Color Me Black
Multiplied misfortunes, and deepest grief, has negatively and deeply marked her view of life, of God, and of the meaning of circumstances.
Life has been against her.
God has judged her.
And there is little hope for improvement or reversal of fortune.
She came back home widowed with no surviving children, and with a foreign daughter-in-law who was also a widow.
There was nobody to work her ancestral plot of land.
Ruth, at least, has had success gleaning and their near-term survival has been assured.
One of the terrible side-effects of grief is how it turns us inward and consumes us with finding a way to survive.
Even when God is being good to us in many ways, through many people, we can hardly see it and barely acknowledge it.
The Turning Point
But now we come to the true turning point in Naomi’s story.
She begins to think of others again.
She has turned outward again, and is actively seeking a better future again.
Instead of her own plight, she begins to work for the thriving, not thus the surviving, of her daughter-in-law.
She begins to make positive plans and re-enters the stream of life.
Chapter 3 of our story begins with Naomi counseling Ruth.
“Shall I not seek your welfare?” is the question.
Taking Positive Action
In such a spirit, she counsels Ruth to use all the cultural ways to tell their champion, Boaz, that Ruth is available and willing to be his wife.
Although it sounds mercenary to our modern ears, there is a family duty under the Law of Moses that had not yet been performed.
Whenever a man dies married but childless, one of the brothers is to take his widow on as a second wife and father a child in place of his deceased brother.
This brother, as well as all eligible male family members of the extended family, were kinsman-redeemers.
It’s called the law of levirate marriage.
This practice insured that the deceased man’s family name and inherited lands survived and were kept intact to be passed down in his family line.
The alternative was for his name to “perish” and his lands to be lost forever to the descendants of others.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
So Ruth is instructed to seek her welfare and to pretty much beg for Boaz to step up to the plate and, through her, function as the kinsman-redeemer.
She goes after dark at the harvest celebrations and, after he goes to sleep, uncovers his feet and lays herself down by them.
In the cold of the night, he awakens to cover his feet and finds….a lovely young woman who signals, “Take me….I’m yours!”
Interestingly, instead of seeing himself doing Ruth a favor, he expresses deep surprise that she would pick him for such an honor.
Ruth graced Naomi in returning to Israel with her, and by working to obtain food.
Boaz graced Ruth by allowing her to glean his fields, and insuring that her harvest was super-productive and certain instead of meager and spotty.
Naomi graced Ruth by coaching her to take a risk and secure her future and her fortune– even as a foreign woman.
Now Ruth graces Boaz by picking him, an older man, to be her kinsman-redeemer of first choice.
The Elevation Begins
His response, of course, is to gladly accept the offer and to send Ruth back to her mother-in-law loaded with a big gift of freshly harvested grain.
Boaz also sends a message: there’s one male relative head of me in line, and I need to clear that up before this second marriage can happen.
What happens in chapter four will elevate this homespun story of love on the other side of grief to national significance, even eternal and universal signficance.
But I finding it striking that this elevation began with a widow choosing to live again, to love again, to pursue hope again because she had moved from feeling cursed to feeling blessed by God.
And that’s the turning point we all need!