Harvest of the Heart
The Reading for the Feast of Weeks – Ruth 1.15-22
“15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
“16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
“17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
“18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. “
“19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “
“22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.”
Ruth, a Rustic story in the Midst of Israel’s Stormy History
How did the Book of Ruth make it into the Bible? The 7 books before deal with the Hebrew escape from Egypt, the Law, and the conquest of the Promised Land. The 8 following tell of the new kingdom, it’s fall and restoration. It’s as if the LORD takes a break from the huge building blocks of ancient Near Eastern history to express His love for ordinary individual folk in a tiny village in the hills – the old woman Naomi, and the foreigner Ruth mattered to Him. So do you!
A Biblical Mills & Boon Romance?
Ruth, despite the possibility of living in her own country, Moab, and remarrying, and having children, sticks to Naomi her mother-in-law like glue – to love her and to care for her.
It’s the time of the Barley harvest when they reach Bethlehem. They have no home and no income, so Ruth goes out to glean – to follow after the harvesters to pick up any grain left behind.
The landowner, Boaz finds out about their plight and is very kind to Ruth and Naomi, supplying lots of barley to them.
Ruth realises that Boaz is their salvation, and plans, with Naomi, to win him.
Boaz needs no persuading. (Perhaps he is already falling in love with Ruth?) When she tells him that he is a close relative (Hebrew GOEL – a redeemer/rescuer) and therefore has a legal responsibility for them, he goes beyond what’s required, and marries Ruth, so that he can give complete care to them both. This is a beautiful story about provision and care; with the sense that somewhere behind all this there a God who is looking after them.
Another Story of Love and Gratitude – Babette’s Feast
It’s the 1870s, and Babette, a chef from the Café Anglais in Paris, is on the run from the another revolution. She eventually finds sanctuary with two elderly sisters in a strict religious sect in Denmark. These Protestants are very dour and humourless; they believe that constant seriousness is a requirement of true Christianity.
Sometime later, Babette receives a letter from Paris telling her she has won 10.000 Francs in the Paris Lottery. She says nothing, but, out of gratitude to her rescuers, secretly begins to prepare the most sumptuous feast for the villagers.
Although these Christians refuse to comment on the earthly pleasures of their meal, they are secretly having a wonderful time! Babette’s gifts break down their reserve, distrust, and legalism, and lifts them, both physically and spiritually. Old wrongs are forgotten, ancient loves are rekindled, and a magical restoration of the human spirit settles over the table. In her love, Babette has spent the full amount of her lottery win on them.
For me, the whole story points to the power of extravagant love; love which is transformative; love that can change lives.
The Transformative Power of Extravagant Love in the Book of Ruth
With fresh eyes, we now see that Ruth’s story is not just about rescue and provision. This is extravagant love. If we imagined Naomi’s future as she returns to Israel, we see only toil and bitterness. Ruth’s love animates her; galvanises her into a plan; and ultimately transforms her later years. Boaz’s love changes Ruth’s future. She is no longer an obscure, foreign woman but a force in the continuing story of Israel. Though Ruth would never know it, her great, great-grandson would be David, Israel’s greatest ever king and a foreshadow of the Messiah, Jesus – the greatest of all extravagant lovers.
Where Does the LORD Fit into to all This?
In this week’s Zoom Study Time, Caroline pointed out that God is the unsung hero of the whole story. This sequence of events and decisions was not accidental, the LORD Himself was silently planning and manoeuvring in love. So often, we lose track of the LORD’s hand. Like a glistening stream, His extravagant love is always flowing, and like a beck in the hills, it sometimes flows below the surface, unseen; only then to reappear as a gushing spring further on. It’s then we realise He was there all the time.
I long for a harvest of love.
Search my heart.
Make me like Ruth. Make me like Boaz.
Reveal in me the people and places in my life that need love.
Reveal to me the faces that I need to love, even when I don’t want to.
I pray, Lord, that You will channel through me an unstoppable overflow of Your extravagant love.
Amen. Amen. Amen.