Chapter Seven: “Well, Bless His Strong and Wealthy Self” Ruth 2:18–23
How I love meeting with you each week! I may be alone in my writing study on Tuesday nights, tapping away at the keyboard, but I still feel connected to you, knowing you are doing the same—keeping up with your reading, making notes in the margins, answering each question, then sharing what you’ve discovered here. I can’t thank you enough for pressing on!
1. a. Matthew Henry wrote, “It is a good question for us to ask ourselves in the close of every day, Where have I gleaned to-day? What improvements have I made in knowledge and grace?” How might you put his good suggestion into practice each evening? And what might the benefits be?
Now I’m wondering if I could use a journal to accomplish both things: meditating on a verse and jotting down what God has taught me that day?
Think I’ll order something like this journal with a Scripture on every page. Love the red too. And the verse on the cover is a good reminder for me to “think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
1. b. Arriving in Bethlehem exhausted, starving, and alone, Naomi and Ruth were famished at many levels. Make a shopping list, as it were, of all the things, practical and spiritual, these newcomers needed.
Their practical needs might be: olive oil; pomegranates, figs, honey, olives, grapes, raisins; several small lamps with flaxen wicks; pottery bowls; clay water jars; a straw broom to sweep the house; fresh tunics (or borrowed garments while they cleaned what they owned).
Their spiritual needs would surely include all the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Ruth arrived in Bethlehem with her fruit well ripened. Naomi is a season behind her, but this is the chapter where Naomi is quickly catching up. Heartening to watch, isn’t it?
What does the Lord provide those who hunger and thirst, according to the following verses: Psalm 34:8; Matthew 5:6; John 4:14?
I’ve always been intrigued by the challenge, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalms 34:8). It’s as if God is asking us to use all our senses to experience him. Like that old John Denver song that began, “You fill up my senses.” I believe God does precisely that—filling us up, especially when we gather to worship him.
During worship we can experience his presence visually through sacred art, audibly through music and words, orally through singing and perhaps responsive reading, tangibly through communion, and even olfactorily (that’s a word, right?) with scented candles, fragrant incense, or fresh flowers.
In a more spiritual sense, the Lord also fills us with his righteousness (Matthew 5:6), and quenches our thirst with his living water (John 4:14). In other words, he flat meets our needs.
2. a. With those two criteria of hesed in mind—it’s “essential to the survival or basic well-being of the recipient” and must be something that “only the person doing the act of hesed is in a position to provide—how does Ruth qualify as showing Naomi hesed?
Ruth’s care of Naomi practically defines hesed! Naomi needed food for her empty stomach, and Ruth’s daylong labor provided it. Naomi needed someone to look after her, and Ruth was not only willing but also eager to serve as her mother-in-law’s caregiver. In short, Naomi needed love, and Ruth showered her with affection—not just in words, but in deeds.
And what about Boaz in regard to Naomi and Ruth?
He too puts his loving-kindness into action, not only making sure that Ruth has sufficient food at lunch, but also guaranteeing there’s enough left to feed Naomi. He gives both women what they must have, and what only he, as a kinsman-redeemer, can provide: safety and security; hope and a future. With barley and wheat, Boaz proves the psalmist’s words can be trusted: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
2. b. Again, with the above definition of hesed in mind, who in your life might benefit from your unique way of expressing loving-kindness, mercy, and grace? If you sense the Lord nudging you to act, how and when might you do so?
I’ve already shared in this chapter a very personal story about learning to genuinely love my mother-in-law. Obviously it was important that Mary Lee read (and approve!) what landed on pages 102-103 before the book went to print.
With trembling hands I presented her with those manuscript pages on Christmas Day 2011, assuring her, “You never did anything to make me feel less than accepted. It was my own insecurities that got in the way.”
As she began to read, I prayed like a madwoman. Help her understand, Lord. Please don’t let this ruin everything!
The papers in her hands began to tremble, and a tear slipped down her cheek. When she looked up, I saw compassion in her eyes, and not a hint of disappointment. “I felt the same way about my mother-in-law,” she confessed. “It’s perfectly natural to be anxious.”
Then we held hands, and smiled through our tears, and everything was like a Hallmark commercial—until my father-in-law strolled in, unaware of the tender scene unfolding at the kitchen table, and held out a clever gadget he’d found under the Christmas tree. “Look at this!”
Mary Lee and I squeezed each others’ hands. Then we looked. And we laughed.
3. a. Each of the following verses offers further insight into our Redeemer. Jot down what you learn from reading Isaiah 44:6, 44:24, and 48:17.
Interesting that each verse begins with the same statement—”This is what the Lord says”—so we can be sure this is not hearsay. This is he say!
Isaiah 44:6: He is the first and the last; apart from him there is no God. This verse is as comprehensive a description of the Lord as any I’ve ever read. He shuts out any pretenders to his throne. No false redeemers need apply.
Isaiah 44:24: He made everything, including us—the heavens, the earth, the whole of it. Again, it’s a magnificent summary of God’s power and dominion over his creation. Who better to redeem us than the one who made us?
Isaiah 48:17 He is our God, our teacher, and our guide. As such, he is the only one who understands all our needs and has the right to redeem us.
3. b. How do you know, absolutely, that your Redeemer lives (Job 19:25)?
When I was a young believer, a physician asked me this very question: “But how do you know that Jesus was raised from the dead?”
I blurted out an answer, trusting God to put the right words in my mouth. “I know that Christ is risen because he raised me from the dead. I was lost and now I’m found. I was blind and now I see. I was dead in my sin and now I’m alive in Christ!”
At the time I couldn’t have given him the chapters and verses for these facts, but I knew them to be true. Indeed they are:
“He was lost and is found.’“ (Luke 15:24)
“I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25)
“Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)
On the days when doubts threaten to undermine your beliefs, how do you bolster your faith?
Those doubts don’t surface for long (thank you, Lord), but they do make the occasional appearance—usually when I feel emotionally beaten down by the world, or physically weary, or spiritually dry.
At those moments I remember the terrible state I was in when God rescued me. My lifestyle changes were so dramatic and undeniable, the focus of my life was so completely altered, that I cannot deny his resurrection power. I knew full well it wasn’t Lizzie getting her act together—it was God rebuilding Lizzie from the inside out.
God’s Word never fails to renew my faith. Perhaps you hold this passage close to your heart, as I do: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). Says it all, beloved.
3. c. Since Boaz is a type of Christ, giving us a glimpse of the Kinsman-Redeemer to come, in what ways does Jesus secure your inheritance?
Reading all these verses in a whoosh is rather breathtaking. From the time of Father Abraham and the covenant God made with him, our inheritance was secure. We are his children, and therefore his heirs, with a guarantee in writing of eternal life—not because of our goodness, but because of his mercy.
Finally, our heavenly inheritance “can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4). No expiration date? That’s some kind of preservative.
And how does he preserve your name?
I love this promise the Lord offers us: “I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). First, because it reminds me of a secret garden I discovered in New Zealand, where I found small rocks with names on them.
Turned out they were the names of the roses the gardener had planted there. (For a moment I’d thought I found Graham’s heavenly rock!)
I also love the thought of the name our Heavenly Father preserves for us being a new name, a personal name, and a private name. As if that isn’t enough, the Lord himself will place this name in our hands. Oh my.
Next week we’re on to chapter 8, as Naomi sends Ruth on a dangerous mission. Before we go, the question I would encourage you to answer in the Comments section of our online Bible Study Blog is this one: “How do you know, absolutely, that your Redeemer lives?”
Your sister, Liz