Stubborn Love: We All Need It, and the Bible is Full of It

Sometimes the best kind of love is the stubborn kind. Stubborn love will throw its arms around the unlovable, the underdog, and the unlikely…and it won’t let go.
Orpah and Ruth were sisters from Moab who married two brothers, the sons of Elimelech and Naomi. Both brothers and Elimelech died, and the two younger women and their mother-in-law were all then widowed. Now, the prospects for a widow in that place and time were not good. The prospects for a widow with no children was even worse. Poverty was likely at best, and at worst women were subject to misuse if they had no one to protect them. Naomi had decided to leave Moab and go back to her own people and try to live out her days on their charity. In all likelihood, she would remain a lonely, heartbroken woman. The chances of finding a suitable husband for her younger daughter-in-laws was remote if they stayed with Naomi, so Naomi urged the girls to go back to Moab and try to find a husband. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and left. “But Ruth said: “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.” (Ruth 1:16, New King James)

stubborn

Ruth stubbornly refused to leave Naomi, and stayed by her side for a journey back to an unknown land and an uncertain future. There she got to work in dry, dusty fields alongside beggars and slaves, picking up scraps that the harvesters left behind. This story could have gone wrong in so many ways, and yet it turns into an amazing story of redemption and hope when Ruth was noticed by Boaz, who bought the rights to both Ruth and Naomi to act as their kinsman-redeemer, marrying Ruth and reestablishing Naomi’s family name. Ruth’s stubborn love for Naomi seemed destined to force her into obscurity and poverty, but instead it opened doors and changed her life completely; and did you know it also changed Israel’s future, and sent ripples through the pond of time that have even touched you and me? As we discussed on Dec 6, Ruth had a son named Obed, who was the grandfather of King David. If you have ever been encouraged by a Psalm, then you have been touched by Ruth’s stubborn love. If you have ever profited from a Proverb (written by David’s son), then you have been touched by Ruth’s stubborn love. Her simple act of faithfulness to her mother-in-law turned into an eternal legacy. I have been the blessed recipient of stubborn love several times, including parents who never absolutely despaired, and an amazing wife who has loved me in spite of myself, and who never gave up on me. And, oh yeah, there was love so stubborn that a brutal whipping couldn’t stop it, the temptation to turn aside couldn’t end it, and a crucifixion couldn’t diminish it. May you, too, find stubborn love in the midst of a thoughtless, selfish world.

Naomi’s husband died, and then she lost her sons as well;
Her loss and grief were greater than she had the words to tell.
She told her dead sons’ widows both to leave her there behind,
So they could build a better life and find some peace of mind.
Orpah left. But Ruth said, “Mother, both of us will grieve.
But please, Naomi, in your grief, entreat me not to leave!
No matter what will come our way, there’s one thing you can know:
Wherever you stay, I’ll stay, and I will go wherever you go.
Our prospects are uncertain, and our future may be flawed,
But your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”
Naomi realized then that Ruth just could not be got rid of,
And acquiesced to be blessed by Ruth’s stubborn, stubborn love.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Kinsman-Redeemer is a Strange Term that Changed Ruth’s Life. He changed Yours, too, by the Way

Following the story of Ruth’s amazing loyalty to Naomi, there is a question I know you are asking yourself: how did a kinsman redeemer change history? (And if you are not asking that, then I’ll just ask it for both of us.)
Ruth’s declaration of love and loyalty didn’t keep Naomi from feeling despair at first. She was still a widow, and she was still grieving over the loss of her sons. Everything in her life had changed, and even Ruth’s sweetness could not compensate for the fact she had lost everything. She told her friends that they should change her name to Mara (bitter), “because the almighty has made my life very bitter…” They returned to Bethlehem in time for the harvest, and Ruth went to work as a peasant in the fields of a man named Boaz.

kinsman

When Ruth told Naomi that she had met Boaz, and that he had spoken kindly to her, Naomi said, “The Lord bless him! 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) OT law stipulated that the nearest kinsman would offer to marry a brother’s widow and carry on his name, to offer redemption to relatives sold into slavery, and to avenge the killing of a relative.

You think there is drama in YOUR family? Imagine what types of unusual human interaction might have taken place under some of those circumstances! A brother-in-law might think his brother’s widow is too ugly to marry. Or, like Onan with Tamar, he might use her without fulfilling his obligation. Or an opportunistic redeemer might take advantage of those too helpless to avoid him (think: Evil Stepmother in Cinderella) But a good kinsman-redeemer offered hope, offered help to the helpless, and a chance to live a life changed by redemption. A kinsman-redeemer bought you back out of slavery or hopelessness and adopted you into his family. (Hmmm, just like the Messiah was going to do…)

In this case, Boaz is a kind, godly man who respects Ruth and protects her reputation even when she follows Naomi’s advice: she makes herself vulnerable by crawling into bed with the sleeping Boaz and warming his feet (which could have been interpreted as an act of service OR the actions of a loose woman). Not only does he treat her with respect but he goes on to observe all the requirements of the law with scrupulous honesty and transparency to the elders in the village, and he makes Ruth his wife in front of God and everybody. The Elders were prophetic when they said, “Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” (Ruth 4:12)

Sure enough, Ruth and Boaz’ son Obed was King David’s grandfather. Still very close to her mother-in-law, Ruth allowed Naomi to act as his nurse, giving her a family again. So what did the women of the village say about to Naomi about Ruth? The highest praise: “Your daughter-in-law, who loves you… is better to you than seven sons.” These two widows went from bitter circumstances to the comforting house of their kinsman-redeemer. Boaz’s kindness redeemed both Ruth and Naomi, and changed their lives forever. Through the line of David and down through Jesus, He also changed ours, too, by the way…

A widow who was destitute was working in the field
Picking up the scraps after the workers took the yield.
The owner saw her beauty and integrity revealed,
And watched her do her job with admiration unconcealed.

He had to find out who she was as soon as he had seen her;
Some owners might abuse her, or they might just treat her meaner,
But he found out that he was nearest kinsman and redeemer;
He decided then that he would pay for and redeem her.

He spoke with all the village elders, and he made it known
That he would take this widow and reclaim her as his own.
He also said Naomi wouldn’t have to be alone,
Since he was taking both of them to live within his home.

Ruth and Boaz raised a son, and Obed was his name.
Obed had a boy named Jesse; then some Grandsons came.
David killed Goliath, and he rose to wealth and fame,
And through his life, the entire world has never been the same!

You may not be famous, but I know this is the truth:
The Lord may change the world through YOU, just like He did with Ruth

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Loyalty so Stubborn That It Led to a Surprising Redemption

Not all of the women mentioned in the Messiah’s line were prostitutes. Matthew’s genealogy refers next to a grieving widow, two destitute women, and the touching story of how a young woman’s stubborn loyalty led to surprising redemption.

The third woman mentioned in Matthew 1:5 is Ruth, a young woman from Moab who married a man from Bethlehem. Moabites descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot, so they were somewhat akin to Israel, even though they worshipped other gods and fought wars with Saul, David and Solomon. The four Chapter book of the Bible bearing her name, which was set in the period of the Judges, tells how both her father-in-law and her husband died, and she faced the harsh reality of living in a somewhat primitive masculine culture without any male protection. Her mother-in-law (Naomi) told her and her sister-m-law Orpah to go on and return back to their own people and their gods. Naomi reasoned that her own prospects for marriage were nonexistent (which certainly guaranteed her household a life of poverty), and so she told Ruth that she should go back to her own people, find herself a husband, and make a new life. It was the practical thing to do. Orpah agreed and went home. But Ruth made a decision that changed everything. She decided to stay with Naomi.

Ruth’s statement to her mother-in-law after making this decision is one of the most oft-quoted Old Testament statements about love and loyalty:

“And Ruth said,
Entreat me not to leave thee,
or to return from following after thee:
for whither thou goest I will go,
and where thou lodgest, I will lodge;
thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
if ought but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17, NKJV)

Rather than returning to her own people, Ruth expressed such love for Naomi that she was willing to stay by her side even though they faced hardship and a very questionable future.

loyalty

Ruth’s story takes an amazing turn when, while gathering leftover ears of grain, following the reapers, she is noticed by Boaz, the owner of the field. Boaz was a kinsman of Naomi’s deceased husband, and custom allowed destitute relatives to gather leftover scraps of the harvest in order to survive. Naomi seems to know something of Boaz, and she may have had more than a little bit of a scheme going on by getting Ruth into Boaz’ field. By the same token, Boaz is aware of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi, and very favorably impressed not only by this familial loyalty but by Ruth herself.

This love story has a beautiful ending as Ruth and Naomi are rescued from poverty when Boaz, acting in his role as a kinsman redeemer, pays the costs to secure the right to marry Ruth and start a family. Naomi actually exercised some feminine wiles to help facilitate the romance, but in the end it did work out for Ruth and Boaz. Their son Obed was David’s grandfather.

Let’s make a couple of observations: Naomi’s somewhat transparent scheming was not subverted or rejected by God. She thought about things, made decisions and took action, and yet still somehow found herself guided by the Lord’s hand. I would say that discovering God’s will does not always require us to sit passively by while we wait for Him to act, and I think He even honors those who pursue His favor with passion in an imperfect way.

Second, the role of kinsman redeemer was apparently common knowledge to Naomi, Boaz, and the other people in their village. The women even sing about Naomi’s good fortune in having a kinsman in 4:14. We are going to take a deeper look at Boaz and his response as Ruth’s (and Naomi’s) redeemer tomorrow, but suffice it to say that this love story built on humility, loyalty, perseverance (and perhaps Naomi’s feminine wiles) is not put in Christ’s lineage by accident.

This series of events points to David—who obviously got some of his passion and love from his great-grandmother—and to Jesus the Messiah, who would both preach about and be characterized by these qualities. The inclusion of a Moabite woman points to the coming Messiah’s inclusion of people outside of Israel (which, as we noted, started with Rahab from Jericho). The story of her being rescued by a kinsman redeemer is a flashing neon sign announcing that the Messiah’s work will redeem the disadvantaged, the dispossessed, the downcast… If you’ve ever been in one of those categories, or are now, take heart: the Redeemer has come, and he wants to rescue you.

Naomi’s life was stripped of joys:
Her husband died, and then her boys;
She faced a future full of grief without much prospect of relief…
She told her daughters-in-law to leave
And build their lives; Yes, she would grieve,
But they should go and carry on while she remained behind, alone.
And one of them took the open door;
It just made sense. They’d be so poor,
And living would be a daily grind: but one of them remained behind.
Naomi had told the girls the truth, so now she really questioned Ruth:
She said she shouldn’t waste her youth
By living on a widow’s mite. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t right.
But Ruth could only shake her head. She hugged Naomi. Then she said:
“Please do not entreat me to forsake or ever leave Thee.
I’ll stay with you forever, though the valley be so low;
Though this life may break you, this my love will not forsake you.
I will love Thy God, and there is one thing you should know…
So listen to what I have to say: Whither thou stayest, I will stay,
And from this moment, come what may, whither thou goest, I will go.”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread