Perhaps my favorite Book of the Bible is Ruth; this morning as I began for the “umpteenth” time to read it, I was stuck by the irony in the life of Naomi and the great love of her daughter-in-law, Ruth; revisiting as well, the love stories written in my heart.
What began as a few sound bites on Facebook began to grow in my heart; so, needing a more appropriate tool, I turned to my blog. I had perhaps exhausted the hurried reader who prefers small cloud burst of inspiration over the full storm!
“When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her (to turn back).” Ruth 1:18
Life’s true breakthrough moments come only after spiritual determination.
Provision and providence then follow.
“So, the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived the whole town was stirred because of them…” Ruth 1:19a
Interestingly enough, by the time I had completed my post, I was hearing an old song in my spirit. I think it was sung by Bill Gaither in the early 70’s. The title may have been simply, “A Love Song.” Of course, as only Gaither can sing it, the song trailed into a presentation of I Corinthians 13 followed by an invitation to “let it happen in your heart.” My wife and I, then new to this Christian thing, had been given this 33 rpm record (you might need to Google “record” if under 30) and were clueless as to where Gaither got these beautiful words.
Like that classic passage in I Corinthians 13, the Book of Ruth is also a love story; a story of the providence and faithfulness of God, available to restore even the lives of those well up in age, in this case a foreign widow. As a man once broken and foreign to the love of God, I can relate.
My early morning Facebook post sets the story of this widow. She has lost not only her spouse but her son, and even one of her two daughter-in-laws. Naomi, exasperated by life, encouraged then to depart in order to find a husband from among their original family, perhaps only then having children of their own.
Ruth however was determined to stay with this beloved woman regardless of the cost…”til death do us part.”
They soon arrive in Naomi’s home town, apparently in quite a different state financially than when Naomi and her husband had originally left Bethlehem. “When they arrived the whole town was stirred because of them…”; a beautiful irony begins.
Ruth, in order to serve this now impoverished widow, has no option but to glean from the local fields, scrounging around for leftover grain, as was a customary provision for the poor.
The beauty of this story continues as the writer (through the Spirit, I believe) leaks out the possibilities that await this true servant girl. Unknown to her, she just happens to land in a field owned by a wealthy kinsman named Boaz. Secondly, while she is there he just “happens by.” Apparently a good man, for the harvesters cried out to him, “The Lord be with you!” and he then back to them, “The Lord bless you.” He curiously inquires about the beautiful stranger gleaning in the edge of his fields. “Whose young woman is that?” he calls out, only to find out that she is akin to Naomi, a name he is well acquainted with.
Frightened perhaps by all these goings-on, Ruth begs permission of Boaz. He not only receives her but encourages her to continue, assures her of safety and then instructs his harvesters to pull out grain already harvested for her access! He had put “two and two” together, as it seems that Ruth’s kind heart toward Naomi had already reached Boaz’s ears long before he had even met her!
Needless to say, new expectancy and hope return to Naomi when she hears the stories from a now excited Ruth, along with the rich provision she brings home from the field.
This combination of a “pearl of great price”/Song of Solomon love story then unfolds, as the custom of the sandal (Ruth 4:7) is followed through by Boaz, taking Ruth for his “lawful wedded” wife. Yes, in the end, “Naomi has a son.” (Ruth 4:17). However, she not only regains the lost dream of a grandchild, but that child would become the ancestor of the great King David.
As one reads this fairytale-like ending, a deep revelation of the kindness of our near-kinsman, of our Great Father, bent on the redemption of our lives, broken and desperate as we may be. The setting, Bethlehem…gotta love it!
Check it out, and as Gaither sings: Let it happen in your heart.