Relationships

Coming Full Circle

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The women said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has remembered today to give you someone who will take care of you. The child’s name will be famous in Israel.

He will bring you a new life and support you in your old age. Your daughter-in-law who loves you is better to you than seven sons, because she has given birth.” Ruth 4:14-15 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

We tend to think of completion with the phrase coming full circle. But a circle has no beginning or end. We can determine a start and end point but those would be arbitrary or theoretical.

A circle is the closest we come to a sense or continuation within our infinite world. We can try to imagine eternity and try to grasp the concept of eternity but it is literally beyond us. The symbol we have for infinity is like a sideways figure eight—two circles looped together as a continuous line.

God is eternal in nature. He is the Self-Existent One (Rev 1:8; 22:13) as He told Moses, I AM WHO I AM (Exo 3:14 [also see John 8:58]).

God isn’t restricted within eternity for He is the One who created all there is and sustains all there is within eternity. He is both inside and outside eternity at the same time. He is beyond our capacity to fully understand or He wouldn’t be God.

Full circle and more

The end of the story of Ruth gives us a glimpse into how coming full circle has a beginning and end only as we view it within history. But there’s far more in these last few verses than the culmination of the story of a Moabite woman named Ruth.

Before we look at some insights from these last few verses, let’s consider all that takes place. Boaz follows through on his commitment to marry Ruth. She becomes pregnant as they consummate their marriage and gives birth to a son.

The women of Bethlehem rejoice with Naomi and bless her with encouraging words of how the Lord as shown His care and love with the birth of her grandson and how great a blessing Ruth is to her.

Naomi becomes a nanny to her grandson named Obed who will become the father of Jesse and grandfather of King David. The story ends with a significant genealogy, which looks ahead a few generations and beyond.

Some Redemptive insights

At the beginning of Ruth in Chapter 1, the focus in on emptiness with a sense of futility. Naomi expresses it this way—

I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. (Ruth 1:21)

She, her husband and two sons flee the famine in their homeland in hope of a better life. But Naomi loses her husband and two sons with no hope of a family legacy. And, she’s saddled with the responsibility for two Moabite widowed-daughter-in-laws.

When the story is completed, Naomi is full again not empty. In fact, the women of Bethlehem say she is better of than before. God sent a kinsman-redeemer to preserve the family legacy of property, she has a grandson, and is assured of her family caring for in old age.

Think the Old Testament isn’t relevant for today? Think again! The women encourage Naomi about Ruth, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons.

This is just one of many stories in the Old Testament highlighting the importance and significance of women. In a way, it is somewhat of a redemption for the first woman on earth who ate from the forbidden tree.

The child born to Ruth and Boaz becomes the father of Jesse and grandfather of Israel’s most loved king, David. Consider how inclusive and far reaching this is. This short genealogy of ten generations is repeated almost word for word in the first gospel of the New Testament (Matt 1:3-6).

This genealogy is part of the line of Judah—the family line of David through whom the Messiah would come, as the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer. Judah has incestual relations with his scorned daughter-in-law Tamar, which results in the birth of Perez.

A few generations later, Boaz is born from the union of Salmon and Rahab—the same Rahab who sheltered the two men sent to spy out Jericho for Joshua. The three women mentioned in Matthew’s account of these same generations should not be included according to Mosaic Law but they are. They are a reminder of God’s inclusive grace.

The story of Ruth begins with an interrupted generation (Elimelech and sons), and concludes with a completed generation within ten historically important generations of Israel. This is a reminder how our life stories are not complete yet, and we need to be mindful of God’s redemptive grace in our life and the greater story arc of humanity.

How is your life a reflection of God’s inclusive grace?

Reflection—

Our life stories are not complete yet, and we need to be mindful of God’s redemptive grace in our life and the greater story arc of humanity. Remember, God’s grace is inclusive not exclusive.

Prayer Focus—

Ask the Lord to give you fresh perspective in your life. Ask Him to help you see how He has shown you His inclusive grace, so you may show it to others.


Devo Scripture Text

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. (Ruth 4:13-22 NIV 84)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

Jumping to Conclusions and Too Quick to Commit

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“If you wish to buy back the property, you can buy back the property. But if you do not wish to buy back the property, tell me. Then I will know that I am next in line because there is no other relative except me.” Ruth 4:4 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

“You’ll know a good thing when you see it,” goes a common saying. But it’s also true that things are not always as they seem. As far as good things, another common saying is—If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I often hear people repeat cliches and platitudes like these as if they carry great significance. They don’t. When something is spoken over and over again, it begins to lose its original meaning and value.

The same goes for wanting or wishing for something better or more than what we already have. Winning the lottery loses its luster real quick with all the unintended consequences winning brings—high taxes, expectations of family and friends, difficulties of managing wealth, and so on.

I’ve known pastors of small churches who want bigger ones because they think it would be better. Or, small business owners who want to grow their business bigger for greater income. But bigger is not always better. It brings new challenges and demands many people are not equipped to handle.

I remember observing this as our church body and the other ministries we oversaw grew from start to small to bigger. The changes are dynamic and exponential. These changes impact relationships and the responsibilities and roles new growth and expansion requires.

It can be good but the responsibilities that come with growth and new opportunities are always challenging.

Opportunity brings responsibility

As chapter four begins, we see Boaz seeking out the man who was a closer relative to Elimelech’s family than him (see text below). Boaz understood the responsibility of being a kinsman-redeemer. It wasn’t just about marriage or property.

The role of a kinsman-redeemer was about legacy—the continuation of a family line that could be traced back to the patriarchs of Israel. It was greater than him or Ruth or Naomi. There was a sacred trust to be respected and valued.

Boaz understood the gravity of the situation, so he makes sure there are trustworthy men to be present and witness what he will share with the other kinsman-redeemer. It was an opportunity that carried a great responsibility with it.

This scene takes place at the city gate. This would be somewhat similar to the public squares common in older towns and cities. It would be a public hearing that carried legal and binding commitments.

It might seem that Boaz is setting up some kind of trap for the nearer relative. But it isn’t manipulation in an unethical sense. He set the stage to reveal the true intentions of the other man and himself before the witnesses at the gate.

When presented with the opportunity to acquire property, this man is quick to commit. But there’s more responsibility attached to this property than merely purchasing it. There’s also more to the story but we’ll look at that next time.

Consider before you commit

Here’s the problem with quick decisions and commitments—there’s often more to consider than what we see, hear, or know at first. Most anything of real value requires more attention or responsibility than things of lesser value.

Before making a commitment, we need discernment to assess what we are committing ourselves to with the understanding of the need to be faithful to our commitment once we make it.

Are there times when you’ve been too quick to commit to something or someone?

Reflection—

Opportunities always bring certain responsibilities and require commitment to gain whatever the opportunity holds. Before you commit, ask questions to understand what your responsibilities will be and whether or not you can fulfill it.

Prayer Focus—

When faced with challenges or opportunities, be quick to ask God for wisdom and discernment, and the grace needed to make wise commitments.


Devo Scripture Text

Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down. Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so.

Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. 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 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.

(Ruth 4:1-4 NIV 84)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

Spread the Corner of Your Garment Over Me

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“Spread the corner of your garment over me because you are a close relative who can take care of me.” Ruth 3:9 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

It’s good to have a sense of purpose. It’s also helpful to have the vision to see how to pursue and fulfill our purpose. But along the way, things we don’t know about may hinder our way or become obstacles to overcome.

This is true for all of our lives. We make plans based on what we know. However, we don’t know all there is to know. But God does. He is omniscient—all-knowing. God knows all there is to know—past, present, and future—because He is eternal in nature.

What is amazing to me is how the Lord works in concert with us. He neither ignores or rejects our free will but includes it as He orchestrates how His will is worked out.

This short segment of the story of Ruth (see text below) gives some insight into how God incorporates and works with our free will and plans in conjunction with His will.

When different plans converge

As this chapter begins, Naomi lays out her plan for Ruth to follow. Ruth does what she’s told but also has her idea of how things should go. Our third person in this story, Boaz, brings to light new information Naomi and Ruth are unaware of and sets in motion his own plan.

Each of these three main characters have their own view of things and what they see in the future, but God has an overarching plan that reaches beyond their lives.

But there’s more to this short story segment than grand plans. This encounter between Boaz and Ruth on the threshing floor further reveals insight into each of their characters.

This scene unfolds late in the evening after Boaz finishes his work of separating the grain from the husks. It was hard but rewarding work to prepare the final product of the harvest for sale to others.

Once the work is done for the day, Boaz eats his evening meal and drinks to a point of contentment to rest for the night. Ruth watches for her cue to set Naomi’s plan in action. Once Boaz is asleep, Ruth quietly tiptoes to where he is laying and uncovers his feet and lays down in the darkness.

Later in the night, Boaz wakens because of a chill and realizes someone is lying at this feet. Startled, he asks who it is. Then Ruth sets in motion her plan. She tells Boaz why she’s there and requests him to cover her with his garment.

Now we see the character of these two people come to light while they’re alone in a dark room. Ruth submits herself first to Naomi then to Boaz with the innocence and trust of a child.

Instead of taking advantage of this young foreign woman, Boaz upholds her integrity of character, as expressed in verse 11—All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.

A nearer kinsman-redeemer

Boaz also expresses his willingness to be the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and Naomi but shares some new information which interrupts all their plans. There is a relative more closely related to Elimelech’s family line than Boaz.

This puts everything on hold but not for long. Boaz vows to resolve the dilemma the next morning and assures Ruth of his commitment and willingness to take her as his wife and preserve the legacy of the property and lineage of Elimelech and his sons.

This nearer kinsman-redeemer will be addressed in chapter four as the story comes to a climax. We’ll see how this dilemma is resolved in the next chapter and get more insight into the role of a kinsman-redeemer.

consider what this short story reveals.

Naomi’s plan was to set Ruth in a situation she hoped would develop into a marriage relationship to preserve her husband’s and son’s legacy and their family share of property.

Ruth looked to Boaz as a provider and protector, not just for herself but for Naomi, as well. Her request of Boaz reveals this when she says—

Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer. (Ruth 3:9 NIV 84)

It is more than an attitude of submission. It is an expression of trust. It reaches back to her commitment to Naomi and trust in the God of Israel. It looks forward to a hoped for union with Boaz as her kinsman-redeemer, which foreshadows the Kinsman-Redeemer of all.

Although Ruth would have no concept or understanding of a future redeemer, what she says to Boaz echoes the confidence Job had in God when he said—

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. (Job 19:25 NIV 84)

We all have plans within any given day—whether small or great, intentional or routine. But life tends to interrupt our plans and reality breaks into our daydreams and ideal intentions.

We can allow these interruptions to throw us into fretting and worrying, anger and resentment, or peace and trust. It depends on what or where or who we put our trust in.

So, the question is—

How do you handle the interruptions of life?

Reflection—

We can allow the interruptions that come in our lives to throw us into fretting and worrying, anger and resentment, or peace and trust. It all depends on what or where or who we put our trust in.

Prayer Focus—

When you find your life interrupted, choose to lift the eyes of your heart and the thoughts of your mind to the Lord. Not to question but to listen and in trust. Learn to trust in God as a first resort rather than in desperation or frustration.


Devo Scripture Text

So she [Ruth] went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.

In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.”

“The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.

Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.” (Ruth 3:6-13 NIV 84)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

When We Try to Help God

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Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, said to her, “My daughter, shouldn’t I try to look for a home that would be good for you? Ruth 3:1 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

“God loves you and people have a wonderful plan for your life!” This is what a good friend of mine would say when people made suggestions to the pastor or other people. It was a rephrasing of one of the Four Spiritual Laws by Bill Bright of Cru and had a ring of truth to it.

My friend and I, along with countless other pastors, have heard well-intentioned suggestions from people in the church many, many times. It goes something like this—”Pastor, I think you should…” or “Pastor, it would be good if you….” You get the idea.

It is human nature to do this. We all have thoughts about what others should or should not do, or how we might do something better or differently. Even if we don’t verbalize these thoughts out loud to others, we still have them.

This is the byproduct of our self-centered nature. It’s our attempt at helping God or even acting like Him in other people’s lives. It’s something we inherited from our ancestors Adam and Eve.

Our plans or God’s way?

In chapter three of Ruth, the story takes an important turn. It zeroes in on one relationship within one day. Although God has His plan and His way for bringing Boaz and Ruth together, Naomi sees the need to step in to help. She spots a way to secure a better future for herself and her daughter in law.

When we view things from Naomi’s point of view, as best we can, we get an idea of why she sets this plan in motion for Ruth to encounter Boaz in a closer way. Here’s a glimpse into what motivates Naomi—

  • Bethlehem is Naomi’s homeland not Ruth’s

  • Naomi feels responsible for Ruth the Moabitess whom she brought to Bethlehem

  • Naomi understands the customs and traditions of her people in a way Ruth would not

  • Naomi sees an opportunity to help Boaz and Ruth come together in marriage

  • Naomi understands the role of a kinsman-redeemer (Lev 25:25) and how it benefits her

  • Naomi knows Ruth will submit to her and whatever advances Boaz makes toward Ruth

This is putting the best construction on things as far as Naomi’s motives. But the reality is this—Naomi is trying to manipulate a situation—as well as Boaz and Ruth—for her own purposes.

Naomi sees an opportunity and sets her plan in motion (see text below). She explains the timing and describes how Ruth should make herself available to Boaz. Naomi also instructs Ruth how to look and smell her best for the occasion. Naomi adds her final advice to let Boaz take the lead when the time comes.

This is manipulation, nothing less. When we try to do similar things in the lives of others, we’re being manipulative. When we do such things, we are interfering with God and His ways. In a sense, we see ourselves—like Naomi—helping God in some way.

Some things to consider

Was Naomi just trying to help move things along with the relationship between Boaz and Ruth? Yes!

Do you think Naomi expected Boaz to take advantage of Ruth in this situation to force something to happen between the two of them? I’ll let you decide but it should be obvious.

What isn’t obvious, or perhaps expected, is how both Ruth and Boaz handle themselves in this manipulated situation. We’ll see this in the next episode of our stories of redemption in the Book of Ruth.

Are there ways you have or are currently trying to help God in some way?

Reflection—

When we try to do similar things in the lives of others as we see Naomi do, we’re being manipulative. When we do such things, we interfere with God and His ways. As has been said before—we don’t need to be the Holy Spirit in other people’s lives.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself trying to suggest how others ought to be or what they ought to do, stop and repent. Ask the Lord to help you see how you might be doing this with others, and ask Him for the grace to let go and for His forgiveness.


Devo Scripture Text

One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.

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.

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.”

“I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. (Ruth 3:1-5 NIV)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

Why are you paying attention to me?

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“Why are you so helpful? Why are you paying attention to me? I’m only a foreigner.” Ruth 2:10 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

One of the existential questions of life is—Does my life have significance? Does my life matter to anyone but me? It’s a reasonable question, especially since we are one person among 7.7 billion people in the world.

Every human life has significance—even those unborn in the womb—because each person is created in the image of God. This makes each of us significant to God. But we are all significant to our families, also.

It’s easy to see this in healthy families with a good sense of well-being. But even in dysfunctional families or those torn apart by divorce, mental illness, alcoholism or drug addiction, poverty, war, or any other detrimental situation including death.

My wife and I witnessed this while raising our own children, as foster parents, and as surrogate parents for the children and abused girls we cared for in the Philippines for nearly a quarter of a century. Every child—every one of us—has significance and worth, yet we all wonder what our purpose in life is at some point.

God’s favor—His unmerited goodness towards us

As the story of Ruth the Moabitess unfolds, we see her surprised at God’s favor in her life. Many people find it difficult to grasp the truth of God’s favor. Two simple reasons come to mind—we don’t deserve it and we can’t earn or receive it based on good deeds.

God’s favor is given by God for His purposes. He doesn’t extend His favor based on a person’s goodness but He does grant it to us for our benefit. It’s God’s blessing—His grace—given to someone for His purposes.

But how is it possible for someone to receive His favor?

The simplest, most direct way to receive God’s favor is to trust in Him. Here is what we’re told in the book of Hebrews—

No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb 11:6 GW)

Faith in God is an implicit trust in God. And this is what we see about Ruth and why she receives God’s favor. It started when she chose to trust in the God of Naomi—the God of Israel—the One, True, and Living God.

We see her confession of faith when she said— Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God (Ruth 1:16c).

We see God’s favor shown to her through Boaz. Why? He knows of her faith in God and her faithfulness in character (Ruth 2:11).

Ruth is unaware of why God’s favor rests upon her but she knows she neither deserved or earned the favor Boaz bestowed upon her. She sees it when he tells her to stay in his field, to stay with the young women, and to drink the water drawn by his young men (verses 8-9).

In response to Ruth’s wonder at the favor Boaz shows her, Boaz tells her three things about her that reflect her trust in God and how it’s worked through her life (verse 11).

Then Boaz pronounces a blessing on her. His blessing reveals how and why the Lord’s favor is upon her—

May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge. (verse 12)

The provisional and protective care Boaz shows to Ruth is extraordinary. It’s hard for us to see this without understanding the culture of their time. Women, especially widows, had little status in ancient culture. Foreign—non-Jewish or Gentile—women had even less respect in Jewish culture.

Even when we receive God’s favor, we should not take it for granted. Ruth’s reply to Boaz in verse 13 shows us the appropriate and wise attitude we need to have—

“May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”

Ruth’s gratitude seems to prompt Boaz to extend his favor to her further, as seen in verses 14-16 (see text below). Boaz includes Ruth with the rest of his harvesters when he invites her to eat the midday meal with them and gives special instructions about her to his young men.

Gleanings from Ruth

We’ll look at the rest of the story next time but consider what we’ve learned about God’s favor in this segment of the story.

When we walk by faith with a childlike trust in God, His favor will be upon us and go before us, as He opens doors of opportunity we can’t open on our own. Ruth gains a sense of significance and value because of God’s favor upon her life.

When Ruth realizes the great favor she’s received, she doesn’t take it for granted. She’s grateful for it and acknowledges this. Her gratitude seems to open further blessing and favor by Boaz.

God’s favor—His grace—flows like a stream to carry us along as we learn to rely upon Him with the abandon and commitment we see in Ruth as she trusts in the God of Israel. We need to choose to trust in the Lord but we will never earn or gain God’s favor because of our choice.

What have you learned about God’s favor for your life?

Reflection—

When you walk by faith with a childlike trust in God, His favor will be upon you and go before you, as He opens doors of opportunity you can’t open on your own. When you realize God’s favor in your life—acknowledge it, be grateful for it, and rest in it and in Him.

Prayer Focus—

While in prayer, learn to wait upon God—listen for Him to speak to your heart. Trust Him for His grace to fill you and carry you as you rest in His faithfulness and goodness.


Devo Scripture Text

So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”

At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.

May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

“May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”

At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.” When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over.

As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” (Ruth 2:8-16 NIV)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s