Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sunday Sermon Notes - 9.4.07

Ruth 2

What's going to happen to Naomi?

The author hints at the hope-lined clouds, revealing that the sun is about to break up the dark storm. Naomi is full of bitterness, particularly towards Yahweh, the Almighty; her situation is bleak - she is a old widow, poor, grieving the death of her two sons, accompanied by two barren daughters in law of a foreign land. But...despite her bitterness towards God, Naomi is willing to return home when she hears that the Almighty has given aid to his people, he has had mercy on them and ended the famine. Though she is resentful, she is willing to return home to God...rather then disbelieve in God, or mistrust Him, she is willing to place her life in his hands still. Remarkable.
NOTE: once she makes this decision, it sets in motion the remarkable actions of Ruth - her surprising and beautiful pledge of loyalty to Naomi changes everything.

Naomi and Ruth return home at the beginning of the barley harvest is a wise time to return. The author, with a fascinating air for drama, tells us at the beginning of the chapter that Naomi has a kinsman named Boaz...and he tells us that Ruth has decided to go out and glean in the fields so that the she and Naomi may have food for the coming year. And guess in which field she gleans? And guess who shows up while Ruth is gleaning there? Boaz...whose name means "strength". The author has introduced two common Torah-instructions each centered on caring for the widow, the poor, and even the foreigner. The two Torah-instructions are the Law of Gleaning, and the Law of Land Redemption. The rest of the dialogue of the story is rooted in these two characters, Ruth and Boaz, fulfilling the first law and setting up the fulfillment of the second.

Basic overview of these two Torah-instructions:
Law of Gleaning - upon harvest time, harvesters were not to pick up any grain that fell to the ground while collecting the sheaves; and also were not to harvest the edges/wings of the field. The poor of the area were invited to come to the fields and follow the harvesters, picking up the fallen grain and collecting the sheaves from the edges/wings of the fields. It was a brilliant way for the local economy to support the poor, while providing the poor with dignity and an opportunity to earn their food through hardwork; to read more see Leviticus 19 (the source of the second half of Jesus' Great Commandment).

Law of Land Redemption - each tribe of Israel (Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, Benjamin, etc) was assigned land from the LORD; each tribe was to hold onto their land forever. Within each tribe, clans of families were also assigned portions forever, and within those clans families were assigned lands forever. Land would pass from one family generation to another through the eldest son. But what happens if the oldest son dies? Well then it would pass to the next son. But what if no sons are born, or what if all the sons die before they are able to have children? Then the brother of the deceased husband/father would take the widow to be his wife and produce a child through her, and that child would then be the rightful heir to the land; he would not belong to the brother, but to the widow. This way the family was able to hold onto their land in hard times. Often the brother would purchase the property of his deceased brother, along with the wife and other daughters/possessions; to read more see Deuteronomy 25.

Think through the implications of how this sustains the economy, lifts up the value of the extended family, and how the widows, oprhans, and poor are provided for through sacrifice and hardwork. Keep this in mind as you read through Ruth 2, about how Ruth and Boaz interact in light of these two laws; keep this mind as we wonder what will happen to Naomi.

Will God provide for you through the righteousness of others? Through your righteousness, will God provide for others?

No comments: