A ROYAL WEDDING
Mother’s Day is typically a time to emphasize and celebrate not just motherhood, but home and family. And the surrounding weeks are also popular seasons for weddings.
With the storms of last week, the Royal Wedding of William and Kate did not get as much local attention as it would otherwise. Still, most everyone has seen at least some video of the event with all the pomp and fanfare and the atmosphere not just of a royal wedding but of a fairy tale wedding.
Lots of people want their weddings to be royal. At least, on that day, Grooms and Brides are Princes and a Princess. The wedding ceremony is a great picture of the prince and the princess dynamic – the love and respect is evident, and it is beautiful. You are probably never better dressed than you are on your wedding day. Few events are as formal as your wedding ceremony. Weddings make me nervous because you want everything to go just right with charm, eloquence, and beauty. It is the pinnacle of romance and we do love romance.
According to Harlequin publishing house, which has been in the romance business for half a century, more than 180 million romance novels are purchased each year, with Harlequin itself selling, on average, five-and-a-half books per second.
But we also acknowledge that a grand wedding does not guarantee a grand marriage. The real evidence of a quality marriage is not found in the pageantry with which it starts, but in the places where it goes.
The Bible has some point-blank instructions to married couples, complete with some real-life examples. (Let’s be honest: some examples are better than others.) We’re going to follow Ruth and Boaz for a few minutes, and simply observe some stages about courtship and marriage.
Do you know the story of Ruth and Boaz? It took place about 3000 years ago and is recorded in the eighth book of the Bible. Four simple chapters describe how their romance moved quickly from meeting, to dating, into marriage, and children. If you’re not familiar with the story, here is how it takes place. Let me warn you, it begins in tragedy…actually a series of tragedies.
Once upon a time a lady named Naomi. She lived in with her husband Elimelech and their two sons, Mahon and Kilion in Bethlehem. Yes it was the same Bethlehem where Jesus would be born about 1000 years later. The first tragedy is a famine that forces Naomi and her family to do what he would never do otherwise, move out of country to the land of Moab. But fleeing tragedy they ran into greater tragedy. Elimelech died, leaving Naomi with her two sons. Making the best of life that they could the sons married Moabite wives named Orpah and Ruth. But ten years later there is tragedy again in that both sons died. THIS story starts in the kind of tragedy out of which operas are written!
Naomi does what lots of folks do in times of tragedy: she goes home. The famine is over now, and the promise of better days is back in Bethlehem. Naomi and Orpah are determined to go with Naomi and so these three widows pack up their world and head out. But hardly had they reached the main road to Judah when Naomi tries to talk them into going back to Moab. She says, Go back to your mother’s home. May the Lord show kindness to you as you have shown to my sons and to me. May the Lord help you find husbands.
They kissed and hugged and wept greatly. But Ruth and Orpah said they were determined to stay with Naomi. Naomi pleaded with them again to find their future at home in Moab and not with her. They wept and hugged and kissed some more. Eventually Orpah turned and headed back home. But Naomi was not to be deterred, giving Naomi what are the most familiar words of the entire story:
Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”Ruth 1:16-17 NKJV
I doubt we can fully appreciate the courage it took for Ruth to make that decision. And seeing Ruth’s determination to go, Naomi stopped trying to convince her otherwise. Also, Ruth choosing to leave the worship of the pagan gods of the Moabites and follow Naomi’s God is a tribute to the testimony of Naomi’s example.
The two widows arrival in Bethlehem was a homecoming of sorts, with many remembering Naomi. But for Naomi, who had buried a husband and two sons since the time she left, there was no happiness in this homecoming. She was a different person and even suggested they call her by a different name. Naomi meant sweetness, but she said to call her Mara, bitterness, because God had made her life very bitter.
Naomi does not get our criticism, but our pity. She is among many who would conclude, based on their immediate circumstances that even God is against her.
Here is the point. Ruth and Boaz have not even met yet. But the Lord, somewhere beneath the surface and amid all the tragedy and devastation, is working out a plan, setting the stage for what He will do ahead. He does not necessarily cause bad things to happen, but he can work through anything to accomplish His will.
THE LORD IS WORKING OUT A PLAN.
Singles: Trust the Lord that in his timing and his way God will, if it be His will, introduce into your life one who will be your helpmate.
Couples wanting to have children. You do not know how the Lord is working.
Parents: I do not care how small your children are, begin praying for the person God will bring into his or her life to share in marriage.
Married Couples: Believing you married someone because it was God’s will gives endurance to your relationship.
· My wife and I grew up on opposite sides of Knoxville going to different churches, attending different schools, with separate lives. But we believe our meeting in college and our successive courtship and marriage was not just good fortune or coincidence. Rather, we believe that it was the will of God.
· Nina married Hal well into her retirement.
· Forrest and Rose Lunsway oldest couple ever married on March 19, his 100 birthday. She is 93.
While Naomi wallows in her grief, Ruth takes some initiative: She goes in the fields to glean. In the Old Testament times, there was not food stamps, but there was a system of assistance to the poor. After harvesting bundles of barley and wheat, the harvesters were not to go back and pick up the loose grains. These were left for the underprivileged to collect for their own use. It also gave them the pride and dignity of working for what they received rather than simply waiting around for some government or charitable handout.
By the providence of God, Ruth finds herself in the field of Boaz, a relative of Naomi and a wealthy man. Seeing this attractive Moabite woman in his field, Boaz inquires, Who is that young woman. I suspect he was thinking, “She’s pretty!”
Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered him, “The LORD bless you!” Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” Ruth 2:4-5 NIV
Boaz’ foreman informs him that she is the Moabite woman who had returned to Bethlehem with Naomi and added that she had asked permission to collect grain left by the harvesters and that she had work steadily. Fittingly impressed, Boaz begins the subtle formalities of courtship:
He tells her not to go to anyone else’s fields but his. He instructed the men who worked for him not to bother her. And he gave her permission to drink from the water supplied for his employees. He invites her to have lunch with him (its their first date). He compliments her devotion to Naomi. He quietly tells his workers to intentionally leave some extra grains for her to pick up. That is what we do when we are sweet on someone. We try to make a good impression in hopes that that person will like us.
And, apparently, the attraction WAS mutual. Ruth expressed appreciation for his thoughtfulness and accepted his invitation to only work in Boaz fields. Thus, they see more and more of each other.
IT STARTS WITH ATTRACTION (aka: boy meets girl)
It is a lot easier when we were kids: From Boaz to Ruth: I like you. Do you like me? Circle one: Yes No. (Charlie Brown gets note from Little Red Headed Girl.)
As we get older we tend to be less direct. We may get someone to be our envoy. I think she is cute. Will you ask her if she likes me? Or we may just be so bold to risk our heart and our feelings by asking out someone to whom we are attracted. She might say No. And that hurts. But when the attraction is mutual, the angels sing.
We strive to keep that good impression. Like Boaz we are gentlemanly and considerate. Sadly, this drive to be considerate, polite, and courteous…to look good, act good, smell good, can be short-lived.
When Ruth tells Naomi Boaz and his kindness, she is excited because he is a kinsman redeemer.
“The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” Ruth 2:20 NIV
What does that mean? It means that, as one of their extended family, Boaz could choose to exercise responsibility for these two widows. Here were the rules of marriage. If a man died without children, like Ruth’s husband had, a kinsman could take the widow as his wife. This would provide care for the widow and carry on the family name. Redeem means take care of someone or something.
In time, Naomi concocts a plan designed to put into motion the wheels of matrimony. Somehow she knew that Boaz would be at the threshing floor working with the grain. She told Ruth to bathe herself, to put on some sweet smelling perfume and wear her prettiest dress. Wait until he stops and falls asleep. Then move in, uncover his feet, and lie down next to him. And that is exactly what she did.
In the middle of the night, Boaz wakes up and discovers a woman at his feet! Every bachelor’s dream! Who is there? He asks. She replies, It is your servant Ruth. The she proposed to him right there on the spot. She said: Spread your garment over me since you are a kinsman-redeemer.
Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” Ruth 3:9 NIV
Boaz knows that this girl is a keeper because she could have gone after the young bucks in town, but she chose him instead.
RELATIONSHIPS GET SERIOUS … TO THE POINT OF TALKING MARRIAGE.
Can you remember when you started thinking marriage?
Can you remember when you started talking marriage.
He’s THE ONE. She’s THE ONE! Can you follow the sense of good fortune? Of all the men in the world, she chose me. Of all the women in the world, he chose me.
Boaz was a gentleman here. While opportunity was before him, he took no steps to take advantage of Ruth here. Whatever dishonorable there was that could have happened did not happen.
So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “Don’t let it be known that a woman came to the threshing floor.” Ruth 3:14 NIV
And he sends her home before daylight so no one would see she had been there and jump to the wrong conclusion. Boaz states his full intention of and commitment to marrying her proper.
A recent US News and World Report article says that more than half of today's newlyweds live together before tying the knot, compared to 10 percent in 1965. What’s so bad about that? Only this:
Research has found that unmarried cohabitors have more cheating done by both partners, experience more domestic violence and more cases of depression, a higher divorce rate and a less fulfilling sex life.
If the trend of our society urges young adults to live together as an experiment, buck the trend. It’s directly opposed to God’s plan, and it’s a recipe for trouble. Don’t go there. If you’re there now, have a conversation this afternoon and talk about commitment. God Himself may have brought you here this morning just to present that challenge to you.
Boaz sent Ruth away with a huge supply of barley, saying, “Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.”
He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and put it on her. Ruth 3:15 NIV
Why? Because Boaz realized, instinctively, that the relationship between Ruth and Naomi was a key part of his relationship with Ruth. He couldn’t separate his relationship with Naomi. It was a package deal. Remember, at this time Naomi was not the easiest person to love. She had changed her name to Bitter. She stayed reclusively inside while Ruth went out and worked the fields.
LOVE THE FAMILY TOO
We marry people for better or worse. You may think of your spouse’s family as either better or worse, but you got them, the whole family. You have fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers. If you want some advice, take a quality tip from Boaz. He invested in Ruth by being generous to Naomi.
Whether in courtship or in marriage, you cannot go wrong by being generous, considerate, courteous to your loved one’s family.
· A father of three daughters told about a suitor who came courting one of his girls. He brought a birdhouse he had made as a gift. A few days later, he sent a thank-you note for their hospitality. The romance was short lived and the daughter sent the boy packing. But the parents kept the birdhouse!
Boaz was true to his word. He went up to the city gate where business was always transacted. Remember, marriage is a contract. There was a closer relative to Naomi who would have the right of first refusal to redeem Elimelech’s land and to marry Ruth. Boaz pressed him to a decision saying, If you will not be the redeemer, I will. At first he says, I’ll take it! Oh NO! This man wanted the land. But when he came to know that with the purchase of the land came the responsibility for Ruth, he declined.
Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife. Ruth 4:9-10a NIV
Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. Ruth 4:11 NIV
Therefore, before ten witnesses, Boaz executed the legal covenant. Then he proudly announced to them all that he had bought the property and had acquired Ruth as his wife.
MARRIAGE IS TO BE REJOICED
No decorated cathedral, no wedding bells, no majestic music, no carriage or Austin martin. No wedding dress with long train nor first kiss on a palace balcony.
But royal it was and there was great rejoicing.
And all the elders and those at the gate rejoiced and said, May the Lord make Ruth like Leah and Rachel. (Jacob had 12 sons by 4 wives, but 8 of them were born to either Leah or Rachel.) It was a genuine prayer because Ruth had been married to her first husband ten years and had born no children.
And Ruth conceived and gave birth to a son they named Obed who grew up to be the father of a man named Jesse who had 7 sons, the youngest of whom was anointed of God to be a King, David. Ruth and Boaz were royalty; they just did not know it.
Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. Ruth 4:21b-22 NIV
If you look further through the family tree of Ruth and Boaz you will also find a man named Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:16 NIV.
A thousand years later, in that same village, a child rested in the straw who would be King of all Kings, our Redeemer, who would take responsibility for us. And make us royalty:
Did you know that God says we are royalty? "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" 1 Peter 2:9
We can declare the words of the hymn: I’m a child of the King a child of the King. With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.
Do you know that you are a child of Jesus, the King of Kings.
It is a birth that takes place in grace through faith.
Do you trust God with your role in home and family?
One of the tools God has given you to help you be a better spouse, parent, and/or child is His family, the church.
Will you devote yourself to doing relationships God’s way?
Striving to honor Him.