Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Story 9: A New Hope

When you think of the Book of Ruth, Ruth’s story, what comes to mind? Many theologians call it a romance, a woman in distress, a man who rescues her. I can see that. But to leave it at that is to miss it altogether. And what is it that you are missing?

In the time line of the Story of God’s redemption, of His mercy and grace, Ruth falls in the period of the judges. It was a time where Israel was going through cycles of God delivering the people, then in turn they love God, then chase other gods, receive God’s discipline, repent, and then delivered, all over again. We are not sure who is the current judge, if there is even one. But whatever the case, this is where Ruth is. The people, through these cycles, aren’t getting any better. At one point in the future, they reject God completely and seek after a king.

What we have here are two people in two journeys that are about to merge into one. We have a single, overlying verse: Isaiah 55.6, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55 is about having a relationship with God.

We are not sure about the details of Ruth. We can reason that she was taught the ways of the Lord by her husband and father in law. So when it comes time to return to Bethlehem, for her, it was an easy choice. She would trust the Lord, she would follow Him, she would call upon Him. After all, she is a foreigner, not born of Israel.

Then there is Boaz. From our text, we can reason that he is an older gentleman. But he, too, is looking to honor God by redeeming Ruth. In a way, Boaz is a type, a taste of something better to come. Let’s read the text:

At midnight, Boaz was startled, turned over, and there lying at his feet was a woman! So he asked, “Who are you? ”“I am Ruth, your slave,” she replied. “Spread your cloak over me, for you are a family redeemer.” Then he said, “May the Lord bless you, my daughter. You have shown more kindness now than before, because you have not pursued younger men, whether rich or poor. Now don’t be afraid, my daughter. I will do for you whatever you say, since all the people in my town know that you are a woman of noble character. Yes, it is true that I am a family redeemer, but there is a redeemer closer than I am. Stay here tonight, and in the morning, if he wants to redeem you, that’s good. Let him redeem you. But if he doesn’t want to redeem you, as the Lord lives, I will. Now lie down until morning.” (Ruth 3.8-13 NIV)

As you see, Ruth was in a hard place. Sure she was for now able to share in the harvest of the crop, gleaning after the harvesters. But long term, she really had no hope. But the Law of Moses provided for the redemption of someone who was in Ruth’s position. She can become a proselyte, an outsider adopting the ways of the Lord. And the Law also provided for young widows and an inheritance.

Now the inheritance of the Land wasn’t something that was an end-all. It was a shadow, a taste of what eternity was to be like. We would become heirs of the king. But our sin had to be dealt with. Just as Boaz redeemed Ruth, so Jesus redeemed His Church, His Bride, you and me. But remember, Boaz’s redemption is only a type, a shadow. It’s not an exact representation. Our sins have us separated. Yet, Jesus laying his life down for us, paying the penalty for our sins, we are able to approach God and call Him our heavenly Papa. Jesus took us to be His bride, washing us by His blood, laying down His life so that we wouldn’t taste death. He gave us his name, and a hope for something better, a new hope.

Ruth and Boaz also demonstrate how we should conduct ourselves as followers of God, of doing what is right. Ruth wanted to look after Naomi, her mother in law. She adopted her life, her faith. And then she conducted herself accordingly.  When times were trying, she trusted God. Boaz commended her that she didn’t pursue other men, younger, stronger men. She wanted to honor God by honoring His ways. She was declared noble by Boaz and by the rest of the community.

Boaz wanted to do what was right as well. Here is a younger woman, a temptation to be sure. Yet he knew that he was second place. It was another’s, perhaps his older brother, or closer relative, to redeem Ruth.  Honoring God meant that he would have to allow this other person the opportunity to do so. And I suspect that he was praying that the other would pass.

Now how were they able to do this? Following the way of God isn’t easy. It’s, if anything, contrary. Again to Isaiah 55, God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are above our thoughts. Yet we can know God’s way because He has revealed it through the Word. It was the Law of Moses that Boaz and Ruth knew and followed, just as now we can read God’s Word today to determine God’s will.

James says that the religion God finds holy and pleasing is to take care of the widows and orphans, those who are in need. Jesus said to look to the field, it is ripe for harvest. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest that He would send workers into the field.

And that is our take home. We need to be open to see the opportunities to serve those in need, to share God’s grace and love. The world is hurting, more than just widows and orphans. The world is lost. The world needs redemption and worth, which are already here. All we have to do is to be open to it.

We are open to it by spending time in the Word, the Holy Bible. The more we read about God’s love and grace, the more we will readily emulate that love and grace, the more it will fill us, and flow through us. Then as we pray for others, do you see the opportunities to serve them, encourage them?

Now there may be some you will come across who can’t fathom that God would be so forgiving. And that is where the new hope is underscored, that God will draw close. Isaiah 55, as long as we have breath, we can call upon Him.

Now we will sing our song of dedication.

No comments:

Post a Comment