Ruth and Naomi arrived Bethlehem Judah safely.
Although the journey was a tiring one, Ruth couldn’t wait to finally get to Bethlehem-Judah. Severally, she had wondered how Naomi would have traveled so far on her own. Probably, her faith in God would have been the bonus!
The old widow on her part was filled with many conflicting thoughts. Thoughts of how life would continue, seeing she was alone, except for her sweet daughter, Ruth. Will Ruth be able to cope with the hardship and stress of settling in Bethlehem-Judah? There was no hope of financial stream of income, as she may have to depend on her friends and relatives for survival. What could she do now?
She tried really hard to restrict the roaming thoughts. Her daughter-in-law was quite discerning, as she was optimistic. Naomi hoped her faith was strong enough for both of them. However, she was positive that God would surely make a way.
The barley harvest had just begun. Little wonder, the city was abuzz with commercial activities. Many families had just returned from attending the popular Jewish feasts (Feasts of the Passover, Unleavened Bread and offering of the first fruits of the barley harvests). Hence, they were engrossed with the activities of the great harvests especially after a prolonged famine.
The reality of being a foreigner in Bethlehem-Judah suddenly dawned on Ruth. Instantaneously, Ruth and Naomi became the cynosure of all eyes. Their curious stares were almost blinding as the young Moabite widow managed to find face in her mother-in-law who held her securely, as though she was about to give in. The whispering of the crowd was penetrative enough to suggest this, but not so much as to deter the presently embittered widow from locating her matrimonial home.
Momentously, the abandoned house had transformed into a centre of attraction as relatives trouped freely trouped in. A few others viewed from a distance as though trying to sample this strange Moabite woman who accompanied Naomi.
One would think Naomi was quite emotionally composed as she perused the corners of her house, one which Elimelech had built. The widow’s sudden teary outburst almost broke her daughter’s heart who tried to hold back her tears. The sorry party soon departed. The widows cleaned up a little portion of the house so as to lay their heads for the night.
Gradually, they settled into their home. Ruth had quite a lot to learn in Bethlehem. Although Ruth was enthusiastic and apt to adapt to a new way of life, she was quite unsure of where the lines of this life would fall for her. Being in Naomi’s bosom for weeks now, under the shelter of the legendary living God of Israel in whose shelter, she had come to seek for rest.
Carefully pondering over these issues, Ruth tossed endlessly on the bed. Sadly, her eyelids have refused to come together in their usual warm embrace. What could she do now? The reserves of grain given as a generous gift by her mother’s friends were near finishing! They couldn’t live off these kind hearts for very long. Her mother was no option, by reason of her age and agility.
Gleaning was the only available choice. The risk of being molested on the field was a sad possibility. Worse still, being a Moabite stranger was another minus. They might think her to be a morally loose woman. Would she be able to cope with the insults, rejection missiles and the inter-tribal segregation she may most likely experience? Perhaps, heaven might smile on her, but how much grain could she gather before dusk, enough to take back home to her mother?
However, Naomi who had learnt total dependence on God experientially, had graciously taught her daughter to pray to the God of Israel for her every need, irrespective of how inconsequential it seemed.
Earnestly, Ruth prayed and she believed God for something worthwhile in her journey to the fields on the morrow.
RUTH GLEANS ON THE FIELD
Naomi’s characteristic humming was often a ‘rising bell’. Rising early was her usual routine. Gently, Ruth opened her eyes and allowed the sweet melodies of one of the ancient Jewish chants filter into her ears. Ruth tried to discern the accompanying lyrics as she whisked herself to her mother’s side.
Subsequently, Naomi blessed her daughter in an exceptional manner. Ruth wondered if Naomi saw through her thoughts on the previous night. However, she informed her mother of her proposed task. Naomi blessed and released her in the name of the Almighty God.
Ruth 2:2And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.
Truthfully, Ruth had learnt optimism. Most likely, it was her mother-in-law’s unceasing blessings upon her that had fueled her positivism over every task laid before her, including this somewhat risky expedition.
The radiance of the early morning sun kissed her face at intervals. Undoubtedly, fortune would smile on her on this day. Secretly, she prayed that no mishap would befall her in any field, that the Lord would graciously allow her to glean on for that day.
Her thoughtful prayers were interrupted by the stomps of reapers actively marching to their respective fields. Surely, the harvest was bountiful as they labored dutifully on the fields…
Ruth soon found herself on a particular field, as she closely followed behind the reapers.
In those days, the harvest season was a period when the rain of grain fell on both the rich and poor. God forbade them from harvesting their crops down to the last stalk or shoot. The Almighty God had graciously made provisions for the indigent members of the Israelite community through an exercise called ‘gleaning’.
Gleaning involves gathering of grain or other harvested materials left behind consciously or unconsciously by reapers for the benefit of the gleaners. Harvesting of barley involves the reaping or plucking, and then the harvested stocks of barley are winnowed, and subsequently threshed.
During reaping, laborers were hired to cut down the larger stocks of grain into bundles, if a loose stock of grain falls to the ground, it should be left for the poor. This was in accordance to the customs of the Israelites.
However, Ancient Bible Scholars tell us that gleaning is in three forms: leqet, shikheha and peah. Leqet are gleanings dropped while harvesting. Shikheha refers to the portion of grain unintentionally left behind during the transfer of crops indoors. Peah refers to the portion of the field (about one-sixth), not to be harvested at all, but left for the poor and helpless.
Gleaners can be quite aggressive, following after the reapers, as each strives to garner the little entitlement due them. The stronger of the lot would struggle over the shikheha and peah yield of grain, leaving the leqet for the weaker and patient ones, like Ruth.
Unfortunately, Ruth was a foreigner, who wouldn’t want to be involved in a fracas with the quarrelsome gleaners. Therefore, she pitched her tent on the ground. Painstakingly, but happily, she picked up the grains numerically, under the presently, scorching heat of the sun. Although, she wasn’t pleased with her gleaning progress, due to its poor yield, she was steady at it. She needed to gather enough grain for their meal, before dusk.
…to be continued!
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- The journey of a christian is a journey of faith. Faith is sometimes costly… We see again a woman covenanted to hold on to her beliefs even if it means death. Ruth had no clear understanding of what may become of her in a strange land.
- Many years ago, Abraham had left his father’s house, and set out on a similar journey to literally ‘nowhere’. This is often a source of depression and loss of hope for a believer who wants everything on ‘black and white’ and stated out clearly. We must trust God and follow Him blindly so as to arrive at our places of rest and purpose.
- Ruth had such solid convictions that enabled her to seek for the God of Israel. Although, Naomi, whom Ruth was deliberate on following had so much inconsistencies and challenges in her walk with God, Ruth was undeterred in her pursuit. It will be utterly useless and frustrating to make man our sole model in the walk of faith. Ruth had caught a solid conviction…and this sponsored her every move.
- Its normal to have sour times and wavy experiences in our pursuit of God but our consolation must be on the fact that God is able to provide for all of our needs.
- ‘Industry’ was another notable virtue in Ruth. A woman of a royal bloodline to glean on the fields as though she were a pauper! Heaven will always scrutinize our motives in every good work that we do.
- Ruth and Naomi is a tale of trust, faith and conviction
HELLO DEAR, ARE YOU SAVED?