Journey through the Bible during the 40 days of Lent
Click here to download the readings for all 40 days. See below for study notes.
Friday – Ruth 3 – Ruth meets Boaz
On her return to her country, Ruth goes in search of food – she goes gleaning or taking the grain that is left after the harvesters have gathered all they can. As it happens she does so in land belonging to Boaz a relative of Elimelech and a wealthy man. He is clearly a good man, he protects the woman from the harm that could easily befall her from the working men and ensures that she has food and water.
Now here in chapter 3, Naomi realising that Ruth needs a husband, and so sends her to lie on the threshing floor of Boaz. He is pleased with her and realises that she is virtuous woman who does not just want to seek out younger men. But he too is a virtuous man and realising that she is the widow of a relative he decides that he needs first to seek the permission of a closer relation of Ruth’s late husband before he can ask her to marry him. For it seems that there was a custom in those days that when a woman was widowed, a close male relative should take her as his wife to care for her and protect her. Boaz gives her plenty of food for herself and her mother-in-law and then sets off to find this relative.
Saturday - Ruth 4 – Ruth marries Boaz and gives birth to Obed the grandfather of King David
Boaz finds this relative and gives him the first chance to buy land that Naomi is selling which belonged to Elimelech. It seems that the one who buys Elimelech’s land will be able to marry Ruth….these were very different times!
The man cannot or does not want to buy the land and so he allows Boaz to do so. And so Boaz and Ruth marry and through Ruth, the line of Elimelech which would otherwise have become extinct is restored.
But the real kick in this story comes in its very last word. For in the genealogy that concludes the book, it is explained that Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David. This is highly significant. For at the time the book was written, the people of Israel were becoming very angry at those who had taken foreign wives. They were insisting that foreign wives should be turned out of their homes. The Book of Ruth is a protest story, it is protesting against the narrow sectarianism that says that you can only marry someone of your own race. The Book of Ruth is a generous, subversive story and it tells the world that even the great King David had foreign ancestors.
People still today try to separate races and nations and ethnicities. We must not let them. We must stand with Ruth and with Jesus and speak out for love and inclusion irrespective of race and nation and faith and ethnicity.
Sunday - 1 Samuel 3 – God speaks to the boy Samuel and warns him of the judgement coming upon the House of Eli
We are going to spend almost the next couple of weeks with the Books of Samuel and Kings which cover a huge amount of the history of the people of Israel, they take us from the end of the period of the judges when the people of Israel started to yearn for a king, through the great period of Kings David and Solomon, a time of power and prestige for which the people were forever nostalgic to the division of the kingdom into two and the many disasters and setbacks that followed.
But we start in hope with the beautiful story of the birth of Samuel to a woman who had long given up expecting to have a child. It is a tender story and Hannah’s song of praise in 1 Samuel chapter 2 reminds us of Mary’s song of praise (known as the Magnificat) in Luke’s gospel when she hears from Gabriel that she is to be the mother of Jesus. Samuel is dedicated to the Lord and goes to serve God in the Temple where he lives alongside the Priest Eli and his two sons Hophni and Phineas. His sons were corrupt and took from the temple.
Chapter 3 tells of God calling out to Samuel in the night. At first Samuel thinks it is the Priest Eli. But Eli soon realises it is the Lord. God speaks to Samuel and tells him of the disaster he is about to visit on Eli and his wicked sons. When Eli asks Samuel what the Lord said to him, the boy is afraid to tell him but Eli is a good man and he encourages Samuel to speak frankly. So Samuel tells him. This is the first of many times that God will speak to Samuel and because he listens to God, he hears and obeys, God uses him as his prophet. As we will see, God is preparing him to play a huge role in all the great events that are about to begin.
For us, I think there is a lesson. At first, Samuel was not sure that the Lord was speaking to him but he tried faithfully to listen to God and so God used him and spoke through him. We too should try to hear God’s voice speaking to us in prayer, through bible study, in our worship and through other people.
Click here for past days notes