Kindness

Kindness does not go unnoticed.  Kindness may be done in secret in such a way that no one knows who performed the kind deed, but the kind deed does not go unnoticed.  Sir Nicholas Winton organized a rescue operation that saved the lives of 669 Jewish Czechoslovakian children from Nazi death camps, and brought them to the safety of Great Britain between the years 1938-1939.  This man’s valiant efforts remained unknown for 50 years until his wife found a scrapbook with a complete list of the children’s names with their photo.  This man’s kindness was not forgotten, but he remained unknown for 50 years.  This is the story of true servant hood and humility. Sir Nicholas Winton counted “others more significant than himself.” (Philippians 2:3)

Ruth showed kindness to Naomi by sacrificing what was comfortable to her.  Ruth left her parents, her native land, and the people she knew to go to a place she did not know and live amongst people she did not know.  Moving involves change and it takes time to become adjusted to this type of change in our lives, even if the move is an exciting one.  Ruth not only left her parents, she also left the culture with which she was familiar.  She left Moab for Bethlehem not with her husband or her family, but with her mother-in-law.   We have all heard plenty of mother-in-law jokes, but of all the people to move to a new culture, most would not pick their mother-in-law to move with.  Not only would most people not move with their mother-in-law, most would not go with the same commitment expressed by Ruth in Ruth 1:16-18.

Ruth’s kindness did not go unnoticed or unrewarded.  Due to Ruth’s kindness, Boaz instructed his harvesters to leave extra grain for Ruth to glean. (Ruth 2:15, 16).  Ruth still had to work for the grain, but Boaz wanted to be sure that Naomi and Ruth were taken care of.  This was not a free handout situation, but rather a generosity on the part of Boaz.

Ruth did not come to Boaz’s field by accident, but rather Ruth was directed by God.  Ruth “happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz. (Ruth 2:3).  The irony of the word “happened” is clearly seen as we continue to read this story we see how God orchestrated this meeting between Ruth and Boaz.  Psalm 37:23 “The steps of a man are directed by the Lord, when he delights in His ways.” God was caring for Ruth every step of the way and watching out for Naomi too.

Not only do we see Ruth’s kindness and her willingness to work, but also we see her generosity.  Boaz generously provided food for the gleaners for their meal, and after Ruth was satisfied she tucked away her leftovers and took them to Naomi.  We see in Ruth her continual desire to care for others and treat others better than herself.  There was nothing that Ruth was going to receive in the process of her kindness, but she willingly served.

How many people do we know that willingly serve with no desire to be repaid?  There is nothing they want in return, but rather their desire is to serve others selflessly.  The more we practice this trait the easier it becomes and the more satisfaction we receive just from serving; however, we must guard against pride in our serving.  God needs to receive all the glory for without Him we would not have the ability to serve.

Questions:

  1. In Ruth 2:3, we see that Ruth “happened” to come to Boaz’s field. Have you had a time in your life when God ordered your circumstances and you saw His hand working and a situation “happened?”
  1. Read Proverbs 16:9. The word “established” means “directs.”  Have you seen your plans change and God “direct” your steps and it worked out better than you would have ever hoped?
  1. Why do you think Ruth was willing to leave her homeland and come to a new country with her mother-in-law?
  1. What blessing does Boaz speak over Ruth in Ruth 2:12?
  1. What is Ruth’s response to Boaz’s blessing? (Ruth 2:13).
  1. After Ruth worked all day, she had to beat her barley into flour. She had gleaned enough to make an ephah of flour.  An ephah is equal to about 5.5 gallons which would be enough for two women to eat on for two weeks.  How does God provide for those who are faithful to Him?
  1. What was Naomi’s response to what Ruth brought home after a full day of work? (Ruth 2:19-20)

Heart Warming Devotion

The story of deep devotion and heartfelt faithfulness stir us and cause us to want to have that same devotion in our lives.  We want someone to love us so deeply, to be committed to us so strongly, and be willing to sacrifice everything for our happiness and well-being.  Ruth is that kind of lady with that kind of story.  As we read Ruth 1:15-18, the sense of deep devotion and determination to remain faithful to Naomi that Ruth shows is compelling and heart-warming.

As I read these verses I am stirred at the level of devotion that Ruth had for Naomi.  How many of us would want this level of faithfulness from a friend or family member in our lives?  How many of us would want this level of commitment from a fellow human being?  As we continue reading this heart-warming story we will continue to see Ruth’s devotion for her mother-in-law.  People are so important, and yet how many times do we cheapen a friend or an acquaintance by treating them poorly?  I must say I am so guilty of this.  The root cause of this is selfishness on our parts.  The more selfish we are the more poorly we treat others.  Ruth sacrificed everything about herself for the sake of her mother-in-law and for her God.

As we continue reading Ruth 1:19-22, we see Naomi having a pity party for herself.  Instead of seeing the blessing in Ruth and praising Ruth’s devotion, Naomi wants everyone to feel sorry for her.  Naomi means “amiable or pleasant one,” but she wanted to change her name to Mara which means “bitter.”  Life is difficult and many times unfair, at least in our minds we think of life as being unfair, but God has a different plan in mind and we cannot always know the mind of God.  God had ordained in the life of Ruth that she would be part of a genealogical line that would change the world.  When God is working, we must be careful not to get in the way of what God is doing.

“And they came at the beginning of barley harvest” (Ruth 1:22) is a significant statement in this story and is the foundation for what is to come.  The Israelites were farmers.  They planted crops and raised animals (mostly sheep) in order to provide for their families.  Naomi and Ruth had no way of providing for themselves and our account does not tell us where they lived, but we can assume they went back to Naomi’s house.  With no men in their lives, their livelihood would depend upon what these two women could manage on their own.  A common practice during this time was gleaning.  As the fields were being harvested, those who were poor and destitute would go the fields and pick up the grain that was dropped during the harvest in order to provide for their families.  These gleaners were commonly women.

Ruth goes out to glean and as God always directs our steps, He directed Ruth to a near relative of Naomi.  When Boaz asks about Ruth he is informed she is the woman that returned with Naomi.  There was no newspaper or TV, so through the grapevine everyone found out about Ruth.  In a small village like Bethlehem, it was easy for news to spread, and like wildfire this news spread.

We see in Ruth a good work ethic, a sense of humility, and an attitude of respect.  “She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers. So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” (Ruth 2:7)   There is no sense of entitlement, but rather a willingness to work hard and follow the proper channels of reaping by asking permission first.  Ruth does not act as if the Israelites owe her anything, but rather she treats these people with humble respect.

Questions:

  1. Who is first introduced in Ruth 2:1?
  2. What kind of man is Boaz?
  3. Whose suggestion was it to glean in Ruth 2:2?
  4. We are introduced to Boaz in Ruth 2:1, 2 and see the story unfold in the rest of the chapter. What other things do we see about Boaz’s character in Ruth 2:4, 5, 8, 9?
  1. What else do we see about Ruth’s character in Ruth 2:10?
  1. As the exchange between Ruth and Boaz continues we continue to see their character. They continue to treat each other with respect and Ruth’s humility continues to shine through the pages of Scripture.  As you read Ruth 2:10-13, think about our society today.  Do we see this kind of respect and humility in most people we meet?
  1. Do you see this kind of respect and humility in yourself?
  1. Whether you do or you do not, what can you do to improve in this area?
  1. Read Philippians 2:3, 4 and write down some ideas in your everyday life that you can put this into practice.
  1. I do not enjoy being around selfish people; they talk about themselves and do all they can to satisfy their own desires. A person that is humble with respect for others is a much more pleasant person to be around.  Why do we shy away from being this humble respectful person?

Decisions

Decisions.  I love a good story.  My husband loves to watch sports on TV and most of the time I could take it or leave it, but when a biography sketch comes on about a player’s life, I am captivated.  I love to hear how they took what they were given and worked hard to overcome the circumstances in their lives to become a great athlete. Those stories always give hope to people who are wallowing in their circumstances hoping to make something successful out of the pieces of their lives.

Decisions. Ruth is just that kind of story. The events of Ruth took place during the time of the judges (Ruth 1:1) as a famine was taking place.  Difficult times call for action in our lives.  If we are injured or gravely ill, we seek medical assistance.  If a person breaks their arm they do not sit around and wait for their arm to heal, rather they go to the emergency room or the doctor’s office and seek medical assistance.  One summer we were driving home from a week-end away, and the tire on the boat trailer popped.  After we safely pulled over, my husband changed the tire and we continued on our way.  We did not sit by the side of the road and hope that someone would come along and change the tire for us, nor did we sit in our car and wait for the police to come to solve this problem.  No, we got out of the car and changed the tire.

Decisions.  The story of Ruth actually begins with Elimalech taking his family: Naomi, his wife; and Mahlon and Chilon, his two sons, to Moab to find food due to the famine in Israel.  Now we can look at these circumstances from two different perspectives.  In essence, we see that Elimalech had two different choices before him.  He could have stayed in Bethlehem and trusted that God would provide for their needs, or he could have left Bethlehem and gone to another country that did not have a shortage of food from the famine.  Recall from Israel’s history how Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy food, and only later did they move to Egypt due to the position of Joseph, Jacob’s son.  Abraham went to Egypt with Sarah in search of food during a time of famine.  Searching for food during a time of famine was not uncommon to the Israelite people as their ancestors had also done this.  When we make big decisions, it is important to seek God and ask for His direction in our lives.

Decisions.  There is no written record of Elimelech seeking God for direction in this major decision.  However, we may find a clue that he did seek God’s direction by looking at the meaning of Elimelech’s name, my God is king.  As we submit to the Lordship of God in our lives, we must also see that recognizing God as King means seeking God for direction in major decisions.

Decisions.  Elimelech set out with his family to Moab which is located on the east side of the Dead Sea.  Moab was not suffering from the famine so this was a place Elimelech could take his family and provide for their needs and also not travel too far from home.  The story quickly goes from bad to worse as Elimelech dies followed by the death of his sons.  Now Naomi is left in a foreign country with two foreign daughters-in-law.  So the story unfolds now with the stage set.  Calamity upon calamity for Naomi and she takes this to heart and wants her name changed to “Mara” which means “bitter.” (Ruth 1:20)

Questions:

  1. Read Ruth 1 and record the events that are significant to the story.
  1. Read Genesis 19:30-38 and record where Moab came from.
  1. According to Ruth 1:6 what news did Naomi hear and what decision did she make?
  1. What did Naomi tell her daughters-in law to do in Ruth 1:8?
  1. Initially it seems the daughters-in-law were going to go with Naomi back to Bethlehem, but then Naomi seemed to insist that they return home to their mother’s home. What seems to be Naomi’s hope according to Ruth 1:9 for her daughters-in-law?
  1. We can see the ancient custom of marrying the husband’s sibling if the husband passes away, especially if there are no offspring to carry on the name of the deceased husband. Why was Naomi so insistent that her daughters-in-law return home? See Ruth 1:11-14.
  1. In Ruth 1:14, we see that Ruth and Orpah made different decisions. The word “clung” in Hebrew means “loyalty or devotion.”  Orpah left and went back to her parents’ home, but Ruth remained loyal to Naomi, her mother-in-law.   As you read the next part of the story, Ruth 1:15-18, describe this kind of loyalty and devotion in your own words.
  1. What is the difference between what Naomi said about Orpah in Ruth 1:15, and what Ruth said in Ruth 1:16?

Forgiveness

Forgiveness.  This is an endearing word when you are on the receiving end of forgiveness.  When you have committed an offense and there is a break in your relationship with someone, there is nothing sweeter than the forgiveness of a friend/relative and a restored relationship.

Forgiveness.  Genesis 3:21 “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”  This verse is a foreshadowing of what is to come and it is the beginning of the price that must be paid to atone for the sins of man.  Up until this time the world was perfect.  There was no death and no destruction.  Remembering back to Genesis 1:29 “And God said, “‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’”  God gave to man and animals green plants to eat according to this verse which were the original directions from God for sustenance.  No animals were slaughtered, so man and animals ate green plants. Until this point according to the Bible, there was no death because there was no sin.  Now with sin in the world, death entered the world.  Until this point, man and animals ate only green plants so there was no death related animals being slaughtered for food.  Neither were animals killed for the sport of it.  There was no death.

Forgiveness.  With the entrance of sin into the world, there was the entrance of death and the first executioner was God Himself.  According to Genesis 3:21, the Creator of the Universe took one or two animals and used their skins to make clothes for the man and the woman.  God loved these people so much He was willing to sacrifice something that He had created (animals) to cover the nakedness of the man and the woman.   With this sacrifice also came the first covering or atonement for sin.  Atonement happens through the payment for sin via the sacrifice and shedding of blood to cover our sins and provide reconciliation between God and man/woman.  In essence, when God sacrificed these animals and provided “garments of skins” for the man and woman, the death of the animals was the initial payment for their sin.  The final payment would not take place until the death of Jesus on the cross. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).  God willingly sacrificed his creation (the animals) and eventually His Son to pay the penalty for sin so atonement and reconciliation could take place.  God did not seek to just forgive their sin, but rather He wanted to go further than this and reconcile the relationship.

Forgiveness.  The sacrifice of the animals was a visual demonstration to the man and the woman from God that though they had sinned and made a barrier between them, God willingly broke the barrier in order to forgive their sins and reconcile their relationship.  God did not wash His hands and say, “I am done with this mess that is taking place with My creation, they will have to figure this out for themselves.”  Rather God continued to intervene and desire to be involved in the lives of the human beings He created.  As we read through the Bible, we can see this repeatedly along with repeated rejection of God by the human race.

Forgiveness.  Is there someone that you need to forgive or someone that has wronged you?  If so do not waste any more time.  Forgive and repair the relationship.  As demonstrated in Genesis 3:21 God wants restored and reconciled relationships, not broken ones.