Risks and Responsibilities
Summer 2020 Series (The Story of Ruth, Part 4 of 6)
This is part of a series of reflections, exploring the short story of Ruth, from the Old Testament. In chapter 1 we are faced with Naomi’s experience of loss, grief, and humiliation. We sympathise with her daughters-in-law having to make difficult decisions, torn between loyalty to Naomi and to their own people. In chapter 2, we feel Ruth’s vulnerability and courage as she gathers the leftovers from the fields to provide for her mother-in-law and for herself. And we are relieved when the influential Boaz shows concern and offers support and protection. Now we look at chapters 2 and 3 through the eyes of Boaz.
Monologue: Through the eyes of Boaz
Hello, Boaz here... “The Lord be with you!” ... Did I tell you about that young woman ... you know ... the one who came back to Bethlehem with Naomi, Elimelech’s widow? You must have noticed her. She stands out like a sore thumb – the way she looks, the way she speaks, you can tell she’s not from Bethlehem.
But she stands out to me for other reasons too: Have you noticed how hard she works? Ever since the start of the barley harvest, she’s been gleaning, collecting the leftover grain from the fields, not just for herself, but for her mother-in-law, Naomi. Yes, she shines brightly in the sun ... and not just because she works hard.
Some of my men told me her story. I can’t believe the way she has stuck by Naomi, the way she has cared for her and worked her sandals off to provide for her. She left all that she knew to comfort Naomi in their grief! Such loyalty and courage and faith. I’m sure the Lord will bless her and so will I! It’s what the Lord would want me to do.
The law of the Lord is clear. “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. ”God cares about widows and refugees, and he expects his people to do the same. Ruth is a refugee and a widow, so she’s one of the most vulnerable in my society. So, I’ve ordered my workers to make her welcome, to treat her well, and to leave plenty of grain for her to collect.
I know my relative Naomi has lost a lot, I know that she feels empty and broken, but I tell you, she is not completely empty. She has come back with a gem in young Ruth! Ruth’s loyalty and care is an example to all Israel you know. I know she’s wasn’t born a Jew, but she’s more faithful to God’s law than a lot of Jews. Why are some people so suspicious of those who look different? And why do some people treat immigrants and refugees so harshly? I don’t understand it. It’s not God’s way! Like a mother hen, God welcomes all those who take refuge under God’s wings.
It’s getting near the end of the Barley harvest now. So I have been wondering where Ruth will find security in the future. I’m sure my relative Naomi has been thinking about that too. It’s hard to be a single woman in my society, let alone a foreigner too. Ruth has poured herself out, taking care of Naomi. But who will care for her? I’m a relative so maybe I should not just take her under my wing on the farm... maybe I should take her into my home ... you know, as my wife?
I’ve been worrying what the other elders would think and say if I married someone from Moab, someone not a true Israelite. Other times my heart is sure, but I’m not sure if I have the right, after all I am a very distant relative. And then sometimes I just think I am way past my prime ... would Ruth ever be happy with a much older man as a husband and would it be fair to her?
But then last night something happened .... I haven’t told anybody else about this yet ...Can I trust you to keep it to yourself? I’d been at the threshing floor, where the men winnow the barley, to sort the grain from the chaff. Myself and the other men had been working till late. We’d eaten well and enjoyed some wine. We were all sound asleep. And then something woke me, a sound or a movement or maybe it was just that my feet were cold in the night. They had been uncovered. But as I looked around in the dark, there was someone at my feet. I couldn’t see properly, but I could smell perfume.
So in a whisper, I asked “Who are you?”. A familiar voice answered, “It’s Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over me, for you are next of kin.” And with those words I realised, Ruth wanted me not just to father to her but to be a husband to her. This young woman, so beautiful in character, so loyal and faithful, so courageous and willing to take a risk... This young woman wanted to be my wife and to have children with me. I was “made up.”
As I lie next to Ruth that night, the smell of the grain mingling with the smell of her perfume, I remembered my first conversation with Ruth. She had said that I had comforted her in her distress. Now she has comforted me. She has given me hope that I may have children to call my own. I’m so grateful to God. Through Ruth he has blessed Naomi in her distress and now through Ruth he is blessing me too. God is full of surprises.
Anyway, now my mind is made up. I will not rest now until my obligations to Naomi are complete. I will buy back her family land, I will marry her daughter-in-law Ruth and we will keep Elimelech &Naomi’s family name alive. For me this will not be a duty but a joy. But I like to do things right. So I gave Ruth a sackful of grain to give to Naomi, to indicate my intentions. And I made sure Ruth went home early without anybody seeing her. People would jump to conclusions and I don’t want rumours spreading about her.
Then there’s some legal business that I will need to sort out. Naomi does have a closer relative and in my culture he has first refusal. I don’t think he will want to get involved, but I have to ask him.
Question for further reflection and discussion
In Old Testament times, the fatherless, the widow and the foreigner were among the most vulnerable people in society. Who are the most vulnerable groups in the UK today? How can the church care for them, welcome them, and work towards a fairer society for them? How could you take one small step towards this in the next week or two?
In Ruth, God is restoring the fortunes of Naomi and blessing Boaz in the most unexpected way, through the actions of an outsider who was at the bottom of the social ladder. In what ways have you seen God at work, bringing blessing and restoration through surprising people and in surprising ways? In what ways does Ruth’s example challenge or encourage you?
I wonder if Boaz was initially afraid to risk his reputation and finding reasons to delay doing the right thing. Ruth risked her reputation and rejection when she took the initiative and proposed to Boaz, effectively challenging him to fulfil his responsibilities to Naomi’s family. Are there things you know you should do for God even though there is a risk to your reputation or a risk of rejection? How could your faith help you overcome fear?
You may like to listen to our Podcast which accompanies this Blog. Click here.
You may also enjoy watching our Sunday gathering related to this Blog, where you can hear this message along with worship and prayer. This video was originally aired via Facebook LIVE on Sunday 16th August 2020.