by John O’Malley
“And, behold, Boaz came from Beth-lehem, and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you. And they answered him, The Lord bless thee” (Ruth 2:4).
Boaz’s arrival is marked by the fact that he came from Bethlehem. The city, at 2350 feet above sea level, overlooks the main highway to Hebron and Egypt. His walk to the fields may have brought him by the burial site of Rachel, Bethlehem’s hometown girl, whom they affectionately called “The Mother of Israel.” Rachel, Jacob’s wife, would be long remembered in this little town for her marriage, her children, and her life.
Much would happen in this little town nestled in the hills of Judah. Boaz had no idea that this little town of Bethlehem-judah would be so significant in God’s plan. Kings would be anointed here. Men of valor would rush here and endanger their own lives for a glass of water for their anointed King David. Jesus, the Son of David, Bethlehem’s greatest inhabitant of all, would choose to be born in Bethlehem.
Outside this quiet town, shepherds would receive an angel’s message as they kept the night’s watch over their sheep. The angel’s message would be followed by a multitude of the heavenly host, who were “waiting in the wings” to herald their message right there outside of Bethlehem.
Celebratory days would not be the only images in Bethlehem’s scrapbook of history. There would come a day when there would be great sorrow in her streets over the slaying of the young children of the town. An even sadder day was yet to come when Bethlehem’s greatest resident would be hung on a cross in the neighboring town to the north.
For generations it has been a part of our culture to evaluate someone by his or her hometown. Perhaps there were some in Boaz’s day that would criticize him because of his hometown. People criticized Jesus and questioned whether good could come from His hometown of Nazareth. They diminished him by saying He was just the carpenter’s son. It would be wise to recall Mark 6:4, “But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”
The next time we see guests in church, we must evaluate the needs of their heart instead of evaluating them based on their neighborhood. What would happen in our hearts if we would encourage people instead of discouraging them over senseless things? What would happen in our hearts if we would cease from being critical and cynical of others and become more Christ-like?
Bethlehem was not the largest town, nor did the religious elite herald it as the “preferred” town, but it was small and unbecoming enough for God to make it a great hometown.
Rememberit is not in our own merits that greatness is established, but rather by God’s mercy that great things are wrought!