When I chose the theme Harvest for this month’s blog I immediately thought of the book of Ruth in the Bible. The story uses a barley harvest to bring about significant changes for a destitute widow and her widowed mother-in-law as well as changes in the life of field owner. Through their deep relationships with one another and those around them, their lives turn in a direction no one expected.
The story begins with a mother-in-law named Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. Both ladies had entered a season of intense grief. Naomi had lost her husband as well as her two sons. Ruth was married to one of Naomi’s sons. They had no means to provide for themselves since their male providers had died. They lived in Moab, but Naomi was from Bethlehem. Naomi wanted to return to her home but insisted Ruth remain with her own family. In Ruth 1:16, Ruth tells Naomi “Where you go, I will go and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
Although it’s not recorded, I imagine prior to this season of sadness Naomi and Ruth had both spent time sowing something very significant into their lives. The ladies invested in their relationship to the point that they both sought the absolute best for each other. Naomi wanted her daughter-in-law to return to her own family. Ruth insisted on remaining with her mother-in-law knowing the sacrifice that decision would require.
Ruth’s relationship with Naomi must have been so strong that she was willing to move to a new town, 60 to 75 miles away, and leave her family and friends. Beyond that, Ruth was willing to give up the idol worship of the god of the Moabites, Chemosh, and convert to serving the God of the Israelites. She gave up everything familiar because of the relationship she had with mother-in-law.
Naomi moved to Moab with her sons and husband after a famine struck their home in Bethlehem. In Deuteronomy 7:3, the Jews were commanded by God not to marry women of other religions. Even though Naomi’s sons married Moabites, God still used Ruth to care for Naomi. They loved one another and trusted one another. Even though they had no men to care for them, God continued to watch over them and provide a path for their future.
After their long journey to Bethlehem, Naomi still needed time to work through her grief and bitterness. Old friends barely recognized her because of her demeanor. Who can blame her? Knowing Naomi better than anyone, Ruth didn’t condemn her or try to cheer her up. She continued to walk with her and took charge of their situation. She decided to go to the barley fields for food.
The fields were run by a noble Jewish man named Boaz. He followed God and recognized the needs of the widows and the poor. God instructed the Israelites in Leviticus 23:22 “When you reap the harvest of your land, don’t reap the corners of your field or gather the gleanings. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners.” Boaz treated his workers with respect as well everyone else in the community. He spent time building relationships with them and was highly regarded. He spoke blessings over them (Ruth 2: 4) “The Lord be with you.” While he sowed and harvested barley, Boaz also sowed and harvested respect and trust among the people.
Boaz watched over Ruth as she gleaned from his fields. Eventually they were married and would give birth to a son. Ultimately the harvest yields more than barley; a lineage to the throne of Kind David and to the birth of Christ. A beautiful relationship during a time of grief prepared two women to receive a blessing neither expected. Boaz’s integrity and the relationship he created among the people of Bethlehem prepared him carry on a great legacy.
Look at those around you today. What relationships are you taking the time to invest in? Is there a neighbor you could have coffee with or a family member who would love to hear your voice? Life makes us put on blinders to the people around us and we forget how desperately we need one another. When Ruth told Naomi, “Where you go I will go” she meant that she is walking this grief and life out with her. There are people in my life who I would not be as close to had we not walked through our sadness and our challenges together. I can name specific friends who walked through grief, moving, struggles, and life with me. I firmly believe that God placed me in specific neighborhoods, workplaces, and churches for the relationships that would be cultivated there.
Sow seeds of friendship with trust and integrity. Invest in deep, vulnerable relationships. Only God could take a widowed, destitute outcast and give her family a path to royalty through her dedication to the deep connections in her life. You won’t regret the time you have given cultivating friendships with others and you will reap a greater harvest than you could imagine.