Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Under Cover

                                                       Reflections on Ruth 2:11-18

May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.
                                                                        Ruth 2:12

It’s like he can’t see her outward appearance – not the old clothes, the dirt on her hands, the sweat on her Moabite face. Not her youth, nor her beauty, not even the obvious signs prolonged hunger has left on her physical frame. All he sees is honor. As if a crown sparkled on her head in the sunlight.

As if she’s clothed in the radiance of all that she’s done.

He’s heard. He knows she stayed with her mother-in-law. Even after she buried her husband – she clung to Naomi in love. She chose to leave her parents, her country, and belong to a people she doesn’t know – tucking herself under the wings of the Almighty.

Choosing then, choosing now as she works the fields, the way of kindness. 1

This, he’s always known, is God’s mark on the soul of His people. The God of “hesed” (kindness) making His people a people of hesed. And this is her! He tells her it’s all been reported to him. Because of it, under his cover, she will be safe. “May the Lord reward you,” he prays, “and make you whole and complete!” 2

But it confuses her. She’s nobody. She’s not worthy to be counted among the most menial workers. Why then does he lower himself to regard her? To comfort her like this? Why reach out and gently – ever so gently -- lift up her head?

“My lord,” she whispers, staying low where she belongs.

He wants to do more for her. At meal time, he goes to her again. “Come and eat some food!” Not with the other widows. But at the head table – with the reapers, the foremen -- near him. The highest place of all. How is she supposed to do that? Walk there? Sit there? Was she trembling? Did she keep her head down, her eyes to the ground, awkward and embarrassed?

And what was it like, out of nowhere, to suddenly have a plate of food placed in front of her? Piled high! More food than she eats in a week! She turns to look at who gave it to her. Who’d do that? Who’d serve somebody like her?

A servant? A reaper? A foreman? No.

It’s him. 3

Lifting her head again. Inviting her to eat again. And she does, she eats until she feels what she hasn’t felt in so long. She’s full, she’s satisfied. When she’s done, she’s told she can even take the leftovers home. A cooked meal or two for later.

She hears them call him Boaz.

She figures he must have said something to the reapers. The afternoon work isn’t like the morning. They treat her differently -- kindly, practically throwing stalks of barley down in front of her. By day’s end, as she beats out what she gleaned, she has more grain than she ever dreamed possible. 4

And nearly skips her way home. Naomi is there, standing at the door, waiting. One look at Ruth’s happy, tired face and she knows her prayers are answered. She’s safe -- unharmed. Her arms are full of harvest. As she comes near, putting it all down, Ruth holds out the most precious gift of all. The one Naomi needs and needs now. Not the raw uncooked barley.

But the cooked leftovers. She takes it.

She’s hungry beyond words. She starts eating -- to the full! It’s the first sign that God isn’t against her and that He’s doing what she thought He’d never do again.

Ever so gently -- lifting her head to His.

*       *       *

Inside the workbook, Pastor Adams had scribbled, “Request two: Laqueta” followed by her phone number. I assumed this was the same woman on the DVD who’d gone to see Angel in Juvie. I was thrilled to have my first interview.

“Nelson here,” a man answered.

“I’m calling for Laqueta,” I started.

“She’s not here right now. Is this Pastor Barnum?”

“How’d you know?”

“Pastor Adams said you’d be calling.  We figured we could meet you tomorrow, about 4:15, at 365 Maple. That work for you?” I told him I’d make it work and thanked him. His name wasn’t familiar and, the next day, when I got to the house and saw him sitting on the front steps, I knew we’d never met.

“Laqueta’s inside,” he said, after we talked a while. I soon learned this was Angel’s house. She comes here after school to spend time with her mom.

“She can’t take care of her right now,” he told me. “So Angel stays with us. Who knows for how long? Her mother doesn’t have a good track record getting off drugs. So another family at church helps her.”

“From The Naomi Project?”

“Yeah. Pray for her. She needs the Lord to do what she can’t do for herself. But in the meantime? We do right by Angel.”

“So, how’d you become part of The Naomi Project?” I asked.

“Blake,” he said, looking straight at me. “I’m hoping you’re about to meet him.”

“Who is he?”

“Somebody I’ve hated since I was a kid.  We were teenagers on the street.” He pointed to a scar over his left eye and spitted out his name. “I was 22 and ended up with a concussion. We’ve always had it out for each other. Couple of years ago, I gave my life to Christ and did my best to stay away from him.

“Then, eighteen months ago, he gets in a car wreck. Totaled it. No idea how he survived. That’s when it started for me. I tried praying for him and I couldn’t do it. I went to Pastor Adams, he heard me out, and told me to get there on Wednesday nights. Laqueta was already going.”

“Did it help?” I wondered.

“I needed an attitude change. If God worked in me, I knew I could pray for him. So, six months ago, it happens again. He gets in a car wreck and nearly dies from it. So again I start praying. But this time, God says, ‘No!’


“He’s not listening to me. And I know He won’t listen till I get myself down to that hospital and tell him about Jesus. And that’s exactly what I did. ‘I don’t want you dying without Jesus,’ I say. ‘Two times you’ve had these wrecks. You ready to face God?’

“He says to me, ‘What do you care?’

“I say, ‘I do care and I’ll prove it.’ From then on, I’ve done what Pastor Adams teaches. I’ve gone out of my way to show kindness. When he was sick. When he got better -- and I didn’t stop. Even now, though I know he hates it. He wants nothing to do with Christ or with me. At least, not yet.”

I look at him, confused. “So why’s he coming here?”

“’Cause two days ago I found out something about him. So, I go to his house last night. He takes one look at me, and tells me to go away. I say, ‘Not this time, Blake. You’re gonna wanna hear what I got to say. There’s business between us now.’

“’What business?’ he says, coming out the door, getting right in my face.

“’It’s time you do right by your daughter,’ I say.

“’What I do, what I don’t do, has nothing to do with you,’ and then he pushes me. I tell him I’m not fighting him anymore. Not since Jesus came into my life. He knows that about me now. Then I land the news on him.

“’I know you don’t have custody.’

“He says, ‘So?’

“You know her Mama’s not doing well. Till she gets back on her feet, she’s got Laqueta and me taking care of your daughter. You got that? She’s with us now. Under my protection. If you want to see her, if you want to be the dad God called you to be, the kind of dad she needs, be at the house tomorrow at 4:00.”

“What did he say?” I asked, wide-eyed.

“Nothing. He turned around and slammed the door. But, for me, I couldn’t let him find out any other way. It had to come from me. If he won’t lift Angel’s head up high -- I will, so help me God.”

Then I heard it. A car door close. I turned and saw a man coming toward us, peaceful and calm. Nelson stood.

Nelson said, “I hoped you’d come.”

The man said nothing. And everything. As his hand and Nelson’s met mid-air.

1 In Ruth 3:10, Boaz describes all that Ruth did for Naomi (described in 2:11) as “kindness” (or, hesed).
2 Hubbard, p. 165
3 Again, in Hubbard’s commentary, he writes, “Indeed, he served her!” (p. 175) How perfectly this portrays the incarnation of our Lord who came not to be served, “but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) See also, Luke 12:37, John 13:5, and Philippians 2:5-11.
4 Hubbard argues the normal take for a worker in that day was about “1-2 pounds per day.” An ephah “weighed “about 29 (U.S.) pounds” which means Ruth brought home “the equivalent of at least half a month’s wages in one day.” p. 179.

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John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?