If you’ve spent any time on Grand Manan, you have probably heard of the Dark Harbour Hermits. Their names were Lewis “Lucy” Greene and William “Darby” Greene. They were brothers who lived between 1861 and 1940, spending most of their adult living in camps they had built from debris collected from the shores on the secluded back side of Grand Manan Island.
Although everyone called them hermits, they weren’t really good hermits because they liked people and attention.
As a matter of fact, we are told that in the 1920s and 30s, they were a major tourist attraction for the Island. One article from the Grand Manan Museum states, “Visitors from as far away as New York City, Boston, Montreal and South Africa would make the long trek out to Dark Harbour where the Hermits would entertain them with songs and poetic recitations and show off Lucy’s skillfully created folk artifacts.”
A register the hermits kept recorded over 300 visitors in 1932 alone. When asked about their eccentric lifestyle, Darby told a reporter, “Lucy and I get along well together, and we never had a quarrel in thirty-five-odd years because we live in our own houses thirty yards apart, and Lucy plays fair!”
Here is a picture of Darby and Lucy.
Angela’s mother’s maiden name is Greene, and for years, I tormented her about her eccentric relatives. And she always disavowed any relationship with the two hermits.
In 2018, my mother gave me some old family photos and clippings. In the jumble, I came across a newspaper article from December 1929. It was about the 60th wedding anniversary of Wellington and Julia Locke. Reading the article, I discovered that their daughter, Laura Bradbury, had organized the celebration. Laura Bradbury was my great-grandmother, making Julia and Wellington my great-great-grandparents.
Cool, I was never able to leave well enough alone. I kept digging and discovered that Julia’s maiden name was Greene, and her two younger brothers were, you guessed it, Darby and Lucy, my third great-uncles. I did apologize to my Mother-in-law because I’m a firm believer that if you have to eat crow, it’s best to do it while it’s still warm.
Every Person has an origin, and in every origin, there are stories.
This is week six of our Origin series, and the preaching team has been drilling down on some of the folks we discover in Jesus’ origin, that we discover in his genealogies listed in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
This week is actually a Twofer and comes from Matthew 1:5. Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse.
The story starts with a move, and these folks moved for the same reasons that families all over the world have moved through history. Economic reasons.
Those are the same reasons that Canada and the United States were settled, and, for that matter, after the secret got out that Australia had a much nicer climate than England, why Australia was settled.
Eloise read the story earlier about how a man named Elimelech moved from Bethlehem to the country of Moab because of a famine that spread across Israel. There was a scarcity of luxury items like food, so they decided to look for their fortune elsewhere. If we pull up a map, we discover . . .
For thousands of years, the people of this planet have been willing to leave all that is near and dear in order to make a better life for their families. And it was no different 3000 years ago.
There is a lot of ground covered in the first five verses of the book of Ruth; we discover that Elimelech had a wife named Naomi; she was famous for the squares she made, you know, the cream-filled ones with the chocolate top. You know Naomi bars. (I know they aren’t Naomi bars; I was just kidding.)
And along with Elimelech and Naomi were their two sons. We don’t get very far in the story before we discover that Elimelech died and left Naomi a widow with two sons. This is good for me because I have a hard time pronouncing Elimelech, but probably not nearly as good for Naomi and her sons. We don’t know how old anyone was at this time, and the story skips to the two boys getting married to Moabite women.
One is named Orpah, not to be confused with Oprah, and one is named Ruth. About ten years later, the two sons died; we don’t know if it was an illness, war or an accident. We are just told they died, and instead of one widow, the household now consists of three widows. Now, Victor Robinson was a doctor who lived in the late 1800s, and he said, “Widows are divided into two classes — the bereaved and relieved.” We don’t know which class these ladies fit into all we know is that they were widows.
It was then that Naomi heard that things had gotten better economically back home and she packed up all of her belongings and told the other two I’m going home. When we were in Australia, we discovered a singer who soon became one of our favourites. His name was Graeme Connors, and this became one of my favourite songs.
(Clip from Sicilian Born). Did you catch that last line? “Home isn’t where you are born. It’s where you are prepared to die.” If we listened to the whole song, we’d discover that in the end, the old man goes back to Sicily because “Home isn’t where you are born. It’s where you are prepared to die.” And the same held true for Naomi. If you are familiar with the story, then you know that Orpah decides to stay in Moab, and Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth return to Bethlehem, where Ruth eventually meets and marries Boaz.
A little background here on the book of Ruth. It is the eighth book of the Bible, and Jewish tradition holds that the book was written by the prophet Samuel, although he is not named and modern scholars move the writing outside the time period that Samuel lived. This may simply mean that Samuel told the story, which was retold for centuries before it was committed to paper.
Why was it written? Understand that in the culture of that day, Ruth didn’t have a lot going for her; at a time when people honoured women with children, Ruth was childless. In a culture where a woman’s identity was tied to her husband, Ruth was a widow. In a tight-knit community, she was an outsider and a foreigner, and so God uses this story to teach his people to have grace and kindness and to include foreigners into their nation. Those are good lessons for 2023 as well.
Now, when I was reading through the story, I was struck by one attribute of the three main characters, and that was their character. The entire story revolves around the integrity of the main players, and the outcome would not have been the same without the qualities that were displayed.
What is Character? I remember hearing it defined many years ago: Character is who you are when nobody is looking.
What it isn’t is our reputation.
Thomas Paine said, “Reputation is what men and women think of us. Character is what God and the angels know of us.”
This is echoed by Henry Ward Beecher when he stated: “A man’s character is the reality of himself; his reputation, the opinion others have formed about him; character resides in him, reputation in other people; that is the substance, this is the shadow.”
And former American President Ronald Reagan said, “You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jelly beans.”
And I have no idea what that means, but he was the leader of the most powerful country in the world, so it must be important.
This morning, we are going to look at some of the Characteristics of Character.
Let’s pick up where we finished reading earlier, Ruth 1:8–10 But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept. “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.”
So in Naomi’s case, she Displayed Character through 1) Her Words And Her Attitude. Everything she had had been taken away from her. She was far away from her extended family.
Her husband had died, her sons had died, and she had no grandchildren. In that culture, she had very little to offer to the community in the way of services; her livelihood would have been tied to the men in her family, and so when they died, she would have been well on her way to destitution. If there was a sense of welfare in the community, it probably wouldn’t have been extended to a CFA. (that’s maritime speak for Come from Away.)
Naomi had every reason to feel like she had gotten a raw deal out of life. That she had been treated unfairly, it seemed that in her life, every silver lining had a cloud. And here she is, leaving whatever her family had built and accumulated through the years, starting back on a hard journey, and she has a choice to make. And that choice is the same choice that every one of us has to make when we are faced with adversity. Will we allow this to make us a bitter person or a better person? Will this break us or make us? Naomi’s attitude is shown in her words. Listen to what she tells the other women “And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.”
We’ve all met people whom life has seemed to treat unfairly, and we know that the results can be very different. When I first became a Christian, the Pastor of my church was Jack Mackenzie, and he and his wife Charlene had been through the mill. They had lost two children who were in their late teens, one to an accident and one to disease, and then another child in adulthood. And yet, in the forty-plus years, I’ve known Pastor and Mrs., that’s what they’re called; I have never heard them moan about the way life treated them.
They always exhibited care and concern about others; they always looked on the bright side of life and talked about how much God had done for them. People who learned their history after knowing them for a while could hardly believe the tragedies that had visited this couple.
They had made their choice to become better people.
I have known others that whenever you talk to them, you want to ask if they’d like a little cheese with their whine. Australians call it whinging.
Now understand that doesn’t mean that you put on a false front; it doesn’t mean that you deny reality, but it does mean that you deal with it. As a matter of fact, listen to the words of Naomi in Ruth 1:20–21 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”
In Hebrew, “Naomi” means pleasant, and Mara means “bitter.” But that was the last we hear of it; she doesn’t bring it up again, and nobody calls her Mara.
There will be times when you vent your frustration. Hopefully, those around will understand, but it can’t shape your life. I had a man in another church who was just plain negative. He was what Politician Spiro Agnew called a “Nattering nabob of negativity.” Or as my friend John Symonds once commented about a person, “If the Angel Gabriel showed up, he’d put on dark glasses and shoot him for a crow.” He was always moaning and groaning about how rough life was and how poorly he’d been treated by life. What a joy he was to be around, not.
Naomi could have stayed in Moab, talked about how poorly she’d be treated by life and made life miserable for her daughters-in-law and everyone who came around, but she didn’t. She got up and moved on. She turned her back on her troubles and sought out a new future. Motivational speaker and author Les Brown made this statement: “Just because Fate doesn’t deal you the right cards, it doesn’t mean you should give up. It just means you have to play the cards you get to their maximum potential.”
How will you face the adversities that come in your life? And come they will. Will you become a bitter person, or will you become a better person? It’s your choice.
Let’s move along in the story Ruth 1:16–17 But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”
Ruth Displayed Character through her 2) Words and her Actions. These words must have been so wonderful for Naomi to hear. We all have this innate desire to be accepted and to have people that we love be close to us. Naomi had offered Ruth the chance to return to her family, and I’m sure that she wouldn’t have resented Ruth for doing that, but how her heart must have leaped when Ruth said, “You’re not going to get rid of me that quick.”
We all need affirmation of loyalty from our friends, our family, and our peers. We need to hear people say, “I’m going to stick with you no matter what.”
But if you are going to say it then please do it. While nothing makes you feel better than to hear people tell you they are committed to you and your dreams, nothing makes you feel worse than to have those same people turn their backs on you. In the New Testament, Peter said very similar words to Jesus in Mark 14:29 Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”
And you all know what happened, right? Before the sun had risen, Peter had denied Christ not once but three times. Words can be cheap, and sometimes our loyalty matches Oscar Wilde’s when he said, “If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.”
I remember in the spring of ’97, I had preached on the Church and my vision for Bedford Community Church, which is now Cornerstone, and following the service, a lady came up to me and told me I could count on her to be there, that she was committed to the church and my leadership. I felt pretty good, but it was not the same feeling I had two weeks later when she called to tell me they had decided to go to a bigger church.
And so Ruth’s character was exhibited through her words but also through her actions, not only did she tell Naomi that she would never leave her and that she’d be there for her, she was. She travelled with Naomi to Bethlehem, and when she got there, she went to work to help provide for them. Remember, your commitment is not proved by your words but by your actions. Jesus’ brother James writes in James 2:17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
And I don’t think it would be unfair to the scriptures to say that words without actions are dead and useless as well.
Ruth 3:10–13 “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor.Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman.But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am.Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”
Boaz Displayed Character through his 3) Words and Inaction. Let’s bring you up to speed here. When Naomi and Ruth arrived back in Bethlehem, neither of them had an immense amount of skill with which to find meaningful employment, but it was harvest time, and in Israel, God had decreed in his word that harvesters were to leave behind a certain amount for the poor.
That’s found in Deuteronomy 24:19 “When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all you do.
And so, Ruth went into the field of a wealthy landowner who was a distant relative of her late father-in-law to gather the leftover grain. Now, as you read the story, it seems that Boaz saw Ruth and was smitten with her, or at least attracted to her, because he told his workers to make sure they left extra grain when they saw she was close by. We don’t know what the attraction was, but it was there; what is it that attracts men and women to each other? What are they looking for in relationships?And that’s different with every couple. I’m sure at some point, you’ve said or thought, “I don’t know what they see in them?”
Ruth worked for Boaz through the harvest, and when Naomi heard about the sparks flying between Ruth and Boaz, she hatched a plan. Boaz was working late in the threshing house, and it must have been his custom to sleep right there during the harvest, perhaps for security. So, Naomi whispered her plan to Ruth. That evening, Ruth got bathed, dressed in her finest dress, dabbed some perfume behind her ears, snuck into the threshing house to the sleeping Boaz, and laid down at his feet. Now, I don’t know if that was some kind of Middle Eastern wedding proposal or what.
Boaz wakes up at midnight, and there’s a lady at his feet. And he says, who’s there? Good response. And she says, “It’s me, Ruth.” And he says, “Who’s me, and my name’s not Ruth.” Just kidding. So here he is, a single guy and a girl he’s attracted to crawls into his bed. What’s a guy supposed to do?
Probably not what he does; he knows why he’s there, and she knows why she’s there, and you only think you know why she’s there. But Boaz stops and says this isn’t right; first of all, there is someone else who is in line before me.
You have to understand what’s happening here; remember, in Leviticus, there were rules set in place to keep land in the hands of its original owners. And so, even though Elimelech had left Bethlehem years before, the land he owned still belonged to his family, and that ultimately was Ruth. So, whoever married Ruth got the land as well.
It was evident from the story that the other relative, who was first in line to redeem the land of Elimelech, was not aware of what was happening. Boaz could have kept his mouth shut, married Ruth, and redeemed the land, and nobody would have been wiser except for Boaz.
And although Henry Van Dyke wouldn’t be born for another 3000 years, Boaz knew the truth of the statement, “What you possess in the world will be found on the day of your death to belong to someone else. But what you are will be yours forever.” And it’s here we see that Boaz was a man of Character in his inaction as well as his word. He didn’t do what others might have.
So, what’s the point of this little story? Well, Boaz and Ruth got married and had a son named Obed, and eventually, Obed grew up and got married and had a son named Jesse. Jesse eventually grew up and had a son named David, who became the greatest King who ever governed Israel.
But there’s more because, in the book of Matthew and the book of Luke, we read the record of Jesus’ ancestors, and right in the middle of both lists are Boaz and Ruth.
So, where are you at today? How are you when nobody is looking? Always remember that people of genius are admired, people of wealth are envied, people of power are feared, but only people of character are trusted.