READ: Ruth 3-4
BACKGROUND: The setting: Naomi and Ruth are back in Bethlehem and they’re gleaning from the sides of the fields, the leftovers, to survive. Boaz, Naomi’s relative has extended kindness to Ruth when she gleaned food to eat from his fields. Next we have the events of chapters 3 & 4.
3:1 – Security = a marriage
4 – He slept by the grain to protect it. Uncovering his feet would wake him up.
9 – Spread your covering over your maid = asking for a pledge that he would marry her. When Ruth talks about him being a close relative she is referring to the practice of levirate marriage, where the closest of kin would marry a widow to take care of her.
12 – Boaz wasn’t the closest of kin.
15 – The barley was a gift to Naomi.
4:4-6 – The nearer relative agreed to purchase the land of Elimilech (Naomi’s dead husband) until he learned of the responsibility of also marrying Ruth. Why not marry Ruth? Buying the field and marrying the widow meant he had to take care of her financially, among other things.
7 – Handing over the sandal symbolized handing over the right of redemption to Boaz.
13 – Ruth had previously been barren.
THINK: Chesed! It’s a weird word. It’s even hard to pronounce unless you’re good at that angry-sounding, German-like, guttural noisemaking. But it is one of the most important words in the entire Bible. It’s a Hebrew word that frankly doesn’t translate well into English. Sometimes our Bibles use mercy and sometimes lovingkindness and sometimes faithfulness. In truth, chesed is all of these things wrapped up into one…and more. It is a word that describes the entirety of God’s enduring faithfulness and his promise to love and protect us, rescue and redeem us. It is an action word which describes God’s outlandish, undeserved, unbelievable, ridiculous, amazing, passionate pursuit of us. And it is the word, the concept, that best sums up the book of Ruth.
Naomi is the obvious protagonist of this story, despite the name of the book. The story begins with her losing everything and both her and Ruth facing into an incredibly hopeless and broken situation. They seemingly have no hope. But God is faithful. His chesed endures forever. And he neither forgets nor abandons them. He extends his chesed to his faithful followers and the story ends, improbably, with Ruth giving birth to a son and all of the people standing amazed at the redemption that has occurred in Naomi’s life.
God’s chesed is our hope and our source of strength. It doesn’t mean that life will always be easy, but it does mean that we never, not even for a moment, need to feel hopeless, lost, or abandoned. I love the way that pastor John Piper puts it:
“The life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there. The life of the godly is not an Interstate through Nebraska, but a state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rock slides and precipices and dark mists and bears and slippery curves and hairpin turns that make you go backwards in order to go forwards. But all along this hazardous, twisted road that doesn’t let you see very far ahead there are frequent signs that say, ‘The best is yet to come.’ And at the bottom right corner written with an unmistakable hand are the words, ‘As I live, says the Lord!’ The book of Ruth is one of those signs for you to read. It was written and it has been preached to give you some midsummer encouragement and hope that all the perplexing turns in your life lately are not dead-end streets. In all the setbacks of your life as a believer God is plotting for your joy.”
PRAY: Thank God for being your hope! Thank him for his chesed! Thank him for pursuing you and redeeming you and loving you and giving you a future! Thank him with absolutely everything you’ve got!