The part of the poem that we will be emphasizing on today is highlighted in blue. The black colour text in the poem is a recap of what we have already done for the past few weeks.
Before I begin, I would like to give credit to Tim Philips for I have used his sermon notes again to pen the ‘Points for Reflection’ section for Episode 4.
Let us now continue our story with the fourth episode of Ruth…
Ruth (Episode 4)
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (3rd October 2013)
'Go to bed my dear child,' said Grandma Naomi
As she bent down to kiss his forehead tenderly
Obed was wide awake so he looked pleadingly
And said, 'Grandma, please tell me a bedtime story'
Naomi tried her best to think of an excuse
A valid one which she could effectively use
To lovingly and gently but firmly refuse
Her little grandson's request for her to amuse
But his pleading eyes completely melted her heart
His whims and fancies she had often failed to thwart
She sat by his bedside and pondered how to start
A true story of which she played a vital part
'In the days when the judges ruled in our homeland
There was a great famine which we could not withstand
Elimelech, your grandfather, of Bethlehem
Sojourned with my sons and I to another land
For ten years we settled in the land of Moab
Elimelech's death left me despondent and sad
Mahlon and Chilion, my dear sons, were all I had
They each took a local Moabite woman to wed
And then my dear sons died, leaving their wives and me
Orpah, Ruth your mother and I grieved mournfully
The widows were left childless and I’ve bitterly
Lost both my sons and blamed the LORD for judging me
And so I arose to return to Bethlehem
For I heard that God had given food to the land
Orpah and Ruth insisted to follow my plan
To return with me to Judah as helping hands
'Go and return to your mother's house,' I urged them
'May the Lord bless you abundantly in this land
For your kindness to the children of Abraham
May the good LORD bless you to marry other men'
Then I kissed them good-bye and they broke down and cried
They said ‘No, we'll go with you and be by your side'
'Turn back, my daughters, why follow me?' was my chide
'Return now to your homes and be other men’s brides'
'Have I yet sons in my womb that you may marry?'
'Turn back, for I am too old for matrimony'
'Even if I should marry miraculously
And bear sons, would you wait till they reach puberty?'
'No, my dear daughters, for it is exceedingly
Bitter to me for your own sake, regretfully,
That the hand of the LORD has gone out against me'
Then they lifted up their voices and wept sadly
Orpah kissed me good-bye and left accordingly
However, Ruth clung on to me obstinately
'See, your sister-in-law has just left and gone free
Return with her to your people and gods quickly'
'Do not urge me to leave you,' Ruth said tearfully
'For where you go I'll go,' she said with certainty
'Where you lodge I will lodge,' she clung on more tightly
'Your people shall be my people,' she said surely
'Your God shall be my God,' she said resolutely
'Where you die I will die,' she said devotedly
'And there will I be buried,' her kind words touched me
'May the LORD God do so and more also to me'
'If anything except for death parts you from me'
So determined was she that I had to agree
So the two of us started out on our journey
Until we reached Bethlehem, our little city
The whole town was stirred and asked 'Is this Naomi?'
'Do not call me Naomi, but Mara, for He
The Almighty has dealt with me so bitterly
I went away full but He's brought me back empty'
'Why call me 'pleasant' and why name me Naomi?
When the Almighty has testified against me
And the LORD has struck me with such calamity'
It was now the start of the harvest of barleys'
'My dear Obed, it is now time to go to bed'
'But Grandma, it's still early and not even late'
'My little child, you have heard what I have just said'
'Say your prayers now and then get ready for bed'
Poor Obed could hardly sleep the night through for he
Was anxious to know the ending of the story
The next morning, he jumped out of bed and quickly
Looked high and low in search of Grandma Naomi
He came to the kitchen where Ruth, his dear mother
Was kneading some dough for breakfast, lunch and dinner
She looked at him and said ‘My dear, what's the matter?'
She waited for poor flustered Obed to answer
'Where is grandma? She has not finished her story'
'Grandma is out of town today,' Ruth said gently
With a smile she asked, 'Now, what story could that be?'
He replied, 'She stopped at the harvest of barleys'
Ruth laid down her batch of dough and gazed dreamily
'Yes, it was the start of the harvest of barleys
'Let me go to the field,' said I to Naomi
'And glean leftovers after him who would kindly
Permit me to do so and grant me his favour'
Naomi said to me, 'Go in peace, my daughter'
I went and gleaned in the field after the reapers
Who may leave some stalks and sheaves for me to gather
I came to a field section which unknowingly
Belonged to your dad, Boaz, a man so worthy
Who came from Bethlehem, our small little city
From the same clan of Elimelech's family
'The LORD be with you,' Boaz said to the reapers
'The LORD bless you,' was their glad and joyful answer
'Whose young woman's this?' he asked the supervisor
'She is the young Moabite woman, a foreigner
Who has come back here with Naomi together
So humbly she asked, 'Please let me glean and gather
Among the sheaves of your field after the reapers'
She is truly a devoted and hard worker
For she has been gathering from early morning
Till now, save for a short rest, she's not stopped working'
It was a fine day, the sun was hot and glaring
I was very tired and my limbs were aching
And then I felt someone pat me on the shoulder
I turned and Boaz said 'Now, listen, my daughter
Do not leave this field here or glean in another
But keep close to my young women and my reapers
Have I now not charged the young men not to touch you?
When you are thirsty, drink from the vessels anew'
I bowed on my face to the man of great virtue
My feelings of gratitude I could not subdue
And I said, 'Why have I, in your eyes, found favour?
Why should you take notice of me, a foreigner?'
But Boaz said, 'All your kindness and endeavours
To care for Naomi, I've heard from my reapers
Since your husband's death, you have left your family
And native land to come to Bethlehem city
To live with our people and sacrificially
Forsaking the security in your country
For what you have done, may God repay you fully
For taking refuge and seeking security
Under the merciful wings of the Almighty'
Then I said, 'I have found favour and great mercy
In your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me
And spoken to your servant benevolently
Though I'm not one of your servants but unworthy
Of your kindness, generosity and mercy'
'Come here and eat,' Boaz said to me at mealtime
'Here is some good bread which you could dip in the wine'
He spoke to me cordially, his eyes were so kind
So I came and sat beside the reapers to dine
He passed some fine delicious roasted grain to me
And so I ate, to my heart's content, heartily
But I still had some leftovers surprisingly
After meal, I thanked Boaz for his charity
And then I rose to resume my task of gleaning
Boaz gave instructions to his young men, saying
‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, do not sting
Her with reproach but help her as well by pulling
Out some from the bundles and let it lie loosely
For her to glean and do not rebuke her harshly’
So I gleaned until evening and delightfully
Had collected about an ephah of barley
Then I took it up and went into the city
Of Bethlehem where I gladly showed Naomi
My bounteous gleanings of an ephah of barley
And the leftover food he gave abundantly
‘Where did you glean today?’ she asked me curiously
‘And where have you worked?’ her eyes surveyed the barleys
‘Blessed be the man,’ she commented cheerfully
‘Who took notice of you,’ she nodded knowingly
‘Boaz is the kind man with whom I worked today’
Naomi said ‘May he be blessed in every way
By the LORD God whose kindness is new every day
He’s not abandoned us nor turned his face away
He has not forsaken the living or the dead!’
‘The man is a close relative,’ she also said
‘One of our redeemers,’ her face was glowing red
With excitement as she took a morsel of bread
I said, 'Furthermore, he said to me: ‘My daughter
Do not leave this field here or glean in another
But keep close to my young women and my reapers’’
Naomi uttered, ‘That is good news, my daughter’
‘Lest in another field you might be assaulted’
So I kept close to his reapers as instructed
I gleaned till the barley and wheat harvests ended
I stayed with Naomi in whom I confided
TO BE CONTINUED…
Points for Reflection:
· Boaz's generosity did not end with just allowing Ruth to gather grain and drink.
· When it came to dinner time, she was invited to eat although she had only the status of a maid servant. There was so much food that she had plenty of leftovers to take home.
· After she had eaten, Boaz told his men to let Ruth glean from the choice grain. They were even told to take straw out of the bundles that they had collected and drop it on the floor for her! This was well beyond the call of duty on Boaz's part.
· At the end of the day, Ruth went home with a full tummy, abundant leftovers from dinner and approximately 22 liters of barley. That sort of provision for a foreigner and a widow would have been unheard of in Israel's day. People would not have believed it if they were told!
· Well Ruth got home with all her grain. As soon as Naomi saw her, she was astonished.
And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.”
· So Ruth told Naomi about Boaz.
“So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man's name with whom I worked today is Boaz.”
· Naomi responded in Ruth 2:20a:
And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” (Ruth 2:20a)
· There is a bit of a play on words here. The 'whose kindness' could be speaking equally of Boaz's kindness or the LORD's kindness to them. And I do not think the author meant for us to separate the two.
· God had shown Naomi and Ruth great kindness through the generous provision of Boaz. Naomi knew that what Ruth had experienced was not a matter of lucky co-incidence. Such as stumbling across Boaz's field at the exact time that he should be visiting. God had provided for them through normal circumstances.
· But Naomi believed that God's provision for them through Boaz would not just be limited to food. You see, Naomi knew something about Boaz that Ruth did not.
Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”
· Boaz was what the Israelites called a kinsman redeemer. Now, seeing that none of us grew up in the customs of ancient Israel, this needs a little bit of explaining. A kinsman redeemer was the closest blood relative to any one person and they had certain responsibilities.
· If a man had been murdered, it was the responsibility of their closest kin to avenge their death by bringing the killer to justice. If a man had been sold into slavery, it was the responsibility of their closest kin to redeem them - in other words buy them back from slavery.
· But in this situation, the responsibility of Boaz as Ruth's kinsman redeemer was marriage. Because Ruth's husband was dead and Ruth had no heir.
· As a result, two problems had presented themselves:
- The family inheritance – in this case some land, which we are told about in Ruth 4:3, would be lost because Ruth had no heir.
- Elimelech’s name and line would be blotted out of the Israelite history books
· But If Boaz were to redeem Ruth through marriage, then their first son would continue Elimelech’s line and he would receive the inheritance of Elimelech, that piece of land.
· This was one of the ways in which blood lines and family possessions were preserved in Israel.
· So Naomi encouraged Ruth to continue gleaning in Boaz's field under his protection. And that was exactly what Ruth did and she lived with Naomi to the end of the harvests.
· Just as Boaz went all out to show kindness to Ruth, a foreigner who trusted in the one true God, are we likewise showing kindness to our fellow Christians? Or do we discriminate against some of our brothers and sisters in Christ who come from inauspicious and unfavourable backgrounds? Do we go all out to help a fellow Christian in need or do we just do the bare necessities to cover our conscience against the letter of the ‘law’? How could we be loving and looking out for those who are helpless and needy?
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
(1 John 3:17)