The door opener for a home

Date: Sunday, 7 July 2019 | Preacher:
Seri­es: | Bible text: Book of Ruth
Hint: This ser­mon has been machi­ne trans­la­ted. Plea­se note that we can­not accept any respon­si­bi­li­ty for the accu­ra­cy of the content.

The Book of Ruth speaks of the exo­dus from home as well as the return. In order for the widow Ruth to make her home in Isra­el, she nee­ded a redeemer. Boaz took over this func­tion. This gave her a live­li­hood and eter­nal hope. Jesus is our redeemer; he too enab­les us to have a home in the house of God.

Today’s bles­sing of Noemi G. is rea­son enough to look at the Noo­mi of the Bible in the Book of Ruth. It is a sto­ry of com­ing home. For the time being, howe­ver, it was off to a for­eign land.

Hard Bread Abroad

Nao­mi lived with her hus­band Elimel­ech and her two sons Mach­lon and Kil­jon in Beth­le­hem, which means bread house. But then a fami­ne aro­se in the land. The bread in Brot­hau­sen beca­me scar­ce. The­re­fo­re, the who­le fami­ly of Nao­mi and Elimel­ech moved to Moab, an area south of Isra­el. At first glance we say: «That is under­stand­a­ble!«But we have to look clo­se­ly at what kind of fami­ly is set­ting out for Moab. This is striking becau­se one does not actual­ly go to Moab, cer­tain­ly not to seek one’s bread the­re. The­re is no bread and no water for stran­gers in Moab, that is Israel’s expe­ri­ence from its time wan­de­ring in the desert.

Who will get bread and water in Moab, whe­re one vol­un­ta­ri­ly gets neit­her? Pro­bab­ly the one who has to give some­thing in return. Noomi’s fami­ly brings some­thing that gives her access to bread and water: Money. She herself says: «Rich and pro­spe­rous I emi­gra­ted and empty-han­ded the Lord lets me return home»(Ruth 1:21). This money not only opens up access to food for them, but also to socie­ty. Only rich peop­le could mar­ry into the land of Moab. Her two boys mar­ry Moa­bi­te women: Orpah and Ruth. Why do rich peop­le have to flee to Moab when bread is scar­ce? The assump­ti­on is that they want to pre­ser­ve their wealth. They do not flee from the hun­ger that wants to enter their house, but from the beg­gar who wants to come to their table. They refu­se solidarity.

But Moab beco­mes a dead end. They eat «hard bread» the­re. As Noomi’s hus­band and two sons die, she is left alo­ne. She beco­mes a lonely and bit­ter womanAs she herself will later express on her return to Beth­le­hem: «Call me no more Noo­mi, call me Mara (= bit­ter­ness), for the Almigh­ty has made life bit­ter for me» (1,20). Widows at that time were out­laws, in a sta­te of com­ple­te law­less­ness and defen­cel­ess­ness. Only if they found a new home and gave birth to child­ren would they be able to escape the pover­ty trap.

Isra­el is the peop­le of God. Figu­ra­tively spea­king, the fami­ly moved from the God of Isra­el to a land whe­re sel­fi­sh­ness was ent­hro­ned and whe­re the inha­bi­tants even sacri­fi­ced their child­ren to idols. Moab means «from the father» and testi­fies to its ori­gin. It was at the time when Sodom and Gomor­rah were des­troy­ed (Gene­sis 19). Lot, the nephew of Abra­ham, lived with his two daugh­ters in a cave up in the moun­tains. In this seclu­si­on, far from pos­si­ble hus­bands, the two women hat­ched a plan to have child­ren. They got Lot drunk and slept with him. This affair resul­ted in the incest child Moab. From then on, this atro­ci­ty lay like a shadow over the Moa­bi­tes – an open wound. Some­thing bur­den­so­me lay on the­se people.

It was to this land that Elimel­ech moved with his fami­ly to bring his wealth to safe­ty. His moti­ve was the love of money, which, as we all know, is the root of all evil. (1Timothy 6:10). And somehow the bread did not nou­rish them in the same way as in Beth­le­hem. In the para­ble of the pro­di­gal sons, the youn­ger son also left home to buy a ful­fil­led life. His attempt fai­led mise­r­a­b­ly and ended up star­ving with the pigs. Jesus exp­lains this princip­le: «For he who tri­es to pre­ser­ve his life will lose it»(Mark 8:35). The fami­ly of Elimel­ech and Nao­mi expe­ri­en­ced exact­ly this. They went their own ways and moved away from the «House of Bread» becau­se they belie­ved that the grass was gree­ner on the other side of the fence. Many peop­le think like that. They think that a life with God brings dis­ad­van­ta­ges and is not nou­ris­hing enough. In search of a ful­fil­led life, they look else­whe­re. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, howe­ver, decep­ti­ve wealth ulti­mate­ly lea­ves us hungry. Our hun­ger for mea­ning, secu­ri­ty, love and belon­ging is only satis­fied with God.

It is also typi­cal that Nao­mi bla­mes God in the cri­sis: «Call me Noo­mi no more. Call me Mara, for the Almigh­ty has made my life bit­ter. Rich and pro­spe­rous I have emi­gra­ted, and empty-han­ded the Lord sends me home. Why should you call me Nao­mi when the Lord has put me through so much suf­fe­ring and the Almigh­ty has brought such mis­for­tu­ne upon me?» (1,20f). At a distance from God, we are all empty-han­ded. Don’t we often pur­sue our own paths to hap­pi­ness and when we are in cri­sis, we bla­me God? This is cal­led ego­centric deism: I shape my life. I deci­de what is right and wrong for me and God hel­ps me. God is my per­so­nal saviour and will never disap­point me. What a mistake!

Return home

And so Nao­mi sets off back to Beth­le­hem, to tho­se she aban­do­ned – back when she was still rich. She wants to get rid of her daugh­ters-in-law first and sends them back to their fami­lies. Bit­ter­ness seeks lone­li­ness. Tho­se who are bit­ter know about their own into­le­ra­bi­li­ty. Noo­mi says: «No, my daugh­ters, turn back, for I am too old to mar­ry again. And even if I were to say: «I still have hope», yes, even if I were to join mys­elf to a man this very night and have sons, what good would that do? Would you wait till they grew up? Would you lock your­sel­ves up for so long and for­go any other mar­ria­ge? No, do not go with me, my daugh­ters! My bit­ter sor­row is even hea­vier for me than for you, for the Lord hims­elf has brought it upon me» (1,12f).

Noo­mi addres­ses the issue of mar­ria­ge in law. If a mar­ried man dies and lea­ves no child­ren, the next of kin is obli­ged to take the widow as his wife. The first son she gives birth to is then con­si­de­red a descen­dant of the decea­sed bro­ther, so that his name is pre­ser­ved in Isra­el. The only pro­blem was that such a bro­ther was not yet born and Nao­mi had no hus­band. The only hope for the future for her daugh­ters-in-law was that they would look for a Moa­bi­te husband.

Orpa, which means «back of the head», jumps off. Noo­mi only sees her from behind. But Ruth sim­ply refu­ses to lea­ve Noo­mi. «But Ruth ans­we­red: «Do not ask me to lea­ve you and turn back. Whe­re you go, I will go, and whe­re you live, I will live. Your peop­le are my peop­le and your God is my God. Whe­re thou diest, the­re will I die also, and be buried. The Lord shall punish me if I allow anything but death to sepa­ra­te us!» » (Ruth 1:16f).

The fier­ceness with which the Hebrew text is spo­ken is pal­p­a­ble. The sen­ten­ces are short and con­cise: «Your peop­le – my peop­le, your God – my God!«Ruth trans­la­ted means the friend, com­pa­n­ion. And Ruth beco­mes what is in her name: the com­pa­n­ion for Nao­mi. At the same time, Ruth’s con­cise sen­ten­ces con­tain a clear com­mit­ment to the one God of Israel.

Belonging to home

Well – Nao­mi moves to Brot­hau­sen with her daugh­ter-in-law Ruth, and sen­si­b­ly at the time of the bar­ley har­vest. The bread shor­ta­ge is over. Ruth must now sup­port herself. In anci­ent Isra­el, social­ly dis­ad­van­ta­ged peop­le, such as widows, had the right to go after the rea­pers at har­vest time to pick up the remai­ning ears of corn. Ruth did this in the field of Boaz, a rela­ti­ve of Elimel­ech. Boaz was very kind to her, pro­vi­ded for her safe­ty, snacks and made sure that the har­ve­s­ters left more ears of corn.

«Whe­re did you gather all that grain today?» cried Nao­mi. […] Ruth told her mother-in-law who she had worked for. And she said, «The man in who­se field I was today is cal­led Boaz.» «The Lord, who has not with­drawn his mer­cy from the living or the dead, bless him,» said Nao­mi to her daugh­ter-in-law. «This man is one of our clo­sest rela­ti­ves (Hebrew qarob), one of the sol­vers (Hebrew goel) of our fami­ly.» (2,19f).

The first thing that stands out is that Nao­mi regains her faith. «The Lord has not with­drawn His grace.«In addi­ti­on, Nao­mi needs two expres­si­ons that will have a las­ting effect on what hap­pens next. She says that Boaz is a qarob (kins­man) and also a goel (sol­ver). The sol­ver is the next of kin who has to buy up the pro­per­ties of impo­ve­ris­hed men or men who have died without child­ren. In the lat­ter case, the redeemer must try to pro­cu­re an heir for the pro­per­ty on behalf of the decea­sed by mar­ry­ing the widow. The situa­ti­on was that it was Boaz who was the second redeemer. The­re was ano­t­her clo­ser rela­ti­ve who had the «right of first redemp­ti­on». This one would have lik­ed to rede­em the land of Elimel­ech, but did not want to mar­ry the Moa­bi­te widow Ruth (4:1ff).

«Then Boaz said to the elders and to all the peop­le pre­sent: «You are wit­nes­ses that today I bought all the pro­per­ty of Elimel­ech, Kil­jon and Mach­lon from Nao­mi. Along with the land I have also purcha­sed Ruth, the Moa­bi­te widow of Mach­lon. She is to be my wife so that the decea­sed will have an heir to car­ry on his name. In this way, his name will not be lost among his rela­ti­ves and among the citi­zens of the city. You are all wit­nes­ses to this today.» » (4,9f).

Boaz beca­me the sol­ver of Nao­mi. The out­law widow from the nati­on crea­ted by incest found a new home. The door ope­ner for their new home among the peop­le of God was Boaz the Sol­ver. It is not by chan­ce that the term «redeemer» bears this gre­at resem­blan­ce to the word «deli­ve­rer». God pic­tures Moses as the one who will rede­em Isra­el from the hand of the Egyp­ti­ans (Exo­dus 6:6). Isaiah 41:14 also has this word goel in Hebrew: «[…] Fear not, I will help you; you have my word. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Isra­el.» Ulti­mate­ly, God rede­ems us all through Jesus Christ. He is the door ope­ner to the one God, the hea­ven­ly Father. Through Jesus we gain access to the house of God. This supre­me and pro­phe­tic mea­ning of this litt­le word goel is alrea­dy expres­sed in the Old Tes­ta­ment: «But for Zion and tho­se from Jacob who turn from their sin, he comes as a redeemer. Upon this the Lord gives his word»(Isaiah 59:20).

Jesus is our Saviour. Through him as our door ope­ner, we recei­ve a home in the house of God. Through this being at home, we are no lon­ger out­la­wed, but recei­ve secu­ri­ty, qua­li­ty of life and an eter­nal future. Our name will never perish. Moreo­ver, we are freed from dark shadows – whe­ther the cau­se is incest or anything else. The house of God is also the house of bread (Beth­le­hem). The­re is always a bar­ley har­vest the­re and con­se­quent­ly enough bread. Jesus, a descen­dant of Ruth, says of hims­elf: «I am the bread of life»(John 6:48). He has come to give us «To give life in all its full­ness»(John 10:10).



Possible questions for the small groups

Read the Bible text: Ruth 1 and 4:1–12

  1. What does Beth­le­hem stand for and what does Moab stand for in the sto­ry? Why could the Elimelech/Noomi fami­ly not be hap­py in Moab?
  2. How did the insti­tu­ti­on of the sol­ver func­tion in anci­ent Isra­el? To what extent was it a door ope­ner for a new homeland?
  3. What are the par­al­lels with Jesus?
  4. How did the redemp­ti­on of Boaz chan­ge Ruth’s situation?