light in the darkness April 7 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Ruth; 1Chronicles 2:3-16

A Light of Hope

Were you ever lost in the darkness? Imagine that in your youth you and a friend get lost walking home. You are crossing along the edge of some woods near a cow pasture. There is no moon tonight and it is cloudy so there are no stars to be seen. It is pitch black. You can barely make out forms of trees or a fence line. You and your friend stumble over tree roots. Crunching dead leaves scares you. Shadows scare you. Suddenly, just over the rise of a hill, you see a distant light. That light represents hope. That light represents peace from your fears. It is a very welcome sight, and you and your friend rejoice to see it as you make your way towards it. That is the way it was for Israel in the time of the judges. People were so evil they were stumbling in their sin, not knowing which way to turn. Judges 21:25 summarizes that time period: “in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” It was a time of darkness and confusion. Suddenly, there was a light. The story of Ruth provides us with a glimmer of hope in the spiritually dark time of the judges (Ruth 1:1). Since she was the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:13-17) she lived in the latter times of these rulers (more…). We are not certain what judge was leading Israel at the time, but her story probably occurred during the rulerships of Samson and Samuel. The book of Ruth is a love story, but it starts with hard times and tragedy.

Ruth 1:1-7 records that a famine occurred in Israel. Judah, with its desert wilderness would have been particularly affected. Elimilech, a prominent Israelite, moved his family away from Judah to Moab. He must have been desperate because he moved into the land of his enemies. We might argue that he should have stayed, prayed and relied on the LORD for deliverance, but in those days everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Given the same set of circumstances, perhaps we would have made the same decision that he did. Unfortunately, while his family was in Moab his sons married Moabite women, and then he and his sons later died. Naomi and her daughter- in- laws were left destitute, but they heard God had provided food for Israel so they returned. God provides for his own if we will be patient. God is merciful and gracious to widows and others who are destitute.

Orpah and Ruth, Naomi's daughter-in-laws, began the journey with Naomi. However, Naomi thought it would be better if they returned to their own country and re-marry. Orpah left, but Ruth insisted on staying. Ruth was a Moabitess, but she showed her love for her mother in law by leaving her country, her people and her gods to be with her (Ruth 1:16-17, 20-21). This is a picture of the first step to salvation - leaving our gods and our sins and turning to the true God for deliverance (more...). Naomi's God, the true God, became her God, and the Israelites became her people. Naomi, however, was very bitter about her situation, having lost a husband and two sons. We can certainly sympathize with her. However, in the grace of God, she gained two loving daughter in laws, one which refused to leave her. God is gracious even during dark and difficult times.

Ruth sought to provide for her mother-in-law. She was industrious, even though she herself was grieved with the loss of her husband. She had a very good reputation for her kindness and loyalty to Naomi (Ruth 2: 2-3, 11-12). How do we behave to our in-laws? What is our reputation?

The place where Ruth went to glean after the harvesters “just happened” to belong to Boaz, a near kinsman and a rich land owner. He was very kind to Ruth, though she was a foreigner. He protected her and provided for her. When Naomi found out about Boaz, she praised God because Boaz was a kinsman-redeemer. What is a kinsman-redeemer? According to Leviticus 25:23-28 if an Israelite was poor and wanted to sell his/her property, the nearest relative had rights to buy the property and the things associated with it so that the family name, clan and tribal stewardship of the property would continue. All the land belonged to the LORD, but they were stewards of it. The nearest relative who purchased the property and its possessions was the kinsman-redeemer.

Naomi recognized Boaz to be a near kinsman. Perhaps he could marry Ruth, buy their land, and provide for their needs. He had the reputation as a godly man and was a well-respected land owner. It was obvious that he cared for Ruth because he was so kind to her and Naomi. Naomi told Ruth

Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don't let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do. (Ruth 3:3-4, NIV)

In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” (Ruth 3:8-9, NIV)

Ruth was asking Boaz to spread his garment of protection over Ruth; in other words, he was asking Boaz to fulfill his role as a kinsman redeemer and marry her. Boaz was most willing to fulfill that role. One man was a closer redeemer than he, however, but if he would not be a kinsman redeemer, Boaz would. Though we might question the advisability of Ruth sleeping in the same place as Boaz at night, there was probably no immorality between the two because they were both people of high integrity. He spread part of his garment over her feet and she stayed for a time. She left in the wee hours of the morning so she would not have anyone see her and ask questions. He provided her with more grain and sent her home.

The next day Boaz met with the town council at the gate of the city. He met there with the nearest kinsman and gave him the proposal, but when he found out he would have to marry Ruth, he refused to do it. He took off his sandle and handed it to Boaz.

Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel. (Ruth 4:7, NIV)

“The passing of the sandle symbolized Boaz's right to walk on the land as his property,” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.427). Boaz took the offered sandle and became the kinsman redeemer. He married Ruth and she became the great-grandmother to King David (Ruth 4:17). She was also an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

Jesus Christ is our Kinsman-Redeemer. Jesus became one of us in the flesh (John 1:14; Philippians 2:6-7). He paid the price of redemption, not with money, but by the shedding of his own blood on the cross of Calvary. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace” (NIV). Titus 2:14 says, [Christ is the one] “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good,” (NIV). Like Ruth the Moabitess, though we are foreigners we have become a new people with a new inheritance (Ephesians 2:11-13).

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—(Colossians 1:21-22, NIV)

Knowing that we have a Kinsman-Redeemer, and that we are a new people with a new inheritance, how are we living? Are we eager to do what is good? Are we reflecting Jesus, the light of the world, in the darkness of our culture? (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14-16). Are we merciful and gracious to the poor, widowed, and orphaned?

Lessons to live by:

•  The first step to a new relationship with God is to leave your sins and turn to him for deliverance (more...)

•  We must trust the LORD; living by our own wits can be disastrous.

•  We can be lights in the darkness; we don't have to conform to our culture.

•  God is gracious to us even in times of darkness and difficulty.

•  Jesus Christ is our Kinsman-Redeemer. He is the light. He gives us forgiveness, peace, and new spiritual life. Through him we have a sure hope in a hopeless world (more...)

•  We should be merciful and gracious to the poor, widowed, orphaned, and distressed like God is.

Today's Bible memory verses:

Matthew 5:14-16

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (NIV)

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