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Still Abiding In Hope [12-8-19]

Updated: Jan 7, 2020

We're still in the Book of Ruth. Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, is a tragic character. Her story has been about loss. She's lost her husband and two sons. She's lost her home. She's lost her land. Naomi's story is about loss. But we closed last Sunday with a question. Does the story have to be about loss? Naomi lived through a lot of pain and loss. But is that what it has to be about? Gerald Sittser was in a car accident. The car he was driving was hit by a drunk driver in a minivan. In the accident, he lost three generations in his family. He lost his mother, he lost his wife, and he lost his young daughter. Sittser wrote a book about his journey of grief titled, "A Grief Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss." Here's what he says: "The experience of loss does not need to be the defining moment of our story." You see, it would be one thing for me so say that. But when you consider that the book was written in response to the horrific upheaval in his life, his words are weightier. Sittser goes on to say: "The defining moment can be our response to the loss. The story doesn't have to be about loss. The story can be about responding to the loss." Here's another way to say it. The fact of life is that, many times, we don't get to decide what roles we play in life. But we can decide how we play the roles we're given. I hope that makes sense to you. You get to a point in your life where you ask, "Is the story of my life going to be defined by loss, or something else?" Could it be something else? Because so much of life is in the moment; it's immediate; it feels like a barrage of one thing after another; we tend to focus on what's right in front of us. It's hard for us to see the bigger picture. But here's what we're going to see in Naomi's life. Here's a one word description of Naomi's life: Redemption. How fitting is that word 17 days before Christmas? Centuries before the birth of our Savior, Ruth foreshadows what Matthew proclaims when he says, "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Redemption from loss, sin, and death. Once Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem, Ruth goes into the fields to pick up grain left behind by the farmer. It is barley harvest season. Ruth's out there because the common practice is for farmers to leave a portion of the harvest behind so poorer people won't starve. It is their safety net. While she's out there picking grain, Ruth gets noticed. She gets noticed by the final main character in this story. His name is Boaz. His name means, "Strength is with him." You're going to see how appropriate that name is as the story develops. Ruth 2:3-4 says: So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. Are you beginning to connect this story with Christmas? Notice the phrase, "and she happened." Amazing, right? Ruth just happens to go to the field owned by Boaz. Boaz is from the same extended family as her now deceased father-in-law Elimelech, so Boaz, though older, as a relative of her also deceased husband, Mahlon, is in line to step in to care for Ruth. Ruth doesn't know about the connection with Boaz. But God does. God does. Boaz notices Ruth. He befriends her. When Naomi finds out, she decides to play matchmaker. She says to Ruth, "Here's what you do. Bathe. Put on your best clothes and your best perfume. Go to where he's working. After he's done eating and drinking, he's going lie down in the barn to sleep. When he does, as he's slipping off to sleep, you lie down at his feet to let him know that you are available for marriage. Then wait and see what he says. He'll tell you what to do." Please, don't project our mindset onto this moment. Ruth is not seducing Boaz. She's not trying to get him to sleep with her. They're not about to break into "Baby It's Cold Outside." Naomi is advising Ruth to prepare herself as a bride…to make a proposal to Boaz. In a bold move, Ruth is telling Boaz she's willing to make a new life with him. Let's look at what happens next. Beginning at Ruth 3:8-11: In the middle of the night the man was suddenly startled and sat up. Surprise! This woman asleep at his feet! He said, “And who are you?” She said, “I am Ruth, your maiden; take me under your protecting wing. You’re my close relative, you know, in the circle of covenant redeemers - you do have the right to marry me.” He said, “God bless you, my dear daughter! What a splendid expression of love! And when you could have had your