This past Sunday our kids talked about Ruth and Naomi and how God gives us friends. This is a great passage to discuss friendship, and much more.
See, the book is named Ruth, and deals with her actions, but the story centers around Naomi. Naomi went from fullness (family, land, etc) to emptiness, or finding herself in a famine, leaving home, her family dying, and making the humiliating walk back home. Consider that Moab was one of the Israelites oldest enemies and the blood feud had been going on for a long while. So, to have taken refuge there, married off her sons to Moabite women, and then to slink back home would have had Naomi eating humble pie with every step. Why were Moabite women so hated? Well… there was a point during the wilderness period where the Israelite men had become… infatuated with the Moabite women and had… well… decided that if these hotties were worth cavorting with, they might as well worship their gods, too. That hadn’t worked out well and several executions later, things got back on track. However, the memory of that event lingered on.
That said, Naomi called herself Mara on returning home, a name which means “emptiness.” And she was, emotionally, physically, spiritually. Yet, there was a spark left – Ruth. And Ruth wasn’t a woman to take anything lying down. She got her happy self up, put on her farming clothes and went out to the local field to glean. The Mosaic Law had a provision for the poor in that edges of a field could not be harvested, but would be left out for the poor. So, being poor, Ruth collected what she could.
Here is where we get to what might be the start of a lovey-dovey romance story: man sees woman. And, yet, it’s more likely that Boaz really is a faithful God-follower and had an abundance of compassion because of that, hence his insistence that Ruth be given a little extra. Ruth comes back with a right haul, and Naomi is impressed.
“How’d you get all that?” said Naomi with huge eyes.
“Oh, this kind gentleman who owns the field left a little extra for me. He thinks he’s sneaky,” Ruth chuckled. “I’ll get dinner started.”
Naomi, however, began hatching a plan. If she remembered right, Boaz was related to her late husband, which meant that he might be next of kin to take care of both her and Ruth. After dinner she caught Ruth’s attention.
“Ruth,” said Naomi, “get your little black dress on, dust off the makeup kit, and we’ve got to do something with your hair.” Ruth, simply looked confused. “Don’t give me that look, you’ve got a mission tonight.”
Armed with her war paint and battle attire, Ruth went hunting. She crept into Boaz’s tent. He was in a tent out near the fields to prevent theft of the harvest, and so was mostly alone. Ruth threw the blanket off his feet and curled up at his feet. [If this sounds a little weird to you… good. Chances are it’s one of those biblical euphemisms like “he knew her” or “put his hand under his thigh.” One possible meaning is that feet is a euphemism for… guy parts. And, that would, in most situations certainly wake a guy up.]
Imagine Boaz’s surprise when he wakes up with a woman at his… feet. He did have the decency to ask her name at this point right before she asked him to “spread his cloak over her.” Ruth explained the situation, Boaz replies with a promise to solve the situation first thing in the morning. And Ruth stayed at his… feet… til the early morning, when she sneaked back home, with huge sack of barley from Boaz’s personal stash.
Boaz handled the problem and became Ruth’s husband. And then they had a baby, which Naomi cared for as her own. Naomi had now gone from empty to impossibly full again.
This is an amazing story about loyalty, faithfulness, and family. Ruth is loyal to Naomi, Boaz is loyal to his family, and God is faithful to Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz, even though God isn’t really mentioned much as an actor in this story. God remains in the background, but has clearly worked in order to bring about this restoration of Naomi.
Do you have a friend who is that loyal? Do your kids have a friend that loyal? What does it mean to remain loyal in a family? Does it mean always agreeing? Does it mean always doing this a particular way? How do you model faithfulness and loyalty in your home?