Saturday, January 21, 2017

Finding Boaz...

Ruth is a good go-to story for widows everywhere to illustrate that love can come a second time around. It makes for a good romance novel in general - there are obstacles and yet they are overcome.

In the biblical account, Ruth is a Moabitess married into the family of Elimelech who had escaped a famine in Israel. Tragedy seems to track down this family as her mother-in-law, Naomi, is widowed. Within 10 years, Naomi's sons, Mahlon and Chilion, have also died.  This leaves three widows destitute and fortuneless.  One daughter-in-law, Orpah, returns to her people with Naomi's blessing; however, Ruth clings to Naomi and will not abandon her.  Together they head to Naomi's home of Israel where the barley harvest has just begun. Naomi is older and unlikely to ever remarry. Her hope had been that Ruth would find a husband among her own people; however, Ruth tells Naomi that basically the people of the Lord (Naomi's people) are her people and she will go with her wherever she goes.

Digressing a little, this is what the Bible says about widows:

“A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows is God in His holy habitation” (Ps. 68:5)
 “The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow” (Ps. 146:9)
“Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow” (Deut. 27:19)
“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27)

Paul talks to Timothy about four types of widows:
(1) The “widows indeed” (NASB; NIV this translates to “really in need”), who do not have family members to care for them (5:3-5, 9-10)
(2) Widows with children and grandchildren (5:4, 16)
(3) Younger widows, who should remarry (5:11-15)
(4) Widows who live for pleasure rather than for the Lord (5:6).

As for me, I know I come under category 3.  I'm too young to be a burden on my children and grandchildren. Too full of life to resign myself to a manless existence. This is what the Bible says to me:

1 Timothy 5:14  I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.
1 Corinthians 7:9 But if they cannot control themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

I don't want to be category 4 - so it is of crucial importance to me that the man I chose to spend my later days with loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, strength and mind.

So back to Ruth, she and Naomi arrive in Israel basically destitute. No man to provide for them; they are reliant on the good will of the community. Naomi was depressed over the situation and it is obvious that Ruth is a source of comfort to her. As I mentioned, the barley harvest is about to start so Ruth offers to go out and glean the fallen barley, dropped by the harvesters, in order to provide food for the two women. She winds up in the field of Boaz, a relation of the deceased Elimelech. He takes notice of her, asks around about who she is, and then tells her "Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled."  He zooms in on her need for protection. He makes sure that she knows that, not only is she welcome there, but he is going to provide that protection. She is grateful and actually asks him why he is being so nice to her. He lets her know that her reputation has impressed him and he wants God to bless her.

It turns out this is a good place to be - Naomi is pleased and tells Ruth to stay there. Now, Ruth must have already respected Naomi deeply because she chose to leave her own land to stick with her.  Read the rest of the story and see what happens.  Boaz is obviously quite happy that this young widow took notice of him and he gets right to the business of seeing that she can legally become his wife. Ruth asks him to "spread the corner of your garment over me" (Ruth 3:9, NIV) which had several meanings.  The word for corner in Hebrew means "wings," so she is asking him to protect her like a mother bird protects her babies beneath her wings. She was asking him to take her as his wife, to be her guardian-redeemer.

Now widows come with baggage. They come with memories, with the heartache of loss, often children and belongings from the former relationship that death has completed. The guardian-redeemer of the OT willingly understood that offspring from that relationship would be accounted to the deceased relation.  While this is not a practice in our world today, there is still a boatload of baggage that a Boaz acquires when he finds a Ruth that he desires. It is a special, kind and loving man indeed who is willing to take on that role.

Feminists might cry out that women have no need of a guardian-redeemer, they can take care of themselves, very well, thank you. Feminists can keep their opinions to themselves.  I know that for me, I enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with my late husband. We each had strengths and weaknesses that balanced out the others. We stuck to traditional relationship roles and well, I like that. I have no need within me for crying out "I am woman, hear my roar!" I'm more like, "I am woman, hear me purr." So for women like me - young, widowed and not liking this self-reliant thing - I hope you find your Boaz.  A kind, loving man who wants to honor and protect you. A man who respects and honors you, who loves the Lord and is full of faith.

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