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Good morning,

Welcome. Thank you for coming.

Today’s message is titled: “Faithfulness” and is based on Ruth 3:1-5 and Ruth 4:13-17

Earlier this week on Thursday I was in Oxnard visiting the farm. It was a nice, pleasant, fall, day, but around 2 pm the Santa Ana winds started kicking up to 35 mph, with dust blowing everywhere. While walking the fields we spotted a plume of smoke in the mountains south west of Oxnard. In a matter of  15 minutes this became a dark cloud of smoke.

By the time we left late afternoon, we could see the flames across the mountain ridge. Both highways 101 and 1 were closed.

Drought conditions in Southern California are severe, after a long absence of rain. Vegetation gets tinder dry and it doesn’t take much to start a devastating fire under those conditions.

This morning, there are three major fires burning in California. Collectively they have charred nearly 200,000 acres. 300,000 people are forced from their homes. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and first responders in those fires.

Last week I was in Holland. The big news in Holland was the drought conditions in North Western Europe after an extremely hot and dry summer.

April, May and July were the driest months ever recorded in Holland.

The effects on crops have been significant. Some crops were completely destroyed due to the drought. The potato and onion crop yields are expected to be down by at least 30%.

That is significant because according to PotatoPro.com, Holland is the world’s major supplier of certified seed potatoes, with exports of 700, 000 tons a year. It is expected that these lower yields of planting stock for potato farmers, will affect acreage around the world next year.

Crop losses and crop failures due to drought conditions have plagued farmers since the beginning of times.

A report from the “Earth Institute” of Columbia University, provides a “drought atlas map” based on 2000 years of climate in Europe.

It writes: The long history of severe droughts across Europe and the Mediterranean, has largely been told through historical documents and ancient journals.

Speaking of historical documents, the Old Testament goes into great detail of droughts and famines going back to the days of Abraham.

In Genesis 12:10. It describes a severe drought with Abraham going down to the land of Egypt as an alien because of the famine in the land of Israel.

A generation later, in Genesis 26:1, Isaac moved to the land of Philistines, after a famine came upon the land again.

Then about 50 years later, there was a wide spread famine all over the Middle East. Jacob sent his sons down to Egypt to purchase grain.

In Genesis 41:53 we read, that this famine was so large, it had affected every country, and it lasted for 7 years, just as Joseph had predicted, when interpreting Pharaoh’s dream.

The Egyptians were the only nation that had stored enough grain, during the previous 7 years of abundance.

The next major drought causing a famine is recorded in the book of Ruth.

The bible says in Ruth 1:1: in the days when “the judges” ruled, there was a famine in the land. The time span of “the judges” ran from 1300 to 1100 BC. Based on genealogy listed in the last chapter of the Ruth, it puts the famine around the mid 1100’s BC.

This famine was so severe, Naomi and her husband and two sons move to the land of Moab, looking for a better life. But then misfortune strikes when Naomi‘s husband dies.

Both of her sons marry Moabite girls, one called Orpha and the other Ruth.

Ten years go by, and then Naomi’s sons die as well. First her husband passes away and now both her sons.

Three widows and no income, things are not good. She lost everything: home, husband, and sons. She cries out in her grief. Naomi said in Ruth 1:20: Don’t call me Naomi anylonger. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has made me very bitter.” (Mara means bitter).

She tells both of her daughters-in-law: go back to your mother’s home.  Orpha goes back, but Ruth refuses, out of loyalty and love of her Mother-in-law.

And this brings us to today’s reading of Ruth 3 1-5 and Ruth 4 ’13-17 which can be found on page…….

3Naomi her mother-in-law, said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well, with you.2Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women, you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight, at the threshing floor.3Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man, until he has finished eating and drinking.

4When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.”5She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”

Reading continues in: chapter 4:13

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son.14Then the women said to Naomi: “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel!15 He shall be to you, a restorer of life, and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.”16Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.17The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Please bow our heads. Guide us, O God, by your Word and Spirit, that in your light we may see light, in your truth find wisdom, and in your will, discover your peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

That famine in the mid 1100’s BC was of such a magnitude that for Naomi and her family to move to Moab underscores the severity of the situation.

You may ask: why? What is the big deal about moving to Moab?

There is a rich history in the bible about Moab dating back to Abraham, and Lot, his nephew. Lot’s daughters conceived two boys called Moab and Amon through an incestuous relationship with their father.

The descendants of Moab and Amon settled in the land east of the Jordan River and the “Dead Sea” in present day “Country of Jordan”. For centuries there was much conflict between these countries.

Moses after spending 40 years in the wilderness came upon Mount Nebo, above the plain of Moab where he could see the “Promised Land”. But the Israelites could not enter until after Moses passed away. In the Torah the first 5 books of the bible, Moses is very explicit about Moab and the Moabites. He brings it up 47 times.

In Deuteronomy 23:3 Moses forbids any Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants for 10 generations to be admitted, to the assembly of the LORD.

In other words, Moses orders his fellow Israelites, to stay away from these Moabites. Don’t hang out with these folks.

For hundreds of years this was engrained in Jewish culture, which would explain, why the author of the story of Ruth, kept referring to Moab and Moabites.

The story repeatedly described Ruth as the Moabites. In a book covering only three pages in the bible she is referred as Moabites 14 times…………

In September we harvested quinoa at the farm in Arcata with a combine. The quinoa heads got sucked into the combine and forced air blew the chaff out the back, and the quinoa seed went in the grain bin. A pretty cool process, I even filmed it and posted it online.

But there were no combines in the days of Ruth. The grain was threshed (or beat down) on the threshing floor to separate the grain from the hull.

Then they would throw seeds and chaff in the air with a fork, and let the wind blow the chaff out. That process is called: winnowing. The old saying “separating the wheat from the chaff” is derived from this process.

Threshing floors at the time of harvest were in danger of being robbed, so it was not unusual, for the farmer to sleep on the threshing floor to protect his harvest.

Naomi is left with Ruth, and she is worried about her future. She sets up a blind date with a distant family member of her deceased husband and gives Ruth specific instructions, on what to do at that threshing floor.

The story of Ruth is intriguing. I have heard some folks make the argument, that this is just a tale of Naomi trying to set up a husband for her widowed daughter in law.

But I believe, the story of Ruth goes much deeper. First of all Ruth had obsoletely no obligation to stay with her mother-in-law.

She remained loyal, and chose to be with Naomi. It is the ultimate expression of faithfulness on behalf of Ruth.

She is faithful to her mother in law, she is faithful to providing for her needs, but above all, she is faithful to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Here we have Ruth, a Moabite woman raised in the pagan worship of “Chemosh” who on her own, decides to follow the God of the Israelites.

Folks, the core message of the story of Ruth is found in Chapter1:16. In this amazing show of “Faithfulness” Ruth says: do not press me to leave you or turn back from following you.  Where you go, I will go, where you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God, where you die, there I will be buried.

It is the ultimate story of redemption, of restoration, of revitalization. It is a precursor for what is to come 1100 years later, when God includes the gentiles into his Kingdom in the book of Acts.

The bible says in Acts 10:45: The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too.

God blesses Ruth with a husband, and not only that, she bears a son called Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the grandfather of David. King David.

This is the same Jesse as prophesied in Isaiah 11:1. A shoot will come up, from the stump of Jesse, foreshadowing a messianic line that will bring Jesus Christ our Lord and savior, “The Messiah” 1100 years later, the gift that God provided to the whole world.

Ruth could have succumbed to depression, and despair, for being a widow, run back to her mother, and feel sorry for herself. She did not yield to self-pity or display the bitterness that had gripped the heart of Naomi because of her sad lot.

Ruth maintained a poise and a serenity which even her mother-in-law must have desired. Naomi’s self-confessed bitterness over the loss of husband and sons, spoke of her faltering faith in God’s good providence. She neglected to see the gift that God placed in her path.

This made me think of a story, about a professor who surprised his students with a midterm test. The professor handed out the question paper with text facing down as usual.

He asked the students to turn the page and gave them an hour to finish the test. To everyone’s surprise there were no questions, just a blank page with one black dot in the right hand corner of the page.

He instructed the students, I want you to write down what you see. After an hour the professor took the papers and started reading them aloud.

All of the students had taken great length to describe the black dot, in every possible way.

Not one student had written about the white part of the paper, the blank portion with countless opportunities

This is what happened to Naomi. She was in despair and focused on the dark spot in her life. She missed the blessing that God had put in her path. In this analogy, Ruth represents the white part of the piece of paper.

Nowhere in the story do we read about her lamenting of the situation she had found herself in, or being in despair. Ruth seems to have calmly acquiesced in the divine will of God with her “faithfulness”.

She did not focus on the dark spot; to the contrary, the story of Ruth could fill the whole page, about the good that came into her life, and Israel as a whole. And through the messianic line that ultimately leads to Jesus Christ 1100 years later.

The gospel reading this morning was from Mark 12:42 Jesus is watching the crowd putting money into the treasury. The poor widow put in 2 copper coins, worth one penny.

He called his disciples and said this poor widow has put in more than all those contributing to the treasury.

What a great metaphor. Jesus was very aware of his ancestry, he knew the story of Ruth, and he probably could recite it by heart.

Ruth was a poor widow, with absolutely nothing, but she gave what she had: “Faithfulness”, Love, Grace, Loyalty, and a deep trust and in the Lord our God…………

In Judaism, the book of Ruth is read during the Jewish feast of the harvest. In 11 days we will be celebrating Thanksgiving across America, our feast and celebration of the harvest.

In a moment we will sing “Come Ye Thankful People Come”. This traditional Thanksgiving song is not only appropriate with the upcoming holiday but also very fitting given the story of Ruth today.

Come, ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home,                                                 All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin;                                                               God, our Maker, does provide For our wants to be supplied;

Thanksgiving is a good time for contemplation. Given the stark contrast between Naomi and Ruth, we may ask ourselves this question over the Thanksgiving meal:

What characterizes us?

Are we like Naomi, when misfortune strikes do we turn to bitterness, hopelessness and despair?

Or are we more Ruth like: when things get bad we strengthen in “Faithfulness” we put our trust in God, and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Friends, let the story of Ruth teach us all, to be faithful, to put our trust in God, allow his redeeming powers to take hold of our lives.

Follow God, and spread the good news of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and let him “guide us” through that narrow gate on the path to eternal life.

Thank you,

God Bless you,

Amen