Friday, March 09, 2007

If chickens had teeth -- Ruth 2:10-12

When I was young, it seemed more summer storms came out of the northwest. We had a large grove of trees to the northwest which blocked our view of approaching summer storms in the prairie. I was home alone one summer day when a storm rolled in from the northwest and was upon me before I knew it.

Our job in the yard was to secure all the doors on all the barns and other buildings so the wind would not rip the doors off. I ran and ran making all the rounds to end up in the dairy barn, looking out a south window to see a hen with chicks trying to move towards the brooder house in the ever increasing wind. The old hen made a wise choice. She sat down in the middle of the yard, turned her butt into the wind, sat down spread out her wings, and gathered her chicks close beside her, put down her head and protected her little chicks from the vicious wind. As the storm grew in intensity, I found myself rooting for the old hen and her chicks. The wind buffeted her, she rocked and moved some but her claws must have been grabbing for all the Winfield Township dirt she could muster. If chickens had teeth, she was gritting them.

The storm ended; she still sat there with her chicks under her wings protected and when she was sure it was over, stood up, ruffled her feathers, checked that all her chicks were ok, and went about her business of being a mom to 7 little chicks.

Why did she do what she did? Because of instinct; yes, God at creation put that instinct in the chickens. I know it was instinct but she protected these little chicks because they were hers. Yes, because they were hers. She protected them not for recognition or any other benefit (she didn’t even know I was watching and 50 years later relating the story to you). She protected the chicks because they were HERS. I love that.

In the Book of Ruth, Ruth, a Moabite woman, comes back to Judah with her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi. Things had not gone well in Moab for Naomi and her daughter-in-law. Naomi lost her husband and two sons, and one daughter-in-law stayed in Moab. But her daughter-in-law Ruth stayed with Naomi and returned to Judah when they heard “there was food in the land.” Ruth goes to work gleaning in a barley field belonging to a man named Boaz, a relative of her dead father-in-law. Boaz watches out for her, making provision to help Ruth in numerous ways. He is a good man.

Ruth, the foreigner without a husband or children and little hope of a good future, responsible for a mother-in-law, is overcome with Boaz’s kindness and provision. In Ruth 2:10-12 it says: “At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me--a foreigner?" Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband--how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

In verse 12, Boaz in a sense blesses Ruth and closes by saying: “The God of Israel under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Just like the old hen on our yard in a fierce summer storm provided refuge for her chicks at her expense and danger, she loved her chicks and was willing to sacrifice herself for their safety, God provides refuge and safety for us, not because of what we have done or because of our bloodline. He provides refuge because we are His; His creation, His child, His son and daughter of His own choosing. Boaz the man recognized Ruth faithfulness and allegiance to Naomi even when Ruth was not obligated to do that. Boaz pronounces a blessing in a sense upon Ruth because of her actions. Whether Boaz recognized Ruth’s good deeds or not made no difference to Ruth, she came to take refuge under the wings of the Almighty. Her good works were recognized but were not a requirement for her to take refuge.

Bottom line—it’s all a gift from the Almighty God—no works, no groveling required on our part; it’s grace, the undeserved gift of God. What did it cost the Father--the death and suffering of His one and only Son. Jesus came to earth, became an ovum, was born, lived a holy life, suffered, died, and rose again so we could take refuge under the wings of the Almighty God. A gift, grace, just because we are His. We ought to dance for joy.

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