Thursday, May 6, 2010

May 6

OT: Ruth 2:1-4:22

The story of Ruth and Boaz always does the same thing to me. At first, I get totally caught up in the love story. Boaz is so great to Ruth, so protective. I have always liked his kindness and generosity toward Ruth, but in light of what we have been reading in Judges, I now appreciate it 1,000 times more. This is how people are supposed to act! And I love why Boaz like Ruth. He does seem to be physically attracted to her, since he notices her in the fields and asks about her. But it's not just physical attraction; he seems to genuinely respect her goodness and her hard work. He praises her dedication to Naomi, and tries to help her without embarrassing her. I love it. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship...

...but then, harvest time passes...and nothing happens (2:23).

Really? Really, Boaz?

Finally, Naomi takes matters into her own hands and gives Ruth some perplexing instructions, which basically seem to amount to, "Go throw yourself at him." I've heard lessons on Ruth, but I have forgotten what is going on culturally with Ruth lying down at the feet of a drunk, sleeping man. I can't quite put my finger on the specific symbolism there, but the overall message seems to be, "I'm yours. Please take me." Boaz likes this (you think?), but then he is so daggone proper about all that needs to be done. I appreciate his deference to society's rules and his refusal to be carried away by passion, but I was not so appreciative of the way he worded it: "There is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I...[I]f he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it" (3:12-13). He acts like it is nothing to him if this other man marries Ruth or if he does. I get the feeling he cares more than those words let on, but still. Word choice is important, Boaz!

And I know that it is a different time period and culture and blah, blah, blah, but it will never get fun to read about women being treated as property. Boaz broaches the topic with the other kinsman-redeemer by talking about a field. And oh yeah, if you buy it, you will also "acquire" Ruth. She's thrown in for free. I know that Boaz probably had a specific reason that he went about things this way (since we learned when Abraham bought that field from Ephron that these transactions were complicated and that they involved a fair amount of show), but still. It wasn't incredibly cool to read.

I also love the story of the birth of Ruth's son. I liked how the women told Naomi that Ruth "is better to you than seven sons" (15). I also love how it says, "Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, 'Naomi has a son'" (16-17). Something tells me from those verses that Obed had a good Gaga:).

NT: John 4:43-54

Jesus says an interesting thing to the royal official with the sick son. When the official begs Jesus to come and heal his son, Jesus tells him, "Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe" (48). That seems a bit harsh, and I can picture the official thinking, "I don't want to see miraculous signs and wonders for their own sake; I want my son to be healed! I couldn't care less about just seeing miraculous signs!" I don't know quite what to make of it, but two things did occur to me. One, this response continues the character of John's Jesus as a somewhat harsh, defensive figure. So far, Jesus has wreaked havoc on the temple, chastised Nicodemus for being so blind, and fussed at this royal official. It also shows that Jesus' chief concern is not physical healing but the belief of the people. As Jesus makes clear with the healing of the paralytic, the purpose of the physical healing is to highlight the possibility of spiritual healing. And so, His chief concern is not for this boy's life, but for spiritual life for all the witnesses. That makes sense, in light of an eternal perspective that says we are saved by belief in Jesus. I also like to keep in mind, though, that Jesus does some things out of sheer compassion, as when he raised the widow's son from the dead.

Psalm 105: 16-36

The opening verses of this psalm say, "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts" (1-2). That is exactly what the psalmist is doing in the portion we read today. In these verses, God's sovereignty and omnipotence is highlighted. There is really nothing pleasant in what the psalmist recounts. The two main themes are suffering and God's control. The psalmist makes it clear that God orchestrated all that happened. Depending on your viewpoint, that can be a horrific thing or a comforting thing. It can be horrific if you don't trust God or if you rely on your own perception of good and bad. But if you do trust that God has a vision and a plan beyond our understanding, it is comforting to think that He is in control of all things, including the bad.

Proverbs 14:26-27

I love the idea of our fear of the Lord being a refuge for our children and a fountain of life.


  1. I'll go a step farther. I've said before (here and elsewhere) that if our only two choices are (a) The Bible is literally 100% true, right down to 6 days of creation, or(b) it's all fake, we're descended from monkeys, and there is no such thing as Truth, then I'll take option (a) every time. However, I do believe that there is a lot of real estate between those two extremes which take into effect the fact that the Bible can be True (with a capital T) and yet still not literal, due to the fact that the mind of God is way too big to be knowable by even the most advanced human. With that caveat, I'm very willing to entertain the concept that God, in His infinite goodness, mercy, and also justice, will save some folks who are not baptized Christians. There is a great scene in C.S. Lewis' last Narnia book, "The Last Battle," in which the virtuous Calormene comes face-to-face with Aslan at his judgement, and laments that for his whole life he has mistakenly served Aslan's enemy, Tash. Aslan answers him that had he done evil in the name of Aslan, that would have been true service to Tash, but that the Calormene's good done in Tash's name would be accepted as service to Aslan. Of course, Lewis isn't an inspired writer, but I like the idea. That doesn't mean for a minute that "anything goes," or that sincerity trumps Truth. It just recognizes that God gets to judge, and I don't. And I trust His judgement completely. I'll also add that if ANYONE is saved, whether Christian, Mormon, Muslim, or whatever, it is still the unmerited gift of God (Eph 2:8), which is bought with the blood of Jesus. So in that sense, even an unbeliever who God chooses to forgive for His own purposes, is still saved through/in the name of Jesus.

  2. As far as God's judgment being relative, I call to mind verses that say things like, "you will be judged in the same manner you judge others" and "to those who are responsible with much, much will be given, but as for those who are irresponsible with little, even what they have will be taken away from them," etc. I believe that, as far as people being saved, according to the Bible, Jesus has to be in the picture. However, based on the kinds of verses I mentioned, it does seem that God grades on a curve. There are two levels going on here. One is the black-and-white question of "Are you saved or aren't you saved?" The other is "How much reward or punishment will you get?" Will you be saved but "just as one escaping from the flames," or will you be given much because you were responsible with much? We do have to have Jesus to be saved, but I do think it is Biblical to say that God looks at each person's situation individually to determine their level of reward or punishment.

    OT: I like Ruth's story too. Something I noticed this time that I haven't connected with this story before is the positive impact of being "nice" to one's spouse. I know that the interaction we see between Ruth and Boaz is of them before they are actually married, but their relationship does seem that much sweeter because they are just plain nice, friendly, and respectful to each other. Imagine what American homes would look like if husbands and wives treated each other so kindly. That is definitely not what we see on sit-coms and so forth. Even a lot of couples I know personally are just plain mean to each other. I just don't think it is right.

    NT: I noticed that about Jesus' response to the man too. I wonder if he said that just to get the guy to articulate his faith. Maybe the man didn't realize just how much he did believe until he was in the position of having to defend his faith. (Just an idea.)

    Psalms: I love the story of Joseph. Seeing God's control in that story is definitely a "comforting thing" to me.

    Proverbs: When it says "fear of the LORD," I think of two things: 1) fear of punishment that causes "right" living and 2) love/respect (affection?) for God. I guess that's the same way a young child might think about a parent. There is love, but then sometimes the parent has to disciple the child for his/her own good. If the child changes his/her behavior, it will either be because he/she simply doesn't want to be punished again OR because he/she doesn't want to damage the relationship with the parent. With God, I think our motivation should be the latter. It makes sense, then, that we would escape death and have refuge in God if we fear hurting the relationship enough to do what He says to do. (Sorry, I needed to write that out so I could understand it better for myself.)

  3. Becky, that's the same theory that Randy Alcorn postulates in Heaven. Have you read that book? It's interesting.

  4. No, I have not read it. It will have to go on my list of books to read someday. (BTW, did you ever get a chance to look at that book I left with you?)

    Actually, I haven't looked into this idea too much, I am just trying to form thoughts that jive with what I remember having read in the Bible. I could see it being a binary, "in or out" kind of thing too, but then I wouldn't be quite sure what to make of the verses that seem to indicate otherwise. I think what I said makes sense, but I have not concluded anything absolutely yet.