A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com
Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 9; You Version Bible app Days 57 through 63 in the Engaging God’s Story Reading Plan
In this week’s reading, we find the story of Ruth. Again we see the stark difference between God’s upper story and the lower story we can see from day to day. The book of Ruth starts with the narration of her mother-in-law’s marriage to Elimelech and their move to Moab because of a drought in Israel. Over the next ten years, Naomi’s two sons marry Moabite women, her husband and both of her sons die, and Naomi deep in despair decides to return to her hometown of Bethlehem.
Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab so they might remarry or at least have some support from their families while she returns to her own family roots and find some support as a widow. Orpah finally agrees and tearfully returns, but as you remember from the story, Ruth stay with Naomi and returns to Bethlehem. Ruth finds favor with Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s dead husband. Boaz acts as Elimelech’s kinsman redeemer under the Levitical laws and purchases Elimelech’s land to keep the property in the family.
In doing so, Boaz also obligates himself to caring for Naomi and taking Ruth as his bride to carry on the lineage of her dead husband. All of that might seem strange to us in our society, but it was all part of God’s plan to keep the land He promised to each of the tribes within the tribes. Each family retained possession of the land God gave them and this kinsman redeemer law ensured that if a property owner died without an heir, the property still remained in the tribal family.
Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed. Obed has a son named Jesse. Jesse has a son named David. Fourteen generations later, Mary and Joseph raise a son named Jesus. Both of them are descended from King David. What a great love story we see in the book of Ruth. It would make a great movie as you see the drama unfold.
Sometimes, though, we don’t really understand just how much drama really happens in this book because we read the words without knowing the background behind the world scene and tying together God’s upper story with the lower story Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and all the other players lived through. So let’s look at some of the background that makes this story so much more evident of God’s upper story at work.
First, note that Elimelech and Naomi moved into the country of Moab during the famine. Not a good idea if you’re an Israelite. The Moabites were enemies. Even though they may have food during this period of famine, being an Israelite in enemy territory put you and your family at great risk. It meant Naomi and Elimelech probably either did a lot of hiding or played the role of Moabite wherever they lived to keep themselves alive. They would not be welcome as foreigners taking food during a time of scarce resources.
Second, Elimelech and Naomi allowed their sons to violate one of the Levitical laws God had given Moses when they let their sons, Mahlon and Kilion marry Moabite women. God’s law said the Israelites were not to marry foreigners. They were to marry within the Israelite community so their spouses would not bring foreign gods into their community. Mahlon and Kilion violate that law when they married Orpah and Ruth.
Third, when Ruth came back to Bethlehem with Naomi, the reverse was true. Here was a foreign widow, an enemy widow, coming into Israel with no means of support. Randy Frazee characterized her gleaning in Boaz’s field this way. “It would be like a woman in a burka picking corn in a field in Iowa.” Ruth would certainly stand out. She was an outsider and few would trust her, few would want to help her. Everyone would notice her, but not in a good way.
Ruth lay at Boaz feet to let him know she was available after he showed her kindness. It was anything lewd or seductive. It was a common way to signal she was available. Boaz set things in motion to marry her, but had to give a closer relative the opportunity to buy the inheritance of her dead husband first. When her closer relative decided purchasing the land would put his finances at greater risk and refused to redeem the land, Boaz made the deal, purchased the land and made Ruth his wife.
So why would Boaz be so kind to this outsider? Why would he pay attention to this person that most people would shun? What made Boaz different from the other men in Bethlehem? Why would God use Boaz in the way He did and how did He mold Boaz in a way others had not been molded? Just take a look at the genealogy discussed a little earlier. I mentioned the trailing end of Ruth and Boaz’ lineage. Obed. Jesse. David.
But take a look at Boaz’ mother. Rahab. Remember her? She was the prostitute in Jericho who hid the Israelite spies that Joshua sent into the land before attacking the city. Can you imagine how Boaz was treated in that little village where everyone knew everyone else? Yes, she hid the spies and helped Israel defeat the city of Jericho, but that also made her a traitor to her own people. No one likes a traitor. It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on. No one likes a traitor.
And Rahab was a prostitute. It was probably the only way she could support herself in that large ancient city. But prostitution still carried its stigma then just as it does now. And Boaz not only befriended this prostitute, but married her. And Rahab was a Moabite, an enemy. A long time enemy. She betrayed her own people, would she betray the people of Bethlehem as she did the people of Jericho?
The lower story of Ruth and Boaz, and their parents looks like an unlikely group of players in God’s plan to bring people back into a face-to-face relationship with Him. How could God use traitors, prostitutes, enemies of His chosen people, outsiders, people obviously disloyal and disobedient to His laws to further His plan to bring us back to Him? It seems impossible to us. It would be a crazy, insane, scheme to any of us if we were trying to put together a plan for restoring that lost intimacy of the garden.
God lives and works and reigns in His upper story, though. God intervenes in humanity to ensure His plans ultimately work to the outcomes He has set out achieve. We can look up and align our lower story with His and be part of His plan. Or we can choose our own path and find ourselves on a path toward destruction. We can choose the path, but we cannot choose the consequences. The question remains for each of us. Can I trust God in His upper story to work for my good as I love Him and align my life with Him.
If you believe His word and watch the outcome of the heroes we see in His word and the lives of so many who have chosen to follow Him, you will find that God’s promises are true. Romans 8:28 is true. God can and will turn the impossible into reality and turn what seems to be bad into our good when we keep our eyes focused on Him and keep our lives aligned with His upper story. We must remember in those hard times that Isaiah was absolutely right when He penned the words God inspired him to write: “my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways are higher than your ways.” Trust in God. It will be okay.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more about The Story and our part in it. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.