June 21, 2011
Practices in ancient Israel were very different from the modern western world. Indeed some cultural practices have become fodder for critics and skeptics. The practice of uncovering the feet (Ruth 3:7), for example, seems to the modern mind to be improper if not immoral, but in ancient Israel it did not carry the same sexual connotation as we might infer from it today.
- First: It is unlikely that Boaz was alone at the threshing floor that evening after the days work. The harvest was in progress and the workers most likely “camped out” with him.
- Second: There is nothing intimate in this passage. The language indicates that there was a distance between Ruth and Boaz. Ruth lay at his uncovered feet while he was sleeping and when he awake he put the corner (“skirt” is used in Scripture to speak of an edge or border or extremity) of his garment over her.
- Third: both these actions were symbolic. Uncovering the feet of Boaz was an indication of subjection and submission and her willingness to become his wife. Furthermore, when Boaz threw the corner of his garment over her he indicated his willingness to spread a covering over her, as though taking her under his wing (cf. 2:12).
- Fourth: the reason Ruth gave (3:9) for her action at the threshing floor was not at all sexual, but legal. She needed a (near) kinsman redeemer.
- Fifth: that Boaz acted honourably is clear from the fact that he presented the other kinsman before himself (4:1f).
June 20, 2011
One of the key characteristics of God toward his people is his loyalty. The Hebrew word used is hesed and is translated by various words in our English translation (mercy [by far the most prominent translation], kindness, loving kindness, favour, goodness). When the Bible speaks of Jehovah it is this attribute that is principally in view. God is loyal to his people in mercy because He loves them. Love is the basis of his loyalty; he is loyal because he loves them. The word mercy is also closely linked to this loyalty (Psalm 103:4; Zechariah 7:9; Genesis 19:19; Psalm 109:12).
When we see this word hesed in the book of Ruth it is first referring to God (1:8) in Naomi’s prayer for Ruth and Orpah. That prayer was answered with respect to Ruth, the Lord”[did] her kindness” in bringing her into the “rest” (1:9) and security of Israel. The next mention of hesed in the book is the result of this, Ruth has “showed more kindness” (3:10 Lit. “bettered her kindness”) towards Boaz. She made good on the love of God to her.
The kindness Ruth showed was extraordinary and unexpected by the world’s standards. Orpah chose to go back, but Ruth’s love for Naomi and her God demanded that she followed on, even beyond the grave (1:17). This lifestyle of hesed is subsequently seen throughout the book and it underlines for us the characteristics of Christian fidelity and loyalty in the home, church and in every area of life. Loyalty of this kind is based in love; “let us love one another, for love is of God” I John 4:7
June 18, 2011
The Sovereignty of God
It is rather paradoxical that a book so rich in the works of God makes so little mention of God. There are instances where it seems the writer avoids attributing to God the credit for actions (cf. 2:3) or inquiring of God for wisdom (3:18). But the work of God is evident throughout this entire book. Indeed the manner of writing seems to emphasis the hidden hand of God continually at work on behalf of Naomi and Ruth even in those circumstances we might consider coincidental. God is working all things out in this world for his own glory and the believer’s good even what seems to us to be against the will of God (Romans 8:28).
The key thought concerning God in this little book is His sovereignty in salvation. When Ruth’s husband died in Moab she could never have imagined the blessings that the Lord was going to raise up out of death. Amid the cruel twists and turn of this changeful life God in his providence showed His grace to Ruth and Naomi. The inclusion of Ruth in this divine plan underlines the inclusiveness of redemption. Ruth is among a number of Gentiles in the Old Testament to be brought into the blessing of Israel promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. The grace of God is not only seen in relation to redemption but in provision for his people. The book begins in famine and death and end with plenty and new life.