A Ponderous Point
by Patricia Backora
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A Ponderous Point
Book of Ruth; Proverbs 31:10-31; Matthew 11:19
Sometimes Scriptures (such as the Song of Solomon) are carelessly cited to impose worldly glamor standards on female saints. Biblical days (and people) are often unduly romanticized like a Hollywood fantasy. But typical day-to-day life in ancient Israel was far from glamorous for the vast majority of people.
Ruth wasn’t worried about taking in excess calories. It was a time of famine. Her immediate concern was the survival of herself and her mother-in-law Naomi. She was beginning to get too thin, although the world now says that is impossible. But her hunger was making her feel ill, and she needed food to stay alive. She went out to the fields to pick grain; not to burn off calories from this hard stoop-labor, but to get something to eat.
Boaz, the landowner, wasn’t looking for a self-obsessed waif. He wanted a wife. He married Ruth because of her beauty of character. Only in today’s high-tech Western world do women feel they have the option of choosing to starve the muscle and strength from their bodies. In ancient Israel, only wealthy women felt free to dismiss bodily strength as unnecessary and spend all their time fretting over their appearance.
Among the populace, it was customary for fathers to arrange marriages for their sons when they came of age. They generally sought out young women who appeared healthy and energetic as well as comely. A prospective father-in-law’s foremost concern was not: “Is she skinny enough?”, but: “Does she appear healthy enough to live reasonably long?” Average human life expectancy was considerably shorter than it is today. He also pondered: “Is her character above reproach? Can she cook well? Is she a good seamstress? Does she appear robust enough to survive several childbirths? Does she appear strong enough to rise early and pound grain into flour to knead and bake into daily bread, draw and carry home great quantities of water from the well, and perform all other housewifely duties? If a young girl appeared too frail to qualify, she could not command a high dowry, and would, most likely, remain unmarried. In that culture, flower-like fragility was more a liability than an asset.
If anyone insists on using Scripture to shame women (or men) out of deriving proper enjoyment from meals, Scripture shows that even eating can be done to God's glory. There are times to forgo legitimate enjoyments in order that pressing spiritual battles may be fought more earnestly and single-mindedly, but the joyful partaking of God's provision is to be the norm. Jesus Himself was accused by ascetic Pharisees of being a winebibber and a glutton, just because He genuinely enjoyed whatever was set before Him in homes He visited. Far from dismissing food and drink as necessary evils, Jesus promised His faithful disciples that they would eat and drink at His table in His Kingdom.
In Nehemiah's day a company of returning Jewish exiles had just received a new revelation of God's Law. They were exhorted to lay aside their sorrows, and rejoice before the Lord by eating choice foods and drinking sweet beverages. When the light of a long-awaited revelation is given to us by God, it is indeed an occasion for rejoicing, for it means He is sharing more of Himself, the Bread of Life, with us, His dear children.
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As long as we can control our appetites concerning the flesh we are not slaves to it. Should the flesh crave sovereignty over the Spirit, we then need to be on our knees for more grace....a thought provoking article Pat, thank you.