Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Ruth pondered her dilemma. It was getting dark. Her feet carefully trod the path that had become familiar. Ahead was the noise of celebration, the rowdy sound of men who had worked hard and done well. There was the smell of freshly cut barley. Even here, the particles of chaff drifted and tickled her nose.
Earlier, she had laid aside her widow's garb. Then washed off the dust of the field. And touched on some precious perfume. Put on her best robe. It was her mother-in-law's idea.
Ruth knew Naomi had been depressed. She'd walked for days with her shoulders slumped, her eyes down. It was as if all she could see was the faces of her husband Elimelech, and her sons Mahlon and Chilion. All dead. But now, she looked up. She looked forward. She saw Ruth's future - a foreigner, a widow, alone. Concern sparked creativity. Now there was a twinkle in her eye as she schemed to secure the future of this one who had sacrificed so much for her.
What had changed Naomi? She had called it "HESED", which means kindness or faithful love. She'd recognised God's generosity in Boaz's actions. Ruth saw that Naomi was ready to give up her own security to secure her daughter-in-law's future. But Ruth herself wasn't prepared to give up just yet. She had one last opportunity to bless Naomi.
As Naomi had planned, Ruth waited, snuck in and laid at Boaz's feet. When he stirred, though, she went off script. She asked him not just to rescue her but to rescue her whole family. She asked him to secure their inheritance and to provide them with an heir. It was a big ask. It was more complicated than she knew. But, once again, she had gone the extra mile. And Boaz called it "HESED".
As mentioned in part one of this blog Going the Extra Mile -- my favourite Hebrew word is HESED. In English it is often translated as “lovingkindness”, “faithful love” or “kindness”. It can be hard to understand what this word means until you experience it. What I love about this little book of Ruth is that this amazing HESED of God is experienced through the actions of ordinary people.
The amazing thing about HESED is that it is contagious. Ruth's first act of HESED stirred up Boaz's act of HESED. Naomi was transformed from selfishness to selflessness. Now Ruth acts a second time with HESED. And so the ripple effect continues.
Sometimes we long for God to reveal himself in extraordinary ways. We want to be wowed by him. Instead, we should be amazed at the ordinary acts of faithful love, of kindness, that transform the lives of those around us.
If you have not personally experienced God's HESED, can I recommend reading the Gospel of Luke? While the story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz is a dynamic story of HESED, there is no better picture of the HESED of God than found in the life and ministry of Jesus. His compassion, his power and his sacrifice transforms anyone who encounters it.