These are the kinds of things that matter the most:
1:00 OR LESS VIDEO/SLIDESHOW OF PICTURES FROM MY FACEBOOK
Usually we only want people to see the good stuff, the big stuff, the life changing stuff. But the story of Ruth teaches us that God cares about the little things too. The things that seem like they don't matter—those are the things that count the most. By doing those things, we can make God happy. Because He rejoices in us, his people, doing the things he has called us to do, even if that is something as simple as doing the dishes or changing a diaper. As the people of God, we are connected to something far bigger, something far greater than ourselves. An incredible story that goes back to the beginning of time. And we don't know what our role will be. For Ruth and Naomi, their everyday story shows how God brought about the preservation of the line of David and a link in the fulfillment of a prophecy given to Adam and Eve, something that they never saw. How will God use your story, the little things of your life, to move something, to change something, to do something that will echo in eternity?
We don't know. But we can be ready to give witness to that great love that God has for us, that hessed, and what it has done in our lives, down to the everyday. And in doing that, we are living as God's people. Let's stand.