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Peace

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The Advent theme for this Sunday is “Peace,” and the Scripture reading is Ruth 2:1-23 (the whole chapter).

Peace, when understood in the sense of the Hebrew word for peace, “shalom,” carries a greater meaning than “an absence of war.” Shalom means “wholeness” or “completeness.” Therefore, we can have “peace” (shalom) even in the midst of trials and uncertainty because God’s peace – shalom – is a wholeness and completeness that comes only from a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

As we look at this new chapter, with a new ‘Advent theme’ in mind, we must also remember where chapter 2 is picking up the story. By the end of chapter one, Naomi has been emptied (remember the theme of Ruth is ‘From emptiness to fullness’). She is hopeless and bitter. She is so bitter, in fact, that she asks the people of Bethlehem to call her “Bitter” as her name (Mara means “bitter”). And, according to Naomi, God is to blame for all of her troubles; he hasn’t acted with HESED toward her. Instead, she announces that God has afflicted her (literally, “caused evil” to her).

Chapter two picks up there, with a bitter and hopeless Naomi together with Ruth at the beginning of the barley harvest. They have no means of support or providing for themselves. (But, remember, the first chapter was not without hope.)

Chapter two begins with the introduction of Boaz. He actually won’t appear in the narrative for some time but this introduction “sets the stage” for the rest of this chapter, and the rest of the book of Ruth. He is a relative of Elimelech, which is very important for this story.

As Ruth goes out to the fields to glean food for Naomi and herself, as “luck” would have it she found herself in Boaz’s field. The text literally says that, “She happened upon by accident (or chance, or fortune) the portion of field belonging to Boaz – who was from the clan of Elimelech.” (Notice again the reminder that he is from the clan of Elimelech) We get a sense that this is not “luck” at all, but God’s work.

In verse 12, after meeting Ruth, Boaz prays that the Lord will repay Ruth for her “HESED” to Naomi, and that the Lord, under whom she has sought refuge, will reward her. Boaz also made sure that Ruth was provided for generously. She went home that evening with almost 30 pounds of barley. This caught Naomi’s attention – “Where did you glean today? … Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”

And, when she heard that Ruth gleaned in Boaz’s field, Naomi said to Ruth, “He has not stopped showing HESED to the living and the dead.” Like Ruth, Boaz is a model of what it looks like to do HESED. Then Naomi declares the great news that will bring peace for them, “That man is our close relative, he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” God has provided them with food and also with someone to redeem them from an uncertain future.

In the same way, God provides for us. He provides food for our souls and a Redeemer who is the only source of peace. With Jesus we have peace (shalom) because through him, God has redeemed us and given us a certain and lasting future.

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  • Simon du Toit
    Simon du Toit Tuesday, 04 December 2012

    I love this story, as an adopted son of this church. It means a lot to me how God provides hope and peace for Naomi, who is lost in a strange land when Elimelech dies, and for Ruth, who is moving as a stranger into an adopted land. I think there's something of the displaced person in all of us, even when we're still in the place we grew up.

  • Andrea Schinkel
    Andrea Schinkel Wednesday, 05 December 2012

    I really enjoyed Sunday's sermon - the pictures and definitions left up on the screen were a great way to keep me focused (yes, my attention tends to wander) and having read the blog earlier was an asset as well.
    This story also means a lot to me, it got me through many rough spots on my journey before I hit the security of Essex and our church.
    Thanks, Aaron!

  • Andrea Schinkel
    Andrea Schinkel Sunday, 09 December 2012

    Pastor Aaron, I was wondering if you could post here the definition of Hesed? We'd like to see the three stipulations that make an act Hesed.

  • Veronica deVries
    Veronica deVries Sunday, 09 December 2012

    I really enjoyed your message today Aaron - you evidently put much study into the text. The book of Ruth is one of my favourites; I love the term "kinsman redeemer" - it sparks my imagination and is such a wonderful title with so many connotations - perhaps you can expand on the cultural significance of this term and apply it to our lives today. I still get kind of stuck on the drudgery of the name "Boaz" - now who on earth would name their kid that?!

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