Part 3

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When David woke, he was surprized
To see old Boaz energized,
And waiting for the boy to wake.
The old man couldn't see or make
His feet tread where his mind said, Go.
But he could recollect, and, Oh,
How he did love to tell the tale
Of how the God of Israel
Turned famine into wedding feast,
And formed the greatest from the least,
And wakened love when it had died,
And brought a Moabitess bride
Into his life, and made a field
Of Barley, barren once, to yield
Such seed as he had never dreamed.

He heard the boy awake, and beamed,
"Young man, my son tells me that you
Are David, Jesse's son." "That's true,
And you're my great grampa." "Last night,
I didn't know, without my sight,
That it was you. Come here and let
Me touch your face. There is a debt
To parentage that one can feel.
My wrinkled fingers can reveal
More memories of Ruth than both
My eyes. Yes, there, a little growth,
And that will be her nose, and this,
Her cheek, where once I placed my kiss.

Obed!" "Yes, father?" "Take me and
The boy down by the gleaning stand.
You know the one." So Obed took
His father in his arms. A look
Told David to make wide the door.
He set him on a cart before
The cottage plot, and then the three
Of them, at dawn, rode happily
Down to the gleaning stand. The face
Of Boaz beamed as if the place
Were like a home, and he had been
Away for years. And Obed's grin
Burst into laughter once or twice,
As if he drove to paradise.

It was a bright and lucid dawn,
And both of these old men were drawn,
Not just by this well-seasoned mare,
But by a memory out there
Beyond the edge of Bethlehem,
Where bitter providence for them
Had been reversed, and God had turned
A famine into feast. It burned
Inside their hearts with hope,
And as they rode the final slope
Down to the gleaning stand, the two
Of them, one blind and due
In heaven thirty years ago,
The other one with hair like snow,
Broke into song.

"O barley field! O barley field!
When you were bent with heads,
I feasted on your ample yield
And ate your simple breads.

O barley field! O barley field!
All scorched with desert breath,
You starved the one I would have healed
And stole my love in death.

O barley field! O barley field!
A paradise in truth
You kept for me a better yield
And brought to me my Ruth."

"Great grampa, you
Made up that song. But tell me who
You mean — the one you would have healed
But lost in death." The wagon wheeled
Down to the gleaning stand and stopped.
The morning sun warmed all, and topped
The half-grown grain with tiny crowns
Of gold, and wrapped the trees in gowns
Of yellow green. "Yes, David, I
Will answer you. But first now, try
To put yourself back eighty years.
Your grampa isn't born. Great fears
Grip all of Judah. Drought has left
The barley field unsown, bereft
Of even root and stem. I'm not
Quite nineteen years of age. This spot,
One year ago at seventeen,
I married Mara." "Do you mean,
Great grampa, you were married once
Before?" "I was, for fourteen months.

Eight weeks before she died, again
Here at the gleaning stand, the men
Persuaded me to leave, and go
With them to Moab. I should show,
They said, my bride more love, and take
Her to a place where there is cake
And wine. But when I told her of
The plan, she said, ‘Boaz, such love,
You know full well will not endear
Me to your soul. In this I hear
The counsel of Elimelech,
Your uncle. And I will not treck
To Moab in his godless train.
It is not love to trade for grain
Your God. I will not suck with these
The breast of foreign deities.
I'd rather starve beneath the wings
of God, than live with foreign kings.'
And so we stayed. Eight weeks, and she
Was dead — too weak and thin to see
The fever through. And as she died
She said, ‘Our God is on your side,
Boaz, and do not doubt that this
Is best. I know there is more bliss
In dying underneath the wings
Of God, than living by the springs
Of Chemosh. Boaz.' ‘Yes, I'm here.'
‘Boaz, I don't want you to fear.
I had a priceless dream last night.
I dreamed that God would show his might,
And take your bitter providence,
And by this famine here dispense
For you a feast — a wedding feast —
And make the greatest of the least,
And waken love when it has died,
And bring an unfamiliar bride
Into your life, and make this field
Of barley, barren once, to yield
Such seed as you have never dreamed.
And that he will be born esteemed
In this our little town, so small
Among the clans, and God will call
Him out of ancient days to sway
The nations with his rod. Don't say
That you were wrong. This very hour
God makes the sin of man, with power,
To serve your faithfulness. In ten
Short years you will be healed. And then . . .'

‘O, Mara, what of you?' ‘My task
Is done. The Lord did only ask
That I should serve to keep you here,
Lest out of mingled love and fear
You flee to Moab and make void
The mercy of your God. Employed
For such a God-like work, your bride
Is now content to step aside.'

And ten years later, David, there,
Just over there beside the stand, as fair
As any in the world, stood Ruth.
She rested in the gleaners' booth.
Ten years to turn the mutiny
Of sin into the ecstacy
Of faith. I knew that it was she
I watched her, breathless, steadily.
I still can see her tawny neck.
The daughter of Elimelech!
Do you see, David, why we sing?

O barley field! O barley field!
A paradise in truth
You kept for me a better yield
And brought to me my Ruth.

I'd rather live beneath the wing
Of God, or die there, if I must,
Than try to save my life by trust
In my own plans. O, David, do
You understand? O son, how few
There are who wait for God to act!
How few who trust the solid pact
That God has made, that he will work
For those who wait for him, nor shirk
One moment in a ten-year plan,
Or more. Perhaps he wills to span
A thousand years before the space
Of time is full for him to place
His final king upon the throne.
And when he does, it shall be known
That here in Bethlehem we played
A part.

If you are not afraid,
Tonight, God willing, we will ride
Down here again, and I will guide
You to the place that I love best
And sightless show you all the rest.

And so the light of candle three
Today, is meant to help us see,
That waiting is a holy work
Of faith in God. Nor does there lurk
Beneath the timing of his ways
Some secret malice that displays
Itself in holding back the flow
Of future grace. God does not go
From here to there by shortest routes;
He makes a place for faith and doubts.
Nor does he hasten on his way,
But comes when it is best, today,
Or maybe twenty years from now,
Or more. With Boaz we will bow
To God, and there embrace the truth:
Some serve like Mara, others Ruth.