commitment

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

It's All a Matter of Perspective

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They happened to enter Bethlehem just when the barley harvest began. Ruth 1:22 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

Basically, there are three ways to see things in life—our own outlook, the viewpoint of others, and the way things are in an objective sense. Only one person sees all three perspectives—the Lord.

When we or others view people, life events, or whatever else, we see things subjectively. Each of us have our own biases. How we see the world and all that’s in it—including ourselves and others—is viewed through our beliefs, emotions, experiences, and values.

We can claim a sense of objectivity but that’s all it is—a sense. Only the Lord sees things in the truest objective way because He is eternal. When God reveals His perspective, as in the Scriptures, we still tend to see it through our own biased lens.

3 Perspectives

This final vignette of this first chapter of Ruth gives us a glimpse of all three perspectives—Naomi’s, the viewpoint of other people, and the actual situation.

The arrival

After Ruth’s declaration of commitment to stay with Naomi, they traveled from Moab to Bethlehem in Judah—a journey of at least 2-3 days by foot.

As they enter Naomi’s hometown, everyone is excited to see her and the women wonder at Naomi’s presence with a young Moabite widow and no husband—Can this be Naomi?

Naomi’s response is telling. It reveals how she sees her situation and why it happened. Not only is it subjective, it’s somewhat typical for most of us.

Naomi’s outlook

Let’s consider each of Naomi’s three statements.

  1. Don’t call me Naomi…Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.— Naomi’s name can mean both pleasant or sweet and Mara means bitter. It’s a play on words to describe both her inner state and her outlook on life. And she holds the God responsible for her situation.

  2. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.— Do you see how she puts the blame for her situation on the Lord? Naomi sees her life’s misfortunes as God’s hand against her and uses a play on words to make her point. Her statement about going out full but coming back empty is her view now but it will change by the end of the whole story of Ruth.

  3. The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.— It’s pretty clear Naomi is playing on the sympathy of others as a victim of circumstances though it was her husband and her choice to leave Judah ten years before. She only returns because things have reversed—they left because of a famine and she returns because of God’s provision for Israel. Her answer may be posed as a question but it’s rhetorical—the answer is clear—the Lord is the cause of her problems.

When things go wrong, most if not all of us are quick to find some reason it happened and someone else to blame. Many people blame God for all the problems in the world. Somehow He’s responsible for everyone’s choices and all the bad and evil things that happen.

Here’s our conundrum—we want God to intervene when and where we think He should but don’t want Him to interfere with our own choices and pursuits. It’s as if we want to be in control of God. This is one of the many consequences of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.

A full circle

Ancient writings followed the common literary structures of their time. Some of the literary devices are more obvious than others. The use of contrasting words and concepts is one of the most common.

Chapter one of Ruth begins with a famine but ends …as the barley harvest was beginning. The scope of the book starts out with a timeframe of ten years but telescopes down to one day and a pivotal meeting in the last chapter.

The heart of the story begins in the next chapter where Ruth becomes the main character in this story of redemption. Even this first chapter ends with a redemptive focus—going from famine to harvest and coming from a far country to home.

Naomi can’t see this for now but she will in the end.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Reflection—

When things go wrong, we tend to blame something or someone else rather than ourselves. We’ll even blame God because of our own expectations in life. We don’t see things from a clear and objective perspective.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself shifting blame to someone other than yourself and not facing your own responsibilities, ask the Lord to show you His perspective of your situation. Ask Him to help you learn a better way to handle things.


devo Scripture Text

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. (Ruth 1:19-22 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

Wherever You Go, I Will Go

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Don’t make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Ruth 1:16 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

This is one of my favorite segments of the story of Ruth. It is a pivotal scene in the narrative. This dialog between Naomi and Ruth illustrates a few important and valuable themes in Ruth representative of the Bible’s larger narrative arc.

Four things in particular stand out to me—faith, faithfulness, redemption, and discipleship.

Faith

Ruth demonstrates great faith with her insistence to go with Naomi to Judah. Unlike her sister Orpah, Ruth is not returning to her homeland, her people, or her gods. She trusts in the Living God of Israel—Naomi’s God. She trust Naomi’s confidence in God’s provision (Ruth 1:6) although she has not seen it.

Ruth is willing to commit herself to Naomi and follow her to a land she has not seen and a people who are not hers. Remember, she is a Moabite widow—a foreigner to Naomi’s people. And, Naomi is clear there are no guarantees (Ruth 1:11-13).

Faithfulness

Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi is expressed in an emotional and strong way in verses 16-17—

“Don’t force me to leave you. Don’t make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and I will be buried there with you. May the Lord strike me down if anything but death separates you and me!”

What a dramatic and heartfelt plea! Consider how personal it is. This isn’t about beliefs and theology, it’s based on Ruth’s relationship with Naomi and Naomi’s relationship with her God.

It’s also an astounding commitment of faith and faithfulness to Naomi, her people and customs, her land, and her God—the Living God of Israel.

Redemption

Redemption is seen in Ruth’s confession in two ways. She converts from the gods of her people—the Moabites—to trusting in the Living God of Israel. Ruth is also a prophetic indicator of things to come. She is a prophetic sign of the inclusion of Gentiles—non-Jewish people—in the redemption of all humanity by Jesus.

The Jewish people saw the Kingdom of God as exclusively for them. Unless Gentiles were converted to Judaism, they wouldn’t be included in God’s Kingdom. The early church thought this way as well, as seen by early Jewish church leaders protesting the apostle Peter’s involvement with the conversion of a Roman centurion (Acts 10:45-46; 11:18).

This prophetic sign is also seen in the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel. Typically, women would not be included in a Jewish genealogy but she is one of two Gentiles and five women listed (Matt 1:5).

Discipleship

Ruth’s declaration of faith and commitment to Naomi is a model of true discipleship. Not to another person but to the Lord. Consider Ruth’s statements as if addressed to Jesus. Jesus calls His followers—His disciples—to deny yourself, die to yourself (take up your cross), and follow Me (Matt 16:24.

Let’s look at them line by line—

  • Don’t make me turn back…— this models repentance, a turning away from our former life.

  • Where you go, I will go…stay…— this is a personal commitment to follow as Jesus calls believers to follow Him.

  • Your people…my people…Your God…my God.— this models a confession of commitment and identification with God’s people, the church community, and corporate worship.

  • Where you die I will die…— because Israel’s God is a living God, this expresses a hope in resurrection from the dead—the believer’s living hope (Job 19:25; Matt 22:31-32).

One last thought. Notice how Naomi responds to Ruth’s confession of commitment and faith. At first, Naomi doesn’t see the level of Ruth’s commitment. When she does, she accepts it and Ruth’s faith and allows Ruth to journey with her to Judah.

We need to be wary of limiting God’s power to draw people to Himself through us, even when we don’t see it right away. Don’t look past the people in your life. Engage with those you come in contact with on a daily basis. Listen to their life stories. Build relationships.

All people have value to God because His image is imbedded in each of us. Jesus is the focus of our faith (Heb 12:2) and all humanity is the focus of redemption (John 3:16).

Reflection—

Consider Ruth’s declaration of commitment to Naomi as a declaration of faith, faithfulness, redemption, and discipleship in the Lord. This is what God calls all of us to when we respond to His love and grace.

Prayer Focus—

Regardless of your present circumstances—whether favorable or not—allow Ruth’s confession and declaration to be a guide for your prayer and trust in the Lord.


devo Scripture Text

“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. (Ruth 1:15-18 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

How to Find a Life Partner

Who can find a wife with a strong character? She is worth far more than jewels.

Her husband trusts her with ⌊all⌋ his heart, and he does not lack anything good.

She helps him and never harms him all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:10-12 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 31:10-31 GW)


The search for a life partner is a universal and enduring one through the ages. It began, I suppose, when God saw Adam’s need for a companion who would complement and fit him for life—

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.” (2:18 GNTD)

Based on this verse you could say, it’s God’s plan and His will for everyone to have a marriage partner in life. You could say this and many people have but it’s not always the case.

Some people are better off or choose to be single—the Bible speaks to this also (1 Cor 7:8-38). You could also be a man looking for a wife in China where there’s about 33 million more men than women.

Not everyone is looking for a life partner, just someone to be with for a while. As they say, “there’s an app—or two or three—for that.” Several online resources exist solely for help to find a companion to share life with—whether for the first time or another hoped for go at it.

Arranged marriages are another option still in play for much of the world though not so much in America. Stories abound of arranged relationships and marriage—some good, some horrible, and some just ok.

What’s a person to do?

What’s the key to seeking the right or best soul mate or life partner for you? What criteria should you go by? Is it just a matter of chance, fate, kismet, or is it a matter of prayer and the right timing?

It’s no secret people choose partners for the wrong reasons or don’t know how to develop a healthy marriage once a choice is made. Too often, what attracts people at first later repels them.

So, what should you look for when seeking a life partner?

The answer isn’t a simple method or process or checklist, but the majority of this last chapter in Proverbs is intended to be a guide. Not just for a man to find a wife but also what a woman should desire and expect for a husband.

Some helpful things to note

Before diving into an answer for the previous question, here are some helpful things to know about Proverbs 31:10-31—

  • There are 22 verses written as an acrostic—each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Sort of an ABC’s for what to look for in a life partner.

  • This portion of text has many subtitles given to it—The Virtuous Wife, The Ideal Wife, The Woman Who Fears the Lord, The Wife of Noble Character, and so on.

  • This is not a checklist of expectations a man should look for or require of a woman as his wife—many a marriage has been rocked or ruined by seeing it as such.

  • This was advice given to a king (Lemuel) by his mother for this reason—

Charm is deceptive, and beauty evaporates, ⌊but⌋ a woman who has the fear of the Lord should be praised. (Prov 31:30 GW)

A simple key

A simple key to finding a marriage partner for life is to know a person’s character. Notice I didn’t make this a one-way focus. A person’s character is essential to consider for a man and a woman when seeking a life partner.

There’s bound to be difficulty and unmet expectations when anyone chooses a partner based on personality or appearance. In fact, idealistic expectations undermine any relationship but especially a lifetime commitment in marriage.

A word to women. If a man doesn’t respect and value you for who you are as a person—you should wait for a better man.

Who would qualify as a better man? A man with similar qualities of character as noted in these verses and a man who wants to be a partner in life with you for life.

God’s design for marriage was always intended to be a partnership. A mutual, beneficial, and fulfilling relationship where each person values the other as their equal, their partner in life.

When other things like appearance or personality—external qualities—become priority over character—a person’s internal nature—unmet expectations and unnecessary problems are bound to come.

An enduring and healthy marriage has its own difficulties because it’s a merger of two persons into one relationship—a unified identity as life partners (Gen 2:24). It requires valuing internal qualities in a person over externals.

Signs of a healthy partnership in marriage are—

Her husband trusts her with ⌊all⌋ his heart… She helps him and never harms him all the days of her life

If you’re seeking to find a life partner, be wise in doing so. These 22 verses can be a helpful guide but make sure it’s a guide for knowing a person’s character rather than a checklist of unrealistic expectations.

Reflection—

God designed marriage as a partnership—a mutual, beneficial, and fulfilling relationship where each person values the other as their equal—their partner in life.

Prayer Focus—

If you’re seeking to find a life partner, ask God for guidance, discernment, and wisdom in doing so. Ask the Lord’s help to guard your heart from making emotional and foolish commitments and for help to see and make a person’s internal qualities your priority.

©Word-Strong_2019

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Next week, I plan to start a new series of devotionals in the Book of Ruth.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Resolutions or Resolve?

Moving beyond resolutions to resolve

Interest in physical fitness surges a few times throughout the year. The holiday season when we all tend to eat more than our body needs is a prime example. This carries over to New Year’s resolutions to get physically fit.

Summertime also brings renewed interest in physical fitness for those who go to the beach or lake to catch some sun. Some gyms are even open 24 hours a day for the die-hards, but many of us have difficulty being consistent.

Inconsistency is also an issue for many of us with spiritual fitness. We may know what is needed for spiritual growth and strength but struggle to move beyond the initial experience of making Jesus the Lord of our life.

Resolutions are more like wishes made when blowing out birthday-cake candles. Moving beyond resolutions requires resolve—a choice or decision that results in commitment.

Knowing isn’t doing

Just knowing what we’re supposed to do doesn’t make it happen. I may know a healthy diet and exercise are primary for being physically fit, but if I don’t make changes and act on those changes I won’t become physically fit.

It works the same way with spiritual growth and health. I may know to read the Bible, stay in fellowship, pray, worship, serve, and so on, but if I don’t do these things consistently I can’t expect too much in the way of spiritual fitness.

And yet, there’s more to it than doing things that lead to spiritual growth and fitness. There is an internal struggle we must contend with and overcome. It requires resolve to overcome this struggle more than a mere resolution.

We must contend with and overcome an internal struggle

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lightstock.com_notebook-Bible

Hard questions

Because we’re set in our ways, it’s hard to make significant changes in our life. We need to ask some hard but important questions.

What are specific ways I can move beyond my present spiritual state?

What can I do to overcome habitual tendencies I’ve held most of my life?

Once I know what needs to change, how do I make these changes?

Just as commitment and discipline are needed to maintain physical fitness, the same is true for spiritual fitness and growth.

But why does it always seem to be such a struggle?

Our struggle

Our internal spiritual struggle exists because of two warring natures — one is old and dead but the other is new and alive. The old nature is more familiar to us, it’s like a long-term ingrained habit. It’s not an old friend!

Habits like biting nails are often done subconsciously. We do it without realizing it. This is the problem we have with our old nature—our old way of life. It’s our go-to, our internal inclination.

How can we break away and break free from this old way of life?

Just quoting Scripture won’t make it go away. It won’t just fade away with time by doing all the right things. Nor is it about modifying our behavior.

It’s a matter of our will. Not to make a resolution to change but choosing to surrender it. Sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true.

The death of us

Previously, I wrote about a life hidden. This hidden life is a Christian’s new life arising from our new nature given to us by God when we enter into a personal relationship with Him.

But this hidden life is like the life contained in a seed or seed pod. The seed pod has to die for the new life contained in the seed to come to life.

Jesus spoke about this saying, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). In another post, I looked at this need to die to self.

The Bible speaks of putting this old way of life, or old self, to death. But is it understood by most Christian believers? Maybe at a basic level of knowing it but knowing how to do it is another thing altogether.

Here’s what the apostle Paul said about it in Colossians —

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices (Col 3:5–9 NIV)

A choice and a commitment

So, how do we put such things to death?

Notice the figurative language used — “since you have taken off your old self with its practices.”The image is that of taking soiled clothes off.

It’s an intentional choice and action. It doesn’t just happen.

What’s the key?

Think of it as a slow burial.

Theologically, we can know we are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) with a new nature (Ezek 11:1936:26), but our struggle is with letting go of the old self and its ways.

It requires a continued choice and commitment on our part.

A slow burial of what’s dead

unsplash.com_TMarshall

unsplash.com_TMarshall

We need to realize the old way of life and its nature is dead to us. It no longer holds life for us. That is, it doesn’t fulfill us but empties us and holds on to us with a death grip.

Putting the things mentioned above to death requires us to acknowledge they only breed death for us spiritually. They are a dead end in themselves and they need to be buried in the past. Buried with Jesus—the visual image of water baptism (Rom 6:3–7).

Jesus died to put such things to death on the cross and He removed their power through His resurrection (Col 2:13–15).

After realizing this, we need to choose to not go back to these old ways of life, these habits of our old self. We do this by choosing not to live that way, be that way, and do such things. This is the way we will bury the old self.

But remember, it’s a slow burial. It requires a resolve that goes beyond mere resolutions. It requires a daily choice to trust in the Lord’s perfect work of redemption on the cross, as it personally applies in our life.

The old way of life and its nature need to be dead to us

I’ve got more thoughts on how to take the next step beyond putting the old self and ways to death. If you’re interested, let me know.

Until then, a few questions…

What seems to hold on to you from your old way of life?

How is it a dead-end for you now?

What are some practical ways you can bury it for good?


This was published earlier in Publishous on Medium as a revision from a previous post