adventures, Bethlehem, bitterness, blessing, Boaz, food, hope, Naomi, Ruth

Bethlehem: Where the Kingdom Begins

Advent{ures}: Let’s Go to Bethlehem

 

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:3 ESV)

 

Empty. Bitter. Hopeless.
 
A famine in the land, destitute and grieving, Naomi hears that God has visited her hometown with food. She starts out toward Bethlehem with her two bereaved daughters-in-law in tow. As they walk, she has second thoughts about bringing them along. “No, go back,” she tells them, “there is no hope, no husbands, no future with me.” One turns back, the other clings to Naomi. Her name is Ruth.

This love story gets me every time. Even though, I know how it turns out, the narrative action builds the anticipation. As Naomi expresses her bitterness, Ruth exclaims her hope. Ruth sees past the famine, the loss, the grief, the poverty and hunger. She clings to the news that God has visited Bethlehem with food.

When they first arrive in the little town, the hushed voices begin to stir. Naomi’s back. Who’s that with her? Did you hear she lost her husband and both her sons? What did she do to incur God’s displeasure? She should have never left Bethlehem. We told her, but she didn’t listen. Now she’s back with this foreigner. What good will come of this? They whisper and wonder.

Naomi laments, “I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. I am not that woman anymore; call me Mara, the bitter one.”

Even in her despair, God hears her cry.  They just happened to return at the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth volunteers to go glean in the fields. And Boaz, a relative, just happens to return to his fields to see how the harvest fares. He hails his workers with words of blessing, “The LORD be with you!” and they reply, “The LORD bless you.”

And the blessings begin to flow. Boaz notices Ruth and inquires about her, then offers her abundant access to all that she needs. She bows before him and asks him why such favor on a foreigner like herself.  He had heard of her. Her reputation preceded her.  So he invites her to sup with him, and she does and she is satisfied, with enough left over to take home to Naomi. God begins to fill up what had been empty.

When Naomi hears that Ruth has met Boaz, her hope revives. The kindness of Boaz stirs her heart to hope again. She cries aloud, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” The blessings continue to flow.

I can almost see Naomi’s eyes dancing with delight, as she conspires with Ruth on how to approach Boaz. He was a kinsman-redeemer. She sends Ruth in hopes of seeking his favor in their plight, seeing that by law a relative was bound to keep the family lineage alive.

Ruth goes to Boaz in the night, hides until he has settled down for sleep, and rests at his feet. When he stirs in the night, she reveals herself and he blesses her with a promise. He agrees to redeem her.

He tells her not to fear, for she is publicly known as a worthy woman. He will go to the town square the next day to settle everything.  And he does, and they marry. And then they have a child, a child who becomes the father of Jesse, who becomes the father of David, who becomes the father of the Messiah.

Do you see what I see? The contrast of Ruth’s story with the tragic death of the last woman from Bethlehem, we met in Judges. The beauty of blessing and redemption in the way Ruth and Naomi relate, and Ruth and Boaz. I love the part where Ruth says, “Spread your wings (or cloak) over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” This request and her response to him earlier about his favor, do they not remind you of Mary? When she responds to the angelic message that she will be with child and give birth to a Savior.



The book of Ruth is chock full of God-bumps and God-incidences, so I’m linking up with Jennifer today at: