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from glory to glory…

Shavuot/The Feast of Weeks: A Gentile Woman with a Heart for Israel’s God

I am the Lord…and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.

–Exodus 6.6-7

In the Hebrew/Biblical calendar the Feast of Shavuot this year is on Sunday, June 12. And one of the traditions of the Feast of Shavuot is the reading of the Book of Ruth in the Bible. As it “happens” this year, I am teaching Sunday School in my congregation, and the curriculum we are using—completely unconscious of the Biblical Feasts—features the story of Ruth for this week…

I have been having fun making my flannel background for the felt story figures, and planning an activity or two for the particular perspective suggested by the writers of the curriculum.

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Sewing my lesson backgrounds

But most of all, I have been knocked over at the marvelous, glorious grace and power of God in the life of a Gentile woman who meets up with an Israelite family down on their luck in her home town in Moab…

 

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Previewing a scene layout

The epic tale of Ruth takes place against the backdrop of the drama of the period of Judges. The time is marked by the ebbs and flows of Israel’s devotion to the God Who took them to be His people and who keeps all His promises…

The story of Ruth begins when Naomi and Elimelech, two of the children of Israel from the tribe of Judah, in the region of Bethlehem, marry and bear two sons… During a time of great economic trouble brought about by the oppression from neighboring alien tribes, they take their two sons, leave Bethlehem, and go to live in the land of one of their enemies—Moab. During their ten-year residence in Moab, their two sons marry Moabite women, and before the ten years is past, Elimelech, and the two sons die, leaving Naomi and the two Moabite wives widowed and childless…

Naomi is devastated by the loss of her husband and two sons; she is a widow with no one of her own blood to care for her; she is an Israelite widow in a land which is inhabited by people who are hostile toward the Israelites and their occupation of Canaan… She has two Moabite daughters-in-law, and in her bereavement, she releases them from any commitment to her, and sends them back to their culture. Naomi’s yearning is to return to the land of her God and her people. In short, she would rather be a poor, childless widow in the land of her God and her people than enjoy all the cultural offerings and pleasure comforts of Moab. Surprise of all surprises! While one of the daughters-in-law returns to her Moabite culture, the other Moabite daughter-in-law declares her heart to Naomi: “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God…May the LORD strike me dead if I depart from you for any reason but death.”  Her name is Ruth…  Only a personal attachment to Naomi? No. It is more than that. The Spirit of the God of Israel has given Ruth a heart to know Him; it His name she invokes in her intention, not the name of the Moabite god Baal…

Meanwhile, back in Bethlehem, there is a close relative of Elimelech who has not found the right girl to marry. His name is Boaz. By the grace of God, he has survived at least one of the periods of chastening when God brought Israel’s enemies upon her for her blatant rebellion against Him. That chastening came in the form of severe militant oppression by an enemy tribe who would steal, pillage and destroy farm lands, livestock, homes, and carry away the women and children… Here in the time of the rocky relationship between Israel and God is a moment of grace and glory. God uses this moment in the period of upheaval to give attention to an important, world-changing promise…

Boaz has managed to make a home and a lucrative living from his land. He is enjoying an abundant harvest of barley in the spring of the year…The yield on his land is attracting the poor who have gathered to glean what they can from the leavings…

So Naomi and Ruth make their journey from Moab to Bethlehem, and upon arriving, Naomi directs Ruth to find a field where she can glean… And Ruth finds the field of Boaz…  Dumb luck? I think not…

Ruth puts feet on her faithfulness by her kindness and care for Naomi and her conduct in the gleaning patch. Boaz recognizes a woman of virtue when he sees one.  Was there no faith like Ruth’s among any of the women in Israel? As he marveled at this blessing from God, Boaz makes the decision to embrace the role of kinsman redeemer. At such a time as that, Boaz resolved to pay the price for the rights and responsibilities to own and steward Elimelech’s property; to marry Ruth and to give his cousin an heir…

So an Israelite man of the tribe of Judah marries a transformed Moabite woman of faith and they have a son who will be the grandfather of David…

…And another thing that knocks me over is that Elimelech and Naomi took their two sons to Moab to find relief from a life-threatening famine in their own land, only to end up childless and dead in Moab…Trying to avoid destitution by leaving their inheritance behind in troubled times, they ended up dead and destitute in a land pedaling a prosperity cult…

But behind the scenes in Glory, The Godhead takes counsel: Father, Son and Holy Spirit all agree for the work. The Father draws Ruth, and the Holy Spirit puts His love in a heart which beat inside a body born of the enemy Moabites. And Ruth loses everything for His sake, and God makes her the great grandmother of David… Ruth declares from the heart the Spirit of the Living God quickened to new life:

Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.

–Ruth 1.16

God uses her to be part of His plan to keep His promise to provide The Redeemer to deliver us from our soul’s SELF-imposed sickness and poverty and starvation… even in such a time as this…

A Gentile woman chosen by God from among her people to be included in the line of Faith… A Gentile woman chosen by God from among her people to be used of the God of Israel to work out another part of His plan and promises…

So am I, for such a time as this…

25th anniv

Baruch HaShem Adonai

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