“Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.”
My friends and I sat rejoicing at the return of electricity after Hurricane Ian last night and discussing trees in the Bible. Downed trees, branches, and “stuff” are a big point of interest as we look out on our yards! We barely missed the eye of the storm but experienced blackout and wind impact. As we chatted, I realized I had skipped one of my favorite “tree stories” as we have been ambling through the forests in the Bible, Ruth.
Ruth, the Moabitis, a non-Jew, marries into the family of Naomi who had moved to her country because of a famine. All the men die and Ruth decides to follow Naomi back to Bethlehem to jump-start life again after the all the chaos. In the face of starvation, Ruth gleans in the fields of Boaz who is actually a “kinsman redeemer” in the Jewish system, that is a potential marriage. Naomi advises Ruth to wash, dress, and go to the threshing floor at night and lay at Boaz’s feet and offer to have him put the corner of his blanket over her. My husband, along with many, think it may have been a steamy sexual offer. I feel it was a culturally appropriate way to express availability for marriage in those days. Ruth had no future as a widow and foreigner. She was one of those ordinary people God seems to delight in using.
Threshing involved the people taking long sticks and beating the grain till it let broke away from the stalk of the barley and the hull cracked, releasing the grain. Then the grains would be tossed in the air to blow away the chaff. We did it in Kenya. It seems to me that often we go through threshing experiences that beat us up. A hurricane can be one of those times when we hold our belongings lightly and “hunker down” praying the worst will not happen. We feel threshed and winnowed as we are tossed in the air and the chaff of our life is blown away.
Electricity went off Tuesday night so Wednesday morning we had no communication and my aging friend and I convinced ourselves we did not need that morning cup of coffee and pulled out the weather radio to try and figure out how it worked. We replaced batteries, turned buttons and generally had to laugh at ourselves and seeming incompetence. Likewise, Ruth and Naomi had gone through traumas that threshed and winnowed their lives. At one point Naomi says to old friends in Bethlehem who welcomed her return, “Don’t call me Naomi that means “sweet” but call me Mara that means “bitter.”
Perhaps today you feel like you have been threshed, beaten with the sticks of life. Or perhaps you feel like you are being winnowed, tossed in the air and floundering. Ruth becomes the mother of Obed by Boaz. Obed is the grandfather of King David. Ruth is listed in the genealogy. God sees, God knows, and God’s plans to bless even if we feel threshed with sticks. Blessings on the rough spots in your life today and as you recover from your storms.