Day 12 – December 12
Ornament – Sheaf of Wheat
Israel couldn’t fully love, because they didn’t understand God’s passion. His ardent heart terrified them, though it released sentiment without violence. Even so, He refused to wash His hands of this wayward one, which was the ultimate demonstration of “hesed.”
Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: ‘I remember the devotion (hesed) of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown.’ Jeremiah 2:2
The word “hesed” is used only in cases where there is some recognized connection (covenant) between the parties concerned. In this case, those betrothed. Though Pappa’s heart was slain, resurrection came quickly.
The romance of Ruth follows the desperate darkness that fell on Israel in the last days of the judges. The people of the land had fallen into idolatry and civil war, ushering in one of the most violent seasons spun into Scripture.
In those days there was no king in Israel. All the people did what was right in their own eyes. Judges 21:25
His chosen people, those He had led out of exile and into promise, made choices that led them far from Him.
Yet, the fervor of His pulse grew, as a wild ache set in. He purposed Himself to share the story anew, with a splendid encore through the tale of Ruth. And all of Heaven paused, as the bride in this story followed willingly.
The name Ruth springs from a root that means “associated.” Through letters and love, Ruth means (paraphrased), “the aim or purpose of the mate to pasture, graze or dwell with His beloved.” Wow! Ripped wide open and don’t want to be put back together. Ruth’s very name describes “hesed” love.
Upon entering the Book of Ruth, we are immersed in the story of Naomi, a widow grieving the loss of her husband and both sons. The remnant that remains are the widows of her sons. We find her making plans for the future. While living in Moab, where she and her family fled famine, she remembered the fields of Judah where God visited and cared for His people with daily bread. The wilderness. A place once barren made bountiful.
In preparation for her return to Judah, Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to return to their families. This wasn’t the noblest of acts. One thing to consider was that her daughters-in-law were ‘mouths to feed.’ They had no children, so there was no assurance of generations rising up and providing for the family. Another thing to consider was that these women were from Moab, which was a pagan land. I’m sure it occurred to Naomi that they may not be accepted into her culture and that she might even be shunned in bringing them. She had lost all she held dear, how could she bear the thought of losing what was before her?
What Naomi didn’t count on was a girl, from a land of pagan gods, who understood covenant. One who understood forever. A lovely girl named Ruth, who didn’t know how to say goodbye to love, encountered Naomi. She heard the stories of Judah as well. And somehow, she knew it was home. She innocently seized the idea that through covenant, all things concerning her were of great concern to God.
So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. Ruth 1:22
This modern version of the scripture says that Naomi returned accompanied by Ruth. Sadly, this translation leaves something significant out of its rendering. In Hebrew, the scripture reads,
“So Naomi returned and also Ruth returned out of the country of Moab.”
We expect Naomi to be returning. Judah is her homeland. But how can Ruth return to a place she has never been?
The word return is “shuv”, and shares the same root as the word ‘conversion’, which means “a returning”, “a return to the Lord” and “a return to the purpose of the womb.”
Through an astonishing choice, Ruth converted and prepared to converge with her destiny. Her journey with Naomi would lead her into the midst of something much bigger than her. In Hebrew, “in the midst” means “the most inward parts or womb.” Ruth was agreeing to dive bravely into the purpose of her womb, Pappa.
But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go (proceed to) I will go (follow), and where you stay (lodge) I will stay (lodge). Your people (nation) will be my people (nation) and your God my God. Ruth 1:16
I thought this scripture was pretty straightforward, no matter the translation, but there was something about the word “lodge” that kept niggling. It felt as though there was a choice hiding in it somehow.
In Hebrew, lodge has two meanings. One is “to dwell, rest or abide.” The other is “to grumble complain or murmur”. Brings new meaning to lodging a complaint, doesn’t it?
But in this simple word, I found the magnanimous choice Ruth made.
She said, “No matter what your lodge is like, no matter if there is grumbling or complaining, I will stay. I see covenant and I won’t give it up because of a condition.”
It was her declaration of ‘hesed’, the only love that would last, as she came from a pagan land into a broken Bethlehem and to a people blinded by the glare of their idols.
Her loyal heart would be tested in the days ahead. Declaring to be of a people and being received by that people are two different things. Sadly, it seemed Naomi’s people did not honor the words of the Torah in those days any more than they did upon its giving.
“The alien (stranger) living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens (strangers) in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34
Ruth, like Pappa, was looking for someone to love. She was possessed by a promise that love was meant to be returned.
But the people of her new land called her “Ruth the Moabite” and cast stones her way with barely a glance as they grazed her skin and bruised her heart.
When they had the opportunity to share inheritance with her, she was kept at arm’s length. They watched and waited for proof that she was to be alongside. And of course, proof is the enemy of love. With blinders of their making, they chose to see who they thought she was instead of what was true. A song of love was being sung over her, but they couldn’t hear it.
In certain African tribes, when a woman discovers she is pregnant, she and her friends go to the wilderness and pray together. They do so because they believe each person has a vibration or song. As they pray together, they wait until each person gets in tune with the sound. When they catch it, they sing the song together. Then they journey back to the village and sing the song so all can learn it. When the child is born, the entire village comes together and sings the song. They do so again when the child is of age to be educated. With the children of the village, the people come together and sing both the song of the bride and groom. Upon the death of a villager, the people gather and sing the song.
There is one more time the song is sung. If a person commits a crime or a social faux pas, the person is brought to the center of the village where the people form a circle around them and they sing their song. Though there may be consequences for the person, they are first reminded of who they are. Embedded in them is the knowledge that family, community, sings the song of one who has forgotten. When you know who you are, there is never need to withhold from another. Family remembers your wholeness when you are broken, your beauty when you feel plain, your innocence when you feel guilty and your purpose when confusion comes.
(Adapted from an excerpt of ‘Wisdom of the Heart’ by Alan Cohen)
There aren’t words to describe how that story pierces me. What a overwhelming description of what family is meant to be. Instead of “telling each other’s tales” we should be singing each other’s songs. There is a phrase Pappa says to me often when He wants me to speak something, “My voice is on the wind and the wind is in your voice.”
When He thunders, the waters in the Heavens roar; He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. Jeremiah 10:13
Jesus is Heaven’s storehouse opened for us. In doing all He did and greater, we are to be Heaven’s storehouses now. What an opportunity Ruth’s family missed. They could have opened the storehouses of themselves and led her to inheritance. But instead, they closed themselves off, afraid she might get something they didn’t have. And they entered into one of the greatest deceptions, comparison.
How blessed were the people of the land that from the beginning, Ruth declared that no matter the condition, she would stay in the covenant. Though they closed themselves off to her, she remained an open storehouse. And what she released was dangerous.
To be vulnerable is to be open or exposed to something overwhelmingly good.
Ruth’s risk of vulnerability exposed her to God’s overwhelming goodness, in the form of Boaz.
When the thunder rolled and Heaven roared, Boaz responded and he “saw” Ruth. He watched her day after day, gleaning in the fields, receiving the remnant. In his own act of vulnerability, he became grafted to her need and opened his storehouse. He gave her the corners of the field, which represented inheritance, so she could receive more. Everything about Ruth now concerned him.
One of my favorite things about Ruth (who I consider to be the first Terraformer!!) was that she gleaned daily. She understood daily bread. Her covenant was not changed by the condition surrounding her. Every day she gleaned and prepared a table for her family and those in need.
Sing to God, sing in praise of His name. Extol Him who rides on the clouds, rejoice before Him-His name is the Lord. A father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely, he leads out the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious live in a sun scorched land. Psalm 68:4-6
Ruth came to them rejoicing. To her they were unjust. To them, she revealed justice. They had forgotten the truth of their God. Ruth returned that they might remember. She was unafraid of how dark they had become. They would, however, need to acclimate to her light.
Ruth contentedly set about each day. Her fortune was to go into the field she was created for. The field God created her for and had faithfully led her to. She wasn’t meant to work in field after field, searching, until it felt like home. She was meant to walk into home and know it was hers.
Later, when she was given the corners, it was more than just being given extra grain. A gift came with Boaz’s words,
“Listen, don’t glean in anyone else’s field.”
It was given as promise and proposal.
In a majestic moment, Boaz didn’t just claim her, he named her. No more Ruth the Moabite or Naomi’s daughter-in-law. He, now husband, called her Ruth. Just Ruth. He is the first to do so, because he was the first to call her seen, known, loved. No more telling her of her past. Here, with him, all speaks to her future. She came to know who she was in their community, through knowing who she was to him.
Now Naomi had been a bit busy, scheming. Since before Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem, she had been in mourning. Naomi told her to change clothes and put on the best she had. Little did she know she was inviting Ruth out of mourning and into the joy set before her.
Naomi may have been a bit punctured by the pagan around her, so tried to entice Ruth to prostitute herself, for the provision Heaven already held. Bearing best interests, but armed with agenda, Naomi tried to send Ruth away from the God she knew. But Ruth would once more remain. Naomi could hatch a plan, but she could not usurp beauty. She could not overturn hesed.
Ruth arrived at the threshing floor and abandoned Naomi’s plan. For the threshing floor is where profane and scared are separated.
On the threshing floor, there can be two competing interests. Ruth had the choice to obey Naomi or be faithful to Boaz. You see, Boaz represented the Lord’s faithfulness to her. The God she heard of, Boaz made manifest. Though Naomi didn’t remember, Ruth wouldn’t forget.
With joy set before for her, Ruth followed the floor, all the way to Boaz, Finding him, found her faithful with the hesed love she had received.
She uncovered Boaz, exposing him to all the goodness her heart held. He awakened and asked who she was. Ruth identified herself as his servant and stepped into the beginning of covenant with him. Now, they could walk through the four covenants, together.
Boaz spread his garment over Ruth as a wedding ritual, not a pagan custom. They were faithful to each other and to their God. All of Naomi’s assumptions were washed away in the awe of this moment. He had not become like the other men of Bethlehem.
Following his faithfulness, Boaz did an incredible thing. He blessed Ruth for hers. She had chosen him. Naomi knew how she was sent, but Ruth knew why she was sent.
Love has a name, a call and a completion. We are asked to love one another, a task not tallied if we try to do so from self. Our “love”, often misguided, is a thin disguise for pleasure, feigning purpose.
The love we are asked to give, is a gift, from Pappa. Love is from Him and its sending doesn’t come wrapped in ribbons and bows, but flesh and bone, bearing blood.
The nature of His love is sacrificial. It pours, for no profit. It frees, for no fee.
Love has a name, Jesus. We breathing beings, walk in His name, speak in His name, work in His name. We are here to worship in His name. These things we do, when all we do, is done in love. Because we love His name, we proclaim it. This is not just sound, but spill. We pour, for no profit. We free, for no fee.
God revealed love among us, through Jesus. We reveal love in our midst, through Jesus. Love is in our midst, so we carry it to the middle of every mess. Cradle, cross, cave and crown – this is the Love we know. His story is gospel, all good news. Love, is the best news and name of all.
Photo credit: <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/photos/celebration‘>Celebration photo created by Racool_studio – www.freepik.com</a>
Sundown 3 – PRESENCE
Kindled on the third night is the light of HIS presence. Immanuel – God with us.
Exodus 13:21, 14:9 and 19:20 describe this so well.
By day The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so they could travel with Him by day and night. The Egyptians – all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops – pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea. Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army withdrew and went behind them. The pillar also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side, so neither went near the other all night long.
In the earthly days of Jesus, humanity didn’t recognize His coming. But we know He is here. If only this truth warded off coldness of soul. And wielded the understanding that He is never slow, but ever patient. He waits upon each completion of salvation, just as He awaited ours.
He is not immediate, but imminent. In Hebrew, the word for imminent is ‘attah’, meaning, “already, then and now, ideally present.” This is far different than “on the way or about to come.” It means He has already opened the door that we might dwell in that which He is doing.
This describes what David knew and where he lived. God’s Presence was a place he could always dwell. It was the place to remain, not visit. A pool to dive into, not a shore to sit on the fringes of. It awes me beyond measure to think that of all the things we were created to complete, one of magnitude so great is His Presence. For His presence isn’t complete if we aren’t in it. Until we dwell there, basked and baked, there is a void that causes an ache in the Presence itself.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. Psalm 89:15
BEATITUDE (Let this be our attitude)
Blessed (abundant) are they, the meek for they shall inherit the earth.
The heart of Heaven is interwoven with the idea of ‘anav’, the Hebrew word for meek. Meek is in no way passive, for it means “to respond or answer.”
The meek are fully focused, intent on Him. There is no claim of “own”, but the contentment of being occupied. Those called meek are satisfied dwellings.
Anav reveals heart’s character, for those postured here, testify to utter dependence on Him. These are rested hearts with nothing held onto, but much gained.
Earth recognizes the meek and responds by being reconciled and restored.