|Hollywood Guide to Happy Endings
Love: The most common category that separates a character from their
parents, such as in Titanic and Dirty Dancing. These are about someone
who leads you into a different world. It needn't be a lifelong relationship,
and often the object of love is a parental substitute. A sub-genre is the
story of the widow/widower who finally separates from the memory of a dead
spouse, ready to love again, as in Ghost.
2. Pygmalion: Also known as "Mentor and Protégé". As well as Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, this includes films such as Educating Rita and The Graduate. It is normally, but not necessarily, an older, controlling man and a younger woman. But the younger person also has a motive: the recognition and nurture of a more powerful patron. This sort of story normally ends in conflict, but it need not if the teacher is ready to accept the pupil as an equal in the end.
3. Obsessive Love: This is often a scenario that applies to those who felt parental abandonment when young, and who remain angry about their rejection. When they meet someone whom they idealise, they go too far and become so demanding that they eventually ensure that they will be rejected again. The result is often violent, as in Fatal Attraction. Wuthering Heights is a variation on the theme.
4. Downstairs Woman & Upstairs Man: This theme includes Pretty Woman, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, and can end in an uplifting or a tragic fashion. It is the story of someone who pursues a partner who is hard to win over for fear of what society would think of them, or falls in love with a partner who ought to be out of reach.
5. Sacrifice: in which a person gives up the love of their life, as in The End of the Affair, Brief Encounter, Casablanca and The Bridges of Madison County. Its theme is a person who has always led a cautious life but becomes embroiled in a passionate affair. They are then caught between wanting to be with their partner, or wrecking the life of someone else, or even their own life. Often thought to be about guilt, it's really more about control: these people are not used to letting go.
6. Rescue: in which one lover seeks to nurse the other back to physical or emotional health. The genre includes Beauty and the Beast, Dark Victory, Mona Lisa and Shadowlands. A female protagonist has often lost her father, and seeks to do something she blames her mother for never achieving: saving him. If she can restore her lover, she restores something of her father.
7. The Courage of Love: The theme of some of the most successful love stories of all time, such as Sleepless in Seattle, Onegin and An Affair to Remember. It is the story of willingness to take a risk for love. It is about the person who finally learns to make a commitment, to have faith that things will work out, and to avoid avoiding. People who avoid commitment are often those who have a dream that they will never grow old; they tend to learn to fall in love only once they confront their own mortality.
Millman says, "I wanted to write a book that would illuminate
romantic love and help readers to have more gratifying relationships. Although
I write about seven love plots, readers invariably find that one story resonates
more strongly for them. "By understanding why a particular story appeals to
us we can learn better to control its course in real-life romance." Good advice.
I would like to suggest however that there is an eighth genre of love story not yet explored by the Hollywood script writers. Its found here in the Book of Ruth. It could be subtitled, "Love is a Timely Redemption" It is intended to show us something of God's love for us. The Book of Ruth opens with three funerals but closes with a wedding. There is a good deal of weeping recorded in the first chapter, but the last chapter records an overflowing of joy in the little town of Bethlehem. The events in Ruth take place during the days of the Judges, but there could not be a greater contrast. Instead of violence and lawlessness, we see tenderness, love, and sacrifice.
Ruth and Esther are the only OT books named after women. Ruth was a Gentile who married a Jew; Esther was a Jew who married a Gentile; but God used both of them to save the nation. Ruth is placed between Judges and Samuel for a definite reason. Judges shows the decline of the Jewish nation; Samuel shows the setting up of the Jewish kingdom; and Ruth pictures Christ and His bride. Christ is calling out His bride from among the Gentiles and the Jews. As we shall see, this brief book has a wonderful typical meaning. It is a love story and also describes what God is doing in our world today.
1. Ruth's Sorrow
Why a famine should come to Bethlehem ("house of bread"), we do not know; possibly because of the sins of the people. Instead of trusting God in the land, Elimelech ("God is my king") and Naomi ("pleasantness") take their two sons to the land of Moab. They plan to stay briefly, but instead they settle down until the father and the two sons die. Jews were not to mix with the Moabites (Deut. 23:3), so their wrong decision brought them the discipline of God. Backslidden Naomi desires to return home, but she is not wise enough to invite her daughters-in-law to accompany her! She thought that (like her) their only interests were human, but Ruth had higher desires than bread and marriage. Orpah returned to the old life, but Ruth "clung to her." She desired to follow the true God, Jehovah, and to abandon the old heathen life. "I will go!" was her steadfast decision, in spite of Naomi's unspiritual direction. Do we detect here a bitter spirit against the Lord? Is she blaming God for her sorrows? These verses certainly ought to warn us of the great cost of getting out of the will of God. "Call me Mara bitterness!"
Naomi made a wrong decision, recommended a wrong direction, displayed the wrong disposition. And yet God uses Ruth to change her mother-in-law's attitudes toward life and toward God.
2. Ruth's Service
Barley harvest was in April, and Ruth labours in the scorching heat as a poor gleaner - someone allowed to follow the harvesters and pick up the grain dropped or left at the edges of the field. (see Deut. 24:19-22 and Lev. 19:9ff). Note her dedication and determination: "Let me now go to the field" (2:2); "Let me glean and gather" (2:7); "Let me find favour" (2:13). That afternoon the owner of the field Ruth was gleaning in came to greet the harvesters. His name was Boaz. Ruth could tell right way he was well liked by the workers. "May the Lord bless you!" He called out to them. "And may the Lord bless you" they returned. A short time later Ruth is startled when Boaz approaches her out in the fields. Read 2:8-12.
God leads in her choice of fields providentially. Notice how Boaz protects Ruth and provides for her long before he marries her, a perfect picture of our Lord. Even Naomi begins to lose her bitterness. Ruth's Sorrow & Service.
3. Ruth's Surrender
"Do you care for him?" Naomi asks one night. Ruth smiles and blushes. "He is kind to me... He provides for me... He is a good man" And then she adds, in case Naomi was forgetting. "But I am a Moabitess, an enemy of his people, after all..."
Naomi didn't seem to hear. And one night a few weeks later, Naomi sat Ruth down and said to her, "My daughter, don't you think I should try and find a husband for you, a home where you will be well provided for? Ruth didn't answer, but she thought she knew what was coming next. "As you know Boaz whose servant girls you have been gleaming with, is a kinsman with the right to redeem us. And tonight is a perfect time to approach him. "Tonight?" Suddenly Ruth felt weak.
Wash and perfume yourself and put on your best clothes, go down to the threshing floor. Don't let him know you are there. When he lies down and falls asleep, go and uncover his feet, lie down and when he wakes up he will tell you what to do. Ruth was very nervous. Her heart pounding in her ears. Boaz might not want her. He might be angry with her. He might reject her. Why would he want to redeem her, a poor Moabites, especially when she could probably not offer him any children. She'd been married to Naomi's son for 10 yrs without becoming pregnant.
Hours later, Boaz woke with a start and discovered Ruth lying at his feet. "Who are you?" He asked. Fear clutched Ruth's throat. "I am your servant Ruth", she said just above a whisper. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are my kinsman redeemer." She watched the face of Boaz for his reaction. He broke into a wide smile that shone brightly even in the dim light. "The Lord bless you my daughter." Read 3:10-11.
The OT law provided that a kinsman could buy back an estate which had been lost through poverty (Lev. 25:23-55). This kept the land in the possession of the family. The kinsman, of course, had to be willing and able to redeem. "Spread your skirt over your handmaid" (3:9) was Ruth's legal claim to Boaz, asking him to be the kinsman-redeemer and claim her as his wife. Boaz rejoiced that this younger woman did not reject him because of his age, and he promised to fulfill the duty of a kinsman the next day. Note also that he did not send her away empty-handed! We can see in Ruth's actions a beautiful illustration of the believer's relationship to Christ. Certainly if we want to know him we must be washed and clothed (3:3). Our proper place is at His feet. It is "night" now, but we look forward to when morning comes (3:13) and He claims His bride for Himself! Ruth's sorrow, Ruth's service, Ruth's Surrender.
4. Ruth's Satisfaction
Another man in Bethlehem had prior claim on the estate, so Boaz approached him the next day. The man was anxious to claim the land, but he did not want Ruth! "I cannot marry her lest I mar my own inheritance!" The unnamed kinsman knew that any sons Ruth bore him would carry, not his name, but the name of her first husband (4:5); and thus he would lose the estate the son would inherit. It was "a bad business deal" from his point of view; certainly he had no love for Ruth. Boaz however was willing to pay any price to redeem the woman and her estate because he loved her. Here we now discover the significance of this book: Ruth becomes an ancestress of David. Deuteronomy 23:3 excludes a Moabite from the congregation of Israel "even to the tenth generation"; but the grace of God makes Ruth the Moabitess a member of the earthly family that gave Christ to the world (Matt. 1:3-6). This book begins with a funeral and ends with a wedding!
Boaz and Ruth were married as soon as arrangements could be made. God blessed Ruth with a baby boy. It was hard to tell who was happier about the birth of baby Obed - Naomi or Ruth! As Naomi's friends gathered around to pronounce blessings, Ruth could'nt imagine a greater joy that giving Naomi a grandson. For it was through Naomi's God that she'd obtained a timely redemption - and found a home for her pilgrim heart.
The Abiding Lesson: The Kinsman Redeemer
While it may be hard for many of us today to imagine marrying our husbands brother, the Hebrew law prescribed just that. The practice is described in Deuteronomy 25:5-6. If a married man were to die without a son, one of his brothers was to marry the widow and bear children who would carry on the dead brother's name. The kinsman was also to 'redeem' - buy back - any of the deceased man's property as well, which the first born son would then inherit. But according to the law it was the widow who must take the initiative. It was her responsibility to let her intention be known to the kinsman. In the fields Boaz kindness and generosity gave her assurance but he had gone as far as he could. Quite frankly it was now her move. His conduct opened the way for Ruth to request with boldness that he save her. Ruth's request for Boaz to cover her with his garment was a moving appeal for such redemption. "Include me in your marriage bed." Ruth was saying. "Cover me with your family name". Originally the kinsman marriage applied only to brothers. But by Ruth's time it extended to any close relative.
The Hebrew goel is translated by the English word "kinsman" (3:9) and the word "redeemer" (Job 19:25). The word simply means "to set free" It has two different meanings:
1. To redeem or buy back what was lost.
2. To require blood, to avenge. Only someone near of kin could seek vengence. The principle of the kinsman redeemer is still used today.
This week, a Yemeni man was within seconds of being publically beheaded in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital, when the father of the man he murdered spared his life. The executioner was raising his sword when Jahwi Hussein Qassim Abubakr, aged 20, and blindfolded, was spared. He prostrated himself and praised God for his deliverance. Under Islamic law, the family of the murdered victim may waive the death sentence. Jahwi will probably be set free and deported.
There are five facts concerning a person which must be true or else they cannot qualify as a legitimate kinsman redeemer.
1. The redeemer must be a near kinsman.
2. The redeemer must perform in willingness his work.
3. The redeemer must possess the ability to redeem.
4. The redeemer must be free himself.
5. The redeemer must have the price of redemption.
Through the kinsman tradition God provided for widows, guaranteeing them a future when they had none - and giving us yet another picture of the loving redemption he offers us all. God demonstrates his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. But we must call upon him to save us. There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only could unlock the door of heaven and let us in.
The marriage of Boaz and Ruth is one of the most powerful love stories in the Bible. It not only leads us to understand what Jesus did for us, it also has some lessons in love also. Yet, amazingly, the word 'love' never appears. Perhaps because it doesn't need to. The setting of Ruth's proposal wasn't exactly romantic. A threshing floor, perhaps even a community one. Boaz's answer might not seem romantic either. "First, I need to make sure the other guy in town doesn't want you." But love, in this case, had little to do with romance - and everything to do with redemption. As Ruth's kinsman redeemer, Boaz was fulfilling a legal duty when he married her. But Boaz went much further. Before she ever asked, Boaz redeemed Ruth, he made up for what she lacked, he provided for her, protected her, affirmed her character. That generosity and sacrifice must be at the heart of every relationship if a marriage is to flourish. Every one entering marriage brings some kind of poverty - a broken past, a spiritual hunger, an aching need unmet in childhood. Sometimes life can leave us trembling, like Ruth at our partners feet. We feel naked and ridiculous. When I beg for covering, will I be accepted or rejected. This is the exact moment God waits for - when one love is brave enough to say "I need you" and when the other is willing to do what ever it takes to buy back and complete the other. Such timely redemption in marriage is a gift of God's grace to the other. Perhaps that is why marriage is used as a model in scripture for our relationship with God.
"O Lord our God, let the shelter of your wings give us hope. Protect us and uphold us. You will be the Support that upholds us from childhood till the hair on our heads is grey. When you are our strength we are strong, but when our strength is our own we are weak. In you our good abides for ever, and when we turn away from it we turn to evil. Let us come home at last to you, O Lord, for fear that we be lost. For in you our good abides, since it is yourself. Nor do we fear that there is no home to which we can return. We fell from it; but our home is your eternity and it does not fall because we are away."
I am grateful to Warren Wersbie and David & Heather Kopp for material used in this sermon