Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Naomi and Ruth

The story of Naomi and Ruth is a tale of faith, love, loyalty and redemption. The story begins when there was a great famine in the land of Israel. A man from Bethlehem named Elimelech took his wife Naomi and his two sons Mahlon and Chilion to live in Moab. This country was just across the river Jordan but the people there were considered pagans and did not worship the one true God. The distance was only about 30 to 40 miles but as far as most Israelites were concerned, it was as far away as heaven and hell. However, the family went anyway and the son’s each married women of Moab. The two women were name Orprah and Ruth. After a time, Elimelech and both of her sons died. This left the three woman widowed and without protection. According to the laws at that time, women were not allowed to own property. So the women had no way of making a living. Since Naomi hand no kin in the land of Moab, she decided that the only thing for her to do was to go back to Bethlehem. She then encouraged both of her daughters-in-laws to go back to their families too. Neither one of the women wanted to leave Naomi. Eventually Orprah relented and returned to her kin, Ruth however would not go. She told her mother-in-law “ Intreat me not to leave thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people and thy God my God.”
Ruth Loved and cared so much for Naomi that she was willing to leave her homeland forever. She was also willing to travel with her to a strange land where people might not accept her. Naomi’s example of living the gospel must have been very strong, because Ruth was also willing to turn from her religion and join the faith of her mother-in-law.
When Naomi returned to Bethlehem people came out to meet her and said “is this not Naomi?”. She told them not to call her Naomi anymore but to call her Mara, which means bitter because she said “the Almighty hath dealt bitterly with me.”
Naomi had lost everything and was severally depressed but soon she turned her hope and ambitions to the one person in her life that had not been taken away from her. Her loving, faithful and obedient daughter-in-law Ruth.
Naomi told Ruth to go out to her kinsman’s field and to collect the grain that was left behind by the workers. For this was a law at that time that provided for the poor. Those in need were allowed to glean the fields after the reapers. Ruth did this faithfully and was able to provide quite well for herself and Naomi. Soon people began to ask about her and take notice of the loving service she gave to Naomi. One day Boaz, the kinsman who owned the field noticed Ruth too. He rewarded Ruth with special privileges and sent home extra food to her mother-in-law.
Now there was a law of Moses that provided for the welfare of widows in their society (Deuteronomy 25: 5-10). If a husband died, then it was the obligation of the nearest kinsman or blood relative to marry the widow and redeem the departed mans heritage. The firstborn of that marriage would then be raised to carry on dead man’s name.
Naomi understood this law and after learning of Boaz’s attention to Ruth, began to make a plan. In fact, the matchmaker told Ruth “I will not rest for thee, for that it may be well with thee” (Ruth 3:1).
Naomi then instructed Ruth to get dressed up and to go into Boaz’s tent after he had eaten and went to bed. She told her to uncover his feet and lie down next to him, and then wait for him to tell her what to do. In this day and age, this seems like a very scandalous and strange thing to do but in their culture, this was acceptable. Ruth was taking advantage of the law and was purposing marriage to Boaz.
About Midnight Boaz woke up and was startled to find a woman lying next to him. He asked who she was; she replied “I am Ruth, thy handmaiden”. She was laying next to his feet in submission to him, showing that she was willing to serve him and to be an obedient wife. Normally, a man in this society proposed marriage by spreading his skirt, or robe, around his intended. So she asked him to spread his skirt over her and said “for thou are a near kinsman.”
In Ezekiel 16:8, the Lord says: “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness; yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.”
Boaz accepted her as his own. Boaz then told her that he had heard of her story and all that she had done. He knew of her kindness to Naomi and of her character, he called her a virtuous woman and promised to seek her hand in marriage.
The next day, he went out to see Ruth's closest male relative. This man said that he could not marry Ruth and granted Boaz the right to marry her instead. I wonder if this kinsman was concerned that Ruth was from Moab. She was not an Israelite and there were religious and societal complications with a marriage like this.
Fortunately, this did not concern Boaz. He saw into the heart of Ruth and was only concerned with who she was and what she had become. They soon married and were blessed with a baby. Naomi became the grandmother and nursemaid to this child and was restored with great happiness. They named the child Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, who was a descendant of Jesus Christ.
The true meaning of the gospel comes out in this story. Boaz represents the Savior and Ruth represents us. Once we accept the gospel and turn away from our old life, the Lord will bring us in to his own. Ruth’s story shows us that participation in the kingdom of God is not decided by bloodlines but by our obedience to God’s will. Her humility and submission to Boaz demonstrates how we must also come to the Lord and ask for his blessings and entrance into his kingdom. It is only through the Lords good grace and works that makes this possible.
Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman. The Hebrew word for “kinsman” is “goel.” The Hebrew word for “Redeemer” is also “goel.” In Biblical times, these words were interchangeable. If a man was a kinsman, it was his duty to be a redeemer for his families’ inheritance. Boaz played a role very similar to the one that Jesus played for all mankind. Thus Boaz is a type of Christ’s love and redemptive power.
“Where you go, I will go…” With these words, Ruth sealed her fate. By seeking out the Savior with faith like Ruth, we too can secure our place with our Lord in Heaven.

Why do you think Ruth went with Naomi?
What do you think Ruth gave up to go with her?
Would you ask a man to marry you?
What qualities do you like best about Ruth

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