We live in the moment, time travellers moving involuntarily forward from one moment to the next. We can never go back to change events of our past (and which one of us has never wished we could go back to change what we have done, or what was done to us). For some folk, the past is a trap they seem never able to escape from. It can be a prison that holds us and determines our present and future, leaving us powerless to change our world. But thanks be to God that he sent Jesus to remove our guilt and redeem our past. I think of the story of Ruth and Naomi. Both have lost the men in their lives, left widowed, childless and desolate. In an act of selfless love, Ruth makes a covenant with her mother-in law and binds herself to Naomi’s destiny.
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1: 16, 17)
Has something Naomi shared about God’s purposes for her people stirred Ruth’s heart drawing her towards this God? She chooses to follow.
After their return to Bethlehem, by God’s hand, Ruth begins to gather barley around the edge of one of the fields of Boaz, who happens to be a kinsman of Naomi. His heart reaches out to her and he shows her favour because of her kindness. Naomi realises that a moment has arrived, a moment to seize.
"My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
“I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did all that her mother-in-law told her to do. (Ruth 3: 1-6)
Naomi’s discernment of the times and Ruth’s humble obedience led to a turning point in history. As Ruth lay at the feet of Boaz, she was effectively calling out to him ‘I need a future, I need a redeemer, I need a husband, I need a son to continue the line of Elimelek and Naomi. Please set us free from our past.’ Boaz responded and redeemed the land belonging to Naomi’s family. He took Ruth as his wife and she bore him a son, Obed. Obed’s son was Jesse and Jesse’s son was David who became King of Israel. Centuries later, Isaiah prophesied:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor,Mighty God, EverlastingFather,Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his governmentand peace there will be no end.
He will reignon David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9: 6,7)
More than a thousand years after Naomi and Ruth had died, the angel announced:
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 10-12)
I doubt that Naomi and Ruth had any idea of the consequences of their actions but together they seized their divine moment of opportunity and became part of the story of the salvation of the world. The next time her name is mentioned in Scripture is in the first chapter of Matthew, the genealogy of the Messiah, the son of David and the Son of God.
Just as Boaz redeemed Naomi and Ruth’s past and set them free from its prison, so Jesus came to redeem us from our past, our sin. We travel through time. 2016 seems to have gone by so quickly. As we approach the time of celebration of his birth, let us also approach the New Year that follows in the freedom that he has won for us and seize the moments God gives us to share his presence in us wherever we can. Only God knows the awesome consequences of each of our small acts of love and obedience. By Jesus blood, we are washed clean and have his aroma. We wear the robes of his righteousness. Let us lay at his feet in worship. He has plans for us. As we travel through time may we let him determine our future for he has redeemed our past.
It is no coincidence that one of the Prayerhub folk, Eunice, has been called by God to go back to her native Zimbabwe to set up and orphanage there. The need is great in that broken land, but God has plans to redeem the lives of fatherless children and give them a new future. Eunice has already been over twice this year when God has moved forward the preparation for the orphanage at amazing speed. She has set up a board in Zimbabwe who will oversee the work locally and completed all the legal work necessary. Eunice has returned again this month to choose the plot of land according to God’s vision. She will be based in the UK, but regularly visiting the site. I am asking you to join with us in praying for Eunice and the work she has undertaken. We pray for her protection in all travelling and in Zimbabwe. We pray that, in the power of the Spirit, she will overcome all opposition and obstacles. We also pray for all the members of the board of ‘Shekinah Ministries’, the organisation set up to oversee the orphanage. That name was chosen because Eunice has made it clear that this is all to be for the glory of God alone. We know the Lord goes ahead of her in this amazing work.
Thank you for your prayers.