A Voice in the
Wilderness

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Walk-thru the Bible
-- series --
Ruth

Chapters - Topics:
  • 01 - Famine (ch1)
  • 02 - Refuge (ch2)
  • 03 - Secure Rest (ch3-4)

Re: Famine (Ruth 1)
    "Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the land of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons." (vs1)
For all the darkness and apostasy we see through the books of Joshua and Judges, it is nice to finally come to some 'brightness'; like a light shining in a dark land; a bright spot in an otherwise cloudy history. A story of Faith and Love. I'm somewhat of a romantic sap for a good romantic love story; when it's about real love based on mutual character, not lust. Some married couples find this sort of love; most don't. And even so much better when the parties also love God.

When Elijah was running for his life and feels himself to be all alone, that the entire nation is idolatrous and totally wicked; God assures him...

    "Yet I have left in Israel seven thousand, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." (1Ki19:18)
Throughout Joshua and Judges, as the -nation- was backsliding, we saw the 'individuals' here and there who were faithful to God. Some knew God and were strong in their faith. But for the most part, those who knew God were also weak and fearful, and in some cases, even after great victories, prone to slipping.

By contrast, in Ruth, we are going to see a person from a pagan nation whose faith in the Most High is going to be something that most of Israel should have taken note of to seek to emulate. When deriding Israel, Jesus spoke in terms of comparisons: comparing faithless Israel of His day to various pagan nations of history...

    "Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you." (Mt11:20-24)
Israel had Jehovah as their God. The pagan nations did not. Israel was God's "elect" (Is45:4, 65:9,22), and He made Himself known to them, sending them prophets. To most of the pagan nations He did not. Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations; a "kingdom of priests". (Ex19:6) And it was through Israel that Messiah would come. (Is42:1-7) And when Messiah came "to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (Jn1:11), they crucified Him; just as Stephen also said, "Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?" (Ac7:52)

God's own people, Israel, whose very existence and culture was shaped by the Most High, for the most part rejected Him. As Paul says, "But with most of them God was not well pleased..." (1Co10:5a)

So Jesus says to those who in a little while would clamor for His crucifixion: You have seen and heard, and rejected. If those pagan nations whom God destroyed HAD HEARD... THEY WOULD HAVE BELIEVED!

The book of Ruth is a prime example of those words. Ruth was a pagan, but she believed in a way that would put most of Israel to shame!

But let's back up...

Ruth is "in the days [of] the judges". As I look at the Timeline and try to surmise backwards from David to Ruth (4:21-22), it seems to me that Ruth may likely have been during the days between Jephthah and Samson, give or take (since specific years are not given). Or perhaps earlier if we consider that Boaz was born through Rahab. (Mt1:5-6) (When devising the timeline, the book of Judges contains a lot of questions as to precise correct calculations)

In addition to trouble from the Philistines and Ammon, apparently God also sent famine, as He had promised He would do if they disobeyed. (De11:16-17) Due to famine Elimelech and Naomi, with their two sons, go to stay in Moab a few years. While there, the sons marry a couple of local pagan girls. And then all three males die, leaving three widows to fend for themselves. Moab is across the Jordan River from Bethlehem, and then south, next to the southern Dead Sea. Quite a ways to travel in those days. They hear that the famine has lifted, so Naomi decides to go 'home'.

In those cultures young brides tended to become part of the husband's family, thus we read in the account how the two girls seek to cling to Naomi. (vs10-13) Faithfulness to a husband was somewhat synonymous with faithfulness to the husband's family. But Naomi tries to talk "sense" into them. What more can she, Naomi, provide for them? She is old, without husband, without sons. What kind of future can they expect? Go home to your (original) families, and make lives for yourselves. Which Orpah does.

But not Ruth! And here is where the love story begins.

Naomi tries to persuade Ruth to follow Orpah's lead. Go home. Orpah has returned to "her gods" (vs15) This is also Ruth's history, coming out of paganism, from the gods of Moab.

But, in spite of Israel's apostasy and idolatry, she has seen the witness of the Most High. She has seen the difference between Jehovah and the pagan gods. In their minds, where she chose to live, in effect, -defined- who her gods were. She wants Jehovah, and Naomi is returning to Israel; that's where she wants to be.

    "But Ruth said: Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. Jehovah do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me." (vs16-17)
Songs and narratives of these two verses are often used for weddings. But notice that Ruth's words have nothing to do with getting married to a husband (she doesn't know about Boaz yet), but about her love for the Most High, and her expression of her Faith in the God of Israel. She is clinging to Naomi, going with her to Israel, because she wants Eternal Life and Heaven...and she sees Israel, God's people, as the path to that end. They are not simply some random -nation-, but they are a "kingdom of priests" (Ex19:6); by definition, representatives and guides to God's presence. In other words, if you will, she is reciting her own wedding vows -to- God; as wedding vows traditionally speak of "till death do us part". (vs17)

Before Ruth ever meets Boaz, she is already -married- to God. She's got a better foundation for a successful marriage, than any cosmetics, spas or plastic surgery. Most people think of the 'looks' of their potential future mate; the Bachelor shows always show the participants dolled up to the extreme and showing themselves off with swim suits, etc.

Years ago my dad told about some couple that met. The girl worked at some place where she was behind this divider, similar to a bank teller window in the olden days; and this certain man would come in to do business and dealt with her regularly. Over time they got to know each other, and 'liked' what they saw of each other. So they decided to get better acquainted... he asked her out. And when he met the 'whole' her, he also liked what he saw below her neck. But it started out face-to-face. In computer terms, they became acquainted with each others' 'personas', their soul and spirit. What's the first thing that attracts your attention? The 'eyes' (and the soul that is behind those eyes)? Or other things?

Rachel had "a beautiful figure and beautiful appearance" (Ge29:17) but how much trouble did she stir up when she couldn't have children? And in the end, Jacob contentedly spoke of Leah, with the "delicate" eyes at his death-bed as his "wife" (Ge49:31), even though Rachel was the 'loved' wife (no doubt because she was the "hottie"), and Leah the (plain) 'hated' wife.

Ruth has a beautiful soul. That much we know from the get-go. But this story is not over yet!

And, I doubt that Ruth's charm doesn't all come from Naomi. They get back to Bethlehem, and: Oh, poor me, poor me! I've had it so rough! Don't call me Naomi ("my delight"), but Mara ("bitterness"). Watch me pout before you-all...I've just had it sooo tough! Oh my! Oh my! Sob, Sob! Boo Hoo!

See? Ruth isn't accompanying Naomi to Israel because Naomi is such a 'nice' person! Ruth has got something 'good' in her favor. Naomi is like what we've been seeing of complaining obstinate Israel. Israel isn't such a nice bunch of people. But Israel has the Most High! That's where Ruth has come! ...to be under the "wings [of] refuge" of the God of Israel. (2:12)


Re: Refuge (Ruth 2)
    "And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, Please let me go to the fields, and glean heads of grain after him in whose eyes I may find favor. And she said to her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the fields belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, Jehovah be with you! And they answered him, Jehovah bless you! Then Boaz said to his servant who was appointed over the reapers, Whose young woman is this?" (vs2-5)

    "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not completely reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the sojourner: I am Jehovah your God." (Le19:9-10)

And regarding the Feast of Pentecost...
    "And when you have counted for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, the day that you bring the sheaf of the wave offering, seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath; and you shall offer a new grain offering unto Jehovah. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits unto Jehovah...

    "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not completely reap to the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am Jehovah your God." (Le23:15-17,22)

This ancient practice in Israel is somewhat opposite of what farmers today like to do. When a farmer adjusts the combine, he adjusts the cylinder and beater bar to efficiently thresh the grain, without crushing the kernels. Then the sieves and blower are adjusted to blow out the chaff and keep the grain. If the sieve has the wrong sized opening for the kind of grain being harvested, it might let too much chaff into the hopper, or might not allow the grain to fall through to be augered up to the hopper. If the blower is too strong, even if the sieves are right, it will blow good grain out onto the ground; or if it is not strong enough, the chaff will not be properly separated from the grain. It's a fine balance. And when a new machine is purchased, the farmer runs it a bit; stops to look on the ground and in the hopper. Is too much grain ending up on the ground? Is too much chaff in the hopper? The ideal is to have 'no' grain on the ground, and 'no' chaff in the hopper. Years ago when I lived in N.Dakota, there used to be a combine with the "Gleaner" name on the side. Was that the brand? Or the model within a brand? (I don't recall. I'm not a farmer.) To be a "gleaner" would be the manufacturer's desire to convey "how good" the combine was in harvesting -just- the grain, and blowing out the chaff. And if a farmer wants to make money, is that not what he wants? Get every last kernel, and don't waste. Whatever grain doesn't make it into the hopper, and ultimately to market, is that much -money- left in the field, gone to waste.

In ancient times, not only was there the matter of separating grain from chaff ("which the wind drives away" Ps1:4), but in hand-cutting and handling, the stalks being brittle due to harvest-time heat and dryness, often the heads would break off and end up on the ground, with the grain still inside the husks. For a farmer with lots of land and a big operation, picking up husks is not efficient use of employee time. But the poor, with no other source of income, and lots of -time- on their hands; for them it was a way to eke out an existence. But to be sure, the gleanings were the "left-overs" after the main harvest was taken in.

Also, notice God's economy, from the passages quoted above. Leviticus ch23 is a chapter which summarizes all the feasts in Israel, which in turn represent the various historical phases of Salvation and Eternal Life. These links are past studies.

"Law: Israel and Redemption" [link]
"Feast of Ingathering" [link]
"Next Feast of Israel" link]

As of this writing, all the feasts up through Pentecost have been fulfilled. Jesus fulfilled Passover when He died on the cross. Pentecost was 50 days after the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits which represented the Resurrection of Jesus our "firstfruit" (1Co15:20) The waving the sheaf was done on Sunday, the day "after the sabbath" (Le23:11, Mt28:1) Pentecost was fulfilled at the coming of the Holy Spirit, and was represented with "leavened bread". Prior to that, sacrificial bread was unleavened, representing holiness from sin. When the Holy Spirit came in Acts ch2, and the Church age began, the leaven represents how the Church grew and expanded into the whole world. And in addition to the 50 days, along with that feast, is the command about leaving the gleanings for the "poor and sojourners". Sojourners being 'strangers'; not -of- Israel. Gentiles. As Paul says...

    "Therefore remember that you, being Gentiles in the flesh; who are called uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision made in the flesh by hands; that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity." (Eph2:11-16)
Thus, not only is Ruth a wonderful 'love story'; but in many ways she is an early picture of the predominantly -gentile- Church. A recipient of PENTECOSTAL GLEANINGS. Ruth was not from Israel; she was a foreigner; and she came because of Israel's God. And so her first recorded act as a new resident of Israel was to request the gleanings.

And so Boaz comes and sees -her-. There were other women gleaning, but had they -asked- after Israel's God? They were Israeli, but were their hearts "Israel"? (Rom9:6b) And Boaz reaches out to -welcome- Ruth...

    "May Jehovah reward your work, and full wages be given you by Jehovah the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge" (vs12)
Does Boaz know the 'prophecy' he has just spoken? The "full wages" in being a mother in the Messianic line? But apparently Boaz is one of the "few" in Israel who truly knows the Lord. And from the testimony of her words and actions, coming with Naomi, he recognizes in her a Godly woman. They say that kindred spirits are drawn to each other. Boaz has certainly noticed Ruth!

And notice what Boaz does. Tells the hired hands to "let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her" (vs16)

Aaah yes...

    "...let him ask of God, who GIVES TO ALL LIBERALLY AND WITHOUT REPROACH, and it will be given to him." (Ja1:5)
Furthermore, Boaz tells her, "You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest" (vs21) to whom he had given the charge to watch out for her and said, "Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women" (vs8)

This talk from Boaz sounds like what David will say a couple generations later (I guess this spirit runs in the family) to Abiathar the priest when Saul is seeking to kill them both,

    "Stay with me, do not fear; for he who seeks my soul seeks your soul; but with me you shall be safeguarded." (1Sa22:23)
In those days a young unattached female was not always safe, even in Israel. And if it was the days of the judges, Israel also had problems with the enemies surrounding them. But Boaz obviously trusted in the Lord. He knows his own safety is in the Lord... and extends the offer of that shield of protection to Ruth as well.

They are kindred spirits, and he tells her... don't leave me. Stay with me. She had made this promise to Naomi. Now Boaz is asking this of her... even though he doesn't yet realize what is coming next.


Re: Secure Rest (Ruth 3-4)
    "Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, My daughter, shall I not seek a secure rest for you, that it may be well with you? Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our kinsman? Behold, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, dress up and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. And it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you shall do." (vs1-4)
Ruth has come for 'refuge' under the Almighty. (2:12) But how is she to survive? She is a widow woman in a strange land. In those cultures the opportunities for women were not very good, unless she was attached in some manner to a man, whether father, husband or brother. She has none of these by birthright; remember, she -left- her own kindred to be under God. Is she going to -strive- and WORK HARD to become -secure-?

How does the Christian have Salvational Security? Through works and striving? By -being- 'good'? The "love of God" from which nothing can separate us is "in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom8:39) Jesus purchased our salvation and proclaimed, "It has been finished!" (Jn19:30) Our Salvation and its 'Security' is provided -for- us.

And as Ruth is a type, a picture, of the Church we see her security being provided -for- her. Just as Jesus provided Salvation "while we were yet sinners" (Rom5:8) and strangers (Eph2:12) from God; Naomi sets about to provide security for Ruth who is a 'stranger' in Israel.

Now, forget anything you may have seen in Hollywood movies. What happens next is not a 'make-out' session, nor a seduction. The world can't seem to address the topic of love without including lust and steamy smooching lips. But Ruth does get dolled up, as much as a woman can 'doll' herself up to go meet a man, who is likely dirty and smelly from the day's work, out in the harvest field, and lies down at his feet.

What is a Kinsman Redeemer? When a man died, leaving his wife a widow, and there had been no children, the dead man's brother was to take the woman as wife to raise up "seed" for the sake of the dead man, to continue the family tree. When Onan spilled the seed, and refused to raise up children for his brother, the thing was displeasing in God's eyes, and God killed him. (Ge38:7-10) And by the time that episode was done, Judah ended up raising seed for his son's wife, who was Perez, who was a great, great, great....grandfather to Boaz. (Ge38:29,Mt1:3-5)

In the Law God gave instructions in how to conduct the matter. (De25:5-10) This was an important enough a matter that, if the brother didn't want to perform the duty, the widow could take him before the authorities, take off his sandle and spit in his face. It was a great dishonor and humbling to NOT raise up seed for the dead.

When Ruth comes to Boaz, mentioning the "kinsman redeemer" expression, what she essentially is saying to him is: We're supposed to get married. I have come to you, here I am, and you are to be my husband. Filter out the nicey nicey, and that's it, in a nutshell.

Remember, Boaz has already 'noticed' Ruth, and asked her not to leave. He had no idea that when she would NOT LEAVE, that she was going to come and say, essentially: You don't want me to leave? Well, here I am. I'm all yours. Or perhaps he -did- know? While he seems, from his response, to be all excited at the prospect, he is also a "just" man. By law, there is another relative that is 'closer' to Ruth's situation. By rights, this other person -should- be "first-in-line" to be her new husband. And so, in a sense, if Boaz jumped right in and took Ruth, in a round-about sort of way, he could be committing adultery with somebody who rightly 'belonged' -more- to another man.

And Naomi takes note...

    "Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day" (vs18)
Boaz may have noticed Ruth, as their souls have become knit; but legally Boaz needed to conduct 'business' regarding the matter. And the Kinsman Redeemer situation 'legally' was also a matter of -land-... -property-. Being a -woman-, Naomi could not 'own' land, as such. Furthermore Ruth was a foreigner, and God was quite clear that the land was not to be sold outside Israel. (Le25:23)

So he goes to the city gate, where matters of law and business were conducted. The other 'closer' redeemer happens by and...

    "Ho there, you! Turn aside and sit down here. So he came aside and sat down" (4:1)
Boaz tells him the proposition about the 'land' Elimelech and sons left when they died. And the man says: Sure, I'll redeem it.

However there is a "string attached". Along with the land also comes a wife. (4:5) Oh, I cannot redeem it for myself.

    "You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it" (4:6)
The man must have been married already? In those days they certainly married more than one wife at a time, so the man -could- have taken Ruth. But history also tells of the squabbles and family problems when there was more than one wife and mother in a family. Jacob had four wives between Rachel, Leah and their maids; and anybody who has read Genesis knows of their constant infighting. Samuel was born into a family of contention where his mother, Hannah, was the butt of abuse from the other wife. (1Sa1) And what of the squabbles in David and Solomon's families, what with their (plural) wives, and the children from the various ones.

Thus, Boaz is given a clear path to redeem Naomi's property and aquire Ruth as his wife.

So now, take note of the congratulatory words uttered that day:

    "Jehovah make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem" (vs11)
Rachel and Leah, the "wives" of Jacob. Maidservants didn't 'count' for historical reckoning; the maidservants were given to Jacob during the family squabbles when Rachel and Leah were in competition to HAVE BABIES. Babies sired through maidserants were accounted to the mistress whom they served. And so, these city officials are bequeathing upon the foreigner, Ruth, the same status as a "builder" of Israel. Little did they know the future significance of "Bethlehem". Did they know they were 'prophesying' (foretelling) that day? They thought they were conducting 'business' that day and giving 'congratulations', but in a very real sense, they were "having church"! (considering how people today use that expression)
    "May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the seed which Jehovah shall give you from this young woman" (vs12)
Had they known what they were saying there, it might be appropriate to capitalize "[S]eed", because the Seed that was coming through Ruth would be none other than Jesus Christ, Himself; the seed of David; Messiah. The fulfillment of all the major prophecies since Genesis 3:15; and fulfillment of everything they observed through the rituals of their Law. Even the very 'transaction' they just concluded of the "redeemer" and the 'purchase' of a 'lost' family, through death, was exactly what Jesus would be coming to do... to Redeem and "purchase [sinners] with His own blood" (Ac20:28)

And when Obed is born they exclaim...

    "Blessed is Jehovah who has not left you this day without a kinsman redeemer; and may his name be famous in Israel. And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age..." (vs14-15a)
When Jesus was born the angels proclaimed...
    "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men!" (Lk2:14)
And a new song was sung...
    "You are worthy... for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign upon the earth." (Re5:9-10)

    "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!" (Re5:12)

In Joshua [link] we discussed how Rahab was a gentile; Ruth was a half-breed gentile due to Moab coming from Lot, not of the promise through Abraham; and Perez came through a stupid (sinful) act by Judah.

We don't get to Heaven because we are innately good. Jesus died for us "while we were yet sinners" (Rom5:8); and "all have sinned" (Rom3:23) The "wages of sin is death" (Rom6:23) for the -soul- of man... "the soul who sins shall die" (Ezk18:4) And so Jesus came through a blood-line that contained Jews, Gentiles, Half-breeds... and sinners. Mankind had sinned, so a -man- needed to atone and pay the penalty. Jesus, when He died, gave His "soul as a sin-offering" which was satisfactory payment before the Father. (Is53:10-11) Thus...

    "The first man Adam became a living soul; the last Adam a life-giving Spirit." (1Co15:45)
The soul was subject to death. Jesus provided a...
    "...new and living way" to pass through the veil into God's presence. (Heb10:20)
In the Evangelical Fundamental Gospel tradition there is a song [link] which proclaims:
    Sinners Jesus will receive! Sound this word of grace to all...
    Christ receiveth sinful men, even me with all my sin...
    Sing it o'er and o'er again: Christ receiveth sinful men
    Make the message clear and plain: Christ receiveth sinful men
But this "Refuge" and "Secure Rest" is not something we can obtain for ourselves, or -by- ourselves. It is the "-GIFT- of God [which is] Eternal Life in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom6:23b) Even though there is so much wrong with the Reformation, Martin Luther did pen some spectacular words [link] :
    Did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing
    Were not the right Man on our side the Man of God's own choosing
    Dost ask who that may be?
    Christ Jesus, it is He
    Lord Sabaoth His name
    From age to age the same
    And He must win the battle
In the days of Naomi and Ruth there was famine in the land. Today we see, as prophesied...
    "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord Jehovah, that I will send a famine into the land, not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but rather a famine for hearing the Words of Jehovah." (Am8:11)
Ruth went to Israel to be under the shadow of the Almighty...
    "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." (Ps91:1)
As Ruth received a Secure Rest, we also have a Secure Rest...
    "Rest in Jehovah, and wait patiently for Him" (Ps37:7)
Jesus invites...
    "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Mt11:28-30)
Amen!