Opening Up the Bible series
6. Ruth and Naomi 2008
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Cambridge ON
Sunday May 25 2008
The sermon about Ruth
based on Sermonshop Sermons, note 151
“Beautiful Friend” by Bass Mitchell
Monday Oct 27 1997
Children's Message Preparation:
- a scroll made from “ruthandnaomi – Children's Story.html” (in “Bible Notes, Hebrew Scriptures” folder)
- handouts: Ruth and Naomi Bible Colouring Page 1-4.gif (in “Bible Notes, Hebrew Scriptures” folder), sized for Bible Book
-So glad you're here!
-Long, long ago, before there were books,
stories were written on scrolls.
-Today we're going to read an old story from the Bible,
and since it's so old,
I've put it into the form of a scroll.
-The Bible was originally written on scrolls.
-Today's Bible story is called Ruth and Naomi.
(read from scroll)
-Naomi was Jesus' great, great, great, great, great,
Handout story of Ruth for Bible Books; can colour
Prayer thanking God for being with us when life is difficult. Ask God help us join in caring for others.
-The Book of Ruth
is a short story set during the time of the Judges -
about 3000 years ago!
-That was a much-troubled time during Israel's history.
- It was a time of war, famine, corruption, trouble.
-In our Bible,
the book of “Ruth comes after [the book of] Judges
because it is set in this period,
however it is extremely unlikely
[that] it was written in this period.
In the Hebrew [version of the First Testament,
the book of Ruth] comes in the writings section
at the end of the bible
as one of the five scrolls between Proverbs and Ezra.”1
-Many scholars therefore believe
that this story was used as “an artful protest
against the exclusive nationalism
encouraged after the return from exile.”2
-At this point in time, government policy was to annul
marriages between Jews and foreign women.
-”The story of Ruth was [likely] told
in order to argue for a more-open policy,
and quotes the example of the great King David's
grandparents in its support.”
-Another possibility for the time period in which
this story was written-down,
might have been somewhat earlier, pre-exile.
-At that time,
detractors of the monarchy
could “have noted wryly that no better
could be expected of someone with Moabite blood
in his veins.
Was the story of Ruth first told in the time of David
to demonstrate that his ancestress
was no ordinary Moabite,
but a woman who could hold her own
in any company?”3
-Regardless of when the story was told,
it is a remarkable tale of a strong woman
and it pleads for a more-open understanding
of whom God will bless.
-Both themes are important in Scripture.
-The story of Ruth
is about a family facing one crisis after another.
-Elimelech and his wife Naomi live in Bethlehem.
-They have two sons - Mahlon and Chilion.
-Because the names sound like Hebrew words
for “illness” and “come to an end”
it's likely that both children
suffered various illnesses
right from the time of their births.
-Times were hard.
- Jobs were few.
- Food was scarce.
-Elimelech was likely laid-off from work.
- Hungry and desperate,
Elimelech packs his family up and goes to Moab.
-Yet Moab was no paradise.
- It was a rough, out-of-the-way kind of place.
- Even though the Moabites were distant relatives,
it was still a foreign country
and often there were hostilities between them.
-Moab was the kind of place you would go to
only if you had to, if you were desperate.
- Things were so bad at home
that even Moab looked good.
-They had barely unpacked when Elimelech dies.
- So Naomi is now a widow and a single parent
in a foreign land.
- Probably chosen for each other when small children,
Naomi and Elimelech had lived as man and wife
most of their lives.
- To have someone be such a part of your life
for so long,
and then suddenly not be there –
especially when times were already so bad –
must have broken Naomi's heart.
-But her troubles were just beginning.
-All too soon,
Naomi finds that her two sons
are dating Moabite women.
-That could not have been very pleasing
to a good Jewish mother.
- But after all, they were in Moab.
-Where would a young man find a nice, middle class,
church-going girl here?
-So, a few months later,
Naomi finds that she has two Moabite
-But the troubles do not stop there.
- Son Chilion dies.
-Then Mahlon too.
-The persons who meant the most to Ruth –
her husband, her children – are gone.
-She's a childless widow in a foreign country.
-All she has left are two Moabite daughters-in-law
whom she probably doesn't even know well
and maybe doesn't even like.
Then, finally, a bit of good news comes:
Naomi learns that the famine is over back home.
- So she packs up
and tells her daughters-in-law that she's leaving.
- She notices that they were packing up too.
They are going with her!
- She shakes her head and says,
"No Orpah and Ruth, go back to your homes.
Find yourselves husbands. May God bless you both,
for you have been kind to me and to my sons."
-Ruth and Orpah begin to cry and say,
"We're going with you."
-Naomi turns again to her daughters-in-law.
-This time she tenderly addresses them
not as daughters-in-law but as, "My daughters,”
and then asks, “why would you do this?
I have absolutely nothing to offer you.
Come with me, and you will have no hope, no future.
I have no more sons to offer as husbands.
I don't even have a husband!
Even if I did,
even if I conceived and bore twin sons this very night,
could you wait until they were old enough
to take as husbands?
No, my daughters, I have nothing to offer you.
It seems that I am under God's curse.
And if you stay with me, you will be too."
-Her argument was powerful.
- Orpah, still crying, hugs Naomi's neck
and then leaves to return to her home.
- But Ruth "clings" to Naomi.
-Naomi tries once again to convince her.
"See?" she says. "Orpah has come to her senses
and has returned to her people and to her gods.
You should do the same."
-But Ruth counters Naomi's arguments
with some of the most beloved verses in the Bible:
"Don't ask me to leave you.
For where you go, I will go.
Where you live, I will live.
Your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God.
Where you die, I will die.
Where you are buried, I will be buried."
-Ruth was willing to leave her own mother,
her own country,
and all the safety and possibility
of having another husband,
to go with her mother-in-law to a foreign country.
- Such love, such devotion, such friendship
left Naomi speechless.
-It's little wonder that Ruth's words here
have often been used in wedding ceremonies.
-But I wonder if this passage would be as popular
if future brides knew that when Ruth said these words,
she was not speaking to her husband,
but to her mother-in-law!
-The name "Ruth”
comes from a root word that means "to water fully,"
that is, a never-ending stream or spring.
-Ruth, this beautiful friend,
had a love and devotion that could never dry up.
-When times were toughest for Naomi,
when the future looked the bleakest,
Ruth stuck by Naomi.
-We can only imagine
what would have happened to Naomi
without this "beautiful friend," this Moabite woman
whom God had brought into Naomi's life.
-Would David had survived the murderous threats
of King Saul
if not for the protection of Jonathan, his loyal friend?
-What would have become of Helen Keller
without the "beautiful friend" named Anne Sullivan
whom God gave to her?
-God is always sending special people into our lives;
people who help us in time of need.
-People who sometimes come from places
we'd least expect.
-For Naomi, it's her foreign daughter-in-law, Ruth.
-For David fleeing from King Saul,
it's Saul's own son, Jonathan.
-For Helen Keller,
it's Anne Sullivan, herself nearly-blind,
and without any experience
working with deaf-blind-mutes.
-We may not know when or for what specific reason
the story of Ruth and Naomi was first told.
-But we continue to tell the story to this day.
-And to this day,
the story of Ruth and Naomi helps us
to take note of those special people
God sends into our lives,
people who help us in time of great need.
-Thanks be to God. Amen.
Hymn # 419 For All the Faithful Women
stanzas 1, 5, and last.
Sending Thought: God's Kindness Continues
-Ruth was a blessing to Naomi.
-And, Ruth herself was blessed.
-She was blessed by a political system
which cared for the poor,
and she was blessed by someone whom God sent
into her life: Boaz.
-When Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem,
they don't go hungry
because of something called “gleaning.”
-Last Sunday we noted that God's Laws
offer protection for the poor and the weak.
-Many of God's laws seek to redistribute wealth,
so that all have enough,
and no one has too much.
-One of these laws benefited Ruth and Naomi
in their time of need:
Deuteronomy 24:19-22 (NRSV)
19 When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. 20 When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.
21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. 22 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.
built a concern for the poor into the Israelites'
-So, Boaz allows Ruth to glean his fields.
-But not only does he allow this,
he actually rigs it so that Ruth gets more
than the welfare-law required.
-Out of kindness and concern,
Boaz instructs his harvesters
to “pull out some handfuls for [Ruth]
from the bundles [of grain]
and leave them for her to glean.”4
-Boaz also provided food and drink for Ruth
while she was gleaning.
-As we learned last week,
offer protection for the poor and the weak,
by redistributing wealth
so that all have enough, and no one has too much.
- “God's rules were intended to form a nation of compassionate, consistent, fair-minded people”
who act lovingly toward the neighbour –
and “particularly toward those in need.”5
we meet someone willing to go even beyond the rules
in caring for those in need.
-Because God is loving, kind, and merciful,
God's people must be too.
The Benediction follows....6
2The Daily Study Bible: Joshua, Judges and Ruth. John L Gibson, General Editor. This volume written by A. Graeme Auld. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984. Page 259.
3Auld, op.cit. Page 259.
5The Student Bible, NRSV Zondervan Publishing House, 1996. Notes by Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford, page 143.
6At http://oldtestamentlectionary.unitingchurch.org.au/2006/November/Pent23Ruth3_06.htm, I found a helpful explanation of the convoluted story in chapter 3. Boaz is startled when he turns and find someone beside him whom he doesn't recognise. In answer to his question Ruth names herself and uses a word that indicates she is available for marriage (different term for maidservant in 2:13), invites him to spread his skirt/cloak which links with a term used to indicate protection. The third element of her very forward speech suggests he is next of kin and therefore has duties to her and Naomi, which is not the case as she finds out a few seconds later. One wonders how she felt about Naomi who must have known this crucial piece of information which had been kept from Ruth. Boaz is very righteous and is clearly attracted to her. He will do the right thing by speaking with the nearer kinsman the following morning. She leaves early in the morning which protects her probably more than him and brings a large amount of grain to Naomi. There is a play on the Hebrew word for "redeemer" with some similar words used to"uncover". The uncovering which occurred can lead to recovering/redemption.
This website also offers an understandable explanation of the redeeming of Naomi's property in chapter 4: we have Boaz challenging the next of kin at the gate (place of justice) to take up redemption of Naomi's field. Initially, the kinsman says yes and then backs off when he was told it had to include Ruth in the bargain. Boaz did not give him all the details at the one time, and basically set the guy up, especially with the elders called in as witnesses. Boaz indicates the need to restore the name of the dead, but neither the nearer kinsman or Boaz are obliged to do this under the Torah, only brothers of the dead men. The seal of the transaction is completed by the nearer kinsman drawing off his sandal and offering it to Boaz as a seal of the sale of the land and of Ruth. She is bought. The people and elders at the gate offer a blessing on Ruth and on Boaz recalling earlier ancestors, Rachel & Leah, Perez son of Tamar and Judah.