Summary: This message looks at the integrity of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz
They moved for the same reasons that families all over the world all through history have moved. Economic reasons. Karen read the story earlier how a man name Elimelech moved from Bethlehem to the country of Moab because of a famine that spread across Israel. There was a scarcity of luxury items like food and so they decided to look for their fortunes elsewhere. If we pull up a map we discover . . .
Those are the same reasons that Canada and the United States were settled and for that matter after the secret got out that Australia was a lot nicer climate then England why Australia was settled. For thousands of years the people of this planet have been willing to leave all that is near and dear in order to make a better life for their families. And it was no different 3000 years ago.
A lot of ground is covered in the first five verses of the book of Ruth, we discover that Elimelech had a wife named Naomi, she was famous for the squares she made, you know the cream filled ones with the chocolate top. You know Naomi bars. (I know they aren’t Naomi bars I was just kidding.)
And along with Elimelech and Naomi were their two sons. We don’t get very far in the story before we discover that Elimelech died and left Naomi a widow with two sons. Which is good for me because I have a hard time pronouncing Elimelech, but probably not nearly as good for Naomi and her sons. We don’t know how old anyone was at this time and the story skips to the two boys getting married to Moabite women. One named Orpah, not to be confused with Oprah and one named Ruth. About ten years later the two sons died, we don’t know if it was illness, war or an accident we are just told they died and instead of one widow the household now consisted of three widows. Now Victor Robinson was a doctor how lived in the late 1800s and he said “Widows are divided into two classes -- the bereaved and relieved.” We don’t know which class these ladies fit into all we know is that they were widows.
It was then that Naomi heard that things had gotten better economically back home and she packed up all of her belongings and told the other two I’m going home. When we were in Australia we discovered a singer that soon became one of our favourites his name was Graeme Connors and this became one of my favourite songs (Clip from Sicilian Born) You catch that last line? “Home isn’t where you are born it’s where you are prepared to die.” If we listened to the whole song we’d discover that in the end the old man goes back to Sicily, because “Home isn’t where you are born it’s where you are prepared to die.” And the same held true for Naomi. If you are familiar with the story then you know that Orpah decides to stay in Moab and Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth return to Bethlehem, where Ruth eventual meets and marries Boaz.
A little back ground here on the book of Ruth. It is the eighth book of the Bible and Jewish tradition holds that the book was written by the prophet Samuel although he is not named and modern scholars move the writing outside the time period that Samuel lived. Which may simply mean that Samuel told the story which was retold for centuries before it was committed to paper.
Why was it written? Understand that in the culture of that day Ruth didn’t have a lot going for her, at a time when people honoured women with children Ruth was childless. In a culture where a woman’s identity was tied to her husband Ruth was a widow. In a tight knit community she was an outsider and a foreigner and so God uses this story to teach his people to have grace and kindness and to include foreigners into their nation.
Now when I was reading through the story I was struck by one attribute of the three main characters and that was their character. The entire story revolves around the integrity of the main players, and the outcome would not have been the same without the qualities that were displayed.
What is Character? I remember hearing it defined many years ago: Character is who you are when nobody is looking.
What it isn’t is our reputation Thomas Paine said “Reputation is what men and women think of us. Character is what God and the angels know of us.” Which is echoed by Henry Ward Beecher when he stated: “A man’s character is the reality of himself; his reputation, the opinion others have formed about him; character resides in him, reputation in other people; that is the substance, this is the shadow.”