The Lord be with You

*Old Testament: Ruth 1 & 2

Poetry: Psalm 118

New Testament: Luke 18

Today we begin reading the book of Ruth, which is both enjoyable and easy to read; a book without heavy theology to parse. The importance of the book is made plain at its end (for a preview, look to Ruth 4:17), in that it identifies a certain history of the family of the later King David. In that sense, it serves the Old Testament purpose of remembrance. In this case, it establishes a back story for the royal family (which ultimately leads to Jesus himself), but it also shows the providential role of God in that family. Like the passages in the Book of Judges, an important purpose of the text is to remind Israel how God established a relationship with the nation and then provides, cares for, and protects the nation.

Chapter 1 of Ruth provides the context for the remainder of the book: a family’s migration to Moab, and Naomi’s return to Bethlehem with the unexpected companion, Ruth. Chapter 2 is where the action of this story is established, with Ruth going to glean in Boaz’s fields and the repeated acts of kindness that he shows to her. We must also recognize the extent of his kindness as well: Boaz is obligated to leave some of his unharvested crops for the poor (see Leviticus 23:22), but he goes above and beyond this in his instructions to his servants to purposely leave grains for Ruth. She must have been confused, perhaps embarrassed by the kindness of Boaz, but it all leads to Naomi recognizing Boaz:

“The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.” (Ruth 2:20 NASB)

Unfortunately, the depth of the term “closest relative” is not adequately captured in translation. The Hebrew term means “kinsman redeemer” – a family member that satisfies an obligation or vengeance of another in the extended family. Specific examples are the man that, following the Torah, marries his brother’s widow to preserve land inheritance, but also one who redeems a family member from slavery. This usage takes us to a second purpose of the Old Testament: prefiguring. Boaz, as a “kinsman redeemer” for the family of Naomi, prefigures Jesus as the one that redeems his family: Israel and (as we now know) Gentiles grafted in.

One aspect of Ruth that I greatly enjoy is the ordinariness of the spiritual expression of its characters. Without being ostentatious, the characters of the book recognize the providential role of God repeatedly and reflect it back to others to further recognize God’s role in their daily lives. Consider the statement of Ruth and Orpah in 1:8,9:

“May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”

It is not enough for Naomi to wish her daughters-in-law success in their presumed departure; she specifically calls on God to give them that success in their new lives.

Then consider the dialogue between Boaz and his servants in 2:4:

Boaz to his servants: “May the LORD be with you.”

Servants’ response: “May the LORD bless you.”

I think the implication is that Boaz and his servants lived lives suffused in the presumption that God would be with them in every action, in every step along every path. Think about it further: Boaz and his servants were not going to war or going on a trip; they were simply going to the fields for the ordinary work of the day. Yet, he begins the day with a blessing on his servants.

In today’s culture, we increasingly compartmentalize our lives, even our spiritual lives. We work for some hours of the day, we take care of our daily obligations, and, hopefully, we set aside time to relax. More than likely prayer is a “carved out” time and time reading scripture may have to be scheduled. The alternative is to suffuse the entire day with the recognition that God is with us at every moment, and that prayer can and should be spontaneous and simple – ordinary. That we can take any moment to request God’s blessing on another.

This reminds me of an experience from childhood that might be odd to some. One summer, sometime in my teenage years, I had taken my youngest sister on a bike ride to the post office ostensibly for an errand, but mostly to be outside. At the post office, we encountered two nuns in the waiting area. (This was not out of the ordinary, there was a very active convent in my hometown.) One of the nuns leaned down, laid her hand on my sister’s head, and spoke a very simple blessing on her. Then she went back to her business, without skipping a beat. For that woman, living a life devoted to serving others in the name of God, speaking a blessing on a young child was utterly ordinary – she simply wanted to express God’s love to a child.

One of the messages of the Book of Ruth is that God is present in all parts of our lives. We can endeavor to purposefully include our appreciation for God for who He is and to share His love for all people in every moment of our day.

-Dan Siderius

Dan Siderius is a member of the Fair Oaks Community Church of God in Virginia. He lives in central Maryland with his wife and daughter and works as a research scientist for a government laboratory. Apart from work and parenting, he enjoys studying history, gardening, and all varieties of cooking.

Reflection Questions

  1. How can you break your spiritual life out of its compartment this week and mix it with your ordinary every day life? What are the benefits to doing so?
  2. How and to whom can you share remembrances of God providing, caring for and protecting? How can you seek to more regularly and often request God’s blessings on others?
  3. In what ways are Boaz and Jesus similar? In what ways are they different?
  4. What do we learn of God, and His Son Jesus, in our Bible readings today?

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