Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
The Judges Era
How Much Do You Know?
· Was Ruth Jewish? And if so, what tribe was she from?
· Why did Naomi want to return to Judah?
· What did Ruth do when she approached the sleeping Boaz?
· What does it mean to be a kinsman-redeemer?
Committing the sin of pride against God by wanting to be as wise as God, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and the curse of sin would affect and infect all of creation! The very ground in which the Garden had grown became cursed. God told them, “Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you” (Genesis 3:17b-18a). After Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, it did not take them long to figure out that there would be times when the food would be hard to come by.
Since that time, the Scriptures tell us about a number of famines that happened in the areas where God's people were living. In Genesis 12:10 (NLT) it says, “At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.” Although we cannot know the mind of God and why God brought this famine at this time, we do know that because of it Abraham comes out of Egypt with a vast amount of wealth and servants including a young woman through whom a whole nation would be born. There would also be a famine during Isaac's lifetime. Because of the series of events caused by the famine, Isaac would have an encounter with God at Beersheba that would not only change his life but would direct future history toward the birth of the Savior!
God would also use the famine in Egypt during Joseph's lifetime to insure that Israel survived so that they could serve the Lord and enter the Promised Land where the Savior would be born. Then after forty years in the wilderness, Moses sings a prophetic song as the Lord speaks through him to the children of Israel. In that song God tells them, “For my anger blazes forth like fire and burns to the depths of the grave. It devours the earth and all its crops and ignites the foundations of the mountains. I will heap disasters upon them and shoot them down with my arrows. I will weaken them with famine, burning fever, and deadly disease.” (Deuteronomy 32:22-24a NLT).
God knew they would not follow Him as He had commanded them in the wilderness. As He spoke through Moses before the crossing of the Jordan, He knew it was only a matter of time… “The Lord says, ‘Am I not storing up these things, sealing them away in my treasury? I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.’” (Deuteronomy 32:34-35 NLT).
And that day finally came… “Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land.” (Ruth 1:1).
Through this lesson, we should come to understand that the same God - the One and Only God - who was at work in Naomi, Ruth and Boaz, is at work in our lives as well. We should also realize that since God is constantly and faithfully at work in and around us, we should live in faith and trust God for the outcomes of our situations and leave the worry at His feet.
1. A Famine in the Land!
“It was a dark and rainy night when she walked in the door.” Have you ever read a mystery book that began something like that? That’s pretty much the way Ruth begins. “Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab…” (Ruth 1:1). God never designed the world or man for such destructive things as famines, but because of sin, the dust of the ground often times will not produce enough food for man to eat. With a lack of rain or diseases in the crops, people become hungry and hopefully, more dependent upon the Lord?
Sometimes famines can be both man made and weather related. Like the Dust Bowl Famine of the 1930’s. American pride and political correctness may keep American history books from using the word “famine” when this period is described, but it was a famine. Some areas of the high plains went without rain for eight years! Numbers of Americans, including children and infants, died from breathing the silica found in the tiny dust particles. “A massive dust storm 2 miles high traveled 2,000 miles before hitting the East Coast on May 11, 1934. For five hours, a fog of prairie dirt enshrouded landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and the U.S. Capitol inside which lawmakers were debating a soil conservation bill.” https://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-dust-bowl
Although the cause of the famine is unknown during the time of the Judges, it may have been as severe as the Dust Bowl was for the United States. Now imagine being in Israel: no food, no crops were going to be harvested, the streams and wells were drying up, dust storms and death were a common everyday occurrence! With that in mind, we begin to understand why the Lord begins the Book of Ruth with the words “there was a famine in the land.” It was no small thing. Many people were starving and those who could move away and find food and water did just that.
Understanding the physical famine that occurred may help us understand the deeper meaning God included in the first line of the book…
2. The Dryness of Missing the Word of God
As I read and study the Book of Ruth, I realized very quickly that anytime God begins a book with something as big as a famine in the whole land, which is driving people away, something very important is represented by that event. There has to be more to it than just a physical famine in the land. When you consider that there are just over 800,000 words (NASB) and that the word “famine” is mentioned only about ninety-seven times in the Scriptures, we realize that it might be a word that would be worth paying attention to. For me, the word jumped out at me like a squirrel on my back porch! The Hebrew word for famine is Ra`ab (pronounced - raw-awb') and it means - famine, hunger, famine (in land, nation), hunger (of individuals). But, here is something very interesting! It was also used as a figure of speech for “a famine of Jehovah's word!”
That's what God is telling us! During the time of the Judges the people kept repeating the cycle of complacency, sin, judgment, a plea for help and then deliverance over and over and because of this the revelation of the Word of God was a rare occurrence in those days! It was a physical famine, but the deeper truth was that it was a spiritual famine that brought worse consequences to the land of Israel than any food shortage ever could! Just before Samuel becomes the last judge of Israel, the Lord tells us, “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.” (1 Samuel 3:1).
Because of the many centuries that the Scriptures cover, there must have been countless famines around the world. But, there are only about fourteen famines that are talked about in the Scriptures and every time they are talked about it is easy to see that there was always double famine! Physical and spiritual. But there is always hope in the Lord for those who love Him! “Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah.” (Ruth 1:6-7 NLT). When Naomi, Ruth and Orpah lost their husbands; they had no idea in those dark times that there was no need to fear because God was at work and the barley harvest was coming.
3. The Deeper Meaning of Tribulation - The Harvest is almost here!
Why does tribulation come? There are too many different reasons to look at in our lesson, but one thing is for sure, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29). The Lord tells us that He has always known what would take place throughout all of history and that He has been and is working all things together to accomplish His will! His will is that all things that happen to His people result in our loving Him because He has a purpose for us! Throughout all of history, God is working behind the scenes to direct the path of mankind back to Him. Allowing what He will allow. Denying what He will deny.
Giving what He will give and taking what He will take!
And it was no different for Israel! God will reveal his heart of Grace toward Israel many times but I think that Isaiah 43 is one of the most touching passages... “But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.’” (Isaiah 43:1-5a NLT).
There is no doubt in my mind that Naomi was a worshipper of Jehovah. She must have set quite an example for Ruth to say to her, “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.” (Ruth 1:16b-17a NLT). And Naomi is our example as well. Never lose hope in what God is doing even when you cannot see His hand working! There is a song by Babbie Mason that says, “God is too wise to be mistaken, God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don't understand, when you don't see His plan, when you can't trace His hand,
trust His heart!” In the darkest moments of life, when it seems you are at rock bottom, always know this: the barley harvest is coming!
4. Connecting It To Christ - The Kinsman Redeemer
God's hand is at work in such a way. That it is not just about food or surviving through a famine. Because of the famine, Ruth is going to glean grain from Boaz's field and Boaz is going to take quite a liking to her. In fact, they are going to end up getting married and having a child named Obed. They will take the child and lay it up on the breast of Naomi and that child is the grandfather of David. The greatest king of Israel. A man after God's Own heart. Although Naomi was not his paternal grandmother, she helps to raise Obed as though he were her own son. The godly life of Naomi is obviously an influence on Obed that passes on to Jesse through which godly teachings and the fear of the Lord obviously passed on to Jesse’s sons. The youngest of which was probably writing songs as a teenager about the Lord that would be put into the Bible in the Book of Psalms.
Boaz is the kinsman-redeemer for Naomi's family. What is a kinsman-redeemer? It is exactly what it sounds like! It is the next of kin who becomes a redeemer who would help someone in their family in the times of their deepest needs. The redeemer as a rescuer who saves them. Ruth and Boaz may be one of the sweetest love stories that paints a picture of Jesus and His bride, the church. Ruth makes a wonderful plea to her kinsman redeemer in chapter 3. Boaz had eaten supper and went to sleep there at the threshing floor and during the night, Ruth slipped in to where Boaz was and slept there at the feet of Boaz. When Boaz awoke and realized someone was there, he did not know who it was… “He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.’” (Ruth 3:9 ESV).
Application: What does this lesson teach us about God? Man? Sin? Grace?
What a picture of surrender! When Ruth arose from the feet of Boaz, we do not read anything that indicates that Ruth was ever worried about the situation again. It looks to me like she took her plea to the feet of her redeemer and left it there for him to decide the outcome. What a great picture! Following in Ruth’s footsteps, may we all say to the Lord, “I am your servant… Spread your wings over me, for you are my Redeemer!” Let us approach the feet of Jesus and make our pleas and leave them there for Him to decide the outcome!
In Ruth, we see that God weaves Ruth’s story into the story of Israel by His Grace! Israel’s story is His story! God is also weaving your story into His Story! He has been at work throughout time in order to bring about the birth of Christ and the salvation of those who follow Christ! If you are saved from your sins as I am, then we have followed the instruction found in Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved!” We have a Redeemer! And just like Ruth’s redeemer, Boaz, who went to the gate of the city and redeemed Naomi and Ruth from the un-named kinsman, Jesus came to earth to become a man. (See: Ruth 4:1-12.) He came to be our next of kin! And, He has redeemed us for His own. “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people.” (Luke 1:68 NLT). He paid the debt that the un-named kinsman (the Sacrificial Law!) could not pay! (See: Romans 8:2-4.) Because our kinsman (Jesus) was willing to pay the price (His own life blood) and redeem us (1 Corinthians 6:20), we have been saved (Eph. 2:8-9) and are saved! And we will remain saved and someday “...so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 KJV). Glory belongs to the Lord Almighty!!! (Teachers - I had to sit and think about the kinsman-redeemer thing for a while before God gave me some clarity!!! At least I hope it was Him! Let me know if I am not making sense or I am wrong?)
God works through His will and ways and He uses our efforts for good in the Kingdom of God. He is at work, not only in the past, but also in our present. He works in us and through the things around us. Because we can know this from His Word and through the Holy Spirit, we must walk in faith even in or especially in the hard times and let Him take care of the outcome. Leave the worry to Him! You live for Christ!
The same God that worked through Abraham and his fear, Isaac and his worry, Jacob and his self-centeredness, Moses and his temper, Samson and his ego… IS AT WORK IN YOU! You can trust that this old statement is always true… GOD USES ORDINARY PEOPLE TO ACCOMPLISH HIS EXTRAORDINARY PURPOSES!
Now… Go out and let God use you to do something extraordinary!
What Have You Learned?
Here's the list of daily Bible readings for the week before this lesson:
Monday, JUDGES 16:1-17:13
Tuesday, JUDGES 18:1-31
Wednesday, JUDGES 19:1-30
Thursday, JUDGES 20:1-48
Friday, JUDGES 21:1-25
Saturday, RUTH 1:1-2:23
Sunday, RUTH 3:1-4:22
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