For the past two nights, I have encountered the glory of the Lord in a powerful but unusual way: through the book of Ruth. Most of us know the story of Ruth and Naomi as a beautiful Old Testament "gospel" of redemption through Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer. It is impossible not to notice the love story foreshadowed between our heavenly Bridegroom and His Bride!
Yet this week, the Lord has been speaking to me about deeper truths contained within the lives of these two women; insights that have direct application to us as redeemed people called to reflect the glory of the Lord in a dark time.
The book of Ruth is an allegory: a Jewish parable containing hidden keys for a life of faith. I invite you to walk with me for a moment through its pages, allowing the Lord to inscribe on your hearts the very personal and prophetic messages He has for you today!
In the biblical days of the Judges, apostasy, lawlessness, and famine drive a certain Jewish family out of the Promised Land and into Moab like exiles.
Ten years of tragedy and death follow before one courageous woman makes a decision to return to God and to her ancestral home in Bethlehem.
She returns to the city whose name means “House of Bread,” possessing nothing except a firm decision to right her family’s wrongs and to follow the God of Israel.
Her name is Naomi.
Chronologically, the book of Ruth predates the stories of Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and even David, all of whom were deliverers raised up to assist Israel during dark times of lawlessness. Conditions around 1194 BC were not unlike those we see now: everyone did what was right in their own eyes, rejecting governance by the one true King. The Promised Land was devastated by famine and drought, its people suffering because of disobedience.
Naomi’s husband moves the family to Moab, leaving their land and inheritance, and her sons marry daughters of a foreign nation, which is against God’s laws. Over the next ten years, Naomi watches her husband and two sons die. She is left with only bitterness in her soul and two daughters-in-law at her side. God, it seems, has forsaken her.
We can easily compare the conditions of Naomi’s day with what we see in the nations today.
Worldwide there are shortages of food, and sickness abounds. Riots are erupting in our streets among people whose different viewpoints defy reconciliation, each side claiming it champions the truth. Presidents and kings struggle to rule a generation devoid of honor, facing daily public ridicule. Where is God in all of this?
Naomi’s cry echoes our own as she tells her daughters-in-law: “It is more bitter for me than for you, for the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” (Ruth 1:13)
Praise God, Naomi’s story doesn’t end here, and neither does ours!
HUMILITY AND HONESTY: KEYS TO YOUR HARVEST
Faith arises in Naomi when she hears that the Lord has come to the aid of His people and provided bread in the Promised Land. Faith always comes by hearing!
Driven by hunger, Naomi sets out to return to Bethlehem, telling her daughters-in-law to remain behind. But Naomi's renewed faith has sparked something in Ruth.
Inspired, perhaps, by Naomi’s boldness to repent and return, Ruth pledges her friendship to Naomi and to the Lord, becoming a “firstfruits” of Naomi’s own harvest. (“Your people will be my people and your God will be my God,” Ruth 1:16). Together, the two women return - empty, bitter, and homeless - but hoping to find abundance and peace through their obedience.
Just as Naomi and Ruth return to the Lord with a humble, honest appraisal of their situation, so I believe humility and honesty are keys to our readiness to be used by God to reap a harvest. Our “bread” is Christ. Our strength is found in doing His will.
One woman's honest evalutation results in a good decision and a harvest of blessings. The Lord is emphasizing again today that our response to Him has the power to make us bitter or better!
RISE AND THRESH!
I have heard the Lord speak many times about the incoming harvest. Many are prophesying that a great harvest is upon us, and I believe the Lord is calling us to be ready to reap.
“See, I will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up, and a gale will blow them away. But you will rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Holy One of Israel.”
The nations do not understand (God’s) plan... “that He has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor. Rise and thresh, Daughter Zion, for I will give you horns of iron; I will give you hooves of bronze, and you will break to pieces many nations. You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the Lord, their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.”
Friends, even in the middle of desolation and destruction, you can reap a harvest!
Soon after Naomi and Ruth return, Ruth becomes a harvester herself, gleaning in Boaz’s fields. She comes under the protection of this benevolent Christ-figure, and the servants of Boaz (who represent Christ’s harvesting angels) go before her, pulling up and setting aside some of the sheaves of barley for her to glean.
Ruth moves quickly from famine to feasting to fruitfulness as she embraces her new bridegroom, producing a son who will take his place in the Messianic dynasty. What an amazing prophetic picture of the desire of God to use willing people of every tribe and nation to help gather in His harvest!
I believe the Lord is speaking to three types of people through this story today.
Some of you, like Naomi, have suffered years of bitter disappointment and moved away from your places of faith and provision. You have endured the death of your dreams or the loss of covenant relationships. It seems the Lord's hand has been against you, bringing you to a place of barrenness and despair. You feel like you aren't hearing from the Lord anymore, and life as you once knew it has crumbled into emptiness.
I believe the Lord wants you to know that He is still the God of resurrection, and He can restore life to both individuals and families who, at present, carry no hope for a Christian legacy. As Naomi made a sober assessment of her life and returned to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ and the "house of bread," so you can by faith return to a place of communion and intimacy with the Lord, ensuring that your legacy in Christ is passed on to future generations. The world is watching for these bold and courageous ones who will win souls even in the wake of their own honesty and humility!
Others reading these words identify more with Ruth, whose encounters with death and disaster caused her to notice and cling to people of faith. Perhaps you have recently been inspired through the faith of another believer, to make their God your God, too. You have "crossed over" from death to life and from a place of exile into a place of promise!
I believe your decision to honor those who have gone before you will result in overflowing blessings to you. Just as Boaz surrounded Ruth with provision and protection, so you have caught the eye of your heavenly Bridegroom who is eager to bless you! Stay close to those whose authentic faith can guide you in this hour; learn from them and your own path and purpose in this time of harvest will become clearer to you.
Finally, there are some reading these words who are mature in the Lord. You know what it is to labor in the fields of your Bridegroom; you have harvested with angels and fellow servants alike. Yet there is a cry rising up within you for even more of Him. You are not content to settle for the Lord's provision alone and you have a deep desire to encounter Him personally and intimately.
Naomi's words to Ruth will become your keys in this hour: Go and position yourself at the feet of Christ as Ruth lay before Boaz! As a son or daughter of the King, wait before Him until you find out what He will do. (Ruth 3:18.) The Lord will redeem this time for you, releasing new strength and power as you rest before Him in honesty and humility. Oneness and deep intimacy with Him will bring you from a place of reaping another's harvest to bearing fruit yourself as He fills you with His glory.
Reread God's words through Isaiah and Micah above, and ask the Lord to make you a sharp threshing sledge, rejoicing in the glory He is releasing through you!
Blessings to all who read these words. My prayers are with you!
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.