In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy has to pass through three booby traps to get to the grail. His father is mortally wounded by bad guy Donovan to force Indy to to risk his life in the traps. In one scene Indy is standing in the opening of the side of a mountain with nothing but sheer cliff face above and below him. He needs to get across a chasm and there is nothing but air. He closes his eyes and quietly says to himself, “it’s a leap of faith”. He then steps out on air and it becomes solid under his feet! A bridge is now visible and he can now see his next step. But until he took the first step there was nothing.
Some of us are planners. Some of us spend a lot of time flying by the seat of our pants. My husband likes order. He will ask me in the morning before I have finished my coffee, what do I want for supper. I don’t know! In fact I don’t know much of anything before I have my coffee! I get tickled at Mark (my pastor) and Marion (I’m probably going to get in trouble now!) But Mark is definitely a planner. He likes order. He amazes me how he will usually even have the timing down. And Marion? Well it is not that she doesn’t plan because I know she does, but her general approach to life is take the next step and then see what comes after that. In fact, I remember her family saying – the plan unfolds as it happens! What tickles me is watching them together. I have found that Marion and I tend to make Mark a little crazy sometimes. I KNOW I make my husband a little crazy! But today I am going to see a little validation for just taking the next step.
Maybe one day I will be able to stick with the snippet of scripture we are given in the lectionary readings but so far that has not happened. I get interested in “the rest of the story” Lately I have been studying the old testament through the filter of watching for things that point to Jesus and it has changed the way I see most of the readings.
Today I am going to give the condensed version of the book of Ruth and I hope you will join me in mining for gold as we walk it out and see if there is anything pointing us to the Jesus who was there at creation, was promised in the old testament, lived and died so that we also could have eternal life, who sent the Holy Spirit to abide with us, and will return for us because our creator has never and will never, ever, ever leave us alone.
Elimelech was married to Naomi and they lived in Bethlehem. They had two sons Mahlon and Chilion. They moved to Moab because of a famine in Bethlehem and Elimelech died there. Their sons married Moabite women – Orpah and Ruth. After ten years both sons died. In that time and culture women alone had no support so Naomi with no husband or sons decides to go back to Bethlehem where she came from and where she had heard that “The Lord had visited His people by giving the bread.” . Ruth 1:6
**In the future the Lord will visit His people and give them food only then He will not only provide bread, He will BE the bread – Jesus said “I am the bread of life”
Naomi believes the hand of God is against her. She tells her daughter-in-laws to stay and find themselves new husbands to care for them.
Orpah stays but Ruth refuses to leave Naomi and even though Naomi tries to talk her out of it, knowing she has nothing to offer the young woman, Ruth is determined.
Naomi and Ruth go to Bethlehem at harvest time. In those days, the harvesters would leave a little in the field and the poor could come along and pick it up.
Ruth asks Naomi to let her go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain. As it turned out she was “gleaning” in the field of Boaz. Boaz was a wealthy relative of Naomi’s husband. Boaz finds out who Ruth is and tells her to stay with the women who work with him – apparently this could be a dangerous undertaking for a woman alone and Boaz tells the men to not touch Ruth so she will be safe as she picks up the grain. Ruth is grateful but asks why he is being so kind to her. Boaz had heard how Ruth had stayed with and cared for her mother-in-law. He makes sure Ruth has something to eat and drink and plenty of grain to take back to Naomi. In 2:12 Boaz says “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
**God’s provision often comes through the love and faithfulness of His obedient servants!
When Ruth comes home with all this grain Naomi asks where the field was that Ruth got the grain from and when Ruth tells her where and how Boaz had been kind to her, Naomi blesses him and tells Ruth it is good that she stay in that field because she might be harmed elsewhere. She tells Ruth that Boaz is their relative and their “guardian-redeemer”
The phrase guardian-redeemer is a legal term for someone who has the obligation toredeem a relative facing extreme hardship Leviticus 25:35-37 says ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
Naomi sees that Boaz likes Ruth and tells Ruth what to to and Ruth obeys. Boaz ends up marrying Ruth and Ruth has a son – Obed who grows up to be the father of Jesse who is the father of David. The son is born in Bethlehem.
**Boaz redemption of Ruth foreshadows Christ’s redemption of His people .
In Chapter 4 verse 15 the women of the town bless Naomi, saying the son of Ruth and Boaz “shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourish of your old age”
**The renewal of Naomi’s life is only a foretaste of the complete restoration of eternal life that would be accomplished through God’s son.
So, while Ruth is a short book – only 5 and a half pages in my large print bible, there are many things that point us forward to the New Testament and Jesus Christ.
We finish with some of the most famous and beautiful words in the book of Ruth – Ruth 1:16-17
“Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people will be my people, and thy God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also. if anything but death parts you and me.”
What a beautiful picture of abiding in Jesus. This world brought trials to Naomi and Ruth but Ruth became more than a daughter-in-law to Naomi. She chose to become her daughter – truly her family. The logical, worldly thing to have done would have been to remain in her homeland and find a husband to care for her but she chose to stay with and care for Naomi and to step out in faith, to accept Naomi’s God as her own and her life was completely changed.
**God’s family is built on faith – not nationality. Ruth, a non-Israelite from Moab is an ancestor of Jesus
She was more than Naomi’s daughter in word, she went to work to see that there was food. She acted on her faith and her love for Naomi. She listened to and obeyed her mother-in-law and that obedience lead to her having a husband, a son and a new life that blessed her and Naomi and at a future time – all of us!
Like Naomi’s daughter-in-laws we are free to choose. We can stay where we are comfortable and safe and I am not saying that is completely bad…or we can take that first step on an adventure with our faith and the more I read my bible the more I see how true a description the word adventure is. God will always surprise me.
At the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade they reach the Grail chamber only to find dozens of cups – all different. Only the true grail brings life. The antagonist chooses a princely grail, gold and student with jewels and when bad guy Donovan drinks from it, he ages into dust. Indy chooses the true grail, a plain pewter cup and after being warned by the ancient knight who has been guarding the grail that it cannot be taken beyond the temple entrance, Indy carries it to his father who is instantly healed when he drinks from it. Elsa who had been hanging out with bad guy Donovan tries to leave with the grail and falls to her death. Indy nearly falls into the same trap but his father persuades him to let it go and they escape the temple and ride off into the sunset. Often what looks like the good choice from worldly perspective is the opposite and sometimes we hang on to things to tightly. Our faith wasn’t meant to be something we hoard – it was meant to be shared. Some things are meant to stay in the temple but we aren’t. We are supposed to go out to a world that needs us to be Ruth, to be Naomi, to be Boaz.
How would we be changed if we pursued God with the determination that Ruth had? What if we made the choice to leave the world we are familiar with behind and how would our world change if we were all to choose to make that kind of commitment to abide in Christ – to go wherever Christ would go, for Christ’ people to be our people, to be Jesus for those in need in a broken world.
When Ruth determined to stick with Naomi, she had no idea how things were going to turn out. She didn’t know that she would marry and have a son. She just saw the next step and she took it.
Deuteronomy 33:27 tells us “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms”
Father help us to remember your everlasting arms. John 15:6 reminds us that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches and that we can do nothing without staying connected to and having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
We know that there will be trials, famines, and loss, but your Word assures us that underneath – your everlasting arms are there holding us and all we have to do it trust you and take that first step in obedience. You have already provided the bridge across the chasm.