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