Worth the Wait
Isn't it hard to wait? Waiting for that job promotion, waiting for enough money to do that renovation or buy that house, waiting for direction on a life choice, waiting for results regarding a physical trial, waiting for healing emotionally, waiting for restored relationships, waiting for answers. Sometimes the journey in the waiting doesn't always feel or seem worth it. The pain is too great; the unknown too scary; the emotions too troubling; the restlessness too exhausting. This week, I read the book of Ruth- a very familiar story to many of us. Yet, in reading and studying this short, beautiful story, I found myself overwhelmed with new, greater, poignant truths. The overall theme and message I found was this: "Glory Awaits".
Waiting is hard. Staying steadfast in the waiting is harder. But, it is worth it.
Background story: Ruth 1 begins by telling us about Elimelech who moved his family from Israel to Moab due to famine in his hometown of Bethlehem. In the course of living there, Elimelech died- the Bible doesn't say how long they had lived there prior to his death. But, after he died, Elimelech's two sons marry Moabite women. They lived there ten years, after which, both sons died also.
Elimelech's wife, Naomi, is left with her two daughter-in-laws. She decides to head back to Bethlehem, after hearing the famine had ceased and prosperity had returned to Israel. Ruth and Orpah decide to go with her to Bethlehem. Naomi tells them to stay with their families; she has nothing to offer them to keep them with her. She insists they would be better off staying in Moab and marrying someone else. Orpah kisses Naomi and chooses to stay in Moab. But, Ruth stubbornly refuses to leave Naomi. She makes the famous plea: "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go, I will go, and where 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. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you" (Ruth 1:16-17). (Our hearts immediately wish we, too, could be this determined!)
So, Ruth and Naomi make the journey to Bethlehem. When they arrive, many of the women are excited to see Naomi, but she quickly squelches their eager appeals with her declaration that God has been bitter with her and left her empty. As the ladies settle into Bethlehem, Ruth immediately tells Naomi she will go out and glean in the fields to gather food. She diligently works, and Boaz, the owner of the field notices her, offering her a blessing, food, and the promise of security and work. (Cue handsome, older, wealthy man noticing beautiful hard-working woman.)
Ruth returns to Naomi with the harvested grain, plus leftover food from Boaz. Naomi tells Ruth that it is good she has found Boaz's field and to continue there until the end of harvest, which Ruth does. (Anticipation building: will Boaz keep noticing her???)
In due course of time, Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz is a redeemer of hers. This meant that, in the course of a man passing away, his property and family (wife) could be redeemed or bought back to perpetuate the name of that man's family. (Yay! Will they "get together"?!) So, Naomi gives Ruth instructions to go down to the fields and lay at Boaz' feet in the night. (This seems totally weird and sketchy to us, but never do we see Ruth balking at the idea.) Ruth goes, uncovers Boaz's feet and lies down. Boaz awakens, wondering who is at his feet. Ruth tells him to "Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer" (Ruth 3: 9). In this moment, Boaz realizes what she is asking of him, yet, he also knows another man has first rights to the redemptive course of action. So, he tells Ruth to wait until morning when he will confront the other man about the property and about redeeming her to himself. (The anticipation is killing me!!)
The next day, Boaz goes to the gate to meet with the other redeemer. The man agrees to redeem the property (NOOOOOO!), but changes his mind when he realizes he must marry Ruth also (YES!). All the people at the gate declare themselves to be witnesses of this momentous occasion, offering a blessing to Boaz and to Ruth, that the Lord will bless their home and their offspring. (Wedding bells are ringing!!)
"So, Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then, the women said to Naomi, "Blessed be the LORD who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him." Then, Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, "A son has been born to Naomi." They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David" (Ruth 4:13-17).
Yay! A happy ending. Naomi isn't angry anymore, Ruth and Boaz got together, and they had a baby!
But, like all of Scripture, there's so much more in this passage than the quick, happy, surface reading gives us.
First, I read Elimelech left Israel during the time of the judges. If you remember from my last post, the people of Israel were not living as though the King was their ruler; they were all doing what was right in their own eyes. Elimelech's name means, "My God is King", which led me to wonder: "If Elimelech had truly regarded God as King, would he have left Bethlehem?" Only God knows, of course, but, God takes that move and provides us with this amazing story of redemption. We, who often do not regard God as King, find ourselves humbled by the truth that God constantly uses circumstances, people, places, and events to bring about his sovereign plan and purpose. And that is clearly seen as we read this beautiful story.
Secondly, I observed Ruth's commitment to Naomi and to God. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and stayed in Moab, and we never read anymore about what happened to her. But, Ruth. She committed. She clung to Naomi. She would not be persuaded to turn back, turn aside, or leave. She was staying. I find this utterly amazing that she could be so stalwart in her determination to leave what she knew and with what she was comfortable for a God and a people she did not know.
Thirdly, I noted Boaz's character. He is described as being a worthy man (2:1). This character is further confirmed as we notice how he spoke to his servants, how he treated Ruth, and how he demonstrated self-control in all his dealings with Ruth.
Fourthly, I observed, again, Ruth's continued commitment. She was not above doing any task which would help provide for her mother-in-law. And, in this commitment, she was willing to do this seemingly unheard-of act of going and essentially proposing to Boaz... in the middle of the night... in a field... when no one would see them.
And in this highly-emotion-charged moment, I noted both Ruth's and Boaz's commitment to God, to righteousness, to waiting, to doing right. This focus is what John Piper calls, "strategic righteousness". Both of them had determined, prior to this moment, that they would act in righteousness. And, no desire would persuade them from acting otherwise.
Fifthly, I noticed that Boaz wasted no time in going about the redemption process. When the moment called for action, he was careful and determined to do it the right way, and immediately. And, God blessed his actions.
Finally, I observed that God was the orchestrator of all these events. If you remember, Ruth had been married ten years to Mahlon- yet, no child had been born. Here, it is noted that God gave Ruth conception. And, she bore a son. And, the ladies declared that a son had been born to Naomi- wait- what?! Yes. To Naomi. Hope was born. Her family's name would live on- and she no longer grieved.
In this whole up-and-down story of emotions and highs and lows, God was at work. The story of Ruth, of Naomi, is filled with hope. Hope in barrenness, loss, depression, discouragement, bitterness, fear, work, anticipation, waiting.
All these moments led to God being the author and the finisher of the completed work.
The book of Ruth is a microcosm of the Christian life. There's setbacks, twists, turns, death, pain, sorrow, hurts, suffering, hard work, waiting- yet, God is working through it all.
And the question here for you and me is: will we remain steadfast in our commitment to God?
Glory awaits, dear ones.
This was a truth both Ruth and Boaz, and finally, Naomi, understood. And, in each one, the commitment looked different. Ruth was committed, though she had not seen, nor did she understand. Boaz was committed because he understood the redemptive process and the weight of responsibility. Naomi grieved. Yet, in her grief, she went back to Bethlehem, and in returning home, God brought healing and hope in spite of her grief.
I don't know what things you are experiencing right now- what pain, what season of waiting, what grief, what conflicts... but know this: Glory Awaits.
For, you see, the Christian life is not a life of meaningless purpose. No. This life is intended for future glories beyond our comprehension. Our lives are not given to "trifles", as John Piper calls it. Rather, we are living for a greater righteousness. A greater commitment. A fuller, richer, deeper satisfaction than any earthly treasure.
And, in this story of commitment, we see God bring hope. Hope for the present (a son was born!), in spite of the past (death and sorrow), and in anticipation of the future ("Obed fathered Jesse and Jesse fathered David"). And, through the line of David, the Messiah was born. The true Redeemer. My Redeemer. Ruth didn't know that was how this would end. But, God did.
What are you committed to in these days? Are you committed to righteousness? Or are you wavering and turning back like Orpah? Wallowing in grief like Naomi? Return, dear ones! The waiting is worth it. Why? Because. Glory Awaits.
In all this, I was reminded of the passage in Hebrews where we read of Moses rejecting the riches of Egypt, "looking to the reward", enduring because he saw "he who is invisible".
We have a better reward. A better anticipation. A better glory. A better hope.
Be committed, dear ones! "Glory Awaits!"
I would encourage you to listen to this song: "Christ Our Glory" by Sovereign Grace:
I have included the words here for you, too.
Verse 1 Our rest is in heaven, our rest is not here Then why should we tremble when trials draw near? Be still and remember the worst that can come But shortens our journey and hastens us home
Chorus 1 Christ our glory, Christ our hope Christ our King forevermore Be still and remember the worst that can come But shortens our journey and hastens us home
Verse 2 No hours should be wasted on seeking our joy And placing our hope in what will be destroyed We look for a city that hands have not raised We long for a country that sin has not stained
Chorus 2 Christ our glory, Christ our hope Christ our King forevermore We look for a city that hands have not raised We long for a country that sin has not stained
Verse 3 Though trouble and anguish increase all the more They cannot compare to the glory in store Come joy or come sorrow, whatever befalls The light of the Savior will outshine them all
Chorus 3 Christ our glory, Christ our hope, Christ our King forevermore Christ our glory, Christ our hope, Christ our King forevermore Christ our glory, Christ our hope, Christ our King forevermore Come joy or come sorrow, whatever befalls The light of the Savior will outshine them all