Generous friends offered to manage the trees that had fallen in my father's backyard after a tornado ripped through his neighbourhood ... right in the middle of uncertain times in our world. They worked like HE-MEN while still social distancing and mask-wearing. Out of concern and caution for his health issues, one of these men could not work WITH them ... yet went back twice completely alone and kept plugging along at the mammoth task of clearing the tree murder scene in my dad's backyard.
I truly appreciated the guys that drove quite a distance to help and the guy who took a couple more unexpected trips. I think, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in this time of life that is so volatile and so scary, that they were part of God's big story.
...in part of God’s BIG STORY were a couple women named Ruth and Naomi.
Now, one of the rare books of the Bible that does NOT record God directly saying or doing anything, the text of Ruth could seem to be rather conventional and ordinary. So some read it as tender and touching. And it is a trulyliterary piece. Still, primarily it is seen as merely the human drama of two people coming together in a relationship that happens to be included in the Bible. SO...
But something else extraordinary was taking place. It is really an exodus story "gone wrong." Biblical scholars Andrew Wilson and Alastair J. Roberts remind us that exodus stories are supposed to involve people going out empty and coming back full! But Naomi and Ruth's exodus is not like this. As Naomi laments, “I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty."
You have probably heard of Ruth and maybe even listened to her story. There is so much to this story that many stories can branch off it. There are definitely very important key themes in the book of Ruth, and though there are so many lessons to glean from this special lady, I am going to give you the only three of them. And then let's take a look at how YOU fit in the story!
A TRUTH: RUTH WAS A MOABITE AND
NOTBORN AN ISRAELITE
Ruth lived in a place called Moab, married to a dude who was part of God’s unique and special more prominent family, the Israelites. But then, sadly, this husband died. Usually, women returned to their families when that happened, but Ruth? Not Ruth. She loved his family so much that she begged to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law. Naomi even tried to get her to go back to her family, but she would not leave! Not because she was a pest, but because she was attached to her, closer than a daughter. She even suggested SHE go back with RUTH! But Ruth said this now-famous truth to her, “Your people will be my people, and your God will be MY God!”
But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Y
our people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—
not even death itself is going to come between us!”
Ruth 1:16-17, MSG
Now there is some controversy amoung some scholars as to whether or not Ruth was actually an Israelite and not a Moabite. Possibly you happen to be wondering about this consideration yourself. If you are also inspired to find out what archaeology can tell us about the historicity of the Exodus, I'd love for you to check out the free eBook "Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus.The archaeological evidence and historical Israelites in Egypt is discussed in great detail.
WHY THIS TRUTH MATTERS:
SO WHY ON EARTH SHOULD YOUR STUDENTS
KNOW AND LEARN ABOUT RUTH'S RACE? Because...
YOUR RACE REALLY
DOESN'T MATTER TO GOD
Regardless of any discussion about her lineage, she was the great-grandmother of David, the royal ancestor of our King Jesus.
And because ultimately, God is concerned about all people regardless of race, nationality, or status. Ruth was not a Jew. She was a Moabite. Even though many discriminated against her, God loved her just the same. God never discriminates; He loves all people the same. He proved this in that her great-great-lots-of-greats grandson ... is their Saviour.
RUTH CHOSE TO FOLLOW NAOMI
(and her God) INTO AN UNKNOWN LAND.
So they both returned to Naomi’s home and where is that? BETHLEHEM. Yes. That Bethlehem. And it also happened to be a place where she would stand out as “weird” and different. Back then, it was hard for women to find work – usually, they were taken care of by the men in their families. It’s hard to even think of that these days where women take care of themselves well and sometimes alone! But not then … Ruth chose to follow Naomi (and her God) into an unknown land where she would kinda stand out.
To get food, Ruth went to the fields of a man named Boaz. She followed his harvesters around and picked up the scraps that fell to the ground. She worked from morning to night, and Boaz noticed and told his workers to leave behind some extra grain for Ruth! This notice was fantastic news for Naomi, because he was part of her family, what was then called a “family redeemer,” someone with the responsibility to take care of the family.
This possibility gave Naomi an idea. She told Ruth to dress up and lay at his feet while he was sleeping. A weird plan maybe, but when she surprised Boaz, she told him she was her servant, Ruth, and he was her family redeemer. Then Boaz understood … and eventually married Ruth!
WHY THIS TRUTH SHOULD MATTER TO KIDS:
WHAT YOU WANT YOUR STUDENTS TO KNOW ABOUT RUTH'S KINSHIP WITH NAOMI IS THAT...
FOLLOWING GOD EVEN WHEN
YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND IT
WILL ALWAYS PAY OFF
God provides us with friends just when we need them sometimes, right? And we should see this as what it is - a gift from God. The Bible tells us why Ruth was so loyal to Naomi. Just like in the story, Naomi could've demanded the women proceed with her, but she was unselfish. She desired them to be free, so she told them to go home to be with their own families.
Furthermore, Ruth had such an agreeable attitude and wanted to help so much that she relocated, away from everyone she knew, and continued to work to help Naomi. And she didn't inform everyone she knew about what a fantastic friend and daughter-in-law she was! She simply ... was. Because she knew she should be a true friend -- just as God desired her to be. Such were the characteristics of Ruth.
And they can be of every child too. Remind them often, "You've got this."
BECAUSE OF HER MARRIAGE TO BOAZ,
RUTH BECAME A PART OF JESUS' FAMILY.
In the closing chapter of Ruth, it is recorded that Ruth and Boaz's union results in a son called Obed, who is also the king David's grandaddy (4:17). And as we read in Matthew 1:1, it's of David's descendants that Jesus was born. So, there is great importance to the historical background to the book of Ruth. It is Jesus who uncovers the "ordinary story" of Ruth and Boaz and explains how it is an extraordinary story of God's amazing plans and purposes at work.
To further that compelling heart of the story is that Ruth belonged to the people established by Moab (if you check out Genesis 19:37, that would be the son of Lot’s eldest daughter by her father). The Bible refers to both the Moabites and Ammonites as Lot's sons, produced of incest with his daughters (in verses 37–38). *gasp*
So, yeah. This connection was from a people considered unacceptable in God’s group of people even to the tenth generation. For this horrible and interesting (yet wonderful!) fact you can check out Deuteronomy 23:3. And there is no over-riding provision for proselytes or by gender; our Lord Jesus was born of a descendent of Ruth (Isaiah 11:1; Micah 5:2; Luke 1:26-35). Truth.
So, in a nutshell? Ruth was David’s great grandmother! And David was Jesus' ancestor. Talk about a great line of kings ...
For me, this circumstance reinforces the message of Christ that what is in an individual’s heart is what counts–what had always counted.
WHY THIS TRUTH SHOULD MATTER TO KIDS:
WHAT YOU WANT YOUR STUDENTS TO KNOW ABOUT RUTH BEING RELATED TO JESUS IS THAT...
LIKE RUTH, EACH CHILD CAN BE
A PART OF GOD'S BIG FAMILY, TOO.
The Law and its observance had been made to maintain a close relationship between God and his Chosen People in the first place -- until the coming of Jesus and the new, more straightforward, covenant.
God's plan ALL ALONG was to redeem His people. And by marrying Boaz, Ruth got to be A REAL PART of that covenant, a part of God’s family! Really! And, as mentioned earlier: Ruth’s great-grandson was DAVID! And many years later, JESUS was born into the same family line! AND NOW, because of JESUS ... WE GET TO BE PART OF GOD’S BIG FAMILY TOO!
And that’s how THEY fit into the story.
Pretty neat, huh? But does that apply to every child today?
So often we see our own lives in the same way: as ordinary and as serving no particular purpose. Sometimes it is easy for children to think that too. But when we view our lives through Christ, he gives eternal significance to even the most ordinary situations and relationships.
I love how author Roy Demarest reminds us that right now, "in the homes of seemingly unimportant people who are living and dying with little public awareness, God may be fully engaged in shaping the future history of the world." God looks deep inside all people. He is taken not by anything but by the quality of their character, just like He was with Ruth.
Take my dad's home, for example. There was a lot of damage at his place and he is alone during a pandemic. It is a risk to go see him at all. But many did, cautiously, anyway. I pray that my boys, who helped with the clean-up, always remember how many people with quality character cautiously took a risk and that made them a part of God's story as well.
They embraced a way to become a part of God's big story. Now, THAT'S what I call "getting Ruth-ed..." diving into God's big story.
Not the story to redeem His people, but that we ARE God's redeemed people, showing thankfulness and honouring Him through service. And as far as God's greater story goes, concerning the outcome of this strange global illness, we just don't know the outcome.
But God does.
Make no mistake: In the end you get what’s coming to you—Real Life for those who work on God’s side, but to those who insist on getting their own way and take the path of least resistance, Fire!
Romans 2:6-8, MSG
And that matters.
What are we going to do in the meantime? Sit at home and hope it goes away?