The neighbor women said, "A son has been born to Naomi," and they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse, the father of David.
The story of Ruth closes amidst domestic prosperity and happiness, and amidst neighborly congratulations. And it is observable that Naomi, whose trials and sorrows interest us so deeply at the commencement of this book, appears at its close radiant with renewed happiness: her daughter-in-law a mother, she herself a grand-parent, surrounded by rejoicing neighbors, expressing their congratulations, and invoking blessing upon her and those dear to her. The narrative loses sight of Ruth in picturing the felicity of her mother-in-law. The neighbors who before had asked, "Is this Naomi?" now exclaim, "There is a son born to Naomi: blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman." She is encompassed with the blessings which, in the language of our poet, "should accompany old age" - "honor, love, obedience, troops of friends."
I. UNSELFISHNESS IS REWARDED. Naomi had all along thought more of Ruth's sorrows and of Ruth's happiness than of her own. And now this very Ruth is made the means of her prosperity, comfort, and joy in declining years.
II. HOPES ARE FULFILLED. It was Naomi's desire that Ruth might attain to "rest," and her counsels had been directed to this end. Now she sees the Moabitess a happy wife, a happy mother.
III. A JOYOUS PROSPECT IS OPENED UP. The day has been cloudy and stormy, but how brightly does the sun shine out at eventide! "A restorer of her life," "a nourisher of her old age," is given her. The child Obed becomes her delight, and her imaginations picture his manhood, and his position in an honorable line of descent.
IV. SYMPATHY ENHANCES HAPPINESS. There is mutual reaction here; Ruth, Naomi, and the neighbors, with unselfish congratulations, rejoicings, and prayers, contribute to one another's welfare. - T.
And they called his name Obed.
No doubt there were circumstances connected with the birth of this child which surrounded it with a special interest. But take the birth of any child, and while few events are more common, few can occur on the earth which in sober reality are more momentous. What a mystery hangs over its wondrous constitution of thought and matter, of soul and body! What a capacity is there of sin and suffering, of holy service and blessedness l What will be its future and final destiny? The hopes of friends at such a moment are naturally sanguine, woven far more of sunbeams than of shadows. And there were circumstances which made the congratulations of Ruth's friends peculiarly glad and hopeful; for this little smiling boy folded in his young mother's arms was not only the heir of Boaz but of Mahlon. He was to unite the family inheritances; he was to save the name of an old and honoured family in Bethlehem from being "extinguished in Israel," and to give to Naomi and to Ruth that position of honour and consequence in Jewish society which grew out of the maternal relation. There was now "hope concerning this tree, that it would yet bud and flourish." This will account to us for the warmth of the language in which the birth of Obed was hailed. To some it may appear strange that the congratulations of the friendly women were addressed to Naomi rather than to Ruth, the child's own mother. The explanation has in part been suggested already, in the fact that the birth of this child exercised so peculiar and propitious an influence over Naomi's social position and family fortunes. It secured to her the position of a tribe-mother. It may be, too, that those kindly women had known Naomi and been her comforters in the days of her deep affliction, when she appeared in the streets of Bethlehem claiming to be called Mara — "the woman with the sorrowful spirit"; and as they beheld her on this day of revived hopes and vanished clouds the same true sympathy that had formerly made them weep with her when she wept now made them rejoice with her when she rejoiced. That we are correct in this explanation is evident from the words of the women, in which, with such glad anticipations for the future, there is also a looking back upon the sorrowful past." There shall be unto thee "in this child "a restorer of thy life and a nourisher of thine old age." How beautifully descriptive are these words of what children should aim to be to aged parents and relatives, and of what there is every reason to believe this child eventually became to Naomi. The former clause brings before us the picture of a tree in whose roots there remains a kind of lingering life, but which, assailed by storms and smitten by other unkindly influences, stands almost without leaf or blossom, with no birds making music in its branches, a blighted and forsaken thing. But there comes at length a genial influence of shower, and sunshine, and breeze, which quickens within it the vegetative life, and covers it with the leaves and blossoms of its earlier springs. Now, Naomi's life had been to her for many years like a long winter. But this little child would bring back to her the recollections and the joys of her happier days; the blank in her heart would be filled up; she would find something to love and cherish without restraint, and this itself would be to her a well of happiness; she would remember Mahlon and Chilion in little Obed's childish sports and expanding mind; her thoughts, which had been too much turned inward upon her sorrows, would hence forth go outward upon him, and the future would not so much be a prolongation of the present as a return to her sunnier days — "He shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life," and he shall be unto thee "a nourisher of thine old age." The meaning of this is not exhausted by supposing that Naomi would never want the means of support while Obad lived, but that his affluence would be her riches. It includes in it, besides, those thousand varied acts of respect and tenderness which we are accustomed to describe by the name of kindness. In the case of persons in advanced years many sources of enjoyment are dried up, many frailties are induced, the senses are dulled, the power of motion is diminished, not a few of their companions have been removed into the other world, and they are apt to feel, in their infirmity and inaction, as if they had become useless to their generation. It is the duty of the young, and especially of the children and descendants of the aged, to endeavour to cheer them in the autumn of their life, to anticipate their wishes, to study their feelings, to make growing frailties only another reason for growing attentions, and, by kind words and kinder acts, to shed a calm sunshine on the path by which they are travelling to the tomb. Religion, and even the instincts of our human nature, command us to "stand up before the old man," and to put honour on the hoary head. And never do children appear more lovely than when they are thus seen nourishing the old age of a father or a mother.
In the first place it seems to me that the Book of Ruth exhibits to us AN ETERNAL LAW OF GOD'S KINGDOM; THAT IN THE WORST AND DARKEST TIMES OF THE CHURCH GOD HAS HAD HIS OWN PEOPLE. Ever since God had a Church on earth true spiritual religion has never been utterly extinguished. Faith can always say with the apostle that there is "a remnant according to the election of grace." When God's holy dove is driven from cities and the abodes of men, that bird of sweetest note can be heard singing in remote places, even in dens and in the clefts of the rocks.
II. We may learn a lesson on THE LAW OF SOCIAL LIFE. There is throughout the book a constant reference to the Levitical law. There is the goal, the redeeming kinsman. But I wish you specially to observe the beneficence of the law. I wish that some who speak of the barbarous character of the old law would take their Bibles and read the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus. You will there see that God ordained that a portion should be reserved for the poor and the stranger. The law gave a measure of wealth to the indigent. It solved in this way one of the most terrible problems of our modern society. While it did this there was an ample margin left for the exercise of private charity. The corner of the field was defined to mean a portion that in modern language would have been a poor-rate of fourpence in the pound. It was not a system of outdoor relief, for the Book of Ruth shows us that there was great delicacy to be observed in giving. Depend upon it, as the spirit of the Old Testament works, the bitter taunt will become less and less true that England is a paradise for the rich and a purgatory for the poor.
III. There is AN EVANGELICAL LAW CONNECTING THIS BOOK OF THE OLD TESTAMENT WITH CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.
IV. Lastly, we learn THE LAW WHICH PERVADES THE LIFE OF EVERY TRUE BELIEVER. We may learn that our lives are not random things, and that there is no such thing as chance about the Christian's life. This story of Ruth, like every story of the highest sort, would lead us to perfect trust in Him who wants His own dear children to lift up their hands to Him when in darkness. They must wrestle in the darkness before they can face the sunrise. God seems to keep silence when we pray. We ask, and God seems not to give us the things for which we pray. Ah! but He gives us far better.
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