Naomi was left with her two Moabite daughters-in-law after her husband and two sons died. Her family had moved to Moab from Bethlehem because of a famine, which was now over.
Naomi urged her daughters-in-law to go back to their parents’ homes but one of them, Ruth, was so devoted to her that she refused to go. She wanted to accompany Naomi for ever: ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God’ (v.16). Naomi was prepared to give up her beloved Ruth for her to find happiness but Ruth was happy to turn her back on her own people to care for her foreign mother-in-law.
The two women returned to Naomi’s hometown, Bethlehem.
Naomi asked to be called ‘Mara’ meaning ‘Bitter’ because the ‘Almighty has made my life very bitter’ (v.20). We should not let ourselves become bitter. God will always rescue us from our troubles as long as we stay faithful to him. God was already orchestrating a way to rescue Naomi and Ruth and restore their good fortunes.
Ruth went to find leftover grain and was allowed to gather in the fields of Boaz – who was from the same clan as Naomi’s deceased husband.
Because Ruth had a great reputation and had been kind to her mother-in-law, she was blessed by the kindly Boaz: ‘May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge’ (v.12).
Boaz was not just kind to the living, he was also kind to the dead (v.20). The dead appreciate our kindly actions on the earth as they watch our daily work in the cloud of witnesses. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive (Luke 20:38).
Boaz fed and protected Ruth and instructed his harvesters to give her extra stalks of wheat. By working diligently, throughout the barley and wheat harvest, she was able to feed her mother-in-law.
It’s wonderful to read such a positive story after the grim events in the book of Judges.
Naomi and Ruth are experiencing a type of rebirth due to a saviour in Bethlehem.
We sow what we reap: kindness, loyalty and generous provision.
Today we can add more people to the list of people that never sinned. In previous days we mentioned how Jesus never sinned; how Mary, Mother of God, never sinned and how the righteous – that Jesus did not come to save – never sinned and here we meet some of them: ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned’ said Jesus, (speaking of a man blind from birth), ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life’. Being born blind was not a punishment for past misdemeanours, it was a passport to receiving a healing blessing from Jesus. People would forever read his touching testimony: ‘I was blind but now I see!’ (v.25).
I used to be blind to how sinful I was. I thought I was more or less ok. My eyes were opened in the Sistine Chapel one day and I realised how awkward my final judgement would be unless I changed direction and headed towards the welcoming arms of Jesus. I will never forget the dramatic moment of conversion when I made a screeching handbrake turn in my spiritual life.
Many people misquote Romans 3:23 and just take the middle part of the verse out of context: ‘There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’. Paul wasn’t writing that every single person has sinned, he was saying there is no race or nation that is totally free from sin. Some Jews and some Gentiles will have committed sins but not all of them. To say the whole human race are sinners is too gloomy. We do all inherit ‘original sin’ at birth from our ancestor Adam but this is wiped away, along with any personal sins, by the exorcism of baptism.
There are some important principles on display today. The poor blind man that Jesus was about to cure was blind from birth. Many people would say this was cruel but God works for the good of all those that love him. If he hadn’t been blind, he wouldn’t have received an amazing miracle from Jesus and we wouldn’t still be reading about him more than two thousand years later. Both he and his parents would have received salvation by their belief in Jesus. The other important principle is that God works through people. If the man hadn’t been exactly in the right place at the right time, he wouldn’t have met Jesus to receive this miracles. The Holy Spirit may have whispered to the blind man to take the right directions at exactly the right times to ‘bump into’ Jesus. He had to be obedient to the promptings of the Spirit. However, even if he had missed Jesus, God will always find a way to accomplish his work. The man might have been healed later by Peter or Paul. There are always more chances while we are still alive to experience God’s healing grace. If you are sick today, God will most likely heal you through using an intermediate person. Go and ask a charismatic priest or pastor to pray for you so that the Holy Spirit can act through them. If you do get healed spontaneously in your bedroom, it will most likely have happened because someone else was praying for you.
Jesus reiterated that he was ‘the light of the world’ (v.5) just before he gave the blind man sight. Jesus likes us to contribute to our healing. He likes us to get involved and work with him. The blind man had to step out in faith and walk to the pool of Siloam and wash. When he had done this awkward task, which was probably quite difficult for a blind person, he went home seeing (v.7). This is similar to the leper, Naaman, having to wash himself seven times in the river Jordan to be healed from leprosy (2 Kings 5:14).
The Holy Spirit must have told Jesus that the man would be cured if Jesus made mud with his saliva and put it on the man’s eyes. Jesus obeyed these detailed instructions faithfully. Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic has meant that healing through saliva is now generally frowned upon.
Of course, it was a Sabbath again and the Pharisees were more concerned about Jesus working on the holy day rather than the outcome of this outstanding miracle. The man who had been healed knew that Jesus was a prophet (v.17). He knew that he had been touched by the supernatural. When people attend a church where healings, deliverances and prophesies take place, they can witness the truth of the gospel and believe.
The Pharisees hurled insults at the man born blind and declared they were disciples of Moses. They knew that God had spoke to Moses but they didn’t even know where this fellow (Jesus) came from (v.29). Hilariously, it was Jesus who had frequently met with Moses in the desert in the Tent of Meeting. Jesus was the God that Moses had talked to face to face like a friend.
The healed man carried out a brilliant defence of Jesus. He has instantly become a bold disciple of Jesus. He even subjected the Pharisees to withering sarcasm when they cannot get over their prejudice against Jesus despite the overwhelming evidence of his healing miracles: ‘Now that is remarkable!’ He pointed out that as God listened to Jesus, Jesus must be a ‘godly man who does his will’ (v.32). Jesus would not be able to do these miracles if he wasn’t from God.
This man, who had been a disabled beggar, dismantled the logic of anyone choosing to be an atheist. Jesus was a historical figure – as documented by independent historians. Jesus performed outstanding miracles for the glory of God – witnessed by thousands of independent onlookers. God listens to the godly man who does his will. If Jesus was not from God, he could have done nothing. Therefore, it is a historical fact that Jesus was the Son of God who performed amazing signs and miracles. He died and was resurrected to justify and make us righteous in the sight of God.
The amazing fact is that through our baptism, belief in Jesus and the gifts of the Holy Spirit we can perform the same miracles that Jesus did and aspire to even greater ones. It just takes faith and we can build on small successes, along with prayer and fasting to achieve great things for the glory of God.
We are all spiritually blind until our eyes are opened to the wonder of the gospel and the everyday presence of the Holy Trinity in our lives.
The healed man was thrown out by the spiritually blind Pharisees for his dynamic witness: ‘how dare you lecture us!’ (v.34). Jesus had not only physically let light into his eyes, he had given him spiritual light. This man now knew the truth, that Jesus was the Saviour of the world. He would have gone home laughing, rejoicing in his new vision, seeing God’s glorious creation for the first time. Praise the Lord!
Back in Solomon’s time, men were praised according to their wisdom. ‘Men with warped minds‘ were despised (v.8). These days, men (and women) with warped minds can make a very good living as stand-up comedians.
It isn’t wise to be pretentious. Better to be humble and have some money in the bank than to be ostentatious and secretly poor.
Righteous people care for their animals and are not cruel. I have just cooked an entire roast chicken for my poorly miniature dachshund who has had a major neck operation so hopefully she will testify in my favour.
We do have to make our living through practical schemes and not chase unworkable fantasies. Evil men reveal their characters through their sinful talk (v.13). Righteous people escape trouble as long as no-one believes the lies of false witnesses.
We should aspire to be wise, patient and prudent; slow to anger, grateful for advice and instantly forgive when people insult us.
Image: Václav Mánes, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons