(99) April 9: Ruth 1-4 & Luke 11:29-54

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note how the story of Ruth shows God working good during the time of the judges.

To ponder:
This is a love story, and more. It takes place during the time of the judges (1v1). Whereas Elimelech’s family should have trusted God to provide in the land he gave, during a famine they go to Moab – the place Israel previously fell into sexual immorality and idolatry with Moabite women (Num 25). There Elimelech dies, and his two sons marry…Moabite women! After considering the concern at the end of judges for Israelites to marry only Israelites, this is serious. Husbands and fathers are to lead their families away from sin and temptation, not into it.
            However, as so often, God is at work even in Elimelech’s compromise. His sons die and his wife Naomi chooses to return to Bethlehem because the “Lord has come to the aid of his people” in providing food. Yet rather than abandon her, the two Moabitesses show God-like kindness (1v8) to their dead husbands, father-in-law and Naomi, by staying with her. Naomi seeks to persuade them not to because she will not bear more sons for them to marry (Deut 25v5), leaving them without protection or provision. So Orpah returns home. However, at the very time Israel were fighting amongst themselves and turning from God to idols, Ruth “clings” to Naomi, and turns from idols to God (1v14-17). So often the most unlikely convert shames the most established “Christians” with their commitment and uprightness.
            Loving-kindness is the dominant theme. God’s kind providence is seen in the description of Ruth “finding” herself gleaning (Lev 19v9) in a righteous relative’s field, at “just” the time he arrives and so sees her. This is divine match-making. Boaz, the relative, then displays God-like kindness in protecting and providing for Ruth because of her faithfulness to Naomi, praying that God, in whom she has sought “refuge,” would “repay” and “reward” her. Naomi marvels at God’s own kindness in how he is doing just this through Boaz’s kindness. Yet she is still prepared to engage her own match-making skills, encouraging Ruth to effectively propose (3v2-11). And Ruth does, because this would also mean Naomi is cared for.
The law that prohibits the marriage stems from Leviticus 25v25 and is intended to keep Elimilech’s property within his family (4v10). Through poverty Noami is having to sell his land, which means her nearest relative should buy (redeem) it. However, it seems he should also marry Ruth to ensure Elimilech’s line continues (an extension of Deut 25v5). He rejects this, perhaps because it may result in a son causing the rest of his property to transfer to Elimilech’s name (4v6). So, to the joy of the reader, Boaz and Ruth are free to marry.
            If any are tempted to doubt God’s character after the book of Judges, the book of Ruth sets them straight. There is encouragement for those who like Naomi feel the LORD has made their life “bitter” and “empty” (1v20-21), that he may yet grant them profound blessing, and certainly does in Christ. There is much also to inspire men and women to act uprightly regarding God’s will, and display his loving-kindness to one-another and to the needy. There is a reminder too, that even the most despised are welcome amongst God’s people if they make the LORD their God. However the biggest lesson, is that in the worst of times God is still working out his purposes. Responding to the marriage, the elders pray the couple may have a family like the patriarchs (4v11-12). And so they do. Ruth’s son becomes the grandfather of King David, and so these events are revealed to be critical in God’s plan to send his Son (Matt 1v5). We may despair at the state of our culture and church, but even in the worst of times God is at work, through everyday godly individuals, building his kingdom in readiness for Christ’s return.

Praying it home:
Praise God for his loving-kindness expressed in the details of your life and especially in having sent his Son. Pray that you would display his kindness to others, and be used by him in furthering his great purposes.

Thinking further:
To read the NIV Study Bible introduction to Ruth, click here.

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