Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cross Bearer

“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word,” Isaiah 66:2.
The Roman soldier threw his belongings carelessly over the unsuspecting well-dressed Jewish businessmen and sauntered past him with an obvious expectation.  With a little consideration he yelled back, “Jericho!”  Oy, woe to me!  thought the first-century Jewish man as he hefted the load a bit higher.  His plans were certainly on hold for today.  Seventeen mile by “The Way of Blood”, he sighed hoping to return with his life. He was trembling, but not at Yahweh’s word….
Ruth’s hands also trembled.  She had been welcomed by a Jewish man in a Moabite land, but would she be welcome here?  
“Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.  And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose eyes I shall find favor’,” Ruth 2:1-2.  Ruth, a woman on whom Naomi’s aged livelihood would depend - a Moabitess by blood, not a Jew - would enter the arena of lawful Jewish expectation.  She was now a spiritual orphan, denouncing the gods of her homeland. She was now a familial widow having buried her Jewish husband in that personally rejected homeland.  And she was certainly a foreigner who would never have a homeland, unless this Jewish people chose to heed the words of Yahweh and bring her home. 
“Thus says the Lord: do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed.  And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless and the widow…” Jeremiah 22:3.  “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor…” Zechariah 7:9-10.  The just restoration of Ruth and Naomi, their very physical, emotional and generational life, lay in the contrite heart of a possible Goel.  Would it be so?
In this story, like any other, everyone has the opportunity to bear crosses…
Blessed in Naomi who, even in bitter spirit, receives her daughter-in-law as family and waits patiently for restoration rather than striking out in her pain.
Blessed is Ruth as she bears a cross for Naomi.  She, a foreigner, will bravely seek favor from a Jew.  With trembling hands, she will gather barley and any fragments of Yahweh’s grace that a foreigner is welcomed to receive.  She will humbly receive Jewish charity so that she might know the ways of Yahweh’s grace rather than abiding under the inherited rights, familiar ways and common gods of the Moabites.  She will risk a lower status of poverty, widowhood and barrenness in a foreign land… .to love Yahweh and feed Naomi.
Blessed is the Jewish businessman.  Congratulations!  He has also been given the opportunity to bear a cross.  “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you,” Matthew 5:38-42.  The Jewish man has the opportunity to graciously serve a Gentile enemy with eyes wide open that this Roman soldier is a fellow image-bearer.  
Jesus, the Great Goel, obligated Himself to Gentiles and enemies.  Blessed is Boaz for he will foreshadow the cross-bearing of the Great Goel…
Tell me, how far would You travel with a foreign enemies load?


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