Sunday, 2 February 2014

Ruth (Episode 5)

Hello All,
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 5.

Let us now continue our story with the fifth episode of Ruth…

Ruth (Episode 5)
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

One fine day, Naomi told me what I should do
‘My dearest daughter, should I not seek rest for you
That you have children so it may be well with you?’
I waited to hear where her plan was leading to

‘Is not Boaz our kin?’ she asked rhetorically
‘With whose young women you were gleaning ripe barleys?
He will be at the threshing floor tonight, you see
For I know that he will be winnowing barley

Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your
Cloak to keep warm and go down to the threshing floor
Do not make yourself known to the man but wait for
Him to eat and drink his fill till he wants no more

When he lies down, observe where he lies carefully
Then uncover his feet and lie down quietly
And he will tell you what to do accordingly’
‘All that you say I will do,’ I said faithfully

I did just as Naomi had commanded me
I went down to the threshing floor accordingly
So Boaz ate and drank till his heart was merry
He lay down by the heap of grain and slept soundly

Then I uncovered his feet and lay down softly
At midnight the man was startled and hastily
Turned over and beheld, at his feet, a lady!
‘Who are you?’ he drew back his feet instinctively

‘I am Ruth, your humble servant,’ was my answer
‘Spread your wings o’er me for you are a redeemer’
He said, ‘May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter
You have now made this last act of kindness greater

Than the first, for young men you have not gone after
Whether poor or rich, so do not fear, my daughter
I will do all that you ask, for we can concur
That you are a worthy woman of great honour

And now it is true that I am a redeemer
Yet there is still a redeemer who is nearer
Than I; if he agrees to be your redeemer
Then let him be, but if he declines the offer

Then, as the LORD lives, I will surely redeem you
Lie down till the morning comes and the night is through’
I lay at his feet, waiting for dawn to ensue
And then I arose when the morning was still new

And he said, ‘Let it not be known that a woman
Came to the threshing floor. So now, bring your garment
And hold it out,’ so I followed his instruction
Six measures of barley was the ample portion

That he measured out and gave me generously
Then I made my way quickly into the city
‘So how did you fare, my daughter?’ asked Naomi
Then I told her all that the man had done for me

‘These six measures of ripe barley he gave to me
‘You mustn’t go back empty-handed,’ he said kindly’
‘Wait till you learn how this turns out,’ said Naomi
‘For he will not rest but will settle this swiftly’’

Ruth paused for a while at this part of the story
She looked at her unfinished dough quite worriedly
‘My beloved, why did you halt so suddenly?’
Boaz said as he was eavesdropping secretly


Points for Reflection:
·         At the beginning of Ruth 3, Naomi went into action mode.
Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?
(Ruth 3:1)

·         Naomi was still very concerned for Ruth's well-being in the future. And she saw Boaz as the answer to this problem. So she devised this little plan…
·         Firstly, she instructed Ruth to have a wash and make herself look pretty. Then she was to go down to the threshing floor where Boaz would be working and wait. She was not to disturb Boaz until he had finished having dinner. It is a well-known fact that if a man is eating and drinking, he is not paying much attention to anything else. J J J Ruth would then have to observe where Boaz lied down and then go to him. She was to uncover his feet and then lie down beside him. This was probably the customary way of proposing given the situation.
·         So Ruth did exactly as she was told. And Boaz got the shock of his life! There he was soundly sleeping away and he rolled over in the middle of the night and hit something… It was a young woman lying beside him! And she had uncovered him too! That must have made him jump!
·         Thankfully, Ruth did not take long to reveal who she was.

He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
(Ruth 3:9)

·         Earlier in the story, Boaz had prayed that the Lord bless Ruth as she took refuge in Him. His exact words were, ‘in whose wings you have taken refuge’. Well now, Ruth saw Boaz as the fulfillment of his own prayer. She said to Him, ‘spread your wings over your servant’. In other words – ‘I am taking refuge in you! You are the blessing of provision and protection that you asked God to give me.’
·         Well Boaz was delighted. He told Ruth that this 'kindness' which literally in the Hebrew is ‘hesed’ meaning loyal love was greater than the first kindness. The loyal love she showed in forsaking her own family, and her own land to care for her mother in law Naomi. You see, Ruth could have had a younger man. She had a very good reputation among the other men of the town. But for the sake of her family, and their continuance in Israel she was willing to marry Boaz. A much older man. This kindness as far as Boaz was concerned was greater than the first.
·         He no doubt wanted to grant Ruth’s request straight away. But there was a problem. Boaz knew he was not the closest living kin to Elimelech. There was another closer than him. And by law, the closest next of kin should redeem Ruth and her family. Boaz showed incredible restraint by doing the right thing. He did not take advantage of the situation. He did not take Ruth to be his wife that very night! Instead he informed her about the next of kin and promised to speak to him in the morning. If the next of kin would not take Ruth, then as surely as the Lord lives, Boaz would.
·         I wonder what we would have done if we were in Boaz's shoes at this point? He could have thought to himself, ‘Well Ruth is here now, lying at the foot of my bed, giving herself to me and she does not even know about the next of kin! What harm would it do if I were to take her to be my wife tonight? After all, I have been so kind to Ruth already and I am an old man. Young girls like Ruth do not normally show interest in me!’
·         It would have been very tempting for Boaz to rationalize sin at this point. That was what Elimelech did. Forsaking God, abandoning God's land, and depending on the wicked nation of Moab... No doubt he had rationalized in his own mind that he was doing the right thing… Seeking food rather than repenting. But God's law stood against Him. As a wise man once said – 'What the heart wants, the mind justifies and the will does'
·         But Boaz in contrast points us to the perfect example that we have in Jesus who never rationalized sin. At one time during his ministry, Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of this world. He offered Jesus some bread after he had fasted for forty days. All Jesus had to do was bow the knee to him. Declare him the ruler of all things. But Jesus remained obedient to his heavenly Father. And that obedience led him to the cross for us.
·         How will we be tempted to forsake God this week?
·         Maybe we will be offered a bribe to get out of a difficult situation. We know God hates bribes, he hates unjust measures and the rich escaping justice on the basis of their wealth. That's just one example, there will be many more areas of temptation for us this week.
·         God's way is always, always the best way. Even in those times when the other option seems so attractive. Boaz knew that. Let us model him. Let us model Jesus who trusted his heavenly Father perfectly in total obedience no matter what was being offered.
·         To save embarrassment on Ruth's part and any misunderstandings about what went on during the night, she got up just before dawn before people can make out each other faces.
·         Boaz told his servants to keep silent about Ruth’s visit. He did not want bad rumours starting on the threshing floor. But before Ruth leaves Boaz gives her six measures of barley. He did not want her to go back to her mother-in-law empty handed.
·         As soon as Ruth got back, Naomi anxiously started asking questions. ‘How did it go, my daughter?’ In other words – ‘Are you a married woman?!’ Ruth went on to explain everything that had happened and Naomi was relieved. She knew that Boaz would not rest until the matter was settled. In the beginning of this narrative, Naomi was despairing saying, 'The Lord had brought me back empty'. But now, through this godly man Boaz, the LORD was restoring Naomi and Ruth. They had hope, they had a future, they had the promise of secure rest again.
·         Ruth is a story which shows in a small way God's kindness in providing rest for his people. In Ruth 3:1, we saw how Naomi sought 'rest' for Ruth and the Lord gave the promise of that rest to Naomi and Ruth through Boaz. He would not tire until Ruth had been redeemed.
·         But the secure rest of that kinsman redeemer points forward to something far greater. It points forward to the rest God has now made available to us through his Son Jesus.
·         Where do you find your rest? I am not talking about the daily rest you get when you go to sleep each night. I mean true rest. The foundation for your contentment, your fulfilment, your security in life. Have you found that kind of rest yet?
·         So many people down the ages have lamented over the fact that they never found true rest. Our need for true rest leads to the question – why are we restless in the first place? Why is contentment so hard to find? Why, when we commit ourselves to work and family and pleasure do we so often fail to find the true rest we had hoped those things would give us?
·         Well the Bible tells us it is because we would not find ultimate rest in those things. We will only find true rest in the God who made us and sustains us. Because that is why he created us. To live in his rest and enjoy him forever. The problem is we have been put out of that rest that he created us for. Because all of us have decided to reject him. We have made ourselves the rulers of our own lives instead of submitting to God's perfect, loving will. As a punishment for that rebellion we are spiritually cut off from God. In this life we are cut off from him spiritually but still receive his blessing. But once we die, we will be cut off from him totally and permanently. That is why the story of Ruth is such good news. Because in it we see God showing his kindness by giving rest to Naomi who had abandoned him and Ruth, a foreigner from the wicked nation of Moab.
·         The story of Ruth points forward to the ultimate demonstration of God's love for all mankind through his Son, Jesus Christ.
·         Jesus said:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)

·         How can we receive true rest now, the rest God made us for? Well, it is by depending on what Jesus has done for us. Jesus is the one who has made our entering that rest possible through giving his own life in our place. When he died upon the cross he took the full punishment for our sin. He took the full punishment for the very thing that separates us from God - our willful rejection of him as our Creator and Ruler. On the third day, he rose again to new life. And we receive new spiritual life now through trusting in Him as our Saviour and King.
·         Ruth had to make real sacrifices to enter God's rest. She left her home, her family, everything she knew and then took refuge in the Lord. Some of us may have experienced that sacrifice as well. We still live in a sinful world of pain and suffering. But God tells us in his Word that this world will end one day when Jesus returns. He will take those who have trusted in Him to live in his rest forever. But those who have refused Him will remain guilty of their sin and be eternally separated in every way from the rest we were made for.

·         Ruth was very wise to take refuge under God's wings and place her security in Him. He is the only one who can give us true rest. So will you accept Jesus and receive the rest God offers through Him?