Ruth 4: What will your legacy be?

Ruth 1 HERE. Ruth 2 HERE. Ruth 3 HERE.

I have greatly enjoyed preaching through the book of Ruth over the past few weeks. We have discussed HESED love, kinsman-redeemers, romance, marriage, dealing with unmet expectations in life, characteristics of a godly man, the gospel, etc.

In the first 3 chapters we find that life does not go the way that Ruth and Naomi had hoped. They have dealt with the death of loved ones and now they are struggling to just to make ends meet. In chapter 3 Boaz graciously agrees to marry Ruth and to become their kinsman-redeemer. Things are beginning to look much more hopeful! There is one catch. There is another relative that must be asked if he is willing to function as the kinsman-redeemer.

In chapter 4 we find Boaz meeting with this relative to ask him if he is willing to take on this responsibility. As Boaz meets with this other relative I believe that what we are meant to see, and take note of, is the difference between Boaz and this relative.

Boaz at first tells the nameless relative that he has the opportunity to buy back the land that Naomi has sold and that he will also be responsible for taking care of Naomi. The relative quickly agrees to this deal. But I believe I know why the relative so quickly agrees. This deal, for the most part, benefits him. Plain and simple. He would be getting some land. He would probably not have to support Naomi for too long because she is not a young woman at this point in life. This is a profitable move for the relative to make.

But the negotiations are not over yet. Then Boaz tells the relative that there is also a Moabite woman that he will need to marry and take care of. This is the deal breaker for the relative. He turns down the offer. The question is why? Why does the addition of Ruth make it so that he refuses the offer? There are a number of factors that we need to consider. First of all, Ruth is a foreigner from the land of Moab. Jews did not think very highly of people from Moab. Second, Ruth was younger and this meant that the relative would need to take care of her and support her financially for a much longer period of time. Instead of this deal being a profit making venture as he hoped it now looks like he will have to spend his precious money.

I believe that there is a strong contrast being made between Boaz and this relative. Boaz is making a decision based on HESED love. Hesed love is a loyal love that is seeking to put the other person first.  The relative is not making a decision based on HESED love. He is thinking about what is best for himself. In fact, refusing to be the kinsman-redeemer in a situation like this was considered shameful. We read this in Deuteronomy 25:

7 And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’

Deuteronomy 25 makes it clear that it was disgraceful to refuse Naomi and Ruth in this particular situation. The woman who is being refused has the biblical right to spit in the man’s face. This is God’s way of communicating to his people that they should be seeking to care for and love those who are struggling and in great need.

The contrast between Boaz and the relative force us to ask some tough questions of ourselves. Which man are we more like? Boaz or the relative?

Are we getting out of our comfort zone and loving people that are different than us?

Are we so preoccupied with our own selfish desires that we are failing to love and serve other people in need all around us?

Are we actively loving people in our everyday life that others tend to overlook or stay away from?

Unfortunately I think that many Christians, and churches, have made being comfortable and safe more important than loving and serving other people. The result of this way of living is that Christianity becomes a boring, adventureless, dead religion.

The end of Ruth shows that God delights to bring hope to those who are hopeless. Joy to those who are in despair. Resurrection life to those who are dead. What will our legacy be? Will we follow in the ways of Jesus? Will we be characterized by HESED love or by playing it safe and seeking our own comfort?

 

 

Ruth 1: Hesed love in a culture where feelings are god

My best ideas for blogging come from the time I spend immersing my heart and mind in the truths of God’s Word. This Sunday I am going to begin preaching through the book of Ruth. With that said, my plan at this point, is to write a blog post for each chapter in the book of Ruth.

Ruth 1: Hesed love in a culture where feelings are god

hesed
Hesed=Loyal Love

Early on in the book of Ruth we are introduced to an amazing woman by the name of Naomi. Naomi had expectations for how life would turn out just like the rest of us. Get married, have some kids, settle down, and enjoy life. We are introduced to her husband, Elimelech, and her two sons. But very quickly we discover that life does not end up going as Naomi had hoped. There is a famine in Bethlehem. Which is ironic because Bethlehem means “house of bread.” So Elimelech and Naomi pack up their belongings and move to the city of Moab.

bethlehem to moab
biblejourney.org

At first glance this move to Moab might seem like the wise thing to do. If there is no food in Bethlehem why not get out of town? The problem with moving to Moab is that God is the one who brought them into the Promise Land. This is where God wants them to live, it is their home. Furthermore, Moab is not a good place for God’s people to live. The city of Moab had originated from an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter. In the past, the people of Moab had been a stumbling block to the Jews because they had led them to worship false idols when they were in the wilderness. It seems pretty clear to me that Moab was not the neighborhood that God wanted Elimelech to move into.

So at this point in the book of Ruth we are confronted with a powerful, counter-intuitive truth. Instead of running from the pain that comes from unmet expectations in life, we need to allow God to use the difficulties to mold and shape us into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

I wonder how often we do the same thing as Elimelech? Instead of honestly dealing with our pain, or unmet expectations, we take some kind of shortcut that we hope relieves the pain we are feeling.

How many times does this happen in marriage? We all have expectations when it comes to marriage and then, well, you get married. Things are much harder and more challenging then we ever imagined. So what do we do? Too often we look for shortcuts out of our difficulties and into some type of temporary pleasure. Sports. Shopping. Fixing up our house. Advancing our career. Fitness. Social media. Food. Alcohol. Porn. An inappropriate flirtatious relationship. Something, ANYTHING, to alleviate the pain we are feeling.

Let’s just say that the move to Moab did not go well for Elimelech and Naomi. Elimelech died and so did both of his sons. Naomi was stranded in Moab with her two daughters-in-law. Things went from bad to much worse. Isn’t this what running from our pain does? The escape we are seeking only multiplies our suffering.

The story then begins to show us what real love looks like. The kind of love that can sustain us when life does not meet our expectations.

We discover hesed love in both Naomi and in Ruth.

Hesed love is opposite of the spirit of the age, which says we have to act on our feelings. Hesed says, “No, you act on your commitments. The feelings will follow. Love like this is unbalanced, uneven. There is nothing fair about this kind of love. But commitment-love lies at the heart of Christianity. It is Jesus’s love for us at the cross, and it is to be our love for one another. -A Loving Life by Paul E. Miller

In Ruth 1:8 Naomi says this to Ruth and Orpah (her other daughter-in-law), “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.”

This is an extraordinary display of love. Hesed is translated as “kindly” in this verse and Naomi is showing this kind of love to her two remaining family members. Think about it for a moment. What do you think Naomi’s feelings were telling her to do at this point in her life? Most likely her feelings were telling her that she should keep these two women as close as humanly possible. She had no one else. Instead, she goes against her feelings and encourages her two daughters-in-law to leave so that they can remarry and start their life over again.

Naomi neither suppresses her feelings nor is trapped by them. So she determines to love her daughters-in-law no matter what it costs-even if it intensifies her anguish. That is hesed, pure and simple. But maybe you are saying, “I’m not sure I want to love like this.” The only alternative is some form of self-love. And even that has a cost-it destroys your soul. -A Loving Life by Paul E. Miller

Here is another powerful lesson that goes against “the spirit of the age.” Our feelings are not always reliable when it comes to living the way that God wants us to live. Our culture tells us that self-fulfillment is what life is all about. The gospel tells us that true love (hesed) is not looking to satisfy one’s self, instead it is looking at how it can sacrificially be a blessing to other people.

So let’s begin to make some connections with how this relates to everyday life.

  • Imagine how this kind of hesed love could revolutionize our marriages today.
  • Imagine how much deeper our relationship with Christ would become if instead of running from the pain of unmet expectations we patiently waited for what God wanted to do in our lives.
  • Imagine if we abandoned the lie that love is merely something we feel and rediscovered that love is a deep, lifelong commitment that reflects the way that God loves us? How would this impact our society? Our churches?
  • Imagine how this kind of love could strengthen relationships in, and outside, the church.

Can you see any other ways that Ruth 1 applies to everyday life?

Looking forward to sharing thoughts with you from Ruth 2-4 in the coming weeks.

ruth and naomi
Naomi demonstrating hesed love by telling Ruth and Orpah to return to their homes. Painting by William Blake