I preached this morning at Stromness Baptist Church despite feeling a flu coming on. A few themes emerged as I told this story about the barley harvest in Bethlehem. Yes, harvest festival is around the corner and the projectionist already had some slides of barley on the screen as backup for the worship. Seemed appropriate and timely. Especially since the Book of Ruth is about what happened as the barley harvesting kicked off with the arrival of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth.
To be honest, I wasn't sure what I would speak on this morning when i got up but I think I did the right thing in telling this story and people really appreciated it.
One theme that surfaced in the story was that of NAME. Boaz was the son of Rahab the prostitute but he establishes the credibility of his name by doing what is right and not withholding good. His name will be famous, as the village woman predict and pray in their blessing at the end of the book.
Here's a painting of Ruth looking like a sparkling young Victorian woman after a long bubble bath. This could have been an advertisement for Lux . . a long day's work in the field and yet she still looks a million shekels - just look at those clean hands!! All due to the cleansing power of LUX SOAP!
On the other hand, the closer relative, or potential Guardian, or "kinsman redeemer" as some versions have it, remains NAMELESS. He name, as we read it, is roughly translated from the Hebrew as "What's-his-name" or "Mr So and So". The lamer apparently only wanted the Elimelech's land to increase his personal worth and wasn't willing to take on Ruth and risk his inheritance so that the NAME of Elimelech could be remembered. What a loser!!!
NAMES are important. A good name is better than riches, said Solomon, who was the great-great-great grandson of a prostitute named Rahab - the mother of Boaz. Obviously, its possible to remove the obstacle of a bad name, or an unpleasant legacy, and start over again with a new name. And we, like Ruth, were once NOT a people, we are now given a new name, and are the people belonging to God.
The other theme was that of REST. Naomi wanted her two daughters-in-law to find "security" or "rest" as the original says. They found that safe place and were taken care of, through a number of ways that I wont describe in this short blog post. But there is a moment on the threshing floor when Ruth, after following the advice of her mother-in-law, proposes to Boaz by asking him to "spread his wing over her" which is a picture of marriage. God spreads his wing over Israel to signify the marital relationship between them (Ezekiel 16) and this is where true security lies - under the wing of God, as part of his family. There is a rest for the people of God, but it is not the kind promised by the world - the kind of fake security offered by the world (2 John 2) - the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the boasting of all the stuff we have - only pretends to give us security but doesn't because its all passing away.
Ahhh, Some color on their skin. Now that's a better painting! Of course every barley field in Bethlehem had a fine stable of expensive white Arabian horses . . .
Anyway, Naomi [whose name means "Pleasant"] tells the village woman to call her "Bitter" [Mara] because God has cruelly left her empty-handed. But as the events unfold, God proves Himself faithful to provide, and Naomi has her hands full with a grandson (Obed), plenty of barley, and a promising future.
OBVIOUSLY there is more to the story than that but thats kind of the gist of what came out this morning.
Anyway, I feel that flu coming on so i will take it easy today as i slowly roast the chicken and pumpkin and as I close my computer and don't look at it again for a really long time. Peace to all, and enjoy your rest this Lord's day.