Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
The tag of this mornings reading is the point of the story. God has taken an outsider who was faithful to her mother in law, and made her the great grandmother of one of the most famous characters in the entire Bible. Naomi’s journey of being forced to leave her home, to the death of her husband and sons, is wrapped up her returning home to be the most blessed state there is—being a grandmother!
There is some interior evidence in this story which shows that it was written quite a while after the actual events. The writer thinks it is necessary to explain to us that there was an old custom in those days. How many years after the event would it have to be for no one to even be aware of that particular practice anymore?
This entire story is filled with traditions we don’t really understand. Land was not to be sold and transferred from one family to another. It was to stay with the people who originally owned it. If no one in the family were to survive, there was a system for figuring out where the land should go. The closest relative should get it. However, and this is a BIG however, if it is possible for the original owner’s family to continue to own the land, it must be kept in their name. It is this exception that Boaz is counting on when he let’s Ruth know that he’ll take care of it. I love the way the story plays out. Boaz indicates he’d be willing to take over the land, but knows there is a closer relative who has the first chance. He let’s this man know he is in line to have it. The man is happy to get the land, but not so happy to be getting a new wife in the deal. And, especially unhappy to know that the land would belong to any children he might have with this new wife. His current wife would kill him if he took this on. When this nameless relative declines, Boaz graciously steps forward and says he will take on the responsibility.
I love too how the women of the town gather around the new baby and bless it. I think we’ve lost some of that gift. If you are a grandparent, your primary job is to bless children, to adore them, to dote on them, to spoil them. They don’t even have to be your grandchildren, just random kids on the street. People experience plenty of curses and judgment (especially from people of faith I’m sorry to say). They don’t receive nearly enough blessing. You don’t have to be ordained, you don’t even need to be a grandparent (but it might help). Just start blessing children. Start with a silent blessing. Then try blessing someone you know. Then just start proclaiming blessings everywhere you go. Children are a blessing from God, all children are precious to God and loved by God, but many of them don’t know it yet. We just need to remind them of who they really are.
Quotes for the Week
“Some people come in our life as blessings. Some come in your life as lessons.” Mother Teresa
“Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family.” Ibid
“Those who were raised in poverty and have been successful to overcome the shame of it, understands the hardship of those who are left behind.” Ellen J. Barrier
“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” Orson Welles
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity” Gilda Radner
“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” Madeleine L’Engle
“Life keeps throwing me curve balls and I don’t even own a bat. At least my dodging skills are improving.” Jayleigh Cape
Lesson Ruth 4:1-17 (The Message)
4 Boaz went straight to the public square and took his place there. Before long the “closer relative,” the one mentioned earlier by Boaz, strolled by.
“Step aside, old friend,” said Boaz. “Take a seat.” The man sat down.
2 Boaz then gathered ten of the town elders together and said, “Sit down here with us; we’ve got some business to take care of.” And they sat down.
3-4 Boaz then said to his relative, “The piece of property that belonged to our relative Elimelech is being sold by his widow Naomi, who has just returned from the country of Moab. I thought you ought to know about it. Buy it back if you want it—you can make it official in the presence of those sitting here and before the town elders. You have first redeemer rights. If you don’t want it, tell me so I’ll know where I stand. You’re first in line to do this and I’m next after you.”
He said, “I’ll buy it.”
5 Then Boaz added, “You realize, don’t you, that when you buy the field from Naomi, you also get Ruth the Moabite, the widow of our dead relative, along with the redeemer responsibility to have children with her to carry on the family inheritance.”
6 Then the relative said, “Oh, I can’t do that—I’d jeopardize my own family’s inheritance. You go ahead and buy it—you can have my rights—I can’t do it.”
7 In the olden times in Israel, this is how they handled official business regarding matters of property and inheritance: a man would take off his shoe and give it to the other person. This was the same as an official seal or personal signature in Israel.
8 So when Boaz’s “redeemer” relative said, “Go ahead and buy it,” he signed the deal by pulling off his shoe.
9-10 Boaz then addressed the elders and all the people in the town square that day: “You are witnesses today that I have bought from Naomi everything that belonged to Elimelech and Kilion and Mahlon, including responsibility for Ruth the foreigner, the widow of Mahlon—I’ll take her as my wife and keep the name of the deceased alive along with his inheritance. The memory and reputation of the deceased is not going to disappear out of this family or from his hometown. To all this you are witnesses this very day.”
11-12 All the people in the town square that day, backing up the elders, said, “Yes, we are witnesses. May God make this woman who is coming into your household like Rachel and Leah, the two women who built the family of Israel. May God make you a pillar in Ephrathah and famous in Bethlehem! With the children God gives you from this young woman, may your family rival the family of Perez, the son Tamar bore to Judah.”
13 Boaz married Ruth. She became his wife. Boaz slept with her. By God’s gracious gift she conceived and had a son.
14-15 The town women said to Naomi, “Blessed be God! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life. May this baby grow up to be famous in Israel! He’ll make you young again! He’ll take care of you in old age. And this daughter-in-law who has brought him into the world and loves you so much, why, she’s worth more to you than seven sons!”
16 Naomi took the baby and held him in her arms, cuddling him, cooing over him, waiting on him hand and foot.
17 The neighborhood women started calling him “Naomi’s baby boy!” But his real name was Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.
Quotes for the Week
Who in this life has blessed you? What did they do that was a blessing to you?
How might we go about the task of blessing others?