Friday, 21 February 2014

Ruth (Episode 8)

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 Andrew Cheah for I have used his sermon notes again to pen the ‘Points for Reflection’ section for Episode 8.

Let us now continue our story with the eighth and final episode of Ruth…

Ruth (Episode 8)
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

‘Daddy!’ Obed ran to his father happily
He lifted him and swung him around playfully
He then turned and said to his beloved gently
‘Let the servants finish your work, do not worry’

Ruth said, ‘Yes, I think your advice sounds good to me
Why don’t you finish the last part of the story?’
He said, ‘Come, let us take a walk to the city
To the gate where the elders witnessed the treaty’

As they were strolling along the streets leisurely
Boaz continued the last part of the story
‘I called the redeemer and ten elders swiftly
To gather at the gate of Bethlehem city

‘Turn aside, friend; sit down here,’ I said courteously
To the redeemer who came and sat before me
‘Sit down here,’ I urged the elders of the city
Who sat down as ten witnesses to the treaty

I said to the redeemer, ‘You know Naomi
Who has returned from Moab to her own country
Is now selling a land which is a property
Of late Elimelech, our kin and family

So I thought I would inform you of it and say
‘Buy it in the presence of the elders today’
If you will redeem it, then redeem it you may
But if you will not, then affirm it with a nay

For there is none besides you to redeem the land
And I come after you so let me know your stand’
‘I will redeem it,’ the redeemer said offhand
I said, ‘There is a term that you must understand

Which states that the day you buy Elimelech’s land
And purchase that property from Naomi’s hand
You would also acquire Ruth the Moabite’s hand
In marriage, the widow of Mahlon from our clan

In order to perpetuate the name of the dead
In his inheritance,’ those were the words I said
‘Then I cannot redeem it for myself,’ he said
‘Lest I impair my own inheritance instead’

He then said ‘So now, take my right of redemption
Yourself, for I cannot redeem this possession’
He drew off his sandal as a confirmation
And gave it to me to affirm the transaction

Then I said to all the people and the elders
‘You are witnesses this day that I’ve bought over
From the hand of Naomi everything that were
The inheritance of Elimelech and her

Sons, Chilion and Mahlon,’ I paused and then pressed on
‘Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon
I, Boaz, have bought to be my wife from now on
To perpetuate the name of the dead, I have sworn

To spread my wings of refuge as a redeemer
That his name may not die out among his brothers
And from the gate of the land of his ancestors
You are witnesses this day, my fellow brothers’

‘We are witnesses. May the LORD let the woman
Who is coming into your house, be abundant
Like Rachel and Leah, who were blessed with children
And who built up the house of Israel, our nation 

In Ephrathah, our clan, may you act worthily
And be greatly renowned in Bethlehem city
Through offspring may your house be like the family 
Of Perez, from Judah and Tamar’s ancestry’

So Ruth became my wife and you were born, my son
The women said to Naomi, ‘The LORD has done
Such a good deed, blessed be the LORD who is one
He will finish the good work that he has begun

For he has not left you without a redeemer
May his name be renowned in Israel forever!
He shall be to you a precious life restorer
And in your old age he shall be your nourisher

For your daughter-in-law whose love for you is true
More valuable than seven sons is she to you 
She is the one who has given birth to him too’
So Naomi was no longer empty but full

Then Naomi took the child and laid him gently
 On her lap and she became his nurse and granny
So the women named him Obed for they could see
That this son has also been born to Naomi’

My dear readers, Boaz has finished the story
Up to the time where he still lived in history
But let me brief you now on some genealogies
So then, Obed became the father of Jesse

Who was the father of David, Israel’s great king
Through the line of David, God had a plan to bring
Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, the true King
Born in Bethlehem to save sinful human beings


Points for Reflection:
·         The narrator tells us another piece of information. A piece of information that suddenly helps us to see the relevance of this whole story in God’s big picture plans and purposes. Obed was the father of Jesse, who was in turn the father of David.
·         All along we thought that this was the story of how God, in his faithful and kind love, changed the fortunes of Naomi by working behind the scenes to bring about her redemption. And at one level it is.
·         But it is also part of the story of how God, in his faithful and kind love, was changing the fortunes of Israel by working behind the scenes to bring about her redemption.
·         For at the beginning of the story, Israel was ruled by the judges. During those days, sin and rebellion led to God’s judgment – in the form of chaos, anarchy, and foreign oppression. Yet here at the end, we see that God was doing something about it.
·         He was working through all the circumstances and all the coincidences to build a genealogy and preserve a family. He was creating a genealogy, a genealogy that will lead to David – the great King. The King who would bring peace to Israel. And rule them in justice and righteousness. The story of God’s faithful kind love to Naomi was part of the story of God’s faithful and kind love to Israel. God had been working for many generations to further this special line.
Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
(Ruth 4:18-22)
·         When we read this story in light of the whole Bible, there is something even better that we see. The story of God’s faithful kind love to Naomi was part of the story of God’s faithful kind love to Israel.
·         But that in itself was part of the story of God’s faithful and kind love to the human race. For when we get to chapter 1 of the Gospel of Matthew, in the New Testament, we find that the genealogy in Ruth is part of a larger genealogy.
·         This genealogy culminates in the Great David’s Greater Son – the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
·         What God was doing here through Boaz was not just for Naomi and Ruth, not just for Israel, but for us as well. The fact that Elimelech left Israel, that Naomi and Ruth were widows, the fact that Ruth followed her mother-in-law back to Israel, that Boaz chanced on Ruth in the field, the fact that he was a good man, the fact that Mr. So and so came but refused to do his duty, all those things worked together so that ... Obed was born. And the fact that Obed was born meant Jesse would be born and that David would be born and that Jesus would be born in the same little town of Bethlehem.
·         And the fact that Jesus was born means that he could solve the far bigger problem for us than the anarchy and chaos in the time of the Judges. For the real problem with sin and rebellion is that it leads to God’s eternal judgment – of which the chaos, anarchy, and foreign oppression of the time of the Judges was just a pointer. The real judgement is to always be under the wrath of God.
·         But Jesus, the true Redeemer came to rescue us from that. Just as Boaz rescued Ruth and Obed rescued Naomi, Jesus would rescue us. And like Boaz, but in contrast to Mr. So and So, he was willing to pay the price to do so. He who was in very nature God, humbled himself to serve us. He was willing to sacrifice himself to obey God and display his faithful and kind love to us. He took the punishment for our sins. And we can now be saved from sin by trusting him.
·         Jesus is our Redeemer.
·         This story of Ruth and Naomi, this wonderful ancient narrative, is not just an old Israelite tale with no connection to us. The fact that God showed his faithful and kind love to Naomi and gave her Obed actually means that Jesus came. It was all part of God’s amazing plan.
“Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!”
(Ruth 4:14)

·         Have you received Jesus as your Redeemer? Only those who have taken refuge under his wings can be saved from the wrath of God for sin. For those who reject him, eternal death and judgment awaits them and it would be then too late to repent before God. If you are a non-Christian, I pray that you will call Jesus your LORD just as Ruth called the God of Israel her LORD. If you are a backsliding or backslidden Christian, turn back to God as Naomi did and do not wait for calamities to strike before you do.