Tag Archives: moab

A possible key to unlock healing in your broken life – Characters: Ruth, Part 5

22 Nov
Photo by CMDR Shane on Unsplash

In Part 4 of our study through the ancient Hebrew story of Ruth, we watched as Ruth makes a most unusual proposal to Boaz. If you are just jumping into the story here at the end, I urge you to start at the beginning, as the drama has been building. This Part 5 will be much more meaningful, in my opinion, if you start at Part 1 and continue from there.

We concluded Part 4 with Ruth having just made a marriage proposal to Boaz. It was very risky, as it was uncommon for a woman to propose to a man, not to mention the way she did it was quite forward. Boaz could easily be offended and say, “Get away from me you inappropriate woman!”

But Boaz’ answer is a resounding “YES!”  From his comments in verse 10, we hear a hint of relief in his voice.  Apparently he is an older man, maybe wondering if a young woman would go for him.  He sees Ruth’s proposal as a great kindness, which brings us to what is possibly the most significant part of the story.

There is a word in the Hebrew that is used here.  It is hesed.  Kindness.  It is a word used often in the Old Testament, and it is often translated “love”.  So it is more than just being kind.  It is loving-kindness!

In 1:8, Naomi, when she is telling her daughters-in-law to return to Moab, says “May the Lord show hesed to you.”  So this is something God is capable of.  Or better, it can be said of God.

In 2:20, Naomi says it again when she realized that Boaz will be their kinsman-redeemer, and again, she attributes this to the hesed of God.  So twice now we have God showing loving-kindness.

But then Boaz says in 3:10 that Ruth had done a kindness to him.  This is a deep kindness. 

One commentator I read noted that nowhere in the book of Ruth do people say to God “I need help, I want you to be kind to me! Save me! Help me!” Instead, the main characters in the book go out and they themselves act with kindness.  They seem to have understood that their role in being faithful followers of God is by being like God himself. 

Do you want to experience the hesed, the loving-kindness of God in your life?  Then go share that same hesed with others.

This is the high point of the story, and from there it is all joy and wonder.  Boaz goes and pleads at the city gate because there is actually another kinsman-redeemer closer in lineage than himself.  That gentleman defers, and Ruth and Boaz are married. 

They have a son, and the son becomes grandfather to the most famous King of Israel, David.  Because Jesus was of the family of David, that means this Moabite lady, Ruth, is Jesus’ great, great, great….and many more greats grandmother. 

When you practice the Hesed, the loving-kindness of God in your family’s life, you can change the destiny of your family.

In his commentary, my OT professor, the late Dave Dorsey says, “In Ruth’s loyalty, diligence, and determination to support her again mother-in-law, combined with Boaz’s kindness and generosity, the audience is left with the central moral to the story: the admirable qualities exhibited by Ruth and Boaz can be used by God to reverse the fortunes of a whole family; or even the fortunes of a whole nation, as shown by the final outcome of this story—the Davidic dynasty.”

The same can happen in our families.  What is the tragedy, the brokenness in your family?  Will you see yourself as the one who can be used by God for renewal and healing?

How can you practice loving-kindness to the people in your family this holiday season?  The process of healing what is broken can take time, and that is normal.  Can you practice hesed at least in some way big or small this season?

Ruth chose loving-kindness when she could have easily responded to her loss and pain in a self-focused way.  She could have been bitter and angry at God.  Instead Ruth responded to her pain in a selfless way, reaching out, serving, and helping.  She decided to trust that God was at work and she reached out to her mother-in-law, Naomi. How can you reach out?  By giving selflessly, you just might launch your family on a whole new trajectory.

So where is the pain in your family that needs to be healed?  Where is the brokenness?  Ruth ran toward the broken with loving-kindness.  She could have easily stayed with her family in Moab and let Naomi go back to Israel alone.  I think most people would understand if Ruth had stayed in Moab, and we would not have faulted her.  If she had stayed in Moab, of course there still would have been healing to do in her life.  She just lost her husband.  But Ruth didn’t stay. She took an even riskier path.  She gave herself to care for her mother-in-law Naomi, who was of a different nationality, thus taking Ruth away from her support network, her family, her country!

What do you need to do to practice that kind of loving kindness in your family?

Do you dread holiday family gatherings? – Characters: Ruth, Part 1

18 Nov
Photo by Jordan Arnold on Unsplash

I recently heard a news report about a family fighting their home owners association because the family put up Christmas decorations on November 1st, and the home owners association said it was too early.  I don’t know if there is a right or wrong time to put up holiday decorations.  Our local Lowes was selling Christmas inflatables months ago.  But what I do know is that when we see the lights going up, we know the holidays are just around the corner, and that means we think about family gatherings.  Of course we can think about family all year long, but in the holiday season there is often a focus on family gatherings.  For some of you that thought is joyful. For some it is ho-hum, no big deal.  For some it is painful.  When we look at our family trajectory, we might be very frustrated.  In fact, some of you might think, “My family is so messed up, why do I put myself through family gatherings at the holidays?  Why not just get together with people I actually enjoy?”  Many do just that, actually, as Friendsgivings are becoming quite popular.

Today in our series on Characters, all about flawed people that God uses, we meet our first woman, Ruth, who was in a bad family predicament. Not only was she a women, which meant she started off life in the Ancient Near East at a disadvantage, but she was widowed, AND she was an immigrant. Yet her story is amazing. 

To start, it is really important that we understand the historical context of this story.  When is this taking place?  Read verse 1 of the Book of Ruth, and you’ll notice that the author tells us the story occurs in the time of the Judges.  The people of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years.  But God raised up Moses, and eventually he helped lead the people to freedom.  After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, once a new leader, Joshua, had taken over, they entered into the Promised Land, called Canaan.  After Joshua, there was a period of about 300 years, in which a succession of men and women called judges led Israel.  Samson, the long-haired strong man, we studied a few weeks ago was perhaps the most famous.  It was a time of great upheaval for the people of Israel as they were regularly disobedient to God and faced threats from surrounding enemy nations.  The story of Ruth takes place near the end of the period of Judges. 

We learn in verse 1 that there was a famine in the land of Israel, and a man from Bethlehem went to Moab.  The word Bethlehem means, “House of Bread”.  So the author is telling us that there was no bread in the House of Bread!  This man, Elimelech, moves his family to find bread. In other words, we are reading a refugee story.  A family is displaced by a natural disaster.

They go to Moab, across the Dead Sea from Israel.  Not too far actually.  If you’re walking fast and took a boat across the Dead Sea, you could get there in a long day’s travel.   

Moab and Israel were cousins.  Distant Cousins.  They had a common great-grandfather in Abraham’s father, Terah.  Abraham’s nephew, Lot, is a rather notable Old Testament character as well, primarily because his wife turned into a pillar of salt. Moab was Lot’s son, but not from his wife. Instead Moab was from an incestuous relationship with his daughter (Genesis 19).  Throughout their history, Israel and Moab did not always get along.  In Deuteronomy 23, for example, God decreed that Moabites were not to be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.  There are also many times in the Old Testament when we read that Israel and Moab engaged in armed conflict with one another.  At the timeo of the book of Ruth, it seems that the political situation between the two countries was calm, but Elimilech has to take into consideration the historical ethnic and political conflict between Moab and Israel as he emigrates his family into what was not always friendly territory. How will it go? Check back in tomorrow as we continue the story of Ruth.