Day 7: A Plan is Hatched

Read: Ruth 3:1-18

Reflect: Chapter 2 ends with great hope and a sense that something big is stirring. But the narrator also leaves us with a cliffhanger: “And she lived with her mother-in-law” (2:23). Now, you already knew that. Where else did any of us think she was living? The narrator is pointing us to something yet unfulfilled in this story. While there is hope for Naomi and she is encouraged, it is as if the narrator skillfully drops a clue as to where the story heads next. 

Chapter 3 opens with Naomi showing genuine concern for Ruth for seemingly the first time in the whole story and the narrator invites us in to overhear as she hatches a plan for Ruth to sneak in to where Boaz was sleeping and to lay down next to him. 

Ruth does as Naomi instructs her and then, when the moment is right, asks Boaz if he would be their family redeemer. This is a strange concept to most of us, but the Mosaic law governing Israel provided for a family redeemer who would be required to buy someone back if they had sold themselves into slavery to pay off a debt and it called for a brother to marry his brother’s widow in order to give a child who could carry on the dead brother’s family. 

In short: Ruth proposed to Boaz, basically asking him to step in as a brother to her dead husband and fulfill the spirit of the law. You don’t expect a woman to propose marriage in that culture, but she does. And he says yes (well, with a caveat to be discovered in chapter 4). 

But are not all of us in need of a redeemer as well? Naomi, Ruth and even Boaz join each of us needing a redeemer who will buy us back out of our sin and to bring us back into the family. Praise God for Jesus, our big brother who redeemed us, paying the ultimate price by his death on the cross. 

Respond: 

  • First, take a moment to praise God for our redeemer, Jesus. 
  • How have you experienced the redeeming work of God through our ministry this week? 
  • What story are you most excited to tell people back home about the redeeming work of God in the Philippines? 

Day 6: A Sparkle of Hope for Naomi

Read: Ruth 2:17-23

Reflect: Imagine the way that Ruth’s heart must have been singing on the way home from the fields that night. She left that morning hoping to find enough to get a meal for her and Naomi. She returns having met a guy, eaten a big meal and carrying an ephah of barley. Ok, since you likely haven’t measured anything in ephahs recently, picture this: An ephah would be about the equivalent of one of those giant Costco-sized bags of dog food! Instead of coming home with just enough to feed them dinner, she brought home enough to feed them for the next month! 

And it is here, at this point in the story, that Naomi’s heart starts to thaw as she discovers that maybe God had not forgotten or abandoned her after all. Not only seeing the amount of food but discovering it came from a relative who would qualify as a family redeemer (more on that tomorrow) overwhelmed Naomi. 

And then we have that word again – hesed – the kindness (vs 20) of the Lord. This woman who was so bitter, angry and sorrowful gets the faintest sparkle of hope in her eye and she remembers… or maybe even truly discovers for the very first time… the kindness of the Lord. Respond:

  • When have you experienced the abundant, exceeding kindness of the Lord?  
  • How did it change you? 
  • Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness is designed to lead us to repentance. Go before the Lord confessing your sin and clinging to the hope of his kindness for you in Christ Jesus. 

Day 5: Seeing Invisible People

Read: Ruth 2:8-16

Reflect: Boaz is a pretty stunning guy. He is full of integrity and faithful to God at a time in history where not many Israelites were. The very first things we learn about him are that he follows the Mosaic law requiring leaving part of the harvest for the poor. That must have been an easy law to convince yourself to ignore just coming out of a famine! He is an attentive landowner, coming to fields to check on them. He blesses his workers (2:4) and is respected by them (they bless him back!). 

But what I admire most about Boaz is that he sees invisible people. When Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem at the end of chapter 1, the text says that they came to Bethlehem and the whole town was stirred because of them. But then there is no further mention of Ruth in that section. It is all about Naomi. Even Naomi says she came back empty. Ruth is just ignored… missed… she’s invisible to everyone. 

Everyone except Boaz that is. He takes one look out over his field and he sees a new woman that he doesn’t recognize out gleaning and he immediately inquires about her. And then he feeds her until she is satisfied (when was the last time she was truly had a full stomach?). And then he tells his own employees to be intentionally reckless and leave good parts of the harvest for her. 

She is invisible to the whole world and almost understandably so. She’s a widowed, poor, illegal immigrant. She is an outsider with no skills and no value. Until Boaz sees her. And talks to her. And abundantly, exceedingly and undeservedly shows her kindness. He sees her. She is invisible no more.

Respond:

  • When have you felt invisible, as if the whole world couldn’t see you? How did you feel? What inner desires did that stir up in you? How did you respond? 
  • Who are the invisible people you have encountered this week that God is calling you to truly see for the first time? 
  • Who are the invisible people at home that God is calling you to truly see for the first time? 

Day 3: From Pleasant to Bitter

Read: Ruth 1:15-22

Reflect: Today’s reading brings us to the most well known and the most often quoted passage in the book of Ruth. “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God” (vs 16). It’s a beautiful statement of love, kindness and loyalty (there’s that hesed idea again). No wonder why it gets repeated frequently at weddings…

But let me make 3 observations about these words. First, for Ruth, this appears to be the moment of her conversion. The decision to follow Naomi was a rejection of false gods and an embrace of Israel’s God. This poor, destitute widowed Moabite woman rejects her upbringing and its gods to throw herself before the mercy of Naomi’s God… and it is not at all clear yet if Naomi herself believes in this God! 

Second, God uses broken, sinful people to accomplish his good purposes. Naomi is literally trying to talk Ruth into rejecting her and her God. But God, in his infinite kindness and goodness, uses that to draw Ruth to saving faith. 

And third, all of this has turned Naomi bitter. We read that when Naomi realized that there was talking no Ruth out of going with her that she “said no more” (vs 18). Translated literally, she “stopped talking to her.” Naomi was so upset at Ruth that she just decided to stop talking to her at all… which, of course, must have made for a really long walk back to Bethlehem. When they arrive back in Bethlehem, crowds came up to see the long lost Naomi. And what does she say? “Do not call me Naomi (meaning “pleasant”), call me Mara (meaning “bitter”)” (vs 20). In her mind, she left full (a husband and two sons) and came back with nothing (which, as an aside, tells you what she really thinks of Ruth). 

And yet, even as we see a woman caught in bitterness and emptiness, the narrator gives us hope. Naomi left Bethelehem in the midst of a famine (1:1), but returns at the start of the harvest (vs 22). Naomi can’t see it yet, but there may still be hope on the horizon.

Respond:

  • How did you come to faith? We read of Ruth’s conversion story. Use the opportunity to reflect on your own. 
  • When has God used you in someone else’s life even when you were angry and bitter at God? 
  • Who do you need to go confess to that, in your anger, you tried to push away as Naomi did to Ruth? 

Day 2: When You Can’t See God’s Faithfulness

Read: Ruth 1:6-14

Reflect: With Elimelech dead, the story shifts to the newly widowed Naomi. You can only imagine the emotions she is feeling at having lost her husband and both of her sons. Especially in a patriarchical society, for a woman to lose her husband and sons was to lose everything. She is empty, alone, poor and hopeless. She has nothing and has no one. 

Yeah, her daughters-in-law are there, but she tells them to go back home. She wanted to be alone in her sorrow and grief and bitterness. If God was against her, she figures that the best she could do for Orpah and Ruth would be to get rid of them. 

Unfortunately for Naomi, she could not see the first hints of God’s faithfulness. The passage opens with word getting to Naomi that there was food is Israel. But even more importantly are the words “the Lord had visited his people” (vs 6). She missed the spiritual implication completely. In her bitterness and grief, she missed it. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when the children first hear the phrase, “Aslan is on the move”, the story tells us that the children were filled with courage and warmth and excitement, even if also a little fear and trepidation. They didn’t yet know Aslan, but they understood that something big was happening. 

Instead of experiencing spiritual renewal at hearing that God was on the move and had visited Israel, she tried to get rid of her daughters-in-law so that she could wallow in her grief alone. She threw herself a pity party and in the process, she missed the first hints of the faithfulness of God. The good news: there is more of his faithfulness yet to come, both for Naomi and for us.

Respond:

  • Where in your life today are you experiencing emptiness or bitterness like Naomi? 
  • When is a time in your life that you pushed away those closest to you so that you could wallow in your pity and sorrow? 
  • Looking back on your life, where can you see God at work now that you missed it in the moment the way Naomi did? 

Day 1: Leaving the House of Bread in a time of famine

Read: Ruth 1-15

Reflect: Our story opens by quickly drawing us, the readers, into the drama as we meet our characters and the setting in which they find themselves. There is a famine in the land and a guy named Elimelech decides that the best way to care for his family is to leave Bethlehem to try and find food somewhere else. So he, Naomi (his wife) and his 2 sons pack up and hit the road. Ok, fine, you can read those details easily enough and don’t need me to retell it. 

But there is something deeper going on both in Israel and in Elimelech’s heart. A famine in Israel was not just a shortage of food. It was a punishment for the sin and idolatry of the people (see Deut. 28). It was more than just a famine. It was a depiction of the spiritual health of the people. And it wasn’t good. The people of Israel were far from God. Elimelech was far from God… 

How do I know? 2 things from the passage: First, look at what he named his kids. Mahlon means “weak and sickly” and Chilion means “pining or wasting away.” Who names their kids that? Second, they go to land of Moab, a known enemy of Israel and a people literally birthed in sin (see Gen 19:30-38, but warning, it gets a little weird). And not only does he lead his family to Moab, but he lets his sons marry Moabite women, something strictly forbidden in the Mosaic law. 

What started as a little roadtrip to find some food ends in the place where all sin and running from God ends: death. By the end of verse 5, Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion are all dead, leaving behind three destitute widows with no hope or future. The great, sad irony? Bethlehem, the city they left to head to Moab, means “House of Bread.” They left the House of Bread in a time of famine. And it cost them everything.

Respond:

  • When is a time in your life that you have experienced a spiritual famine? 
  • Elimelech went to Moab for food. Where do you go to try and provide for yourself in those times of spiritual famine? 
  • What words would you use to describe where you are spiritually as we start our trip? 

The Covenantal Faithfulness of God: A Daily Devotional

God has provided me the incredible opportunity to serve for the next 2 weeks in Manila, Philippines. I hope to share some stories of how God is at work through our team and, maybe as importantly, how God is at work in me during this time. But additionally, the trip leader, my good friend Dennis, asked me to lead the team in devotions. Each day I will post a daily reading, reflection and invitation to respond from the book of Ruth

These are designed for the team, but you are invited to study Ruth alongside of us. I apologize in advance for any grammar and spelling mistakes. Much of this was written during my long haul flight when sleep was evading me…

And, finally, before proceeding to Day 1, here is a quick setting the stage of the book of Ruth. 


Grace is like water – It flows downhill and pools up in the lowest places.” This simple, but profound, insight from Geography of Grace invites us to approach our time in the Philippines with great humility and earnest longing to see God at work. We will be invited into the depths of the need, pain, brokenness and sorrow amongst those who have often labeled as the least, the last and the lost. We are going to see those who have experienced all of the vulnerability and exploitation of life in a broken world.

And when we do, we are going to find something unexpected: the grace of God, pooling up in the lowest places.

There is a Hebrew word that describes that radical grace God shows to his people: hesed. Our English Bibles typically translate hesed as steadfast love, kindness or loyalty. It is a beautiful word to depict God’s covenantal faithfulness. As the Jesus Storybook Bible describes it, it is a never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love. That is hesed.  

Matthew’s gospel opens with the genealogy of Jesus in which he names 5 of the most important women of all time. One of those women was a poor, destitute, widowed foreigner who grew up worshipping other gods but who grew to experience and cherish the kindness, the hesed of God: Ruth.

You may be familiar with the book of Ruth: It is a moving story of love and redemption. But let me suggest that Ruth is much more than a good love story (it is not less than that, but it mis certainly more than that). Ruth is a beautiful narrated tale of how the hesed of God takes the outcasts and the outsiders, the lost and the lonely, pours his radical grace upon them and then calls them his own. 

Over the course of our time in the Philippines, we are all invited to a study of Ruth. Maybe even today read through the whole story (it’s only 4 short chapters… you can do it!) and then each day there will be a short passage from Ruth with a couple of questions designed to help you process both the story of Ruth and how the grace of God is pooling up unexpectedly in low places among the people we encounter throughout the Philippines.