Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Acceptance in Community” International Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending March 28, 2010

Purpose: To realize that the covenant God has made with us includes those we may consider outsiders

Scripture Text: Ruth 2:5-12, Ruth 3:9-11 (NRVS)

Ruth 2:5-12
(5)Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘To whom does this young woman belong?’ (6)The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, ‘She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. (7)She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.” So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.’

(8) Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. (9)Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.’ (10)Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favour in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?’ (11)But Boaz answered her, ‘All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. (12)May the LORD reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!’

Ruth 3:9-11
(9)He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin.’ (10)He said, ‘May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. (11)And now, my daughter, do not be afraid; I will do for you all that you ask, for all the assembly of my people know that you are a worthy woman.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This week we continue our study in the Book of Ruth and also our look at community and how we have choices about how we relate to various parts of our community.

Because Boaz's mother was a Canaanite from Jericho, he may have been a bit more sympathetic to foreigners than others within the Bethlehem community. Also the story of Ruth appears to be a series of nudges rather than one mighty act. I think God often works with small nudges in a direction as opposed to some great and wondrous act.

It appears Ruth had come to Boaz's field looking for permission to glean. God had earlier commanded in Leviticus 19:9-10 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God.” Ruth may not have known this or else she was aware that she may not be welcome to glean because she was a Moabite. Regardless Ruth appears to have been at the field all day awaiting permission to glean in the field of Boaz. You have to admire Ruth's fortitude and patience to stand all day waiting for permission from Boaz. It is hard to know if Boaz acts out of compassion or out of some primal urge, but he makes a small decision to not only allow but almost commands that Ruth not glean in any other field but his. Boaz also gives Ruth an advantage over all the other poor and foreigners that were gleaning, she would not have to stop and go get water on her own but could drink from his servants’ water supply. Boaz shows us an example of God's grace when he goes beyond the law and offers Ruth something she does not deserve.

Ruth shows her gratitude and respect by bowing to Boaz, and admitting she was not worthy, because she was a foreigner, an example for us when we are the benefactors of God's mercy and grace. Even though Boaz had just been introduced to Ruth, he had evidently heard of her and Naomi's story. Boaz was obviously impressed with the fact that Ruth had chosen to help Naomi return to her homeland; also she had accepted the God of Naomi as the God she wished to follow. Like many of us Ruth had sought refuge “Under His wings.” There are times when we are rewarded for our good works, but the reward should never be the motive for doing what God has called us to do.

In the last part of our lesson, Ruth follows Naomi's instructions and spends the night sleeping at the feet of Boaz, and Boaz responds by offering to marry Ruth, but only after he made certain that she would keep her dignity and also Naomi would receive all that was due her under the law. Boaz restrains himself from touching her, blesses her as a father, encourages her as a friend, promises her as a kinsman, rewards her as patron, and sends her away with gifts and hope, and she is happier than when she came to him.

That is the same as what we receive from God when we offer ourselves as His servant. We were at one time outside of God's grace, but now we have received His grace plus more, unworthy yet loved, without hope now full of hope.

Have you ever experienced the feeling of being an outsider? Have you ever been guilty of not accepting outsiders into your community of friends or family? What lesson did you learn from this study of Ruth?

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