There are a lot of powerful forces on the earth. Some you can see and touch, like iron or steel. Some are awe inspiring, like the speed of a Ferrari or Lambo. Some of these forces have strength that is just plain impressive, for example semi-trucks or industrial bull dozers. Then there is a completely different category of powerful forces. Things you can’t see. Gravity and sound are very powerful forces that you can’t touch. There are also emotional forces that have great power. Anger, sadness, or resentment have the power to change the course of someone’s life.
Think of a time where you have seen a force of incredible power. Maybe it’s a time when you went to a car show and saw some impressive super cars. Maybe you’ve watched the process of a skyscraper being built in your city, the giant cranes lifting huge steel beams into the sky. Perhaps you have seen a friend or family member destroyed by emotional problems, seen their life change in front of your eyes. Whatever it may be, I want you to think of the most powerful thing you have experienced.
Today I want to talk about a very powerful force. A force that we can see change the lives of many. A force that we can all learn from.
My favorite force in the Old Testament;
the love of a widow.
In the time of the Old Testament, being a widow was not a good thing. It still isn’t a desired title by any means. Today being a widow is associated with grief, with rebuilding a life. In the Old Testament being a widow meant probable homelessness or possible starvation. Today a woman is capable of being independent. A woman can get any job and has all the same opportunities and rights as a man. In the story we are going to look at today, that is not the case. There were no job opportunities for our widow, there were no shelters for her to go.
Our widow’s name is Ruth.
We meet Ruth in a book of the Old Testament named after her.
Naomi was a women from Judah, a tribe of Israel. Naomi, her husband, and their two sons moved to a region known as Moab. Once there, Naomi’s two sons married Moabite women. One of these women was Ruth. These three women were about to enter very difficult times. Naomi’s husband and her two sons died, leaving behind these three women as widows.
Now Naomi was faced with a difficult decision, whether to stay in Moab, or go back to Judah. To Stay with her two daughters in law and hope for new husbands, or go home and hope to be cared for by old friends. Naomi decided to go back to her home in Judah. She insisted that her two daughters in law go back to their own families. Naomi wanted the best for these two women and she firmly believed that if they returned to their families they would have the best opportunity to build a good life.
Ruth refused though,
Ruth insisted on going with her mother in law.
“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16 & 17
This passage is very famous. It is a very beautiful and romantic passage that is often read at weddings. These words from Ruth indicate a type of love we all desire to have, both to give and to receive. The context around these words make it all the more beautiful and meaningful. This is not a wedding alter scene, this is not a day of great joy. This love is not being declared with an optimistic heart. This isn’t a women looking forward to a long and prosperous life with the man she loves. This love is being declared as Ruth stares into the face of poverty and starvation. This love is being declared by a women who is guaranteed to face suffering, because of this love. Ruth has the option to leave, to go back to her family and be remarried. Yet Ruth doesn’t make that choice. She chooses to go with Naomi, to care for her, to love her.
Now these two women move back to Judah and begin to try and start a new life.
“Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz” Ruth 2:2 & 3
Ruth goes out and works to find food. Ruth takes a proactive step to help solve the problem that she and Naomi have found themselves in. Ruth didn’t stop at simply declaring her love for Naomi and being willing to move to a different country and sit in squalor. Ruth goes out to search for a solution to the problem, a remedy.
Now Ruth begins to “glean”. When the harvesters came through and cut the crops down and gathered them up there were small pieces of grain left behind. Gleaning was the act of coming behind these harvesters and picking up the grain that was left. This was not an easy job. Ruth had to walk through the hot dusty fields, bending over to gather the small pieces of grain. This is an exhausting and demeaning task, but Ruth does it. Ruth proves that her love isn’t all talk. Ruth proves that she is willing to act on this love. That Ruth is willing to work for this love.
Here we see Ruth exhibit a powerful and servant focused love for Naomi. We see an amazing display of a powerful force, we see the love of a widow.
Boaz is the man who owns the field that Ruth is gleaning in. Boaz sees Ruth gleaning in his field and responds in a very interesting way.
So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” Ruth 2:8 & 9
Here we see Boaz set Ruth up for success. Boaz gives Ruth the tools to survive. He offers her the opportunity to stay and glean in his field. He says that he will not let his men touch her. Boaz also says that she may drink from the water he provides. This is great news for Ruth. She now has a safe and consistent way to provide for Naomi and herself. Ruth does however have one question.
“Why?” “Why is Boaz doing her this kindness?” That is what she asks him.
Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Ruth 2:11 & 12
This response is one of immense beauty. This response is one of a man serving God, this response is one of great force.
Ruth makes a beautiful declaration of love for Naomi.
Ruth acts on this love, she goes out and gleans.
Ruth’s action is met, and rewarded by Boaz.
Where are you? What does your life look like? Things could be really rough. Not sure what your direction is? Not sure why you get out of bed in the morning? Declare your love for Jesus and take a step. Move towards your savior, follow him back to Judah.
Maybe that’s not you, maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “life is pretty darn good right now” or maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t really need any encouragement right now, I’m happy”. That’s a good thing and that’s okay. You have an amazing opportunity when you are in that position. An opportunity to be a Boaz for someone, an opportunity to help support someone in need, to help encourage a Ruth.
There’s a lot of powerful forces in this world. We seem them and feel them every day. There are all kinds of them to try and build our lives around. Money, fame, or position, the list goes on. Today we can look at the story of Ruth and be encouraged to carry a different type of force through life. We can be encouraged to follow the example of Ruth, or Boaz. We can be encouraged to declare our love for Jesus and take action.
We can be encouraged to have the love of a widow.