February 7, 2014

Country Bumpkin II: The Breadwinner

By the time of Judges 6 the Israelites had done evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years the Lord gave them over to the hands of the Midianites and they were oppressive in their harasssment of Israel. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country and ruined the Israelite crops all the way to Gaza and killed all their sheep, cattle and donkeys. The Midianites so beleaguered the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help. In response to the pleas God sent a prophet to inform them of their transgressions and right on the prophets heels came Gideon the reluctant judge.

Before Gideon is associated to the 300, he is first associated to the land in which he lives. We see some background that is vital to understanding Gideon and his actions in Judges 6:11…

Judges 6:11 ~ The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.

We see Gideon threshing wheat. At the time of this encounter with God's appointed envoy, we see that he is beating out grain in a wine press. Without modern technology grain needed to have the heads beat with a flail and then discard the straw. It was then tossed into the air allowing the wind to blow away the much lighter straw and paper-like chaff while the heavier useful kernels would fall straight down. To do this during the Midianite incursions would been dangerous because throwing the wheat into the air would’ve been like waving a flag to attract the Midianites. So instead Gideon beats the grain in a wine press. It is in this enclosed environment that the Angel of the Lord arrives. It is here Gideon is given his divine task as a judge.

Because of their own sin, Israel had been tormented by their neighbors. No one including God comes in to help the beleaguered Israel right away. In a simple bucolic labor of threshing God eventually shows himself to the common man. There is an intervention by God with a common farmer...that changes the direction of a nation that changes the fate of the world. The Angel of the Lord would momentarily dwell with man in a wine press.

Here we see a shadow of the same methodology that God will again use in the arrival of His son. He enters real time to everyday people (Mary and Joseph) of the land that at first glance seem insignificant but with God involved, they are used to great effect. The angels later appear to the common blue collar shepherds in their fields performing their agrarian labors and it is in this way God reveals His Son to the world. God chose the weak things of the world both times to reveal His greatness. Why? Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 1:25-29…to shame the wise. Because even the foolishness and most absurd things of God are vastly wiser than the smartest men.

Of course Gideon’s reaction is negative and unproductive. But as stated above, God can even work through the recalcitrance of people or in the case of Gideon…his lack of faith. It is exactly because Gideon was not a man of strong faith that this story rings so much louder in the ears and minds of believers. God tells Gideon that He is with him and Gideon’s response is essentially, “So what?” How many times do we do this daily let alone over the period of our lives? Gideon’s questions and doubts about God become exclamation points of faith for him and us. Even now this should encourage even those of weak faith.

Matthew 8:26 ~ "And He [Jesus] said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

The entire story of Ruth and Boaz rotates around the harvest and gleaning of a field. To be specific, it is a barley field.

Ruth 1:22-2:3 ~ “So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.

The time and place of Naomi and Ruth’s arrival is no accident. They are arriving in Bethlehem (the house of bread), at the height of the barley harvest or the exact right time for the grain to be cut, dried, beaten and sifted to eventually be made into, among other things...bread. Similar circumstances would surround the death of Christ. He would be cut by a scourging and beaten within an inch of His life...then crucified, die and be raised again in a different form that would give life...just like bread. A Bread of Life. We would hear a similar analogy directly from the Lord Himself....

John 6:35 ~ Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 12:24 ~ "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

All these episodes in the Book of Ruth will take place in the family lineage that will almost die out but didn’t due to a kinsman redeemer outlined in the Law of God. It is the lineage that will lead to Christ who is the Bread of Life that will be born in this very same city, the house of bread: Bethlehem. 

The Bread of Life born in the House of Bread. This story as stated previous refers to a kinsman redeemer Boaz who shadows the ultimate kinsman redeemer Jesus Christ. It is by Boaz being a kinsman redeemer that the lineage of Christ is saved. It is by our adoption into His [God's] family that we will be saved for eternity. Is all of this coincidence?


It looks exactly like a carefully orchestrated plan because it is. A sovereign plan. At this time of harvest Ruth and Naomi would’ve been able to lay up gleanings from the fields in the event Ruth would not have found a suitor in Boaz. Through practical and pragmatic planning that is agriculturally based, we see God assure the lineage of the Messiah bears fruit…just like the fields and womb of Ruth whom we see spoken of in this historical narrative.

What is even more providential and amazing about Naomi and Ruth's pilgrimage is the impetus that would instigate Naomi to go to Bethlehem. It isn't surprising that they would leave for food since widowed women and unmarried women might be at risk of starving. What makes the pilgrimage all the more amazing and ironic t is the type of food that prompts the travel.

Ruth 1:6 ~ Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited His people in giving them food.

The word for food here isn't really the word food in the Greek Septuagint or in the Hebrew Bible. The word is ἄρτους / ἄρτος or  לָֽחֶם in Hebrew. The translation of these words? 


It therefore should not be surprising to us as readers that bread would be used to represent the body of Christ in the symbolic gesture that is communion of the Lord's Supper as He was the Bread of Life born in the house of bread from a lineage that is steeped in the imagery of bread-making and divine sustenance.  All of this back-story bolsters the imagery of Jesus almost to perfection. In reality, Jesus is our eternal breadwinner. He is the One who earned us our place in the Father’s presence. In this way all believers are all His dependents. He is the Head of Household in the House of Bread. It is what He sacrificed at the Cross that paid the wages of sin. It was His body, represented by the bread of communion that was broken for our sins but rose again the third day. The same God that saved Naomi and Ruth is the same one that saved us by raising His Son who is The Bread of Life.

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