All You Need is Love

Ruth 3-4 and John 15

            “All you need is love.”  That song, written by John Lennon and sung by the Beatles in June 1967 (during the so-called “summer of love”)   was broadcast live and seen by over 400 million viewers in 25 countries at the time.  It was a kind of sappy, feel good, hippie anthem/anti-war protest song (this was during the height of the war in Viet Nam).

            The late 60’s was a time of radical change in America.  Young men were coming back from Viet Nam in body bags and people were burning their draft cards.  Desegregation was making strides through Dr. King’s call to non-violent protest and some progress was being made, until Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 and peaceful protest turned to violent mobs.  As the 60’s gave way to the 70’s and 80’s many of the hippies grew up and became yuppies trading their free love,  pot and “make love, not war” peace signs for cocaine and dollar signs on Wall Street.

            Now we’re in 2021 and the BLM movement tells us that racism is still alive and well.  All that love that John Lennon said  was all we needed seems to be in short supply these days.

            Ruth is an interesting kind of love story that we need to study today.  It shows that true love makes sacrifices and takes risks for the benefit of others.  After Ruth’s husband dies and her father-in-law dies Ruth is encouraged to go back to her people and find another husband, but she loves her mother-in-law enough to sacrifice doing what is most convenient for her.  She goes to a foreign land where she lives a very marginal existence of grabbing the scraps of life.  She is a foreign woman without a husband living far from her family.  It was a perilous existence full of danger and risk, yet she does it out of love for Naomi.

            There are lots of interesting details to the story that no doubt get lost in 3000 years of cultural distance. Kinsmen redeemer is a foreign concept in our society.  In ancient Israel there were two things that mattered most- having an heir and having land that belongs to the family and stays in the family for generations.  When a man died without leaving behind a male child to continue the family name and inherit the land and care for the women in their old age it was up to the next available unmarried male relative to marry the widow and their child would actually be the heir of the son who died.  Many men didn’t like this set up and refused to participate in it.  It was a sacrificial act for a man to take on that responsibility for his dead relatives family and legacy.

            Boaz was a man of great character.  In many ways he could have taken advantage of Ruth’s helplessness and dependency and used her to his advantage.  He did not, instead, he looked out for her and her mother-in-law by making sure they received more than enough food.  He didn’t take advantage of her sexually, instead, he did what was right and at personal cost he took over the role of the kinsmen redeemer and made Ruth his wife and took care of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi.  He acted in a very loving way toward Ruth and Naomi.  Ruth acted in a very loving way toward Naomi.  Naomi was protected and cared for.  Ruth was protected and cared for.  She and Boaz were blessed with a son.  That son, Obed was the grandfather to David who later became the King of Israel, and they were ancestors of Jesus.

            “All you need is Love.” There’s a lot of love in the story of Ruth. Love really is important, it’s foundational to everything.  But love must be rightly understood.  It’s more than what we typically think of as love – warm feelings, romantic notions and sappy songs are not what love is about.  Love is about commitment and sacrifice, it’s about doing what is hard in order to benefit the person you love.  Love is a willingness to take the less easy route.  Love is doing the right thing even when it would be easier and less complicated to do the wrong thing.

            Jesus takes up this theme of love in John 15.  He was about to go to the cross and suffer and die.  He is giving a message to his friends and disciples to sustain them through the difficult hours and days ahead.  The foundational message he gives them is love: “12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. “

            Jesus teaches about love and exhorts them to love and then he shows them what love looks like by sacrificing himself as an offering for the sins of the world, his friends the disciples, and for us as well.  This love that Jesus demonstrates is a reflection of God’s love for us that is shown in giving his son, Jesus that we might have eternal life (see John 3:16).

            “All you need is love?”  Yes, if we mean the kind of love modeled by Ruth and Boaz which ultimately led to Jesus.  “All you need is love?”  Yes, if we mean the kind of love modeled by Jesus who gave his life for our sins and by God who gave His only begotten son for our salvation.  Love is not just peace signs and romantic songs- it’s commitment and sacrifice and placing the needs of others ahead of our wants and desires.  Who and how can you and I love today?

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ruth 3-4 and John 15

Be the Good in the Crazy

ruth 2 12

Ruth 1:1 “In the days when the judges ruled…”

If you’re reading along with this Bible plan and read yesterday’s blog, you might expect to read more about people “doing as he/she saw fit” as you read the introduction to Ruth.
Thankfully, this book of the Bible is nothing like Judges. We read about individuals who are faithful, loyal, hardworking and honorable.
If you’re paying attention to the news lately you’ll hear a mixture of very sad statistics right alongside stories of people doing good. And that’s one of the things that I appreciate about the book of Ruth: while all sorts of people are ignoring God’s Law, there are still righteous people, like Boaz, doing the right thing.
So while you are quarantined to your homes, what good and right thing can you do? It starts with how you treat and speak to those with whom you share a living space with. Do you find yourself with spare time on your hands these days? Instead of increasing your screen time, what good and right thing can you do for your neighbors (while maintaining your social distance, of course)? Maybe because your social calendar is empty, you actually have some spare change in your pocket. What good and right thing could you do for your church and/or community with that extra cash?
So while we are living in extraordinary times, you have the prime opportunity to do something special. Be faithful. Be loyal. Be hardworking. Be honorable. Be Christlike.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible reading is the Book of Ruth (just 4 short chapters worth the read).  You can read or listen to it at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ruth+1-4&version=NIV
Tomorrow we begin the book of 1st Samuel (chapters 1-3) as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan .  Or, there is no time like today to start!  

The Rest of Ruth

ruth 4 16
When Hope Seems Lost – Ruth 4
Naomi at the beginning of Ruth acts as if she has no hope. She knew she wouldn’t have more children and had nothing to offer Ruth. She was bitter and would rather go back to her homeland to live out her days as a jaded widow. However, this was not at all God’s plan and we can see God’s redemptive plan in 3 major areas. The first starts with Ruth. She is adamant in her conviction to stay with Naomi—God had captured her heart in Moab and he was able to work out his redeeming plan for Naomi’s family through her. Secondly the preserving of Boaz for Ruth shows God at work. In an online article on Ruth from desiringgod.org the author states, “But all the while God is preserving a wealthy and godly man named Boaz to do just that. The reason we know that this was God’s doing is that Naomi herself admits it in 2:20. She recognizes that behind the “accidental” meeting of Ruth and Boaz was the “kindness of God who has not forsaken the living or the dead.” Lastly, Ruth was previously married for 10 years and bore no children. In God’s redemptive work once Boaz and Ruth were married he opened Ruth’s barren womb and she bore a son. In some of the most hopeless situations God chooses to work mightily for his glory and to make himself known. So many pieces had to align in this account that we see God’s hand at work. Make sure to be fervent in prayer over hopeless situations. You never know how God is planning to work—His ways are higher than our ways!
Lineage of David – Covenant Blessing
Family is very near to God’s heart and has been an integral part of the Jewish culture since antiquity. In the earliest prophecies we see allusions to lineage such as “the seed of the woman” in the first messianic prophecy in Genesis. The Abrahamic covenant is a blessing pertaining to the descendants out numbering stars in the sky and sand in the sea shore. Then we see the importance of the birthright blessing between Jacob and Esau. God works through families and heritage and blessing being passed through the family line is a very important aspect to Jewish culture. For this reason Naomi thought her line had ended and that she also had no immediate hope of being cared for by her family. However, God blesses this faithful and righteous family by including them in the line of David. The last verses of Ruth 4 may seem like an after thought but it is a monumental indication of God’s favor. We find that the child of Ruth and Boaz is the grandfather to David, one of the greatest kings of Israel and ultimately in the line of Christ—the awaited Messiah and Savior of the world. What an honor to be included in the line God chose to keep his covenant with Israel and the world! We may not be part of the lineage of Christ but we can be part of the family of God. As we continue pursuing God we are co-heirs with Christ to the coming kingdom of God. This hope and blessing to come has the power to keep us rooted and grounded in love, steadfast in our perseverance as we await the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
-Shelby Upton

Provision, Patience and Perseverance

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Ruth 3:14-23

In the first half of Ruth 3 we find that Boaz responds favorably to Ruth’s advances and proposition. However there was an obstacle keeping them from moving forward in their relationship. Boaz explained to Ruth in verse 12 that even though he is her kinsman there was another relative closer in line that would have a stronger claim to her hand.  When Ruth is leaving Boaz after sleeping at his feet, under his cloak on the threshing floor Boaz tells to bring him the shawl she was wearing. When she holds it out to him Boaz takes 6 measures of the barley that he had been sleeping on the threshing floor protecting and gives them to her. He remarks that he doesn’t want Ruth to go back to Naomi empty handed, most likely as a sign of his acceptance of Ruth’s advances and to continue providing for them. I love how Boaz consistently takes up this role and responsibility as a provider in the way he takes care of both Ruth and Naomi. In many ways love relationships really do mirror Christ and the church — especially in the way God loves and cares for His people.
When Ruth returns to Naomi and tells her everything that happened — her first response is that they must wait. Naomi is sure of Boaz’s intentions and that he will move forward in settling the issue of another kinsman closer in relation to marry Ruth. We can see Ruth, Naomi and Boaz acting faithfully with patience and perseverance in this passage.  Ruth was patient — not making her requests known to Boaz until the time was right as was Naomi. Boaz too made sure to go through the right channels to pursue Ruth and who knows how long he had patiently been waiting for a woman to be available that had her character.
Is there an area in your life or situation where you aren’t trusting God’s leading and patiently waiting for his provision?
Shelby Upton

 

Strategic Righteousness

Ruth 3 11

Ruth 3: 1-13

The third chapter of Ruth has always been a little strange to me. Culturally I didn’t understand what Ruth was doing when she went to Boaz. Furthermore, I wondered was this action a little scandalous or was it appropriate for Ruth to go to Boaz in the night and lay at his feet?
In Ruth’s interactions with Boaz we can see Naomi’s hope is being restored. She is no longer focusing on the sadness of their past but making plans for the future.  We can boldly act on our hope with strategic righteousness because we know God fights for us and He does not withhold good from us.
After doing some research on Naomi’s instruction and Ruth’s following actions it became clear to me that all she did was with meaning and appropriate. When Ruth went to Boaz and lay at his feet this was an acknowledgement of his duty as their Kinsman, which also means he is a likely option for her as a husband.  In a commentary on Ruth 3 it explains, “She has gone willingly and now she takes the initiative to make clear to Boaz why she is there. “You are next of kin.” Or literally, “You are the redeemer: the one who can redeem our inheritance and our family name from being lost. I want you to fill that role for me. I want to be your wife.'”
As Ruth went boldly to Boaz he also responded to her with boldness saying in verses 10-11, “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.”
Ruth, Naomi and Boaz all act righteously but are bold in their actions toward one another and their requests to God. What we can institute in our own lives is to truly run after God and not have a spirit of fear or timidity. God has given us a commission to pursue holiness with a bold spirit.
2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
-Shelby Upton

Thankfulness and Greater Blessing

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Ruth 2:13-23

Ruth exemplified a beautiful thankful heart in the beginning of this passage. She recognizes that she is being blessed by the customs of a culture where she really has no right to reap (pun intended) the benefits. Ruth thanks Boaz for treating her with such kindness, tells him that he has put her heart at ease and hopes that she will continue to find favor in his eyes. He immediately responds to her humble heart with greater blessings that are above and beyond the custom. He invites her to eat with him — a prominent and wealthy man — as well as indicating to his servants in verse 15, As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up and don’t rebuke her.”
When Ruth returns to Naomi with the fruit of her labor, Naomi can tell that she had been truly blessed in her work and that someone had shown her great kindness. Here we see that Boaz is actually a close relative and Naomi and she determines that he is being kind and gracious due to the familial ties.  Naomi blesses Boaz for taking notice of Ruth and encourages her to stay with Boaz’ female servants as she knows no harm will come to her while she works in his fields. I believe the most important aspect of this passage that we can take away is thankfulness and humility.  Ruth is a hard worker who also shows great thankfulness in how she speaks to Boaz.  Not in every situation are we returned greater blessing when we have a thankful heart but we are called to be thankful to God. Ruth is really living out her faith by being grateful. Take a moment to search verses in the Bible on thankfulness. The Psalms especially are riddled with praising God and being thankful to him! One way to love God more deeply is cultivating this spirit of thankfulness and gratitude. In prayer today really thank God for who HE is and what HE has done — especially through Jesus to provide a way for salvation and our hope in the coming Kingdom of God.
Praise the Lord, all nations!

    Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord! (117:1-2)

-Shelby Upton

God’s Blessings

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Ruth 2:1-14

Ruth saw an abundance of God’s blessings as she followed him. In the Jewish law it was custom to let the poor and widows glean from the edges of the field in Israel. Ruth, abiding by this custom went into fields where Boaz had authority. When he saw her he asked who she was in Ruth 2:5. When the other workers commented on Ruth’s heritage and her work Boaz was impressed. He could see by her actions, the dedication and devotion she held to God and her family to protect and care for Naomi.
In response to this realization Boaz heaped a blessing on Ruth. He encouraged her to stay in his fields under his protection and gave her drink although she was a foreigner. By her loyalty Ruth was blessed by Boaz in very tangible ways.
Ruth 2:8-13 says,
“Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Don’t go and gather grain in another field, and don’t leave this one, but stay here close to my female servants. See which field they are harvesting, and follow them. Haven’t I ordered the young men not to touch you? When you are thirsty, go and drink from the jars the young men have filled.” She bowed with her face to the ground and said to him, “Why are you so kind to notice me, although I am a foreigner? ” Boaz answered her, “Everything you have done for your mother-in-law since your husband’s death has been fully reported to me: how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and how you came to a people you didn’t previously know. May the Lord reward you for what you have done, and may you receive a full reward from the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”
Ruth’s dedication to her family and God was seen very clearly by Boaz. In response to her actions he was moved to protect her and care for her. In these ways today our dedication to God can invoke such respect and provision. As we pursue God it is not beyond the realm of expectation to see God working in our lives especially as we make sacrifices to love and serve him. Have you seen God or others bless you as you have made sacrifices and commitments to serve him?
-Shelby Upton

Loyalty in the Family of God – Ruth 1

Ruth 1 16
In the first chapter of Ruth we see a beautiful example of Ruth choosing her allegiance wisely. Some may think at the surface level, Ruth stayed with her married family for provision and protection. However, Naomi was a widow—poor, needy and vulnerable in the culture. Especially during the time of a famine in a foreign land. The most advantageous move Ruth could have made would have been to weather the famine, stay in Moab and remarry therein ensuring her safety and security. Naomi even encouraged her to do so in Ruth 1:8-9. However, Ruth remained steadfast in her loyalty to Naomi and the God she had come to know when she became one with her husband and family so many years before. Ruth makes a bold declaration after her sister in law Orpah leaves saying to Naomi,
“But Ruth replied: Do not persuade me to leave you or go back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May Yahweh punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”
‭‭Ruth‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭HCSB‬‬
Ruth returned to Bethlehem as a Moabitess. She faced the possibility of being rejected and ostracized in a culture where she is not of the same heritage in Israel. Ruth takes this risk to lay hold to her loyalty to her family and God no matter the outcome as she goes alongside Naomi—who has lost all provision and security. What we can take away from Ruth’s example in this first chapter is the willingness to forsake all else as we follow God. Today it is common that we may have to renounce titles, friendships, status, position etc as we pursue a dynamic relationship with God. We are called to live differently and that is not without sacrifice. What may God be calling you to renounce as we die to self and commit our lives to knowing Him more deeply and allowing Him to love us fully?