SOAP Journal – 14 August 2017 (Ruth 4)

Now these are the generations of Perez: to Perez was born Hezron, and to Hezron was born Ram, and to Ram, Amminadab, and to Amminadab was born Nahshon, and to Nahshon, Salmon, and to Salmon was born Boaz, and to Boaz, Obed, and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.

Ruth 4:18-22

As the book of Ruth draws to a close, Boaz redeems the land and takes Ruth as a wife. Ruth and Boaz have a son who is named Obed.

That last part was seen as great. Obed would grow to occupy the place, legally speaking, of Ruth’s first husband, Mahlon. Obed was treated, in a legal sense, as the heir of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, so Obed would get the land and be responsible for taking care of Naomi. It was a win all around.

The book closes with something interesting. The book gives a genealogy from Perez, the son of Judah by Tamar, to King David. It may very well be that the author of this book was just putting down a family history when they wrote it and documenting the lineage of King David. Considering the close of the book, it seems likely.  But this also allows the reader to keep tracking the lineage of the Messiah. Genesis got us as far as Judah and Perez, the book of Ruth gets us as far as David. Other books will continue the lineage.

The lineage is interesting, in part, because it puts Boaz down as part of that family line. It would probably have been sufficient to bring in Elimelech, as he has an inheritance in Judah and would therefore be in the lineage of Judah. Boaz took a chance that he would have no posterity when he redeemed Ruth and the land. Boaz redeeming the land meant that he would pay for a piece of property that would be inherited by the first son he had (if he had one) and that son would inherit in the name of someone else and be considered a part of that family line. Boaz, for all practical purposes, was willing to chance writing himself and his family name out of history.

Jesus, in redeeming the Church, His Bride, did the same thing. Jesus had no wife and no children and His name lives on in those He redeemed. Boaz was willing to take that risk and the book of Ruth records him for all time. Far from being forgotten by history, Boaz becomes a character in the unfolding drama of our Redeemer.

Sometimes, God is going to ask me to do something that seems like it will write me out of the story. Am I willing to let that happen? If I am content to go where God leads and do what God instructs, then I may very well be written out of the larger story — there are plenty of nameless and unremarked prophets mentioned in passing in the Old Testament. Or, like Boaz, I may end up playing a key role in the story. The only way to find out is to step out and let God do what God is going to do.

Father, thank You that Boaz is included despite his willingness to be left out. Thank You that You show, through Boaz, that You can make a heart willing to do what is right and good no matter the personal cost. Please work in my heart to make it so. Let me be willing to do things that will go unremarked if You are the One Who bids me do them.


SOAP Journal – 11 August 2017 (Ruth 3)

Then she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.”

Ruth 3:18

The story of Ruth keeps rolling along and Naomi decides that she should try to find a husband for Ruth. It makes sense. The best way to make sure that Ruth’s situation was secure was to find her a husband. Ruth could, as a widow, continue to glean and to provide for herself and Naomi, but that would be a very uncertain future. What is more, Naomi has a man in mind: Boaz.

Something Boaz says is interesting to me. He says to Ruth,  “May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich.” (Ruth 3:10), thus revealing himself to not be a young man. This brings questions: How old is he? Did he ever marry before? If no, why not? What is the age different between him and Ruth? And the text is silent on these. We are told only that he is willing to marry Ruth and thus redeem both her and the property. Then Naomi adds her color commentary and says that the man will not rest until he has settled it today. So we learn something else about him: he is decisive and tenacious. Once he has decided to do a thing, he will do it and make sure that it is done.

Small wonder, then, that Jesus and Boaz are often paralleled. Jesus also decided to redeem His Bride, the church, and once He had decided that, He made sure it was done.

How do I apply this? The Church, as a body, is the Bride of Christ, so let me not be confused on that score. I am not Christ’s Bride. I am His friend, according to His own words. He is, however, my Redeemer. He paid my debt so that I could be free. Let me act on this knowledge and acquit myself as a man ought. I owe a debt, let me seek to repay it as best I can. I know that I cannot repay it, the debt was too great for me to repay or I would have repaid it myself. Let me, instead, seek to render service to Jesus Christ; the One Who paid my debt and set me free from it and its penalties. Jesus paid my price, let me seek to render service that may pay back some small measure of what He has done for me. I owe Him that much and more.

Father, please keep me mindful that I am a debtor to You and to Jesus Christ Who paid my debt. Please work in me to make me a worthwhile servant; to enable me to give back to You even an infinitesimal fraction of what I owe. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for paying the debt I could not pay.

SOAP Journal – 10 August 2017 (Ruth 2)

The servant in charge of the reapers replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab.”

Ruth 2:6

As I come to the second chapter of Ruth, I find myself wanting to look a bit at the servant in charge of Boaz’s reapers. I am not given his name or age or any other personal details, but what he says and does speak of who he is and of what kind of servant Boaz puts in charge.

The first thing I note is that he is observant. When Boaz asks who Ruth is, this servant knows without having to ask. He is fully aware of who this woman is that has been working in the fields all day. He is also aware of how long she has been working and how long she has been resting. This gives me an insight into why Boaz would want this man supervising his servants. This servant has an eye for details and he keeps track of things.

The second thing I note is that he has character. Ruth asked permission to glean — even though The Law codified gleaning as a sort of workfare for the poor — and the servant did not take advantage of Ruth’s situation. Ruth is not an Israelite and a person of lesser character might have seen her status as an opportunity to try to extract some payment or to make her situation even more difficult. This servant does no such thing. He gives her permission to glean with no caveats or stipulations.

The third and final thing I note is that this servant sees the good things that people do. When he reports who Ruth is, he speaks of her as the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. He speaks of the sacrifice that she made by staying with her mother-in-law He also informs Boaz that Ruth has been working in the fields from the morning until whenever the conversation took place. The servant sees her work ethic and how she is laboring to take care of herself and her mother-in-law.

When the book of Ruth is taught, Boaz is often pointed to as a type of Christ and Ruth as a type of the church. If Boaz stands in for Jesus, then what does the servant in charge tell me about the servants that Jesus wants? Observant people of character who see the good things that others do and are ready to report that good. Let me be such a servant to my Lord. Let me be observant, looking to see what is going on and keeping track of things. Let me be a man of character. And let me be always ready to report the good things that people do. It is far too easy to relate the bad.

Father, thank You for this nameless servant who shows character, an observant mind, and a readiness to see and recount the good things that happen. Please form this kind of character in me; one that observes and is focused on the good things that happen.

SOAP Journal – 09 August 2017 (Ruth 1:14)

And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

Ruth 1:14

I have read and heard and told the story of Ruth so many times, that it is difficult to come to this book as if for the first time. In the first part of the story, I want to zoom in on the two Moabite women: Orpah and Ruth.

Their names are kind of foreshadowing. Orpah means “gazelle” and Ruth means “friend.” One is going to bolt when trouble arrives while the other will remain. So our introduction to these women serves to tell us what is coming. And their husbands’ names fulfill much the same purpose. Mahlon and Chilion mean “sick” and “pining” respectively. When someone is sick or pining, it is only a matter of time before something has to give. Either they will recover or the illness persist or will worsen. Either they will get the thing for which they pine, or desire will make them sick.

And being widowed is the trouble that the names foreshadowed. Both husbands die, leaving behind both wives with their widowed mother-in-law. Three widows in three verses (vv. 3-5). At the beginning, both women do what is socially expected of them at the time. Naomi decides to go back to Judah and her daughters start packing to go with her (v. 7).  This was the social norm of the time. Once a woman married into a family, she was considered a part of that family. Where the family went, she went. And Naomi is all that remains of the family.

Naomi tells the young women that they should go back to their families (vv. 8-9). She tells them that she, being a widow herself, has no hope of producing any more children (or really of being remarried) and that there is no way for her to provide new husbands for these women. Again, the social norm of the time was that a woman was provided for by her husband. It was a fairly common practice that a surviving brother would marry his deceased brother’s widow in order to provide for her and continue the family name. If a woman did not marry, then she was supported by her father.

Both of the young women do what would have been expected at the time. They protest and say that they will stay with Naomi. Again, family was a big deal back then and staying with family was considered right and proper.

That brings us up to this morning’s verse. Orpah makes a ruckus then kisses Naomi goodbye and goes back to her old life. She might have remarried and had a troupe of children. The Bible is silent on the matter. Ruth, on the other hand, refuses to leave Naomi. When Ruth promised herself to her husband, she was all in. She had decided that she was going to stay with this family come what may. And she does. Her husband has died and her mother-in-law tried to send her back to her parents. But Ruth refused to be sent back. She utters what may be one of the more famous quotes in the book that bears her name, Do not urge me to leave you [or] turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people [shall be] my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if [anything but] death parts you and me (Ruth 1:16-17). Ruth lives up to her name and is a friend to Naomi.

The story turns out very well indeed for Ruth, though it is not all sunshine and roses along the way. But I want to come back to the two Moabite women.

Orpah married a man. She did not marry his family or his faith or anything else that came along with the package. She just married the man. So, when the mane was gone, so was she. I am not going to advocate for women taking on their husband’s faith or abandoning their family or anything like that. I am, rather, going to take Orpah as a metaphor.

Ruth, contrarily, married not just the man but his family and people and faith. She committed herself to the whole package. Again, I am not going to take Ruth as a case in point and try to make any assertions about marriage, but will take Ruth as a metaphor.

Orpah and Ruth both married Israelites; committed themselves to the family of faith. When trial came, they had very different responses. Orpah could be, as Jesus put it in the parable of the sower, the rocky soil. The seed sprouted quickly, but had no root and so it withered when trouble came. Ruth could be, per the same parable, the good soil. The seed sprouted and had good roots, so it weathered the difficulty. Orpah might be seen as a type of fair weather believer: glad to be in the family of faith when things are good and prospects are promising, but ready to leave when things get tough. Ruth might be seen as believer dedicated to following come what may: nothing shakes her resolve to remain with the family of faith.

With which woman do I empathize? Do I find it difficult to stay with the family of faith; to remain dedicated to God and His people when things get rough and the way forward is difficult to discern? Or am I committed to God and His people no matter what?

Father, I know that things get difficult sometimes and that I struggle to hold on. Please give me a devotion like Ruth’s, that holds on no matter what and commits me to You and Your people unreservedly.

Famous (Ruth 4:11)

All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “[We are] witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem.

Ruth 4:11

The book of Ruth is primarily about the title woman—a Moabite who leaves the place she grew up and the people and religion she knew to go to her mother-in-law’s home and people and faith. Ruth is awesome.

But one of the other people in the book of Ruth is pretty darn awesome. Boaz. He sees Ruth working and makes sure she is not harassed by his workers and goes so far as to tell them to leave more grain out for her. He does the right and honest thing by giving the closer relative a chance to redeem and chooses to redeem himself even though the Law said that his son would be the heir to another man’s estate. If he only had the one son, then his property would pass to another man’s lineage. Pretty gutsy.

The men who were in the city gate; the men who witnessed to the redemption spoke the blessing in the verse quoted this morning. The first part of their blessing is the wish that Ruth would give Boaz many children. A common blessing in the ancient world and well-intentioned as Ruth had been married to Naomi’s son for ten years before he died and Ruth had no children. The book later records that Ruth did, in fact, have at least one child—a son who was named Obed. The second blessing was for prosperity. Most moderns would gladly take this blessing and run with it, but it was just another common well-wish in the ancient world. Wealth meant a lot of things back when and one of those was never going hungry. To a people who were just coming back from a famine, not going hungry is a great blessing.

The last part is the one that caught me today. They wished him famous in Bethlehem. Boaz may not be a household name. But Boaz’s great grandson, a singer and shepherd and warrior named David, absolutely is. Boaz unknowingly entered the lineage of the Messiah when he married Ruth. He entered into a royal line about which he had no idea. What he knew was to do the right and honorable and decent thing. And God blessed that immensely.

I may do nothing more than what God tells me is right. I may do nothing greater than what is honorable and decent. Yet still God is able to bless that and to magnify it. Boaz did not seek fame, but his descendants would certainly have it. The Bible says that those who humble themselves in the sight of God will be lifted up; that God gives grace to the humble—those who do not seek their own fame, but God’s. Today, let me seek God’s glory in all that I say and do. Let me not seek notoriety for myself, but glory for my King. Let Him then dispense blessings in the form and measure that pleases Him. To be famous in the sight of God, as Boaz is, is an honor to which I aspire. To be remembered as a man who sought to do the right and honorable and decent thing. Let all glory be to God and any accolades I receive be from Him.

One last thought. A descendant of Boaz would one day be the most famous person ever born in Bethlehem.