August 7, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“At mealtime Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Come over here. Have some bread and dip it into wine vinegar.’ When she sat down with the harvesters (she was not one of them), he offered her some roasted grain. She at all she wanted and had some left over.”
This verse has been placed into a category (not by me but some bible scholars) called “A Prelude to the Gospel.” As I read that, I must admit I certainly do agree. The love Boaz had for Ruth was a “redeeming” love which established her within the covenant of God as it had been made with the descendants of Jacob Israel. She was not a Hebrew. She was a Moabite. But, her mother-in-law, Naomi, was a Hebrew from the town of Bethlehem. She and her husband, along with their two sons, had moved from Judah into the land of Moab due to a famine. There, the two sons married women from Moab. Over the span of ten years, her husband and sons died in the land of their sojourn. Naomi and her daughters-in-law were left alone. She told them to return to their own homes and find provision there for their protection as she would for herself. Orpah followed that advice but Ruth pledged herself to Naomi. Perhaps, she had been abandoned by her family because of her marriage to a Hebrew. Maybe her family had died as well in the context of how Naomi’s son had died. Regardless, she committed to Naomi as her forever family and followed her back to Bethlehem. There she met Boaz who was a relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.
I was reminded of this story in my daily readings today. It struck me with interest because last night I had watched a movie titled “The Secret: Dare to Dream.” In the movie, a man named Brian is delivering a sealed envelope to the wife of a man he had met in a trade show. He and the man, an inventor, had been in a plane crash. The husband had been killed and the man survived. It was now five years later. When Brian pulled up to her house, she was not home so he didn’t deliver the envelope he had for her. By a perchance meeting, or literally “running into each other,” he learned of her troubling situation. For reasons only known to him, he doesn’t deliver the envelope but leaves it in her mailbox. He notices the number on the mailbox, 214, the first time we are shown it in the movie and again in the midst of a storm the second time we are shown it. I remembering commenting “there is a reason why they are showing us that number.” For the life of me, I never did see the connection made. It was obviously some kind of foreshadowing but the shadow never passed. At least not until this morning during my devotional reading when Ruth 2.14 is presented. It surely is a “prelude to the gospel.”
Boaz offers Ruth, the stranger and foreigner, the opportunity to enter into a type of “passover” covenant when he asks her to take some bread and dip it into wine vinegar. This is one of four cups offered in the Passover/Seder feast conducted in remembrance of when God delivered the people of Jacob Israel from their bondage in Egypt. They had been commanded to this remembrance on the very night of their deliverance. This particular cup of wine vinegar was to symbolize the bitter hardships they faced in Egypt away from their promised land in Canaan. We would also be reminded then of the sponge dipped in wine vinegar and pressed to Jesus’ lips at the tip of a Roman spear when Jesus declared “I thirst.” It, too, was a bitter moment in the life of Jesus, His followers and the world. It was a prelude to the act of sacrifice which God was making to save the world from the storm of sin which rose against it. The first time God sought to save the world was with a literal storm as the waters of “heaven and earth” were unleased to flood the world and rid it of the sin-festation of evil men, women and children. All save for Noah, his wife, their three sons and daughters-in-law. By God’s “sealing of His covenant,” closing Noah, his family and the chosen animals of the land and air into the Ark, there was a taste of bitterness. We know that bitterness from Genesis 6.6 which records God’s lament that He had ever created humanity. I do not think He meant the literal creation of Adam and Eve but perhaps the awakening in them of the presence and possibility of freewill. But, it is the necessary ingredient in authentic love. A choice has to be made and God made it by allowing them to become aware that He loves them and they can love Him again in return.
“In return.” Repentance is a “return.” It is a commitment made by a person to turn in the other direction from which they were heading. Orpah returned to her homeland after beginning the journey with Naomi and Ruth to Judah and a future directed by the One True God. She, in essence, forsakes the faith of her mother-in-law and returns to her own gods. By some interpretations, Orpah becomes the great-grandmother of Goliath whom David, the great-grandson of Ruth will fight against to “set Israel free from sin.” So, the two women and their decisions stand in opposition to each other. Ruth repents of her ties to other gods and adopts the faith of Naomi and her pledge to follow the ways of Yahweh Elohim (the God beyond many gods.) In doing so, Ruth “returns” to the promised land where she meets Boaz, is taken in to become his wife and thus a part of the story of David who himself is a “prelude to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
We, too, mighty ones of God, followers of the way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, descendent through Mary of David, God’s only begotten son, who is our Lord and Savior when we repent of our sinful desire to follow our own way and adopt the ways of the Lord as our own, are a “prelude to the gospel.” I am speaking of being those who promote and proclaim the gospel into the lives of others. We do so in order to declare the possibility and opportunity of being “redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.” We all have tasted of the bitterness of sin in the world and the consequence of death, in its many manifestations, that it brings into and across our lives. The sting of this broken world is without question. We all face it and must deal with it in our lives if we are to overcome it instead of being overcome by it. The gospel is “the secret: dare to dream” of a redemption of everlasting potential to dwell in the House of Lord forever and in the Kingdom of God forever. It is a return “home,” to be at home with God in Christ Jesus. It is because of His kindness, goodness and compassion that we are redeemed , restored and rejuvenated into being who we were meant to be from the beginning. It is laying claim to the claim God has on our lives that we are His, the people of His hand (the created) and the sheep of His pasture (the redeemed.)
God most certainly works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform, His truth to reveal and His invitation to life with Him to extend. Let us be His hands in this world and His shepherds to save that which is lost and bring back into the promised land of our true sojourn!
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father, You have tasted the bitterness of this broken world and offer for us the drink of blessing, promise and everlasting hope. It tells us of Your great love for us and we are glad to receive it. We receive it more so now as the revealing of Your gospel intention becomes more clear. We do not receive, however, to keep it but to share it with others. We commit ourselves to do so in order that others may know of the truth of Your great love and desire to leave their gods behind and join with us in spirit and in truth to dwell with You forever and ever. May our lives be that “prelude to the gospel” of faith, hope and love in Jesus’ name. AMEN.