Ruth the Vulnerable

December 15, 2022

Have you ever noticed in Scripture how God seems to pay a lot of attention to the people typically ignored by society? This is especially noticeable when Jesus, given the opportunity to read Scripture during a Sabbath day worship service (as recorded in Luke 4), intentionally chose Isaiah 61:1 as His text, which reads:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Isaiah 61:1 (ESV)

If you've been reading this series these past two weeks, God's heart for outcasts shouldn't come as a surprise. We've already seen that God gives extra attention to the overlooked and those with a painful past. This week, as we continue looking at The "Grandmas" of Jesus, we see God's heart also extends to those who are vulnerable. And we see this very vividly in the story of Jesus' "grandma" Ruth.

Meet Ruth

Ruth's story is found in the Old Testament book which bears her name. When we meet her, she is a Moabite woman married to an Israelite named Mahlon. Sadly, Mahlon and his brother passed away, leaving behind their widows (Ruth and Orpah - yes Orpah, not Oprah!), along with their widowed mother, Naomi. With no male left in the family to care for her, Naomi's plan was to head back home to Israel (specifically the town of Bethlehem), hoping someone there might be able to care for her in her old age.

Despite their racial differences, Naomi loved her two daughters-in-law, and wanted them to each still have a husband and bear children. So she told both of them to head back to their respective fathers' homes, in hopes of remarrying someday.

Orpah, in tears, takes off according to Naomi's advice, but Ruth refuses to leave her mother-in-law's side. She famously told Naomi...

"Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God."

Ruth 1:16 (ESV)

While very inspirational, these words actually made Ruth a very vulnerable woman. She was about to become a Moabite woman living in the foreign land of Israel. (The Israelites and Moabites didn't like each other very much.) She was a widow, so had no husband to provide or protect her. She arrived in Israel with next to nothing, leaving her in extreme poverty. And there wasn't a very large job market for widowed foreign women, so not many prospects for provision.

God Provides

But remember God's heart for the poor, brokenhearted, outcast, and vulnerable? He made it Law that such people would be cared for when He had Moses write...

"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God."

Leviticus 19:9-10 (ESV)
Ruth The Vulnerable • Riverwood Church

So when they were back in Bethlehem, Naomi sent Ruth out hoping she might find the field of a man who honored Leviticus 19, so that Ruth could harvest a bit of grain, which might allow these two widowed women a chance to make some food and survive. By God's providence, Ruth ended up at the field of Boaz, who not only upheld the Levitical law but was also a relative of Naomi's deceased husband.

But God's provision didn't stop there. Within the remaining pages of the book of Ruth, we see Boaz agree to uphold Jewish custom and "redeem" Ruth by marrying her, which would provide for her and Naomi, as well as continue the ancestral line of Mahlon.

Takeaway

I think you should take two things with you today from Ruth's story:

#1. If you feel vulnerable, God is with you and for you. Trust Him to provide! He may not provide exactly as you hope, ask, or pray; but He will provide for you whether finances, food, emotional support, healthy relationships, willpower, or whatever you need. But remember, Jesus came for vulnerable people like "Grandma" Ruth and you.

#2. If you follow Jesus, how are you being used by God like Boaz to love, care for, and protect the vulnerable? Just as God provided Jesus for you in your spiritual vulnerability, He can use you to help others in their moments of weakness. Is there someone in your relational circles who is a bit vulnerable right now, whether because of physical health, or mental health, or finances, or a broken relationship? Ask God to give you wisdom and opportunity to provide support, so you have a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus toward them.

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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