Sunday, April 10, 2011

Character -- Digging Deeper

Appearances can be quite deceiving. You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by the cover.” I suggest you shouldn’t judge a person by their external appearance either. Many a man has underestimated me. When I first started in my field there were not many women who had fraud investigating as a profession. I’m probably the second generation of women in my field, and when I started I was by far one of the youngest. When I would show up at body shops or I would take statements from the perpetrators, it was blatantly obvious they thought I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. I’d let them spin their tales giving me all the details they wanted, and then it was my turn. I assure you when we parted ways there was no misunderstanding of where they stood with me and what I was capable of. Right is right, and a lie is a lie. I always wondered how God would use the choleric temperament He gave me. I wondered how He would use the gifts of prophecy and discernment He provided me. I wondered how He would use different hardships in my life, the gifts and talents He supplied to make me into someone worthwhile. He shaped my character by the hardships. He molded my perspective and skills with the gifts and talents, and the result is a character that I hope edifies Him. Thankfully, He’s still working on me.

Character is something you do or who you are when no one is looking, and the book of Ruth has characters of such quality. It’s interesting to me to see how Ruth’s character develops. I love seeing the hand of God working in and out of each situation. This is a great book. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Remember, we are reading this as if it was our first time. We don’t know what to expect, so let’s get started digging deeper!

Chapter one ended with a beginning. Isn’t that just like God? When we come to the end of ourselves, He see the place where He can begin doing a mighty work in our lives. I love that about Him. “It was the beginning of the barley harvest.”

Chapter two introduces us to Boaz and gives us some contrast with Ruth. He was an Israelite. She was a Moabite. He was a man of wealth. She was poor. Opposites attract.

In Ruth 2 we get to see the heart of Ruth’s character. She sees Naomi as her mother. She submits, obeys and tends to her. Makes me wonder if we are raising our children to be this way? Is the next generation of adults coming up able to submit? Ruth asks permission to go work and to provide for them the best way possible. Naomi gives her blessing. Ruth is a worker -- not a complainer, not a griper.

Boaz arrives on the scene. Being the wealthy man he is, you may or may not expect to see him overseeing the fields during the harvest, but it is how he treats his reapers that caught my attention. He greets them in the name of the Lord, and they return in kind. But then, Boaz knowing all of his workers recognizes someone who is not one of his reapers. He inquires of the foreman who she is.

Our reputations as Christians stand up for us in our absence or when we cannot defend ourselves. What does your reputation say about your character? For Ruth, Boaz learns about her devotion to her mother-in-law and about her being a hard worker – all of this from the foreman. Boaz calls to Ruth and gives her instruction about reaping and getting water from the vessels his men had brought up. Ruth’s character – humility. She falls to the ground and asks why is he giving such favor to her. Boaz knows God is going to reward Ruth for her commitment to Naomi.

Boaz makes sure that Ruth is fed and has water to restore her. He doesn’t give to her a small portion, and she isn’t greedy with what she is given. She eats enough to sustain her and keeps the rest to give to Naomi. In a country with people who are given to excess, we could all learn from Ruth and her appetite – she ate to sustain and provided for her mother-in-law.

Ruth was allowed to harvest in the fields with the reapers. She no longer had to wait behind and pick up what was left over. That to me is grace. The grace God gives us isn’t what is left over. What are we giving Him? I also see it as God’s providence. God used Boaz to provide for Ruth and Naomi.

After work, Ruth carried her sheaves to town, and then went home to Naomi. She didn’t go out with the other workers. She didn’t carry on longer than what was required to get the work done. Interesting.

Next we read a conversation Ruth and Naomi have. Naomi knows Boaz as one of the family redeemers – not THE family redeemer. The family redeemer is one who can restore a family member. He can marry the widow of a family member to keep the lineage going. He can purchase land that is sold by a family member during hard times. SO, my question is this. If Naomi knew there was more than one family redeemer, then why did she try to get both of her daughters-in-law to return to their own families? There was a way for them to marry and have children. One possibility is she simply forgot about them – it had been over 10 years since she was in Bethlehem. But I wonder if there was another reason.

Then my mind goes to “family redeemer.” Boaz gave Ruth food to live on and water to sustain her. Jesus us gives us bread (His body) and living water. Jesus is our family redeemer. He redeems what we’ve enslaved or endowed to someone else during our hardest of times and in our weakest of moments. He purchased my soul in order to redeem me into the family of God. Makes me so thankful I have a redeemer who sees every hardship and heart ache I’ve ever tasted and known, and chooses to restore me completely and redeem me in the eyes of my heavenly Father!

Please enjoy this song by Nicole C. Mullins. Makes me cry every time and raise my hands thanking God for being my living redeemer.

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