Welcome to A Scarlet Cord of Hope, the 2021 advent series of University Fellowship Church Women written and read by Jaime Sherman, who penned our Christmastime narratives from biblical, Jewish, and historical sources to tell how God wove hope from creation to the creche and who continues to point us to the final fulfillment of hope in the one-day-soon second coming of Jesus Christ. Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
today’s suggested reading
When God led His people into the Promised Land, He instructed them to drive out the inhabitants of the land, for He knew the moral corruption and idolatry of the nations would pull His people away from whole-hearted devotion to Him and His ways. He wanted their hearts, and while the people promised they would serve the LORD alone, they were quick to stray and break their part of the covenant with God.
In His holiness, God couldn’t overlook their sin, so He allowed the consequences of idolatry and union with corrupt nations to play out for the Israelites in order to bring them back to Him. But in all the hard things, He never left them alone. He raised up civil, military leaders called judges to save them from their enemies, giving them hope for lasting peace. While many of the 12 judges who served sought to lead according to God’s best for His people, many of them stumbled, but God’s plans were never thwarted. Evil never has the final word.
It was in this time of the judges when famine was in the land that an Israelite couple, Elimelech and Naomi, took their two sons, Mahlon and Chilean, to live in the pagan land of Moab. But Elimelech died, leaving Naomi vulnerable in a godless land, so maybe with a sense of desperation, she allowed her sons to marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. But these men, too, died.
Left without provision in the land and hearing that God had provided for the Israelites in their land, she set out with her daughters-in-law to return to her homeland, but then she had second thoughts about taking the girls along. She urged them to return to their parents and begin new lives with hope for children, for she had nothing to offer them. With tears in her eyes, Orpah turned her steps homeward, but a determined Ruth hung to Naomi, declaring:
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. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you (Ruth 1:16-17).
This wasn’t the easy path for Ruth to take, but with a sense of hope that the God of Israel had more to offer than anything back home, Ruth walked forward and showed up in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest and was quickly known for her love, humility, and grace. She set to work in the fields, gleaning the leftovers to provide for herself and Naomi, who quickly saw that her kinsman Boaz was extending great compassion to them. Maybe this woman in his fields reminded him of his mother Rahab, the prostitute turned secret operative who was rescued from the falling walls of Jericho because of her faith in God. Even though God had invited her into His family and she had wed Salmon from the line of Perez through Judah and Tamar, she would forever be known as the outsider.
Naomi set about as one of the best-known matchmakers of the Bible and orchestrated a plan to give her family line a future and a hope. Following Naomi’s instruction to the T, Ruth went to the threshing floor where Boaz had been working and was catching a few needed hours of sleep. There she lay at his feet and declared to this now awake and startled man, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer” (Ruth 3:9).
He replied, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning” (Ruth 3:10-13).
Afraid that a marriage to Ruth would diminish his children’s inheritance, this other kinsman redeemer forfeited his right to the land of Elimelech, Chilean, and Mahlon, and to the responsibility of caring for Ruth and Naomi. The leaders of Bethlehem blessed Boaz, who took Ruth as his wife, and through their physical union, Ruth conceived and bore a son.
Hope returned to the heart of Naomi, and the women surrounding her praised God, saying, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 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 given birth to him” (Ruth 4:14-15). And they named him Obed, meaning worshipper.
Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of David, and as we will continue to see in this story of a long cord of hope through history, from his family line would one day come the Lamb of God to rescue all the outsiders into His family and give them an eternal hope. Even when His people failed to drive out the corrupt nations, when judges struggled to follow God’s best, and when individual families went to live outside God’s bounds for Israel, God was at work to pull all humanity to Himself for their good and His glory.
Today as you read or listen to the four chapters of Ruth, thank God for inviting all of us — the sinful outsiders — into His family. Celebrate that He sent the ultimate Redeemer to earth to die in our place to reconcile us to Himself.
Jaime Sherman is a writer and editor for ufcwomen.blog but most importantly a child of the King of kings, the wife of one amazing man for nearly 20 years, and mama of five girls and one boy. Learn more about her adventure in writing and enjoy some free resources on our main page for this series.