“Bleak” is a good word to describe the days of the Judges. This season of Israel’s history was a roller coaster of obedience and disobedience. Put another way, during the period of the Judges, Israel took a 400-year merry-go-round marked by a recurring pattern:
Sin: Israel sins (walks away from God).
Judgment: God punishes (usually through an invading army).
Repentance: Israel repents (Sorry God!).
Deliverance: God sends a deliverer (a political/military/spiritual leader, i.e. a Judge).
You know this period was not the golden age of Israel when the summary line of the book concludes,
Yes, it was that bad.
Judges was the spiritual equivalent of the 2008 economic meltdown — for 400 years! Sure, there were some great leaders: Othniel, Deborah, Gideon, and Samson, but they always appeared in the wake of disobedience. Five times the writer notes, “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” These were funky times — and on many occasions — horrendous times:
Jael (the wife of Heber) drove a tent peg through though the temple of the sleeping general Sisera (Judges 4:21).
Abimelech (son of Gideon) murdered all his brothers in attempt to secure his reign (Judges 9:1-6)
Abimelech, wounded by a woman, had his armor-bearer kill him “lest they say of me, ‘A woman kill him.’” Now if that’s not machismo . . . (Judges 9:50-57)
Jephthath’s tragic vow cost his only daughter her life (Judges 11)
To awaken the nation, a Levite dismembered his concubine whom the men of Benjamin brutally raped and killed; though they would have preferred sodomy with the Levite (Judges 19).
The nation of Israel (400,000 men) went to war against unrepentant Benjamin (who refused to give up the rapists) at a cost in excess of 65,000 lives (Judges 20).
“Depressing” is the word to describe life under those skies.
Like most of us, I read Judges and don’t like it; but I get it. Life apart from God degenerates quickly. Just take a look at the daily news. Sometimes it is as if we can feel culture shifting under our feet.
It is tempting to write off these days with sweeping generalizations:
“The world is going to hell in a handbasket.”
“We’re done for!”
“The church in America is dying!”
But the acuteness of our feelings is not necessarily an accurate measure of reality. What’s more — and I see this in life and in Scripture — God has great people everywhere in every time.
Boaz plays prominently in the story of Ruth, the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi. The narrative of Ruth begins with these seven words:
The story of Ruth takes place smack dab in the middle of the 400-year-period of Judges, the bleakness just described. Read carefully! This is a VERY significant point!
Ruth is a stream in the desert, a cool breeze on a hot day, grace in the face of depravity — a soothing Country & Western ballad interrupting a steady stream of 80’s hair-bands (sorry, couldn’t resist!).
God delivers grace in the form of Boaz; a “worthy man” in worrisome times. Boaz shows grace to Naomi by showing grace to Ruth. He allows Ruth, the foreigner, to glean in his fields. He provides water to slake her thirst, extra grain to meet her needs, protection to guard her reputation, and a meal to satisfy her hunger.
About this meal, Iain M. Dugind writes,
The joy of having enough to eat is a hard concept for us to grasp in our affluence, for we are used to satisfying our appetites three times a day, with snacks in between. But for a foreign widow to be able to eat to the point where she was full and still have some left over to take home — what a feast.
Ultimately, Boaz marries Ruth. They have a son, Obed. The same Obed who fathers Jesse, who fathers David, the King. What?!
The Davidic dynasty is born — through a man living for God under bleak skies!
Bleak may summarize your surroundings, but it need not summarize your life. YOU are God’s instrument to bring a taste of His grace to those living in the sphere of your reach.
There are many ways we do this. Here is one:
Spanish River is holding a Human Trafficking Awareness Workshop on May 29th. Join us. This is one way you can stand as a Boaz of grace in our community. For more information, please contact Timothy Torres (firstname.lastname@example.org).
“Bleak” does not mean “all bad.” YOU are God’s instrument to bring a taste of his grace in dark times.
“The joy of having enough to eat . . .” from Esther & Ruth, in the Reformed Expository Commentary by Iain M. Dugid. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing. 2005. Page 160.